How golfers helped me make a better arrow

I’ve been constantly building, testing, redesigning, building, and retesting arrows for several years now. My arrows have come a long way in both durability and penetration, and my ability to tune them has been on a similar trajectory. Every once in a while, it’s good to be blindsided and amazed by something that has been an oversight. Recently I had a huge “ah ha!” moment and I thought it to be best to share.

In preparing my new arrows for my new heavy bow I found that what had been sufficient for bonding lighter arrows for a lighter bow is no longer sufficient. A few fellows I deeply respect urged me to venture into 24 hour epoxy. I must admit that my previous sucess with JB Weld and 5 minute epoxy from Gorilla had me hesitant to change. Once my failure threshold was beyond a excusable rounding error, it was time to rethink things.

The first major realization I had was that when comparing epoxies, they list the TENSILE strength of the bond. While I was using some of the highest rated stuff on the market, it was the wrong rating I was looking at. Kindof like the old saying “buy for horsepower and drive with torque.” While tensile strength is an excellent measure for many bonding needs, shear strength is what is really important when trying to reduce failure in a parallel/sliding bond.

The second thing I noticed was almost nothing available at the hardware store even listed carbon fiber as a surface. How does one know if a epoxy is optimized for bonding carbon fiber to carbon fiber or stainless steel with it just says “metal and plastic” on the wrapper?

Enter the golfing world! Guess what? They all have carbon fiber shafts that need to bond to steel heads and survive impact. Also, most golfers know they will keep their clubs in the trunks of their cars and frequent heating to over 120 degrees is a mandatory capability for them. Suddenly my arrow seem more applicable to the demands of golf club glue than the glues for arrows. Finally these guys are putting 1,000 grain heads on the end of their carbon shafts and hitting them sideways. I’m only putting 500-600 grains on my arrows and driving them forward.

Sometimes going back to the drawing board can have breakthrough gains, I’m glad my Buff arrows have pushed me to challenge my previously accepted norms.

Buffalo longbow part 2

Black Widow PL Longbows

It just occurred to me that I haven’t posted an update since my heavy bow arrived. For the gear junkies, here is what I am taking for my Buffalo hunt.

Black Widow PLII “Graybark” 66″ takedown model. I like the smokey gray finish on these bows and it saves me $50 to $100 over the PLV and PLX bows. I had them skip the wood in the riser and went solid glass again. I really like the weight of it. I also had quiver inserts put in this bow just like my last one, I really like how it prevents the quiver from creeping into the working part of the limb. The grip is the “Toby Grip” just like the last one too. In short, the bottom two bows are identical in every single aspect except draw weight.

My “one bow” for the last year and a half is the bottom PLII with the quiver on it. It scales 64@30.5″ true draw length. The top PLV is my very first Black Widow longbow and it also draws 64@30.5 but is a one piece bow. Had it been a two piece I probably wouldn’t have purchased the bottom one. That leaves the middle bow, my Buffalo bow, 87#30.5″. After warming up for twenty minutes or so, I shot it for almost two hours the first time I took it to the range for bare shaft tuning. Ongoing weight training and a disciplined shooting practice were no doubt the key to me making a move that large upon arrival. I’m keenly aware my hunt will be a total loss if I am injured before I leave in less than three months. I am not taking any risks at this point to ensure I’m 100% ready and able to take this adventure of a lifetime!

I’ve ruled out a few arrows and I’m tuning in a few more currently. Once I make the final decision I will do an exhaustive post about the arrow I will be using.


While my trip to South Africa for Buff is still on, a fellow bowhunter found out just two weeks before his scheduled trip that Zimbabwe has outlawed hunting thick skinned game with archery tackle. I am glad that he and his PH were able to sort out a backup plan for different game to pursue, but I can’t image what it would be like to spend all those months preparing only to have the rug jerked out from under you at the last minute.

My bookmark in Africa’s Most Dangerous is a 100 Rand note featuring mbogo.

I was thinking about this as I was doing some of my Sunday morning reading today. I realized I’ve been studying this animal for almost 9 months now and I only have a handful of months left before I go. This is the most preparation I’ve done for any event in my life. I once trained up for a few months for a mountain ascent, but nothing like this. IF South Africa outlawed bowhunting for Buffalo tomorrow, I think I would have to leave my bow behind and go anyway.

I’m equally glad to be going to a country that embraces it’s hunting culture, and to be doing so while it’s still a legal and viable pursuit. I wonder as the world continues to shift culturally and politically how many dream hunts will become illegal before I would get to the point of being able to do them. Kamchatka moose and the hogs of Western Russia are currently on that list of dream trips which will never happen unless laws change radically.

Illuminated nocks

I’m going to skip the whole philosophical debate about illuminated nocks and hunting for this post. For the safety of other human beings, I need to be shooting a highly visible arrow if I get a shot at a black Cape Buffalo. While fletchings of certain colors and mounting methods can make my black arrow better, they can’t match the visibility of illuminated nocks.

In the past I used Nocturnal brand nocks with my Black Eagle arrows. For the most part they worked very well. On the plus side, I NEVER had a single shot fail to light it up. That a pretty big thing in the pros column. The cons: I did have them go off in blinds and on stand by bumping the string. Even worse when hunting hogs at night is having to stare into that nock trying to find the little hole with a knife tip to turn it off. Speaking of that knife tip, I HATE that you have to have some tool to turn them off.

I went to the local archery shop (might as well be my second home) to buy some Nocturnals and the owner showed me his arrows setup with Carbon Express “Launchpad” nocks. The price is the exact same. The CE is supposed to be lighter at 18.5 grains, but on my scale they both read 20 grains. The final difference, no tools to turn off the CE nock, just pull and twist.  I bought one pack and shot them that night. Sure enough, they performed exactly as promised and I was very happy with the results.

I will note, this “one size fits most” is really on the tight side of my Black Eagle Outlaws in .300 spine. Every time I needed the nock tool to push them in.

Happy as I was I bought a second pack and outfitted a few more practice arrows with them. On two arrows I couldn’t get them to sit all the way in, so I left a tiny gap figuring the first time I shot them they would settle in. Maybe 1/32″ extra gap. Minuscule.  When I shot those two arrows, they lit. On the second shot, neither of them lit. On 5 more consecutive shots they failed to light.  I pulled them out and they were working perfectly. I reinstalled them by hand to the proper mounting depth and they worked perfectly on every shot since then.

I guess it pays to follow the instructions. I’m glad I resolved this before getting frustrated and going back to Nockturnals. I really don’t want to need tools afield just to deal with my nocks, especially true with TSA and international travel on the horizon. Simple is best.

Africa 2017, preparations continue!

According to my Buffalo Clock, I have 166 days until my hunt begins! Since this basically marks the half way point in my year of preparations, I thought I’d do a post to mark my progress so far.

Last night leagues ended at my local archery shop. While I enjoy my Friday night traditional leagues, it means I’m blocked out of the range the other nights I normally shoot. This means next week I can start back on my 3-5 times a week shooting schedule, and as a bonus I will have unlimited access to paper tuning and broadhead tuning/testing lanes!

Even during this winter slowdown, I’ve done very well with my plan of doing at least one thing per day to get ready for this hunt. Inch by inch is a cinch! Some days it’s just studying anatomy pictures or rereading sections of books about the African Buffalo. Other days I’ve crossed off bigger things like purchasing tickets, arranging travel logistics, researching cameras and camcorders.

One of the first things I wanted to do was get a pair of light but flat bottomed boots for the trip. I researched every brand and spent countless hours on forums weighing the pros and cons of different makes, models, and purchase methods. In the end I found that a local company made a boot that met all of my requirements for a very reasonable price. I do not believe these will outlast a pair of Courtney’s, but I think these will be great for my first trip over. The only thing I really didn’t like about them was the original cotton laces you can see on the boot on the right. I got some similar looking mil-spec 550 cord and swapped them out. I’ve got a little over 100 miles on them at this point, I love them!

Most of the rest of the gear required is all decided. For binoculars I’m taking my 10x42s. I have my point and shoot camera, and I’ve picked out my camcorder which I will order today. Some of these things are probably worthy of their own post down the road, and I will probably do one post about my final packing strategy.

My new heavy longbow should arrive in a few weeks. Many arrow components are piled up and ready to begin tuning. The business end I want to tune out with is a Tuffhead 300 grain broadhead and a Traditional Archery Solutions 250 grain adapter. The exact adapter I’m using with all of my Black Eagle arrows is not on the website, but Jon has been happy to supply these extra heavy/extra long adapters for me and a few other Simply Traditional customers.

I found out that a fellow Michigander is going to Africa this month to do a Buffalo hunt with his recurve. I will look forward to picking his brain when he gets back. There aren’t a whole lot of fellows to talk to about this sort of endeavor, but so far everyone has been very helpful and responsive.

For the next 165 days it’s all about fine tuning and practice, practice, and more practice!!!

What is a “trophy” Cape Buffalo?

It seems that in recent years hunting has gone in a direction I don’t like. There is a vocal group with a perverse fascination with whitetail deer and some magical number of inches of horn. This group must also have an inordinate number of dollars-per-hunter in order to capture so much media and marketing attention. Even on the rare occasion when I’ve harvested mathematically impressive animal, it’s had nothing to do with a “trophy value” in my heart.

If ever an animal should challenge a hunter to question their thinking on what constitutes a “trophy” animal, Cape Buffalo should be that species!

Let’s consider first an animal that should score very well by Rowland Ward standards:


Like many of the top trophies in the book, this is a cow. My first problem with using “inches” to define what is a “trophy” is this: why should a healthy mature cow be removed from a heard just to satisfy some fabricated measurement system requirement? I don’t intend any disrespect to anyone who decided to anyone who has killed cows with wide horns, but I have to point out that raw inches is a bad way to evaluate a trophy.

Let’s consider another animal’s horns:

Unlike Rowland Ward, Safari Club International only considers bulls for the books. The bull above has a good number of inches and I would think would easily make the book. Here is the rub with this: Many animals grow bigger antlers or horns every year making a high number of inches desirable.  Cape Buffalo are born without horns, and they grow them outwards until they start fighting when they reach sexual maturity. It’s possible a bull might have its highest “score” the day before he hits sexual maturity. A handful of the bulls currently in the SCI top 20 were bulls that were not mature. In whitetail terms it would be like adding a spike to the P&Y book. It just shouldn’t happen.

From the same site, here is another picture to look at:

What a fantastic animal! Here is a mature bull with flattened out horns and a hard boss. This animal would probably score lower than the first two, but this is the type of animal ideal to hunt. His removal from the herd would not hurt the herd in any way, and he is possibly in that wise/wary but non-breeding/on-the-way-out end of the spectrum.

That website is quite interesting, as well as a few chapters in Africa’s Most Dangerous.

Finally let us consider the “scrum cap” bull:

A bull like this would score very low on the SCI scale, but just look at this old battle worn veteran! Everything about this bull is exactly what should constitute a trophy pursuit. Everything except the measurement and inches that would have him be a “trophy” officially.

Not many folks are interested in buffalo hunting, if you made it this far into the post my hat is off to you. I personally find it very interesting how the idea of “inches” that works so well for deer and elk, does so poorly for buffalo.

While a nice symmetrical set of horns looks nice, and it could put a hunter in the record books, a true trophy to me has nothing to do with what anyone else can see or measure. It’s all found within one’s self and what they see when they look out into the world.

Buffalo longbow

I bought a longbow to hunt Cape Buffalo in 2013. It is a Northern Mist Whisper longbow 85@30 at 68″. It’s a dandy bow and I got a hog with it in 2014. As I was getting ready for this hunt, the logistics involved with a one piece bow kept coming up. Finally, I realized that I really did need a takedown bow for this adventure.

It’s been over two years since I seriously hunted with a ASL, I’ve been hooked on my Black Widow PL longbow because I shoot it better than any other bow I’ve owned. I love ASL bows, especially the last three I am down to, but this is a dead serious endeavor and I think the best thing I can do is mimic the bow I shoot best in every possible way.

Black Widow Bows is building me a 2 piece longbow that matches my current bow in every aspect except draw weight. It will be a few weeks before it gets here, but I trust it will be exactly what I need for hunting Cape Buffalo.


One year ago I was in hog camp with a retired PH from Africa. He had been giving me some pointers and guidance as we worked around the property for a few days. I don’t know why I asked, but I said “if we get some animals in the skinning shed, would you coach me through caping out a skull?” It was a missing skill in my personal checklist. He said he would be happy to, and a few days later a hunter gifted me with his hogs head.

I ended up caping out three heads that week, and a few months later I got a nice meat pig for myself and got a little more practice. First thing I learned, Havalon is a God send. Second thing, keep those things out of water. I had one cooler get a little too warm and unfrozen skulls have got to be one of the dangerous things I can think of from a bacteria perspective. Freeze them hard or boil them right away.

After some time I started practicing the boiling step. I found a GREAT youtube video on the subject. My mistakes were boiling the first two a little too hot, by the third skull I got it right.

Next step was the peroxide step, I ended up using V40 in the cream style from the local beauty supply. The stuff did OK on the first two, but the third one came out really good. The picture at the top was the results of that step.

What I learned about peroxide from a local professional taxidermist was two things:

  1. That stuff is much more dangerous than I thought. Handle and store that stuff VERY carefully.
  2. I should have immediately wrapped the skulls in saran wrap and set them in the sun. Instead I just coated them and let it stand for 3 days.

Since the first two boiled too hot I had all the teeth fall out. I need to fill the tusks with epoxy and glue all the teeth back in. Because they didn’t turn out nearly as white, I have an additional step to do with that using a different whitening compound.

In short I have 3 skulls that cost probably less than $20 each in materials. While that sounds like a bargain, it really isn’t when you factor all the hours and frustration involved. I think my next skull I will just send to a beetle tank and see how that turns out. If I do all the preliminary work, and the final sealing and mounting, it might be a nice way to optimize time and find a nice balance to expense.

Early writings

I am working on some website cleanup this week and changing up some menus. I realized that this should be just one post and not it’s own page. Below you can find a few links to hunting and archery related submissions from years gone by.

Gratitude and Respect is an article I wrote for Simply Traditional’s Blog recently. It’s everything that I think is good about bowhunting, and it doesn’t shy away from everything I think is wrong about modern hunting media.

I also have a guest blog post on Simply Traditional about the Magnus Single Bevel and the first animal I harvested with one. I also did a little video on how I make a “tanto tip” with these heads, you can see it here.

I’ve been writing articles for Sticktalk, the Michigan Longbow Association’s publication, for a number of years. Here you can find the majority of those as published.

HR 622: the financial timebomb

Last week Chaffetz withdrew HR621, and there was much rejoicing from outdoors people from all walks of life. It seems in the following celebration of “victory” everyone forgot about HR622. For many folks who haven’t lived out West it might be difficult to understand exactly how important this is. I will use an example from a place I’ve spent some time to illustrate.

Granite County Montana is a beautiful, and I feel in my heart, a magical place. It’s total land mass is 1,730 square miles and it’s population fluctuates around 3,000 residents. Just take the summary description from their published Growth Policy Plan:

“The County is largely mountainous and contains portions of Beaverhead-Deer Lodge and Lolo National Forests. The Continental Divide crosses the southeastern boundary and the Sapphire Mountains define the western boundary. A section of the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness area lies along the southeastern boundary.”

Yeah, that’s an amazing place to get into the backcountry!!! Did you know I’ve seen a wolverine in the wild? That happened in Granite County. Biggest herd of elk I’ve ever been in the middle of during hunting season, Granite County. I’ve got some go-to spots for fly fishing on the dog days of summer, a few of the best are in Granite County.

Why do I have so many great memories in this small place? Because it’s wild. 65% of the entire county is public land! Interestingly only 2% is state land. That means 63% of that county is comprised of those national forests and BLM land. River access is available on the Clark Fork River, Rock Creek, and Flint Creek. There are hiking trails, horse trails, and camping spots all over the place. All of this is a short drive from the airport in Missoula.

Now that you have an idea of what the landscape makeup is, let’s talk about those people. About 3,000 people living on a relatively small part of the land. There is one full time sheriff, and 3 other people on the payroll. The day I was a victim of a hit and run the sheriff was out of town on business and nobody else was authorized for overtime. We were left to sort it out and with a handshake I was told by the good, slightly drunk, doctor that he would pay my auto body bill for the damages to my truck. He never paid, answered his phone, or responded to any letters sent leaving me with a $3,000 bill and no police report to start legal proceedings. From my experience I would say the cash poor county can’t even afford to maintain an appropriate payroll for what they already should be enforcing. If you read into the Growth Policy Plan, they actually site “poor and untimely law enforcement” as a major object of concern as well as their inability to fund appropriately via existing revenue.

If HR622 passes it will mean no federal funding for law enforcement on 63% of that land. It’s not clear from public documents how many of the 41 tax paying Federal employees in Granite County are serving in a capacity that would be eliminated by HR622 if it passes.  The 4 law enforcement people working for the County already would then be given the duty of patrolling the extra hundreds of square miles that wouldn’t be under the jurisdiction of federally funded officers. Also those square miles are the hardest to get too, which also makes them the most expensive to patrol. If you read about the state of the County’s patrol vehicles, I’m sure they couldn’t get to many of the places that the well equipped high clearance 4×4 trucks with Federal plates can go.

Although spread out over many miles, Granite County is a small place. Only a few thousand people live in the entirety of it, and I consider some of them friends. I am amazed by how far they can stretch a budget and how many services they can provide given their budget limitations. I hope that nobody takes any of this as a slam. I present this as information for people who have no context to how important federal funding is for the places that are made up by federally controlled lands. The tax payers of Granite County can barely break even with maintaining what they have, to double or triple the burden of law enforcement would bankrupt the county.

It would just be nice if our elected officials would stop introducing stupid bills that would create far more problems than they would fix.