The clean, warm smell of the African savannah filled
my nostrils: camelthorn resin, grass and cool fresh air.
Today, I would shoot my first wildebeest. Please
God, I prayed, I am fed-up with warthogs. You made them so stupid
and easy to shoot.
Send me a big wildebeest today.
I have been sitting quite motionless in a large
Shepherd’s Tree tree for the better part of five hours. I moved a
little, my right leg numb with pins and needles. A tiny, scarlet-chested
sunbird bird flew to within an arm’s length and burst into song,
turning its little head from side to side to have a better look at
To be sure, I was dressed up for the occasion. My
khakis were garnished with an impala hide vest (tail and hair
intact), a kudu hide hunting belt (tail and hair intact) and
elephant leather hunting boots. A powerful, state-of-the-art,
camouflaged compound hunting bow rested on the branch in front of
me, my gloved right hand gently tugging at the string. I felt like a
double-tailed Davey Crocett, and I am in Africa to hunt.
A tiny movement caught my eye, and the grey, the
squat shapes of a warthog became vaguely visible through the
Those who do not hunt can never know the feeling of
the hunter who sees a wild animal up close. I struggled to keep
calm, my heart drumming violently in my head, adrenaline surging
through my veins. He sniffed loudly where I had walked earlier the
morning, decided that I was long gone and crawled under the fence.
Warthogs, like most game, have remarkable senses of
smell, hearing and sight. Everything is seen in monochrome and
movement is relied upon to identify potential danger. Standing less
than twenty metres away, he looked directly at me. The slightest
flutter of an eyelid or the tiniest movement would send it hurtling
through the entrance after which it would find a safer place for a
drink and a mudbath. It tossed it’s head and moved a little closer.
I held my breath, peering through hooded eyes.
The first warthog was a big boar. He was built like
a Staffordshire Bull Terrier and boasted two pairs of long, yellow,
razor sharp tusks which curled out of his mouth. His unlovely
countenance was adorned with huge warts. He snorted, tossed his head
and started walking toward the dam.
No way, I thought. I asked for a wildebeest. I won’t
be distracted that easily.
His companion, a sow, followed with only a casual
glance in my direction. The sow started to roll in the mud to
dispose of ticks and other parasites on her wrinkly grey skin. The
boar stared at her body covered by sticky brown mud. Hubba hubba, he
thought, walked towards her and rested his chin seductively on her
She arched her back provocatively and started
walking away slowly with his snout pressed firmly against her rump,
presumably to entertain him in a more romantic spot.
smiled and watched them disappear behind the bush. I considered some
of the stories Oom Soon, the owner of the farm, had told us about
warthogs. A certain irate boar stuck his tusks into the leg of a
laborer and almost severed it. Another dispatched posthaste Oom
Soon’s finest hunting dogs, leaving three disemboweled and one
bleeding to death in the dust.
It was about 2 hours later that I saw him. This one
was BIG. Much larger than the previous boar, this warthog was a
keeper. His neck was thick and his head looked like the front of a
On the other side of the pan he stood and looked out
for danger, sniffing the wind with his nose held high. He turned to
offer me his side.
My instincts took over and I drew the compound bow
to its full 70-odd pounds, my sight finding the area where the
heart-lung cavity would be. The movement caught his eye and he
looked up at me, unsure if there was danger. I froze and waited, my
arm trembling under the power stored in the limbs of the bow. He
looked away and I let the arrow fly.
The precision-made arrow, tipped with four
razor-edged blades, flew forward at 280 feet per second. He saw me
the moment I let the arrow fly, and in that split-second bunched his
muscles to run.
But it was too late. With a meaty thwack the arrow
entered where I aimed, entering high on the right shoulder and
angling down through the vital area.
He turned and I heard the arrow being sheared off as
the powerful shoulder blade moved over the ribs. At full speed, and
still unsure of the cause, he ran 10 meters, turned and looked at me
one last time and disappeared into the bush
But that was not all that happened.
As I released the arrow, I heard the thunder of
animals that exploded into movement below me.
Looking over my shoulder I saw a small herd of
wildebeest rapidly disappearing into the bush, led by a massive
bull. It was the bull I wanted but would never get. They had
silently moved to right under my tree but my focus on the warthog
made me oblivious to anything else.
I sat in my tree, stunned and disappointed. 30
Seconds would have made the difference.
30 Seconds of patience.
30 seconds of holding on a bit longer for that which
I asked for.
Mitchell is a bow hunter, outdoorsman and the author of
several books on African wildlife and survival
30 Seconds of faith.
Often we pray and wait, but get distracted by the
good thing and our impatience and lack of wisdom make us miss out on
the great thing.
Funny thing, but we never did find that big warthog. I searched
in vain and even had the best farm trackers come help me. Perhaps it
was herd of wildebeest that obliterated the spoor or perhaps the pig
disappeared down a hole, but at dusk and after hours of searching we