I was watching a group of zebra when a black wildebeest walked into view from the right, dropped his head, and began to chomp grass. There was no mistake; he was a good, mature bull.
He had broad, cracked bosses, and his shiny black horns swooped down below his eyes and hooked and curled up past the top of his head. Black wildebeest were not on my "to-shoot list" until I watched the ornery beasts fight and chase each other around various waterhole setups. The previous day, Dwight Schuh had shot one, and after close inspection, my desire to take a black wildebeest began to burn.
Usually, black wildebeest are in herds and often gallop to the water, churning up dust from the dry ground in the process. Once at the water, they horn, shove, and bolt in and out. It's a circus, and you have a difficult time getting one to stand long enough for a quality shot. This one was alone and calmly standing. I pivoted, lifted my Hoyt GameMaster recurve from its hook, and squared around. The bull turned and walked back to my left and stopped. It was an easy shot; he was at only 12 yards. My arrow smacked him in the meat of his front leg and hammered to a stop in his opposite shoulder -- exactly where I was aiming.
He omitted a gruff grunt and leaped forward. As he ran, he spun in tight circles, trying to get at the arrow embedded in his shoulder. The last circle ended 50 yards away as he slammed to the ground in a heap. After my guide arrived, we walked over to my wildebeest. On the way, I found the fletching end of my Carbon Express arrow. The wildebeest had managed to break it in half. Little did I care, because the shaft had preformed as designed. It flew straight and penetrated deep.
When Dwight told me that, thanks to Bowhunting Safari Consultants, we'd be hunting plains game in South Africa and Namibia in June 2006, I decided I should shoot a heavier bow and carbon arrows, so I ordered 60-pound limbs for my Hoyt GameMaster, two dozen Carbon Express Heritage 150 shafts, and two dozen Barrie Rocky Mountain Ti-125 broadheads and extra blades.
I've always had good success shooting 585-grain aluminum arrows, so I was concerned that my new carbon shafts would be too light and I'd have trouble achieving true arrow flight. But I really wanted to try the Heritage shafts, so I dedicated the necessary tuning time to accomplish my goal.
I studied Carbon Express' charts and found their Heritage 150 shafts were 10 grains per inch, and it appeared they were close to the right spine. Once I received the shafts, I screwed a 125-grain fieldpoint into an insert, pushed it into the front end of my shaft, and shoved a nock into the tail end. I didn't use epoxy, because I knew to find the exact length for the right spine and perfect flight, I'd probably need to cut the shaft several times.
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I started by cutting the shaft at 30 inches, two inches longer than my draw, and it hit my target tail right -- too stiff. I knew if I added weight to the front of my arrow, it would weaken the spine, because it causes the arrow to flex more as it is thrust from the bow. I removed the point and insert, screwed a 50-grain weight to the back of my insert, shoved it back into the arrow, and shot it again. It was better, but still struck the bale tail right.
Using another uncut shaft, I found that my arrow would strike the target dead-on with perfect alignment if I kept it 34 inches long, but I knew everyone watching Bowhunter Magazine TV would question why I was shooting such a long arrow, so I needed a better solution.
I knew from previous experience that I could gain 10 feet per second from my bow by switching from a Dacron string to a Phase 1 string, so I called Cordoza Creations and ordered the string. The string is somewhat like Fast Flight, but it isn't as hard on your bow. Once it arrived, I built a Flemish twist string, stretched it in, twisted it to the right length, and found that the extra speed allowed me to shoot a 28-inch bare shaft into my target and that it would strike with perfect alignment -- my arrow was tuned to my bow.
To get the arrows to reach my desired weight, I added weight tubes to the arrows. Each tube weighed three grains per inch. After using epoxy to glue in inserts, and after dipping, cresting, and fletching my arrows, I was surprised to discover they weighed 597 grains. I was completely satisfied that I had accomplished my goal of obtaining excellent arrow flight and reaching desired arrow weight.
While in Africa, I was pleased with the way my Carbon Express arrows and Hoyt recurve performed. I harvested six animals with this setup, and in several cases, I used the same arrow to take two or more animals. Naturally, I inserted new replacement blades in my Rocky Mtn. Ti-125 broadheads before shooting each animal. In fact, I took the black wildebeest mentioned in the beginning of my story with the same arrow that I'd used to take a blesbok ram the previous evening.
I called 3 Rivers Archery (1-866-732-8783, www.3riversarchery.com) to get 50-grain weights, paint, glue, and cresting materials to create desired arrow weight and to tune my arrows to my bow. I also used some of their products to make my bow shoot quietly.
I used string from Cordoza Creations to build my string for greater speed. (You can also purchase ready-made strings, compound cables, etc. from them.) Contact: Cordoza Creations, Inc., PO Box 1187, Durham, CA 95938; 530-533-8692; firstname.lastname@example.org.