Flexibility/First Kill, Africa

My feet touched the ground as we departed the plane at the Johannesburg airport and I had finally arrived on the Dark Continent. I had dreamt about hunting in Africa for years and I felt like the old time greats such as Robert Ruark, F.C. Selous, and Capstick as I waited for my bags to arrive. Unfortunately my bow did not come out with the rest of our luggage, but I was assured it would arrive on the next flight. We made a 3 ½ hour drive to Morongwa Bush in the Limpopo Province where we would start hunting the following day. After dinner I started to get anxious as my bow had still not been delivered. I knew I could use one of the estate guns but I did not want to deviate from my bow hunting plan. I soon learned that flexibility is the operative word when hunting in foreign countries! I went to bed still not knowing if my bow would arrive, with the favorite saying of my father echoing through my mind: "That's Africa Baby." 

The next morning my bow sat in the main lodge. It had been delivered after midnight and I quickly went out to the range and made certain that it was still shooting dead on. The PH came out to view my technique and offer some bush tactics and some helpful pointers about our upcoming hunt.

For the next three days we sat in ground blinds, surface blinds and elevated blinds but only saw a few non shooters. Again that word “flexibility” crept into my head. Unlike previous bow hunting trips that I had heard about, the climate had been extremely gracious to the animals and they had no need to come to the water holes for hydration and the grass and other food sources were abundant. I enjoyed visiting with the PH for 8 hours a day, but when he asked if I would be interested in gun hunting the next day I jumped at the opportunity for my first kill with a gun, embracing flexibility for the first time.

I was not prepared for the first round out of the .30-'06 as my body reverberated ,my shoulder flexed and my first shot was errant. I had spent my entire hunting career thus far fine tuning my bow hunting skills and hoped I could quickly hone my rifle skills. A rewarding “whack” sounded as the metal plate rang, and with each subsequent shot I became more and more comfortable with the high powered rifle. Invigorated with a new game plan my sleep that night was again short and anxious.

It was great to be out of the blind spotting and stalking. A call came in from another vehicle that they had spotted a monster red hartebeest, and we quickly mobilized and met with the other trackers. We had moved to within 300 yards of the animal and would try to get within 100 yards before taking a shot. We silently crept to 200 yards, the thorns of the bush dug into my shins, legs, and arms and each twig thundered as it snapped under our feet. At 175 yards the circling wind caught up with us and the PH said we could get no closer. Freehanding I steadied the scope the best I could and took a deep breath and let out my breath as I slowly pulled the trigger. The bullet missed the animal and it quickly jettisoned away. “Everyone has missed a shot or they haven’t hunted” were the first words from the PH, but my face clearly showed disappointment upon missing this beautiful trophy. My confidence was shaken as this was not how I had envisioned my first hunt in Africa.

We got back in the truck; after three days of bow hunting and not seeing an animal, and my first shot not reaching its mark everyone could tell I was in need of some confidence boost. The farm owner told me to take a “lodge” impala on the way back for lunch to gain some comfort with the rifle. We came upon a group of impala shortly thereafter and the PH informed me that two of the rams were shooters! We leopard crawled to 75 yards of the animals and from a prone position the stability of the rifle was much more manageable. This time as the shot rang from the rifle I saw the antelope drop in my sight. High fives were all around and I reset the tone for the rest of the hunt.

We slowly approached the fallen animal and quickly assessed that the would be lodge antelope was a 24” trophy! This being my first African animal was also a cause for celebration and my face was painted with the blood of the Impala signifying my initiation into the elite club of those fortunate enough to have huntedthe Dark Continent.

9 comments (Add your own)

1. Irvin wrote:
When tree stand hunting cut and atacth branches of the local greenery to the lower areas of your stand. This serves two purposes:it provides natural Camouflage andit provides some natural scent to use as cover.Be sure to atacth in such a way as to not hinder your firing lanesThe preferred shot placement is a heart/lung shot with the animal quartering *away* from you. This area will be behind the shoulder blade and down midway of the body.If the animal seems extremely cautious then it may have picked up scent or movement coming from the hunter. In this case it may be wise to aim a little lower than normal to counteract the effect of the deer jumping the string.Whitetail deer *almost* always crouch prior to springing away from any sudden noise, and many hunters have watched as the perfectly placed arrow flies straight over the animal's back!If time is not a critical factor then wait to release the shot until the animal is taking a step and one of the front legs is in the air. This will lessen its ability to crouch and jump before the arrow hits.Always pull to full draw with the bow sighted above your target because it takes less energy to lower the sight to the target than it does to bring it up to the target. This translates into a smoother more powerful pattern with a better ability to hold the pull for long periods of time.Noise and scent are by far the two worst enemies that a Bowhunter can have. Removing human scent from your clothing and body is much more effective than a cover scent will ever be. This does not imply that cover scents are useless but if you are sweaty or spilled gas on your boots filling up the truck then all the doe pee in the world won't fool that Big Buck! Be sure to bathe thouroughly in a non-scent type soap each time you plan to hit the woods. Other common mistakes are cooking/standing near a the fire/coming into contact with anything that has a strong odor while wearing the gear that you plan to hunt in. Noise is also a bigger factor in Bowhunting than other methods simply because of the effective range. While many people will boast that they have accurate ranges comparable to that of Robin Hood lore, the fact is that most successful kills with a bow are taken with 5-30 yard shots. Take each piece of equipment that you have and do everything possible to eliminate any noise that it makes. Moleskin placed anywhere that may come into contact with an arrow works wonders. String silencers, rubber grommets at accessory mounting points, and loctite on all threads are good noise reducing methods. Don't forget your tree stand or clothing either, imagine that monster buck hightailing it out of sight after you stood up and the stand creaked or your jacket makes a scraping noise against the tree. A good rule of thumb is that if you can hear your fingernail scraping against the clothing then it is too noisy.Above all else .Practice, Practice, Practice. Know your target, know your abilities and ranges. When preparing for the season the first project is to work on form. Make sure that you are smooth on the draw and that the anchor point and release are consistent. Get your patterns down to as small as possible ( if you can't get consistent patterns under 4 at a certain range then you have no business taking the shot at that range). Others may dispute the 4 size up and down but the bottom line is that any animal that you wound and do not recover is wasted and as such it becomes fuel for the anti-hunting fires! Once you are comfortable at the distances you plan to hunt then start shooting out of the your stand from the height you plan on being opening morning. Practice with as much realism as possible. If you can, simulate real situations with foam targets partially hidden or in tight quarters. Simulate the terrain where you hunt, whether it is wide open plains or thick cover. Last but certianly not least, practice in full gear. It will be very frustrating going for that shot of a lifetime only to find out that the headnet you just bought has a wire that covers your sight line at full draw, or the jacket has buttons that catch the string on release! Judging range also seems to be one of the biggest problems that Bowhunters have in the field. Practice range estimation in terrain like that which you intend to hunt. A good tidbit to consider is to set your sights and learn your ranges based on your personal stride ie set a pin for 10 strides (full leg extension when walking should be ~ 1 yard depending on your body dimensions) this will eliminate the worry of forgetting the old tape measure on scouting trips, etc. because your measuring device will always be your stride.Remember ..You can NEVER practice enough . consistency is the key to success .. words to live by!

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4. Selma wrote:
the forest is thier home and the deer is also thier food .id kill a rat in my house but if i see one in the woods id let it be. ive seen yotes take far more rbtaibs and birds than i have deer. i wouldnt coyote hunt all the time taking a large number of them. unless i was going to eat them. dont kill it if your not gonna eat it thats how most normal hunters were raised.i shoot squirrels i eat squirrelsi shoot duck i eat duckif i was to shoot a yote .. id eat a yote

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6. Susane wrote:
At this point in life, money is a factor for you, so this advcie is geared for you personally.- Go to wal-mart and get a Three pack of the cheapest two blade heads they have- If the two blade head is not available, get the three blade head in 100 grain weight. Next find out if baiting for deer is legal in your area- if so, then put out corn next to a deer trail and make a ground blind in the bushes about 20 yards from the corn- make the blind out of natural materials in your area such as bushes, limbs, moss, anything that you can hide behind- when the deer comes to the bait, wait until he has his head down feeding or looking the other way before standing and drawing- take the shot when the deer is broadside-aim about 4 inches behind the shoulder of the deer about half way up his body. If baiting is not legal, find an acorn tree that the deer are feeding on and do the same setup. Also you can find road crossings and creek crossings that you can use the same type of setup on- try to see which way the wind is blowing before taking a stand- you do not want your scent to be blowing toward the deer. Congratulations on becoming a bow hunter- you are going to love it- never give up- success will come to those that are persistent.! Good luck!

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