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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kodabow Hunter of the Year 2013 - Jim Aken


Each year at Kodabow, we name and recognize our Kodabow Hunter of the Year.
Jim's Kodabow next to William's Kodabow in Africa.
William is Jim's PH. (Professional Hunter.) 
The award is based on significant accomplishment in the field with a Kodabow Crossbow.  In 2012, Nick Stumpo was our Kodabow Hunter of the Year for his exceptional whitetail taken in Northern New Jersey with his Kodabow Bravo Zulu. For 2013, we are proud to award this honor to Jim Aken following his 2nd trip to Africa with his Kodabow Big Rhino.  For the balance of 2013 and for 2014, we will be searching for next year’s 2014 recipient among the Kodabow Hunting Community.

Editor’s Note:   We sat down with Jim and talked about his recent trip after his return from Africa in September 2013.  Just a few generations ago, Africa was unknown in many ways and those who visited perceived the Continent to be wild, harsh and a dangerous place. Only brave explorers dared to travel there in search of adventure.  Today, the trip is far more manageable but there remains the opportunity for the unexpected. Jim is technically oriented, methodical, experienced and thoughtful. Here is Jim’s story

K:   Jim – thank you for visiting with us and congratulations are in order after another successful adventure. How many trips have you made to Africa?
Jim:   This year was my 7th trip to Africa. 

K. What did you bring home on this trip?
Jim:  I was successful on a Sable, Lichtenstein Hartebeest, Chobe Bushbuck, Reedbuck, Puku, and a Bushpig in Mkushi, Zambia, this year.  Zambia and the Mumembe Ranch was a terrific experience. Zambia is not as well developed as some of the other areas I have hunted.  In South Africa, for instance, it is common to archery hunt at waterholes and in some cases there would be a pit blind dug into the ground expressly designed for bowhunting. On this trip, it was all spot and stalk except for the Bushpig hunt which we did from a blind at night because Bushpigs are nocturnal.



Jim and a trophy Zambian Sable. 
A large Sable can reach 600 lbs. 

K. What was the most exciting part of the trip?

Although it is not a game species, it had to be the Black Mamba, one of the deadliest snakes in the world. We were in the truck travelling slowly along a road when the 2 trackers in the back of the truck began yelling loudly “Snake, Snake!”   I was riding up front and saw a 10’ Black Mamba coming out of the grass apparently planning to attack the truck.  Now, they tell me this aggressive snake can go through the bush at 14 mph, with 1/3 of its body length upright and can strike upwards at half its body length. So imagine a snakehead about 3 feet above the ground headed your way.  William, my PH, threw his hat at the snake’s head to distract it, and shouted to me to “roll up the windows.”  They hate that snake over there. Unless you get to a hospital in 15 minutes, it is 100% mortality rate. The neurotoxin is powerful and the snake injects a level about 1000 times more than is required to kill a person.  So basically, you end up paralyzed and die pretty quick from suffocation. The PH and trackers grabbed big sticks and chased after the snake knocking it down and slowing it. Since I had the only weapon which was my Kodabow, I followed and when I caught up with them, they had beaten the Mamba into submission and I severed its head with a broadhead. This was my first Black Mamba experience in 7 trips.


Jim and his first Black Mamba

K.  What do you like about the Kodabow. This was your second trip to Africa with a Kodabow and you now have a lot of experience under your belt with our product?

I like everything about the bow. I mean EVERYTHING. When you first receive your Kodabow, you will notice the workmanship, how well the parts fit together, how tight the joints are, how nice the finish is, etc.  When you take it to the range, you will see that it is extremely accurate and just has the raw horsepower needed for big game.  Then, when you go hunting with it, you will see how ‘traveler-friendly’ it is.  Airlines are continually restricting baggage allowances (both weight and size), so the ability to take down the Kodabow to fit in a small space is a tremendous advantage when travelling, both here in the U.S. and on international flights.  I take the bow down all the way, put it in a small box (just like in Kodabow's YouTube  video) and stick it in my luggage. The limbs come off and the rail ends up as the largest piece.  When I put all the pieces together in Africa, it is impressive that the bow shoots to the same place as when it was sighted-in back in the US. I shoot in camp and might make a minor adjustment but it is very minor.  It is just simpler than dealing with a big case and the airline hassles. 
I shoot the 225 Big Rhino because of its tremendous power that I find useful on some the larger animals in Africa.  The Sable hunt emerged as an opportunity while I was there.  I would have preferred  600-650 grain arrows for the Sable, and the Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest.  The Kodabow Big Rhino handles all these weights well .  It shoots the 475 grain arrows fast and flat, and it has the horsepower to shoot much heavier arrows, as well.



The Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest
I personally wouldn’t take a compound crossbow to Africa. This trip, I almost clipped a bowstring as I was handling an arrow. It would have not been an issue with my Kodabow.  A hunter might be spending $1,500 or more, per day during his time in Africa. The last thing you want to be doing is fooling around with your bow. I have seen guys lose 3 days on a trip because of bow issues. Another thing I like about the Kodabow is the maintenance. There is none!
K. You seem to work hard at hunt preparation and know your arrows. How did you work up these arrow setups?

I design my arrows for the animals I am hunting on any given trip.  This year my main objective was a Chobe Bushbuck and Puku.  In other words, animals about 8-12 inches thick through the chest area.   I decided on an arrow/broadhead combination of about  475 grains and an FOC of slightly over 21%.  Shot from my Kodabow Big Rhino, this arrow yields a Momentum of 0.66 slug/ft/sec. and 103+ ft/lbs of kinetic energy .  I had pass-through penetration on the Bushbuck and Puku sized animals. But, I would have preferred a heavier arrow for the Sable and Lichtenstein’s Hartebeest, animals considerably thicker through the chest area; something with a Momentum of 0.7 or 0.8; which would be an arrow of about 600-650 grains.


The nocturnal Bushpig - hunted in darkness from a blind
K. What broadhead do you use?

I have been using German Kinetics Silver Flame broadheads.  They are a two-blade broadhead made of hardened stainless steel and an aircraft grade aluminum ferrule.  When I first met William Drummond, my PH (Professional Hunter), he was here in the USA (before my first trip to Africa), I showed him a 3 bladed broadhead I intended to use. He looked at it and told me it was not so good for Africa. He said the steel is not hardened, so the tip might curl at impact and related that they had bad experience tracking African animals that were shot with a weak non-hardened broadhead.  He recommended the German Kinetics, which is what I shoot now. They are 2-3 times the price of regular broadheads, but I travel a long way to hunt and this is one thing I can do to prevent problems on the hunt.
Some of the animals like a Warthog roll around in the mud. They can have stones and rocks buried in the hair and hide, somewhat like a stucco coating. This layer of stucco on the animal can rip the thin razor blade broadhead blades off before the broadhead gets into the animal. As you can see, you need both the power to get through that layer of stucco, and the durability to get through it.  With these broadheads and my Big Rhino, it is usually like tracking a train after a shot and my typical recovery distance is 30-40 yards that is if I do my part and place my arrow correctly.

K. Hunting can sometimes be uncertain.  I will ask the difficult question. Did you have 100% recovery on every shot taken this trip?
The Bushpig hunt was a challenge.  First of all, pigs are durable.  Everyone who has hunted feral hogs in the U.S., or Eurasian wild boar, or any other porcine species is amazed at how they keep going when they should be dead.  Secondly, the hunt was at night, since they are nocturnal. I made a shot on a Bushpig and didn’t recover the animal. We had a trail out to about 100 yards and then nothing. We returned in the morning during daylight and found nothing. Given the circumstances, I might have made a shot that was not as good as I thought at the time in the darkness. Other than that, the outcomes were all spectacular which I attribute to a great PH, a terrific Kodabow crossbow and solid performing arrows.

K. Tell me about your PH. Good guy? Have you hunted with him several times?

William Drummond is his name.  I met William at Chorongo Safaris, in South Africa.  I hunt with him every year.  He is dependable, good natured, and knows his stuff. That is what I look for.  When you archery hunt in Africa, it is important that the PH really knows archery hunting.  As a bowhunter, you should feel welcome and not be treated as a 2nd class citizen or feel merely tolerated.  William has been a bowhunter since he was a kid, and really knows archery hunting.  
You spend a lot of time with your PH and in the end, it should be fun.  Africa is always full of surprises. For the first time hunter going to Africa, do your research and go with a solid PH.  Meet  him in the USA in advance if possible. They attend trade shows, so  use that opportunity to personally communicate your expectations.  Africa can be done economically to get your feet wet.  Hunt plains game and establish a proper budget.

K:  What is a typical day of hunting in Africa?

We are up at 5:30 AM and have breakfast. The day will depend on the particular animal we are after. It might change based on what animals were seen on previous days in the field.  After breakfast, we have a plan put together.  We typically hunt until dark or near dark, then it is back to the lapa for supper and discussion of the day’s hunt, and plans for the next day.


The elusive Puku

K:   What are you and William talking about next year?
William wants me to consider a hippo and a crocodile with my Kodabow. That has me thinking.  He has a Kodabow ‘Big Rhino,’ and knows what it will handle.  A hippo is going to be about 3 ft. thick through the chest area, and have a very thick hide, so we are looking at the absolute maximum performance we can get from the bow, and an arrow probably in excess of 1000 grains.

A crocodile will require a fishing arrow attached to a float.  So, there will be the added drag of the line attached to a heavy arrow.  I will spend a lot of time this year working on that issue and coming to grips with what that might entail.
Hunting with William has been a real blessing.  I am now  looking at 17 animals in the SCI (Safari Club International) Record Book in the Crossbow Segment. We have had tremendous success together.

K:  Any downsides to the trip?
The flight from the US is absolute murder;  16+ hours from the East coast of the U.S. to Johannesburg.  It is long but there is no other way to get there. The flight just lasts forever.  What was good about this trip is that I took a small plane back from camp to Lusaka which saved about 4 ½ hours of driving, and a bunch of potholes.

K.  Are you ever concerned about your safety in Africa?  I am not talking about the Black Mamba – well. I guess that needs to be considered too. But I think many US hunters shy away from Africa because of perceived danger. Is that fair?
Of course, you want to stay away from countries with unstable governments and civil wars in progress, but the southern African countries have stable governments.  South Africa is a country with lots of hunting opportunities and a stable democratic government.  Similarly, Zambia, Botswana, and Namibia have stable political situations.  Zimbabwe’s government and economy is in shambles, but a major portion of their money comes from hunting, so hunters are well received there.

Some Americans might have a view of Africa that is based on what they have seen in Tarzan movies. That is a typical American viewpoint.  Around Johannesburg, South Africa, for instance, 97% of the people speak English (the Queen’s English). The city is the size of LA and just like any major city, there are places to stay away from.  There are suburbs that look just like Albuquerque and there are symphonies and operas, and there are also high crime rate areas, just like any major city. However, there are no giraffes or elephants on the runway when you land. It could be Los Angeles from an airplane window. 
And as far as snakes, my bet is that if a hunter travels to Texas 7 times in a row, they will come across a rattlesnake before it’s all over.  On your hunt, your Professional Hunter will advise you about any dangers in the immediate area, such as snakes, big cats, hippos, crocs, etc.  Your PH will tell you of any dangers, so just pay attention and do what he says.  All in all, probably the most dangerous part of your hunt is the drive on public roads from your house to the airport.

K. Thank you for sharing your insights. Hunting in Africa is an adventure. Best of success in 2014!  - Chuck Matasic / Kodabow

Saturday, October 12, 2013

18 Yards on a Saturday Morning

Saturday Morning, 12 October, 2013
Editor's Note: Listening to a hunter describe his deer hunt is never as good as writing your own story. At Kodabow, our goal is to support you in your hunting endeavors so you fully achieve your hunting ambitions with great equipment and positive outcomes.
I first scouted the property 2 years ago but had never hunted it. It was a small woodlot of 9 acres and it was easy to visualize how the deer would move.
After quietly pulling into the driveway and  turning off the headlights on the F-150, I eased into the woods in the dark. There was no rush. I could smell the oak tree and acorns. Oak trees stay in the same place -- they never move --- and in a deer woods, they are an anchor point for deer activity. The property owner, Anthony, a good friend, said he had been watching a big deer for the last few years. I asked him what he meant by "big" and he said "about 200 lbs."  Anthony would be proven to be both accurate and correct by 8:45 AM.
He mentioned that the buck he was speaking about had antlers that were larger the year before. The big fella might have already turned the corner in life like we all do sooner or later. 
My friend said this deer had an attitude. He ruled the woodlot. He ran off the other bucks. There was no larger buck ever seen on the property. He recalled walking to his garden one morning and there the buck stood. It surprised him. Instead of running off, the buck's eyes met his and the buck stood his ground. It glared at him. It took 2 steps towards my friend and stopped. Anthony grabbed a steel fence post and slowly backed away -- a little unnerved.  
I saw him at 90 yards. His path was predictable. He closed the distance steadily. He was at 40 yards then 30. At 18 yards, I pulled the trigger on my Kodabow Bravo Zulu. It was not the best angle but it was the only angle and I was totally "Kodabow confident" or I would not have fired. The deer was facing me and the arrow was released as the buck momentarily quartered exposing the right front shoulder. I visualized the arrow making its way through the shoulder and into the vital heart/lung area. That is exactly what happened. The big fella traveled 25 yards and passed away quickly.  
Part of the success is due to the mechanical broadhead used. It is called the Killzone by NAP and it has been rapidly gaining favor among several Kodabow ProStaff Shooters.  Get the details at www.kodabow.com in the Accessories Section.
Killzone Broadhead after shoulder/heart/lung shot. 
Large deer are tough critters and this broadhead performed well especially in a challenging shot angle situation. Here is a process to determine if your broadhead is any good: 
Find a guy named Bill who owns a deer processing business and sees thousands of deer each year. Watch Bill look at your buck as its unloaded. Watch his gloved hands skin and skillfully remove the hide as he closely inspects the shoulder. See him look at the Kodabow and the actual broadhead which is shown above. See Bill assess the path that the arrow had traveled. You know you have a very good broadhead when a guy with Bill's experience says, "Can you bring me two packages of those Crossbow Killzones!"
At the deer processing station, the buck weighed in 168 lbs field dressed. Using the 1.26 x formula to calculate live weight, the deer would have come in at 212 lbs. He had a 6 point rack that measured 20" at its widest spread. Once a 6 point, always a 6 point. This was a deer with a small head and a big body. I liked him. He had history. There is always a sense of loss at these moments and I struggled with making sense of it all.
I sensed that the buck would never grow larger and was taken at his prime. That was OK.
The buck was impossible to load on the tailgate by myself. Anthony and I both were challenged but finally got him up and in the truck. This was a good deer.
We stood at the stone wall looking over the woodlot. The coffee was warm. It was a good morning. There was no hurry.
Chuck -- Kodabow Crossbows




Sunday, September 29, 2013

5 Unique Perspectives Learned while Making Crossbows

Kodabow with a Cheekrest and HHA Optimizer 

1. Prison Time. Folks can make mistakes in life. A real bad mistake which results in a crime and a prison sentence can mean the loss of the right to own a firearm. But what happens when a the individual returns to the straight path, pays a debt to society and wants to hunt? The answer is archery equipment and we have met a few folks who have changed their ways, regret their errors and are very serious about the outdoors and hunting. They might do volunteer work to help young folks learn from their experience and avoid their poor judgement. They enjoy hunting for the same reasons we enjoy being in the field. We say  "go for it!" 
  
2. Amazing Things Happen when Shipping a Crossbow. 
A memorable experience was shipping a new Kodabow to a customer a long distance away. The phone rang later in the week and the agitated customer wondered how we would ship a crossbow that left the factory so severely scratched and damaged. OK. That was Bow #1. So we diligently attempted to make things right and Bow #2 was on its way to the customer. Same thing ..... the customer said you folks just don't get it. He explained that the 2nd crossbow was as damaged as the first one received. We scratched our heads at the factory, looked at the digital pictures and agreed. This was some serious damage. After some sleuthing which determined that the Fedex folks were not part of the problem, it became evident that the customer's package was arriving in perfect condition. While he was at work, another member of the household was opening the package and doing some very serious dirty work. It all worked out in the end and everyone was on good terms -- we helped the customer sort out the problem and address the family matter  ----   but it was not what it appeared -- "out of the box" so to speak.

#3 He hunted for his daughter. 
The gentleman said he was not really a hunter. He selected a Koda-Express. He mentioned his daughter had autism. The conversation was choppy but OK -- just go with the flow. We talked about deer and the increasing numbers of deer in the state and he mentioned that he was really getting involved in hunting for his daughter. He mentioned that he had hunted a little when growing up but having a daughter with autism changed his life. He was hunting for his daughter.
This conversation was "kinda" making sense but not everything was clear. 
At Kodabow, we are straightforward especially when we are a little confused. We said, "Sir, when you say you are hunting for your daughter, what exactly does that mean? Does she care about hunting and why exactly does she want you to hunt?
At that point the gentleman paused and said --- "Oh, I guess I really haven't explained."
He continued. He said that his daughter's medical doctor suggested that wild game was a tremendous food choice for her based on her medical situation. The organic meat was free from additives, preservatives and antibiotics and it was his opinion that wild game would actually help her. He described how he began to research hunting to learn what he could. He described how he attended hunter safety education (HSE) and eventually found out about Kodabow. This man, an exceptional father, loved his daughter dearly. He left with a Koda-Express and he is now hunting for his daughter. Folks hunt for many different reasons. 


#4  Mr. Customer, we have seen everything.
We have very few problems with our crossbows. We hunt with them - we make them - and we know them cold. Let us repeat that - we really, really know how a Kodabow works and have seen EVERYTHING.  We can be very helpful over the phone. We told Mike that he was using the 50 yard aim point in his scope instead of the 20 yard aim point. His complaint was that his bow was shooting fine last fall but when he took it out for spring turkey, it was suddenly shooting high. (Over the winter, Mike had forgotten how his scope works.) In some cases, a customer will send in a component to have us test and inspect a suspect part. For example, a customer recently forwarded a trigger group to us indicating that the trigger pull was hard and was causing him to shoot erratically.
We received the trigger and immediately had two different factory personnel shoot the trigger. We said, "Mmmm ..feels great."  We measured the trigger and found a crisp break at 3 lbs. (With minimum trigger travel in a Kodabow, the actual trigger pull feels much lower.) We said, "Mmmm.. tests great." We inspected the customer mounted optic which was shipped with the scope. In this case, the customer purchased a bare Kodabow and installed his personal scope. We found the retaining screws holding the scope rings to the rail were free moving. They had not been securely tightened. That was the source of the shooting variance. The moral of the story is that if something is a little haywire, we will always get to the bottom of it. It is usually something very simple. 



#5 Our Factory Range is cool.

We opened it to the public and activities include everything from a youngster shooting a recurve to a young man pulling a compound in preparation for a hunt. (When it comes to pulling back a vertical bow, our advice is to shoot a fewer number of arrows more often.)

If you need to ask why, look at the internal anatomy schematic of the shoulder muscle and tendon region of the body. There are plenty of opportunities for stress and strain. On the other side of the coin, pulling back 80 lbs and shooting 100 arrows from a vertical compound bow can be very good for the crossbow business. 
Frequently, someone will stop by and ask to shoot their competitive brand crossbow on
the Kodabow range. We do three things. (1) We NEVER say anything about the features on their bow vs. Kodabow unless asked. That is just being polite and then we try our darn best to find some positives about the other bow. The individual didn't stop in to hear a bunch of Kodabow PR. (2) We ask them to follow their manufacturer's recommendations and to shoot safely. (3) We ask them to sign a liability waiver.
Now here is where it gets interesting. A man shooting a brand new mail order compound crossbow gets 15 shots off before he needs to stop due to a cable issue. His out of pocket expenditure was about $750. If you go to the dictionary and look up the word "dissapointment", there is a picture of that man.  Another shooter fails to achieve 20 yard accuracy (6" group not real good) with his alternative brand crossbow. It could be attributed to the optics, arrows and bow all not working well together. What we find is that many other products don't shoot as reliably or as well as a Kodabow. It is just a fact.
We see it. And in some cases, dealers know it. We recently set up an archery dealer in Oklahoma that was pretty much planning to get out of the crossbow business. There were just too many boomerang sales where crossbows were being returned by customers. He found out about Kodabow and we kept him in the crossbow game. There is hope!
Hunt and shoot safely.
My best,
Chuck @ Kodabow

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Blackhawks, Veterans and 1/2 MOA

Jeff was a stand up guy. 8 years in the military with a current assignment as the Crew Chief on a DAP (Direct Action Penetrator) Blackhawk helicopter. Think about 30mm guns that shoot bullets the size of beer bottles and a mini-gun that shoots .308's at 6,000 rounds per minute. Today, he was volunteering to help out at a Family Day Shooting event near Ft. Campbell, KY for veterans and their families. He was assigned to the Kodabow Crossbow Shooting Station. Jeff reported for duty --- he was there to get the job done. Later that day, he would relate that when he first showed up, he was thinking that crossbows were kind of "dorky." I could tell Jeff might have preferred a different station like handguns or the AR-15 range. He was a trooper nevertheless and agreed to blow up ballons and help me help veterans and their families launch arrows downrange. After the first 150 or so ballons, Jeff had a whole different view of crossbows and I had a re-energized respect for our active duty and retired veterans who serve our country.
What follows is the absolute unvarnished truth.
The balloons were out at 35 yards. Shooter after shooter never missed. Wives of soldiers never missed. 12 year old daughters never missed. Whole families that shot together never missed. Active duty and retired types never missed. As each shooter selected a different color ballon and called the shot, there was often applause from the crowds with each shot. Jeff was coming around. By 1400 (2 PM military time), Jeff had a big change of heart about crossbows and said "that Kodabow is a fine piece of equipment."   He was so pleased to be part of what was happening.
This was the group that organized the event!
We kept shooting and he kept blowing up balloons and arrows kept bursting them at a frantic pace. Attendance was about 150 veterans and with family members, the total group was several hundred. Along the way, Jeff and I shared stories. He had a few deployments under his belt. I could tell he did his job well. A Blackhawk pilot, Charlie, showed up along with other members of his group. These guys did special ops missions and I sensed that the troops on the ground appreciated the skills and professionalism of these men and their attitudes. Their Blackhawk provides cover support for our troops for as long as 3 hours on station. As the balloons kept bursting all afternoon, Jeff simply said, "you are hammering that crossbow hard --- and it just keeps on going ---- and nobody misses --- it is simply amazing." Mutual respect -- I respected his helicopter and his work and he had a growing respect for Kodabow.
Volunteers like Jeff and companies like Ruger and Smith & Wesson plus many others make events like this happen. Trevor Baucom in his wheelchair (helicopter pilot) was the local inspiration behind this HAVA event. This was the morning volunteer briefing.
That's me with my red HAVA hat helping a veteran get his sight picture.
Naturally, he made the shot.
The day progressed. There was lunch and dinner. We shot all afternoon long. Prior to the event, a Kodabow customer called Kodabow and learned that we would be in TN and asked if he could assist and perhaps bring his new Kodabow up to get fully checked out. I said "please come, bring your Kodabow and help out!"  Tom joined Jeff, the helo crew Chief and was tasked with balloon work and arrow retrieval as well.
Tom had received his Kodabow a few days earlier but had never fired it. He assembled it out of the box and set it on the shooting table after the last veteran headed to the steak dinner under the tent. 
The next sequence of events was extraordinary.
Tom's first shot at 35 yards was dead on the money. Perfect.
After shooting hundreds of arrows all day long, I was ready for a change and moved the target to 50 yards. Tom settled in behind his Kodabow and squeezed off the 2nd shot from the crossbow. X ring.
Bullseye at 50 yards!
Shot #3 was next. 50 yards. Bullseye. 1/8 of an inch from the first shot.
This was 1/2 MOA (Minute of Angle) performance from a crossbow that had just been assembled without the new owner ever making a scope adjustment.
Tom was amazed. Jeff was now shaking his head. I told the men that actually, at Kodabow, we are not surpised by this type of thing --- but we are always impressed with their accuracy and often have a sense of wonder about how these bows shoot.
It was a tremendous day.
Shooting with out troops is a terrific experience. These events give our service folks the opportunity to share with their families the types of things they do routinely. A spouse may have never fired a firearm before but now has an appreciation for the difficult work our warriors do. (Times have changed - the typical military command wouldn't allow this type of event to occur on the military base so support groups like HAVA help out in many ways. They arrange hunts especially for those with serious injuries and organize different types of outings.) It is a remarkably positive experience. The daughters and sons of these military families are polite and respectful. They say "Thank you Sir." The veterans are respectful and very appreciative. They shoulder a Kodabow like they have been shooting one for years and place their finger alongside the trigger, gain a sight picture, and squeeze off a shot. They are professional and always say "Thank you" too.
I spoke with Jeff and a few of his buddies Saturday evening and shared a beer. Their backgrounds are rich and their attitudes are exceptional. They have done many things and are well trained. One had taught at the Sniper School at Ft. Benning. Another enlisted and progressed from enlisted to officer. They were like the many veterans that we spoke with during the event. The very, very best that this country has to offer.
Thank you for your service!
CDR Chuck Matasic - USN (Ret)

P.S. (The names of the active duty personnel were changed --- Jeff - you know who you are my friend!)






Tuesday, August 27, 2013

SNAKES

SNAKES. SNAKES SNAKES. The 10x42 binoculars were up as I scanned the foothills for mule deer and antelope. What happened next set the benchmark for the "lowest situational awareness" a hunter could ever have. If this was school, I would score an F.
As I stood on the ridge and lowered the binoculars, I realized that next to my boot was a huge rattlesnake coiled in the midday Wyoming sunshine. The snake was only 3 inches from my boots and between my legs. He likely measured about 4 1/2 feet long. Somehow, I walked up on the beast without ever seeing him. Amazingly, I kept my composure and very slowly backed away without the rattler striking. Hunting buddies were miles away and while they knew where I was hunting, help would have been several hours away and probably would have included a helicopter rescue. It was near disaster. 

Fast forward to 2013 and a discussion with Larry Martin who was operating a snake exhibit at a Texas trade show in Ft. Worth. Larry grew up around snakes with Joe, his father. Snakes are their business. I surmised Larry must know a great deal about the critters. Either that or he was a very foolish man - he was calmly sitting in a folding chair surrounded by 36 rattlesnakes. The facts are that Larry has been bitten 3 times. 2 of the 3 bites occurred at shows like the one we were attending. When asked what he would do if bitten, he pulled out the extractor kit shown below. 70% of the time when a rattler bites, venom is injected and using the extractor pump immediately will often remove most of the poison if it's close at hand. It would be used on the way to the hospital and creates a powerful suction effect. Larry said it would likely prevent the need for medical personnel to cut into tissue in treating the bite.


The Extractor Kit - about $15.

This small $15 unit now is in my bow hunting backpack. (I picked a kit up that very evening before heading on a hog hunt the next morning.) In retrospect, the rancher in Wyoming said the rattlesnake I encountered was one of the few sightings he ever had on his ranch. It only takes one snake.
In the Northeast, there are rattlesnakes in the Pennsylvania mountains I frequently hunt. Copperheads as well. Aggressive water moccasins have chased me around a small pond while bass fishing. If you hunt or fish independently, consider your emergency plan should a snake bite occur. Being an hour and half up the side of a mountain is not the time to be wishing for a first aid or snake bite kit. In Wyoming, I learned it only takes one snake. Until I met Larry, I had no better plan than hoping to avoid seeing snakes.




Larry holding a Rattlesnake
When I returned to Wyoming in later years, I would wear snake proof chaps. Larry wears Chippewa Snake boots but then relates that 10% of rattlesnakes will strike above the height of a boot. He and his Dad cull those snakes out of the snake exhibit because they are too dangerous to handle. Those snakes strike high by nature and will always strike high. 
In summary, inventory your bow hunting backpack and determine if the contents meet your worst case scenario requirements. If operating a hunting camp, consider first aid and snake bite kits permanently mounted to the ATVs and hunting vehicles. If you are in Texas, check out Larry and Joe Martin and when encountering these snake critters, give them a wide berth. Be safe out there.   My best, Chuck  


Monday, July 22, 2013

Changing Lives

In the archery business, you gain many perspectives on how arrows and bows can change people's lives.  
Last week, we received a very nice letter from a Kodabow owner and archery instructor who was working with young people. It was very positive. The story was simple. Imagine a group of youngsters casting arrows downrange with vertical bows.  In the youth group, one youngster was on the sidelines unable to pull back any bow with hands that have seen too many corrective surgeries. 
Left out.
We are certain it happens a lot. 
More watching than doing.
The instructor goes to his truck and pulls out his Kodabow and places it in the hands of the young man. The other kids step back with curiosity and watch as an arrow sails downrange smack in the middle of the target. Cheers erupt. So loud - I think we heard them back in West Chester, PA. The young man learns to cock the crossbow by himself and now has a ticket to a new opportunity. The instructor tells us about the excitement, hope and optimism. In a place where hunting is a way of life, getting into the game can be very important.  
As an archery instructor, you learn that archery can provide abundant lessons with a direct connection to daily life. Virtues like patience, discipline and focus require development and attention. Today, I think the opportunities to engage young people are not as frequent as in years past. The iPhone, text messages and other distractions can quickly kick in. But there always seems plenty to talk about when the conversation turns to arrows and bows. How are the vanes put on? Why do some arrows have feathers? How can I shoot better? How does a hunter shoot a caribou? How close do I need to be? In a world that is increasingly devoid of adventure, archery can make dreams come true.



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Alpha Strike Target Bows

Target Shooting in the United Kingdom
Alpha Strike bows are the lightest bows Kodabow makes and span a draw weight range between 125 lbs and 155 lbs.
The objective is to make a crossbow that is easy to cock by hand (or real easy using a cocking rope) but can still deliver respectable speeds. In some competitive shooting events, cocking a crossbow by hand is required and most shooters will use gloves. 
For hunting purposes, these bows are considered light but noting that for years and especially prior to the 1980's, arrow speeds were around 170 fps or lower, these target bows are relatively 'fast' depending on perspective. The Alpha Strikes will shoot between 250 and 272 fps with a 350 grain arrow and would have no issue taking deer size game animals to 35 yards in a very effective manner. It is archery after all and we depend on the razor sharp broadhead to do the work. In lighter weight bows, mechanical broadheads are not a wise choice since a portion of the arrow's energy is expended to open the moving parts of the broadhead. A cut on contact head like the Hellrazor would be a better choice. Read about Hellrazors in our Kodabow Online Store. It is imperative that broadheads be razor sharp before use. 
By nature, these crossbows are used in specialized applications such as target work or when the tremendous power of higher weight crossbows are deemed unnecessary.
They are fun to shoot at moderate ranges. And because a Kodabow uses the same platform for all limb weights, a hunter could own a Big Rhino or Bravo Zulu and just pick up an extra  set of AlphaStrike limbs ($175) and change them out when desired. It would be similar to having a 12 ga. and .410 ga. shotgun on the same platform. Kodabow stocks two limb colors --- Black Night Weave and Camo Alpha Strike limbs. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

The Politics of Hunting

Little Michael is 12 years old but not real big for his age. He is consumed with hunting and his eyes light up when the talk moves to whitetails, bows and camping. At 12, he is old enough to take the Hunter Education Course and legally hunt. He has a compound bow set at 20 lbs. and can launch an arrow effectively but a 20 lb draw weight is well below the minimum requirement for hunting. He is a gamer. I wonder how long it will be before he can hunt with a bow or gun and kill his first deer?
Fred is 79 and has hunted all of his life. He can't take the cold like he used to and finally decided to retire his compound bow this year. It was too much. Fred looked forward to archery season for more than 60 years. The recoil of a high power firearm is not appealing for Fred anymore at his age but he still looks kindly at his .30-06 hanging above the fireplace and relives the hunts of the 60's and 70's on many a winter evening. I wonder if Fred has killed his last deer. 
Oddly, the answer depends on where Michael and Fred live. If they live in New York State, venison will probably not be in the freezer. If they live on Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland or many other states, the 2013 Fall hunting season can be the stuff of dreams. Here's why.
It all comes down the politics. 
After hunting with nearly every tool out there, a conclusion is that a crossbow would be a very smart choice for both Michael (12) and Fred (79) but if they happen to live in New York State, the crossbow choice is off the table. It appears that a crossbow will be an illegal hunting implement in New York state for 2013 after an initial and very successful trial run for the past two seasons. Crossbow legislation was not voted down. The wildlife biologists didn't think crossbows were a bad idea. Most hunters wanted the opportunity. A few myopic hunters who wanted to exclude crossbows from hunting all together lobbied and won. The crossbow legislation was "stuck in committee" which is a clever way to stop something from happening. It is about as courageous as voting in the middle of the night for legislation that no one has read or understands and believing yourself to be a hero. That is another story.
So the gent that controls the NY committee on the subject controls the agenda and relayed this little gem about crossbows, "They are a superior weapon. They do not belong in the archery season. Crossbows and bow hunting are not compatible."
The fellow should talk with Michael and Fred. 
But since we are talking about the superiority of one hunting tool over another as if its a bad thing..... which misses the point to a degree about hunting in my book, maybe we sportsmen should turn against ourselves and eliminate other superior choices in archery season like compound bows. You see..... I was there when compound bows were becoming popular in the 1980's. While I still shot my Fred Bear recurve, it was OK with me if others wanted to launch their arrow using cables, sights, and cams. Seemed like more trouble than it was worth and in the early days, it was. But it was a choice.
The archery controversy is politics today in many places and is not reality based. It is people saying it is about "me, and only my bow (as I define it) and archery season (as I define) and I don't want others (like crossbow hunters) getting in my way when it comes to my archery season." 
Crossbows and modern compound bows shoot at basically the same speeds and are effective at the same distances. Having some practical limitations is fair but rules should be few but always be based on logic. Like prohibiting waterfowl hunting with # 8 shot. Or making it illegal to hunt deer at night. 
To understand superiority of a few hunting implements, pictured in clockwise order are:
1. Ruger -  .308 Bolt Action Rifle: Give me 1 hour to put on a good scope and sight the rifle in and it will hit a 9" pie plate every time at 600 yards. 
2. 5 Traditional Recurve Bows -45lb to 55lb draw weight: Give me 30 days of practice and I will hit a 9" pie plate every time at 20 yards. That is my comfort zone.
3. Modern Compound Bow 55lb draw weight: Give me 5 minutes of practice (since I didn't pick the bow since last season), and I will hit the dead center of the pie plate every time at 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards. With my drop away rest, 50% let off and rear peep sight coupled with my fiber optic sight pins with battery illumination, and laser rangefinder mounted on my bow, how could I miss?
Give me 5 days of practice and I will hit a soda can at 80 yards.
I could do the same with a Kodabow crossbow though I would never hunt at those distances.
In places like Pennsylvania, only one Buck per year can be killed regardless of hunting implement choice and the battle over "what is archery" is hopefully behind us. Actually, the deer seemed very indifferent to my choice whether it was a longbow, recurve, compound bow, handgun, shotgun, rifle, flintlock or modern muzzleloader. 
So in the end, here are a few thoughts:
-  Good folks like Michael and Fred just want to get down the road and hunt and a crossbow is a great choice for them. 
-  Many of the most fanatical diehards who say archery is just about "vertical bows" and work to exclude crossbows will pull out a shoulder this summer while proving they can still draw 80 lbs at their archery club. They will covertly contact Kodabow and sneak in for a crossbow so they can make it into the woods this Fall. We will treat them with hospitality and respect.
-  A modern compound vertical bow with all of the many options available is equal to if not superior to a crossbow in many respects. While there is no movement in shooting a crossbow as compared to drawing a vertical bow, I have had yet to kill a deer with a 2nd shot from a crossbow but have done so a few times with a vertical bow.
- Hunters should be supportive and encourage more involvement and participation in our sport rather than look for methods to exclude others. 
- Those who still take to the woods with just a string, stick, wooden arrows and turkey feathers, my hat is off to you in praise. You have stayed loyal to the most traditional aspects of the sport by personal choice. However, if you shooting a 2014 model of the latest vertical compound bow with Super Cams and all the rest of the techno stuff ---that's fine....but if you then lobby to restrict crossbow hunters like Fred and Michael, shame on you. It's really not all about you. 
My best,
Chuck

PS. For the crossbow hunters in NY State, you are welcome here in Pennsylvania. Come  and spend a few days. Buy a license. Sample our hospitality. Eat in our restaurants and spend a few dollars. 








Tuesday, May 14, 2013

"Real Obvious" Turkey Hunting Tips

Turkey hunting?  OK ..here we go! The key word is "obvious." Most turkey articles
Chuck Matasic of Kodabow with a nice
9" beard, 22 lb. Spring gobbler taken at 35 yards
on 14 May 2013 after calling the bird into
range with a slate call. He stayed quiet as the
bird made the final approach.
focus on calling the birds. Plenty of You Tube "professionals" out there that produce "turkey" sounds that might bring in everything from a field mouse to the farmer down the road.

Tip #1 - Minimal Calling. Until you are accomplished, keep the calling to a minimum. A few light tree yelps early in the morning.....a few yelps and cutts to a responding bird and then put the calls away. A turkey will take his sweet time making his entrance. They have no schedule. Keep the diaphragm mouth calls in your pocket. Master a slate call or box call first to fill out your first tag. Work real birds and experiment. 
Tip #2 - You May Fail. The spring turkey success rate runs at 19% in the Mid-Atlantic states where Kodabow is located. Using a shotgun is more certain than using a crossbow or vertical bow because there is simply more room for error and turkeys move through the woodlands bobbing and weaving. So be prepared to be 100% dedicated to the task to succeed. Follow Tips #3, #4 and #5.
Tip #3  - Don't Move. You can't move around after getting into position even the slightest little bit ---- we are not talking "deer hunting still"... this is being "turkey hunting still" which is a whole level of non-movement well beyond what is typical in deer hunting. The answer is to bring a good turkey chair or blind to increase comfort which will help keep you under the turkey radar as the birds approach. When working a call, the movement must be hidden from turkey view so using a quick set-up "two stick" simple camo blind just to keep any movement out of view can be the difference between failure and success.
Tip #4 - Hunt with someone who can call birds. The only way to learn the interactive techniques of turkey calling is to either spend hours, days and seasons making mistakes or alternatively, spend some time with a friend who is very proficient. What does that mean?  We have seen good callers work birds into range that started so far away, we could barely hear the responsive gobble. Far distances well beyond several hundred yards.  
Birds that crossed blacktop roads and open fields to get to the beautiful but simulated love sick sounds of a hen in the woodlot. Observe how small subtle changes in calling are executed by good callers. Every bird is different and adjustments are made. Birds have different personalities and good callers drop what doesn't work and accentuate the positive. You haven't really turkey hunted till everything appears perfect and then a yahoo hunter starts cranking loudly on a box call every 30 seconds at first light. The birds shut down and the early morning is busted. 
Tip #5 - The REAL SECRETS. Spend some time before the season to obtain permission from landowners to turkey areas that appear promising. Some call it "getting keys to the gate" and often, disclosing that hunting will be done with archery equipment can provide entry to spots where landowners are adverse to firearms because of children at play or other reasons. Strike that pot call late in the morning when all the other hunters have long departed the woods wondering where the birds were. Pull out the striker and slate late in the spring season when others have given up and turned to fishing. Step 40 yards off the road and hit the box call because those wise old birds have heard calls from the trails and roads since opening day. Leave the decoys behind. More gear is never a good idea and we have seen decoys put the birds on edge more frequently than they have ever provided attraction. The statistics say that 81% will fail so extraordinary measures are required for success. Most of all - stay "turkey still."

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

5 Things about Crossbows


It will help a prospective purchaser of a crossbow make a decision when they understand what a manufacturer’s intentions are. At Kodabow, the objective is to make a dependable, accurate crossbow that is safe and will perform well in the most challenging hunting conditions. Similar to the “laws of physics”, we discovered a few “rules” or "laws" that seem to always apply and shape our actions. We base these five rules on our own development experience, observing our crossbow and other brands shoot alongside one another,  and many, many conversations and experiences with crossbow shooters.  They are not absolute but they have stood the test of time. 

Sam, our Brown Labrador Retriever , (back left)  relaxing in the Kodabow booth
before the opening of the Springfield, MA Outdoor Show. 
Rule #1 – Reduce the moving parts and then make all remaining parts very precise.  When more moving things are placed on a crossbow, the opportunity for unexpected events can increase. If a component is not absolutely secured to a crossbow, it WILL  eventually come off. A crossbow is a very unforgiving machine. There is a lot of stored energy and minor imperfections can quickly escalate into major failures.  A bowstring catching a burr on a cam or on a rail as it propels an arrow downrange will eventually come apart. There are huge forces at work. It is why we hold our tolerances extremely tight. When we learn that a brand of crossbow didn't fit together when the new owner undertakes assembly or the string breaks after the 10th shot, the evil gremlin of a "small imperfection" has surfaced and has done his work. We avoid that gremlin. 

Rule #2 – Speed and Reliability can have an inverse relationship. We like speed.  Everyone does. We also like to hunt. We choose to stay within very conservative limits when building bows but far exceed what it takes to efficiently kill a game animal. We hope you never feel as if you need a bow mechanic to join you on your hunting trip. As crossbow manufacturers push speed for a marketing edge and tell you all about it, they don’t serve the hunter well when that speed is not managed properly. The acute string angle into the trigger group that comes with narrower limb widths places high pressure on a center string serving which can cause premature string failure.  Candid conversations at this year’s Archery Show with dealers indicated that they can see 60 to 150 shots on some competitor crossbows before the string is frayed or suspect and requires replacement. Consumers we speak with back that up. Good for dealer repair parts business – not so good if you like to hunt. On a Koda-Express, we say expect 500 shots on a string but you will likely see 900 if the string is waxed and maintained. We would rather see a hunter in the woods with 310 fps than on the phone with a customer service department trying to get a  375 fps bow working again. When we were back in school, the F-150 truck always ran ….. while a buddy had a fancy sports car. We would pick him up at the garage with our truck when he was dropping off his speedster for repairs. Remember, it’s about hunting.

Rule #3 – What you think you want – might not be what you really need!  At a recent trade show, a gent visits and tells us he had a bad back and neck and needed a really light crossbow. We think he should do some research. Lighter bows can jump around a bit at the shot during the energy release and transmit vibration back towards the shooter versus a heavier crossbow. It will hold steady and shoot more smoothly and deliver a more favorable experience. It is why one of our Pro Staff shooters hunting from a wheelchair found his way to Kodabow. While we know a few folks will only look at the “bow to bow” comparison spec charts and base their decision on a few metrics, we think there are at least 34 elements that need to all work together for a favorable hunting experience. While our Kodabow weighs in at over 8 lbs, you will never see in a spec chart that it has a perfect midpoint balance so that many Kodabow shooters say --- “wow, this crossbow handles well.”  And when it comes to marketing pizazz, many manufacturers push the envelope. A company recently introduced a “super compact” crossbow. When we looked closely, we found that the difference between our existing Kodabow line (all Kodabow crossbows measure 27” when cocked) was just over an inch. Not exactly a breathtaking event. At Kodabow, we are not standing still saying there is only one crossbow solution.  We continue to develop and make innovative products while exhibiting leadership with credibility.

Rule #4 – Every manufacturer can have a product issue. No secret there. We are human beings and at times, despite the best materials and work, there can be a defect. If cheaper materials are substituted or quality is not maintained, expect a problem 100% of the time when talking crossbows. At Kodabow, we expect you will have fewer issues because of our conservative approach. We want to keep you hunting. Three of us were headed on a long 10 hour ride to Ohio for a Fall deer hunting trip.  Halfway there, we all looked at each other and remarked that we each had a single Kodabow crossbow – not a backup bow in the truck.  That’s real world confidence. You may never know that we may pay 3 or 4 times for a part that we know will never break versus a cheaper knockoff that will let you down. Our vertical grip is a great example. It is expensive but it will not break. A dealer recently related that across all his different crossbow brands, he experiences a 30% - 40% mechanical problem rate requiring a shooter to return the bow for a dealer repair or factory fix. (We always wondered when calling on new dealers why some asked about how quick we supply repair parts. Now we understand.)  Test the theory yourself. Find 3 crossbow shooters and it is likely that one shooter in the group has experienced problems with a crossbow. We ask this question all the time and learn from it. This underscores the complexity of the making a crossbow. At the far extreme end, we have actually met shooters who have been flat out frustrated with  a crossbow choice. They were on their 4th factory replacement crossbow from a manufacturer. We could not believe it either. At Kodabow, our objective is to keep you hunting and not go beyond what we know will work or tell you something just to sell a crossbow.

Rule #5 – Most people are not crossbow manufacturing experts. Don’t take offense. There are plenty of great hunters or shooters but when it comes to making crossbows, we strongly recommend that if you plan on taking apart crossbow triggers or limbs with the belief that you can do better than the folks who make these products for a living --- you are headed for disaster. Yes....get ready for real big problems. A crossbow is a mechanical device that is perfectly suited to quickly finding any weakness in design and it doesn't react well to tinkering. Don’t fool around with these devices thinking you can do better --- they are complex instruments. We shoot every crossbow we make and then mount the scope correctly so you should be able to shoot accurately out of the box.  It is all about hunting and we make dependable crossbows that do that well.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


A Great Outdoor Show Falls Apart
Kodabow Shooting Lane - ESOS 2012
Yesterday morning, we determined that it was necessary for Kodabow as a company to withdraw from attending the 2013 Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, PA. This was based on the last minute and unexpected change in the show's format involving the ban on modern sporting rifles. Yes - we are an archery company but we stand with Freedom and the 2nd Amendment. We join a growing list of celebrities like Jim Shockey, major companies like Ruger and Cabelas, all who have said "No" to this show's format. We have talked with many of our customers --- many who have taken the time to call us and say they strongly agree with this position and appreciate the support. Others have emailed and simply said "thanks!" Yesterday morning, I knew this would unravel fast unless the show management company, Reed Exhibitions reversed course. Not one person called Kodabow and said "please support the show" or "you are making a mistake by withdrawing." Calls we made to Reed Exhibitions were unanswered. We did not want to see the demise of this event happen in this manner.

Recognize that all of this is a tragic and shameful outcome for a great Pennsylvania tradition. Parents are now teaching their children that principles matter when they explain the reason that they will be doing something else during the period 2-10 February. Plans are being changed. Hotel bookings are being cancelled. Outfitters are sorting out how they will pay their bills without the bookings they generate at this show. Somehow, this terrific show transformed into an anti-gun event when the show operators offered a lame explanation that they were looking to avoid controversy by banning certain types of firearms and accessories. The opposite happened - they got plenty of controversy. A lot of opportunities will now be missed. We spent some time recently with Larry Weishuhn (aka. Mr. Whitetail) and looked forward to visiting with him in our booth. Companies like Kodabow are impacted by not only the potential loss of prepaid booth expenses measured in thousands of dollars but the inability to interact with our customers and future customers. In many ways, this show was our most important event of the year as a Pennsylvania company. We are heavily invested in the show and I know many sportsmen and women looked forward to visiting with us. We have made strong friendships at this show. During the past two years, we shot a single Kodabow crossbow with approximately 2,000 consumers at each show and really jump started our pathway to success. As a new crossbow maker, we felt we needed to go far beyond expectations to give hunters and shooters the confidence to buy our product and the Eastern Sports Show was a big part of making that happen. It was hard work but it paid off. We looked forward to doing it again in 2013. Make no mistake about this outcome. The path that has been taken is a rough road but we fully support our decision with no reservations. Those that would hope to use this great Outdoor Show to advance an anti-gun political agenda have won a skirmish by purposely placing the show in confused state and we suspect that there is far more to the story. The show operators clearly underestimated the feelings of the attendees - Reed Exhibitions was out of touch. The negative response they are receiving (but not listening to) is overwhelming. Shame on any local politicians or sponsors if they had a hand in this. The reality is that the local community surrounding Harrisburg will suffer the loss of millions in revenue as restaurants and hotels are unfilled. As an example, our Kodabow team stays at a hotel for 9 days straight and eats our meals at local establishments. Not this year. 
So where does this leave us.
(1) Find an outfitter that may have dropped out of the show and book a hunt with them to show your support. This might be the year for that bear hunt in Canada or the trip to Wyoming.
(2) Spend some time in the outdoors with family and wait till next year because we know we will come back strong with an Northeast US Outdoor Show that is aligned with our values.
(3) Spend some money with the companies that support your 2nd Amendment rights. They probably need it right now. Write your state senator and ask about what is going on at the Harrisburg Farm Show complex. Contact your Congressional representatives and ask them to support hunting and fishing policies and our constitutional rights. Tell them to stop portraying firearms as the cause of the problems in our society - they are surely not.
Update your NRA membership.
(4) If you are looking for something to do, visit Kodabow in West Chester, PA during the period 2-10 February. We will open our facility and indoor range and provide "1 on 1" crossbow shooting instruction and include hunting skill improvement recommendations. Kids are welcome. Coffee will be served. We will be around. Give us a call at 610-620-4352. 
Thank you for your consideration and support.
Chuck Matasic
Kodabow