South Africa — Big animals and no shot

IMG 6438LSON 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.

5.21.12

Bow hunting is a patient man’s obsession.

That was put to the test this day, as Whitey and I drove to a new ranch that we haven’t hunted yet about 45 minutes from the lodge.

We are in an elevated blind overlooking a small waterhole 25 yards away, still in search of a big impala, blue wildabeest and a warthog if one presents itself.

The wind continues to swirl. A cold front blew in last night moving the wind from its normal northeast direction to a southern pattern. Opposite of what we experience in Texas.

Nothing at the water early, which is not surprising considering how cold it was last night — it is only 50 degrees at 9:30 a.m.

The first animal we see is a giant impala. Not quite as big as the huge ram we saw two days ago, but he is definitely more than 25 inches. The ram gets about 75 yards from the water and decides he doesn’t like something. Instead of continuing on his steady pace to drink, he turns and bolts back into the brush. We surmise he must have smelled us.

About 10:15, a herd of kudu make their way to the water — several young bulls followed by two mature bulls that are both well over 50 inches. They are magnificent animals when viewed at less than 20 yards.

I took some pictures before Whitey motioned that a herd of wildabeest are making their way to the water. Finally!

The wildabeest are less than 50 yards out when I pick up the rangefinder and click the button — pandemonium! At the sound the click, the kudu react like a bomb has gone off and bolt from the water. I have no idea why they did that, as my camera is twice as loud as the rangefinder and had no affect whatsoever.

Whitey and I just shake our heads at our continued poor luck with the wildabeest.

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IMG 6437We settled dejectedly back into the blind, but within an hour, Whitey tells me to quickly grab my bow as the biggest warthog he has ever seen is coming.

This is one magnificent warthog. It is actually a sow, but her tusks are at least 13 inches outside of her lip and make a perfectly symmetrical full curl. She comes to the water with three other small males, and stands broadside at 22 yards.

I draw the bow as another pig stands directly behind her. I continue to hold at full draw, waiting for the pig behind to clear so I can release an arrow. I try not to stare at the length of the tusks on this pig.

I have to let the bow down after 45 seconds of holding at full draw, but I immediately come back to full draw as she repositions herself at the water — this time facing me head-on. No shot.

I let down for a second time and quickly pull the bow back for the third time as she drinks her fill and walks away from the water, stopping at 30 yards … behind the only stick between myself and her. Again, no shot.

As she finally trots away from the water, I am dejected beyond words. That warthog would have made an amazing trophy. For not the first time this trip, I almost want to be a rifle hunter.

The rest of the morning is slow, although the monotony is broken mid-afternoon when what I first think is a small leopard walks down the road 100 yards from the blind.

A closer look reveals it to be a huge cerval cat — an extremely rare sight during the day. What a cat! This sighting alone makes the day a success. The markings are beautiful as the big male slinks into the brush.

With shooting light disappearing quickly, a nice impala ram comes near the water, but the swirling winds are making him extremely nervous. I decide to chance a shot at 35 yards, but the ram is on full alert when I let the arrow go.

He ducks, much like a whitetail jumping a string, and the arrow sails harmlessly over his back — A tough end to a frustrating day. But I will take a clean miss over wounding an animal every time.

It is a quiet drive back to camp. I have two hunting days left but the pressure is being turned up.

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