When my friend suggested we go to Africa back in 2015 to hunt plains game I barely blinked before I answered, YES! This was going to be an epic journey with a few close friends on a bow only hunt on the dark continent. But what would we hunt? I wasn’t familiar with all of the species of plains game and how we were going to hunt them. Will we hunt from a blind, a tree stand like I am used to or will we be spot and stalk hunting these unfamiliar creatures? So many questions to be answered. We prepared for this hunt in every way possible. I bought a shot placement guide for African plains game online so I could study them and be as prepared as I could once we arrived. Through my studies I found that all of the vitals in the plains game animals are slightly forward from what we are accustomed to in the states. This is going to take a lot of focus and clear mind to make sure we are taking ethical shots with each animal. As if there wasn’t enough pressure traveling halfway across the world to hunt!
July of 2015, we arrive at our destination at Stanley Petierse Safaris in the Limpopo Valley of South Africa. This place was incredible and far exceeded my expectations. We were quickly greeted on the drive in by a herd of blue wildebeests running directly across our path. I was in awe. This was my first sighting of a plains game animal. The blue wildebeest was also one of the animals on my list for this hunt. They were huge and breathtaking. It still seemed unreal that in the morning I would be on my first African bow hunt.
Day one on our hunt we go to a spot where we were hoping to encounter an Impala. We sit in a blind similar to one we would hunt out of in the states. This particular blind was made of cinder block and sheet metal. It also had a one way viewing window so you could watch the animals near the watering hole. Tons of guinea’s, vervet monkey’s and warthogs crowded the watering hole as I see something coming from my right that caught my eye, it was a herd of cape buffalo. I took a step back to alert the PH (professional hunter) that was guiding me about the incoming buffalo. He told me not to worry but my heart still raced. This blind was no match for an angry buffalo. The herd of a dozen or so came into drink and were quickly on their way. I felt a tremendous sense of relief as they left our area. I was still concerned about bumping into the herd on our way out with only a bow in hand to defend ourselves. We unfortunately never encountered the Impala we were hoping for but we decided to switch it up for the evening hunt and go to a new blind in a different area. That evening as we sat in what the Africans call a pit blind we waited patiently for a blue wildebeest this time. A pit blind sits halfway underground. The windows start almost at ground level. It’s a far cry from what I’m used to. This particular blind is about 5 feet wide and 7 feet deep. It’s made of stone with an aluminum roof on a wood frame. As we sit comfortably awaiting one of my target animals to come in we hear some rustling outside. We finally get a visual of the disturbance and it is a lone cape buffalo and he is eerily curious about our blind. He’s getting closer and louder. Next, we hear a loud shrieking sound as the buffalo thrashes his mighty horns against the aluminum roof of our tiny hut. He now seems like the big bad wolf that just might blow our house down. I tense up immediately. The sound is that of nails on a chalkboard. He continues to investigate the hut circling it and thrashing the roof repeatedly with his horns. As he completes his circle of our hut he stops in front of the tiny staircase that leads inside. There stands a tiny wooden door that was the only thing standing between us and the rogue buffalo. Boom! The buffalo reached his head over the stairwell and swung it sideways ramming his horns into the door knocking out the piece of material that was covering the small window to keep light out. Like the movie Jurassic Park when T-Rex finds the people hiding under their vehicles, the buffalo slowly leans his head forward and puts his eyeball right up to that little window to find me shivering against the wall. I was sure we were about to die or I was going to be forced to shoot this buffalo with a bow in self-defense. Luckily, while this was happening my friend was in viewing distance of our pit blind and could see what was going on. She quickly called the ranch owners for backup letting them know about the buffalo. Within minutes (what seemed like an hour) the ranch owner arrived to save the day. He tries running the buffalo off with his truck. He’s driving it in circles but the buffalo refuses to leave. I see him throwing large rocks in his direction but nothing works. Now we are told we need to get to the truck. The only thing standing between me and this two-thousand pound killing machine is a truck but it is my only escape. We quickly open the door and I sprint up the stairs to getaway. As I jump inside the truck and close my door the angry buffalo charges the truck on the opposite side and rams us right on the driver side wheel well. He hits us with such force and gets his horn under the truck that he actually lifts us up off the ground as he lets us know why he is one of the Big 5 game animals in Africa. I screamed with sheer excitement. It was the rush of a lifetime! How incredible it was to witness and be apart of this kind of experience. In the end we were able to return to that same pit blind where I took my first African plains game, the blue wildebeest. It was amazing to see these herd animals come in so close and really understand their behaviors. Hunting herd animals is such a different experience than what I am accustomed to. They stay close together and you really have to pay attention to your surroundings, the other animals that are there with them and particularly the target animal. It is easy to get confused on which animal is which as their distinctions from one to the next is barely visible. I’ll never forget my wildebeest as I was able to execute a perfect shot dropping him within 20 yards of where I shot him. But then, there was the recovery. Don’t think I hadn’t forgot about the buffalo that tried to tear the roof off of the pit blind earlier. Luckily, he never came back! The rest of the week went really smooth and I stayed highly aware of my surroundings. This was truly the experience of a lifetime!
What sight is right for you? There are so many different sights on the market to choose from. Finding the right one can be challenging. Over the past few years I have tried several different sights. 3 pins to 5 pins and I always felt like there was something missing. Admittedly the 5 pin sight was the way to go for me. Additional yardage markers came in handy to really get dialed in. Setting each one up was always a task though. It never seemed like I could get my 5 pins to sight in high enough in the housing to utilize all of the pins though. Move the pins, move the pins and them move them some more. There had to be an easier way to get an accurate setting on my bow with half of the work involved in sighting in each individual pin. One thing I had noticed with the multi pin sights is that the different color pins seemed to be a bit distracting and certain colors were more visible than others. You can pay extra to have your pins all one color but with the money you put into a quality sight why should you pay more when you can just buy one that fits all of your needs? I had heard several people talk about different sights on the market including the one pin sights which intrigued me. That is what began my research on the one pin and how they worked. I was very hesitant about single pin sights because the thought of having only one pin honestly scared me. How does it work? How hard is it set up? How accurate can it be?
After months of messing with my newest 5 pin sight I was having frustrations and to top it off the lighting mechanism on mine had quit working for the second time and it wasn’t even hunting season yet! One week before season opener I made the crazy decision to take off my new sight and give this one pin sight a try. Lots of deliberation went into this and I landed on a sight that I had read great reviews about as well as had many other bow hunters tell me they were using with great success. I started asking around about the set up process each person I spoke with said it was a really simple process. That was to be determined. I honestly thought they were pulling my leg. It really cannot be that simple. So I took the plunge and went with the HHA Sports Optimizer Ultra. I couldn’t wait to get the package open and see how this sight worked. I started reading the directions on the set up and it truly seemed to simple. Mounting the sight on the bow was a breeze. Another thing I found super helpful was HHA’s website that is very user friendly and provides directions to all of their sights along with helpful hints. You have two options when sighting in your bow. Dial it in at 20 yards and 60 yards or 20 yards and 40 yards. For the most accurate settings dialing in at 60 yards is suggested but not necessary. When bow hunting I choose not to shoot past 35 yards in any setting so I went with the 20/40 yard set up.
Starting at close range I made sure my housing was where I needed it. Sighted in at 20 yards using the sight in tape that is preinstalled on the dial. The dial is located where you would normally move your pins up and down. Instead of moving pins and moving pins like I mentioned before you simply turn the dial with ease and the housing moves the pin up or down. Finally a sight that doesn’t require me to break out an Allen wrench every time I feel something is off. My problems might be solved here. Once I was sighted in at 20 yards and felt good about my placement and grouping I marked the sight in tape on the dial exactly where the dial marker was at during my final placement. Next was to move out to 40 yards. I started by doubling the count from where I was at since I was doubling my yardage. This proved to be pretty close to accurate but still took some minor adjusting. Once I had a good group going with my first few arrows I was in awe at just how accurate the sight was. 40 yards and I was slinging bulls on my first three arrows. Needless to say I was hooked immediately. Not only was this sight easy to set up but it was deadly accurate. Having only one pin to concentrate on during my shots gave me more confidence in my shooting ability. This new sight made me fall in love with my bow all over again. Well it was time to make this sight official and replace the sight in tape with the actual yardage tape. Once that was set in place I knew this sight was going to be game changer for me. When learning to judge distance my dad always told me to get settled in to wherever I would be sitting and sight in on everything I could within ethical shooting distances so I knew where I needed to be when it came time to make my shot. Keeping that in mind I knew this would be an easy adjustment and make bow hunting a lot less unnerving. Whether you are a bow hunter or not this sight is great for accuracy. With a quick turn of the dial my bow is set to the exact yardage I need and now all I have to do is aim and take a slow deep breath, exhale and let my arrows fly.
If you have been in the market for a new sight or maybe you are just considering trying something new I highly recommend checking out HHA Sports and see their full line of sights to find the one that is right for you.
Recently I decided to upgrade my compound bow after nearly a year of going back and forth on what I should get. The best advice I can give you is to go to a professional. There are a lot of people who can provide you with information regarding archery but you need a knowledgeable professional to make sure that you make the right purchase.
Check out your local archery shop. Have them fit you for a bow so you know exactly what you need. Find out about the latest equipment on the market. Make an informed decision because this is a big purchase. Another thing to consider is how serious you are about the sport. Bows can range from $200 to $2000 or more depending on what you add or change out on your rig. You can upgrade almost any aspect of your bow. Are you wanting to get into the sport of archery or primarily going to use the bow for hunting? These are all deciding factors on what bow might be right for you.
Personally I went with the Hoyt Charger Vixcen because I fell in love with it. I loved everything about the bow from the way it felt in my hand to the way it looked. This bow just met my needs for bow hunting with its speed, accuracy and quietness. In my case I changed out the stabilizer, sight and hand sling right from the get go. More upgrades to come too!
I found a trusted professional that I go to for all of my archery needs. They set up everything on my bow all the way down to fitting me for the proper arrows. Safety can never be overlooked and having a professional on your side is always in your favor.
Bow pictured: 2014 Hoyt Charger Vixcen