When I wrote the article Behind the Sceneswww.bowhunting.net/taxidermy/BehindTheScenes.html a few years back for Bowhunting.net it got a lot of response and also some emails of things that the readers wanted to see and read about. This article covers them all, from the hunt to the finished project.
THE HUNT: I was in South Africa once again in July 2003, hunting with my good friend Du Toit Leonard of Eland Safaris www.elandsafaris.com/ This time my main prey was a nice Nyala Bull.
We had decided after talking to Okkie the ranch manager that we would start by hunting out of a Double Bull blind near a water feeding area that he has for some of his cattle that wild animals seem to visit. We did see some Nyala's, both cows and bulls, but nothing that was a record book animal in my opinion. I had set my sights on a trophy.
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We were also visited by a herd of Cape Buffalo at 25 yards. This was a little scary as a Cape Buffalo stares at you like you owe him money, and the bad thing was we had no retreat if they decided to charge.
The Double Bull blind we had set up backed up and into a big thorny bush. Luckily the animals were just curious and more interested in the water and mineral lick than in us.
This picture was taken through the camo shooting screen of the Double Bull T2 blind. I was hoping he did not recognize me as someone who had cheated him out of money!
After a couple of days and a few different spots we decided to drive around the ranch and see if we could locate a nice bull to try a spot and stalk. The first few hours we spotted plenty of game, but no Nyala Bulls. These animals are very elusive and blend into the cover as if they were part of it. If they feel their cover has not been blown they will literally let you almost walk by them at short range.
It was getting late and we decided to head back to the Lodge for some lunch and a cool drink. On the ride back we spotted an ear movement in the bush halfway up the mountain. As we stopped and glassed the area we finally spotted the bull and his cows. The cows were bedded down in the shade and the Nyala Bull was backed up into the bush looking for incoming danger. After some glassing and trophy size estimating it was decided I should try a stalk on this Bull.
So out the bukkie (truck) I went with my Matthews bow, Easton ACC arrows and my 75 grain Muzzy broadheads to match wits with this majestic animal. I knew the warm thermal would be traveling up hill so the only thing I could do was come up from an angle and hope he did not smell me. The plan was working out. The bukkie, once I was on foot and enroute, was to move off out of sight which put the bull at rest.
Larry Reese with Record Book Nyala Bull 63 7/8"
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As I closed the distance very slowly I could see the bull had relaxed and was looking at his cows. When I had gotten 40 or so yards there was no other cover for me to "leopard crawl" behind. It was now or never. I looked at the bull and had a clear shot at his vitals, I used my Nikon Monarch 800 Laser Rangefinder an it said 37 yards.
I was on my knees and knew I had to make my shot from here, so I slowly brought my bow to full drawl, settled the 40 yard pin halfway up his front leg and squeezed off a shot. The arrow flew true and sunk deep into the Nyala as the whole mountain erupted with flying rocks from the fleeing Nyalas.
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I radioed the bukkie with Du Toit and the trackers that I had made a good shot and lunch would have to go on the back burner as we now needed to recover and get the Nyala off the mountain.
First, if you have never been to Africa, these animals are some of the toughest you will ever encounter and have a tremendous will to survive.
This Nyala, even though mortally wounded, led us on a very long track through some of the thickest cover you could imagine as you can see by the photos.
In the above photo you can see how thick and rocky it was. I made the workers get a tarp to place the Nyala on so it could be dragged down off the mountain without any damage to the skin.
Now that your trophy is on the ground, the very next step that is often overlooked but one of the most important is the Trophy Care. If your animals are not properly cared for by competent people you will have nothing but high blood pressure and a few pictures to remember your hunt by once you return to the States.
I see hides and horns come in from all over the world and sometimes I just shake my head and wonder what the hell were they thinking when they did this. So when you are doing your hunt research please ask the questions on how your trophy will be handled, and don't be afraid to watch the process. You have invested a lot of money, and you are the only one who is going to care the most, so protect your investment.
Trophy Care- Skinning
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With that said, I have spent countless hours with the staff at Eland Safari's and have helped train and design their state of the art "Ship & Dip" facility. Everything is done right on the Eland Safari ranch. You can watch the progress of your trophy and the expert care it receives.
Most African outfitters have a subcontractor that they use like a local taxidermist, freight forwarder, etc. whom they get a commission from, and when things go wrong with your hide or horn everyone starts pointing fingers.
Another big concern is the salt they use. 95% of all outfitters (or there sub-contractors) use rock salt that is damp coming out of the bag. A quick lesson here is in order. The whole idea of the salt is to draw out the moisture in the skin. It does not take a rocket scientist to know damp rock salt is only doing a limited job at best, but it is "cheap" to use.
If the salt does not get into the skin properly then it can cause bacteria, which in turn will cause hair slippage.
At Eland Safari's it is mandatory that only FINE, clean granular salt is to be used, PERIOD. They do the salting just as I do in my studio and the hides I receive look beautiful.
As with all hunts you need to do your research, check references, find an outfitter that fits your needs, one who is honest, one you feel you can trust, and one that uses FINE SALT.
In South Africa I can recommend Eland Safaris and Du Toit & Aloma Leonard, whom I have personally known and hunted with for some 10 + years or more.
The minimum SCI score for entry into the record book for a Nyala is 56", my Nyala scored 63 7/8"
Now that we have the Nyala on the ground, properly skinned and salted, it will be shipped back to my Studio. The next step we will begin the tanning and mounting process in Nyala Bull Start to Finish...Part 2