Grey Ghost of the Savannah


The luxurious accommodations of the Imbassa Lodge.
The luxurious accommodations of the Imbassa Lodge.

My wife and I just returned from our first trip to Africa. We were on a bowhunt with Hunt The Sun Safari at the Imbasa lodge just outside of Kimberley, South Africa. My PH, Evert, and tracker, Paul, went out of their ways to make my bowhunting experience one that I will remember for a long time to come.

Each morning upon wakening we were met with the sight and sounds of grazing game like springbok, sable antelope, red hartebeest, and more. We were in African heaven. My wife availed herself of the opportunity to take trips to nearby game parks and early morning walks with Leon, one of the trackers.

Red hartebeest herd that appeared outside the authors window.
Red hartebeest herd that appeared outside the authors window.

The first day of bowhunting found me sitting in a blind about two miles from the lodge with Evert. I was shooting a Fred Bear TD recurve at 65-pound pull that I short draw to about 59 pounds. I make my own arrows with Easton 2212 aluminum shafts, 100-grain Magnus 2 blade broadheads, and three goose feather 5-inch fletching with Easton Uni nocks. The arrows weigh 480 to 500 grains.

Evert and I sat in the blind from about 10 a.m. to some time before dusk and saw many different game animals come to water throughout the day. At one point, a monkey (what species I do not know) came in to drink and just about made it to the water hole when it suddenly stopped and started screaming its head off. It must have sensed something was wrong, but couldn’t pinpoint our presence. It scrambled back to a tree branch and screamed for quite a while and scared off animal after animal that was attempting to quench its thirst. At one point I wanted to quiet it myself, but it finally scampered off leaving our blind in peace and tranquility.

I really thought that would end our hunt for the day. But since there was still quite a bit of daylight left, and Evert did not seem a bit disturbed about what had transpired, we sat it out.

Immature kudu bull on alert.
Immature kudu bull on alert.

Between 4 and 5 p.m., game started to trickle back in as it had been a very hot day. Soon Evert noticed a herd of kudu we had seen earlier, coming to water. I readied my bow, nocked an arrow and waited. One by one the kudu came in cautiously and deliberately, as most game does at waterholes. First were the females and young bulls. Then I saw a bull that had a wide set of horns but not quite the full three corkscrew spirals of a mature adult. To my untrained eyes I thought this was a good enough trophy for this little trad bowhunter. But to my chagrin, Evert said, “Don’t shoot!” He then sat down at the back of the blind. I turned at that moment and asked, “Why can’t I shoot him?” “He’s too young,” is all Evert said. Then he told me there was another more mature bull yet to appear. As I turned back to peer thru the slit cut in the camouflage netting, the bull stepped into view and peered right into the blind opening.

Well, I can tell you what a thrill it was to see his magnificent spiraling horns as he slowly started approaching the water broadside. No doubt he was a nice mature bull. Just behind him though, was a cow kudu. Evert said, “Wait ‘till she moves out of the way before you shoot in case of a pass through.” As soon as he ended that statement the cow stepped out from behind the bull. That left me a clear shot with plenty of room behind.

The author and Evert with his trophy Kudu.
The author and Evert with his trophy Kudu.

I waited until the bull turned his glance away from the blind, drew, anchored and loosed a perfect arrow into the center pocket of the kill zone. All hell broke loose as the herd scattered back from whence it came, with my bull in hot pursuit. I could see the arrow embedded deep into his vitals as he ran out of sight. Evert watched through his binoculars as they ran out onto the savanna. He watched them for a while longer as I tried to compose myself and contain my emotions. “He’s down,” Evert said, bringing me back to some sort of normalcy.

Cape buffalo looking to quench his thirst.
Cape buffalo looking to quench his thirst.

We exited the blind and headed in the direction of the downed kudu. He was magnificent, a dream come true, and one of the main reasons for my trip. We found the back half of my arrow some 100 yards from the blind, broken in half and covered with blood. The bull had a mark on his shoulder were the hair was recently missing. Evert said that was because the bull ran into a tree shortly before he fell. We just smiled and admired this “Grey Ghost” of the savannah.

Evert called back to camp for the trackers and skinners. My wife was back in camp and she came in, too. After taking pictures and dressing out the bull, we loaded my trophy onto Evert’s pickup and drove back to the lodge.

Small giraffe herd outside of the blind.
Small giraffe herd outside of the blind.

What an experience–and on the very first day. We all sat around the campfire relishing in the experience and enjoying what had transpired. The fire was lit and the grill prepared for our first African BBQ (baari as it is known in South Africa) of kudu steak as the sun set on our day. Wow! This is bowhunting Heaven.

This was the first of several species I took on the trip. Each day brought a new experience and excitement of seeing the multitude of plains game animals that inhabit South Africa.

Sable coming to the waterhole.
Sable coming to the waterhole.

Since our return to California I have been reliving our experiences in that great country and hope my wife and I will get an opportunity to go back and stay longer to enjoy some of the interesting game parks and culture of this enchanting place and to get an opportunity to bowhunt with Hunt The Sun again and take some of the other game that I was not fortunate to arrow.– Bob Solimena

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