Out of camp at 6 a.m. this morning and headed to the Waterberg Mountian range and the home of Aldo Rotterdam. Aldo’s ranch is situated at the base of a high mountain covered in very thick bush and home to a large number of kudu, impala, baboons, leopard and bushbuck. The ranch is not high-fenced, which I like very much.
Whitey said this time of year the mostly nocturnal bushbuck rams come down from the tops of the mountains in search of food, where they cross into other ram’s territories, forcing them to move during the day to avoid conflicts. Bushbuck are extremely territorial and fights with other males often result in death.
We met Aldo and had a cup of coffee at his farm. He showed us trail camera pictures of several waterholes and several nice bushbuck that had been visiting the water. One old ram in particular caught our eye. He was almost black, with heavy bases and horns that carried their mass all the way to his flared tips, which were beginning to show signs of wearing down. Aldo said he thought this bushbuck was at least 10 years old and would not live more than another year or two.
We snuck into the rock pit blind around 7:30 and settled in for what could be a long wait. It wasn’t long before guinea fowl and francolin were everywhere in front of us, even peering into the blind from about 2 feet.
After about 30 minutes in the blind, a group of kudu slowly made their way to the water 15 yards in front of the blind. A group of females followed by two bulls — and what bulls they were. My PH Whitey estimated the younger bull to be 57 inches and the larger, older bull would push 60. Two magnificent animals! If only I were hunting kudu on this trip …
Suddenly, the kudu cow snapped to attention and stared past our blind for several seconds before turning and running back into the brush, taking the entire herd with her. Whitey and I were stumped, as the wind was perfect and she hadn’t spooked because of us.
We settled back in, wondering if the kudu had ruined our chance at a bushbuck. We didn’t have long to ponder the question.
“Bushbuck!” exclaimed Whitey in a high-pitched whisper. “Big bushbuck coming. It’s him.”
I grabbed my bow as silently as possible as Whitey double-checked the ram as he walked directly to the water.
The first time I saw the ram was through the sights of my bow and there was no mistaking this guy — he was the old ram we had seen on the trail camera. I didn’t have much time to think about the shot (thankfully). Instinct took over as I placed the 20-yard pin on the bottom of his shoulder and let fly.
Before the arrow even hit the bushbuck, I knew the shot was true.
“Perfect,” was the only word I said as the arrow took the bushbuck through the heart and he bolted from the water. Before I knew what was happening, slaps were raining down on my back from Whitey and I am not embarrassed to say we shared a few man hugs in the blind.
You can often tell the size of a trophy by how excited the PH gets, and I knew we had just taken a special trophy. Whitey was jumping out of his skin.
After 15 minutes to calm down and stop shaking, we walked to the water and found my arrow. The sign confirmed what we already knew — dead bushbuck. As we looked at the arrow we heard a bell sounding from behind the blind and a herd of cattle came to the water. That is what spooked the kudu. Luckily, they were still and quiet while the bushbuck came to the water. The hunting gods had smiled on us.
We tracked the ram for less than 40 yards before finding him. It was a clean kill and he didn’t suffer — a fitting end for this magnificent animal.
And what a ram! With a rifle, he would have been huge. With a bow, he was in the stratosphere.
Mass was his best characteristic, although he lacked for nothing. I just sat down with the ram while Whitey went and got the truck. I felt privileged beyond words to have been blessed with a trophy like this. I consider this bushbuck to be the finest trophy I have ever taken with a bow.
After admiring him for several more minutes, we loaded up and headed back to Aldo’s house, where his entire family was waiting to see the old monarch. I was still in awe of this great animal, so I was quiet and reserved for much of the ride back to the lodge, trying to digest what had just happened.
After a brief stop to unload the ram, we spent the rest of the day in another blind waiting for wildabeest. We had several nice bulls come into the waterhole, but I was only interested in watching them and taking pictures. Today belonged to the bushbuck, and I was content to do no more shooting on this day.
The ram measured 15 ¾ and 15 ½ inches, with matching 6 ½-inch bases. He would place in the top 15 all time with a bow, if I ever cared to enter him into a record book.