Eric had a great day today. At about 12:00 noon, he was dozing off in the blind and heard impalas grunting and snorting back in the bush. Impala rams can be very vocal by growling, grunting, and snorting. You’d think a pride of lions was in the bush rather than a small-statured antelope. Then a nice ram came in and starting licking the salt block at about 17 yards. Eric made a nice double-lung broadside shot and the ram only went 150 yards before piling up. Eric was jazzed!
Eric with Impala
Then even before the tracker had time to come and collect the impala, a herd of gemsbok showed up. A nice gemsbok bull presented a 20-yard broadside shot but the arrow hit a couple inches back. When the tracker arrived, one of the Jack Russell tracking dogs was released to track the wounded animal. Blood trailing dogs are commonly used in Africa for recovering wounded game. If the dog finds the animal alive, he will start barking and try to “bay up” the animal. After releasing the dog and tracking for awhile, the hunters could hear the dog baying. So Eric snuck into range while the dog was fighting the wounded gemsbok. Eric made an excellent 35-yard double-lung shot which finished the bull. The arrow passed completely through the bull and stuck in a tree. Two nice animals without even leaving the blind – not bad!
Gemsbok water as Eric takes aim
Eric with his nice Gemsbok
I sat the same waterhole as yesterday, the Huilboom Pond, by myself hoping the eland would come back. Hein told me just to shoot the big bull with the ivory tips if they came in. The Cape buffalo were not around so this was a definite plus. The usual uncountable numbers of waterbuck cows and calves arrived and fed at the feeding station. Then about 12:00 noon, a nice 25-inch waterbuck came in. He had his mind more on love than eating and tried his moves on several cows. Then several small warthog sows and piglings came in.
By late afternoon, I was starting to wonder if the eland would come in. They had tried to come in much earlier yesterday when the buffalo kept them away. The waterhole was just surrounded by waterbuck, including two to three nice bulls, and some kudu cows but by late afternoon I was tired of watching them. Then about 3:30, I glanced out the shooting window facing the feeding station and saw a young eland bull feeding. How did he get there? He fed for a few minutes and then walked back into the bush. Was he solo? But in a few minutes the whole herd of bulls came in, seven to eight total. All of them were big but two of them stood out – the old bull with the ivory tips and another mature bull. Both bulls had huge, massive bodies that were gray in color compared to the younger tan-colored bulls. The other bull had long horns also but they were not as massive as the ivory-tipped bull. Unfortunately, the ivory-tipped bull was feeding front quartering while all the other bulls offered nice, easy broadside shots. Finally the big bull moved around to the other side of the feeding station and offered me a broadside shot. The distance was only 17 yards and my arrow hit exactly where I was aiming – right behind the shoulder a little less than half way up.
Unfortunately, arrow penetration was very poor. Playing the video back, it looked like I only got about 8 inches of penetration I shoot a Mathews LX bow set at 60 pounds, ACC 3-60 aluminum/carbon composite arrows, and Thunderhead 100 grain broadheads so my setup should have been adequate. But the arrow just did not penetrate. Replaying the video confirmed my shot location and showed that the arrow definitely did not hit the shoulder bone, only ribs. So the only thing the PH and I could surmise is that it hit a rib leading to the poor penetration.
I felt extremely frustrated. On the one hand, my arrow placement had been near perfect. On the other, the poor arrow penetration would likely mean a wounded animal and a difficult tracking job at best. In a matter of seconds, I went from the highest high to the lowest low.
Eland at water
Matt makes a perfect shot but not enough penetration for a clean kill
We started to follow the blood trail a little but due to the sparseness of the blood and the poor penetration, we decided to come back in the morning. Just after dark, we dragged all the two-track roads in the vicinity with a cut tree tied behind the truck to look for fresh tracks in the morning.
That evening back at the lodge, we replayed the video over and over and all came to the same conclusion. The arrow had penetrated only about 1/3 of the shaft length or about 8 inches. And on an animal as big as an eland, that would mean a one-lung shot and we would likely be doing some long tracking in the morning. Not what I had hoped for but I would make the best of it tomorrow.
Tip of the Day
Shot placement is crucial on African game. You may see on some TV shows and hunting videos where the host or PH recommends shooting all African plains game straight up the leg rather than just behind it. From my experience and talking with my outfitters, this is not correct. On all animals, you should aim just behind the shoulder in the crease just like you would North American game.
But I will tell you that on many of the plains game species, the lung and heart area do not extend nearly as far back as our species. And if your shot is only a few inches back from the crease, you likely will be tracking and may not recover the animal.
My outfitters also recommend shooting a little higher on African game. For most animals you should aim about 2 inches below center rather than a third of the way up like you would on N. American game. The exception would be on species that are prone to jump the string like impala, duiker, bushbuck, and bushpig when you should aim about 3 inches up from the bottom of the chest.