The 48-Hour Safari: Horns o’ Plenty Long

By John Zent, Editorial Director

By midday both Drew and I were hunting gemsbok, and because these antelope are so prolific at Eden, the hunt often becomes a waterhole waiting game where it pays to be patient in picking out a trophy bull whose horns extend nearly 40 inches from bases thick as axe handles. It’s also a good noon-time activity because the desert dwellers are prone to move in the heat of the day.

Though the medicine had eased his swelling, it was obvious Jamy was feeling queasy from the caterpillar bite. Briefly he fell asleep in the blind, and when he awoke I was watching three dozen gemsbok congregated at the waterhole, and more were joining them by the minute.

To untrained eyes the horns of every mature gembok look long, but there was one specimen here that had caught my attention, and after studying it Jamy mouthed: “A cow.”

We watched and waited, scanning the traffic until the animals started filtering away. “Have you ever killed a 40-incher?” asked Jamy.  I shook my head no. “The cow is easily 40, probably longer,” he raised his brow encouragingly.

He didn’t have to twist my arm.  I had taken three gemsbok bulls on previous safaris, and so I had no qualms about taking an exceptionally long-horned cow in a situation where managed hunting must keep a thriving herd in check.

My shot struck the point of the cow’s shoulder and she whirled and ran with the rest of gemsbok. A zillion tracks puckered the sandy ground, but fortunately the tracking job was a short one, and I was thrilled upon recovering this trophy cow whose horns exceeded 42 inches.

It was a busy scene at the waterhole where Drew and Naude watched and ate their lunch. Giraffe, ostrich and many gemsbok traded back and forth, but my partner was determined to shoot only a great trophy bull, and in the three hours they waited, no such monster appeared.

Stalking Heads
Drew and Naude hunted on until the roaring of a rutting impala ram caught their attention. Though these deer-sized antelope appear rather delicate, the rams can sound pretty darn fierce when squiring estrous females. By keying on the insistent vocals, our fellows were able to stalk close enough to see parts of the rutting ram, though the brush was too thick to permit a shot.

Finally it shifted a bit, and Drew could make out horns and a patch of shoulder. It was a thread-the-needle shot, but no problem for an accurate rifle, load and shooter, and it dropped the well-formed impala in its tracks.


Meanwhile Jamy and I were toting my gemsbok back to the skinning shed when we spied a bachelor bunch of blue wildebeest a half-mile out into wide-open savannah. Although a patch of timber would afford us some cover, it was clear that at least a couple hundred yards of crawling would be required to get within range.

I wondered if Jamy, who still looked ill, was up for this, but he led the charge as we hit the woodlot double-time. As expected, that took us only halfway to the game and so we’d have to cover the rest on hands and knees. Fortunately, a string of termite mounds would help to shield our advance, and so we snaked from one to the next, freezing behind the dirt piles to let the wary wildebeest settle down. It was an aggressive approach, and when we hit the last mound some 300 yards from the bulls, their nervous pacing made it clear our stalk was about to conclude.

Firing from prone I felt confident from that distance. I knew that if I did my job my equipment was plenty accurate.

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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