@Kowas Adventure SafarisKudu of a Lifetime
A feeling of misfortune overwhelmed me as I sat on the back of the Land Cruiser that bounced with urgency as we made our way back to camp. A day spent climbing up and down hills in search of a trophy Gemsbuck or kudu was fruitless. Jody Newbold from Colorado was sitting beside me and the expression on his face depicted that our feeling was mutual.
None the less, the sights and sounds around us were breathtaking and not to be forgotten. Daylight was running out and our hopes of being able to at least take a trophy back to camp was hanging on very thin hope.
We made our way between a small ridge to our left and a big mountain on our right hand side, and a soon as I glanced up to the ridge on the left a beautiful kudu bull was silhouetted in the setting sun behind him. The bakkie came to a stop and I glassed him for closer inspection. He was a 51-52 inch bull in his prime with his harem of about 8 cows below him in the middle of the ridge. I explained to Jody that he is not a good bull to take, he still has 2-3 years in him to mature and pass on his genes. Jody nodded and the bakkie kicked up dust once again.
My mind was side tracked.
The summary of the day was plain and simple. We were just extremely unlucky. Things just did not go our way at all. Skill, hard work, patience and dedication goes halfway… you need lady luck on your side to get that home-run, and we just did not have her with us during the day.
Bewildered, and blurred I came back to my senses after my mind spotted a dark object under a Camel Thorn tree (acacia erioloba). I motioned the driver to slow down to a halt, throwing my binoculars to my eyes. A massive, thick-necked, dark-bodied kudu bull was grazing under the tree without really paying attention to us. He was a shooter alright! After a quick discussion, Jody and myself bailed off the bakkie grabbing the shooting sticks and rifle. The bakkie continued on as we sat in the dust and soon after we were left in silence. A quick stalk commenced.
We found ourselves at 134 yards, Jody on the sticks, a .300 Win Mag round in the chamber and ready. The kudu bull was grazing and oblivious to the fact that we were there. I double checked with Jody that he saw the bull clearly and that he is comfortable with the shot, since daylight was fading fast. He replied with a quick nod and a clear; “yes”.
A hefty flame busted out of the muzzle and the shot broke the silence. The bull was down to the shot. I hissed at Jody to reload quickly. Jody struggled to find the bull in his scope again as he had fallen in the tall grass. I quickly got Jody to get his rifle on safety, I grabbed the shootings sticks and we trotted as fast as we could in the waist-high grass towards the bull. It was difficult to make out the fallen bulls position in the grass and low light. We got to within 30 yards of the bull, and suddenly he staggered to his feet, as expected. I moved to the side out of Jody’s way while plugging my eras for the shot to come while repeatedly saying; “Shoot…. Shoot…. Shoooooot!”. Nothing happened. The bull gathered all his senses and was heading straight away into darkness. Jody was fiddling with his scope to get it on a lower power to shoot at close range, and by that time it was too late. The bull was heading up the ridge and out of sight.
We were left standing with a deep set depression in it’s highest level overtaking us like a tidal wave.
I called the driver back to us on the radio and ordered him to bring flashlights along. I was not going to let this bull slip through our fingers. I knew the shot had to be very high. Most probably just shocking his spine and not actually breaking it.
Soon after we were on the wounded kudu bull’s tracks armed with flashlights and silent prayers. The tracker and myself slowly tracked alone, since it would be best to minimize the noise. We mostly went on the actual tracks, rather than blood, since there was really not much blood to track.
I decided to call it off for the night after about 300 yards of tracking. My hope was that the bull was not sure what happened, since he did not see us before the shot and hopefully would be confused and unsure of what happened.
Experience told me that if we left the bull to relax and calm down overnight, he might not move that far overnight. A high placed shot like that with barely no blood at first was a sure sign that tomorrow will be a long day.
On the ride back to the lodge, Jody was feeling really depressed and I felt sorry for him. After some discussion, the only conclusion we could come up with was that the Bushnell Scope that he was using was not functioning properly. Earlier in the trip we had to take his rifle back to the shooting range and re-sight it since it was shooting high constantly.
Maybe the scope was doing it again after today’s episode of kudu chronicles...
A long night had passed. Early the next morning as the sun was peaking over the big mountain behind us, we were on the track once again. I had brought my .300 Win Mag along just for in case. Tracking in the beginning was slow and laborious, but the blood slowly but surely increased here and there which made it easier. I noticed that the blood was getting considerably fresher the longer we tracked. The tracker, Jody and myself were very quiet and we made a good team, which helped a lot.
We could not find one place that he actually had lied down for the night, just two spots where he stood for a long time and the blood drippings were clear as could be. Just after we found the second spot where he was standing, I noticed a group of kudu cows and young bulls had crossed his track. I immediately knew that he would be very close by somewhere, since he felt safe with the other group of kudu close by him to let him know when danger was coming.
I told Jody that he could follow close behind the tracker in case they jumped the wounded kudu bull, and I would walk on top of the ridge by myself very slowly to see if I could see him hiding somewhere. We all agreed on the plan and I left them, although staying in radio contact with the tracker all the way.
Slowly but surely I made my way to the top of the ridge. I immediately noticed a track of a kudu bull walking on the flat part on top of the ridge. I followed the track, without any sign of blood. Slowly step by step, checking for blood. Bending down, looking ahead. Then moving forward a couple of steps.
40 yards ahead of me I heard twigs snapping and a rock tumbling… There he was. Heading away with a slow trot, in between thick cover.
His deep curling spiral horns pointing outwards could not be mistaken. His big, bulky body double confirmed it was indeed the wounded bull. In no time, my rifle was slung from my shoulder into my hands and in mid-air between the two working the bolt to send a 180gr. Bullet into the chamber. I rested the cross-hair quickly on the mid section of his bulky body just as he was drifting in behind some thick cover. The shot cracked like a whip and a loud thump echoed back. He took off flying down the ridge and you could hear rocks falling and branches breaking. Then it was silent.
I called the tracker and Jody over to me. The kudu bull would still be up and going, since I was sure it was not a fatal shot, but rather just an insurance shot. We planned the same thing again, the tracker and Jody would stay on his track, since I thought they would get him laying down, while I stayed on the ridge’s peak to make sure I had a good view if the Kudu bull decided to bail and run to the big mountain.
Minutes felt like hours as I stood on the ridge scanning all around me. The world around me dead silent. Silence on the radio from my tracker as well. I knew they had to be close. Then a shot broke the silence. And another. And another.
I started making my way to where I heard the shots since it was practically 50 yards from my position. I met up with a smiling Jody and tracker as we all ended up close to the big kudu bull laying on his side by now.
What a sight. His body and neck were tremendous. Darkened and scarred body. His horns, deep spiraled with white ivory tips pointing outward. A superb specimen.
Jody’s shot from the previous night was very high. Maybe an inch down from the top of his back. Most probably only penetrating through the spheroid-bones and barely making any damage. It was a blessing we found him again...
The three of us sat there in the shade beside the kudu bull, appreciating such a marvelous creature. Every minute or two I just had to look at his horns and stroke over them with my hands. This was without a doubt a kudu bull of a lifetime. It took some good tracking skills, planning, patience and a lot of luck.
The Kudu bull was not too far up the ridge, I walked back to the bakkie and one flat tyre later we found ourselves with the kudu bull loaded and ready to head back home. It was a happy group of hunters heading home with smiles all around.
Later on we found out that the kudu bull measured a remarkable 59.44” on the longest horn. Even more reason to celebrate. An old kudu bull taken passed prime, and still a hair under that holy-grail 60” mark is extraordinary.
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1) Check your rifle scope—make sure that the rifle scope you will be using on your hunting trip is working properly. Make sure it can shoot a consistent grouping on the target range. My best advice: A cheap scope will turn a well planned safari into your worst nightmare in no time! Take that extra bit of hard earned cash, buy yourself a reliable telescope and enjoy the benefits for years. You can thank me later…
2) Trust your instinct—you should always trust your gut feeling. I had a feeling in my gut things will go south when we stalked the big kudu bull in dim-light, and I knew we should have let him go and came back for him the next morning. The little fairy on my shoulder told me that we are taking a risk, but I ignored her. A hard lesson was learned… We could have lost the bull of a lifetime.
3) Flashlights—carry flashlights in your hunting bag, they ALWAYS come in handy!
4) Turn your rifle’ scope’s power down—it will be a very wise idea to ALWAYS turn down your rifle scope’s power down when walking up to an animal that you have shot. Just in case he does jump up, you don’t need to fiddle with your scope. Easy tip, but easier to forget.
(At Kowas Hunting Safaris - NAMIBIA)