The Ed Ashby Thing, Part I – Regarding Traditional Archery

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The Ashby Thing, Part I

In case you've been living under a rock, Dr. Ed Ashby is the hard-core traditional bowhunter who has gained the ear of many archers after exhaustive research into broadhead penetration and performance (testing conducted on animal carcasses). Ashby started this research in Africa, shooting various broadhead/arrow combinations into a variety of big-game animals (already dead), including Cape buffalo. More recently his tests have involved Austrailian Asiatic buffalo, animals bigger than African Capes. 

Ashby's conclusions, considered gospel among many traditional bowhunters and an increasing number of modern archers, advocate heavy arrows (15-plus grains per inch) and very heavy broadheads (225 to 315 grains) creating extreme Front Of Center (F.O.C.) percentiles of 25 percent or more. Furthermore, his preferred broadhead design is a one-piece cut-on-contact with single-bevel edges (sharpened from one side only to leverage through bone). 

This approach makes a great deal of sense only if you're planning to bowhunt something very big at very close range. Ultimately, the only real problem I have with his recomendations is the insanely heavy broadhead. Take the heavy arrow and add a reasonable 175- to 200-grain head creating 15 to 17 percent F.O.C. and I'd consider it an "ideal" compromise of reasonable traditional-bow trajectory and performance. 

In direct regards to traditional bowhunting, there's absolutely no doubt Ashby's arrow provides maximum performance on game deep penetration and a better chance of animal recovery following direct bone hits. The one company embracing Ashby's guidelines most enthusiastically, Alaska Bowhunting Supply, offering a cadre of heavy-weight arrows and broadheads, uses the moto "No such thing as overkill!" This is certainly true: A heart-shot doe whitetail taken with a .375 H&H Magnum is just as dead as if shot with a .22 Hornet. The major difference, verses archery, is the 100-yard trajectory (a range constituting an "easy" rifle shot) of these widely disparate cartriges is, for all practical purposes, identical. 

Now take a 650-grain finished arrow (typically Ashby's minimum recommendations) and contrast it to an arrow weighing "only" 500 grains finished (for me a Quest Archery Ironwood Lite (10 gpi), 200-grain broadhead (PDP 75-grain steel broadhead adaptor plus Zwickey No Mercy or Simmons Land Shark)). Consider an "easy" shot, of say, 25 yards on white-tailed deer. Would you stand a better chance with a relatively inefficient recurve bow of connecting with the loopy trajectory of the 650-grain arrow, or the "light" 500-grain arrow? What if range was stretched to 45 yards (generally my maximum "no-problem" range)? My point is you have to him 'em first, and in instinctive (or gap) shooting, absurdly heavy arrows make that more problematic. By the way, I recently blasted through a 250-pound mountain white-tailed buck's shoulder blade, and spinal column, with the above-described setup  while using the aggressive Simmons head (without single-bevel edges; which I find difficult to produce a spooky-sharp edge on).

This isn't to imply the entire approach is invalid. The stand-bound traditional bowhunter taking only 15- to 20-yard shots would be well served by these "magnum" projectiles, even if only 150-pound whitetail were involved. For the rest of us bowhunting spot-and-stalk mule deer for instance  there certainly is a thing called overkill, and I'm not talking about the prices of this specialized equipment either.