This story began in 2005 when my husband Todd and I planned a “once in a lifetime” trip to Africa with another family. We were heading to the Limpopo Province in South Africa with Mabula Pro Safaris. Up to this point in life I had only hunted doves, ducks and turkeys. I had no big game experience and therefore I knew I would have to prepare myself for this new adventure or else I would regret it. The thought of traveling all the way to Africa and then not being prepared to humanely harvest an animal bothered me.
My husband Todd took me to the shooting range to become familiar and comfortable shooting our Weatherby 300 magnum. As I became more and more proficient with the rifle and confidence grew, I began to do some research on exactly what I wanted to hunt on our trip. After much thought and study I told my husband all I wanted to shoot is a Kudu. Todd was not exactly thrilled with my decision. He was concerned with my lack of experience and tried to convince me to shoot one of the less challenging animals like a warthog or impala (just like a concerned spouse). However, I stuck to my guns (pun intended) and insisted on hunting a kudu.
We arrived in Africa and after 5 days of hunting we still had not gotten a shot on a trophy kudu. On the last day of the hunt we were driving in some breathtaking landscape. The concession’s beauty was framed like art by the mountains. Thick brush was everywhere. I am jolted back to reality when the PH hits the top of the truck and says, “Kudu! Kudu!” He quickly glassed the animal and gave me the go ahead to shoot. I did not have time to get off the truck so I used it as a shooting rest. We were probably only 70 yards from the Kudu but he was tucked into the thick brush. I picked out a hole and spot to aim at. When I shot the Kudu fell immediately. I had such a feeling of accomplishment and excitement. Tears filled my eyes and Todd’s emotion was overwhelming as well. He said, “You dropped it! You dropped it!” Actually, I’m not sure if he was excited or in shock. We high-fived, hugged and then I composed myself, reloaded and kept my eye on the kudu to see if I needed another shot but it looked like he was down for good.
We got off the truck and made our way to my trophy with such unrestrained exhilaration. But as we approached he started to move, he was inching his body to face us. We watched him for 5 minutes and were convinced once again he had expired. We continued on our way again when the Kudu jumped up (facing us) and then turned and ran into the thick brush. The PH was yelling, “Shoot! shoot!” but of course I wasn’t ready to shoot. I let my guard down thinking the kudu bull was dead. We tracked him for several hours and with each step I took my excitement slowly turned to major disappointment. We were leaving for the airport the next morning. It was now dark and I didn’t have my kudu. Todd was so supportive. He kept reassuring me that they would find it. He tried to convince me not to worry, but it didn’t help. I guess I should be glad he didn’t say, “see you should have went after something else.” Actually, Todd should be thankful he didn’t say that! The trackers did find my Kudu the next day, after we left. I got my trophy, but I didn’t get to grab hold of those horns or take a picture.
Fast forward to 2007. We are back again at Mabula Pro Safaris. Since that first trip I have become quite the serious hunter. My husband, Todd, and I started hosting a hunting show called T-N-T Outdoor Adventures and I had spent the two years hunting non-stop. I now had several big game animals to my credit and had even taken up bow hunting. Now, I wanted to harvest an African animal with my bow and what better way to come full circle than to take a kudu.
I told the outfitter my desire and to our luck he had a concession that had not been hunted in three years and was a bow hunting concession only. With my Mathews Drenalin in hand and Todd and a cameraman in tow we made our way on to the property. The concession area we initially arrived at consisted of an open field surrounded by thick brush. It was not long before I saw something out of place hiding under some low hanging tree branches in the distance. The PH saw it too and as we pull to a stop he says, “Come on let’s go.” T he PH is walking and glassing and I am just trying to keep up. I wanted to stop and glass myself, but I am nervous the PH will lose me and then I will lose my chance at redemption. When we got in some cover, the PH was able to take his time glassing and look over the animal carefully. He announced it was a definite shooter Kudu, a very nice, old kudu bull. My heart began to beat out of control. Anyone watching could have seen my heart pumping through my chest. I composed myself long enough to get to look through my binoculars and to my surprise there are two nice Kudu hanging out in the trees!
As we begin our stalk toward the bulls one senses something is not right and runs away. I’m worried sick that our chances are dwindling but amazingly the older male, the one we want, doesn’t run. We continued to stalk very carefully and slowly until we are able to range him at 37 yards. He is quartering away and I begin my draw praying the whole time he doesn’t move. My release was smooth and the arrow flew true definitely hitting the right lung. The bull immediately ran and we took off in hot pursuit. I was unsure if the arrow passed through and got the second lung so I wanted to be in position for a follow-up shot if necessary. If nothing else I wanted to know exactly where this big guy was running. I was not going to let him get away!
He stopped running after about 70 yards and stood still. Our pursuit paid off because he presented me another shot and I decided to take it. I did not want to take chances. The big kudu is now 42 yards away. Luckily I had been practicing with my bow for a pronghorn antelope hunt and felt very comfortable shooting at 40 yards. Once again, I drew my bow, made a smooth release and this time there was no doubt the shot was perfect. He ran off again but not far, I was able to see him fall with my own eyes. I could not contain my excitement. I couldn’t believe I just stalked a kudu and took him with my bow! I couldn’t wait to get to my trophy and put my hands on those horns. We carefully made our way to the downed kudu and after making sure it was down for good I had to wrap my hands around its majestic horns. The PH measured the bull at 54 inches! At that moment in life nothing could eclipse the excitement of having taken my trophy or the overall experience and accomplishment of what just occurred. Of course I took lots of pictures!
The first Kudu she never got the chance to pose for photos. This time the stalk, the shot and the photos are burned into Tia’s mind and she has the photos to prove it.
When I took my first trip to Africa I did not know how I would feel about harvesting a big game animal. I had a great deal to learn and obviously I made some mistakes. More than anything since I’ve become an outdoors woman I really enjoy my time in the woods learning about the animals, their habitat and their behavior. The time spent sharing these adventures with my husband has created memories we will carry forever and are the source of lessons our children will learn as they grow. There may be some of you out there who are new to hunting, are thinking about giving it a try, or just wondering what possesses your significant other to spend as much time in a tree or a pit blind as he does. I would encourage you to press on or give it a try. A hunt may not always go the way you plan, there will be ups and downs but don’t give up or be too quick to dismiss hunting as just something a man does. You could be missing out on a new passion! And when the trophy is finally yours, you may decide its okay to place a mount in the living room.