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The Parable of the Warthog and the Wildebeest

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It was very quiet. The light northwestern breeze carried my scent away from the game path which the animals usually used en route to the dam for their afternoon drink.

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 me.

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 undergrowth.

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 back.

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.

I 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 grey bulldozer.

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.

Mitch 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 gave up.

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