Days 1 & 2 | Days 3 & 4 | Days 5 & 6 | Days 7 & 8 | Days 9 & 10
Day 7: Sept. 6 – Coasting a bit now. Four days left and only kudu on my must have list. I saved kudu for last because they are my favorite. Like whitetails, I never grow tired of hunting them. Smart, wary, supremely equipped with excellent sight, hearing and smell. They are quick to put distance or cover between themselves and danger. Above all, they are big, beautiful, majestic animals adorned with the greatest horns of any antelope in Africa. Indeed, with an upper limit topping 60 inches, they have the longest horns of any horned animal in the world. There’s nothing like the sight of a big bull kudu ghosting through the acacias, seemingly on tiptoes, head held high showcasing those magnificent black spiral horns. No hunter goes to Africa for the first time, or perhaps even for the tenth time, that doesn’t have the greater kudu on his list. Before this hunt, I’d shot four. Just warming up.
Kudu are found everywhere there’s enough cover to hide them, if there’s water within walking distance, but they definitely have an affinity for acacia flats and the thicker cover along the drainages. On Sentinel, the ideal combination of drainages and acacia flats is found along the Pye River, which slices diagonally across much of Sentinel. The Pye is kudu country. That’s where we headed to find our trophy.
Being September, early spring in Zimbabwe, the acacia were just beginning to put on new growth and bloom. Kudu love acacia leaves and blooms. The acacia flats on either side of the Pye were a kudu food plot. Hunting big kudu is a lot like hunting big whitetails – you usually have to work through a number of non-shooters before you find the one you’re after. During the course of the hunt, I had already seen many good kudu but had not been seriously tempted. But this morning, I was only a couple of sightings in when I was ready to pull the trigger. When you see BIG, you know it. No real judging or evaluating needed. Just shoot. That’s what we walked into right away – a heavy, wide, tall kudu that needed shooting. We caught him flatfooted, but his vitals were obscured by acacia. By the time we maneuvered for a shot, he picked us, barked, and bolted.
We hurriedly looped around the thicket he had escaped into and set up. Impala soon streamed out, followed by the big bull. One of the impala locked on us just as the bull stepped into open view. That clock again. I turned to shoot. The impala snorted. The deep guttural bark-roar of the kudu marked his departure. We followed him, but it was soon obvious that he’d had all of us he wanted. We passed the rest of the morning looking over other kudu, but as was the case with the nyala, I had found the kudu I wanted. Nothing else would do. This was the kudu we would hunt!
After lunch, we returned to the forest looking for the big warthog we’d seen earlier, allowing the kudu time to settle down before we returned to his domain late that afternoon. An hour before dark, we slipped into the acacia flats where he resided. We were 200 or so yards away from where we had first seen him when we spotted the horns of a kudu waving above an acacia. Unbelievably, it was him! We slowly moved about 40 yards to the left and slightly forward to get the wind and the sun in our favor. An open lane was just in front of the kudu. All he had to do was continue to feed on his present course, and I would have a clear 60-yard shot.
I checked with Matt. He was on my left just behind me. He nodded that he was ready, already tracking the kudu with his JVC. The bull was about to reach the narrow opening at a fast walk. He was almost across the opening when I whistled. He stopped and I fired. The bull dropped in his tracks. I quickly rushed forward for an insurance shot. Then I heard a drawn out “nooooooo!” from Matt. I snapped around. Matt was shaking his head, “I didn’t get the shot. I got your hat. The recoil knocked you into the camera’s field of view. I didn’t get it.”
When shooting TV, the kill shot is critical to complete the hunt storyline. Otherwise, it’s a little like a joke without a punch line. Matt and I quickly reviewed the video, only to find my hat where a falling kudu should have been. Nothing could be done about it. One of those things. Nobody’s fault. Our consternation was short-lived – I had one of my best kudu ever and he deserved our full attention. We crowded around to admire one of Africa’s most cherished trophies, a trophy greater kudu. This old guy had it all – wide, heavy, and tall. His mass was remarkable, heavy all the way out to his long white tips. I looked toward the red setting sun and offered thanks to my Heavenly Father.
Another lively night back at camp. All gathered around to admire the big kudu. Lots of good adjectives. David Shashy had chased bushbucks all day. He’d passed a couple of marginal shooters. I actually think he was having too much fun to shoot too soon. As we settled in for dinner, Matt and I recited the story of the kudu hunt, including the snafu on the kill shot. That’s when Digby made me an offer I could not refuse – the chance to continue hunting kudu! He had several left on quota, and the safari season was winding down. I accepted his offer!
Day 8: Sept. 7 – Having fun just enjoying Africa. Looking for a special kudu. We returned to the Pye River and looked over several kudu. Nothing I wanted. The acacia are really blooming now. The small yellow blooms are drawing in the loads of kudu and impala. We ran into a herd of elephants headed to a nearby waterhole on the Pye. We rushed to get there first. We did and were able to watch them from a bluff right above them. Wind was good. Never knew we were there. It’s an amazing thing to be able to watch a herd of elephants only 30 feet away from the relative safety of the bluff. Comforting that the .458 was on ready.
Digby asked that we shoot a few impala for meat for the staff and camp. Once peak morning movement was over, I shot six within an hour. In a two-year period, Digby and crew cropped nearly 4,000 impala, all sold or given away for meat. They couldn’t tell any had been removed. No shortage of impala. They are excellent table fare, one of the best. Just before lunch, we looked for the big warthog. Still couldn’t find him. He is very old and in bad shape. Good chance he’s dead, either from natural causes or leopard or hyena. Shame. He’s the biggest any of us have ever seen.
Took a long lunch. Everybody a tad tired. Hot and dusty out there. Everybody hunting hard. Bet I’ve walked 75 miles since arriving, mostly after the eland. Nap welcome.
Back to the Pye after lunch. More walking and looking. Easy to walk quietly since the ground is bare from drought and countless hooves. Dust bellows out from every footfall. Saw several bull kudu but nothing I wanted … until late. We caught a kudu unaware at 50 yards feeding behind an acacia. The top two thirds of his horns were exposed above the acacia, and from what we could see, he was a hoss. I set up to shoot him if he gave me a shot. Seconds before he moved into full view, an errant wind carried our scent to him. He grunt-roared and dashed away. This was a really big kudu. I now had something to target during my remaining time.
The remainder of the day was all Africa – the yellow late afternoon light bringing out the vivid colors of the diverse landscape, game of all sorts moving and feeding, a beautiful red sunset preceding the typically short sub-tropical twilight.
Tomorrow we will wrap up this African edition of the Bucks of Tecomate, as we pursue another kudu and search for the big warthog that keeps escaping me, in Day 9 and 10.
Bucks of Tecomate - African Edition
Days 1 & 2 | Days 3 & 4 | Days 5 & 6 | Days 7 & 8 | Days 9 & 10