BOWHUNTER OF BOWHUNTERS
By Bart Schleyer
A reverberating growl erupted from the dense African thornbrush. Paul Schafer's keen blue eyes fixed on a large lioness in full stride bounding at him. Her cold yellow eyes seemingly burning a hole through him. Paul's friend and Professional Hunter, Con Van Wyk, was partially obstructed from the lions view and 35-40 yards to the left.
As often witnessed in emergency situations, Paul described the event as if it were a slow motion film clip. The brain sort of switches into overdrive, allowing for instantaneous fight or flight reactions.
An arrow had suddenly appeared on Paul's Silvertip recurve, though he visualized a motion picture- like finish was about to unfold. The expected gunshot and slow motion tumbling of the lion just wasn't happening. realizing that in several more leaps the cat would be on him. Paul smoothly drew and was going to drive an arrow beneath her chin on the next bound. A rifle shot broke the silence. The bullet creasing her jaw a scant 15 yards from Paul, brought on a full speed 90 degree right angle turn that only a cat could perform. Con's quick movement and shot at the obstructed cat had completely diverted her attention to him. Several more bounds and the cat was on Con. Quick thinking had Van Wyk jamming the rifle sideways in the lion's jaws keeping part of her deadly weaponry away from him. Like a rag doll, she shook Con against a tree using her claws and powerful shoulders.
Knowing a razor sharp Zwickey broadhead would probably be driven completely through the lion, Paul waited for the lions body to be out of line with Con. Fearing an arrow protruding from her chest may add another slicing weapon for the frantic lion, Paul intensely willed the arrow to a spot at the back of her lungs. The arrow flashed through her like melted butter. The big cat dropped Con, but had torn the rifle from his grip. The arrow momentarily diverted her attention and Con grabbed the rifle, worked the bolt and shot, breaking the lower jaw. Once more he shoved the rifle in her jaws as she renewed her interest in mauling him.
Another arrow appeared in Paul's hand as he ran towards the brawl. the broadhead nearly cut the string as Paul brought it to nock. Intending to place a second more vital arrow (or enter the flight), Paul raced to within a few yards of the lion as he came to full draw.
Her cold eyes, draining of life, snapped to his attention as she dropped Con. Probably sensing near death from the first arrow, she spun 180 degrees and lined out and away from the men. Another of Paul's arrows guided by Zen-like concentration, flashed through the streaking lions chest.
Con was badly clawed, but had been saved by Paul's cool nature and almost unmatched shooting ability at live targets. Amazing, but just one of the many untold stories of Paul Schafer. Had Paul been weaponless I'm certain he would have used and means to discourage the lion or enter the battle. this almost being the case, since minutes before accidentally jumping this lion from her buffalo kill, Paul had left his bow behind. In the process of videoing her retreat his camera battery had (luckily) gone dead. Leaving his camera in the Land Rover, they walked into the brush to check for tracks of a male. Feeling some compelling to do so, he went back and grabbed his bow before entering the thicket.
Like the passing of Howard Hill and Fred Bear, the world lost a legend on January 18, 1993. The world lost Paul Schafer, 44 of Kalispell Montana to a tragic skiing accident. he was the sheep hunter of sheep hunters, bowhunter of bowhunters.
The Wensels once wrote that he was probably one of the best bowhunters to ever walk the face of the earth. For anyone who truly knew Paul, there was no doubt in this statement.
He was the third bowhunter in the world to achieve a grand slam of sheep ( and the first and I believe the only one using a stick bow) and had money been no problem, would probably have been the first. However, being first wasn't all-important to him, since his reason for sheep hunting was simply a great love for hunting them. The best of his four species would each rank at least in the top 10 ( the world record grand slam with a bow). He had taken a total of seven sheep.
In Africa he took what would be the world record cape buffalo, if he had ever officially entered his trophies. Being extremely humble, somewhat shy and feeling it could change a person's priority for hunting, he entered very few of his multitude of P @ Y caliber trophies. He didn't feel it was wrong it just wasn't his reason for hunting. his desire for hunting seemed driven by a deep love, admiration and tie to wildlife and nature. therefore the extreme ethics and sportsmanship he followed were second nature.
Doing the impossible seemed part of his lifestyle. I remember a friend asking him once what his secret was. Paul's answer was typical of Paul. He stated that he didn't consider himself a great hunter or a scientific type hunter like the Wensels, "Heck half the time I just feel like I'm out there stumbling around." Though sincere in his own mind, a laugh broke out from all listeners, because they knew the real Paul.
He had the ability to keep everyone's spirits high with his contagious smile and frequent humorous comments.
His custom made Silvertip recurves were as fine in performance and craftsmanship as any bow made. Simply put, they shoot where you are looking.
Paul's impact as an athlete will also be long remembered. At Charles M. Russell High School in Great Falls Montana he was a two-time state wrestling champion, track star, all-state football player and first inductee in the schools Hall of Fame.
At Montana State University he set many records, including carrying the ball 58 times in a single game in which he rushed for 234 yards. He had the single game rushing record of 265 yards. When learning of the tragedy his legendary coach, Jim Sweeney stated that Paul was probably the toughest human he had ever known.
In Life's Great Journey, what matters most was the quality of this remarkable individual. Although unaware of it, an aura of legendary heroism and honor surrounded him. It seems there was nothing Paul wouldn't do for his friends and visa versa. One could learn from his honesty, integrity and sincerity. I believe he had more true friends than anyone I've ever known. his friends are better people for having known him. Most of his friends felt of him as family. I felt of him as a Brother.
My heart aches for those who never had the chance to know Paul, my heart aches for his friends, but my heart aches most for his family. He left behind his greatest joy and treasure in life, his three year old son hunter.
In this great circle of life, I can only hope we meet again, but for now we will miss you my Brother and we Love you