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The broadhead alternative
By Bob Munro
Imagine winning a trophy kudu hunt on a luxury game farm. Will you, the average hunter, shoot the animal or simply resist, allowing it to live while you enjoy nature.
I'm a passionate traditional archer, but not necessarily the most accurate you'll ever see. So I truly believed that I would never hunt anything other than 3D targets. That was, until I won a two-day trophy kudu hunt sponsored by a game ranch during our club's major annual competition.
My archery mates and I had often discussed winning something like this. Thinking that we would either get the farm owner to shoot and process the animal for us, or sell it to someone who shoots a compound or such, since we did not want to cause grief to the animal by any bad shooting. However, the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to do this hunt myself.
A few weeks before the hunting date I contacted the farmer and put to him my thoughts on how I would like the hunt to be conducted. To say that he was surprised and skeptical was an understatement! However, he listened patiently and said he will consider my ideas and get back to me on it.
Two days later he phoned back and agreed to my requests and, after making a few acceptable requests of his own, we were in business. However, I didn't mention the date of the hunt to anyone, since what I was about to do would have had interesting repercussions. So I wanted to do the hunt first, then talk about it.
I had everything squared away (I hoped!) by the Friday, the day we were to leave for the farm. To say that my second string and I were exhilarated and eager to get out of the city and into the bush would take an article of its own.
We arrived at about 14:00 to a warm and sincere welcome by the rancher and his wife. We were shown to our cool cottage and told to come up to the main house after freshening up.
Over cold drinks, coffee and very "lekka" rusks, we reviewed the hunt plans, after which I brought out my archery stuff and we went to check it out on the range. The man was happy enough with my shooting form and, amongst other things, he asked me not to try and shoot the kudu at less than 15 metres. This was a pity, since I'm deadly at five! Another concern was that we would be shooting from a ground hide at a waterhole.
At 06:00 am the next morning the farmer's son (the resident PH of the business, who was going to handle the camera and camcorder to capture the big moment on film) and I were in the hide.
Even if I never got to nocking an arrow on the string, the incidents that occurred throughout the day in that hide would have compensated for me not having the opportunity to shoot my kudu. You see, I haven't even taken a shot at a buck yet, but already, in my mind, he was mine!
The morning was breathtaking: the freshness of the air; its very newness; the birdlife; the impala; warthog; some sort of snake went past the hide, and thankfully kept on going; goggas for Africa and the most industrious bunch of ants I've ever seen; guineafowl everywhere… Well, only those who have been there know what a joy such an experience can be. There was, however, a huge scary spider hanging about in a back corner of the hide, but we occupants quickly came to an agreement – we wouldn't bug him if he didn't bug us… and we all stuck to the arrangement.
By 11:30 am we decided to return to the house and go back after lunch as nothing "kuduish" was happening. The rancher again described the kudu bull that frequented the area of the hide and assured me that the animal would come in for his daily drink… sometime! I was having such fun that, even if he never came in, I would still have treasured the day.
Leaving the tracker dog sunning himself with his "bones in the light", we returned, first having to flush the guineas out of the nearby shade to get into the hide.
The afternoon was hot with forbidden animals scratching about, kicking up dust, drinking and licking the licks. We took photos of most of them and they eventually wandered off and away. Only a warthog family that wallowed in the dam's mud stayed until… there he stood! The kudu!
I tell you, I nearly improved the camo pattern of my pants. I was so excited! A kudu bull of such magnificence and stature had stepped out of the bush to the left of the hide – manifested as would a ghost. And he was looking into the hide at me!
I was about to jump up and collect my bow when a restraining hand gripped my arm. "Wait". A lifetime later the animal looked away and slowly began walking, with that graceful kudu rhythm, towards the water. He stopped; it later proved to be eighteen metres from the hide, with all his correct body parts towards me. He turned his head and looked at the hide again. It felt as if he would never look away, but eventually, he turned his head away from us. "Pick it up", I heard. I did. "Breathe", said the PH. I tried. Arrow was on the string. How? "Look and aim". I found the heart's place. The bull hadn't moved and was still looking away. "Take him now!" came the command. It was the most difficult draw to anchor I've ever made. Somehow I kept it all together for a second or two then I let the arrow go.
The thrum of the string and the kudu's jump all seemed to flow together, but I clearly remember the blue of my fletches floating towards that great grey wall, the arrow smacking into his ribs and then bouncing off into the dam.
My beautiful spiraled trophy, full of life, dashed away and vanished into the surrounding bush – leaving an eerie silence behind him. This was broken a few moments later by muted yells and screams as the PH and me toyi-toyied, leapt and cavorted inside the hide.
Then… "Did you get it? Is it on camera? Look! Look!"
We managed to calm down while the PH rewound the film… and there it all was, my arrow flying towards that colossus, smiting him in the side and bouncing off.
Perfect, just perfect! Exactly as I hoped it would end.
How was that perfect, I hear you ask? After all it was a hunt and there should have been a shoulder mount, a hide for the floor, meat for the next six months and a story to tell around the fire – we all need lots of those, not so? So what happened?
Well, I shoot a thirty-pound-draw traditional recurve bow and, as I mentioned earlier, not with consistent accuracy. So when I decided to take the hunt I asked the rancher if he would let me shoot the animal, but with a thick-end blunt point, which shouldn't have enough force to break the skin on a big animal over the stipulated distance of fifteen metres, as well as having someone videoing the action.
My plan was, if I succeeded in hitting the animal, I would select a frame on the film, enlarge it to A3-size or larger and frame it. Then, I would be photographed in full gear with bow and "the arrow" holding the framed trophy. I would then send a copy for inclusion in our favourite magazine. And as you can see, I've done just that.
My wife had a great time, pampered "stukkend" by the ranch staff, she didn't want to leave.
The owners seemed accepting of my hunting ideas because they said we would always be welcome except, of course, at culling time. They even went as far as to suggest I try a bit of walk-and-stalk next time.
What an experience! So if you don't need the meat, but would like to hunt I can fully recommend the broadhead alternative.
What about my buck? Well, I like to imagine him still out there free and "unhunted" and sometimes wondering what the heck it was that hit him hard enough that day to bruise his ribs.
This was just a story, but the day I win that hunt I'll be doing it my way.