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Africa keeps calling: a bowhunter can get addicted to the sights and sounds around an African hide.

THE LAST DAY OF Namibian bowhunt in July was typical Africa. Well before sunrise, my Professional Hunter (PH) and concession holder, Tobie Engelbrecht, dropped me off at a ground blind (known as a hide) overlooking a small waterhole. This was my third consecutive day in the hide--sitting from dawn to dusk--and I was specifically hunting a huge kudu bull that frequented the area. Already on this safari I had taken six other fine trophies, so I was content to focus on this one animal.

I had seen the bull the previous two days but the wind had got me. Today a crosswind promised better conditions, and I hoped the third day would be the charm, because this bull was tremendous. His left horn was about 60 inches long. His right was only about 50 inches, but that's because he'd broken 10 inches off the top. Since kudu don't shed their horns annually, this condition was permanent. No matter. The bull was a worthy specimen, and I wanted him badly.

At first light, several dozen Burchell sandgrouse made their morning flight to the waterhole, followed by hundreds of Cape turtledoves. Many people consider their call, which sounds like "work HARD-er," the sound of Africa. Next to arrive were the helmeted guinea fowl and red-billed francolins, walking rather than flying to the waterhole in typical upland game bird fashion. As countless songbirds joined the horde, the waterhole was a frenzy of bird activity.

Suddenly, the guinea fowl began sounding their grating, staccato alarm calls. Behind me a bird flushed, and then I heard a loud thump! very close. Peering out the shooting window, I could see that an African hawk-eagle had just trapped and killed a guinea fowl against the front of the blind. I wasn't the only predator hunting that day.

At midmorning two kudus, a cow and young bull, drank broadside at the edge of the waterhole, about 20 yards away.

Then about noon, while reading, I glanced up from my book to see a huge gemsbok bull standing just inside the brush on the far side of the waterhole. How can such a large animal appear so silently? I wondered. Being very alert as he came in water, he finally drank broadside after several feigned attempts. He had massive horns nearly 40 inches long--a real trophy. Any other day I would have shot him in a heartbeat, but I had already bagged a gemsbok bull this trip and had my mind set on the broken-horned kudu. So I shot video and let him walk.

A half hour later, three springbok rams strolled in. One had heavy horns more than 15 inches long. Even knowing this was a world-record-class ram, I passed on the shot. I wanted that kudu.

Then I heard a dreaded sound that most African bowhunters come to hate--the sound of a troop of baboons. Baboons are intelligent and wary animals with superb eyesight. Even though I didn't move a muscle or make a sound, this troop somehow detected me and began barking their discontent. As the troop practically surrounded the hide, barking and growling, I had to reassure myself that baboons truly are not dangerous. Eventually the baboons moved off, but I wondered how many neighboring animals they had alerted during their uprising.

It seemed they might have ruined the day, and by late afternoon I was beginning to lose hope. Then I glanced up to see a lone kudu bull approaching cautiously from my left. He had a broken horn. This was my bull!

But it wasn't to be. He had come from the only possible direction where he could have smelled me. And he did. My three-day vigil had gone for naught.

Or had it? After all, I had bagged six fine trophies on this hunt, and I had enjoyed three entertaining days in this one hide, always full of great anticipation. Maybe the ending was not perfect. But the hunt was close. It's always that way in Africa.

The author hails from Littleton, Colorado. This is his third story for Bowhunter Magazine.

AUTHOR'S NOTES:

Where else can you bowhunt for 10 or more big game species at once and expect to shoot a half dozen or more animals in a week? Africa truly is a bowhunter's paradise, and many adventurous archers are beginning to realize that. For anyone used to hunting only in North America, the number and variety of animals in Africa will seem unbelievable.

Even if you don't shoot anything, the adrenaline will flow. A couple of years ago in Zimbabwe, a herd of 25 elephants drank and splashed in the water only 10 to 20 yards from my treestand. Now, that's a rush! On the same hunt, a white rhino practically joined my hunting partner in his pit blind.

Arranging an African safari can seem overwhelming to a first-time visitor. To ease planning, enlist a knowledgeable U.S. booking agent who specializes in bowhunting. The agent's services are free to you, so you have nothing to lose and much to gain.

I booked my latest safari through Dave Holt's Africa LTD. Each year Dave spends several months in Africa and takes an active role in making the concessions he represents in South Africa, Namibia, and Zimbabwe bowhunter friendly.

Also, I recommend, booking only with outfitters who cater exclusively to bowhunters. Rifle hunting has a long history in Africa, but bowhunting is relatively new. Outfitters who have worked only with rifle hunters may not understand the unique aspects of bowhunting.

The biggest single expense is plane fare, which, for my latest trip, was about one third of the total cost. On that hunt I bagged six trophy animals, and my total cost was a little over $6,000, which included everything except taxidermy and trophy shipping.
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Title Annotation:Africa
Author:Burrows, Matt
Publication:Bowhunter
Date:Jul 1, 2004
Words:965
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