SOUTH AFRICA: A First-Timer's Journey (2012 South Africa, Leopards Valley Safari's)

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports' started by rnovi, Jan 7, 2013.

  1. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    mate you cant do that
    your obligated to finish each chapter ....please
     
  2. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Yup! Me to.
     
  3. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    We were high up on the side of a mountain when we spotted the Wildebeest and they were none too close either. Craig was peering through his bino's as was I. Damn Shane and his eyes...he just stood there scanning the herd with his eyes.

    "There's a good one down there. I want him. He's nice. Very nice. Feel like a walk?" Craig had his bino's propped up on top of the shooting sticks for stability.

    Feel like a walk. The Beest were two or three miles away...maybe more. And it was all downhill. As in Steep downhill. Not kind downhill. More like Chukar downhill. I stuffed an extra bottle of water in the pouch of my safari vest and checked the spare rounds in their holders for the umpteenth time. Craig stood there chewing on a stalk of something, muttering to Shane, planning. Plotting.

    "Ok, here's how we are going to do it. We'll head down the game trail to the right and hook around to the left as we near the bottom. Those three hills down there? Yeah, the ones in front of the Blues. Let's keep the hills between us and them. We'll stay on the nearside, right. You see the Eland down there? Oh man, (Craig snaps his bino's up) that is a beaut! Sure you don't want an Eland instead? No? Ok. So, let's miss the Eland then - Gawd he's nice...

    The Eland is very nice...but he's not on my list this year. And as a target of opportunity that guy is going to cost me near $2500...I ponder it for a moment and shake my head no... Next time... Next time...

    "That whitish path down there near the Eland, we'll walk that over to the ravines down there - yes, the one's faaaaather to the left. We'll drop into them and follow them for a bit. It looks like they come up nearly to them.

    Craig checks the position of the sun and then looks at his watch. He doesn't bother to say anything...he just starts walking.

    Shit!

    I double time it to catch up the first ten yards and drop in behind Michael and Craig. Shane stays with the Bakkie - he's got to drive it down the mountain and get into position near the main road some 5 or 7 miles away.

    It's a steep, scree filled, rock filled, Acacia filled slog down the side of the mountain. Some of the rocks are the size of grapefruit and melons - step on them wrong and it's twisted ankle. Try to avoid them and my shins catch the tips of the razor palms, leaving pricks of blood soaking through my pants. Craig politely holds an Acacia branch out of the way only to have it slip from his fingers and impale itself into my chest.

    A small Impala bolts from the brush, startling me and I promptly slip backwards into another shrub. The feeling of 3" and 4" thorns parting the fabric on my shirt is so much entertaining joy...I don't make a sound...

    We've made it to the backside of the white hill, careful not to startle the Eland so politely standing 600 yards away. I'm puffing a bit but not bad. I'm in decent physical shape...but I normally don't run around with a 9.5# 300 H&H hanging off my shoulder. "Need a break?" Craig asks...

    "Nahhh, let's roll. It's flat for a while." Craig nods and we're off again.

    The Blue's are now well out of sight, several hundred yards on the other side of the hills to our right. I've never done a stalk like this in my life. Most of my hunting has been in a Texas box blind and it's more akin to grocery shopping with a gun than hunting to me. But this isn't that. We've been walking for 45 minutes straight now and it's likely we have another 30 minutes or more before we remotely get into position.

    Craig comes over and whispers "ok, we are going to go around the hill over here. When we start to come around the hill stay low. I want to get a good look at what the terrain is like and where the Blues are. Load up." He makes a bolt-throwing motion with his hand and he looks me in the eyes.

    I turn to my left like a good Boy Scout and cycle the action...promptly sending my first round fired in an African Hunt safely into the ether.

    BANG BANg BAng Bang bang! The shot echoed across the canyons...

    I'd just AD'd (accidental discharged) right in front of my PH. And the Game Scout.

    "Ok, let's not do that again." Craig said.

    I turned shades of scarlet that I never knew existed, cycled a fresh round in, rechecked the safety and then double checked the trigger to make sure my safety hadn't failed.

    "Sorry about that Craig" I said.

    "It happens. Come on, let's go. Need to see if they've moved."

    Another few hundred yards later Craig pulls up and looks through the bins for a few minutes. He and Michael converse in Afrikaans pointing this way and that...the Beest haven't moved. We stay semi crouched and pull back a little bit.

    "Let's walk down the ravines there, follow them over there...

    And we're moving again. The pressure is mounting now. We're moving more slowly now...the low ravines are like Badlands, soft sandy dirt helps to squelch our sound and mask our movements. The wind is in our face coming across the gullies. The Acacia is even playing nice(er)...openings here and there created by larger critters leaves us room to work. The ravines are barely four or five feet high...we crouch walk, bent over for what seems like 20 minutes but was closer to, well, 20 minutes. I checked my watch.

    We came to a right turn into a slightly wider wash and Craig dropped low, pausing slightly behind yet another endless acacia. The Blues...we could hear them grunting. Close...sooo close. We moved slowly, hunkered down low, almost on our knees and pulled up into a narrow finger. Craig leaned back and sat down, leaning the sticks across his left knee.

    "Ok, they are about 150 yards right over there. They just bedded down and haven't moved for a while. I'd bet they plan to sleep here for the night.

    He checked his watch and looked up at the sun. Michael just stood there like he always did. Slightly stooped, hands clasped firmly behind his back. Patient. Friendly. Patient...

    "Let's rest a minute here. The plan is this. When we are rested and ready, we'll stay low and walk up this little finger here. When we get to the top, stay low. The bulls won't really see us yet. What I'll do is set up the sticks.

    "What will happen next is this. I'll stand up straight. You need to get up and on the sticks asap. There's not going to be much time. The moment they see us the bulls, they will stand up. The one you want is the one in front, slightly to the left of the shrub up there. Do you see them now? Do you see the back of the bull I want you to shoot?

    I could see a back...or maybe it was a rock. They all looked the same to me. I didn't have Africa Eyes...I couldn't tell what was what. But I saw something that looked blue grayish...and it was next to the brush. I had to be in the ball park.

    Craig put a hand on my shoulder and gave me a pat. I took a deep breath...let it out gently...looked at Craig and nodded. We crept to the edge of the finger and climbed out...

    The sticks came up...the Bulls stood up...and slid my 60 year old Pre-64 into the yoke of the sticks, my thumb rolling the safety into the "Fire" position. The bull grunted as the crosshairs settled on the shoulder of Beest, rising up and down rapidly with the beat of the heart in my chest.

    One last breathe...exhale...touch the trigger...squeeeeeeeeze...
     
  4. GSTONE

    GSTONE AH Veteran

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    Don't stop here...how will I get to sleep tonight with the story hanging in space? :(
     
  5. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    hey your good at this arent ya :laughing:
     
  6. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    know what you mean stone he has given us an itch and only a feather to scratch it with
     
  7. Norwegianwoods

    Norwegianwoods SILVER SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Great storytelling :)
    Can't wait for the rest. Keep it coming :)
    rnovi is giving us an itch and I bet the PH got a bit itchy from that AD too.
     
  8. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    it certainly wouldve been a big surprise
     
  9. Diamondhitch

    Diamondhitch AH Legend

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    I got itchy just reading about it!
     
  10. Bobpuckett

    Bobpuckett GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    oh this guy is good I think I'll start cut and paste this in a hard cover format and setup my own booth at DSC next year.
     
  11. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Craig and I were sitting on the side of the mountain wiping sweat off our foreheads and trying to catch our breath. The sun was well into setting and it was obvious who won this round.

    The three Beest were 350 yards away now, in a small clearing and we'd been chasing them for nearly two hours. We'd been close...so close several times. At one point the three bulls ran past me just 15 yards away. I could feel the thunder of the hooves...the heaviness of their breathing in my ears.

    I'd pulled the shot, plain and simple.

    I was rather furious with myself at this point. A truly humbling, embarassing first start of Africa. Craig had been excellent getting us to the Beest undetected. The plan was good and we had crawled and scratched our way to within about 140 yards of them and they did not know we were there until the last moments.

    I pulled the shot.

    Even today I replay that moment in my head over and over again trying to think of "what would I have done different". The answer is quite simple really. Just relax... I tightened up at the shot, jerked the forestock of the rifle with my left hand, lost control of the trigger. Viral Beest Fever. Just horrific case. Horrific.

    350 yards away...the three were stacked up close. Maybe a prone shot...no. There was no rest...no way to fire from a supported position on the side of the mountain looking down. My confidence was well and truly shattered. There was no shot right at that moment.

    "I am very sorry Craig. I blew it.

    "That's Africa for you. We'll take a look at technique and the sticks again tomorrow. Now though I think we need to call it. Suns down, still 10 minutes to the car. I give you this - there's no quit in you when it comes to chasing them."

    There was that then. I'd run, sprinted, hoofed, walked, crawled, and run some more for nearly 3 hours that afternoon and I for damn sure wasn't going to give up.

    I had a lot to think about on that dramatically quiet ride back to the lodge. I was very disappointed in myself for letting Craig down. I was disappointed that this whole episode effectively took away a late afternoon hunt for Kevin (*that golden "witching hour" when game loves to move about). I was disappointed that I didn't get that beautiful Blue Hide for my wife...a trophy for the wall.

    The sun set on our first day of hunting. One Impala - a grand old warrior in the salt.

    The sun set on our first day of hunting...

    [​IMG]
     

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  12. Bobpuckett

    Bobpuckett GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Wow! you are damn good. And the pics are fantastic.
     
  13. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    :fishing:dude you wind us up to the boat and then open the bail and let go again
    but im liking this ....
     
  14. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    The knocking on the door came too soon. We'd dined on a Kudu caserole that was fantastic the night before and washed it down with several rounds of local South African red. I was quite put off still be the previous days events and I know my mood was not helping this morning. It was solemn, quiet at breakfast.

    On the road out to the hunting area we stopped and Craig set up a couple of rocks to practice a few rounds on. I drew a bead on the menacing rock, steadied over the roof the bakkie and tried to squeeze a shot off under the watchful eyes of my friend, my wife, my ph, the tracker, the skinner and Fury. My nerves were pretty much shot and I promptly pulled that shot too.

    At that moment though I also saw exactly what I'd done. I pulled the shot with my left hand - the hand on the forestock. I couldn't believe it...couldn't believe what I'd just seen. But that's what happened.

    I dropped my left hand to my thigh, steadied the rifle on the rest and squeezed off a second shot. The rock exploded into many pieces of shrapnel, returning to earth as the dust we all come from.

    Craig smiled, my wife cheered. Shane laughed and Michael, calm as ever, clasped his hands behind his back and said nothing.

    Kevein would have first "game" this morning. The way we had decided to do this was simple: alternate the hunter with one caveat: the hunter could pass the shot and the hunt would be optioned to the alternate. It worked well overall. I'd blown it on the Beest and therefore Kevin would start.

    We continued to drive in the early hours of the day along the right side of the mountains. I was tired, grateful to have Kevin shooting first when the tap came.

    "Impala" said Shane, pointing down the hill.

    Crap. Kevin had taken his Impala already...and he looked at me and waved me off. Michael slid the .300 H&H from the guncase and handed it down to me while I fumbled for cartidges from my vest. Damnit, I wasn't ready!

    We were probably 500 yards from the Impala, feeding in the wee morning hours...well down and away from us. It would be another tough stalk, this time on red-shale like rocks that crumbled and rattled as we walked. It was hard trying to step in places that didn't cause rocks to tumble...moving from shadow side to shadow side of each brush and shrub.

    My head wasn't right...replaying the shots...over and over and over as we walked. What if...what if...what if...

    Craig motioned down - a small impala moved away from us. She hadn't seen us and moved into the thick scrub. We breathed a sigh of relief happy that we hadn't been busted and then continued on. The Impala was still feeding below us about 170 yards away when we all went into a crouch. Craig motioned with his hand to chamber a round...

    Almost grudgingly I slipped the bolt back, the long and slender cartridge feeding effortlessly into the chamber. I closed my eyes and tried to compose myself.

    I felt Craig shift and I opened my eyes, time to move and do this. Craig set the sticks up in the shade of the brush and I pushed my rifle into the yoke. Gently, gently I moved my left hand off the rest, dropping it to my thigh. I hooked a thumb in a pocket and changed my mind...I let it hang there. So much dead weight it was to me at that moment.

    The Impala had it's back to me and we had maybe 75 feet of altitude on it leaving me with a less than ideal shot. I slipped the safety off and waited. "shoot it...shoooooot it...shooooooooooot it... Craig was whispering...Michael simply stood calmly in the shadows, his hands behind his back.

    The Impala turned to the left giving me the best opportunity I was going to get.

    The trigger broke at exactly 3 pounds and 72 grains of powder ignited behind 180 grains of bullet. The shot sounded flat, the BANG echoing away from us...away from the mountain. The rifle came back to rest and the scope came back into vision.

    The Impala was gone.

    "Let's Go" Craig said. Michael was already picking a careful line around the side of the mountain...hands clasped behind his back.

    Fuck. Me.
     
  15. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Oh, Dinner time. I'll be back.

    :cook2:

    :happywave:
     
  16. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    good on ya ....
    its haed being on a fishing boat down the bottom af tasmania reading bits of this bloody story i tell ya...
    how was dinner ?
     
  17. GSTONE

    GSTONE AH Veteran

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    Ooooh! You are an evil one!:mad: Here we go again! Touche...you did it to us again!:doh2: Well, I won't give up...guess I'll sit, look through the forum, and wait for your return! :user:
     
  18. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    Dinner was lovely. Pork Loin with brussel sprouts, apple slices and a soft pollenta. :)

    Let's see...now where were we...

    The Impala was gone. I couldn't see it anywhere and Craig and Michael were making swift movement to the left. I dropped in behind them, scanning for anything. We stayed high on the mountain...well above the game. The Impala would have a much, much longer run.

    "He was running fast...I'm not so sure. I definitely saw the bullet hit the dirt and it looked high...

    My heart kept sinking lower and lower. I replayed the shot in my head again and again...the trigger broke...where were the crosshairs? About 8" back...but angling steeply forward into the off shoulder. My palms were sweaty and my stomach was in knots...I wanted to wretch.

    Craig came up short and we heard a whistle. Michael had changed directions...he was now walking straight down, calmly as ever, and now moving back slightly the way we came. He pointed.

    I near broke down in tears.

    [​IMG]

    The bullet was true and on the mark. It impacted fairly far back but angled all the way to the forward literally destroying the right shoulder socket in the process. The angle that the shot was taken made the bullet look like a miss.

    The leg hung loose without form and we needed several good sized rocks to prop the Impala up. The blood trail was significant right up to the point of it's final passing. It was Africa - an Africa where animals cling to life even in death. How it ran for more than 100 yards was beyond both of us.

    [​IMG]

    It was my Impala. My first African Game.

    I was absolutely exhausted and it was only 9am.
     

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  19. GSTONE

    GSTONE AH Veteran

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    Congratulations on the Impala...and for letting us breathe out! lol:whoo::clapping::happywave:
     
  20. rnovi

    rnovi AH Veteran

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    We came back to the skinning shed with the Impala - I rode in the back with one eye on the Impala the entire time. What a beautiful creature. I understand now more and more why so many people consider the Impala to be one of Africa's grandest animals. They truly are majestic.

    We opted to do a very large circuit, tracing over some of our old paths in search of new roads and game. We saw an incredible Red Lechwe that will probably have wonderfully long life...it had lost one of its horns. It knew that hunters weren't an issue and kept calmly feeding while we stopped and took it's picture. Small warthogs jolted out from the sides of the road, speeding along before cutting into the brush. We saw elephant from the distance, Giraffe and Baboon. And Monkeys! Monkeys Galore!

    We stopped for lunch at this secluded brook and leaned back to absorb the moment. Just 72 hours ago I was in Los Angeles filling emails and sending out last minute communcations. Today...Today I was hunting in a fabled land. The stuff that dreams are made of.

    A tad after 1pm we began to roll again. We would stop to watch strings of Eland workign their way up the steep hillsides. We could see clusters of Lechwe that would scatter the moment we stopped. We could see...Kudu?

    Seriously?

    Kevin was up to bat...only he wasn't hunting Kudu. He wanted a Zebra instead so I was back up. Again the old rifle slid out of the scabbard and was handed down.

    Craig whispered "ok, I saw about four Kudu over that way, about 600, 700 yards off. We are going to walk down the road about 200 yards and turn up. Keep QUIET. They have amazing hearing and eyes every bit as good. They're on alert now...they saw the truck and they're on alert because of it so we have to move gently.

    "Stick to the shadows - no, leave everything behind. Just bring the rifle. And stay close. Chamber the round now...

    I tucked in behind Craig and we started yet another stalk. Except instead of going down the mountain we were going up. And up. And ever more steeply up. We crossed a couple of small washes and came through the Acacia. Thorns pulled at my shirt...criss-crossed my arms. I ducked my head and let the roll off my hat - and got an evil look from Craig. "Dont' Do That" was the message. I worked harder and splintered my fingers for the result.

    Craig stopped and pulled up behind a brush in the shade and poked his binoculars between a couple branches. He was silent for minutes it seemed before he pulled back. He reached into a pocket and pulled out his rangefinder...

    "Ok, he's up here. It's going to be a long shot but we can't get closer. 280 yards. Come to my left...a little more...right, do you see him? He's looking right at us.

    All I saw were tangled brush, pepper-like trees, dense foliage up to 10 feet high. I stood there, looking, peering...nothing...nothing...wait. there! There! His head was held high, noble, peering over his right shoulder and looking out over his land. This was his mountain.

    And the shot offered was not going to be easy. His shoulder was completely obscured...his rump behind another brush. There was brush everywhere... except... there was a small opening behind the right shoulder. It was too far back though. Too far back and the angle was wrong.

    But he might move, right?

    I nodded. Craig slowly set the sticks up and moved off. I could hear his whispers... "slowly...slowly. take your time. he's far off, 280 yards. where's your hand? good good...easy...easy. Just shoot for the shoulder. Shoot through the brush...

    I couldn't take that shot. Not through the brush. Maybe it would work...I dunno. When I was a kid, around 6 years old my dad got me a subscription to Guns and Ammo. I remember one issue - it had a Llama .44mag on the cover - where they talked about the effect of a twig on a bullets trajectory. Whoever had done the test had set up a board full of 1/4" dowels in a set pattern and fired a bullet across them. The dowels were splintered and showed how a bullet could yaw and move inches up and down even in as little as two feet.

    I couldn't take the shot.

    "shooooooooot it...shooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooot it...

    The Kudu stood there for what seemed like eternity before it finally shifted it's weight and turned ever so slightly...I had a shot and aimed through to the off-shoulder of his Majesty. Through a small tunnel where the shrub wasn't...only 280 yards away. Off shooting sticks. On an angled slop with my feet...the rifle spoke.

    Boooooooooooooooom...

    "Oh shit! GREAT shot! He's hit...he's hit hard! Come on! COME ON!"

    The Kudu turned directions and moved up the mountain 15 yards to the left and stopped, his back to us now, pondering his next move. Craig had the sticks reset in the clearing now out in the open

    "Take him again!

    I rushed up and threw the rifle on the sticks and sent a round flying somewhere into the mountain side.

    "easy, easy...slow down. Breathe...

    I chambered a third round and forced myself to settle down. Somewhere between thundering heartbeats and heaving breathes the crosshairs settled and the rifle spoke.

    Booooooooooooom...

    A second bullet punched into the Kudu, startling it out of it's trance on the side of the mountain. He took three steps and vanished into the brush.

    Craig stopped, looked at his watch and took his cap off.

    "Damn that was a great shot. You picked the only place for a clear view and waited for the right angle. That was a great shot. He's hurt. He's hit hard. Let's wait here, give him a few minutes. You have spare cartridges right? Top off, let's relax a moment.

    I fumbled a few rounds out of their elastic holders in my vest and topped off the .300. I had four down, one up. I noticed that I had the scope set on 3x when I took the shot. I never knew...
     

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