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Eland with a recurve
By Willy Majiedt
"One important key to success is self-confidence. An important key to self-confidence is preparation." These words from Arthur Ashe, the first black tennis player to ever win a Wimbledon title as well as the US and Australian Open titles were proved again true on the weekend of 25-27 May 2012. This was the weekend I bagged a fine eland with bow and arrow on Andre Steyn's beautiful farm, Roodeplaat, near Zastron in the South-Eastern Free State.
> Wilfred and Marton at the back, Boer and Willy in the front.
As a young boy, my grandfather taught me how to make and shoot my own bows and arrows. Life was one big adventure growing up in the Northern Cape on Bloemsmond, a small settlement on the hills overlooking the mighty Orange River between Upington and Keimoes. Occasionally, on a Friday evening, the teachers of our little school would arrange with "the people from town" to come with their generator and film projector and we were treated on a night at the movies. Karate movies starring Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, etc. were the most popular, but my favourite movies were the westerns. The cowboys and Indians with their amazing skills with their guns and bows and arrows had me in awe. Weeks after a movie we would still play cowboys and Indians. I was convinced that I was living in the wrong era, because all I wanted to do was hunting birds and lizards in the hills and in the "forest" on the banks of the river with bow in hand, quiver full of arrows on my back and my knife on my belt. Great memories…
Back to my hunt: Early Friday morning we arrived on the farm. In our hunting party of eight we were two bow hunters; myself with my recurve and Marlon with his compound bow. Andre introduced us to our guides, a father and son team. We draw straws and I got Glen (the son) as my guide and we got dropped off at the hides. Andre took the "rifle guys" to a neighboring farm in pursuit of blesbuck.
It was not very long when we experienced some activity at our hide. Two nice female fallow deer came in to feed on the lucern we put out. After a while the larger one turned broadside at about fifteen yards. I came to full draw, but for some reason something did not feel right and I never released the arrow and the deer left the scene. Was I going to regret that? That question haunted me for the rest of the day. Later we packed up and took the long hike back to the cabin for a bite.
Back at the cabin the boys were in high spirits. Marlon bagged a nice deer with his compound from his hide and Adin and Wilfred got their blesbuck. It was also Wilco and Ronald's first kills and the inevitable customary baptism ritual followed.
The next morning, after a restless night, Glen and I were back in the same hide as the previous day while some of the other guys went hunting for black wildebeest on the other side of the farm with Andre.
Within two hours we heard the distinctive knee-clicking sound of eland approaching the hide. There were seven eland in the herd, among them some young bulls and good-sized cows. My heart rate went into overdrive as I picked up my 50 pound Samick Aim Spirit recurve and nocked an arrow. I selected a nice cow and never took my eyes off it while I waited to be presented with a clear shot. It seemed like an eternity before it moved to the edge of the herd and turned broadside at sixteen yards. Instinct and many, many hours of practice took over as I drew my bow and picked a spot on the eland's left shoulder. As soon as my middle finger touched the corner of my mouth, my fingers relaxed automatically and the arrow was send on its way. It hit home with an audible "twack!" exactly where I was aiming. The eland jumped forward and disappeared from sight. My mouth suddenly became bone dry, my hands were sweating and I was breathing like a steam locomotive. The rest of the herd became restless, but soon settled down when they saw no danger and continued feeding. Suddenly my eland came back into view about thirty yards from the blind. It was already staggering on its feet with blood flowing from the wound on its shoulder. It went down but struggled back to its feet again, swaying from side to side. After a few more agonizing moments it finally collapsed and stayed down. The 100-grain Carbon Express XT four-blade broadhead had done its job.
We waited for another fifteen minutes before getting out of the hide and phoned Andre with the good news. Sitting next to that spectacular animal, running my hand over its coat stirred a mixture of emotions within me: excitement, relief, thankfulness and even a bit of sadness. Andre arrived with the hunting vehicle with Boer, Wilfred and Marlon at the back. Lots of hugs, handshakes and backslabs followed as they were genuinely so glad for my success.
That evening we went into town to the hotel to watch the Super 15 rugby match on TV between the Stormers and the Sharks. The Stormers got beaten, but I could not give a damn! For once a losing performance from my beloved team did not send me into a state of semi–depression. Nothing could have spoilt my mood that evening and sharing it with good friends and hunting buddies made it extra special.
In conclusion: I want to refer to the much-debated issue of the "correct" poundage to be used for hunting purposes. While I agree that appropriate power (poundage) is essential for hunting specific game animals with a bow, my experience again proves that there is absolutely no substitute for:
- Knowledge of the anatomy of your quarry
- Properly tuned equipment
- Shot placement
- A shaving sharp broadhead
You can shoot an eighty-pound bow and still lose an animal because of lack of the above-mentioned elements. It has been discussed on numerous occasions that you can rather use a bow with lower poundage which you can shoot confidently and accurately than using a bow with a heavy poundage and compromise on accuracy and risk wounding an animal. This is even more crucial for us who choose to hunt with stick-and-string. Let us stick to the KISS-principle (Keep It Super Simple!).