Saturday, Feb 23 It is the last day hunting in Dubai. I still need one gazelle – the mountain gazelle (Domani). I also would really like to get that Indian gazelle, the Chikara. I must be excited because I am up before my alarm goes off and also am in the lobby before Janine and Hans. Soon, Janine comes down to the lobby and shortly after that, Hans shows up. We have been in the blind for over an hour and so far, the only mountain gazelle to show up is that old sandal foot one we have seen every day. He has a very odd-looking walk and while at first, I thought he might be in pain, I think his gait is more because it would be so easy to trip with those misshapen hooves. Every time we drive through the property and when I look out across the horizon, there is a beauty to the desolation that is hard to describe. I suppose it might be at one end of the spectrum, with the arctic being at the other, but like two numbers on the clock face, 1 and 12 are more the same than they are different. I have wanted to do a polar bear hunt with the Inuk and now I am looking forward to it even more. I might miss the trees there though. I look out the window. Sandal foot has made a little bed for himself just 20 yards away from the blind. Time passes slowly now. What feels more like a safari soap opera – very little progress in the plot and the same cast over and over. Most of the entertainment has been provided by a young oryx calf just a couple weeks old. Yesterday, he wanted to play with the sand gazelles but his parents decided that he should only play with his own kind. Racism is alive and well in the animal kingdom. Still, the little guy wouldn’t sit still and would just run off one direction or another with the mother or father having to run and get in front and direct him back towards the herd. As a parent, I chuckled – we have been there too! Today, our young oryx is not happy with mom and apparently has learned to speak. He makes some noise that sounds half way between a goat and the teacher from the Peanuts cartoons. And he won’t shut up. Poor mama oryx. 11am eventually comes and another mountain gazelle arrives. Now we have three, with the newest one really below the standards we have. He is mature, but not old – the horns don’t have compressed rings at the base. Maybe in an hour another one will show up. Ugh. What people who do not hunt take as “easy” is really excruciatingly boring at times. If spot and stalk was a realistic option for these guys, I think we would be out braving skin cancer and dust in our eyes. The breeze is making for comfortable temperatures in the blind, but I suspect we would have more animal activity if the wind was less by half. Rain is rare in the desert. It had not rained for two years running here. Well, apparently not as rare as mature mountain gazelle. I hear a nice constant pinging of the raindrops hitting the roof. It is very relaxing. With the lack of gazelles, it is hard to stay awake. It is now nearly 1:30 in the afternoon. With the rain, it isn’t so hot and I am a bit worried that we won’t have many animals coming to the waterhole. Fortunately, I have two trips to the UAE scheduled in the next 18 months and if nothing comes in, I could always try again next year, but I am trying to keep those thoughts out of my head. I still have 4-5 hours left. Still, animal activity is markedly less than yesterday and that does not bode well for my odds. We pass the time quietly conversing. Hans informs Janine that he missed a turn on the way to the hotel this morning. I guess he thought I was asleep. Haha, nope. Just listening intently with my eyes closed. At 2pm, a mature Domani ram comes in. Now is my chance – Hans looks at him with the binos and says, “if he comes in range, take him!” I put on my release, grab my bow, turn on the sight, nock an arrow and get into position. My gazelle settles in at 30 yards. He is quartering away and then looks back over his shoulder to the other direction. A pass through will end up driving the arrow into his skull, so I wait. Then he adjusts slightly and I get a perfect broadside. I tell Hans that if I shoot him here, he will have to repair a drip line. He does not care. I draw back and range with the bow – Janine asks me to wait. I hold up for a couple seconds. When she is ready, I shoot. Man, what a string jump! He moves forward so fast that the arrow completely misses. I will have to check the film on that one. Hans had no idea they would jump the string that hard. The ram runs off, but the orxy seem undisturbed and we hope the mountain gazelle returns. We discuss having to remember to retrieve my arrow. I shot one of the two arrows I put into my oryx. I have the other arrow in my quiver and it was the one used to shoot the sand gazelle and was also the finishing shot on the oryx. Heck, maybe I can take all three here with the same arrow. It is the only other arrow I have with a monarch broadhead. The others have my Maasai broadheads I used in Namibia and the Kalahari. Hans spots my arrow in the sand. I look through the binoculars from the camera window to get a better angle on it. It is literally 1/8 of an inch below the drip irrigation line. I hang my bow back up and grab the arrow from my sand gazelle. I start to sharpen the broadhead and clean off any residual sand on the fletches. I ask Janine to pull of the footage of the shot. He drops way down as soon as the arrow is launched and is already moving forward by the time it gets to him, passing over his back just above the crease in front of his hind legs. He probably moved an entire foot in the length of time it took for my arrow to reach 30 yards – about a third of a second. What amazing reflexes! At 2:40pm, the sun starts to come out. Remi, the sand gazelles, have come back. Still no sign of domani, the mountain gazelles. If he comes back, I will be ready and won’t forget about that string jump. 2:50pm, Hans spots my gazelle. He is a couple hundred yards away and heading off over the dunes, following a female. I doubt he will be back today, but he is not the only mountain gazelle on the property. Now nearing 3pm, our outlook is starting to look a bit bleak. Although I don’t fly home until late tomorrow evening, Hans has another client and so like it or not, my hunt ends in a couple hours. A few minutes later, a couple more mountain gazelle come in to the blind. One is marginal and the other too young. Within five minutes, they are gone. They simply do not stay as long at the blind as the sand gazelle. Hans says they are not as dominant, which would also explain why the chikara gazelle has chosen to hang with them. At just after 3pm, my luck will change – sort of. A shooter comes in and I have a shooting opportunity. While not as large as my prior ram, he is certainly mature and had nice compressed bases on his horns. He is not alone and there is a younger male with him, but that one is certainly too small to shoot. I draw back and fire. I hit him squarely on the shoulder, but he was quartering slightly and based on that, I should have been about two inches to the left. It is a solid hit, but not nearly fatal. I can see him take off, although obviously he is wounded and won’t have full use of his leg. Between the sandy ground, good blood trail and a limp, this should be an easy track to follow. Those are the silver linings on my cloud. The darker part is that I have a wounded animal and only a few hours to find him. I remember Hans telling me earlier that if you ever want to see more of a person’s ranch, just wound a wildebeest or oryx. You will see the whole ranch. On foot. As time will prove, we are going to have to add mountain gazelle to that list. Hans, Janine and I come out of the blind and start looking to see where our prey went. Now, the extra set of eyes and ears that make a normal approach difficult work in my favor as we have multiple animals and only have to spot one when they move over the dunes in the distance. The younger ram can certainly move farther and faster, but his progress is limited by the older male who cannot keep up. The younger one is acting as a scout and generally, we are able to find him frequently and use his location to determine where my gazelle is. As a wounded animal, he is going to want to lay down and rest as soon as he feels safe, so we find where the younger male quits advancing and guess at the location of my quarry is. Once done, we shot make haste to get up there as quickly as possible and stalk in closer from downwind. Coming over a dune, I see him and he is laying down, resting. I have a perfect shot with him quartering towards at 27 yards. I would be shooting his left side and driving through his left shoulder. His right front shoulder is already seriously wounded. I draw back and Hans tells me not to shoot. Instinctively, I listen and let down. Hans wants a better angle. I say nothing out loud, but in my head, I am screaming “WHAT?!?! I have a PERFECT opportunity RIGHT NOW!!” Hans wants me to shoot more broadside, but one step to my right and he is off and running again. It took us a while to get here and make the stalk, so he is somewhat refreshed. Man, this thing can run. He easily clears at least half a mile through the dunes. Knowing our tactic worked the first time, we decide to repeat it. As it turns out, it was quite effective and would continue to work, but we were fortunate in our first follow up that they were not tipped off and couldn’t sense us coming over the dune. We would not be so lucky the next time. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next... This little gazelle is putting up an amazing display of fortitude, toughness and just sheer ability to move. Each time, I think we might actually not find him and am quietly cursing Hans in my mind for telling me to not shoot, but I forgive him each time he is able to locate where my gazelle is not from following his track but determining where he is headed to lay down and then putting us one right next to him with just a sand dune between us. It is getting very late, but Hans tells me he is determined to track and recover this animal even if we are here well into the night. I have no idea how he would plan to track him at night and hope I don’t have to find out. I am exhausted. Running up a sand dune is substantially harder than running up a normal mountain. The sand gives way underfoot and each step feels like I am just on a StairMaster set to extreme masochism. I have a profound amount of new found respect for those who persistence hunt, which is where you simply run down your prey until it collapses from exhaustion. I would feel sorry for Hans and Janine having to endure this, but they are at least getting paid for the effort. Hallelujah! I see him sitting next to a bush. I already had an arrow nocked before I summited the dune and draw back right as Hans tells me the range. 37 yards. I switched back to fixed pins just to save the half-second I would need in this instance. Garmin thought it all out when they put in that option and I am thankful as there is no time to spare. My gazelle gets up to start running right as I release my arrow. What happens next looks like a scene from a Hollywood movie. My gazelle has a bum right front leg, so all his weight is on the left leg and he had no other leg to balance with. I am shooting a quartering away shot on the right side. Just as he gets up to run and moves forward ever so slightly, the arrow hits him right in the spine. Even with a solid spine shot, that arrow passes through his body, nearly exiting the back side. Only the fletches catching on his vertebrae stop the arrow from passing through and moving out the back side. Instead, all 88 foot pounds of kinetic energy are absorbed into his body. It completely knocks him off his feet and he rolls over through the bush and down the sand dune on the back side. He is done for and now even at this late hour, time is not on his side. I grab the arrow I shot him with the first time and move closer. I don’t want him to suffer another second. I put one through his lungs and heart from less than 20 yards away. Between the elevated heart rate and the blood loss he already experienced, he expires within 3 seconds. Daylight is fading fast, so we rush to take some photos and a short video, then pack it in and head back to the lodge. Thankfully these down weigh much, but we need to get him cooled off ASAP to avoid any deterioration of the hide that the taxidermist would be unable to fix. To that end, all the remaining water is poured over him to cool his body down. Even sopping wet, he does not weigh much and fortunately, he is highly territorial so most of his running has been in a large circle around the initial spot where I shot him. Once back at the skinning shed, we drop off the final gazelle and head back to Hans’ office. Once thing that has been missing from this hunting experience has been the hunting camp with a braai and the evening fire and cookout. Hans had made repeated requests to have one built and I also echoed that sentiment to the manager of the property. That does not help for this hunt, but Hans’ wife Daleen has put together the best replacement she could with a small grill under their shed and we cook up my oryx and have a great time together for our last night as a hunting party. Finally, it is time for bed and we head back to our hotel. It really would have been a better experience staying in the desert in the hunting area. Hopefully they can get one built before they bring in Nubian ibex (if they do).