We were back in the Kausiga Valley early the next morning. It was a bit cooler than any of the other mornings, but not cold. We had actually found some fresh tracks of a lone bull before we really got to where we had left the bulls the previous evening. Being it was a lone bull, we decided that we should give it a try. From when we started the wind just wasn’t right. We had to change our approach to the area we thought he was in, but by the time we caught up with him he had joined a herd of cows. Dudley suggested looking for the bulls we’d left the night before, so we went back to the truck and headed off down the two-track to see what we could find.
Where there are tracks, there is usually more evidence the herd is close.
Gettus called out from the back of the truck that he’d seen some good tracks heading off in a favorable direction. We clambered out of the truck again and started on the fresh spoor, but before we had even really started the trouble began. Dudley pointed and said something to Gettus. He dropped my arrows and some binoculars and took off at full speed?after three more poachers. Innocent and Adam (the council game officer) also sauntered off after them while we waited with Dudley to see what the outcome would be. After waiting a few minutes we heard the elephants we were after breaking brush as they were running through the bush on the other side of the river, obviously spooked by the poachers trying to get away.
I could see the wheels turning in Dudley’s mind after a short minute or two of pondering; he stated that Gettus, Innocent, and Adam could follow our tracks to find us when the chase was done. We started walking along the riverbank when we heard what sounded like an avalanche of dirt sliding down a steep hill.
After looking to see what had made the commotion we could see where the elephants had crossed and climbed up the riverbank a dust clouded the air just a few hundred yards from where we were. Off we went again to try and catch up with the elephants that had just crossed. When we got there, we couldn’t find their tracks coming up the other side. It was then that Gettus found us and told us what happened.
He said that he was on the heels of one of the poachers when the guy turned toward the river and just kept on running. The poacher jumped off a 40-foot cliff to get away. Gettus said that he didn’t go after him because he doesn’t fly too well. The poacher apparently lay there for a few seconds and then got up and ran across the river into the bush. That’s what all the dust we’d seen was from (Dudley called a few days after we got back to tell me that the poacher who’d jumped off the cliff had just died from his injuries).
With many more elephants in the area we were off again to see what we could find. Dudley stopped under the shade of a rather nice big tree, a nice break from the searing sun, especially for the people in the back of the truck. Gettus and Innocent went off into the bush to scout around and came back a little while later to say they had located a group of 7 bulls resting in an area just 1K from where we were. All nine of us hiked off into the bush in a long single file line, following Guttus to the elephants. Yet again the wind gave us away more than once, until we got downwind of a young lone bull. Dudley, Ed, myself, and Nikki (Dudley’s daughter) stalked quietly into the thick to get a good shooting position.
The wind must have shifted a little because the next thing we knew the bull was coming for us. Dudley was backpedaling while urging us to get back. When it was all said and done (it only took a few seconds) the bull ran exactly where Dudley and I were standing and missed us by about six feet! The elephants had herded back up and were running this way and that trying to get the wind on us. There were some really nice shooter bulls in the group, as well as some younger ones. Again, as soon as they got a good whiff, they were off to the races. We started to leave, but decided to stay because there were so many elephant.
It was a long, tiring day but of special note, the hat I’m wearing was worn by a soldier in Iraq. I dedicated this hunt to all the soldiers fighting in the middle east, and my family.
We were on foot from there on out. It was off to the races. We walked up hills, and down hills, through riverbeds and over rocks. It felt like we were on a 500-mile trek. In all we walked for just over 8 hours. Toward the end of the day, we got on some fresh tracks and followed them into some very thick bush on a riverbank. We were making our way along the riverside when Dudley threw his hand into the air and stopped in mid stride. There were elephants all around us.
It’s amazing how well something so big can stay hidden so well. A rather cranky cow decided to see if she could scare the elephant hunters out of us all and started to charge, but Dudley turned her with just loud yelling. She turned to run, turned to face us again, started to come and then turned and ran. Some might call it a false charge, but let me tell you when you’re standing there with a bow in your hands, there’s nothing false about it.
That was about all the fun we could stand for one day. So, we headed for the nearest road that crossed the river for the truck to pick us up. As we walked onto the riverbed, Ed and I looked up to see a big male lion. He noticed us well before we noticed him. He got up from the edge of the river opposite where we were and walked back into the bush. He sat there at the edge of the bush watching our every move.
The truck arrived just a few minutes later. We climbed on completely exhausted and slowly made our way back to camp. We did see a small herd of buffalo on the way back, but I was too tired to get that excited about it. Dudley indicated we would try a different place tomorrow.