South Africa — Day 4

nyalaLSON Managing Editor Conor Harrison recently returned from a trip to South Africa. He kept a journal of the trip and, for the next few days, we will publish his notes from the hunt.

5-18-12


Still on a high from the bushbuck hunt, Whitey and I struck out for a new ranch in search of blue wildabeest, impala and warthog this morning.

We arrived at the very large Elandskloof Ranch around 7:30 and headed for a pop-up blind overlooking a waterhole.

Driving in, we saw several nice warthog boars and a couple of really nice southern impala.

Settled into the blind by 8, and the first thing we saw cruising through were a pair of jackals. Looking like small coyotes, they made a circle around the water and kept going, only bothering to look up briefly when I tried to squeak like a dying rabbit. Apparently, they had already eaten.

About 9 a.m. the game began to filter in to the water. First several waterbuck, followed by a group of female warthogs, nyala and small impala came to the water. The impala rut is in full swing, and if you’ve never heard an impala in rut, it is something to hear. A mix of a white-tailed buck grunting combined with a howler monkey would do it justice.

Rams were running all around the water, and around 10, a nice ram came to drink. However, he stayed at 35 yards at the farthest edge of the pool and only offered a quartering-to shot. It was not a shot I felt comfortable taking, so we watched as he ran off after another group of males.

The oldest female warthog Whitey and I had ever seen came to the water and stayed most of the morning wallowing in the mud. She was skin and bones, with bites along her hind quarters that looked like it had come from a jackal. Maybe that is why they didn’t respond to my calls.

We debated shooting her just to put her out of her misery, but in the end decided it was better to let nature takes its course. There is a saying in Africa that nothing dies of old age, although she was putting that to the test. Another reminder that nature can be cruel.

Around 11, a herd of wildabeest appeared and came for a drink. This was a large herd with several young bulls, along lots of cows and babies. Surprisingly, a large herd bull was not around, although we are focused on taking an older, lone bull instead of one still in his breeding prime.

As noon approached, the animals began to disperse to wait out the heat of the day and not much happened until about 4 p.m.

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IMG 6348Suddenly, two monster impala rams were headed down the track toward the water. Whitey estimated the lead ram to be around 26 inches and the back ram was breathtaking — more than 28 inches and super wide.

The lead ram came to the water, but we were focused on the giant behind him. At 50 yards, the big ram stopped and began to feed. Whitey looked at me and said, “now would be a good time to become a rifle hunter for five minutes.”

I smiled and was tempted to pick up Whitey’s .375, but decided I had come to bow hunt and would stick to that as long as sufficient time remained in the hunt.

The ram never got closer than 50 yards before feeding off into the brush.

Whitey and I exited the blind at dark still marveling at the size of that impala. That night around the campfire, another PH said he had been hunting that ram for three years and actually had a young hunter set up to shoot him last year, but the young man froze and never took the shot.

He’s still out there for someone.

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