It’s a long shot!

Bachir was visible uncomfortable, fidgeting and bouncing around behind the dead rest I had built for him. The Kudu were visible aware of our presence. I tried in vein to get Bachir to sit still. He eventually burst out and half stood up and said “There is something bitting me on the backside!!” In order to get him to sit down and avoid spooking the now very aware Kudu. I looked down under his seat and saw the course of his discomfort. A small black scorpion was trying his hardest to penetrate his thick trousers. With tail erect and pinchers at the ready, I battled to control my laughter which was bubbling up and about to boil over. I stabbed the scorpion with my Spydeco knife and showed Bachir. He was stunned into silence.  I should have known this would be no ordinary Kudu hunt.

Bachir Nawar  and Peter Shamah were new clients to us from the United Arab Emirates.  On the hit list was a Kudu bull each. It was early August and Selbourne Farm was our destination. At this time of the year Selbourne carries an unusually high number of these animals and being a free range farm it seems to get some migratory bulls entering the farm at this time of the year.

This weekend was also to be our Symons Ranch Bull Sale so busy was an understatement. George Cawood was on the hunt and I was preoccupied with the sale. George hunted until Saturday and I was to take over thereafter. Thursday and Friday went by with no result on the Kudu front. So by Saturday the pressure was building to fever pitch and I was the one that would have to turn the pressure into points. I needed two Kudu bulls in one day, which is no small order on my concessions.

We bundled into the vehicle on Saturday morning before light and were headed to Selborne I luckily had the full Lowlands Team. Trackers Bhegi, Zipho and Richard as well as tracking dogs Tex and Turkish on the truck. Greg Moldenhauer had also joined us after attending the bull sale on Friday. We had enough hands to make the two kudu challenge become a reality.

I set out the trackers on vantage points and look outs, so as to cover as much of the farm as fast as possible. We took up position at the radio masts and it was not long till we were seeing Kudu. Numerous cows and juvenile bulls were being spotted in the valley below me.  Our timing was good as the golden rays of the first sun hit the hillside the Kudu glowed like they were fluorescent white in color. I glassed every inch of the valley but there was no sign of a mature bull. I shifted position further up the mountain slope and still no mature bull. I could now see four groups of Kudu. Over twenty in total. I decided to walk and check the furthers group to our left as they were partially obscured by another hillside and just maybe there was a bull in this group. We began walking along the road and covering ground quite quickly when my radio crackled to life. It was Zipho. He had spotted two mature bulls.

Zipho and Greg had taken up a view point to the south of our position and by his description the kudu were between our two positions and slightly further to the north. They were in rough terrain but I knew the area very well and knew there was only two paths out of that area. I decided to head for the vehicle and try get onto these two bulls by Zipho and Gregs description they were both mature shoot able bulls. We reached the vehicle and I hurried along the farm tracks. Excitement running high now as if the bulls continued on there route there was a very good chance we would get a shot at them. I stopped the vehicle about a kilometer from were the bulls were feeding, and we proceeded on foot. Rifles loaded and shouldered we set off. Peter had had a near miss the day before so had a score to settle. He would shoot first. We closed the distance down a drainage line and were being briefed by Greg and Zipho as to the bulls movements. We got to a path that I knew the kudu used to make there way around this drainage line. It became steep and impassable lower down so they used this path to circumnavigate this area. My idea was to set up on this path and let the kudu do the rest. Zipho and Greg were in agreeance that this would be best as they seemed to be closing the distance towards us. Very slowly however.

We sat in the shade of a small path of trees and bided our time. I got regular check ups from Zipho as to there progress. One of the big concerns with our set up was we only had about 80m of visibility due to bush thickets and tall grass. These Kudu would be on top of us when they appeared. I was willing to take the risk as it was that or follow them into the thicket which would be certain failure. This area is extremely rocky and it is impossible to walk quietly so with some patience I believe the sit and wait to be the best option. I still knew I needed two kudu and I could not sit and wait for these bulls all day.

Minutes dragged on and the animals moved slightly then browsed then move again. Peter and Bachir were becoming impatient.

Eventually Zipho came on the radio and informed us that they were heading straight at us. We made ready and got the rifle set up on the shooting sticks. I glassed the tree line and could see nothing. Zipho said “130m from you” I searched the tree line. Nothing.

I took a bold move and decided to move my position to my right slightly we were on a gradual slope and maybe the slightly higher elevation would help with the long grass. I told Bachir to sit tight and I moved with Peter, the position was slightly better. I told Zipho I can only see 80 m to which he replied they are 120m. I searched the tree line for an ear flick or glint of horn. Nothing. I could hear by Ziphos voice they were close now.

Then I saw it the distinct white chevron on a Kudus face. I whispered to Peter “there he is””down the corridor do you see it?” There was a neat corridor into the thicket and the kudu was standing in this corridor. Just its chest, neck and head protruding. He was brilliantly camouflaged. Peter peered through his scope but could not make the kudu out. I reached under his armpit and guided the rifle onto the kudu AND WISPERED “Look carefully!” He spotted it and his adrenaline started pumping, I could hear his breathing pick up pace. We looked carefully and the shot was partly obscured by branches. Peter had a slight window on the shoulder but it was a difficult shot. With this the Kudu sensed our presence and stared straight at Peter. Dam it. With this the game was up we either shoot now or our Kudu were gone. I urged Peter to take the shot and he confirmed he could see the target.

The 30-06 blew smoke out the barrel and the Kudu reacted immediately. I did not hear a good hit…… Did he hit the brush?

I jumped on the radio “Zipho is the Kudu hit? Is it hit?” There was a long silence. Not a good sign.

Eventually Greg came across the radio and said “He is down!” Man relief and excitement came over Peter and we moved quickly forward to see his bull.

It was a super bull and Peter was thrilled, a perfect shot to boot…….. Under the circumstance Peter had made a great shot.

With the euphoria and excitement over we endeavored to get a vehicle to the animal to retrieve it. Again a lot easier said than done on a farm that’s zulu name is ZALAMATCHE (The place that gives birth to stone). We eventually had the animal loaded and with the trackers guiding the vehicle through the maize of stones we manage to get to the road and start the trip homeward.

Now Bachir was going to step up into the gun turret and he had said that we had shot a kudu today so what other possibilities were there in the area. We chatted about his available options and he decided a Nyala bull was a good idea. I said to Bachir that I had a concession nearby that had good numbers of Nyala and also Kudu Bulls on it he agreed that with only a afternoons hunting left we should go to this farm and see what we find as with the time allotted we would need to be a little flexible and take the opportunities we were offered. He agreed whole heartedly and after a quick lunch at the lodge we were on the road to Rondedraai.

I had decided to use a method of hunting I use when under time pressure and that is to utilize my trackers to scour areas whilst I hunt with the client, this with the use of radios allows us to cover thousands of hectares instead of just what one man can cover in a afternoon. This I did and placed Zipho, Bhegi and Richard out in areas which they were to scour for Nyala and Kudu. I put one on either side of my position so we remain central and could get to there areas quickly if they spotted some thing. However on this day they would not be needed.

I left the vehicle accompanied by Bachir, Peter and Greg and we made a fast walk for a look out point that over looked an area called ‘the hole’ It was were two large valleys joined and created what appeared like a hole in the earth. This a hot spot for Nyala.

On arriving at the view point I slowed the group and carefully peered over the edge and down into the valley below. At first I did not see them. On second look they jumped out at me and I made the group hit the deck. There were four BIG Kudu bull below us in the valley. And I do mean BIG bulls.

I signaled to Bachir to come closer and whispered to him “There are four big bulls down in the valley.” He nodded wildly and I knew we were in.

We leopard crawled forward to a large rock and positioned ourselves behind it. This allowed us to sit up and look down over the rock into the valley. We would have to be careful as we were sky lined from the Kudus perspective and this would make us easy to see. Movement and noise had to be kept to a minimum.  Everyone was showing visible sign of excitement.

I ranged the animals……. 245 on the range finder. Man that was further than I was expecting. However it was a down hill shot and we had a large rock as a good dead rest. So we hurriedly prepared. Bachir was visible uncomfortable with his legs either side of the rock and kind of hunched over the stone he could not get a comfortable rest. I found a loose stone and positioned that on top of the rock, Bachir try that? Again no it was not right. I tried another.. This was turning into a builder’s nightmare I just needed some cement and I could have built Bachir a shooting bench. The humor in the situation was building and the Kudu remained calm but suspicious.

Then the rest was ready for action and we made ready to shoot. However our bull we had picked out was not presenting him for a shot so we had to wait.

Bachir was visible uncomfortable, fidgeting and bouncing around behind the dead rest I had built for him. The Kudu were visible aware of our presence. I tried in vein to get Bachir to sit still. He eventually burst out and half stood up and said “There is something biting me on the backside!!” In order to get him to sit down and avoid spooking the now very aware Kudu. I looked down under his seat and saw the course of his discomfort. A small black scorpion was trying his hardest to penetrate his thick trousers. With tail erect and pinchers at the ready, I battled to control my laughter which was bubbling up and about to boil over. I stabbed the scorpion with my Spydeco knife and showed Bachir. He was stunned into silence. The humor in the situation now boiled over and all four of us were holding our mouths trying to prevent giggling like school girls.

The Kudu now very aware of our presence started to move directly away from us up the valley. I reached forward and swopped Bachirs 30-06 rifle for my 300 Win Mag a far better choose at this range.  The animals stopped and Greg read out the range 260 meters. Bachir made ready to shoot but the animal still angled badly and did not present a shot. They walked again…. Then stopped on a cattle fence line. Greg gave us the range 280 meters. Accompanied by “It’s a long shot!” Again Bachir and I looked at each other and chuckled as we were fully aware that this was a long shot and Greg was blatantly stating the obvious.

This time the bull stopped and turned broad side, I assure Bachir were to aim and told him only to shoot if he was sure of the shot. He assured me he was dead steady and with that I heard the mighty boom of the 300. It bounced backwards and forwards in the deep valley and the Kudu jumped into the air. The reaction good but I had not heard the bullet connect and had seen dirt jump up behind the animal, these not being good signs of a good hit. I was worried and watched the Kudu run into the thick under growth. He ran directly left and ahead of him was a large open area which he would have to cross if he was to continue of his way left. He never appeared in this open clearing and infact he never appeared again. Not one of those four bulls could we see.

Time was a issue it was already 4.30 and darkness would be on us by 5.45. I said to Greg “Ok you stay here I will get down there quick and go see what has happened with the shot”. This I did and ran down the boulder covered slope and through the dense brush. I got down to were the shot had been taken and looked for blood, bone, skin or hair. I found none. I saw his tracks and were they had kicked off to turn to the left. I followed the track. Had Bachir missed the Kudu crossed my mind. Then however I saw it a few drops of blood. This confirmed the hit. I proceeded on the tracks and now hoped to find the bull lying dead before the clearing. I followed the tracks and they continued to the left to the large open area then disappeared. I search and found nothing. Were had these bulls gone? I checked the track again and found the tell tale spoor heading back on top of the tracks head towards the left. These Kudu knew they were going to have to break open ground so turned around and went back on there track remaining in the dense cover they then turned up the hillside and remained concealed by dense vegetation. They were heading out the valley. I knew know we had a big problem this animal was not hit to hard.

I jumped on the radio to Bhegi as he was the closest to the vehicle he answered and I told him to fetch Turkish and Tex the tracking dogs from the vehicle and come to my position. Time was running out. Bhegi after about 10 min arrived at the scene and I quickly got Tex and Turkish onto the track.  They picked it up and started dragging me along it. Speed was of the essence now we had to recover this Kudu before dark. Bhegi and I followed the blood trail and the dogs made ground out of the valley quickly. Turkish is an American Walker and has speed to burn but the big question here was do I let him go or keep him on the leash. If I let him go there was a good possibility he would chase the Kudu and if it was not hit hard it would not stop before dark. I could not at this stage be sure he would be able to bay the kudu. At 5.20 I had no choose with darkness coming on fast it soon came down to Turkish he was our only hope of getting this bull before dark. The next series of events were breath taking. Turkish took that track and chased that bull for approximately 4.5 kilometers, separated it from the group and eventually bayed it in the Bushmens River. The down side was I had to keep up with him. Luckily due to his loud baying I could cut corners but the 4,5 kilometers he did in 18 min I had to do aswell.

I eventually heard the tell tail change in bark from Turkish he had stopped the Kudu, right down across the tar road and in the river. The Kudu had attempted to cross the river so to loose the dog this had not worked as the dog swam along side the kudu. On the southern bank of the river the Kudu gave up and stood his ground. I made it down to him and with darkness on top of us I dispatched him were Turkish had bayed him. I collapsed with exhaustion and sucked air into my burning lungs. What a display by a tracking dog. When my breath finally returned I managed to radio Bhegi and told him to bring the vehicle and collect Greg Bachir and Peter. I waded through the river and came to the Kudu. He was a magnificent bull. The group finally made there way down and Tuppy Schiever the farmer had heard the commotion and come to assist. We managed to winch and wrestle the kudu bull up the very steep river bank and take some photos for Bachir. He was relieved and overwhelmed by the entire experience. He hugged me and thanked me.

This had been an epic adventure and hunt. Kudu are an amazing adversary and mixed with humorous clients the scene is set to make memories  that will last a lifetime.