Posted by Eric on 3/25/2020 to South Africa
In my first post I said my concern was growing over the "list" animals that would be left by the time I arrived in South Africa to meet my parents? No? Quick recap: I arrived to Coppermoon on Day 5 of their 10 day hunt and they had already dropped and had 6 animals in the salt. Granted one of them was the "off list" Giant Eland Dad miraculously put down with one shot from the 6.5 Mutt, but still, with 3 hunters and 6 days of hunting on site for me I was getting a little worried. Admittedly, I really wanted the iconic Impala (already done), the Blesbuck (already done) and Black Wildebeest (already done). We had sort of chatted early on that each of us might get an opportunity at an off list animal and even though Dad already checked the box, I REALLY wanted a wiley Black Wildebeest. Don't ask me why. Maybe it's because they killed Mufasa. Maybe because they look like a brahma horse bull thing. Or maybe it was just their demeanor.
We set out on the morning of Sunday, March 8 with an opportunistic attitude about several animals we might encounter. The day before we still had a Kudu in mind for Mom, so we moved off on what would be a long most-of-the-day chase of Gemsbuck. Wait, not Kudu? YEP. This is Africa. She scored an absolutely incredible cow at 260 yards with the Mutt. Perfect shoulder shot that our film team caught great footage of. But that Saturday turned out to be one of our rare "one animal days" of which we only had one, paired with just one 0 animal day. To be clear, this only meant the harvest was slower. There wasn't a day where we didn't see dozens, even hundreds of animals. So let me say this: if you're a hunter and love options you need to seriously consider planning a trip to Africa. If it takes you 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, whatever. Just go. If you have money to keep buying perishable things you don't need then stop accumulating crap and put your money into experiences instead.
Rant over, back to business. The absolute top of my list, but since Marty got the Eland definitely out of our price range for this trip, was the Waterbuck. They are incredible. Regal, noble, choosey with terrain and invisibility plus the sweep of their horns is breathtaking. They're like a great spin off of a Kudu, Gemsbuck and Impala combined. Early on our drive today we saw a record book Waterbuck. In fact they had seen him earlier in the week and rumors began to circulate of what I might do if given the opportunity at this magnificent bull. I passed, but only until next trip. As if the African plains gods were watching, immediately after I passed on this Waterbuck Denver spotted an old Springbuck ram that he offered up to us. He actually called my name first, to which I declined because of the beautiful one I had taken a couple days before. Mom passed, having just taken her Gemsbuck on Saturday and we demanded that Dad step up and take the shot even though he insisted he was done due to being a little trigger happy in the first few days
Now I need to set the record straight on something. Marty said in his Day 7 recap that his "Springbuck was bigger than Eric's". In reality, Marty's Springbuck was OLDER than Eric's. Much older in fact. So old that you can see scarring on his weathered face and the bottom ring on his horns had deteriorated to the point of them being almost broken off. He was breathtaking and our pro hunter spotted his features with a keen eye over 400 yards away. 421 yards to be exact. The ram was by himself, Marty got solid on the Bog Pod and made a fantastic double lung shot which resulted in a short sprint and opportunity for Timmy-the-the-tracking beagle to take up the trial and give us an adorable bellow when he reached the ram. Great start to the morning.
Shortly after and back on mission we tracked down a herd of about 25 Wildebeest and identified a very old bull in the center of the group. The problem? According to our PH Denver, the Black Wildebeest were created one body part short necessary for standard function: a brain. This means that anything and everything will cause them to buck and twirl and then start running as a group. They really are fantastic to watch despite their erratic behavior. They've got a long, spiky mohawk of a black main with blonde tips and their tails are fat and muscular with long blonde locks like Fabio. No, seriously. Go google images of the Golden Wildebeest. They're literally Fabio of the African plains. Couple this with their forward sweeping and aggressive horns and they make for a great story and breathtaking visual.
Making matters worse, the fast growing reputation of the Mutt rifle had our African friends leaning on it a little too favorably for my taste. We entered Africa with 6 guns and I intended to use everyone of them I could in variety on my quarry. Today's grab and carry for me was the TCA 10th Anniversary original Contender frame backing an SSK 375 JDJ barrel. The rifle loads we had worked up were launching a 250 grain Lehigh Defense Controlled Fracture round we expected big things from. The problem with the season we chose to hunt in the end of summer meant very hot days, animals moving in and out of shade only and in the coolest parts. Animals we did manage to spot and get within range of were extremely skittish and jumpy with little if any time for a shot before they were moving at 90 miles per hour. Things didn't bode well for the lumbering 375, but we love a good challenge anyway.
We made a couple of moves on the herd holding my target bull with no success. The first time they booked out of site before we even began our stalk from the truck. The second one allowed us to get close. Actually satisfyingly close while using the 375 JDJ should the shot present itself. I love a good sneak. Seriously. Getting inside the comfort zone of an animal or group of animals when they have no idea you are there are my ideal parameters for ambushing my prey. And with the wind in our faces we did exactly that. The problem was my bull was laying in the middle of the group, calm as a Hindu cow. And when he did finally get up there were multiple smaller bulls between and as the Wildebeest often do, he went from lying, to trotting, to running in a smooth motion and out of sight with no shot presenting. We decided to give them a break and have lunch.
Example of the terrain we found the herd in. Wide open with nowhere to hide. The bush over my left shoulder is where the bull originally was on my first shot.
With full bellies, we found the herd not far from where we left them before. Only now they were in the middle of a giant grass field, in the wide open, with the closest cover we were positioned behind at a mark of 400 yards from my bull. Begrudgingly, I handed off the 375 JDJ rifle in favor of the Mutt and made the shot at about his last rib slightly quartering away from me. Thanks to the suppressor on the rifle as well as the distance and cross wind the herd didn't even spook. The shot was enough for him to gingerly trot another 40 yards then bed down. "They like to do that," Denver said, "Let's keep an eye on him". We did and after a couple quick minutes with his heard moving away he stood at 440 yards distance quartering to me. I shot quickly, knowing that we didn't want to chase this heard across the plains for hours in 100 degree heat and the Mutt dropped that 143 grain ELDX bullet hard into his shoulder which proved too much. He buckled for a few seconds and toppled over right there.
The Black Wildebeest is an extremely tough animal. Pretty rare actually that Dad dropped his like a sack of potatoes with just one shot. Easy to do at just over 300 yards I guess (bahahahaha, competitive [wink]). But, as tough as they are, even as tough looking as they are, the animal itself is a little smaller than you would think. Prior to arriving in Africa my impression was that they would be between 300-400 pounds. About the size of a small cow. By comparison, they are more like 180 pounds. Don't get me wrong, they're a stout 180 pounds with thick legs all the way to the hooves, a large neck and very powerful legs. I mentioned their muscular tail in my description above, but the overall composition of these animals are a pure amalgamation of creation at its paramount.
Regardless, I had the beast. MY Wildebeest. His horns are old and grey with very large and cracked bosses and I could not be happier. He is more than I expected when I embarked with one towards the top of my list.