When most people think about hunting in Africa there are a few main animals that come to mind – the buffalo, the lion, and inevitably the kudu. To me, the awesome dark spiral horns and the ivory tips of the kudu just says Africa.
Before going to Africa, my impression about what a kudu hunt was going to be was that of what I had seen so many times on hunting tv shows – some bow hunter over a water hole shooting one as it came in to drink. That was by no means my experience. Anyone that knows me knows that my favorite animal of all time to hunt is, and will always be, the elk. My kudu hunt screamed everything elk minus the bugling, which only added to the difficulty.
We started off early in the morning at the base of this large mountain spending time behind the glass looking for game. I consider myself pretty good behind a set of binos, but in Africa I really had a difficult time training my eye to make out their game animals. When glassing here in the states, I feel like you really look for contrasts in colors and strange movements that catch your eye. In Africa, it’s more about picking out shapes that do not belong – and believe me the kudu is not called the grey ghost for nothing! After an hour or so of glassing we had spotted a few kudu and some other game higher up the mountains so we decided to try and get a higher vantage point. It was time for a hike.
For this flatlander, the terrain was much tougher than I expected. The large loose rocks of the Karoo made it surprisingly difficult to hike. Along our way we bumped a herd of gemsbok and some mountain zebra. The mountain zebra were beautiful. I never thought they would be all that different than any other zebra but I was wrong. It’s hard to describe but their pattern is surprisingly different.
Once we reached about half the way up the mountain we radioed down to Jimmy, our tracker, to see what he was spotting in the valley below. Jimmy radioed back in the African language that there was no way I knew what he was saying! Stix, my PH, translated for me saying that Jimmy had spotted what appeared to be a good kudu bull and some cows headed up into a bowl canyon for the morning, much like you would expect our elk back in the states to do. So Stix made the plan that we would hike higher up the mountain to try and gain a vantage point and potentially catch the kudu across the valley as they headed up for the afternoon. When we got to the top of the bowl canyon we spotted some kudu cows but no bulls. We found what little shade we could find and decided to sit them out.
About three hours in, we spotted some cows below us and expected the bull was in there with them so we changed position and got ready … nothing. About another hour rolled by and Stix spotted what we believe was another bull way up the bowl. Early on in the hunt I had told him that I would love to shoot a wide kudu and that score was not all that important to me. He explained to me that with kudu, you really have to take your opportunity when you get it, that we would get a mature old bull but shapes varied so much. Well when Stix looked up from the spotting scope he told me “Welp, I think that is exactly what you ordered. He is super wide but won’t score as large, but what do you think?” I took one look through the spotting scope and within .5 seconds I knew that this was the bull I really wanted.
We got ready to shoot but wanted to see if he would work down the hill to around 500 yards. Within a few minutes he had gone back in the deep brush leaving us wondering where he went. We continued to wait. As is started to get late Stix began to explain, like any good PH, that our chances on that bull were getting slim as we only really had about 45 min left of good shooting and filming light. As we started to make plans for the next day, our bull showed back up and things got exciting.
He came out around 800 yards and was feeding down the edge of the draw. He never would really present a shot but he was working his way slowly down the draw. As time was running slim he started to turn broadside and Stix gave me the corrected range of 710 yards. I dialed the 28 Nosler and held for about 5 MPH of wind and barked out a shot across the canyon. A moment later the report of a “thud” and a response for Stix that I had “hit him hard” gave me a second of instant gratification. The bull stayed on his feet and worked down slightly quartered to us. Stix gave me the range of 630 yards and I sent a follow up shot. “WHOP” went the round as we had another solid hit on the kudu. But the animals in Africa are way tougher than you’d think! As the kudu started to disappear be behind the brush I gave it one more shot, high shoulder and he dropped right there. After 6 hrs of waiting we had taken the exact kudu that I had hoped to come to Africa for. But as time was getting slim, we packed up and literally jogged the best we could to the kudu to get to photos and get him cleaned before it was pitch dark.
I could not believe how much faster Stix arrived at the kudu than me. Those guys that live in that rough country are truly amazing. After a late pack out and a long day in the field we headed back to the camp to tell our stories around the campfire and hear what all the other hunters had experienced that day.
To this date that kudu was one of the most memorable hunts I have ever had.
Watch this, and all of Derrick's hunts, in this video!
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