The day was Oct. 23, 2012, and the thermometer read 88 degrees. I was slipping in for an afternoon bowhunt in middle Georgia. I had my Lone Wolf climber on my back, wearing only a camouflage short-sleeve shirt and my Bug Tamer jacket strapped to my climber. By the time I reached my tree, I was sweating profusely. I placed my climber around a big red oak that was next to some white oaks that were dropping. I noticed there was a lot of hog sign in the area along with some buck sign.
It was 5 p.m. as I reached for my pull-up cord, thinking to myself I sure made a lot of noise trying to climb around all those knots on that big red oak. I pulled up my bow and knocked an arrow, and I was fixing to grab my Bug Tamer jacket, and thought, “It’s too hot for that right now.” I was reaching into my fanny pack for my ThermaCELL when I heard something walking up the ridge from the beaver pond behind me. It was making a lot of noise, so I just thought it was going to be a big hog. I kept digging for my ThermaCELL and looking over my shoulder for the source of the noise. I finally caught movement coming straight to my tree, so I stopped digging in my pack as I noticed it was a deer. And not just any deer, but a big buck, postured up in a stiff-legged gait and coming fast. I grabbed my bow and stood up. As I turned to get ready to shoot, I was thinking the buck must have heard me climbing this tree and was coming to investigate the ruckus.
This is crazy, I thought… It’s two hours before dark and very warm, but it is pre-rut, and this buck is coming in just like one does when you rattle them in. I’ve got an east wind which is perfect, he is coming from the east. In my head, I’m counting down the yardage… “40, 30, 25.”
I drew my PSE bow. My arrow was tipped with a hybrid broadhead I designed and had been tweaking and field testing since January.
The big buck turned broadside at 20 yards, and I squeezed the trigger on my release.
As a full-time bowhunter since 1985, and with a particular passion for bowhunting turkeys, I took it upon myself to design and build a broadhead that would do a little more tissue damage to a turkey. Here is where the story of the Bi-Polar broadhead begins. I first purchased many different types of broadheads and started field testing them on my own. I kept a journal of both the strengths and weaknesses of each head. And trust me, I was putting them through a torture test. I also talked to dozens of bowhunters and asked them what broadhead they liked and disliked, and most importantly I asked them why.
The No. 1 reason some bowhunters don’t like fixed heads is the small cut, and they won’t fly like the field points some shoot while practicing. The No. 1 reason some don’t like expandables was they don’t penetrate hard tissue very well, and the rubber bands or shrink tubing are not very reliable, which allow the expandable heads to open in the quiver, in flight or upon take off from the bow instead of impact.
I originally designed my hybrid head for bowhunting turkeys—to bridge the gap between those who favor fixed and those who favor expandables. I built my prototype and started using it during the spring turkey season of 2012. I well remember the first gobbler I called in and shot with the prototype. He crow-hopped twice and fell dead at the decoy. The tissue damage was amazing, and the head was not damaged. Gobbler No. 2 dropped in his tracks, and that bowhunt was self-filmed and aired on Southern Woods and Water TV (SWWTV). Gobbler No. 3 was a beautiful red-phase eastern, some call them clay banks, and he made the TV show, also. All three birds were taken with the same head. I just resharpened it and kept on using it.
After a very successful spring turkey season, I felt it was time to take the next step and protect my design before I showed it to folks in the hunting industry. I contacted a friend of mine who is an lawyer and asked his advise. He told me to purchase a patent pending. Trust me, this process alone is a long one. After receiving my patent pending, it was time to share my idea with a company that might build it. To make a long story short, the first and only company that I pitched my idea to—showing them the photos and video evidence—was in the process of them changing owners and they were not interested in doing any new research and development at that time.
However, I was asked the question while at the interview, “Have you shot any big-game animals with your head?”
My answer was no, but in the back of my mind, I thought, “When I get back home, I’ll shoot a hog and see what happens.”
I was tagged out on turkeys, so why not go hog hunting? That very next weekend found me in the Wilkinson County river swamp slipping up on big sow. I did my best to shoot her right square in the shoulder at 20 yards. Keep in mind this was with my turkey bow that pulls 52 pounds with a 365-grain total weight arrow including the broadhead. I let the arrow fly and watched as the lighted nock disappeared in her shoulder.
The sow ran a total of 20 yards and turned a flip. I could see the lighted nock stuck in a cypress knee 10 yards past where I took the shot. Picking up the blood trail was not a problem. It was sprayed everywhere all the way to the downed hog. I walked over and wiggled the broadhead out of the cypress knee, and it was not damaged. I then walked back to the sow and flipped her over to see the exit wound. It was big and right through the center of the opposite shoulder.
This was the turning point in my life. I decided right then and there I would keep this idea for myself. I went straight home and started doing more research and development. I kept a journal of the things that worked good and got rid of the ones that did not. I kept shooting hogs as often as I could go.
I came up with several new technologies in the broadhead, one being “shear-pin technology.” This came about by the broadhead axle pins of other companies breaking upon impact. A threaded axle pin is much weaker than a solid pin, allowing the blades to come out of the ferrule. I learned to use the breaking pin as an advantage.
“Lock-pin technology” came about by being able to keep the blades from expanding, so you can practice with the very same head you are going to hunt with.
“Blade-to-pins-retention technology” came about so anyone can assemble and disassemble the entire head with no tools.
Everything was learned by trial and error. With the help of Stuart at Boswell Machine Shop, we were able to come up with a ferrule design that allows you to choose 100 grain or 125 grain [my personal signature head]by only changing the ferrule. The tips, blades and pins are totally interchangeable, plus both heads have the same cutting diameter 1 1/8-inch fixed x 2 1/8-inch expanded. The heads are 1 1/8 x 5/8 in flight.
When deer season rolled around, I couldn’t wait to shoot a deer with the head. The first week of bow season, I shot a big doe. She made it a total of 25 yards and piled up, and the blood trail was awesome. In fact, it was so heavy that I videoed the blood trail with my iPhone.
I shot two more camel heads with the same results. It was around this time that I was burning up the computer and phone with e-mails to companies all over the United States. I was trying to find a machinist to make the ferrules, tips, axle pins and lock pins. I had to find a blade company, a packaging company and a printing company for the backer cards that go in the clam-shell packages. I had to find a company to anodize the color into the ferrules.
Oh, and I forgot to mention I was told I could not have the broadheads built it in the United States. Everyone said it would cost too much.
Well, at that point it really lit a fire under me to build it here or not build it at all. I have really gotten an education on how much is involved in bringing a product from an idea to public market. I personally believe it is time we all need to focus on American-made products and support the companies that make those products. I would rather give an American a job than someone overseas. We are already in debt up to our eyeballs to other countries.
I have had to deal with the nay-sayers, also. I think I might know how the Wright Brothers felt when they sat down and announced to the public, “We are going to build a flying machine!”
The point is you do have to reinvent the wheel. If not, we would still be riding in a buggy, or a model T, or reading by an oil lamp. Anyway, after searching all over the United States and getting quotes from different machine shops, I found the one I was looking for right in my backyard—Boswell Machine Shop in Sylvania, Ga. Special thanks to Stuart Boswell for helping me see this project through. This project has consumed most any free time I have had, not to mention all the cold meals that were not cold when my wife called and said they we ready.
Now this project needed a name, and my good friend Chad Mathis, of the Glock firearms company, came up with Bi-Polar which actually means “having opposite polls” like north and south or east and west. This seemed perfect because the hybrid Bi-Polar is a fixed head and an expandable head in the same package. This way if someone asks you if are you shooting a fixed head or expandable head, you can simply say yes. If you choose to, you can hunt turkeys, hogs, deer and big game with this broadhead. You don’t have to change anything, just grab your bow and quiver and go hunting. I would suggest a little less poundage on your bow for turkeys so you can pull it back easier while sitting down.
There has always been the discussion of speed verses weight for penetration. My take on that is this, if I was standing on the roof of my house and you were on the ground, and I had a brick in one hand and a cement block in the other, which one had you rather I drop on your head. With all things being equal, I found that heavier is better even at the sacrifice of a little speed. I also learned quickly that sacrificing strength to make a broadhead weigh less is not the way I would go. Vented expandable blades were the blades that I found out to be the weakest in my tests. Let’s face it, the first broadheads I shot in my hunting career were heavy by today’s industry standard—130 grains or heavier. But then everybody got speed crazy, and the only way to speed up the old bows was to lighten the arrow components including the broadheads. The modern compound bows that we shoot now make this a moot point. What you will hear now is, “I do not need a bow that fast.”
Yes you do, and here is why. You can shoot less poundage than you are used to and keep the same speed you are used to. Why would you not want to shoot a 60-lb. bow verses a 70-lb. bow and still keep the same speed? These are a few of my reasons for making the 125-grain Bi-Polar my signature head. It will also be offered in a 100-grain version.
Dennis Lewis, of SWWTV, is my partner in this endeavor, and his advise on the business and packaging and advertising part of this project have been very helpful. Also Matt Adcock, Jim Rhodes, and T.J. Fountain along with his wife Amanda have helped with advise and field testing of the broadhead. In fact, Matt took his best Georgia bow buck last season, a beautiful Laurens County Pope & Young, with the prototype.
• • • •
I watched the Bi-Polar zip through the rib cage of the big buck after only being in the tree for a few minutes. The buck bolted straight toward me and stopped directly under my tree. He had no idea what just happened or what had stung him. I could hear him heaving for air as he just walked away and started to stagger sideways and collapsed not 10 yards from my tree.
I sat down in my climber, looking at the big buck lying on his side thinking did that just happen? I glanced down at my watch that read 5:15 p.m. I was overtaken with the emotion of the moment. All that time spent building and testing the broadhead, all those summer practice sessions, the equipment preparation, the scouting and day dreaming of just such a moment. I have learned in my career that temperature has very little to do with deer movement as long as it is the right time of the year and the wind is right. You know the old saying, you can’t kill ’em at the house. After I gathered myself I climbed down the tree and walked over to my trophy, a big 9-point that weighed 225 pounds with a beautiful double white throat patch. He will look great on the wall with the rest of my memories.
As I reflect over my hunting career, I well remember the man who told me I was wasting my time trying to kill a gobbler with a bow, as well as the man who asked, “What are you going to do when you see a big buck that is too far to shoot with that bow of yours?” And the last man who said he was an engineer in the archery industry with 15 different patents to his credit, that my shear-pin idea would not work on an animal. I asked to show him my video and pictures of the recorded kills, and he said, “I have seen thousands of dead deer pictures and video. Don’t bother.”
It is these things that drive me to be a better outdoorsman and bowhunter.
“Success comes before work only in the dictionary,” is my late father’s saying that drives me to succeed. I often think of the movie Forrest Gump when he asked, “Mama, what’s my destiny?”
Being a hunter is great, being a bowhunter is better, designing and hunting with the broadhead you designed yourself—priceless! Just like the Wright brothers, everything starts as an idea or a dream. Hard work along with the desire to succeed are the keys in case you ever decide to start your own journey.