Day one couldn’t have gone better. We bumped a herd of zebra and hartebeest and tried to make an end run to cut them off. On the way, our tracker spotted a herd of sable a few hundred yards ahead. We army crawled in and got set up on the bedded bull. We had a small (5-10’) window in the bush at about 125 yards. When he got up the follow his cows, the 375 barked and the bull was done.
Fresh dung in the road signals the truck to stop. Still warm, reports the tracker. The team gears up and we are quickly on the trail. In only a few minutes we find the herd and follow them into tall grass. Black horns, ear flicks, and partial backlines indicate a large group. Scanning for a good bull, Nathan thinks we have a shooter and the sticks go up. 40 yards from the herd we wait, hoping they stand for confirmation and to provide a clean shot. No joy, the herd moves off and we continue to follow. Eventually we flank them. Nathan confirms our target in the mass of black bodies - “the muddy one with the windshield wiper of shit on his ass”. Again on the sticks, but they pass by 3-deep; no shot. We rush forward to flank them again. A tracker spots the herd and we set up. I am on the sticks at 20 yards; there is again a small shot window as they rumble by single file behind thick brush. Nathan whispers in my ear: “Cow. Cow. Young bull.......” Eventually the procession passes but our bull is a no show. The herd has split and he is not in this group. One more time we circle around, giving them wide berth in hopes they regroup; the plan pays off. For a fourth time I am on sticks. 30-35 yards as the first cow crosses. I am holding steady, waiting for the bull, but the lead cow is off script and makes a u-turn back in front if us. At 10 yards, she sees us. She whirls and piles right back into the rest of the advancing herd. They all collide on a large ant hill, tens of thousands of pounds of confused, scared, pulsing buffalo. I watch this, rifle on the herd, with Nathan at my 4 o’clock backing with the 470. For a split second I wondered if the herd would decide to come towards us and turn us into compost, but they crash over the back of the anthill and thunder away. We follow but never catch them. No buffalo this day. Total stalk time: over 7 hours. Distance: about 8 miles.
Not long after finding a nice duiker, we crossed buffalo tracks in the road. The team is excited as we leave the truck and head into the bush. It is a good-sized herd and easy to follow. Trackers out front scanning ahead. Then Nathan and me. Then the game scout. We advance incrementally, walk....glass...walk....glass. Our game scout spots them first. Bedded in brush and low grass on the far side of an anthill. Nathan, the lead tracker and I creep up onto the anthill while the others hold back out of sight. The anthill is built around a tree (as most are) and covered in thick brush. We have a nice little hidey-hole to glass from, but not much in terms of shot options. The bull is there. 80 yards, but he is tucked in behind a cow with only his head visible. No room for sticks, I build a shooting position using a slanted and rather unstable limb as a rest. And we wait. Before too long, the herd starts to move. The cow rises first and walks to our left; the bull follows. I get as steady as I can and squeeze the trigger on the 416. The a-frame does its job and the bull goes down. We crash forward off the ant hill, moving in on the bull, guns up. At 40 yards I send a solid to make sure he stays down. We approach and a finishing shot confirms the kill. We roast duiker over a fire while the team butchers the buffalo and loads it into the truck.
We crossed buffalo tracks a hair before 8am. 20 minutes old, the trackers said. We geared up and hit the trail. The pace was quick as the spoor of the herd was easy to follow. Up a hill and through a small pass between two imposing shields of granite, we followed them into the next valley. The wind was in our face and the trail fresh; the dung, still glistening wet, had not even had time to attract flies. Through forests, fields of grass, recent burns, and rock slabs we tracked the herd. One brief sighting of a laggard bull confirmed we were close. As the sun got higher and the heat intensified, their tack began to make large circles; we hoped it meant they would bed. At the same time wind became erratic and we had to slow our pace — in this cat-and-mouse game, we had to spot them first. At 5.5 miles and 2.5 hrs we stopped for water and hopefully give the herd time to lay down. Back on their trail, it was clear we would have no such luck as the lazy circles turned to s-turns further into the valley. They never ran or knew we were there, as best we could tell from the track. At just over 4 hours and 7.77 miles we called off the chase.
I have no idea how Selemoni saw them. The herd of zebra was at least 400 yards into thick brush. We stalked on close, maybe too close. Nathan was eyeing a group slightly to our right that was behind a bush, trying to sort out which was a stallion. He whispered to me that he thought I could take the first in the group when they stepped out. I said, “How about the one at 10 o’clock that is looking right at us?” Nathan replied with thumbs up. Too close to rise onto the sticks without undue attention, I made a rest off one leg and sent a a-frame into the boiler room.
Reedbuck had been eluding us. It has been a wet year and the grass is still standing tall, giving them excellent cover. We caught this one in the open. Nathan set up the sticks but one leg fell off and clattered into the dirt. “I hate it when that happens” I said to Nathan as I mounted what was now a tall bipod and took the shot. He thought that was pretty funny. And we got this beautiful big reedbuck.
Played rookie league for the Yankees in Paintsville after winning the College World Series at Fullerton State, in1979. All I could think about was the movie “Deliverance”- lived up in a hollow with some other players. Refused to go on a moonshine run because it was a dry county-no way. Met some of the nicest people on the planet there! Van Lear the home of Loretta Lynn was highlight of summer LOL.
Mule deer and Colorado elk seasons almost done! Hunters driving farm roads, looking for racks, their PH driving them along, I ask that you not pull into my drive. The buck behind me, on the boundary line of the GMU somehow knows. The hunter laughs, I would invite you in to see my Searcy rifles but social distancing prevails, darkness arrives and the buck slides away into secret tree grove...