by Mark Chesnut - Thursday, August 31, 2023
As responsible hunters dedicated to our sport and to our quarry, we all want to do everything in our power to ensure a quick, humane, clean kill on the game animals we pursue. That’s just a part of who we are as we live a hunting lifestyle we strive to perpetuate and pass on to the next generation.
While an admirable goal, given the natural limitations of archery equipment, a clean kill can sometimes be more difficult to accomplish with “stick and string” than when using modern firearms. That’s where the Texas-based Ashby Bowhunting Foundation (ABF) comes in, providing data that helps hunters to make the best possible equipment choices for the most effective results.
Created in 2017, the organization refers to itself as “the leading bowhunting authority on arrow and broadhead lethality,” which is noted on the first page of its website. It has been working the past six years to provide bowhunters with the necessary information to achieve the highest possible success rate and reduce the wound/non-recovery rate of big game to the lowest level possible. Through a program of continuing research, the foundation seeks to find the most lethal arrow setups, considering all possible hits under real hunting conditions, and to make the results of this testing available to the global bowhunting community free of any cost, using multi-media outlets for information and test results.
When the organization held a seven-hour workshop earlier this year for about 30 Texas Parks and Wildlife hunter education instructors, ABF staff knew they ultimately would be reaching many times more people than that as those instructors took the message to the bowhunting masses.
Rob Neilson, ABF co-founder and president, said his struggle with equipment while bowhunting led him to look for solid data on what types of equipment worked best and what types did not.
“Prior to getting the foundation started, I listened to the marketing [put forth by bowhunting manufacturers] and it was like, ‘Go lighter, go faster, use this, use that,’” Neilson said, in an interview with NRA Hunters’ Leadership Forum website. “What I was using up until that time had worked, but … then I started having failure after failure… and that's when I started doing some research.”
Neilson soon discovered the work of Dr. Ed Ashby, who had done extensive testing of broadheads on buffalo—some of the toughest animals to kill—in both Africa and Australia. Neilson and Ashby worked together to start the foundation in hopes of helping other bowhunters make more efficient kills by using the research to make informed equipment choices.
The foundation now has more than 50 years of research and data utilizing penetration enhanced arrow systems in real hunting situations strongly validating the findings. The data accounts for clean kills on multitudes of whitetail deer, mule deer, elk, wild hogs, nilgai, more than 2,000 Cape and Asiatic buffalo, more than 100 elephants, multiple hippos and countless other large game animals across North America, Africa, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
Through Dr. Ashby’s efforts and those of others working with the ABF, the foundation has determined 12 critical arrow-penetration enhancing factors to support quick, clean kill shots.
While we can’t go into depth on each one in this limited space, the 12 critical factors are structural integrity, arrow flight, the arrow’s weight forward of center, mechanical advantage, shaft diameter, arrow mass, blade edge finish, shaft profile, broadhead/arrow silhouette, type of edge bevel, tip design and arrow mass above the heavy bone threshold. You can find an in-depth discussion by Dr. Ashby of all these points here.
As Neilson put it, “The more of these factors you stack on, the better, more efficient your system will be in helping you get penetration to kill animals, whatever you’re hunting.”
Dozens of Dr. Ashby’s arrow penetration reports are available on the “Ashby Reports” section of the foundation’s website, as well as reports for tests conducted since the foundation was created. For interested archers, there is enough solid data there for hours of enjoyable perusal.
With the current attacks on hunting by the Biden administration and other anti-hunters, continued education efforts for both new and seasoned hunters remain as important as ever, especially considering the importance of increasing widespread cultural acceptance of hunting to ensure the future of the sport we love. The folks at the Ashby Bowhunting Foundation are certainly doing their part to help hunters who chase their quarry with archery equipment to be more effective.
About the Author
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC in Jenks, Okla. An avid hunter, shooter and field-trialer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for nearly 25 years.
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