The Pickering Chronicles #12 – Who do Kudu?
“There’s Just No Sport in it”
— Uncle Jim
THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH RELOADING. IF IT BORES YOU, STOP READING.
All I’ve talked about up to now is elephant, because that is what we were hunting. That’s what I wanted. Of course, after that first day and getting Becker’s confirmation that I could shoot a Cape buffalo if the opportunity offered itself, I added that animal to my wants. But elephant was the purpose of our hunt.
[Which reminds me of the time a friend took me salmon fishing in Puget Sound with his father. We put our lines in the water and shortly thereafter I caught a fish. I brought it up to the side of the boat and held it, waiting for someone to net it. My friend’s dad grabbed my line, hoisted the big fish out of the water, and BAM!!! He whacked it with a shortened baseball bat that had a big iron hook on the end. My fish was gone.
“What?” I asked. “What happened?”
His dad told me, “That wasn’t a salmon. We’re fishing for salmon. Let’s move.”
“Jim,” I asked, “what was the matter with that fish?”
“It wasn’t a salmon. It was a cod. If there’s cod here, we won’t find salmon.”
I pondered that, then asked, “Well, can you eat that fish?”
“Are you kidding? Of course. That’s what they make fish’n chips out of.”
“Well then, dang it all! If I catch another one, can I keep it?”
I did, and they let me keep it.
I barbequed it and it was delicious.]
On our second day out, as we climbed the slope to the flats of the concession Wilson touched my shoulder and pointed out the left side of the truck. I couldn’t see anything. He pointed and waved his finger, “Look! Kudu.” It took me a few moments, then I saw where he was pointing. There was a bull kudu with really long horns. He stood very still, watched as we drove past, then leapt off to the side into the bush and disappeared. From the cab window Becker shouted, “Kudu! Trophy size!” Chen Wei never acquired the target. “Where? Where?” he whispered.
Wilson taught me a lot in a very short time. He taught me to stop looking for animals and look for movement instead. That was part of the secret of his incredible eyesight. He could spy the tiniest movement in the foliage. He had amazing peripheral vision, too. He was like Steve Nash, the basketball player: his range of vision was well beyond 180 degrees.
During the course of this hunt he showed me a lot of tracks: one day, a lone female cheetah; another day a female cheetah with two cubs. Once a lioness with a cub. He showed me how to differentiate between eland, sable, kudu tracks, giraffe tracks. Same with scat: look — that’s from jackal. That’s Cape buffalo. And so on.
Besides the indirect evidence of animal presence, we saw plenty of wildlife. We saw crocodiles, baboons, monkeys, guinea fowl, warthogs, three zebra one time, many duiker ( “daika” is what I heard them call this member of the antelope family — adults about the size of a white-tail fawn), impala, and others.
The third day out, again going up the same slope to the flatlands, I was the first to spy kudu (Hooray for Me!). The same bull was with two cows. All three froze and watched us. His horns looked even bigger this time. And this time Chen Wei saw them too. His excitement was palpable. “Do you want to go for him?” he asked me. By the time he asked me the three were gone.
I told him, “Chen Wei, I’m here to hunt elephant. But if you want that kudu, let’s try to get him. Next time up this hill we’ll come slow and careful and see if we can’t find him.”
That night at dinner Becker agreed Chen Wei could try for the bull kudu if we got the chance — subject to my (the client’s) approval. He also confirmed that the animal was true trophy size, and conjectured about the length of the horns. He reckoned it might be big enough to register with Safari Club International. No way could Chen Wei hide his anticipation.
The next morning we fought the trees through that gauntlet of switches, picked up the third tracker, bounced down to the bridge and back up the other side, slowing. There he was. He watched us as we stopped the Land Cruiser, turned, and ran off. Wilson was out of the truck bed before we stopped. Chen Wei gestured to me, “Come along! Come along!” It was his kudu, but I was happy that he’d let me go along. We loaded up and followed Wilson into the trees.
Wilson led, Chen Wei followed, and I brought up the rear. We meandered this way and that, as Wilson alternately stopped to look and listen, and used a little puff bottle of talc powder to confirm the wind direction. We came across a poacher’s snare which he unhooked from its attachment, coiled it up, and took with him.
We came to the remnants of an old village site. Across a large bare patch of land we saw movement. Wilson pointed. We had scared up a herd of impala. They took one look at us and took off running, bounding from our right to our left. In an opening between two dense patches of bush they went past — 14 or 15 of them close together — like freight cars in a passing train.
We lost the kudu’s tracks after that so we worked our way back to the Land Cruiser. Under the trees along the way we scared up a pack of wild “painted dogs”. Once back with the others I told Chen Wei, “You know, I could have gotten an impala just now. All I had to do was to shoot at that opening in the bush while they were running past. There were so many, it was pretty much guaranteed I’d hit one or two.”
“Why didn’t you?” he asked me. Sometimes his viewpoint is clouded by the fact that he rarely has a real hunter in his client base. Most of his clients happily give him $50,000, come to Zimbabwe, complain about the conditions, and ask him to shoot something big for them so they can do selfies and show their friends at home.
I told Chen Wei I didn’t feel comfortable doing such a thing. That’s when Jerry piped up.
“Do you know what my Uncle Jim would say if you ever did something like that?” Whining slightly, “Uncle Jim would say, ‘There’s just no sport in it.’”
Find the entire series here: The Pickering Chronicles
If Uncle Jim were a few years younger, he’d be old enough to be Thomas’s son! Nevertheless, Thomas enjoys hunting, freehand shooting, and reloading. He’s looked for challenges all his life and continues to seek them out. He agrees that everything goes better with Loads of Bacon!