A Chance Encounter
Ninety-nine percent of all bowhunting in Africa is done over water, from a hide, or blind as we call them here. And for good reason! There are things that will eat ya quicker than a free brunch in the Dark Continent's thorny , dark , bush country.
On this morning however, I was given permission to do some spot and stalk hunting. I had filled all my hunting wishlist but still had two days left in camp. My targets were young warthog and impala does, as both were over populated in this concession area.
I had no limits or tags....I was free to shoot as many as I could or wanted. Talk about a mind blowing moment....walking the wilds of Africa, bow in hand, free to take and pursue game without limitation.
Driving to the area we spotted a wild elephant and gave it a quick stalk in 8 foot tall grass along a riverbank. Talk about heart pounding. Watching that huge beast rip thigh thick branches from trees was both awe inspiring and humbling. My take away from that moment was just how hard it was to spot something as big as an elephant in the dappled forest along the river. Looking as hard as I could and seeing nothing, I figured the giant pachyderm must have moved off...until what sounded like a gunshot reverberated thru the dank overhead forest canopy as a branch was stripped off a tree. Still, unlike National Geographic Specials....the elephant was only partially visible. A grey flash here and there. A very deep rumple like gurgle every now and then. Fear and fun collide.
A gentle tap on my shoulder and a simple hand gesture from my guide told me all I needed to know. We were too close. We backed up about 10 yards while walking backwards. The tracker's eyes scanned the ground, pointing out sticks for me to avoid stepping on, and a couple times holding brush out of the way so I could slip through .
Walking back along the river I was cautioned not to get to close. On almost every sandbar there were crocs out sunning themselves. I was astonished how many there were. As my PH suggested....it's not the ones you can see you need to worry about. Point well taken....I moved a few yards farther from the waters edge.
Between crocs, elephants and a Cape Buffalo , it would be fair to say this bowhunter was on high alert. It felt as if I was in Jurassic Park. Sweat trickled down my back. The Black Widow was slippery in my palms. I drank nervously at the water bottle. As much as a calming tactic as to quench thirst. The cape buff trundled off through the thick bush. The saving grace for my nerves was we had a river separating us. A croc filled river mind you, but a river nonetheless.
Back to the beginning of this story. Hunting on my own. I hear something coming down through the brush towards me. I see a flash of black and my heart kicks into over-drive. As does my brain. I don't mind admitting that fear courses through my veins. It was as close to freezing in a hunting situation as I've ever experienced. All my predator instincts evaporated. I switched to survival mode.
I hunkered down and nocked an arrow but silently wished I was closing the bolt on a .375 H&H magnum. The unknown animal was closing the distance quickly. Too quickly for my liking.
I saw a black hulk move between two trees and my mind imagined it was a buff, often called Black Death, which did little to calm my nerves. All I wished is that it would pass by me. At the moment...thats all I wanted. Nothing more. Just not to get trampled or eaten. It's funny now....but alone, at that moment, it was the farthest thing from funny I could imagine.
From about 15 yards, just as I was about to hyperventilate , I saw horn tips above the brush. Even with my limited knowledge, I ruled out cape buff, elephant, rhino, and other members of the big 5 .
Realizing my life was probably not going to end on that fine African morning....I began to collect my wits and reach for my camera. At about the time I uncased my camera, a beautiful wildebeest came into view and posed for a perfect picture.
I snapped a few pics and headed back to the safety of the raised hide (blind). I had had enough excitement for one morning.....