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Eli van der Walt, owner of Superior Safaris

Here I am, in an extremely large, un-fenced concession in South Africa. My friend Eli van Der Walt has started his own hunting business, Superior Safaris. His concept is to open things up and make them more like the old times. Spot and stalk, drive till you find fresh tracks, or just start walking into the bush veldt. I’m doing a combination of all of them as I’m in the hunt for a nice kudu and gemsbuck. One of my hunting buddies, Jeff from Del Rio, Texas, is after a bit more. His buffalo hunt was about as exciting as they get . . .

Today, I’m after kudu and he is after an old bull giraffe that is causing problems with the herd. He has been fighting with the younger bulls to the point that it will effect the herd the following year as the females won’t be bred. Sometimes the old bulls want it, but their bodies won’t cooperate. And I don’t think they make Viagra in one-pound pills.

So we cruise a huge part of the concession that’s really thick with bush. You can’t see more than five yards into it. The good part is that the giraffe stand well above the bush, the bad part? Giraffe are some seriously tough animals. If we run across a kudu, I get first choice. If we see a giraffe first, Jeff gets first shot.

So, we’re cruising some seriously dilapidated roads. Speeds are maybe three mph and that’s fast for these trails. The temperature is steadily rising to a comfortable level, if you’re comfortable in 80 degree humid country. If you think too much, you sweat. There really is no breeze, the bush is just too thick. At least at our height.

About two hours into the drive, we spot four giraffe about one hundred yards into a clearing of sorts. Dang it. Jeff wins the coin toss again. They are about six feet higher than everything around. They are truly goofy and amazing to see with a very curious look to their faces.

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The bush has given us a break. Three of the bulls are the younger ones. The one on the right? The old bull’s vitals are behind a big mopane (moh-pá-nee). This stand-off lasts about 20 minutes. Finally, they start to move off from right to left with the old bull on the right.

As soon as his chest appears in view, Jeff fires the first shot. He racks the bolt again and hits him again. Then Eli fires what appears to be a spine shot as it’s running away. Jeff does the same. Eli shoots again.

Mind you, Jeff and I have both studied the vital organs of the animals we want to hunt.His first shot on any North American game would have been stupid high. But the giraffe heart sits above the shoulder. Jeff is shooting a custom rifle in .375 Ruger. Eli is shooting a custom .300 Win Mag. This bull has just taken 1,300 grains of copper and lead to the chest and spine and he’s still running. To heck with caliber wars, anybody got an anti-tank round?

I’m incredulous at this point. I just watched this beast take three picture-perfect rounds to the heart and lungs. Two more normally paralyzing rounds to the spinal area, and it’s running away. We immediately give chase. Now it’s stiflingly hot. Sweat is pouring off my brow.

Allow me to digress for a moment. If a client wants an animal, the PH, (professional hunter), will do everything to allow the client to take the animal. Fair chase. If it looks like the animal has been badly hit or will charge, the PH will start shooting. In this case, the PH made the right decision. Giraffe have really thick skin.

Jeff is shooting the Barnes DGX round. Dangerous game, expanding. Eli is shooting the polymer-tipped Barnes TSX.
Both rounds should be good for anything but…. OK, anything. Neither seemed to have worked.

So off we go, on a wounded Giraffe hunt. Crap. This old boy has just taken a serious load of kinetic energy. After running through the scrub for over an hour, we catch up to him. It looks like he’s just stopping for a bite to eat. Other than some blood present on his muzzle he’s showing no serious signs of being shot. As he decides to run off again, he catches three more servings of screaming lead, one more round to his chest and two the the spinal area.

The old bull Giraffe finally tips over and falls to the ground. Jeff quickly closes half the distance when the giraffes neck starts to appear above the scrub brush again and he absorbs another 300 grains to the neck. Now he is down, we hope.

As we approach the gigantic creature, we fully understand how enormous he is. One last shot to the heart at point blank range to pay the insurance and the animal is done. Only he’s not, his neck flings up as he starts to get back to his feet and makes it about 75% of the way before he crumbles back to the hot African ground for the last time. After a couple of groans, he lets out the death bellow.

By GPS markers, we had chased this bull for about a mile and a half. Holy crap. We’re sweating, perspiring, and sweating some more. 1,300 grains of energy in the first volley and 1,600 in the second. These animals are seriously tough.

A radio call back to camp and all of the skinners are called in to butcher it up and take the meat away for the locals.

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They seem pretty happy to be the receive 1,650 pounds of meat. We never did get the weight of the skin, but it took four guys to carry it.

Upon inspection of the old bull, the heart shots were picture perfect. He just didn’t want to die.

After hauling everything away, we start the trek back. We don’t get very far when we spot a really beautiful nyala near a clearing in the bush. It wasn’t on my wish list until I get a look at this critter. But it’s been very high on Jeff’s list.

The nyala stayed just a bit too long within range of Jeff’s .375 Ruger. A single shot to the quartering-away, spiral-horned beauty was all it took. This completed Jeff’s “spiral horn slam” consisting of the eland, kudu, nyala and bushbuck. You probably guessed that all of these species have the spiral horns. Jeff scored a real beauty yet again.

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The day has been rough, the animals tough. And then your PH treats you to a dinner. On a cliff. Overlooking a game preserve where you saw almost everything Africa has to offer.

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Have I mentioned that I love this country?

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24 Responses to Back to Africa, Where the Animals are Tough

  1. Who knew? Giraffes are tough like iron!

    Nice story, culling out the old males is great practice, I’m glad they are managing that way. I hope you are getting yours, both of your stories have been about the others!

  2. Beautiful Tom, & I really enjoy your writings. On the subject of: “To heck with caliber wars, anybody got an anti-tank round?”

    I used to know a guy from my middle teen years (mid/late 80’s), who owned a military antique & curio shop. Were he still alive (he passed in 94′, right after I left the service), I’d ask about his Solothurn S-18/100 for ya. His wife had been lain to rest several years earlier, and alas, I have no idea to whom that beast may have gone to after his demise.

    I do recall Mr. Fischer expressing his displeasure at having to go on an extended search for ammo after we fired off the last 8 rounds he had. Of which I might comment, was quite pleasing to wreck the hell out of that old Ford Pinto that someone had towed to the sand quarry for target practice. I fell in love with 20mm that day. Well, except for my shoulder; it hates it. 😀

    To that end, I am reminded of a roadside sign I saw the other day. It read: “I miss the old days, back when we thought everything was as bad as it could get”.

  3. Great story, sir! It makes crashing through the swamp after WI whitetails looks pretty pedestrian.

    RF should really publish these stories at night, so I can read them around a campfire. While smoking a cigar and drinking a scotch.

  4. The dining table on a cliff to cap off the day …… Eli knows how to do it RIGHT! I’m green with envy for the hunt of a lifetime.

      • I don’t see the young bulls sticking their necks out over the old bull. I mean, they’ll get laid now.

    • Muder is what criminals do. Hunters kill. Wonder what you think of fishermen? Should they be charged with something?

    • So I take it that you’re a vegan then bub?

      Otherwise, you’re just a weakling who offloads the killing onto a third party that sells him the meat in a plastic wrapped foam tray, so he doesn’t have to confront his place in the food chain as a predator (as though the animal didn’t die if you didn’t see the deed being done).

      Humans are apex predators, hunters own that truth and live it fully.

      Hunters have more respect and reverence for the animals they take than any of you “meat is murder” fools can possibly imagine, because they are willing to live the truth and embrace our nature, instead of hiding from it like a child and pretending that this lie that you tell yourself somehow makes you a better person.

    • You may start your objection by donating the tofu equivalent of 1,650 pounds of giraffe meat to the local population.

  5. Nice story. I knew big game was hard to put down, but that’s truly impressive. If they’re that hard to deal with you wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of a charge. It would expire a half hour after it had stomped you into jam. YIKES!

  6. Africa is a fun and interesting place (once you’re out of the cities, though they might be “interesting” as well). I’ve been twice on plains game hunts and have another one planned in a couple years for cape buffalo.

  7. Kevin, while I also dislike trophy hunting I want to point out four things.

    1) The whole point of being an armed individual is that it is the result of being a rational being capable of making value judgements such as “my life is worth more than the life of the person who is trying to kill me”.

    Your equating sport hunting with murder not only shows a deficit in the ability to make such value judgements but it is incredibly insensitive to anyone who has had a human loved one murdered.

    2) Of course people get off on hunting. It’s called prey drive. A trait we share with other predatory species. It is not “sick” it is a natural part of our biology.

    3) As was clearly pointed out on the article, hunting CAN be beneficial to an animal population

    4) You need to chill.

  8. Tom’s hunting stories have become my favorite TTAG articles even though I am not a hunter. Absolutely wonderful. Thank you and please keep them coming.

  9. Never been hunting in my life but I like your stories, Tom. Sounds like a great experience and I’d be lying if I said I’m not a bit envious.

  10. To “Jeff from Del Rio, TX”, You are making this old shipmate jealous! I would love the chance to do this type of hunting. A far cry from shooting Whitetail Bucks with a 12 ga. slug or pheasant hunting over my Brittany in Central Illinois. Best of luck to you, Semper Paratus Brother!

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