The Bushbuck from Heaven
This is a story about me and a Bushbuck.
Nothing more, nothing less. It is not a story to boast about long shots or my ability. It is just a great hard worked for memory.
It started in May 2004 while sitting on a cliff overlooking a gorge in the Soutpansberg. It was early morning and the sun just opened its one eye to look at the world we call the Bushveld. The clients have left the previous afternoon and I took a few days off after a grueling hunt. I just sat and appreciated the wonder below me to connect again with the nature that became my world.
I first thought that it was part of a shadow that moved down below with the rising sun. I looked at it for a while without really seeing. Then I nearly fell of the cliff. He moved into a spot of sunlight out of the thick bush. It really was a Bushbuck and not a Nyala as I first thought. I only truly realized what I was looking at when I put the glasses on him and saw those beautiful curling spirals that made the Tragelaphus species such a sought after trophy.
Deep down inside, there where ancient man still lurks, I made a promise that he would be mine. I had to learn how he thinks and what he would do and why. Little did I know what it would take and what obsession really mean. For me to bag him I had to go down and learn his ways, his secrets and his mind. It was not easy. He only came down from the cliffs during dark. It would be impossible to try and predict his path in the mountain. You also could not wait for him to come down. If he got spooked only once, he would be gone and never return.
Me and my life-long tracker (David) went down after he disappeared into the high mountain to follow his tracks and see what he did at night. He followed the Sand-river to some crops and to feed on the sweet grass shoots in the flat-lands. It all happened late at night. We followed his tracks where he turned back to his safe haven in zero-visibility-bush. It took us nearly 3 months to find out that it was a near impossible task. We went to the place as often as I could. Sometimes only for a day and sometimes for a week. We saw him only once during the whole time when he barked at us from his lookout high in the clouds.
There was only one spot where I could wait for him. It was on the cliff where I first saw him. Lower down and he would leave before there was enough light to see him. Higher up and he had a choice of 10 different routes that he could choose to follow. The shot would be 87m far at a 45 degree downward angle. There was a 3 yard gap in the bush and that was all.
I started practicing on a similar place far away from prowling eyes. I tuned and re-tuned my bow and setup for only that shot. There would be one chance only. I became obsessed with him. My chance came after a lifetime of waiting. I could hit a side-plate 9 out of 10 times at that distance if the wind did not blow to strong.
I was in position at 4 one September morning. We walked since 3 so that we did not scare him in case he was close. David was with me so as to guide me over the radio if I had to go down and he could direct from the top. He appeared in the clearing just after 6am. I was cold and stiff.
The bow came up in a fraction of a second. The pin wobbled all over the moving Bushbuck. I nearly released the arrow when David made a loud grunting noise next to me. The old ram stopped for a moment to detect the origin of the strange sound. I can not remember the release. All I saw was the sunlight reflecting of the arching arrow until it disappeared near the Bushbuck's spine. He barked loudly and vanished in the un-penetrable undergrowth.
My legs gave way under me and I sat down hard. My strength was gone and I shook like a reed. David slapped me so hard on my back that my breath was gone. --Hena kona makulu madoda-- was all he said. After getting my strength back it took me nearly 30 minutes to get to the spot. Blood by the gallon but no Bushbuck. I waited for David to come over. 50m further my obsession became a reality as he laid on his side with eyes staring blindly into nowhere. I have never come so close to crying and hating myself for what I have done. He was more than beautiful. He was the god of all Bushbuck and I took it from him. We carried him down after calling for more hands.
I skinned him myself and cured the skin. I gave all the meat to David because I did not want to eat him. I gave the skin to a friend. Don't ask me why I felt like I did. I just did. I kept the skull and horns. It is beautiful. The photo shows me smiling. I felt like dying inside. I have never felt like this before or since. He shall always remind me of one of the greatest hours in my life that I never want to experience again.
Today I am proud of him. He deserved more than that. The experience that I got from all that training came to good use many years later when I hunted a Mountain Nyala in Ethiopia with a client of mine. Maybe, just maybe I have forgiven myself.