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.
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.
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.
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.
Have I mentioned that I love this country?