A Perfect Shot
While Fred Bear, who is considered by many to be "the father of (modern) bowhunting," said that "a hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be," and I totally agree with him, we also must go back to quoting Ortega y Gasset on The Ethics of Hunting: "Death is essential because without it there is no authentic hunting: the killing of the animal is the natural end of the hunt and that goal of hunting itself, not of the hunter."
So, with both of this important principles in mind I rose before dawn to once again sit with Richard at Wag-'n-bietjie hide in order to change our luck. My commitment was to take the first " trophy" animal, meaning a fully mature male specimen, that would present an opportunity for an ethical shot.
On the nice cool or almost cold morning, Simon took us on the open Landcruiser on the very short drive to Wag-'n-bietjie and dropped us at the hide, along with a thermos of hot unsweetened tea and a nice supply of the always sweet rusks - a perfect combination.
Shortly after daybreak and while we still had shadows over the water through the blesbok came. And they came in droves, always wary, each animal drinking uneasly and departing soon afterwards, without looking back.
Richard located a nice older male, but the never ending movement makes shooting challenging, and the lucky animal moved back towards the open field and was soon out of danger. But there was another one, that stood alone at 25 yards just long enough that I could draw my bow and send a broadheaded arrow flying straight towards its heart. The arrow penetrated about halfway and was broken in half when the blesbok started the short run that took him across the road and into the feldt. We could see him when he started wobbling and laid down.
Richard radioed Simon and by 7:30 AM we were admiring the beautiful animal. The shot placement was perfect, and later on I was presented the heart with a clean triangular cut at its center.
Back at Richard's home Anna served us a large breakfast (I don't think that I had a single small meal at Buffalo Thorn), and by mid-morning we were on our away to Waterbokke hide with the normal equipment and supplies.
Young and stupid?
Soon after Simon departed a herd of Kudu came in to feed. There were several cows, a half dozen young animals and two immature bulls with their horns just starting their second turn. Just like large whitetail bucks, kudu bulls don't grow to be sixty inches by being stupid, so these young bulls apparently have a lot to learn about how not to trust an easy meal.
The kudu stayed around by quite some time, but the cows were constantly moving around and would eventually wind us. Then they would go out to the bush, but the inexperienced bulls and young animals would rang around, and eventually the cows would return, very uneasy, but none the less, still among us.
But nothing last forever, and eventually a very old cow pinpointed us and barked loud enought to drive the whole herd away. And as the kudu departed, a large herd of impala approaced leasurely. There were between 50 and 60 animals, maybe half of them females, and the balance yearlings and other immature animals, including several young rams with their small half moon horns. And there was a single mature dominant ram.
As a nice impala was high on my list, as soon as the herd approached I had my bow in my hands while Richard scanned the revolving herd for the ram. And Buck Fever started to play games, not only with me, but with Richard as well. Impala came and went, moved around, pushed each other around, always on the move, never an instant of stillness.
It took over an hour from the time the impala came in to the hide to when I was finally able to take a shot at the herd ram. During this hour I was really grateful for shooting a relatively low draw weight bow, set at 56 pounds. This allowed me to draw and release my bow several times, always in the hope of a clear shot, repeatedly shattered by the perpetual motion of the herd.
Finally, the ram walked in front of the hide, from left to right, and stopped. I drew the old Razortech on a steep quartering away angle, and as I released the arrow the ram took a long step forward.
And once again, Richard radioed Simon so he would come release us from the hide. Once free, we soon found the arrow that was a complete plass though and Richard pronounced dreadful words as he brought the arrow to his nose: "I smell guts." And to make matters worse, there was not a single drop of blood!
In the next half an hour Richard demonstrated what makes an experienced hunter. He was able to locate the exact spot where the ram was when the arrow hit him, and started to track him in dry ground among hundreds if not thousands of other imprints. Richard would point out the spread hoof marks from the ram that run away, and as he followed them my heart was sinking as there was not a single drop of blood!
But the gods or godesses of the hunt were good to us, and Richard finally located the beautiful ram under an acacia thorn tree. The arrow hit him well behind the last rib (mea culpa, mea máxima culpa) and came out behind the left shoulder. Due to the rather shallow angle, the arrow went through the diaphragm and cut the back on the left lung.
For as perfect the shot at the blesbok was, the shot at the impala was a lucky one. And without Richard's tracking ability I am unsure of how long it would take me to find that animal.
A Lucky Shot and a Perfect Tracker