As some of you know, these hunting stories are excerpts from of a much longer/larger story I have been writing from back in 2006. BLUE WILDEBEEST Over the course of the week, my father has been far less aggressive than me. He has not sought many animals, rather he has been content to spend the days out in the African sun swapping stories with Greg and Jim while supporting whatever I am stalking. Perhaps I am trying to prove myself in some way, and it strikes me that at nearly 67 years old, my Father has nothing left to prove. The life he has lived speaks for itself. “You know, we’ve got a big old blue wildebeest here that needs to be collected,” Greg tells us as we enjoy lunch under the pastel sky. “I’ve tried to hunt this bull with some other clients, but he has always eluded us. He’s exceptionally powerful, and he’s managed to fight off the younger males for over two years. And he’s sterile, this old boy, so the herd is suffering because of him.” “I want to hunt that animal,” my Dad says with an earnestness that surprises me. After lunch, we bounce along a dusty track by truck to a far corner of the property. As our distance increases, the folds, peaks and valleys we have come to know flatten out into large plain with barely enough vegetation to provide cover. “He should be a kilometer or two out that way,” Greg offers as he points toward the horizon. We all get out of the truck and begin walking. Once we see the herd in the distance we drop to a crawl for a closer look. Eventually, we reach a small outcropping of rock and a prickly pear as the old bull grazes a hundred or so yards away. “There he is,” Greg says quietly. He is a massive animal, and with a bluish grey coat he looks like an old soldier standing guard over his harem. We are about 120 yards out, and when my father chambers a bullet into his .30-06, the big male immediately tenses his body. “He knows we are here,” Greg whispers. “Everyone quiet.” We lay silently in the dirt for at least 20 minutes, waiting for the blue wildebeest to lower his guard. When he does, Greg tells my Dad to take the shot. Crack, the shot echoes across the plain, followed by a thump. The wildebeest rears up, and a fine vapor of red expels out of the entry wound directly in his foreleg. It seems to be a good shot, but the bull takes off at full speed across the plain. “He’s going for the brush,” Greg exclaims at full volume, “Let’s go!” Podgy leads the way, taking off at top speed toward the lumbering animal. A Jack Russell is capable of speeds of up to 40 kilometers an hour for short bursts, and we soon lose both Podgy and the wildebeest over the horizon. “Truck, truck!” Greg yells to Jim who has already left to fetch the vehicle. Moments later, we are in the truck heading out toward the edge of the plain as fast as the terrain will allow. After traveling what seems like 2 or 3 kilometers, we finally catch up with Podgy to find he and the wildebeest engaged in an epic battle. Surrounded by a cyclone of dust and atomized blood, the fearless little Jack Russel races around the bull, jumping up to nip his hind legs and his testicles. With each bite, the enraged wildebeest rears around toward the small dog. Greg shouts commands for Podgy to return to his side, and when his dog finally relents, the bull stops and stares at us. Time pauses briefly until my Father shoulders his rifle and takes a final shot that lands directly in the vitals of the wildebeest. The bull exhales one last breath and collapses. Greg puts in one final insurance shot before we approach the bull. “What the happened there,” I ask Greg, my body still charged with adrenaline, “Why didn’t he drop? How could he have run that far?” The wildebeest seemed possessed, supernatural, and I can’t wrap my mind around how hard he fought. “Nick’s first shot was clean,” Greg says as we inspect the dead wildebeest. “I’ve rarely seen an animal run that far after a kill shot.” We stand in silence for a moment in absolute awe of the animal. Once I have a chance digest the what I've just seen, I ask my Father why he was so intent on killing that animal. “He went out as the Patriarch,” my Dad replies. “He took care of that herd for years. I didn’t want to see him defeated. He didn’t deserve that.” Killing that animal is perhaps one of the most compassionate acts I have ever seen from my Father, as in my heart I know that he was shooting a piece of himself. The word that echoes in my head is sublime.