The Greater Kudu was Ernest Hemmingways nemasis, his one desire was to take a trophy 60" bull Kudu. To my knowledge he did not achieve it, and yet the world record stands at well over 60". However taking a Bull Greater kudu over 50" is still not mean feat, even today, although there are far more around than in his time due to conservation and breeding programmes for reintroduction.
Today taking a trophy bull Greater Kudu is the dream of many hunters, jsut to see one is an unforgetable experience, and they do not carry the title of the Grey Ghost for nothing.
My dream started in 1990, on my first trip to Africa, Kudu were not on the list of my friend who I was accompanying, and to be quite frank I do not recollect seeing any on that Safari. But then we were not in their territory.
Some years later, I was in Zululand, and I saw a good many Kudu. I had a few in the sights as well,although only for the brief moment that the Grey Ghost allows. My friend took a very nice 54" this is now in the Museum I curate.
Although I didnt know it, my next safari would see my dream forfilled, the year was 1998.
Waking up to a new day in the African bush is a wonderful life changing experience. Half asleep I was concious of movement within the tent, and through my half open eyes I could make out the shafts of sunlight dancing across the canvas roof of the tent, and a gentle breeze moving the Acacia tree the tent was pitched underneath.
After a cup of tea which had been brought to my tent by one of the immaculately dressed ladies in camp, I was eager to take breakfast as quickly as possible and start hunting. By the time we left camp in the Toyota Landcruiser the air was still chilly and the morning breeze had dropped to nothing. The air had that sweet smell to it that was mixed with the remains of last nights camp fire, and with a well packe dlunch on board we headed out of camp and into the bush.
My PH was a long standing good friend of mine Mark DeWhet, and this was the second leg of a 3 week safari I had put togther for a group of two friends from the States. We were hunting in the far north west corner of South Africa, a massive area only fenced on three sides, and we had already been there 4 days and I had yet to see another living soul or a fence.
Mark Dewhet had seen a massive bull Kudu in the area some weeks back whilst hunting with another client, and it was to this general area that we made our way. After about an hours drive on dirt tracks we reached the area, and M'Buzu our Zulu tracker was already scanning the soft red sand for signs of fresh spoor.
Finding spoor we decided to start walking to see if we could catch up with the owner. Greater Kudu move during the early morning, often to come down to drink, but they also take full advantage of the early morning dew that collects on the leaves and grass. They prefer dense bush and a dry environment, and with their massive ears and sharp eyesight they are not easy to approach unnoticed.
Spotted already, but not the one I wanted.
After about a 2 hour stalk through some dense bush the terrain opened up and we saw our first Kudu of the day, and then without knowing they were there it was joined by several others. Mark quickly put the sticks up for a shot, and instantly I mounted my 375 into the crutch of the shooting sticks. Cranking up the Burris scope to 6 power, I could see that they were fine bulls, some with three full curls, a sure sign that they are mature, but after looking over them I declined to take one, the one of my dreams was not there.
After lunch we carried on hunting but without success, by 4pm we had arrived back at the hunting vehicle. Mark said we would try another area on the way back to camp, although it would make us late back that evening. " Lets do it" I said, I didnt come here to sit in camp, and I have had the most wonderful day already and wanted to savour every drop of it before days end.
After about a 10 minute drive the truck was bought to a very sudden halt, and M'Buzu had spotted movement in the bush to our right. Both Mark and myself saw it at the sametime. One huge pair of Kudu horns sticking out of a bush about 80yds. Without any word from Mark I was already out of the truck, and was joined almost immediatly by him with the shooting sticks. "Quick Malc take him before he goes" Mark said. I flipped the scope caps up and took the safety off, all I could see of the bull was the head, and part of its neck, the rest was obscured by thick thorn bushes.
I placed the crosshairs at the base of the neck and took the shot, in an instance the bull wheeled round and was gone. "Oh man you missed him Malc" said Mark. "No I hit it Mark, but not in the place I wanted" I replied.
Now the time was getting on and darkness would be apon us within about 40 minutes, and the thought of loosing this magnificent animal to a pack of Hyaenas during the night, did not sit well with either Mark or myself.
Blood was found, and the spooring (tracking) was taken up by both M'Buzu and Mango. Without these guys who are both phenominal trackers you are lost when it comes to situations like this. 40yds on and there was a large patch of blood. The bull had tripped into Warthog hole and landed on its neck......... neck shot low, not good.
Darkness was appraoching and the two trackers picked up the pace, I was scnning the area in front trying to make the bull out, but nothing. Mark grabbed my arm and whispered quietly to me. "Listen Mal these Kudu when wounded will often stop and look back to see if they can make out who and waht is tracking them, go wide of the trackers and in front we havnt got much light left"
I took off at a brisk walk to the right with the intention of taking a wide circle in front to see if I could see the bull. After about 5 to 10 minutes I foubnf and area that was in a dip, bu covered in thick bush. I decided to lay on my stomach and see if I could see through this area..........wait a minute that branch just moved. I crawled to one side to get a better view, and there standing head down looking back in the direction of the trackers was the bull.
I had to now stalk it quickly as it would not stand for long, and after a quick crawl I managed to get into position for a heart shot. The distance was only about 40yds, it had no idea I was there as it was listening to the two trackers and Mark walking towards it. The shot from the 375 and the nosler bullet, took it off its feet and dropped it where it stood. By this time it was nearly dark, and the muzzle blast from the 375 was spectacular.
Mark was overjoyed and the two trackers who I had hunted with before shook my hand and congratulated me. A tape measure was produced by Mark, and a rough measurement taken, 57".
I had my dream.
5 years later I was hunting the southern Kalahari again, with some english clients, and I saw a Bull Kudu that was easily 60". My other good friend and PH Paul stones tried to encourage me to take it.
Not for me, I have my Grey Ghost, and now I just like watching them. However I wonder what Ernest Hemmingway would have thought and done, I hope he would have done what a great many hunters would have done.........let it go, its there to amke someone else's dream come true I hope