Birds singing and mist rising off the river, day three was upon us with renewed enthusiasm. Jakes decided we needed to take another route and check out the new location from the day before, where the fresh sign had sent our heads into a spin.
Over the first rise, there stood four big bulls grazing just off of the reeds. They were covered in black mud, massive, stout bodies and not a care in the world, except for taking note of the Red Hartebeest running up the hill away from us. The bulls were working through a short grass pan up a hillside away from the reeds. Working down-wind and behind a ridge, we paralleled the bulls making our way to a knob. As we came around the knob, we expected the bulls to be right there. Much to our surprise, they gave us the slip, resembling the Bull Elk in the mountains of Colorado.
A herd of Zebra’s sent the bulls into a full on run that spanned two ridges and they were back down into their home turf amongst the reeds. Back to the drawing board, sails partially deflated, and in search of more buffalo.
From an advantage point, I spotted a lone buffalo in a reed bed that was workable from our side of the river and two more herds of buffalo on the other side of the river. We made our stalk down the hill to a lower lookout point and once again spotted the buffalo, standing right inside the reeds and not moving. Working the wind, carefully taking note of where we stepped, moving into position allowed us to successfully stalk within 10 yards of the buffalo that was standing up sleeping. Quick look over from the optics brought forth the conclusion it was a lone cow, not the dagga bull we were after.
Frustrating yet once again rewarding.
Back to the basics, we decided to track the four bulls from the morning that ran into the reeds. Voorslag, the head tracker, led the crew through tunnels, bent over for miles, reeds shedding blood from each guy’s hands, taking jabs to the face and draining our bodies of fluids with sweltering, stagnant heat. Eyes dead ahead, a pair of warthogs break cover five feet to our right and run right between us, creating mass confusion and fear followed by laughter.
As the buffalo spoors disappeared, Voorslag had us back to the last fresh sign of them and once again off like a tracking pack of hounds in hot pursuit. After working the reeds for a few hours, there was that distinct sound creating music to our ears. The vibrant sound that sends chills down your back as you know the bulls are working towards you, breaking reeds, the sound of their hooves hitting the turf. Standing still, the ‘Black Ghost’ appears right before our eyes at 10 yards away. Massive head and horns peering through the cover, he looks right at us, trying to determine what he has just spotted. As he stretches out for a closer look, a Bull comes up behind him; this is the shooter bull we have been after.
This is it, it’s going to happen right here and now! Then chaos breaks loose, the lead bull crashes through the reeds taking the two other bulls with him. As we sat there reminiscing over what just took place, Jakes looks over my shoulder and notices the last bull coming down our trail, head down minding his own business not noticing us. With a quick turn-around, rifle barrels up and on him, he stops and stares right at us. The sight down the barrel was just that of, “Hey, you owe me money and now it’s time to pay up!” ~Black Death.
This is the ultimate adrenaline high.
The bull takes two steps closer and is now eight yards from the end of the gun barrel. He proceeds to crouch down a bit as if he is getting ready to charge. Voorslag starts jumping and yelling at him stopping him dead in his tracks. He’s a younger bull and not one we want to shoot. We lock eyes for another ten seconds or so before he decides to throw his head back over his shoulder, kicks his hind legs in the air resembling a bucking bull coming out of the chutes at the rodeo and just as fast as he came in we parted ways. Maybe we’ll see each other in the future on another hunt or maybe this bull will make another dream hunt come true for someone else as he infuses the everlasting memory of the “right Bull” when he’s older. Until then, I must thank this bull for vividly instilling a memory in my mind and creating a story that will be told to many over the years to come. Another day logged in the books, miles on the boots, followed up with a campfire to close out a day full of memories!
Thursday morning couldn’t come fast enough as we all wanted to head back after the “right bull” to see how the odds would play out for the mornings hunt. Slamming down breakfast and coffee, eyes drooping, Willem changes his tactics into what Jakes referred to as his “reed Camo” with a quick reply from Willem, “This is the killing Camo!” We were off like a prom dress at daybreak with anticipation fueling our thoughts. As we crested the second hill from camp, there stood the four bulls about 100 yards up off of the reeds. A dash down into the shadows,working once again like a pride of lions, we made our way closer to the battle field just to notice 20 plus cows and calves ahead of us that had joined up with the bulls. Slipping undetected past the eyes of the herd made it challenging but we had our eyes on the prize, a big, heavy boss dagga bull in the back. As the herd moved along the edge of the reeds, we made one final dash to a ridge line. Cresting the ridge, there he was, walking dead away from us at 70 yards. The lion pride fell into order as Voorslag handed me the shooting sticks, I set up to make the shot, Jakes set up the tripod and started rolling film, while Willem stopped the bull and made him take two steps to the left providing a semi-quartering away shot. With the bull looking over his broad shoulders at us, I delivered a 300 grain bullet down range from the .375 H&H Magnum, hitting him perfectly sending him into a tumble. The sound of the shot triggered the aggression in the herd as they came back for bull, lifting him back onto his feet and trying to ward off the enemy. As we approached the downed bull, the herd was going ballistic while starring us down and making their way closer towards us. Anticipating a charge, I sent another round into the bull from 20 yards away to dispatch him. The sound of the rifle and echoing death bellow from the bull sent the rest of the herd retreating around the corner and back into the safety of the reeds.
A 40” bull at our feet, high fives, laughter, success, and encouragement filled the valley that morning as we reminisced over the past four days of hunting Black Death and truly how much closer we all became to lifelong friends. One must find their passion in life, something that drives them to get up each and every day, something that brings them to life and for me, it is hunting! Sharing a common bond with others that enjoy the same passion is the ultimate life experience as one can relate to the other through trials and tribulations.
Four days still remained on the trip, which soon was to be filled with a great Roan hunt using Willem’s backup Cape Buffalo gun, .458 Lott with open sights, to down an exceptional Bull at 70 yards, a white springbok ram, an afternoon hunting guinea fowl from the grasslands, and the trip topper of downing a monster black wildebeest bull with heavy, character filled bosses and my first ever Egyptian goose at sunset. Twelve days in the books created countless memories, sharing experiences and passions, frustrating times to high fives, and not just dreaming of something in life but rather turning it into a reality.
Until our next encounter, I will forever re-live the moment of “Hey, you owe me money and now it’s time to pay up!” ~ Black Death.
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