The First Crocodile

Fritz Rabe

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May 7, 2012
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South Africa
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CPHC-SA, South African Bowhunting Association (SABA) Instructor, NSRI
SA, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, Ethipoia, Cameroon, CAR, Tanzania, Canada, USA, Spain
The First Crocodile

1996 was a strange year to me. Sitting under cover waiting for the first sign to appear on the surface of the water like a fisherman watching his float. It was early in the morning. The bush was alive with bird chatter and a few animals have already come down to quench their thirst. The insects were starting as I watched an Ant Lion trapping a tiny insect that fell in to the funnel he so carefully prepared in order to have a meal. I felt like the Ant Lion. Waiting for our animal to appear.

The winter cold had a good grip on my body. We were all shaking and hugged our legs to get some sort of heat going. If we wanted to stay undetected from our quarry, we had to stay put. He would have to show himself in order to warm his cold blooded body.

Pieter, my fellow PH and long time friend bumped me and pointed off to the left with his chin. He was there. No more than 40 yards from us, scanning the area to make sure that it is safe for him to come up onto the sand for some warmth. It felt like an hour before he slowly emerged like a ghost. He was a big Croc for this area. I judged him at no less that 13 and a half feet, maybe even 14 feet. He went to his favourite spot and made himself comfortable to soak up the sun that tried hard to drive away the winter cold.

(Damn) is all I thought when I saw that his left front leg was squarely in the way of where the arrow had to hit in order to find the heart and lungs. We had to wait some more for him to move the leg as we could not move to a better place with him no more than 30 yards away now.

Yawan, my Spanish client and long time friend looked at me with a frown. I just shrugged and whispered that we had to wait some more as there was no shot. It is like watching cement dry or grass grow. The tension we all felt was replaced by irritation as time just seemed to stand still. The Ant Lion has finished his breakfast and I saw him moving under the sand to get ready for his next victim. The Croc closed his eyes as if to go to sleep. (Move your leg!) I kept thinking so as to will him to obey my thoughts. I don't believe in telepathy anymore. Or it does not work on a Crocodile.

We were here because Yawan wanted a Croc. He wanted it with a bow and at the time it sounded like fun. We have hunted them before with a rifle but that is completely different to doing it with a bow and arrow. Since he converted to bow hunting, my live became stressful because Yawan just loves dangerous game hunting. I for one have never tried bow hunting a Croc and I did not know anyone in Africa that has done it successfully either that could give me some advice. This was going to be a big learning curve for all of us.

His setup was fine. A custom made Hoyt Smoke at 90lb wit a 31 inch draw and a 980gr arrow with a 210gr Steel Force two blade cut on impact broad head made for an ideal Big Game combination. We have hunted many Elephant, Buffalo and Hippo with it and it did the job every time. So how can a lowly overgrown Lizard be any problem? Little did we know what was waiting for us?

Four hours later found us sitting in the same spot still looking at Mr. Croc. He did not move. He only opened his eyes once when an African Jacana landed behind him on a large Lilly pad. (This sucks) I kept thinking.
Pieter started giggling like a girl and we both looked at him thinking that he went nuts. (What's so funny?) I asked him in a soft whisper. (Have you ever been charged by a Croc?) He wanted to know. (No, why?) I did not know what he was getting at. (We each have our .416 rifles at the ready.) He replied. That just cracked me up and tears were rolling down my face as I tried to keep the laughter in and not scare the Croc away. He had a point there. I know of many locals that were taken by Croc but I have never heard of someone been charged by one.

(Don't worry. I'll protect both of you) Yawan said after he wiped the tears from his eyes. The waiting started to make us lose concentration and we had to be alert so as not to do it all over again. Most people think that a Croc lying basking in the sun is an easy adversary. They could not be more wrong. They are highly tuned to their surroundings and have very acute senses. The slightest noise could make him spin around and disappear into the river again and we would not see him again for a few days.

Suddenly his leg moved forward. Slowly he opened up the area over his ribs. We stood up and I thought that he would hear all our joints crack after all the sitting in one position. I pointed the spot out to Yawan and he knew exactly where to aim for. The Hoyt came to full draw and the arrow was ready to deliver its message to the heart. At the shot, the Croc flew around and hit the water with a huge splash scaring the birds and everything else to death.

Now what? Both Pieter and I have done many Croc hunts with a rifle and you do not want a Croc back in the water after the shot. They do not float like Hippo after an hour and by the time they do everything will be rotten and wasted. We discussed the shot and were confident that the arrow found the mark and went through the heart and lungs as we saw the broad head enter and exit at the right place.

After an hour and a half we decided that it was time to recover this Lizard. Someone had to go in and find him to tie a rope around his legs. Yawan is the client so it cannot be him. Pieter still had a loaded gun in his hands and he is a deadly shot, so I was not going to order him to do it. Drawing straws would also not work because Pieter is a well known cheat. We decided to go together with Yawan acting as guard with a rifle. He would shoot into the water at anything that looks like a tree trunk, stick or what ever he decides.

Let me tell you that I have dived and spear-fished with Sharks around me and I have been around dangerous game my whole life and it never bothered me. But when that brown water closed over my head I felt sick. This is no way to make a living. It took us nearly 15 minutes to locate him. Pieter found him on a flat rock under some reeds. We roped him and pulled him out with the vehicle. He measured 13,9 foot from the tip of his nose to the tip of his tail. This was a big Croc.


It was also the last one I would ever hunt in this manner. The arrow did do its job and the broad head cut a huge hole through the lungs but, the heart was still pumping when we took him out of the water. You could feel it under his skin. He was dead but his heart did not know it yet. There had to be a safer way to do this. It was just not worth the risk with so many things that could go wrong. We never even thought that a cold blooded animal would be so different to the normal mammals that we regularly hunted.

It was a great hunt and we were very happy with the outcome and Yawan was overjoyed. Pieter and I made a great team and we would do many more dangerous game bow hunts together. It is just that I would not do a Croc in this manner again. Once was enough.

Fritz Rabe
Fritz Rabe Bow Hunting/Askari Adventures
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May 21, 2012
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ssaa, aba ,bairnsdale field archers SFP
australia south africa (limpopo, north west,eastcape) canada (b.c)zambia
this is exactly ,how l imagine a croc with bow, hunt would be .
man , that's cool .
love the way fritz , puts an adventure into words .
he would hold you spellbound around the fire


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May 27, 2012
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I got sick at my stomach just reading the part about going under water!

I've pulled an alligator out of the water before without knowing for sure if it was dead and that was stress enough, just having him by the tail! This.... Ugh....

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