There’s not a whole lot that can really prepare you for what you will feel the first morning waking up in Africa. The only way I can describe it is the first morning in camp on your first big elk hunt mixed with the feelings of summer camp as a kid.
The first camp we were at was up in the Karoo region. That particular region looked like a page out of Wyoming or New Mexico’s handbook. The terrain right there in camp was beautiful – mountains and scrub brush scattered throughout. After putting together my day pack of essentials and setting it outside of my cabin, the feelings of peace and anxiousness were overwhelming. After a short walk to the cook cabin, I was greeted by a host of PH’s and hunters all around the campfire making plans and discussing wish list animals, all scheming for where they were going to hunt. My initial wish list was not overly large but there were a few animals I really wanted to get.
One of them being a Black Wildebeest.
I personally think they are one of the coolest looking animals in Africa. The shape of their horns and beard and mohawk I thought would make a great mount, and I secretly hoped that would be one of the first we would go after.
After breakfast we loaded up the Toyota, equipped with our camera man and tracker, and we were on our way (awesome hunting rig by the way, I will have to write a blog just about the hunting gear down the road!). Once on the road, my PH, Stix, informed me that he had planned for us to first knock the black wildebeest off the list. He had access to a large piece of property that did not have a lot of other game we were after but he had seen a bachelor group of wildebeest and one good bull. After a little bit of a drive on a rough country road we came across a villager/ ranch worker and after a short talk to him in the native language we continued up to a large flat on the top of a pretty good hill/ mountain. From there our tracker Jimmy (his english given name) quickly spotted a lone bull.
That was my first animal to see in Africa – it was everything I could have hoped for and surreal at the same time.
We parked the truck and got out the spotting scope and binos and began looking for the bachelor group that had been living in the area. After about 15 minutes of glassing Stix spotted the group. We looked the group over and saw that there were 2 really nice bulls! We spent another few minutes trying to verify their age. That is one thing that really impressed me about the John X crew is they were all very, very knowledgable about the game and were very cognizant of game management and taking the right animals.
Stix quickly determined that one of the bulls, although probably the biggest, was too young. He showed me the differences in the bosses as well as a small patch of orange hair between the horns that signified that the one bull was too young, while the other was exactly what we were after!
I grabbed my Horizon Firearms 28 Nosler with the 175 grain Accubond LR bullets and my rangefinder and we were off to make a stalk. After getting the terrain correct, we had closed the distance to 425 yards and we were ready to make the shot. We laid down in a small dry creek bed and I got on the bipod and waited for Stix to give me the range. I dialed up the Leupold scope and steadied for the shot. I touched off the Huber trigger and SMACK! The bullet struck the wildebeest about 1 inch low of perfect. He wheeled around and over the horizon.
I was stoked as I had just taken my first African animal and it was still early in the hunt!
We made the short walk over the hill and there he was – the perfect black wildebeest bull. They are much larger horns than you think, but a much smaller body that I would have ever expected. I could not believe the care the John X crew took to get the perfect photos to keep for a lifetime of memories and the care they took to process the game.
Once we were all loaded up we headed off down the mountain after another hunt to come.