The 48-Hour Safari: Priorities

By John Zent, Editorial Director

Being opportunistic, taking what the bush sent our way, both Drew and I had whittled our respective game lists to one remaining priority each. He had his mind set on adding a big, spear-horned gemsbok, a virtual symbol of hunting the Namibian desert. I was equally gung-ho on waterbuck, an animal I had long admired, one whose massive head gear make him among the most impressive ridged-horn antelope.

After a lengthy stalk through very brushy cover, Naude spotted gemsbok legs, and milling with several others under short acacia trees was a shooter bull. After crawling in close, hunter and PH waited for the bull to step into a shooting lane. While they waited, a curious little steenbok nosed within a few yards, comically putting the setup at risk. Drew did his best to hold steady, and when the PH said to shoot the front part of the bull’s shoulder, Drew took his shot.

Although the shot felt good, there was no blood and too many tracks to sort out which were the bull’s. Their recourse was to loop methodically through the head-high thicket, and because wounded gemsbok are known to attack with their dangerous, pointed horns, it was a tense recovery. Relief came upon finding the bull folded up under a tree, 150 yards from where it had been struck. “I shot slightly back and hit him in one lung,” Drew told me later. “I’m used to the behind-the-shoulder hold, but in this case that wasn’t the right angle. So it was a good lesson about listening to the PH’s advice.”

My PH took me to a beautiful pond loaded with ducks and geese, and he advised this would be a likely spot to waylay a waterbuck while we ate lunch. I settled into the shade of a big tree and alternately dozed and watched, but our only four-legged visitor was young springbok.

We moved from one spot to another throughout the afternoon, kept coming up dry and it was looking futile as the sun started dropping. Given all our success, missing out on the waterbuck wouldn’t be all that important—would it? With less than a half-hour of light remaining we parked the truck to glass a long, dry riverbed. And there we found him.        zenr

Literally we had to run 300 yards through the trees, and then I lay flat and rolled into a prone shooting position about 200 yards from the buck. Through the scope I could see he was a great one—just perfect—but I was heaving so hard from the exertion I couldn’t hold steady. The crosshairs were wobbling, and so I timed the wobble and fired when instinct pulsed from my brain to trigger finger. The big buck kicked and fled.

We hustled in pursuit, and I was thinking we’d be tracking in the dark. But Jamy and his tracker, Yonah, stopped to scan the hillside where the bull had run. Then Yonah pointed and we trotted straight to a seam in the brush where the big buckskin antelope lay dead. I could then see why the tracker had pointed; it was the cloud of dust hovering over where the waterbuck had fallen. Taking those big horns in my hands made our final act all the more amazing.

Time’s Up
After that dramatic afternoon, all that remained of our 48-hour safari was to pack up, sleep a few hours and leave for the long drive to the international airport in Windhoek.

Our crazy, abbreviated safari had been a rich, intense hunting event beyond my wildest dreams.
Between us, Drew and I killed 14 trophy animals and in that sense collected a wealth of anecdotal data about the performance of the trim, classic Kimber 84L rifle and the new Trophy Bonded Tip loads from Federal Premium. Our shots had ranged from 20 to 300 yards, and all but two times we garnered one-shot kills. Clearly this shooting-gear combination has tremendous potential regardless where one hunts. In that sense it was a great success, and I was thrilled to return to Eden after many years and reunite with Jamy, who I am convinced is one of the world’s finest hunters.

Nonetheless, don’t take this as any justification to cut a safari short. The trip to Africa is too long and hard for that, and there are way too many great things to see and do to shortchange an experience that should be savored.  

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