Robert N. Swinehart is probably one of the most overlooked and least known bowhunting legends to most younger hunters. There is an anemic amount of information on the web, his books are long since out of print, and existing examples are sought out by collectors and above of the price range for most average folks. This scarcity of information, combined with a stigma surrounding his untimely and early demise, has placed a veil of fog around the man whose extraordinary bow hunting tenacity and success had him featured in "Ripley's Believe it or not". He was the first man to down a 3-ton black Rhino with his 90-pound Hill style longbow. His reputation for taking risks in fulfilling his goals was not unfounded, and the resulting hunting stories are legendary, edge of the seat, entertainment that deserves to be retold.
The second attempt on this safari continued to fray nerves. Particularly tall foliage that year made spotting difficult, but the trackers were able to locate a large rhino in the cover of very tall grass interspersed with dense thorn bushes. The cover was so impenetrable that the Rhino heard the team approach and charged! Expecting the brush to part and immediately come eye to eye with instant death, the team was relieved when the thrashing and crashing sounds were moving away instead. Now on alert, the trackers again caught up with the beast, only to have the exact same scenario play out again. After, several more similar follow-on attempts, Bob was getting frustrated and I imagine quite fatigued from the stress.
In later interviews, Bob would always say the African elephant was the most dangerous to hunt. This 7-ton leviathan towering 12 feet high, with feet the size of Bob's two boots heel-to-toe, 5-foot long tusks, and a trunk that could reach 10 feet and crush a man with one blow, was the pinnacle of achievement with the bow and arrow. His gear was specially modified for the task including 36-inch long solid fiberglass arrows with steel nock and long shanked custom points launched from a 100-pound longbow. This combination would require him to be very close before gravity overtook the weighty missile.
Hunting in Mozambique, after an exhausting track, Bob was able to race from cover, close to within 15 yards of a bull, and launch an arrow into the chest of the elephant. As it was departing, another shaft quickly impacted close to the initial. Bob approached as it appeared the bull was about to keel over at any second, but instead the elephant turned and charged. Sidestepping the angry locomotive, Bob hastily poured in another shaft grouped tightly in the kill zone just as the behemoth began to collapse (amazing accuracy under the circumstances). Bob was able to scratch the elephant from his big-five list. He was not completely satisfied however, as he wished to prove that one well-placed arrow could do the job even on a creature with the enormity of the African elephant. He planned a return to Angola to try again with the mighty pachyderm.
His encounter with the first Cape Buffalo, nicknamed the "black death" for its propensity to trample and seek revenge on those who wish to invade its personal space, was likewise a hair-raising situation. While traversing some broken territory in the land rover, the group managed to drive among a huge swirling black herd. Scattering groups in all directions, Bob jumped out of the vehicle and attempted to sprint up to the edge of a large gathering as they passed. His backup hunter could not keep up as Bob skidded to a stop and immediately drew and released a shaft just as the last stragglers in this particular pack passed inside of bow range. Picking out an individual and compensating for a lead, the arrow streaked across the 35-yard distance and striking the buff in the jugular vein. He watched the beast crumple and disappear into a roll, swallowed by the dust of the panicked herd. Success, but now he and his hunter were about to be cut off from the refuge of their vehicle by a second group approaching fast from behind them. Quick feet and thinking allowed the two to reach a tree as the black beasts flooded around, passing within feet on either side of the tree. Luckily, no harm was inflicted as the last stragglers roared passed and Bob was another step closer toward his goal. He ended up killing several more buffalo on subsequent safaris.