Author’s note: Bill Epeards of Goshen, Ohio, has traveled the world and taken some legendary animals on some unbelievable hunts. A member of the PSE and Mossy Oak Pro Staffs, he works with Jimmy Houston Outdoors and is a member of a world-champion archery target team. “I shot competition archery for a lot of years, but I got away from it,” Epeards reports. “Then I got with some other older fellows, and today we shoot the senior class of the Bowhunter Division of the IBO. We won the national championship for two consecutive years – 2008 and 2009 – came in second in 2010 and won 2011 and 2012.” Epeards also guides and hunts in the United States. This week Epeards shares with us some of his most memorable bow hunts.
Epeards: You don’t understand. I wasn’t hunting for a rhinoceros that was green. A green rhino hunt, or any kind of green hunt, is a catch-and-release hunt. You dart the animal with a drug, the animal goes down, the veterinarians and the scientists then study, measure, evaluate and draw blood from the animal to check its health, and you get to make pictures with the animal that you’ve taken while the animal’s unconscious. After the hunt’s over, and the scientists have gathered all the information that they need to gather, then the animal is injected with a chemical that negates the anesthetic in the syringe that you’ve shot into the animal. The animal gets up and walks off. So on a green rhino hunt, you go through all the stalking and hunting strategies that you go through if you’re planning to take the animal with your bow. However, when you release the arrow, instead of having a broadhead on the end of it, it has a hypodermic needle known as a dart. The force of the dart hitting the animal causes the shaft of the arrow to push the plunger of this hypodermic needle, which injects the rhino with an anesthetic that puts it to sleep. Or, at least, that’s the way the hunt is supposed to work.
My hunt for the rhino was an unbelievable experience. We used the spot-and-stalk method of finding the animal and getting in a position to take the shot. When I reached camp, I had a practice syringe attached to my arrow. Then I could practice shooting the dart instead of a broadhead. I had to set my bow, so that I was shooting less than 50 pounds, and adjust my sight to aim properly with 50 pounds instead of with 80 or 90 pounds of draw weight, which was what I’d been using. After I was confident that I could deliver the arrow accurately to the rhino, if we found one to shoot, we loaded up the trackers and the veterinarian to go hunt the rhino. On these types of hunts, you have to have a veterinarian with you to make sure that the anesthesia and the drug to counter the anesthesia are administered in the proper dose for that animal. As we began to start hunting rhinos, I was able to move to within 40 yards of the animal I was to take. There were three rhinos, and I picked out the biggest one. The shot was to be made to the shoulder of the animal, and when I took the shot, I hit the spot at which I was aiming.
We waited 45 minutes before we started stalking the rhino again. When we caught up to him, we could see that the rhino was drowsy and sluggish, but he hadn’t gone down yet. The veterinarian suggested that we take a second shot with a little more anesthesia to put the rhino down. I got to the side of the rhino and took a second shot, and within 15 minutes of that second shot, the big rhino went down. The veterinarian told me that the drug he was using was a very powerful anesthetic. When the rhino received the proper dose of this drug, he’d have all his functions and know everything going on except he wouldn’t have his mobility.
When the rhino went down, the veterinarian and the trackers went to the rhino and started taking blood samples and gave the rhino antibiotics. After the medical maintenance had been done on the rhino, we were permitted to take pictures and finish the video. Then the drug to counteract the anesthetic was given, and the rhino was up and on his feet in less than 60 seconds. What was really exciting for me was to actually get up beside the rhino and feel how heavy and thick his skin was and to rub my hand down his horn and be able to have my picture taken, shoot the video of the end of the hunt, and the rhinoceros still breathing. After we’d done everything we’d wanted to do with that rhinoceros, injected him with a drug that made him mobile and free again to roam as he’d been roaming before I ever shot him with my PSE bow.
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