Member's Hunt: Close Enough

posted on May 29, 2023
MH Richard Whitney Lead

By Richard Whitney, Boonville, Ind.

The day I arrived in South Africa, I knew from my previous homework that my outfitter, Safari Afrika, produced awesome waterbucks. My PH, Rowan Zerf, went immediately to work trying to make it possible for me to tag an exceptional waterbuck.

We were lucky. We found a dandy the first morning we searched for one. Yes, we drove to the top of a high mountain where, after a few minutes of glassing our tracker pointed out a waterbuck with his naked eyes. The waterbuck was so far away that I couldn’t identify, with my 8x40 binocular, what type of antelope it was. Needless to say, the tracker had outstanding eyesight.

After my PH conducted a short conversation with our talented tracker, we headed down the mountain hoping to intercept the waterbuck. While we were driving, I reminded Rowan that my goal was to take a 30-inch or better waterbuck. He smiled and nodded in affirmation. 

Of course I was skeptical that the waterbuck would still be where we had sighted him. I should have had more faith. To my surprise, the tracker, riding high in the back of the truck, tapped on the top of the truck for it to stop and pointed straight ahead while conversing with my PH. Sure enough, the waterbuck was still on the edge of a field. He had not retreated into the tall cane lining the ditch behind him, but he now had company. The bull had located two cow waterbucks, and they had his full attention.

Thus, my PH and I climbed out of the truck, and Rowan checked the wind direction by spraying powder from a small plastic bottle. Satisfied with the wind, we started our stalk. Rowan was fond of saying, “Slow is fast and fast is slow.” So we slowly moved towards the bull and his lady friends.

The waterbuck stood between the cane and the two cows that he was obviously courting. He was looking to our right, and the cows were facing us. It was the cows that we had to worry about spooking. So we crept ever closer staying in some head-high tall grass. Finally, Rowan stopped and ranged the buck at 135 yards. Before he set the shooting sticks, Rowan looked at me and whispered, “Does he meet your expectations?” 

I nodded yes. Without hesitation, Rowan placed the sticks firmly in the ground. Slowly, I settled my rifle across the shooting sticks and picked up the waterbuck in my scope when the whole group bolted, only now there were four cows instead of two. The waterbuck’s harem had just doubled in size. This bull had one thing on his mind, and it wasn’t us.

Thus, we started our second stalk. We found a shallow ditch to walk in, which kept us below the height of the weeds as long as we walked in an uncomfortable, back-breaking bent-over position. As we made our approach, the cows were still nervous, but the bull smelled love in the air as he reared up and tried to mount one of the cows. However, she wouldn’t stand still, and scurried out from under him.

After being insulted by his lady friend, the bull turned his backside to the four cows. That’s when Rowan ranged him and said, “Are you comfortable with a 200-yard shot?” I said yes, and he set the shooting sticks. “I want him perfectly broadside to us,” Rowan whispered. Finally, after a couple of minutes, Rowan calmly said, “Shoot him now.”

My Winchester Model 70 bucked and the .30-06, 165-grain Hornady Superformance penetrated the waterbuck’s left shoulder and exited the opposite shoulder. When he turned, we saw blood on his right shoulder. He was dead on his feet and dropped slowly to the ground. This waterbuck’s dating days were over.

Rowan knew that my goal was to tag a 30-inch waterbuck, so he knelt down and measured the horns. He stood up, looked me in the eyes and mischievously said, “Richard, I hope you won’t fire me for being ⅛-inch short of your goal.”

I smiled and said, “That’s close enough.”

Do you have an exciting, unusual or humorous hunting experience to share? 
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