Bowhunting the 'Beesty Boys': challenge yourself by going for the slam.
Denny Stiner, veteran Illinois bowhunter, had hunted this property the previous year and finally bagged a mountain zebra on the last day and hoped to complete the "Z-Slam" with the Burchell subspecies, possibly the animals his PH has spotted.
Zebra are the most misunderstood animal in Africa. Bagging one is fairly easy with a magnum caliber rifle at long range. But try sneaking within bow range and fooling its incredible senses of hearing, sight and smell. They all but disappear in vertical cover wearing Ted Nugent's favorite camo pattern. Success was so unlikely that Gordhart, a native Namibian, cast a despairing glance when Stiner suggested they try a stalk.
"Luckily the wind was blowing about 20 miles per hour, creating a lot of bush movement and noise," remembers Stiner, reflecting back on the decision. "We were easily able to sneak within 100 yards of the herd, yet getting closer seemed impossible."
Like most stalks, the best next step was no step--to wait patiently. Within 15 minutes the animals began to quarter toward them. Gordhart resumed the stalk as brush covered the herd and the duo cut the distance in half.
"I ranged an opening yet wasn't sure the animals would stay the course," Stiner said. "Then one walked into the clear and I followed it with my pin. A second came through and I mentally practiced. When the third animal stood in the opening, I released and the arrow caught it right in the Sergeant stripe."
The zebra raced toward a large termite mound where a sudden swirl of dust spooked a warthog that came running right at them. "Shoot it," whispered Gordhart and Stiner took his second animal in a matter of seconds.
Spot-and-Stalk if You Dare
Stiner's spot-and-stalk success during our 2012 safari with Agagia Hunting in Namibia had an element of luck, yet was typical in several: ways. First, long-range shooting is the norm on plains game, as typified by Steve Kobrine of Potomac, Md. This avid bowhunter has taken all 29 species of African game from the largest to the smallest, mostly by stalking, and his 6-foot, 6-inch: frame allows him to shoot a long, energy laden arrow and he practices at 140 yards almost every day.
"My average shot is about 80 yards, because many African animals will stand for a few seconds at that distance if you sneak carefully," says Kobrine.
Stiller shoots pins to 90 yards, and the 50-yard shot had been practiced many times in 3-D competitions and resulted in a quick, clean kill.
Secondly, stalkers must be patient, often allowing animals to move naturally in your direction or toward some predictable food or water source. Sneaking within 30 yards of plains game over bone dry vegetation is extremely difficult. Animal senses are keen and laser honed after eons of predation. Spotting and stalking is thrilling, yet difficulty is compounded by the herd nature of many plains game species. Not only must you outsmart multiple eyes, ears and noses, you must select the trophy from the group, often a difficult task since both male and female of several species of antelope have horns.
Finally close counts. If you nick a kudu bull and draw blood, you pay the trophy fee, even though the animal will likely survive.
The Ambush Option
Most of Stiller's trophies and all of mine came from hides that were constructed with the bowhunter in mind and greatly increased the odds for success. Shots range from 10-25 yards with a combination of salt arid water attractants.
Secondly, the hides were constructed from sturdy materials on the inside and covered in a very natural looking brown color on the outside, no doubt appearing as a large termite mound to animals. More importantly, they were comfortable and dark. Instead of chairs that can creak at the wrong time, the entrance contains three large steps that make comfortable cushioned seats. In addition, each hide has a special camera port so that you can video your own hunts to share back home. Whether you shoot or not, photographing and videoing animala at such close range is an absolute rush. I often had animals within a few feet of the shooting window, yet they did not see movement inside the blind. The property has more than 30 blinds on both fenced sections and free-range portions of the 50,000-acre Agagia properties.
Unlike most bowhunting operations, each Agagia hunter has a full-time, English speaking PH who accompanies you at all times. Sharing information is part of a Professional Hunter's job, and I found the Agagia PHs to be well informed on all animals and most plants. When animals were not nearby, we talked at length about what might come in, how to tell their trophy status, what shots are best to take and even small talk such as, "Where are you from?"
Hunts originate from the main lodge or from a special bowhunting-only "Bush Camp" that features luxury safari tents (each with showers and bathrooms), a cooking tent and a large campfire area where tall tales are told nightly. This property has six blinds similar to others except the water is perpendicular to the blind so animals drink broadside.
Even with this advantage, being close to big-game animals is so exciting that many hunters quickly lose their shooting form. Fortunately, the lodge has a practice facility where archers shoot through a portal exactly as they will from a blind. This realistic practice is invaluable, especially for first-time safari hunters.
Seeking the Beesty Boys
Wildebeest don't get much respect from some trophy hunters, yet they are high on my priority list on every hunt. I once bowhunted the Okavango Delta in Botswana, a really wild place where animals staged under a huge tree near a waterhole. With no treestand available, I climbed from the top of a land cruiser onto a huge limb and tied myself in with a foul smelling rope. While there, a bachelor herd of wildebeest walked directly under me, their gorgeous black and blue coats rippling with color. They didn't offer a shot, yet I'll never forget their beauty Later, I learned that my rope was used to hang leopard bait. What did that make me?
Namibia has three subspecies of "beests" -- the blue, the black and the red hartebeest, each very interesting and distinctly different. The first morning of my safari, I had two of the three slam members pause and drink, yet all were young bulls. Just as with stalking, patience at an ambush is a necessity and hours later a large male chose to drink eight steps from the blind. My heart nearly stopped beating as the beest drank and drank. Finally, it raised its head, turned, and paused just long enough to release. I found my trophy 75 yards away.
Stiner filled all three members of the 'Beest Slam' on his first safari and was thrilled by each one. He kept a detailed journal of each day with the animals he saw and the results:
"The third day of the safari, I was at the Bush Camp Morott hide, when a large herd of blues stood away from the water for a long time," the journal began. "After about an hour and a half, the animals approached and a big bull drank among the chaos ... I got a broadside shot. The next day I hunted from the treestand blind by the site of an old treestand. This area was very thick and a herd of black wildebeest fought over the water and the big bull stopped quartering away ... it went 90 yards. Four days later, I was in the chalk pin (white rocks) blind when the hat trick animal arrived. When the big red hartebeest came to drink, my PH said to aim up the leg just above the stripe and the shaft buried right there."
Gear to Make it Happen
Rifle hunters usually go magnum for large plains game, yet if you plan to hunt from ambush, stout whitetail gear is all you need. Stiner shot a PSE X-Force Dream Season EVO set at 70 pounds that pushed a 29-inch arrow around 330 fps. My setup was a bit tamer, pulling just 60 pounds and a 27-inch shaft, yet the Hoyt Carbon Element took seven animals in the elk-size class.
I was excited to test the new Easton Deep Six technology, a micro-diameter shaft with a special steel insert for better FOC balance. Tipped with NAP's Big Nasty heads, I shot through every animal I encountered, including a zebra through both shoulders. Stiner used Muzzy 3-blade heads ahead of heavy Byron Ferguson carbon shafts, while I used Easton Full Metal Jacket shafts tipped with NAP KillZone 2-blade and Rage 3-blade heads. Each resulted in quick recoveries, yet the cut-on-contact heads resulted in the greatest penetration.
Aside from bows and arrows, sights are an important consideration. A one-pin setup can be very effective and eliminates the possibility of pin confusion, often a problem at times of great excitement. Models made by Meprolite and Trijicon offer the added advantage of operating in dark environments. The Agagia blinds were so dark, the color on my fiber optic sights faded--something to test before leaving home.
Optics are critical as well, and my Nikon ProStaff binoculars were light and bright in the blind. The Archer's Choice rangefinder proved to be valuable in identifying animals near and far. A kudu at eight steps may seem impossible to miss, yet you must practice at close ranges to build confidence. Your nerves and hunting stamina will be pushed to the absolute max and you must prepare mentally and physically for this challenge.
Gemsbok Go to School
Agagia owners Tielman and Carin Neethling use a portion of the game taken on safari to support a local school, and the pantry was low on our last safari day.
"Denny, can you get us a couple of gemsbok for the kids?" was the Neethling's request over a bacon and egg breakfast. Returning guests get to help out in the meat department, and Stiner looked at me with a broad grin.
I had taken a good kudu bull on the free-roaming portion of the property and seen several gemsbok there as well. So, Stiner and his PH headed for that hide early in the morning.
"I was out to shoot whatever came in," said Stiner. "The first gemsbok didn't present a shot while the next opportunity held two good bulls, one about 39 inches and the other about 40. I shot the biggest one a bit for-word and the arrow penetrated completely and broke in half. We waited before trailing and suddenly a big warthog appeared and went down on its knees to drink. It went just 40 yards and rolled over in a swirl of dust. Not long after, two more gemsbok cows came to think, the largest stopping as it walked away. I took that quartering away shot and the big cow went just 40 yards."
Although Stiner was only after meat, trailing the first big bull would result in the largest gemsbok taken at Agagia, a true 40-inch bull. Stiner was thrilled with the trophy and just as happy the kids at school would have plenty of protein for the month ahead. How often can a hunter take a trophy of a lifetime and do a public service with the same arrow?
Author's Note: This was my 20th African safari, and I found Agagia to be the best bowhunting operation I've seen. For information, visit www.agagia.com
RELATED ARTICLE: You CAN afford an African Safari
Amulti-animal African safari costs less than many (probably most) guided North American hunts where you might see game. In Africa, you'll see hundreds of exciting antelope, the weather is perfect every day and trackers and skinners do all of the work. My nine-day, five-animal safari package for two at Agagia Hunting was just $4,600. Here's how to save money getting there:
Sign up for an airline credit card and use it to pay daily and business expenses. When I buy sweat tea at McDonalds, I'm one mile closer to Africa. If your wife gets one, too, you have enough combined miles for one free ticket to Namibia or South Africa. You'll be amazed how fast the miles add up.
If you don't like credit cards, buy tickets nine months in advance. I rebooked at Agagia Hunting for May, bought tickets in July and paid just $1,100 round trip to South Africa, including a free, tourist day in Frankfurt, Germany.
Take your wife. If she goes, it's not a hunting trip, but a vacation. The same goes for teenagers and grandchildren. Most safari companies will offer a special deal if you share a room and PH. I took my non-hunting dentist, and he had a ball.
Finally, don't sweat the plane ride. International airliners offer good meals, free drinks and individualized seatback entertainment centers. You can catch all the latest movies, TV shows, play a wide variety of games, listen to your favorite music or walk around and visit with your buddies. International aircraft are very large and usually have smooth sailing.
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|Date:||Aug 1, 2013|
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