Impala morning, kudu afternoon

Tuesday morning, the first hunting day, our PH, Mike, Cindy, myself, and our tracker Peter left the camp and met up with another tracker, Patrick. Kudu and impala were animals I wanted to hunt on this safari, and it was likely we would see both that first day.

So, we would be hunting kudu that first day, a beautiful and majestic animal with spiral horns. Kudu are appropriately named, “the Grey Ghost” as their coloring lends them perfect camouflage, and they seem to melt into their habitat. The bulls are grey in color, with striped markings, a white chevron on the face and a fringe or mane along the back  and beneath the neck down to their chest. The female kudu is more brown in color, and do not have horns. Kudu have very large ears, and our PH, Mike, stated they have incredible hearing and are shy and elusive.

We learned kudu prefer steep rocky hillsides, and thick areas of tall, thorny bush. Early that morning, we climbed to the top of a rocky hillside and began to glass. Almost immediately, we saw a bushbuck move through the thick bush at the bottom of the hill. And off to the left, three giraffe were spied. Seeing no kudu, we then decided to move to another vantage spot.

This glassing continued throughout the morning, and we saw a great variety of animals!  I never thought I would see as much game as I did that first day!

We finally found a kudu bull to stalk just before noon. Silently, we made our way down the rocky hillside, with the tracker, Patrick, leading the way. The thorny brush was thick, and we worked hard to stay silent.

Then, reaching the edge of a small clearing in the bush, we spotted a group of seven impala rams feeding in and along some cover. They were about 120 yards away. We moved up a little closer, and we looked at the impala through our binoculars.

“The big one, facing broadside, is the one we want,” Mike said quietly, as he put up the shooting sticks.

I put my rifle up on the sticks and looked through the scope. All looked big and three were standing broadside. I apologized, and said, “But they all look big, and three are broadside.”

Then one disappeared into the cover, and Mike said that was the one we wanted, and I watched for the impala to leave the cover on the other side. Finally he came out, and presented a broadside shot, and I squeezed the trigger on my rifle. The impala jumped into the air, ran a few yards and fell.

The impala ram was graceful and beautiful, a lovely golden brown color, with a cream color undercarriage. His horns were thick and curved, and with long straight tips. He weighed about 150 pounds and was estimated to be about 7 years old. My first African animal!

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We stopped and ate lunch while the trackers skinned and took care of the impala. We would be hunting kudu hard that afternoon.

Again, we glassed from several high vantage points, looking for a glimpse of “the Grey Ghost.”  Finally, we were rewarded, looking down into a thick, brushy area at the bottom of the hills, probably 3 km away. A kudu bull was spotted, and then two more. One looked good, but we needed to get closer.

We made our way down the rocky slope, silently weaving in and out of the thick cover, and finally arriving almost at the bottom, that was a tangled mass of tall, dense, thorny bush. We were close to the spot where we had last seen the kudu bulls, and we slowed down even more, exercising greater stealth. We crept closer, and then Patrick froze, and sunk to his knees. We silently did the same.

He motioned to Mike that he saw two kudu females in front of us, less than10 yards away, in the thick brush. They stood between us and where we last saw the bulls, and we had to wait them out, as they would bark an alarm, and all the kudu would run off.

We sat motionless and silent for a good half hour, waiting for the kudu females to pass. They finally moved away, and we decided to move back a little higher, hoping to see if the bulls were still in the area. We had moved probably only 25 yards, and Patrick froze again. We heard the sound of horns, softly hitting tree branches. The sound was roughly just 30 yards away, in the thick bush.  The kudu bulls had been very close to us for the entire time!

We were a little higher by then, and saw a small break in the cover at our level, looking down into an area with a little less cover, and saw movement. Mike put up the shooting sticks, and just then a kudu bull came into sight, 25 yards away. I slowly laid my rifle over the sticks, and Mike said to go ahead and take the shot, as it was the kudu we were after. This was a chest shot, head on, but the sticks offered a good solid rest, and the kudu was close, so I put the crosshairs on the kudu’s chest and fired. I worked the bolt. The kudu then vanished, but we heard some crashing through the bush, to our left.

I felt it had been a good shot and we circled around, while Patrick went into the bush, while we positioned ourselves to intercept the kudu, in case he was wounded and still on the move. We waited, and then Patrick called out that he had found the kudu, who was dead.

My feelings were mixed as I ran my hands over his beautiful curved horns. This was the animal I dreamed of and came to Africa for, and again, the animal was at the end of my dream. He was simply beautiful. His horns were deeply curved, and his white chevron and other markings perfect. His estimated weight was over 500 pounds and he was approximately 7 or 8 years old. What a beautiful animal!

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The trackers took care of the kudu, while I reflected on the events of the day.

Earlier, on our stalks, we had seen giraffe, eland, kudu, steenbuck, impala, zebra, a bushbuck, great herds of red hartebeest, two waterbuck, and warthog, and those up close, only 10 yards away!

What an amazing first day!!!!!

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