Howard's list was flexible on this 12 day trip. Eland, Lechwe, black springbuck, mountain reedbuck and sable was on his main list. He was also keen to add a third kudu and second nyala and zebra to his rapidly growing trophy room.
The first few of days hunting was eventful with us putting on a difficult stalk on some blesbok grazing high in the mountains. The shot was a difficult one and hit low on the brisket. We followed the blood spoor for a distance before we spotted the wounded ram and were able to get close enough to put in a second shot. Early the following morning, we went in search of a lechwe. We spotted several small herds. It was a chilly morning and a solitary big bull was sunning himself in the acacia thicket belw us and we patiently stalked closer to within shooting distance. At 220 yards, Howard's bullet found the mark and the bull reared before diving into some bushes. We skirted round and Howard was able to put in a second shot. That afternoon, in heavy cover we snuck up on some impala rams and we Howard made a terrific shot to take another beautiful trophy.
Upon leaving the camp on the third day we spotted 3 nyala bulls moving from the thicket back into the mountain. We let them disappear before following. They were just ahead of us on the same pathway and we waited for them to move from the blindspot ahead to where we could see the pathway curve to our right directly ahead of us. The two younger bulls in the lead walked on. The third bull was a majestic black bull and he must have sensed danger as he had turned to face us. The white hairs on his back stood up. We wanted a broadside shot and we waited for him to turn. The bullet hit true and Howard had taken another outstanding nyala. Later we found a black springbuck ram on the plains and Howard duly obliged by making a good shot.
On the morning of the 4th day, Howard and I travelled to a concession in search of sable. We glassed for several hours but we saw no sable. Upon returning to the lodge area, Mitchell spotted some sable tracks crossing the road ahead. We tracked on foot for several hours with the tracking getting increasingly difficult as the ground got more stony and the bush thicker. We heard movement in the bush ahead and with it being too thick to see, Howard and I decided to move to lower ground where we could get a better view against the slope. We moved down and stayed in the same line as Mitchell as he tracked the sable. The bush erupted ahead of Mitchell and a big sable bull came running down the slope ahead of us. He reached the dry river bed below us and bagan climbing the opposite slope. Luckily, he paused briefly on the adjacent slope long enough for Howard to make a shot. What a magnificent trophy!
We all travelled north for a couple of nights to our concession there to hunt eland, mountain reedbuck and kudu. The concession has resident herds of elephant, rhino and buffalo. They're always magnificent to view but always can also add an element of danger to the hunting.
In the distance, we spotted a small herd of eland graze slowly into a blind valley. We drove part of the way along a mountain road to get some elevation and then hiked the last 1000 yards on foot. We got above the last place where we saw them disappear and glassed the valley from top to bottom. Slowly a horn appeared, then a body, then another horn. As it always is, when you take your time, your eyes start revealing movement and then slowly the whole picture it pieced together. No bulls! We'd followed a herd of 30 cows into the mountains. We were walking slowly back to the vehicle when Adam spotted another herd of eland slowly ascending the opposite mountain. They were a herd of sixty and I was sure there would be at least one big bull in the herd. Three hundred yards above them was a shelf like plateau they were heading towards. It was clear that we had to get onto that plateau before them and be waiting when they reached it. We used the vehicle to get us down the mountain, across the valley and part of the way out the opposite mountain before hiking up to the plateau. We hiked for thirty minutes to the spot where we thought the eland would walk out onto the plateau. We arrived at the spot as the lead animals in the herd were just emerging from below. We set Howard up and it wasn't long before a magnificently dark bull appeared. He towered over the others and it wasn't difficult identifying him. At 300 yards, it was a long shot but an eland is a large animal and a .375 Ruger is plenty of rifle. Howard made the shot of his life, the bullet hitting the bull squarely in the neck. Surprisingly the bull didn't collapse but ran forwards thirty yards before hitting the dirt. What a beauty! White tips with uncharacteristic stripes down his side. Thankfully a team of 8 guys were able to come help us load him.
That evening we barbecued on the porch of our cottage to the sight of a white rhino and her calf grazing 100 yards in front of us.
Heading out from the cottage the next morning we were road-blocked by a herd of thirty elephant. They trumpheted and flapped their ears at us in disgust when we didn't back up fast enough. Deliberately they languished on the road, biding their time as if it show their dominance. We back tracked and drove out a steep mountain track to look for mountain reedbuck. For 3 hours we drove through the mountains, stopping to glass the grassy plateaus and valleys below. We saw several hundred eland, vaal rhebuck, waterbuck, blue wildebeest and sable. Upon descending the mountain, we spotted a small herd of 5 mountain reedbuck grazing below us. Leaving the truck, we hiked down the track winding down closer towards them. We managed to get onto the same slope as them and Howard took his opportunity. The ram ran some distance downhill before expiring and Mitchell and Adam retrieved him for us.
We were onto a big kudu bull the next morning. He was in thick bush with some cows near the river and we stayed with him and watched for several hours waiting for him to emerge from the security of the acacias. He finally emerged someway ahead of us and we had to scramble to get into a position from which to get a shot. Howard's shot unfortunately flew high and they fled for the mountains.
We returned to our lodge that afternoon after a terrific three days. We hunted a zebra the next day. They were moving towards a waterhole and we stalked to within 200 yards. Unfortunately Howard's shot hit low on the leg and we had to scramble and sprint for several hundred meters to stay with the wounded one that had somehow managed to keep up with the herd. In the chase, Howard fell back and joined Mitchell in trying to cut them off. I stayed on the blood spoor and managed to catch up to them and put the wounded one down.
A terrific fortnight of hunting came to an end too soon. We bid farewell to our friends from Colorado and look forward to more hunting adventures next April!