Fifteen minutes had passed since my PH and I had spotted the pair of kudu bulls. As the setting sun raced toward the horizon, the duo slowly made their way toward us. I felt certain it would be too dark for a shot by the time they came to our waterhole. I was wrong.
My heart was pounding. My knees were wobbly. The bull looked back and forth as he drank, nervously scanning his surroundings for predators. As he left the tank, his thirst quenched, the bull offered no ethical shot. Then, as if he had some sort of sixth sense, my PH calmly whispered, “Draw now.”
As my Bowtech cams rolled over, the bull stopped just inside 20 yards — ears up, eyes wide open — and looked back toward our blind. He turned 45 degrees. I barely remember settling my top pin just right of mid-body and letting my arrow fly.
As the bull ran off, evidence of a solid hit was clear. The other bull ran 75 yards, stopped on a ridge line and then gave us a quick stare. I grabbed my camera and hurriedly snapped a couple frames before he ran off. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.
Kudu are shy and wary; definitely deserving of their nickname The Gray Ghost of Africa. I’d photographed many kudu bulls on previous trips to the Dark Continent, but this trip was different. I’d traded camera for archery tackle.
I have a reverence for kudu. They have a presence about them that commands respect. Regal—like a bull elk — a mature kudu bull is a site to behold.
We found my bull piled up at the bottom of a rocky bluff. With mere minutes of daylight left, I quickly assumed the role of photographer again and got to work. We pulled my bull 30 yards to the top of the bluff, which made for picture-perfect photos. He was a handsome, mature bull. His long, dark, spiraling horns were a perfect representation of this amazing species — exactly what I had flown nearly 10,000 miles to pursue.
I hunted with my good friend Louwrence Lombard of Waterval Safaris. Based in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, Louwrence and his crew are blessed with an abundant mix of game and amazing country in which to hunt. When not guiding his own clients and running his family’s sprawling farm, he guides for other PHs, and that’s how I landed at Eastern Cape Bowhunting (ECBH; www.easterncapebowhunting.com). Louwrence had introduced me to the staff at ECBH, and they graciously offered to host my wife and me, and to let me squeeze in a little hunting during our vacation.
As a luxury hunting estate with a natural history museum and a gourmet restaurant, ECBH is a 15,000-acre bowhunter’s paradise. Sable Lodge, ECBH’s crown jewel, is a perfectly appointed, exquisitely decorated masterpiece overflowing with Colonial African charm. It boasts relics and artwork from days gone by, world-class taxidermy and a unique African ambiance.
Sable Lodge is more like a time machine, with luxurious suites and a museum-quality great room. You expect Theodore Roosevelt himself to stroll through the parlor and join you for high tea. The place is just so impressive.
Sable Lodge has it all: a menu rich with African delicacies, a fully-stocked bar with spirits from around the globe, a spa with a full-time masseuse, a gym with a personal trainer, horseback riding and other activities for non-hunting guests.
I’ve heard many people say that Africa is out of their reach, that it’s too expensive. I challenge that wholeheartedly. For the price of a topnotch mule deer or whitetail hunt, you can pursue a variety of African plains game, including kudu.
I mean, what’s not to love about Africa? Warm, friendly and gracious people. Amazing meals and incredible hunting for a variety of impressive species. The sights, smells and sounds of the Dark Continent are something every hunter should experience in their lifetime, I think.
While one of my main goals for this trip was to arrow a Cape kudu, the trip was also a vacation for my wife and me. Once my hunt was over, we spent several days relaxing at various lodges and enjoying a number of game drives and photo safaris. We photographed a variety of animals, including Cape buffalo and rhinos, and even had the opportunity to photograph a pair of male lions roaring in the dark, not 10 yards from our truck. Talk about making the hair on the back of your neck stand up. We could feel their guttural, primal roars as they announced their dominance to all within earshot.
And that is why I love Africa — the wildness, the vast emptiness. It’s a place that makes you feel small. Africa envelopes you in God’s artistry. It’s a place unlike anywhere else, and that’s why I’ll keep going back every chance I get.
Photos by John Hafner