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Two kudus with a stickbow
Rean Steenkamp writes about his yearly hunt on a game ranch near the South African town of Marble Hall – a great hunting spot reserved for hunters from overseas.
Hunting is a disorderly, bipolar affair, having both manic and melancholic sides. You experience mania when you shoot a good shot and your prey is quickly found. And when you realize you have messed up and that you will probably never find your prey, you experience dark melancholy and despair. Well, I had a bipolar hunt this year.
> The first kudu bull was found last.
Not every local hunter has the opportunity to hunt on a game farm that is reserved for hunters from foreign countries. However, the game farm managed by my friend Pierre de Wet opens its gates once a year to a few invited local hunters. I am fortunate to be part of this group
Pierre dropped the hunters off at the various blinds fairly early and I was feeling very cold. I am always reluctant to go to a blind before sunrise. Over the years I have found that animals do not venture near the blind as early as one is often told. Most of my morning kills were done between nine and eleven. My questions is: why sit in the blind and freeze for only a small chance that an animal will walk in just after daybreak? One can argue that you have to be stationed early so everything at the blind can quiet down before the first animals approach. Get into the blind at seven or eight then, I say! Well, I am sure many a PH is shaking his head in pity now and are saying that my objectivity has probably been frozen over. And they may be right!
< The second kudu bull that was found first.
Nevertheless, there I was, feeling quite cold and sitting with my 50-pound Scythian recurve, made by Lucas Navotny, in my lap. I had two arrows tipped with 185-grain Silver Flame broadheads by German Kinetics ready for action.
At about half past nine a big kudu bull walked in. Unfortunately a kudu was not on my menu, since Pierre asked us not to shoot big kudu bulls with the good genes for horn length, but rather the smaller kudu or the bigger kudu with small-horn genetics. So, I had to wait some more…
A little later another a young kudu bull walked in and started feeding, while standing opposite the big bull. This was the kind of bull I had in mind. Since I am mostly a meat hunter and we were only allowed to shoot male animals on this farm, the kudu bull standing in front of me was a very good prospect. The horns were far from trophy size and the meat would make for good eating. This was a so-called "kombuis-koedoe"or "kitchen kudu".
> Johan Smit with his kudu bull he shot on the same ranch. With him is Henk du Plessis.
I nocked my Trophy Blast 400 arrow and focused on a spot two inches above the elbow. I drew the arrow back until my middle finger touched the right corner of my mouth. As I was going to release the arrow, the bigger bull swiped his horns at the smaller bull, causing it to move substantially. However, my reflexes are far too slow and my hand released the string notwithstanding, sending the arrow off to the young kudu bull – which was now standing quartering-on! Then the arrow struck and both kudus took off in a hurry.
I was mortified, knowing that the bull was probably wounded and that it would take hard work and time to find the animal… if we ever found it. I gravely phoned the shot in and reminded Pierre to bring his gun. Melancholy set in. The event played back in my mind – again and again. Did I hit the vitals or didn't I? Is it a gut shot? Don't you just feel the fool when you have messed up? I should stop hunting. I have said so before and I am saying so again…
Then another young kudu bull walked in and stood in exactly the same spot the previous kudu had stood in. He was about 13 yards from me and perfectly side-on. My pupils probably dilated, my heart picked up its pace and I surely breathed a little faster. I must confess, my melancholy subsided.
I usually do not take a shot at an animal when the previous animal I have shot had not been found yet. However, at that moment, and quite conveniently, I remembered that my sister asked me to bag her a kudu for the pot. Since I was not sure we would find the first kudu I had shot and since I knew the meat of a wounded animal is often fairly inedible, I decided to shoot the kudu bull standing in front of me. It made perfect sense… I would pay for my wounded animal and my sister would pay for this one. Only, I had to make sure of this shot – or I was bound to experience mega-melancholy!
I waited for the kudu to relax and feed. He was well within my ability with a traditional bow. I nocked another arrow tipped with a German Kinetic. I focused on a spot in the middle of the kill zone, drew the string back until my middle finger touched the corner of my mouth and then the arrow was on it way. I was much relieved to see that this time the arrow hit the animal where I intended it to hit.
The kudu ran in a fairly straight line, slightly to the left from the blind, and went down at 30 to 40 yards – well within my view. I was elated.
Pierre and a couple of other people arrived soon after. We found the arrow on the ground. The 50-pound bow had shot the 509-grain arrow right through the animal. Then I walked them to the kudu. Hands were shaken and photos were taken. It is always a wonderful feeling when your shot was true and the animal is quickly found afterwards.
However, my happy feelings soon subsided when we had to track the first kudu. Fortunately we soon found a reasonable blood spoor and the trackers took off after the animal – my good friend Henk du Plessis in the lead.
Henk found the kudu about three hundred yards further on – but it was still alive and the animal took off the moment it saw us. It left a huge puddle of blood at the spot where it had stood and we decided to leave it for another hour or so.
This is always a bad time for a hunter… having to wait, not knowing what the outcome will be. Thinking of the wounded animal and its suffering. Melancholy again…
An hour later we started tracking from the spot where we had found the puddle of blood. It was a very short tracking session. We found the kudu about sixty yards from where we spooked it, and it was stone dead. On later inspection, when the animal was slaughtered, we found that the arrow had penetrated one lung and the liver. The shot was not so bad after all. Had we waited a bit longer, we would have found the animal dead on the spot where we spooked it.
Thus the weekend ended in great happiness for me – in fact, in mega-mania. I was happy with my 50-pound recurve, with my good friends, with the hunt – and with the world in general. Isn't hunting great!
About the Author
Rean Steenkamp, editor and owner of Africa’s Bowhunter magazine, is an enthusiastic traditional archer and bowhunter. He started hunting with a longbow in 1997 and has since bagged many African plains game with traditional bows, compound and black powder rifles. He also dabbled in bow building and published a bowhunting book titled “Let loose the arrow!”
Rean started his career in journalism in 1984 at a newspaper in Pretoria, South Africa. He interrupted his career at the end of 1991 when he joined the 37th weather team expedition to Gough Island, where he worked for 14 months as the communicator. The team consisted of only seven people living in isolation on the seven by 16 km island. Rean started the Africa’s Bowhunter magazine in 2000 while working as editor for the Game and Hunt magazine.