It was always a dream, a dream to hunt in Africa. My childhood memories of stories told of danger and adventure drew me like a bee to honey. A while back in 2003, I was lucky enough to win a New Hampshire Wildlife Federation Auction to hunt with my son Jason in South Africa. We were on a Plains Game Hunt with rifles and Bow and Arrow. I had so much fun on that hunt that I wrote a book about it and things to do to prepare for such a hunt. We hunted just outside of Danielskull, South Africa with Mount Carmel Safari’s. I was prepared to hunt with my .338 Winchester Magnum and 250 grain Nosler Partition Bullets and Jason hunted with my .270 Winchester with 150 grain Nosler bullets.
The Kudu story was one that was years in the making because I dreamed of hunting the Grey Ghost of Africa long ago. It is what I came to Africa for!
It was nearly sunset on the plains and near my favorite watering hole.
An hour earlier I had taken a large bull Red Hartebeest with Bow (another story). I wanted to take a greater kudu with bow too if possible and had my Ruger M77 Bolt Action .338 at the ready as well.
It was 6:15 PM and only about 20 minutes of shooting light left. The skyline was turning purple as it attempted to hold the blackness of night from crushing what daylight we had left.
We had been hunting and observing in this hide for several hours. I was going stir crazy as I had a very respectable bull Hartebeest we had arrowed and checked on earlier, but knowing that in the last twinkles of light that we had left, sometimes the largest and most cunning of game species venture out when they think it is finally safe to drink. I poked my head into all the nooks and crannies looking outside for any approaching game. Nothing there! I looked out another break in the grass wall. Nothing there! The last place to look was through our back door. As I did, I froze… Unfortunately the door was swung open and a huge Kudu could be seen at 40 yards approaching the water. My guide Jonam reached out and closed the door enough so we would not be seen. At 30 yards we could not see the Kudu, he was coming in on our blind side. All of a sudden there was an earth shattering roar. “ROOOF, ROOOF, ROOOF!” A Lion? No, it was the kudu! We were had! The kudu is the second largest antelope on the African Plains, he was more than 600 pounds on the hoof. Like an Elk he swapped ends and high stepped it to about 150 yards to a small hill. We kept silent and watched him with awe. His head was visible above the brush and sky lined in the fading purple. His spiral horns were silhouetted as if to showcase the magnificence of the nearly three perfect curls.That image was forever etched into my brain! I grabbed the .338 in case he steps clear of brush. I had my Leupold VX-2 atop the Ruger .338. I was amazed at how clearly I could see and do not know to this day what magnification I may have set in those fleeting moments, probably 3x which is my normal setting. One thing was for sure, I had enough adrenaline in my blood stream that, to this day, I can play those moments in my head like it was yesterday.
In a whisper to Jonam, “If he steps out so can get a clear shot, I’ll take it!” I held on the kudu so long perhaps 30 seconds that my arms began to shake. The gun and my arms felt like lead. I held that rifle for what seemed like eternity Seconds passed like cold maple syrup off a spoon. Finally, in desperation for a shot, I braced the rifle on the metal frame of the hide. “For Petes sake, step forward”, I mumbled, or something like that. No sooner did I think it that he stepped forward, one step, two steps. Ok I have a clear shot.
As the crosshairs of my Leupold scope touched the chest, I squeezed crisply. “KABOOM!” I worked the bolt as fast as I could and put another round in the chamber. I shouted, “I can’t see him; I can’t see him.” In the fading light I put the safety back on. We pile out the back door and Jonam was scanning with binoculars. Jonam shouted: “He’s up… er, no, he went down.” As the last light was swallowed by the African night, we realized that we did not have a flashlight with us. Luckily, Jonam did have a two way radio, so we radioed for assistance. Sitting there in the pitch-black darkness I mused that I always seem to shoot animals when I don’t have a flashlight; how on earth could I have forgotten a flashlight from the planning list?
Jonam was sure the kudu had moved to the right, so when Jason and his tracker “Jim” arrived, Jason set out with his penlight. Not sure where the kudu had fallen, Jonam assured me that if I hit him with the .338 where I said I did; it was only a matter of locating him. As we began to search, we crisscrossed the spot that Jonam saw him last, all looking for blood spoor. “None here,” I said. “Nope, none here,” chimed in Jonam. We went back to where I thought I shot him. “He is somewhere here, Dad. We will find him.” Jason encouraged. “I can’t understand it; I believe that I hit him well,” I said as we went back to where I thought I shot him. Denied visual confirmation, my heart began to sink, when suddenly a whooping sound arose from Jonam and Jim, who had found the kudu not 20 yards from where he had been hit. It was a double-lung hit, a bit high but that is hunting. We high fived each other, and then it occurred to me to tell Jason my other great news; “I have a red hartebeest down over there that I shot with my bow earlier.” “You what! WAHOO!” was Jason’s response. And then I began to relax… a little.
It took all four of us to load the kudu and red hartebeest on the back of the Toyota Land Cruiser Pickup. Jason and I rode in the back with the game. As we headed out of the bushveld in the darkness, the stars were so bright and clear that we could reach out and touch them. The spiral arm of the “Milky Way” galaxy pointed the way back to camp. As we bumped along, with a soft cool African wind in my face high atop the Toyota, my right hand was holding the ivory kudu horn tip to keep it from banging into metal. Jason was sitting to my left. I accomplished my dream to take a fine kudu and hunt with my son in Africa. The hunt could have ended there and then. My kudu dream was fulfilled; I said a quiet prayer in thanksgiving. When we got back we celebrated, and celebrated some more over a crackling campfire. This is but one of several exciting hunts in my e-book African Safari -Rifle and Bow and Arrow. Come with me and Jason, hop on a 747 with us and go on Safari.