Paul Schafer—Part 2

The fast times and early death of bowhunting’s ultimate extremist.
Paul Schafer—Part 2

<< Part I — Superman

African Adventures

paul schafer huntingHere are Paul Schafer’s own words from a magazine article describing his 1989 Zimbabwe bowhunt for Cape buffalo:

“A molten African sun scalds my exposed skin, drenching me in sweat as I inch across burning sands, pushing my bow ahead to belly-crawl (toward a herd of about 100 bedded Cape buffalo) less than 70 yards away. A suspicious cow at 10 yards with the whites of her red-rimmed eyes showing threatens to stampede. A good bull, alerted by the cow’s action, circles closer...a tempting target at under 10 yards but the thought of a huge bull (in the distance) kept me motionless.

“...the cow whirled and pounded away. Buffalo rose from their beds all around me, milling about. The bull I wanted remained bedded (but) quartering away. Then he was on his feet, swinging his heavy head from side to side, facing directly away from me. I rose to my knees. As the buffalo started to turn broadside, I came to full draw. SMACK! My arrow took him right behind the shoulder and disappeared to its fletching. I knelt there, unmoving, awestruck. I knew that I had a good hit...but it seemed almost too good to be true.

“Suddenly from out of the clouds of dust I could see dozens of dark shapes materializing shoulder to shoulder, moving my way. I had a fleeting sense of how Custer must have felt on that June day on the eastern Montana plains. I scarcely breathed. One cow, apparently catching our scent, abruptly lumbered our way menacingly only to spin at 12 yards and pound away. The herd (eventually) dispersed and we took up the trail of the stricken bull. He had only made it 80 yards. The stalk was incredible! The clean killing shot was a bonus.”

A Lion Heart

A riveting testimony to the heart of this incredible man occurred on that same African hunt. Once again Schafer faced death unwaveringly. While in the company of Professional Hunter Con Van Wyk and another bowhunter, Ted Jaycock, Schafer spotted a lioness running ahead of their Land Rover. Jaycock jammed on the brakes and sneaked into nearby brush with video camera in hand as Van Wyk, armed with a .375 Holland & Holland, attempted a stalk. The battery in Schafer’s video camera expired, so he instinctively grabbed his recurve and tagged along.

From out of nowhere the lion charged, targeting Schafer. Unfortunately, Van Wyk did not see or hear the lioness approaching. She was only a few yards away when Schafer drew, released, and watched his arrow disappear into the animal’s rib cage. Almost simultaneously, Van Wyk fired a shot with the bullet lodging just below the big cat’s eye, causing her to swerve and turn on him. In an instant, she had him pinned against a tree, raking him over with scalpel-like claws. All he could do was hold out his rifle to keep the beast’s powerful jaws at bay.

Nocking another arrow, Schafer calmly focused on the raging beast, now at 10 yards. When he could not find an opening to shoot, he considered pulling the lioness off the guide. She apparently caught his movement and stared him down briefly before retreating without warning. Out of instinct, Schafer drove a second arrow through the bounding animal. The next day, with Van Wyk patched up and on his feet, the hunters returned to the site with game officials to find the 350-pound lioness dead 150 yards from the attack scene.

Love Of The Mountains

African adventures and misadventures notwithstanding, Paul Schafer adored mountainous terrain in North America—especially if sheep were the target.

“I couldn’t understand what was so great about sheep,” he said in 1986. “Well, I really fell in love with the North and its high, rugged mountain ranges. Sheep were different, and I was hooked.”

Schafer could hunt elk with the best, but even local bowhunters didn’t know how good he really was.

“He’d never let on,” close friend Matt Riley related. “If you’d bump into him on the streets of Kalispell, he’d say something like, ‘Yeah, I got into a few smaller bulls, but nothing special; I’m still looking for a good bull.’ Well, I always believed him, figuring he was having the same kind of fits with elk as the rest of us.

“But I’ll never forget the day I stopped by his house and watched some video footage he’d just shot. I couldn’t believe it. He had 6x6 bulls bugling their heads off within 15 yards! Any of us would go bonkers over something like this, but for Paul it was just another day afield.”

Love And Living

Schafer’s love of life demanded respect for wild game, and this is what drove him to perfect his shooting accuracy. He was an exceptional shot at double the distance of most modern bowhunters, and he was very guarded about the length of his longer shots for fear of encouraging novices to shoot beyond their abilities. He certainly knew his “effective range,” however, from extensive practice rounds out to 90 yards. This long-range practice routine, he felt, was key to becoming the best shot he could be. It allowed him to study his arrow flight while maintaining excellent shooting form, two things he believed made shots at “reasonable” distances seem easy.

Friends Came First

Schafer had no shortage of friends. They were more important to him than bowhunting. It was said at his funeral that if his best friend was asked to stand up, the entire audience would rise.

“Paul loved deeply,” Windauer said. “He did an incredible amount of fathering to my two sons. When I could not get through to [them], Paul would find a way to deliver what they needed to know. Paul was the world’s best hunter but had time to teach his niece, Jenny, how to hunt.”

Part III: Incredible Legacy…


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