A large, black bore fed in the middle of a clearing as I stalked through thick vegetation typical of Florida’s West Coast. At 50 yards, I stepped into the open and the hog’s head immediately went up. Without hesitation, the stocky beast marched directly at me. It stopped at 25 yards and we “had a moment” eyeball-to-eyeball at 25 yards. Since a head-on hog shot was a terrible angle even with the powerful Ravin R20, I stayed as still as a stone. Then, the tusker turned, walked back to its feeding area, and I stepped back into the shadows. I wanted a hog in the 100-pound class which makes ideal eating.
I was hunting three hours north of Tampa at Tiger Island Outfitters and all the porkers I pursued were wild trapped hogs that had been released on the Tiger Island ranch. I sat a stand most of the afternoon, yet with the sun on the horizon, stalking seemed to be a more promising tactic.
R20 Field Test
This was my second experience with a Ravin crossbow. I had the good fortune to receive a prototype for testing in 2016 and bagged the biggest buck of my life. Now in the second full year of production, Raven has stayed with their advanced engineering only adding an aiming upgrade in their most expensive model.
This Florida hog hunt was an afterthought of a spring vacation and I arrived at the Tiger Island ranch with the R20 literally just out of the box. Fortunately, the Ravin package requires very little assembly, primarily attaching the scope and quiver.
The scope of the R20 package has much to offer. First, it has variable magnification from 1.5 to 5-power, quite a range for a crossbow optic. Additionally, the scope will vary its reticle position relative to speed. Should you want to shoot a much heavier arrow at a slower speed, you can adjust the scope to that speed which changes the reticle position to adapt accordingly- quite ingenious. Finally, reticle marks are circles instead of lines and each is clearly labeled from 20 to 100 yards. This long-range ability along with Ravin’s marketing has caused a stir among state regulators and the industry. A 100-yard shot at an animal is never an ethical choice and hunters must limit their activity to their effective range. I like to use the comparison, “Just because a 30.06 Springfield will shoot accurately at 1,000 yards doesn’t mean hunters should take shots at that range.”
Raven’s HeliCoil technology produces a very compact crossbow that shoots an arrow at 440 fps, one of the fastest production crossbows on earth. Additionally, it varies from other models by not having a shooting rail. Instead, the arrow knocks into an anti-dryfire system with the front of the arrow laying on a Teflon rest. As a result, the arrow has minimal friction which bumps up speed.
One might think that such a high energy bow would produce quite a sound upon launch, yet you will be amazed how quietly the R20 functions. I had the bow on zero at 20 and 30 yards, the distances I expected to shoot. Meghan Ransom, the outfitter’s wife helped me sight in the bow and didn’t mind doing a bit of modeling. Without doubt, male readers will enjoy seeing her with the bow instead of me.
High speed bows and some broadheads don’t perform well. Fixed blades may experience erratic flight at such high speeds while mechanical heads may open prematurely causing poor accuracy.
My choice of broadhead was the Slick Trick Raptor Trick broadhead for several reasons. First, it’s extremely aerodynamic so there is little chance of the head over-steering the shaft. Secondly, the head has a tiny retention ring which assures the blades will stay in place despite the launch speed. Finally, from my experience the two blades offer a two-inch cut, enough to down a trophy Black Sable in Africa. Once shot with the head, the huge animal traveled just 100 yards. Additionally, the Raptor Trick comes with a practice point as part of the package which makes for easy experimentation.
To the Hunt
My plan was to ambush a hog from a tree stand, much like a whitetail hunt. However, as afternoon turned to evening, hogs seemed to be everywhere but near me. Outfitter Bill Ransom suggested we try a spot and stalk which led to the big bore stalemate mentioned earlier.
After a couple of failed stalks due to the thick vegetation, Ransom volunteered to do a small drive and push feeding pigs toward my location. One large group came past with so many animals I couldn’t pick one out. Fortunately, a 100-poundish hog lagged and I raised the scope expecting a broadside shot.
Following the pig was easy in the bright scope, yet it saw me just short of an opening and glared in my direction. I could see it’s shoulder through a basketball-size opening in the bush and squeezed off the shot. Instantly, I saw a blood volcano on its shoulder as the speeding shaft and sharp broadhead did their work. Immediately, the 124-pound hog rushed toward me, but stumbled and staggered at 10 feet. It fled another 10 yards and lay still.
Wow! Wild hogs are usually difficult to kill, but this laser-like arrow and sharp broadhead killed this animal in less than 10 seconds. Raven’s also have awesome triggers and the shot just seemed to flow. In another second, the hog would have bolted, yet an instant was all I needed.
After a few pictures, the pig and I were off to the processing area where it was quickly butchered and put on ice. The next day, the meat was as clean and pure as if it came from Safeway.
My field test of the Ravin R20 was 5-star in every way. The bow is compact, extremely fast, quiet, has a great trigger, and a brilliant optic. If you are looking for a high-end performer, you can’t do better. www.ravincrossbows.com