The warthog of Ekuja
July 5, 2016
The calibre for the future?
July 6, 2016

A kudu like a statue

We’ve lost the track…darn! I turn around and look into the pale countenance of Patrick, my hunting guest from northern France. This is his second day and the late winter sun has yet to tan his face. Pearls of sweat are running down his forehead. I turn back and continue looking for the track of the huge kudu we saw about an hour ago, scrutinising the ground in front of me carefully.  Text René Krafft

Patrick is a keen hunter, and is willing to work, walk and stalk, crawl on all fours. He wants to experience the hunt on a really big Greater Kudu.

On the quartz hill.
View over the camelthorn forest.

T he kudu had disappeared as quickly as he’d popped up, remaining in sight just long enough for us to marvel at his astounding horns. “Patrick, look quickly! This is the kudu you‘ve been searching for! For quite a while now!”

This is the fourth time Patrick has come to hunt in Namibia and he’s already collected a fine kudu trophy. But he’s a keen hunter, and is willing to work, walk and stalk, crawl on all fours. He wants to experience the hunt on a really big Greater Kudu, and I’m determined to outsmart the grey ghost of our bush. Everyone who’s hunted this ghost knows how difficult it is to keep up with him.

Today it seems it’s going to be the same old story. The kudu has disappeared into thin air, his tracks dissolved into nothing. But I know the terrain here at the Sheep River on Ibenstein Farm near Dordabis like the back of my hand. Every hill, every valley. Below the surface, the ephemeral river delivers enough subterranean water to sustain a forest of camel-thorn trees. And at this time of the year the half-moon-shaped pods of the huge trees are ripe and are dropped deliberately to the ground. Many game animals seek out the nutritious pods as a welcome source of protein during the dry season.

The camel-thorn forest is about two kilometres from where we are, and the kudu bull is on its way in this direction. I had hoped to come close enough to down it before it reaches the forest, since much game will be milling around among the trees and since there’s hardly a bush or grass, stalking is practically impossible. But this is the challenge we were looking for. Our next objective is to reach a quartzite hill sticking out of the red Kalahari sand halfway to the trees.

Silently I signal Patrick to follow. We proceed swiftly along the game paths, passing through the thorny bushes without making a sound. It’s hot by now, and very dry, but we press on regardless. The car carrying our cold water is two to three kilometres back, where we’d first seen the kudu. All of a sudden I catch a movement from the corner of my eye! Some eland, Namibia’s giant antelope, are also heading towards the protein-rich source of nutrition. I take a quick snapshot of them before they disappear into the bush, twigs snapping in their wake. Onwards!

Climbing the little hill, we duck between the white boulders and glass the expansive forest below. We spot springbok, many ostrich, wildebeest, gemsbok and giraffe, all of them helping themselves to their share of the fodder. But where is he, our grey ghost? Where is the elusive kudu?

Finally, we discern the bull – straight ahead of us – almost invisible in the undergrowth. It’s standing in the shade of some big trees and presenting its side. The distance is about 800 metres. We also see other animals in the vicinity. Should any of them pick up our scent and take off, the kudu will be gone. But we’re not in a hurry. It’s almost noon; the sun is at its zenith. We approach slowly, keeping to the shade, upright at first, then crouched down, Patrick always close on my heels. I had memorised the position of the kudu well.

Take cover! Quickly! An ostrich is coming from the left and we have to wait silently until it has passed. Moving to the right is not an option, since three wildebeest are lying down in an open patch. In addition, at an angle, a springbok is sauntering towards us. I indicate to Patrick to duck down in the speckled shade of a small bush. We are patient.

We’re also lucky! We’ve not been noticed. The animals are relaxed, going about their business peacefully. We continue our approach, crawling on all fours by now, from tree to tree, from shade to shade, in a leisurely way, feeling the small stones beneath our knees, carefully avoiding the long thorns of broken-off twigs. Every now and then we stop to scout for the bull. There he is! Standing like a statue between the trees. Big and majestic, the horns hidden among the branches, but I can see the long white tips, turned outwards. The dark neck is also an age indicator, like the shoulder blades sticking out over the withers, and the sagging back. No lapse now! Even though I’ve hunted this wonderful game animal so many times, my heart beats faster.

Patrick! Prepare! Remain calm! Ne bouge pas! [Don’t move!] And to myself: “Stay calm!” I glass the surroundings. The wildebeest are lying in the same spot, the ostrich has disappeared among the trees and the springbok is resting a good distance away. We slowly edge forwards on our behinds, myself in front, followed by Patrick, holding his rifle across his lap. In the rear Sina, my Dalmatian, follows us unhurriedly, always keeping behind or sideways of me. She knows how we work.

Roughly 150 metres still separates us from the kudu. It’s a good shooting distance. There is no more cover, but a thick tree covers the shoulder of the bull. Again we have to advance slowly and carefully from the side, moving into the sun. Now we’ve reached our position. We give a last glance around. Everything is completely quiet. Patrick’s rifle is resting on my shoulder, and the kudu is standing slightly quartering off. So Patrick has to aim a notch behind the shoulder!
The shot rings out, the grey ghost has the bullet, somewhat far behind and high, but still good enough. Nonetheless, we jump up immediately and Patrick mounts the rifle again, resting it on a branch. Sina is behind the kudu. It stumbles and finally drops. We got it! A Greater Kudu!

And what an awesome hunt! Exactly what Patrick was after. He just couldn‘t turn his dusty, sweat-laden face away. We are both proud of what we’ve achieved as he puts a small twig into the kudu’s mouth.

Patrick Isaert and Rene Krafft with the kudu.

“We give a last glance around. Everything is completely quiet. Patrick’s rifle is resting on my shoulder, and the kudu is standing slightly quartering off.“

This article was first published in the HUNTiNAMIBIA 2014 issue.