The first morning, all hunters took part in the pre-hunt sight-in, a ritual in all camps when extensive travel has been involved to ensure everything is in order and that nothing has been knocked loose. Most importantly, it also gives PHs a chance to see how their hunters handle themselves and the rifles they will use. The little Honig .375 and I put two “checking” shots right where we had back home with a box of ammo while getting reacquainted. The gun was all that I remembered, except now it belonged to a new owner, and that fellow’s hair color had changed in the interim.
Now it was time to go hunting to see if we could find a kudu worthy of Pete’s memory and the rifle he left behind.
Drew and I had discussed the animal I was looking for: He needed to be a mature kudu bull that had been around long enough to grow the two-and-a-half curls with ivory tips that make the greater kudu such a prized trophy throughout Africa. I explained that he didn’t have to be a record-breaker. However, I did want to wait for one that taped at least 55 inches around the curls from skull to ivory tips. If we happened to find one even bigger than that, it would only be fitting. After all, as I detailed to Drew, Petersen took a bull in Zimbabwe years earlier that measured near the magical 60 inches! Drew smiled and attempted to educate me on the realities of kudu hunting in the Okavango. Even though it was great country for kudu, he said, we would be very fortunate indeed if we could find something in the 54- to 55-inch range, as that was about as big as they get in the Delta.
So here we were chasing a bunch of bulls, at least one of which might be what we were looking for, but to this point they had the upper hand. Drew decided our best chance was to abandon the chase and go back to the car and see if we might be able to cut them off. He felt that even if we were unsuccessful, we now knew where they hung out and we could always come back and take up the track when the conditions might be more favorable. He was the professional, this was our first day out and we had been hunting for only about four hours, so I happily agreed.
In the safari car, we circled around the stand of mopani hoping to get to where the kudu were heading before they got there. This time, the hunting gods were in our corner and our trackers spotted one of the bulls near the edge of the stand of trees. We ditched the car and, on foot in the Delta sand, we set off to find the sighted bull. In less than 30 minutes, our lead tracker began stabbing the air with his forefinger in the direction of a lone bull standing near a termite mound. It didn’t take long for us to realize this bull sported everything I was looking for: long, beautiful spiraling horns with polished ivory tips—he was the bull I had come so far to find.
The old bull was quartering toward us. On the sticks, I settled the crosshairs just inside his left front shoulder, and after the .375 bucked I heard the telltale slap of the bullet. In an instant he disappeared from view, and Drew said, “I think you hit him!” I knew I had hit him—and good. The only question was how far he would go. Now it was up to the trackers to do what they do so well. They got us to the spot where the kudu bull was standing when I shot, and his easy-to-follow trail proved he hadn’t gone 20 yards before he fell.
After the back-slapping, the picture-taking and cleaning of the bull was over, Drew asked, “Should I put a tape on him to see just how big he is?”
My response: “Of course. Let’s see what we have.”
The longest horn measured a whopping 62 inches, the shorter of the two just a tad less than 61. The magnificent old bull was outstanding in the horn department, but in body he was near the end of his time, skinny and in really poor condition. I knew Petersen had to have had a hand in this. I knew he was smiling down on us while providing the bull of bulls for his favored Honig .375. I was merely along for the ride—and what a ride it was! The kudu turned out to be the biggest bull ever taken in that part of the Okavango, and the last bull ever taken there.
The rest of the safari turned out to be as spectacular as my part. The following day, for instance, Tony Makris dropped a 451/2-inch Cape buffalo, the biggest of his lengthy African hunting career. Was it divine intervention? I seriously doubt it, but I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if Petersen played a part in the outcome. There may be other safaris, but not in the Okavango—that’s over. Petersen and the old kudu are now in other hunting arenas. I will spend the rest of my days with the rifle in my care, and thus close a couple of special chapters in the lives of a couple of old men. But I may have a few miles left. So now that I own this historic Honig .375, who knows?