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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