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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Do You Ever Write the Company?

Most folks don't take the time to write companies except when things go bad.  Real bad. Like an airline losing your hunting gear right before your 10 day Wyoming hunting trip. it is understandable. People are busy.
That's me with a Kodabow and a Spring Gobbler.  
Fact is many companies today just don't care. We get pissed off as consumers and write a letter. At Kodabow, we care. No company is perfect but we try really hard and it shows. Candidly, I am constantly amazed at how MANY OF OUR CUSTOMERS WRITE US and simply say THANK YOU FOR MAKING A GREAT PRODUCT.  I've personally owned some great outdoor equipment over the years from firearms to fly rods --- I never was so positively moved with the product to write the company. I have worked at or been around companies that have made some great stuff -- never have I seen letters like the ones we receive at Kodabow. Happens all the time. We never tire of reading and appreciating the sentiments expressed. We can only say thank you. You get it. You understand what we are doing, why we do it and how we work at the challenge of building great crossbows every day. Thank you.
Here is a letter that came in this evening.

Dear Kodabow, 
I received my bow about a week (or maybe two) ago.  I'm not an experienced crossbow guy.  Long time firearms guy but my days as a young laddie buck with my dad's fiberglass, recurve out in the backyard are way behind me.
Everything about the transaction was an absolute pleasure.  Heck, even dropping 900 samolies worked out well (though I sold a TC Encore to fund this baby).  I did my research over and over and went to Cabelas and looked at the competition (over and over) and finally decided to go with Kodabow, sight unseen, and lacking experience in crossbows in general.  I finally realized that if I didn't buy a Kodabow, I would develop and itch that I couldn't scratch until I broke down and did buy one (to thine own self be true).  What a great move on my part.  I've inspected this bow countless times (and shot it as well, no worries) and I can't find a single point in the design of the bow that provides a "ah, I wish they'd have not done this" moment.  I believe that you've attained the goal; It's pretty much perfect.  As a US based manufacturer, you boys should be very proud.  What a fine experience for me.  There's somebody still out there that can match a 68' Buick Wildcat in form, function, quality, simplicity (look it up, it was a hell of a car).
The extras that you included are greatly appreciated and a complete surprise.  As you know, nobody does something like that these days.  I'm fairly stunned and I thank you.  I'll be pestering you in the coming months for more stickers, but not without an order so you've got something to ship it in.
My wife wants one, of course of lesser umpf.  My neighbors wife does as well.  I haven't shown the bow to anyone that isn't completely impressed.  Simple quality is a lost art guys, and you've brought it back.
OK, enough babbling. Turkey season opens in a few weeks.  I will not hesitate in trashing your inbox so please expect it randomly. I've never written a "thanks" to a manufacturer of any product that I've purchased but you guys are a different bunch and you make it quite easy.  Thanks again and thank you for your service......G.M. - (Full name withheld by Kodabow)
BTW, I now realize why one should never send a second arrow to the same bull.  I didn't shatter the first shaft but it was close enough to send me the message.  Tough problem to have I guess.

Thank you for the nice letter. G.M. is right! April and May signal turkey season. Good luck out there and may the big gobblers hear your calling! 
My best,  Chuck at Kodabow

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

5 Ways to Wreck a Hunting Trip

Bad News. Big Trouble. Here are a few mistakes and actions that should be avoided at all costs.  
The Big Buck  called "Whaletail" that was
illegally tagged by a hunter. 

All 5 are guaranteed to ruin your day.

#1 – Being “less than truthful” with a Wildlife Fish and Game Officer

These men and women have a difficult job.  When you encounter these folks, be straight up because it is the right thing to do. They also have plenty of experience to know fact from fiction. 

A friend and his buddy came across a big buck that expired for unknown reasons and was at the bottom of a creek bed. Our friend had the only buck tag between them and they agreed to use that tag for the monster buck they had just found. According to the Game Laws in Pennsylvania, you can’t just tag a buck you didn’t shoot.  It’s illegal but our friend didn’t know that. Word spread about the monster buck on the Internet and weeks later, our friend was questioned by the Game Warden after a lengthy investigation. He told the truth exactly as it happened. The antlers were confiscated and our friend received a minor ticket but did not lose his hunting license or receive additional citations. The Game Warden disclosed that our friend’s absolute straightforwardness went a long way in making his final determination.

#2 – Losing your Hunting License

Yep – the night before the hunt, the license that was attached to the backpack yesterday is gone. If you hunt in an area where a hunting license must be displayed, be sure that the license is secured by 2 or 3 fasteners so it is not lost when bushwhacking through the brush. You can’t hunt without your license and tags and as simple as it sounds, keeping track of your license is an absolute must.

#3 – Shooting a Damaged Arrow

We learned of an instance where a hunter shot his crossbow and the arrow came apart at the shot and resulted in two pieces flying through the air.  Needless to say, the deer escaped unscathed and the hunter was wondering what happened.  Here’s the answer.

On every arrow, there is warning info that says “Flex Before Each Shot.” The guidance is to prevent a shooter from using a cracked carbon arrow. Flexing will reveal any cracks in the carbon shaft. There is so much force in modern vertical bows and crossbows, that the arrow will come apart at launch if it is damaged. It can be particularly dangerous in a vertical bow where the forearm is very far forward holding the bow at the riser if a damaged arrow is in use.

Here is a scenario:

Sam was leaving for his morning hunt. His backpack with a quiver of arrows was on top of the freezer in his garage. As he was getting his gear together, his grunt call rolled off the freezer top and was now on the floor behind the freezer. Sam leans over the freezer (with his body weight on the backpack and the quiver of arrows) to retrieve his deer call and unknowingly, his body weight cracks his #1 arrow. Remember the arrow is held very rigidly by the quiver --- and later that morning, Sam loads a damaged arrow without checking it and the rest is history.

#4 – Booking a Hunt with a Substandard Outfitter/Camp

The best course of action is to speak directly with hunters who have recently hunted at a camp to verify the type of hunting and experience you think you will be getting.  It is hunting – there are no guarantees – but once you are 14 hours from home and sitting in a camp where the objective seems more about moving hunters through the camp each week rather than providing the quality hunting experience that you signed up for, it is too late. If harvest statistics and references are fuzzy, run away fast.

This happened to us only 1 time over the years. We failed to check references. It was just horrible. By Day #2, the head guide (who was an honest gent) bluntly disclosed the real facts about past hunting success rates and how the operation was being run by management….and how he was hoping to turn it around. At that point, the best you can do is to make the best out of a bad situation.

Use a good outfitter – do your homework – talk to other hunters – and beware of the smooth talking operators at the trade shows.

#5- Failing to Understand the Operation of Your Equipment

We make Crossbows at Kodabow. Once or twice a year, we will receive a frantic phone call where a hunter has failed to fully understand how his/her crossbow works and says something like, “My crossbow is cocked but it won’t shoot and I can’t get the bowstring lowered.”

(In this case --- the hunter pulled the trigger on the crossbow without an arrow in place and the trigger group now requires a “reset” by reattaching the cocking rope and rotating the Safety back to SAFE from FIRE.)

Manufacturers put a lot of great info in their Manuals. It is rare that any answer in not in an Instruction Manual. So whether it is the new Climber Treestand, Laser Rangefinder or that new Crossbow …. you will find higher satisfaction if you take the time to read the Manual.

Just like Game Wardens, outdoor equipment manufacturing companies have a tremendous amount of experience under their belts and should know their equipment backwards and forwards. Be straight up with your communications and it will work out smoothly.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Final Hunt

Life - an arrow flying through the woods. 
This is a snapshot about two fine men.

Bob Walker pioneered hearing protection with the founding of Walker's Game Ear -
a company he eventually sold. You will never find an individual with a more positive outlook. 

These men both had a great run but unexpectedly, their arrows found a tree and their soaring flights ended prematurely. They were young and should be hunting today but they have now passed from our earthly hunting grounds. An arrow sometimes finds a tree and just stops. It stops hard.

If one person remembers a man, the man lives on .... and that is certainly the case with these gentlemen. Many in the outdoor community knew them and appreciated their friendship and wisdom. Bob was the ultimate entrepreneur with his Game Ear, a device worn in the ear to amplify sound. Bob knew that as hunters aged, their ability to hear the "crunching of leaves or the breaking of a branch signaling the approach of a deer diminished."  He always said it that way! Bob used the proceeds from his business venture to build a house on a mountain in Pennsylvania where he spent memorable times with family and pursuing his passion for hunting turkeys and deer. 

Bob combined hunting and his knowledge of hearing aids and established a whole new category in sporting goods. He used to say that his product was the first item sold in the Cabela's catalog that used a battery. Bob passed earlier this year after a fierce battle with leukemia.

Over 10 years ago, another arrow stopped prematurely at age 54. Art Carter was the Editor of Sporting Classics magazine and was a prolific outdoor writer and photographer. I hunted turkeys in the Spring of 2003 in South Carolina with Art but he was gone by the summer of that same year after complications following a routine surgery. He was writing about the fine craftsmanship of the leading turkey call makers at the time. We had a fine turkey hunt together and today, I think about Art every time I turkey hunt. I was just learning the game and he was an instant mentor. He told me two things as we sat together trying to call in a gobbler. According to Art, 

1- There is sitting "deer hunting still" and "turkey hunting still". When pursuing turkeys, a hunter needs to be so quiet and stealthy that  "deer hunting still" is far too much movement.

2 - The other thing he emphasized is that turkeys have no schedule.  They are not in a rush. They will often take their sweet time coming to a call and a Tom turkey can test your patience.

Sitting right next to Art, I must have been moving around too often and a bit impatient. Later that day, I was successful in taking a bird that I called in myself as Art set me free armed with new guidance and skills. Art was a sportsman --- the Russell Company named a chukka hunting boot after him - "The Traveling Sportsman" and it is still a big seller today - easy to find with a quick internet search. These men live on in interesting ways.

Following our Turkey Hunt, Art sent me his latest book
with a nice note. We enjoyed each other's company.
Art was well placed as the Editor of
Sporting Classics Magazine.

The moral of the story is that we just don't know when our arrow will stop. The only guarantee is that your Final Hunt will take place one day..... you just might not know it at the time. Don't take a day for granted and give it your all when afield. It can be cold, it can be wet and windy but by golly, give it your all and appreciate the moment and find happiness like these men did. 

When I get up in the morning, I promise myself that I will hunt with the optimism of a Bob Walker and appreciate my gear and doing things right just like Art Carter always did. 

Chuck Matasic - Kodabow Crossbows


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Realville, USA

Welcome to Realville, USA.
It is where we live at Kodabow.
 When Jim Aken talked to us in early 2014 about heading to Africa to shoot a Hippo and asked if we had a Kodabow up to the task, we replied that while our current lineup would be fine for anything in North America, we didn't have a bow we felt that was suitable for taking down a 8,000 beast with a hide as tough as nails. Then we added, " but we will make one for you." This was the beginning of the birth of the Dangerous Game Kodabow - Special Order Item....now available in 2015.

A few months passed and we knew Jim was probably wondering about the Kodabow team. His departure date was closing in but he we had not shipped his bow. But Jim  patiently waited and one day, a brown box showed up on his doorstep. The rest is history as he was successful taking the first documented SCI Hippo with a crossbow. The Hippo "expired" 3 to 4 minutes after the first arrow left his Kodabow.

As a hunter and a manufacturer, we will not send a gent 10,000 miles to the other side of the world with a product that we believe has the smallest chance for failure. It just isn't right. And candidly, if you walk 100 yards out your back door and hunt on 10 acres for whitetail, the same type of logic applies. We don't want to let you down. You need to do your part. You need to read the directions and follow the Instruction Manual. You need to make the shot. But keep in mind that we have done our part and your Kodabow is representative of our best work.

Jim Aken -   First ever SCI documented Crossbow Hippopotamus
#1 in the Record Book 

Anything mechanical can potentially have an issue. Our part is to minimize that probability and we do a great job at it - to the point that we don't worry about Jim on the other side of the world. That is not the norm it appears. Today, it seems there are frequent and numerous product recalls in the crossbow industry.

What do we do? We actually shoot every crossbow that leaves our facility. Always have.
The Kodabow product design is excellent. At the QC level, we don't have issues with Major Failures. If lever or part doesn't move just right .... feel good, we might need to remove a small metal burr or add some lubrication but we are working off a solid quality base of design, materials and components. We are not going to see Jim travel to Africa with a Kodabow and then need to call him up and say "oops - we screwed up.....we got sloppy. We made a mistake."  Many of the recalls involve triggers and safeties. We just read a communication from a manufacturer that tells consumers to never pull the trigger on a crossbow while the Crossbow Safety is in the SAFE mode. It can result in an accidental discharge.
That's a little odd in terms of guidance.
(Keep in mind that if there is significant movement in any crossbow trigger while the bow is in the SAFE mode, it is possible that the trigger sear is being advanced too much - not good. The bow might fire unexpectedly.) 

In Realville, USA, we find that EVERY SHOOTER pulls the trigger on a crossbow when the Safety is set to SAFE. We purposely do that ourselves when we test triggers. Nearly 100% of the folks do it on our factory range at one point or another because they simply "forget" to move the Safety to FIRE. They do it in the woods as a deer approaches and they get excited. They might do it as a 8,000 lb Hippo decides to turn around and head back towards the ground blind you are sitting in. We expect the Kodabow to work and we depend on it. Crossbows are hard to make. We know that. But we are not going to send you "out there" with anything but the best .......so if you plan on taking a 10,000 mile trip with your Kodabow, be assured that we have gone the extra mile back here in Realville --- it requires a more effort but we know how important confidence in your hunting equipment is -- whether you are in Africa or in Wisconsin. 
Chuck @ Kodabow Crossbows

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Confessions from a Stupid Hunter

The "Great Outdoors" will frequently make the best intentioned hunter look like a fool. When you venture out there, you always have the potential to damage equipment, cease logical thinking, lose valuable gear and sometimes hurt yourself. That is just the way it is.

Sometimes "foolishness" can be hazardous to one's health
 as shown by this revolver fired with unsafe ammo.
It will be worse if you were raised in a family with a genetic predisposition to do stupid stuff.  It was a deer hunt in Virginia and rain began to fall. I was very young. Dad and Cousin Jim were showing me the ropes and decided we should head back to the truck until the storm passed. Jim suggested that we could place our shotguns underneath the truck on the ground until the rain passed to keep them out of the weather. Sounded 100% logical to me. 30 minutes in the truck with hot chocolate and coffee turned into an hour and we then decided to head down the road to a new spot. You know what happened next. Yep - we backed over all three shotguns which were now cleanly broken at the stock to receiver joint.

Any company that makes outdoor gear is acquainted with this rule.
 "If you make something idiot proof, someone will just make a better idiot."
Yes, in our worst moments, we can become card carrying members of the Outdoor Idiot Club. (OIC) It was a beautiful day in Wyoming as we were scouting a property for a mule deer hunt the next morning. GPS units were newly emerging as a mandatory hunting accessory and I was pleased with my brand new Whizbang 400 GPS unit. Waypoints were entered and the next morning, I envisioned heading to a backcountry ridge using my new GPS unit much to the envy of my hunting buddies. As we headed back to town for the night, I said, "Stop the truck." I had lost my GPS unit. It was somewhere in those Wyoming foothills where I absentmindedly set the unit down while glassing the open country. I entered the Idiot Zone at full speed .... we now had to drive around the prairie and numerous cow trails in our 4x4 trying to find the last place we stopped. It was hard. (We didn't have a GPS!) Thankfully, I found the unit as the sun was setting and all was well. The narrative in the truck was basically, "Chuck, you are a real idiot."

It is well known that technology can accelerate idiotic outdoor behavior. In the old days, I would head out on a hunt, find a Pronghorn Antelope, aim, shoot and be heading to the butcher. Today, I wouldn't think of taking any shot without first using my Mark 12 Mod 9 Laser Rangefinder. (M12M9LR) The new sequence is find a Pronghorn Antelope at 40 yards. Pull out the Laser Rangefinder to accurately determine actual distance to the animal. Watch the Antelope run off in the Laser Rangefinder. Yep- the idiot guy surfaces once more.

The most popular idiot behavior is placing an important piece of outdoor gear on a vehicle for just a minute. Anywhere on the vehicle works well. Great locations are the roof of the vehicle and the bumper of the vehicle. (We have already covered hazards associated with items underneath the vehicle.) It is generally better if the item is not secured in anyway. That way, when you drive away and your favorite pair of gloves or coffee cup falls to the ground, another hunter will find the item in good useable condition and mutter to himself, "what kind of idiot would leave a pair of binoculars in the middle of the road?"
Yes -- it was me passing through. Hopefully, you will enjoy the item as much as I did.
Be safe out there.  Chuck @ Kodabow

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Do the Research and Buy a Crossbow

If only it was that easy. Two years ago, we were attending various trade events and were amazed at the performance of a unique crossbow manufactured by a leading crossbow brand name at the time.
That's Chuck Matasic at the NRA Show with a Kodabow in Desert Digital. 
We weren’t so impressed with the bow’s shooting performance as much as how the sales guy would periodically excuse himself and trot out to his truck and get a new bow when the one he was shooting came apart. That company is no longer in business. Today, you can’t obtain parts should you own one of these crossbows.  The product comparison charts showing feet per second (fps) and Kinetic Energy (KE) are still around but a lot of those bows ended up shooting ZERO fps.  The comparison chart didn’t disclose that ---- and sometimes these charts are like the MPG sticker on a new car anyway. Impressive miles per gallon but never seen in the real world. At that moment in time, that particular crossbow might have seemed like a good bet. It was covered by a Lifetime Warranty. There were glowing articles in many outdoor magazines about the crossbow and  slick advertising could make a hunter think that the product was one click away from a being a Photon Torpedo from Star Trek. In the end, it was all BS because many of the crossbows didn’t work, failed prematurely and were plagued with problems. The manufacturer acknowledged this after going out of business. Bows were being returned at a high rate and the big box stores finally returned their inventory because of customer service issues. Sometimes, that is how an industry works. Marketing gets way ahead of the actual product. It still remains a bit of a mystery to a degree --- how could so many not observe what we could easily see at a trade event or at a sales counter and not have it reported down the line to consumers. Maybe everyone from retailers, dealers and magazines were too heavily invested to bring down the illusion. Implosion eventually came. This unique scenario didn’t turn out well for irate customers lined up at the sales counters with crossbows that looked like spaghetti.
At Kodabow, we have a different story. Our focus is making a very reliable and accurate crossbow.  A consumer can pick up the phone and talk with us. Our expectation is that we hear from customers when they send us a few photos after a successful hunting trip. One of the actions of that failed company was a strategic decision to source products overseas. Initially, it probably made sense on the accounting ledger. However, there is a lot of manufacturing detail required to successfully get a crossbow out the door and trusting someone thousands of miles away you might not know so well requires close coordination that can be difficult to achieve.  We understand global business --- but there is no substitute for looking your US supplier in the eye and it helps when they understand hunting as much as they understand manufacturing and accounting. We continually receive inquiries that begin like this.  (Actual Letter – “This is Susan from XXXX Overseas Crossbow Co.  Our factory has been manufacturing crossbows and bows for several Top US manufacturers. We would like to supply your products.” 
This is not the Kodabow story. When you spend $899.00 for one of our crossbows, rest assured – you are purchasing the absolute best that we can deliver with the backing of our material suppliers in a close knit supply chain. We test fire every crossbow that leaves our facility and include a range target that was used that details your bow serial number and arrow serial number used. That’s our story and it’s a good one!  My best --- Chuck at Kodabow

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

So you want to hunt Bear?

A Kodabow Crossbow is an ideal choice for Spring Bear 
hunting. In many places, the preferred method is hunting Black Bear over a bait site and with trail cameras in use, the hunting possibilities are exciting. There can be a good sense of what to expect with an understanding of projected animal movement patterns as the norm. We have taken Black Bears in spot and stalk hunts as well as over bait. Very different hunts for sure but for the first time Bear hunter interested in seeing bears, a hunt over bait offers a more settled environment. Always keep in mind that there is considerable preparation between the "idea to go" and having a successful trip.  Expect your Kodabow to work flawlessly and providing you do your part and execute a well placed shot, you will soon be in the skinning shed. The most significant decision will occur months before you head to  the bush.
Pick a good outfitter and you will have a good time, see plenty of game and have shooting opportunities at good sized animals. Make a mistake with your outfitter selection and standby for a miserable time.
It is that simple. If you don't do your homework, you might end up in a camp where taking a good bear is the rare exception and even seeing a bear or having a shot opportunity will not be in the cards.  The tragedy is that your hard earned money was expended just as if you ended up in a great camp. The way to avoid this is to get into the details. Obtain references by phoning hunters who were in camp in the past year. Build a picture of how the operation works and see if everything makes sense and adds up regarding harvest rates, # of hunters in camp, overall success rates, food and lodging. Most outfitters are very good but there are some who will gladly take your money and have no problem creating the illusion of a great hunt. If you get parked on a bait site that has no activity and sit for 6 days with zero opportunity, you are paying the price for failing to do your homework months earlier.  Outfitters may have "go to clients" who can provide  glowing reviews. (They are the one's that get the best treatment and the active bait sites if there are any.) Be more interested in what the hunters say who showed up in camp last year for the first time.
If you can't build a good picture and things don't seem to add up, choose another outfitter.

A successful hunter in the skinning shed.
Ask about fishing possibilities. Many Bear camps offer excellent fishing in lakes and streams and determine if fishing is included or an extra. If you will need a boat, will the outfitter provide that service at a fair price.

Tossing a fly before heading to a Bear stand. 
When hunting over bait, ensure you have the correct yardage measurements in hand and be confident that your Kodabow will put the arrow exactly on the mark. No guide wants to chase down a bear in the thick bush. The Bear pictured in the skinning shed (above) was arrowed at 30 yards with a Koda-Express 185 lb bow. The shot was with a Killzone mechanical 100 gr broadhead and a Kodabow Magnum .338 arrow which resulted in a pass through shot in the vitals. The Bear was recovered 10 yards from the point of impact.
If there will be "bugs" --- be prepared and go overboard with your preparations. Mosquitoes will bite through a single pair of hunting pants so suit up with multiple layers and cover all exposed flesh. Bring a Thermacell and multiple pairs of socks. The critters seemed to be stymied by three pairs of socks but could routinely bite through two pair. A head net or one of the Bug Tamer style outerwear jackets is a solid investment and is a serious element in ensuring a comfortable hunt. Sunset can be very late up North and spending hours chasing bugs is not only bothersome --- all the movement will scare the Bears!

Kodabow at the Ready Position