This was to be my third attempt in five years for
kudu. During my prior two trips, the kudu had lived up to his
reputation as the "Grey Ghost of Africa". All I had to show for my
previous attempts was miles on my boots, memories of Africa, and an
empty spot on my trophy wall. On this hunt I was hoping the old
adage, "Third times a charm" would hold true.
Upon arriving in Johannesburg, I was met by my
friend and PH Xander Grobler. Some 14 months prior he and I had
spent a week hunting in the small town of Vivo, near the border with
Zimbabwe. During that trip I was able to take an impressive Nyala
and Steenbok, but had been frustrated by kudu. To add salt to the
wound, my three companions (all on their first safari) all managed
to take impressive kudu. This was now personal.
The first morning of the hunt found me awake early,
anxiously waiting to hit the bush, in pursuit of a worthy opponent.
After a few hours of hunting that first morning I realized the
conditions were going to make for a much more difficult hunt. The
differences in the terrain were striking. Areas that were once lush
and green, were now brown and withered due to the lack of rain.
Leaves that once hung on trees, were now withered on the ground.
During my last hunt, the Kudu were in the peak of
rut, out searching for females. Now, the breeding season was now
over, and the old bulls were sequestered in thick stands of marula
trees, recouping from the stress of the rut.
Over the course of first five days I managed to
glimpse two "shooter" bulls for a total of about 20 seconds before
once again vanishing into the bush. At least they were not
completely invisible I kept telling myself. As another trophy
disappeared into the bush, I was amazed that an animal the size of a
kudu could glide through the bush without making a sound and simply
After five hard, tiring, and dirty days of hunting,
my Professional Hunter Xander Grobler and I had nothing to show for
out effort; except cuts, sunburn, and sore calves from walking in
the fine red sand that seems to get into everything. That evening,
as we sat around the fire eating dinner, the usual good natured
jokes and laughing were replaced with a solemn quietness. We were
five days into a seven day hunt and had yet to get the sticks up on
mature kudu. We all were feeling a bit of tension, wondering if it
that spot on my trophy wall would remain empty.
As we sat around the fire, I suggested that perhaps
sacrificing a virgin to the hunt gods might change our luck, but
then realized finding a mature kudu bull would be easier then
finding a virgin in the African bush. Instead we decided to drink an
extra beer or two, hoping that a bit of fuzz in the morning would
change our luck.
On day six of the hunt, we woke up with a bit of
grit in our belly. After shaving my tongue from the previous night,
Xander and I once again headed in the bush, hoping to end my Kudu
drought. As the day wore on, the constant swirling wind frustrated
our every plan.
Mid afternoon Xander and I decided to head back to a
valley of marula trees, where we knew several kudu were holing up.
They had chosen this spot carefully as the stands of trees were
thick and the ground full of dry leaves. Anyone entering the valley
would alert any animal from a mile away. We decided to set up in a
clearing, wait for the kudu to emerge from the valley, where we
would then attempt a spot and stalk. With about 40 minutes of
shooting time left, the wind suddenly changed direction, blowing our
scent down into the valley and alerting the kudu to our presence.
Disgusted, we picked up and started to walk out. While we cursed the
wind and our continued bad luck, Xander paused for a second to
inform me that a large kudu bull was headed our way.
of a thick stand of trees a kudu appeared, walking towards us. It
between us and the Kudu was a fallen tree that offered some cover.
My heart was pounding so loud I was afraid the Kudu would hear it. I
was quite nervous, feeling like a young boy on his first date. The
kudu closed to within sixty yards, unaware of our presence. As the
kudu drew near, I leaned the rifle against the tree, placed the
crosshairs on him and slowly squeezed the trigger. Nothing happened!
In all my excitement, I had forgotten to take the safety off. I
pushed the safety forward, picked a spot on the kudu and slowly
squeezed the trigger.
As the shot rang out, the kudu dug his feet into the
red sand and took off running.
The shot felt good, the range was close, and the
rifle had performed flawlessly on three previous safaris.
After a few minutes we composed ourselves and began
to look for blood. As we headed to the spot, we bent down and see a
few drops of bright red blood in the sand. Ever so slowly we
followed his tracks to sheep fence that he had jumped over. As we
crossed the fence into a patch of thick bush we began to find larger
amounts of bright red blood. My heart quickens, and while I dont
dare say it, I think to myself he is mine. We find him not more than
30 yards from the fence, and he is down.
As I draw closer, I stop 10 yards away to fully
admire the animal. There will be time for photos. Right now I just
want to sit back and take it all in; the fading African sun, the
fine red sand, the groves of marula trees, and the kudu in his
To have him in the salt after so many days and miles is a feeling
that everyone should experience at least once in their life. My
personal quest for the Grey Ghost of Africa has finally ended.