Sorry for the delay folks. I should've factored in my holiday responsibilities before I started the thread. Without further delay...................
Time seemed to be speeding by as the glow of the sun grew brighter. This blossomed an anxiousness inside of me which in turn drove home the fact that I had just traveled 10,000 miles over the course of nearly four days for the hunt of a lifetime. Knowing that in life you will always regret things you don’t do much more than the things you do made me realize that I would NEVER forgive myself if I stayed in bed and went home empty handed. I had to get up. I had to go hunt.
A hot shower will normally make me feel like a new man, but on this day it did nothing other than wash away the sweat of a sleepless night. I fumbled through my gear trying to remember what I needed for a day in the field but the strain on my head became too much and I decided that as long as I had my gun, my ammo, and my binos I would be OK. With not much more than those items on me I stepped out of the tent to begin the day.
Jacques and Chris seemed mildly surprised when I walked into the common area. They offered breakfast and coffee which I declined as I reached for more water. Still not wanting to raise any more red flags I gave a positive nod and shrugged when they asked how I was.
We were making small talk when Peter Thormahlen joined us. He controlled the Ja’qna Concession as well as one other adjacent area totaling approximately 4 million acres. Since he was going to be leading our expedition, he wanted to find out if I knew anything about hunting elephant. I confessed that I was a first timer and all my knowledge had come from books and pictures. We spent next 15 minutes discussing the anatomy of an elephant’s head and different angles that may be presented. Side brain vs frontal, etc.
It was around 8:30 when I shut the door of the cruiser and the hunt began. Peter led the way in his vehicle. A short distance out of camp he pulled over and hooked up a small tree to drag the road and erase the tracks of the previous night. We stayed far enough behind that the dust wasn’t a bother and I closed my eyes and tried to focus on anything other than how I felt. We stopped to unhook Peter's drag and took the opportunity to check the zero on my rifle. Two shots, a small adjustment, a third to make sure our math was correct and the changes we made had worked, and we were satisfied. Things began to get real.
I was only present as we pulled up to the first set of tracks crossing the road. A brief inspection proved that they were far too old to bother with. We continued to three water holes with no other sign. Jacques was playing the role of outfitter very well and offered words of encouragement. The fake smile on my face wasn’t fooling anyone but we all continued to pretend everything was just peachy.
It was around 11AM when Peter’s vehicle turned onto another dirt road. We turned out behind him once again trying to stay back far enough that the dust didn’t choke us. It was difficult to see much past him so I sat back and tried to relax. As we bumped along Jacques explained that the right side of the road was Khaudum National Park and the left was our concession. He was blabbering something else about how close we were to Botswana when everything came to a stop. We all scratched our heads and deliberated what was going on. There was an obvious air of excitement among the trackers on the back of Peter’s cruiser as they were chattering like a flock of guinea fowl and pointing down the road. I felt our truck shifting from the game scout moving around in the back. Jacques got out to investigate and was greeted by Peter and a big smile. The dust continued to settle and I finally made out a lone figure in the road at least half a mile ahead. The large gray shape in the distance could only be one thing. I was out looking through my binos when Jacques returned to the car and said “load up it’s time to go.”
We stood on the side of the road for a few minutes discussing a game plan and checked the wind at least a dozen times. We finally came up with, "the wind is right and we have an elephant a half mile away, let's go." We stayed there long enough to make sure he was headed into the concession and not off into the forbidden land of the park. As soon as he leaned towards our place, we filed into the bush at an angle towards him that also took us a couple hundred yards off the road. The trackers started angling back to the road and within only a couple of minutes the one in front motioned that he had seen something. A few tense yards later I got a glimpse of movement about 50 yards away. The tracker was a step ahead of Jacques and I was right on his heels trying not to make noise or get snagged on a thorn. There was a screen of brush immediately in front of the elephant and another right in front of us. We used all this to close the distance to a scant 14 steps. The tracker placed the sticks and silently disappeared and before I knew it I was looking through the scope trying to find a gap in the brush. I could feel a hand on my shoulder as Jacques whispered, “wait, wait” in my ear. I managed to relax and came off the gun for a moment, just then he nudged me to the right a few feet and moved the sticks to eliminate the brush in front of us from the equation. I settled back onto the sticks and felt the hand come back to my shoulder and the voice in my ear once again came with “wait”. As if it were scripted the elephant pressed his head forward through the brush giving me an unobstructed view. It was at a quartering angle that apparently did not appeal to Jacques because once again he whispered “wait”. After a few seconds he turned his head perfectly broadside, the hand left my shoulder, and the command changed to “now”. I concentrated on the contour of his head and the crosshairs found their mark about five inches in front of his ear hole. Just as I started putting pressure on the trigger his head started turning back towards us. Thank goodness my subconscious shoved my brain out of the way, visualized a path to his brain, adjusted the position of the crosshair, and pulled the trigger all in a fraction of a second. The last thing a saw through the scope was his giant head starting upwards. Either instincts or muscle memory racked the bolt to get ready for the next shot but before I could start the forward motion I realized he was down. The upwards motion of the head I seen was caused by the collapse of his hind legs. I stood there stunned as Jacques grabbed my hand and shook it. This moment only lasted a second as he pressed me forward with instructions on where to place the very unnecessary but customary insurance shot. As soon as that was done the celebration began in earnest.
As we all stood there reliving the experience it was unanimously decided that I am without question the luckiest elephant hunter alive. Roughly 3 hours into my elephant hunting career I manage to find a lone bull wandering down a main road. There was a perfect wind. The stalk took all of 15 minutes. Despite the less than perfect angle I somehow topped it all off with a perfect shot. Yep I must agree, pretty darn lucky but I'll take it any day.
Greetings all! I've been a hunter for 50 years, but only now planning a trip to Africa. I was fortunate and successfully bid on a couple hunts for plains game in SA later this year and next. Also a rare Native Texas (5th generation) and USMC Vet. Hunt safe y'all!