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Sable, stick and string

By Fritz Rabe

Dale Karch with the magnificent sable he bagged with his traditional bow. >Dale-Karch Sable

During July of 2014 I had the great joy to host and guide Dale Karch, the owner of 3Rivers Archery, accompanied by his lovely wife, Sandy, and his close friend, Greg Szaleuski, during a great ten days of hunting.

Now most of you who know me also know that I get a severe headache, stomach cramps and an instant “sense-of-humour failure” when clients arrive armed with traditional bows and expect to hunt seven animals in ten days, all of them trophies.

I have to admit that in all my years of professional hunting, I have seen maybe two or three people that could hit anything smaller than a dinosaur at 20 yards with “stick and string”.

Gregs-kudu< Greg Szaleuski with this magnificent kudu he shot with hís traditional bow.

Dale and Greg were in a totally different class altogether. These guys could SHOOT! They were as accurate as most compound archers over 20 yards and they had fun doing it. Just maybe we could hunt a bit without spending most of the time tracking wounded animals.

Dale came with one wish. He wanted a really good sable as his primary animal and then some other plains game if time permitted. Greg was on his first African hunt and wanted whatever gave him a shot and did not break the bank. Although Sandy had brought the most beautiful recurve bow I had ever seen, she would only hunt if the situation was perfect. She was more interested in filming Dale as he hunted.

Greg Szaleuski with the impala he shot with a traditional bow during the same hunt. >Greg-Impala

Greg opened the account first with a wonderful impala that only managed 40 yards before his steam ran out and a few hours later followed up on a monster kudu bull of 54 inches that fell with a perfect quartering-away shot through the lungs.

Day three saw Greg again putting an old red hartebeest in the salt that could only manage 30 yards before giving up the ghost. Dale in the meantime did see some sable that only made his heart pump faster as they stayed just outside his comfortable shooting distance for a few hours.

Later during the hunt Greg shot a blue wildebeest bull. Although it was not the biggest or oldest, it gave him the perfect angle and he took it with both hands and feet. By now Greg had only used four arrows for four animals and the combined distance that they ran was less than 100 yards. In my book that is excellent!

gemsbuckwarthogGregs-hartebeest< Greg Szaleuski with a gemsbuck, a warthog and a hartebeest he also hunted.

The morning of the seventh day found Dale, Sandy and me in the far northern part of the farm where I knew that a lone sable bull liked to hang out. He was past breeding but still in great shape. We were in a “make-shift” blind and the sable was resting under a tree about 80 yards off. It took hours, or so it seemed, for that bull to come over to a small waterhole that was perfectly upwind of our location at 17 yards.

He finally stopped twisting and turning and Dale could settle down and concentrate on his draw and release. There were some red-billed oxpecker birds hanging all over the sable as they cleaned him of the ticks and bugs. They would fly up every so often with loud chirping and that would put the sable on instant alert. By now Dale was sweating profusely and Sandy nearly turned blue from holding her breath so long with a sable bull only 15 yards to our front.

Finally the arrow flew and hit the sable tight behind the shoulder with a loud “thwack”. The arrow penetrated up to the off-side shoulder. As the bull turned he swiped the rear end of the arrow with those beautiful curved horns and broke the last five inches of the arrow. He jumped forward and then his legs gave way and he came to rest. It was all over in less than ten seconds.

We just sat there and took it all in. Dale turned and looked at me with tears in his eyes and on seeing that Sandy broke down crying I left the two of them alone for a while with a warm feeling inside to see two people show so much respect for an animal.

This turned out to be a bigger bull than I had thought at first. He measured out at a full 39,5  inches. He was past his prime and his teeth were worn down. A few years before he would have had 41 to 42-inch horns as they were worked down quite a bit. Dale was over the moon and he and Sandy took the rest of the day off to savour the hunt.

Greg did not wait for them and started playing with pigs. He shot two warthog in ten minutes and a nice gemsbuck as well. He was having the time of his life and could not stop smiling.

On the last day of the hunt Dale got a bonus as he hunted an old giraffe bull that was giving us lots of trouble by breaking fences as a hobby, but that is a story for another time.

I had a great time guiding these fine people and hope to see them again next year when Greg wants a sable and Dale is playing with the idea of hunting those beautiful black beasts called buffalo.

(Fritz Rabe, Melorani Safaris & Fritz Rabe Bow Hunting)


About the Author

Fritz Rabé

Fritz Rabé

Fritz has been bowhunting for the past 28 years and the last 22 years as a Professional Hunter (PH) that specializes in dangerous game. He was the first PH to guide a female bowhunter on a successful lion hunt. He was also the first PH to guide one client successfully for the Big Six and crocodile. He has hunted/guided clients to all the huntable species in South Africa, except the black rhino. He also hunts all over Africa for special trophies like mountain nyala in the Rift Valley of Ethiopia, Lord Derby eland and giant forest hog in the Central African Republic, dwarf buffalo, forest elephant, bongo and forest sitatunga in Cameroon.          

Fritz hunts a lot in the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe, the Kafue area of Zambia and the Zambezi flood plain of Mozambique. He is a full member of PHASA (Professional Hunters Association of SA) as well as a SABA (South African Bowhunters Association) instructor. Fritz has also hunted and guided in Canada and Spain.


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