|The common and white blesbuck|
Day 6, we now enter the second half of the safari. Day 6 would have Dad, Michelle, and I traveling to a new area with Andries, Amanda, Daniel, and Jim in search of the #1 animal on my wish list, the eland, and to continue dad's plains game pursuit, the blesbuck and springbuck. Before we leave, Jim and Daniel attach a trailer to the four door Land Cruiser in the hopes that we are successful today, which means we'll require additional space for the haul.
|Dad made a perfect shot on this giant ram!!|
|Michelle and I got to watch Dad harvest this blesbuck. The rolling hills in the background was typical of this new area|
|The rest of today's group, Amanda, Andries, Daniel, and Jim|
|Dad's ram was 17.5 "|
|Although happy, Jim didn't quite look like the typical blesbuck despite having the right horns|
|The front hoof of my eland!|
As we load the blesbuck, we can see springbuck across the valley on the next ridge top. We all piled back in the truck and head back down the hill to make our way towards the springbuck. As we begin to climb towards the springbuck we spot two eland bulls. We watch the bulls for a few minutes and although these are far bigger than any bull we have seen thus far, Andries thinks we can relocate them so we continue towards the springbuck. As we crest the top of the next ridge, we pick up the two eland bulls cresting the ridge and they continue down the backside of the hill and meet up with a group of 5 more bulls. Incredibly, there are larger bulls in the new herd so we decide to focus on killing an eland since we have giant bulls in front of us. The bulls know we are above them but are not spooked. We crouch-walk towards the end of the ridge and I get set up on the shooting sticks while Jim, Daniel, and Andries begin sizing up the bulls. Dad, Michelle, and Amanda watch from just behind us. Jim and Daniel find a big bull in the herd and describe him to me. The bull is 223 yards but he is behind several other bulls. This bull looks heavy horned and all I need is for him to step out a bit more. As I am waiting, Jim and Andries begin discussing something in African. They then tell me to shoot the 3rd bull from the left. They believe this bull to be the biggest in the herd and he has unusual horns that flare at the top. I still like the first bull so I make sure they think the newer bull is the better one. Everyone agrees he is bigger so I switch positions on the shooting sticks so I can kneel down and rest the gun against the leg of the tripod. As I pick up the new bull in the sights of the .300 WSM I let Andries know that when the bull clears the other eland, I will take him. A few seconds later the herd is getting nervous and begins to shift. As the big bull takes a few steps forward I follow with the crosshairs. As soon as he is clear he stops slightly quartering towards us. I feel a bit nervous as all that I've read about these bulls are that they are giant and tough to bring down. I slowly squeeze and the bull buckles at the shot. The herd turns and runs across a small draw just behind them. I reload and just before I squeeze on shot #2, the bull slows, wobbles, then falls over backward. With a perfect heart shot, the bull only makes it a mere 60 yards!! We know the bull is big but before we head down the hill towards him, we make our way back to the truck, then to the ranch house for this area. There, we unload Dad’s blesbuck and pick up two ranch hands to help us load the eland then we head back to the bull. Fortunately the eland headed downhill after being hit and we are able to back the truck right up to it. As we finally approach the bull, Dad, Michelle, and I are blown away at the size of the bull. I was told they were like brahma bulls and that was not exaggeration. This bull is almost indescribable to most of the folks here in the SW. The estimate weight is 1700-1800 lbs! After skinning and butchering, this bull will hang as 600 lbs of meat in the locker. As I am freaking out about the size of the animal, Andries is equally as impressed with the horn size. This is one of the largest bulls he has taken in some time. At 37”, he was an old bull with worn horns so he lost 1-2” in length, the bull is a true giant, both in score and body size. I knew this bull was big when I shot but since all the eland in this herd were bulls, he did not completely dwarf the others. It takes all seven of us to position the bull for photos but we manage to get it just right and some of my most memorable hunting photos were captured. That was the easy part! Again, it took everything the seven of us had to get the bull loaded. I don’t know how the truck managed to hold our weight and the weight of the bull but we made it back to the ranch house in one piece!
|The sheer size of the eland bulls made it the #1 animal I wanted to harvest on this trip|
|Even at 37", this old bull's worn bases reduced his overall length by 1-2". The flaring horns add great character to this bull|
|Sharing the hunt with family will make this bull even more memorable|
|...and it took everything that everyone of us had to get this loaded into the truck!!!|
|I added this photo so you can see that there was no photo shopping needed to exaggerate the body size!!|
|What a truck load|
We unloaded the eland and Daniel stood behind to take of the bull and prepare it for our trip back while we headed back out to try and find a springbuck for Dad. It wasn’t long before we were overlooking a beautiful valley that held a good ram at the far side. As we drew near in the truck, the ram stood from his bed and headed over the ridge. We followed and as we crested the next ridge, the picked up the ram again. Dad was again having issues with his rifle, (we think the scope was bumped as we made room to load the eland) and to make a long story short, Dad was ready to throw in the towel after the third missed shot. It was this ram’s luck day and after a long run, he finally made his escape. Although frustrated, Dad was willing to give it another shot so we made our way to the top of a high ridge and began glassing again. The wind had picked up a bit but Jim was still able to glass up a few springbuck. We loaded up in the truck and set out to close the distance. We made our way to the backside of a ridge where we last seen the springbuck headed. As we closed in, we found the “Honey Hole”. As we made our way closer to the springbuck herd, we pushed a variety of other game out. Apparently this is where the animals went to hide from the wind. We had zebra, hartebeest, gemsbuck, impala, blesbuck, wildebeest, and springbuck crossing in front of us. What a cool site! When we got close enough to the herd, Jim picked out a nice ram and explained to Dad which one to shoot. I had the video camera rolling while Jim and Michelle watched through binos. At about 150 yards, the ram stopped for a quick look back and Dad fired. This time, the ram piled up and much to Dad’s delight, the hunt for springbuck was finally over. Dad added yet another trophy to his growing list and we had just past the half way point. Our photo session followed and this time, one man could load our harvest. With Dad’s springbuck loaded, we headed back to the ranch house where Daniel already had the eland loaded in the trailer. We made quick work of loading Dad’s blesbuck and soon we were traveling the long road back to Andries’ place.
|Dad's persistence made the harvest of his springbuck ram possible|
|Jr and Sr with the ram|
|Another family photo|
|The springbuck crew|
While we were out in the new area, Joe and Heather teamed up with Jornam and headed out for another morning hunt for kudu. The kudu became the animal that Joe really wanted in part, due to the amount of time they had spent looking for a shooter. At one point, Joe had a bull they thought to be 53”+ but the bull did not give Joe a shot at his vitals. Joe could have taken a shot at the neck but in Africa, if you wound an animal, you pay the trophy fee whether you recover the animal or not. This adds to the pressure of making shots count to avoid wounding an animal. After their morning hunt, they group made their way back to the blind that I had already taken several animals from. The group was entertained by all the species that Michelle and I got to watch. There excitement was just as strong as ours was on day 1. Midway through the day, the group had several gemsbuck approach the blind. Joe readied his bow as Jornam and Heather watched the herd approach. Heather would provide back up with the rifle if Joe was unable to close the deal with his bow. As the gemsbuck made it to the water, Jornam found a heavy horned bull and pointed him out to Joe. Joe liked the look of this bull and settled in for a shot. As the herd made their way in to the water, Joe had good luck on his side and the bull ended up closer to the blind than the water. At 13 yards, Joe came to full draw and settled his pins tight to the shoulder. At the release of the arrow, the group knew Joe had placed a great shot on the bull and shortly thereafter, Joe had broken the dry spell for him and Heather. This opened the flood gates for the two for the rest of the hunt. Joe’s photo session followed and he now had his own gemsbuck to add to the few that Heather and her family have previously harvested in New Mexico!
|Joe's first archery harvest, a big gemsbuck bull|
|Joe and Heather with Joe's heavy horned bull|
|Jornam helped Joe pick out and harvest this great bull|