By John Zent, Editorial Director
It had already been a special hunting day for Drew and me, and even as sundown began to tint the African sky in warm colors we weren’t ready to sit back just yet.
In one quiet valley, Jamy marched me through scant cover toward a waterhole where he expected to find waterbuck. From 500 yards out we could see giraffe towering over the trees, and as we drew closer there were gemsbok, kudu, wildebeest and impala.
In another of Eden’s many corners, our buddies searched for a trophy springbok the PH had spotted the week before our hunt.
We stole closer and found no waterbuck, but no matter, one of the kudu bulls impressed Jamy. He glassed momentarily then deftly popped the shooting sticks in place. I snugged my rifle into the V, but there were so many animals milling tightly together I had to wait.
Three promising springer rams were feeding where Drew and Naude slipped from the cover, but none had the full hooks of a mature trophy. The young fellows drifted away, and it looked like the hunters’ time and luck was about to run out when one more ram ran into view and abruptly bedded down. This was the one.
Unnerved by our presence the waterhole bunch started to turn and run. When the target kudu pivoted and stepped clear, I fired. He kicked dust with his rear hooves, ran, then plowed into the stony ground.
In the gathering dusk Drew shot quickly as soon as the springbok rose and dropped it on its nose.
Though we both had made last-light kills in the past, his springbok photos and mine with the kudu are set against a fiery sky that highlights a day neither of us is likely ever to match.
First Day’s End
“Having a crew of people to come and pick up the animals sure helped us to stay on track,” Drew observed. “And it helped that we ended up needing little time for tracking after the shot.”
We had been focused, for sure, yet I had never felt rushed. Numbers aside, it remained all about finding, pursuing, getting close, setting up and finally shooting. Genuine hunting, rare intensity. If the next day was anything like this one, our 48-hour safari would be a surprising success.
Instead, at about the same time we both bumped into red hartebeest. To my thinking it’s the oddest-looking of Africa’s dozens of antelope, with its bent horns and long, goat-like face. These stout creatures have always been quite spooky when I’ve encountered them, and I’ve come up empty on two previous safaris.
My encounter occurred as Jamy and I drove away from camp in the cool morning air, and voila—a single red-coated hartebeest stepped into the two-track. We reversed the truck, then got out, moved up and relocated the big ram feeding at the edge of the track. My chest-on shot put the animal down, but he was still thrashing and so I followed up with a finisher—the only time in the safari I’d have to fire a second shot.
Right off the bat Drew was into gemsbok, but kept finding young bulls only. Then hartebeest came into view, a herd of 20+ animals including several good rams. PH Naude singled out one standing on the side of a termite mound about 200 yards out, and when Drew drilled his shot through both shoulders, it collapsed right there on the mound.
And while wildebeest are reknown tough customers, my shot through both shoulders dropped the fine bull after a death sprint of just 25 yards.
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