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.
Posted on Wed, August 16, 2006
by Alec Janda filed under