AFRICA – The next morning we headed back to Tom’s place in search of hartebeest and blesbok. Tom would be Elijah and my PH on this day, and for the rest of the trip. The morning was fairly uneventful with only one group of blesbok being spotted, but they were gone before Elijah could get an opportunity to line them up in the scope.
Before lunch on this day our entire group traveled to a local school to present them with gifts. As a teacher, and a parent taking my young son on this trip I wanted to visit a local school and bring them materials. Elijah contributed to the effort by taking money from his savings to buy some soccer balls and basketballs for the kids. In all we took tooth brushes, tooth paste, school supplies including rulers, paper and pencils, and toys such as basketballs, soccer balls and toy airplanes.
When we arrived at the school there was excitement in the air as the kids knew something fun was about to happen. The headmaster of the school sent word to all the classrooms we were there to give the school goods, and the kids started funneling out of the classrooms into the courtyard. This school educated kids from kindergarten through high school and had a total of about 120 students. As the kids started to gather they began to sing a song for us. I’m not sure what they were saying, but we were told it was in honor of us bringing them goods. The joy on the kids faces along with the song put a little lump in my throat.
I was asked to say a few words, and I explained where we were from, I was a school teacher and we had brought some gifts for them to share. As per the request of the headmaster, I also let them know we would leave the goods with their teachers and they would distribute them to the students. It was a humbling experience and one I was glad to have my son be a part of. Sometimes in our country we take things for granted and don’t realize how blessed we truly are.
After visiting the school we returned to Tom’s for lunch and the afternoon hunt. After fixing up my plate for lunch I took a seat at the large dining room table, when Tom appeared with a slight grin on his face. He asked me if I still wanted to shoot a hartebeest and I replied with a “Well, yeah!”
He told me there was a small group at a waterhole visible from the lodge.
I quickly got up, went outside, grabbed the 6.5 and followed Tom as we started our stalk.
We were able to sneak within 80 yards of the waterhole undetected. I set up the rifle and followed the animals in my scope finding what appeared to be a very large bull. Tom told me to wait as he looked him over. I had the crosshairs on the hartebeest’s shoulder and waited to hear the go ahead, but it never came.
Tom told me, “Don’t shoot, we can do better.” I immediately asked if he was sure, because the bull looked very good to me. He once again said, “We can do better.”
And we retreated back to the lodge for lunch.
I told everyone in the lodge of our stalk and Elijah asked, if I thought it was a good one why I didn’t shoot. I let him know that’s why we have PH’s and they know the animals here better than we do.
For the next five hours I would replay that stalk in my head over and over, wishing I would have been a little more assertive in my request to shoot the hartebeest bull. We did come across a large herd of hartebeest shortly after leaving the lodge in search of our quarry. We had a failed stalk, which really made me second guess our lunch time encounter.
During our search we came across a herd of blesbok and Tom did an excellent job of getting us close, but unfortunately the vegetation was too thick and Elijah wasn’t able to get a clear shot.
Close to sun down Tom spotted something in the bush and had me quickly follow him. As we walked into the bush I was looking for hartebeest when I spotted a blesbok. I reminded Tom, Elijah was the one going after blesbok, when he said, “Not blesbok, hartebeest” and we proceed forward. We soon found the herd of hartebeest was traveling with a herd of blesbok.
Tom got us to within 40 yards of this large group two times, but once again the vegetation was too thick to see the animals clearly, let alone take a shot. After getting that close the second time the animals knew something was up and began to funnel away from our right to left.
As they made their slow cautious escape they passed through an opening 60 yards from us. The shooting sticks were set up and in the opening stood a large hartebeest. Tom quickly assessed him through his binos and told me that was the one.
I placed the rifle on the shooting sticks and found the large animal in my crosshairs. I found his shoulder and squeezed the trigger. I could tell the bull was hit, but it didn’t appear to be a hard hit as he, and the rest of the animals scattered.
Tom asked where I shot and I told him in the shoulder. He said he was a little worried, because the hartebeest took a step as I shot. This made me think of the wounded impala and got me second guessing everything about the shot.
We walked to where the animals were standing and I shot the hartebeest. We didn’t notice blood right off and Tom pulled his binos up to look in the direction the bull ran.
He turned around and looked at me with a huge grin on his face and said, “Nice shot!” Then he gave me a hearty handshake before we walked over to my huge hartebeest. While looking at that giant of an animal, Tom mentioned this was the reason he didn’t want me to shoot the one earlier in the day. This was truly a stalk and an animal I won’t soon forget.
Tom went back to get the truck to try to find a way into the animal through the thick bush, and asked if I would be alright by myself in the bush. I smiled and said I would be.
As he walked away this hunt started to sink in. My ears were filled with the sounds of Africa, as I heard the birds signal goodnight to the sun. My eyes were mesmerized by one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever experienced. With shades of orange and shadows dancing as the light began to fade. All this while breathing in the sweet air and dust of the African bush.
At that moment, as I stood over my hartebeest, it all began to sink in. I was in Africa, hunting some of God’s most intriguing animals and sharing the experience with my son. What an awesome ending to this day.
That day also turned out to be a great one for John as he finished his hunting for the trip by connecting with a blesbok and a gemsbok.
Editor’s note: We here at the Record hope you have enjoyed reading Josh’s story about he and his son’s African adventure. We took a break over the first part of the summer, but we will be finishing up the story in the next several weeks. While it may not run every single week, be sure to check in so you don’t miss the culmination of the series.