The 1000-Yard Kudu

My English friends refer to this type of behavior as “stating the bleeding obvious”. It’s one of my coping mechanisms during stressful situations. Like the one I was currently in the midst of in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. This particular stress was being caused by a 1000 yard, adrenaline-fueled, jog through semi-open brushland, for my first chance at a kudu. We were hurrying because we had very little daylight left. Even with the light-gathering ability of the Nightforce scope mounted on my 7mm Remington Magnum, I was running out of the illumination required for me to see any animal, even one that was kudu-sized.

But, back to my “obvious statement”, whispered to my PH, Arnold Claassen: “There’s an impala staring at us!” Now, understand that only seconds earlier Arnold had stopped our progress, specifically because of the staring impala. Arnold slowly turned his face in my direction and presented me with an [understandably] annoyed look. To his credit instead of stating “No sh–, Sherlock!”, he quietly replied, “I see him!!”  The impala, who by this time had apparently had his fill of the bleeding obvious, stamped a front foot, snorted loudly and took off like a rocket.

We had covered about 800 yds when we came to a slight rise. Arnold put his palm down to bring me to a halt, and once again listened intently to his radio. He shifted direction slightly and, crouching even lower, headed for a small stand of trees. As we came up to the stand, he slowly slid around the left-hand side, at the same time raising his binoculars. They had barely reached his eyes when he slowly lowered them, took one step forward to get clear of the vegetation and set up the shooting sticks. As I slid my rifle into place, Arnold whispered, “159 yds straight in front of you”, immediately followed with, “Do you see him?”. Now, please understand, Arnold, Jambo and I had developed into a well-oiled, hunting team. They spotted and judged the trophy animals within seconds, and then they spent the next half an hour trying to get their client to find said trophies. So, as I looked through my scope at a blank field of view, mild panic set in, but then miracle-of-miracles I picked the bull out, moving across my field of vision. Then, just as I managed to place the crosshairs on the bull he walked behind a screen of vegetation. I really was panicking now, as I desperately searched for a gap in the vegetation that the bull might walk through. I finally located a break just as the bull stepped into it. The surrounding vegetation screened the bottom half of the bull, so holding in line with his shoulder and as close to the top of the vegetation as possible I squeezed off the shot. As I came down from the recoil, I chambered another round, but when I looked through the riflescope the bull had vanished. I looked at Arnold’s grinning face and he said “that was a fantastic shot!”  My response of “I hit him?” probably was not exactly what he expected.

Arnold grabbed the sticks and we quickly headed for where the bull had been standing. When we reached him, I finally had the opportunity to look at his horns. Arnold looked at the animal, looked at me and then said, “This Eastern Cape bull is too good for a ‘first kudu’. We should have gotten you a mid-40’s bull. This guy is way too big.”  He seemed to find my retort, “well, if you think it will work, I’m willing to try mouth-to-mouth”, humorous. Arnold was probably correct. Though I know I will try on subsequent safaris, it might not be easy to best this bull’s long, symmetrical horns with their impressively thick bases. I knelt down and ran my hands over my first-ever kudu, my first-ever spiral horn species – beginning with his beautiful horns, and then across his magnificent cape. This was another dream fulfillment! I could not believe the beautiful trophy next to me. I thought again how fortunate of a life I lived. I thanked God and the kudu bull for their roles in bringing this dream to pass.

The author and the kudu bull that was too big