The four hour drive was long and slow. The roads were rough and bumpy due to the semis collecting cotton. After we got there and saw how big the area was, we took off for the high ground to do some glassing. After getting to the top of a large hill, we could see the elephant with or bare eyes. It was a herd of 37. To try and minimize all the scent just a few of us went down into the valley. Mike, Nikki, and Adam stayed on the ridge to spot for us while Dudley, Ed, Gettus, Innocent and myself made our way into the bush (Doc and Joyce had decided to stay back at the camp).
It wasn’t until we had made our way off the ridge and down towards the elephant that we realized the river was actually blocking us from the herd. I’m not talking a creek here, it was a river that was pushing 40ft wide. The concern wasn’t how deep the water was but what was living in it, like crocodiles, and hippos. We walked up and down the bank desperately searching for a way cross without having to wade through the deep channel. With only one option, Dudley took off his boots to test the depth of the water.
Gettus and Innocent joined him as they gingerly made their way across the green chest deep water. Dudley returned for me. He didn’t want me to get my pants wet since that was all I had. When I bent over to get onto Dudley’s shoulders, there was a sudden drop and one leg splashed into the water, the other was in the air and Ed fell on top of me and Dudley.
With his lightening reflexes, Dudley managed to catch me before I went head first into the water. It was quite funny! I eventually made it onto his shoulders and then was passed off to Gettus who took me the rest of the way across. Ed made it on his own as he held his camera above his head. Once again with us all on dry land, we started off again only to realize that we were on an island.
Elephant tracks were everywhere, and there were some hippo tracks too. Dudley kept his boots on this time because of the slate that was under the water. Gettus offered to carry me again. This time the water was deeper and my other boot got soaked.
We got across with almost no problems. Of course, true to our history, the elephants had moved?across another part of the river. We got across the third part of the river, and again the elephants had moved. We had to take a break and get a bite to eat, an energy bar and apple. We walked another 45 minutes through some thick bush so we could sit down on some dry ground.
We were always looking for elephant tracks but sometimes we came across others, like this lion track. Keeps one on one’s toes.
Dudley had to make sure the rest of the crew made it from the hill back to the truck. I was exhausted and really didn’t feel like going any further, but Dudley insisted we push on once the crew arrived back safely. We hadn’t gone 100 yards before we found ourselves smack in the middle of all 37 elephants we had been trying to get to all day. I think we had lost Murphy somewhere in the river, because for the first time the wind was in our favor and wasn’t swirling.
In an instant, I was within shooting range. We were a scant 20 yards from the first elephant I had a chance at but it was a little too small. We kept stalking deeper into the herd toward the second elephant. When I was within 20 yards I drew my bow back as I did he must have seen me and turned to face us. I held the bow back for about a minute and a half before the bull turned and I could let it back down again. What a rush!
The third elephant we snuck up to had only one tusk, but it was a big one close to 60lbs. We had him ranged at 9 yards when he started walking toward us. At the last possible second, it turned and walked away into the bush. Thank goodness. I didn’t want Dudley to have to shoot an elephant to protect us.
The fourth elephant was behind some bushes and perfectly broadside, go figure. We were on a little rise, so Dudley suggested I kneel. I knelt down and drew back. The bull, 12 yards away, stopped eating and turned to look at us. A few moments later he went back to browsing and took a few steps. I was still holding back this entire time. These few moments felt like an hour. He finally stepped out into the open.
I had a shot!
I picked out a wrinkle that was just behind his shoulder, centered my sight pin on it and then closed my left eye to be sure I was holding on the right wrinkle and then triggered my release. On impact, the bull jumped and looked directly at us then turned and ran about 50. The rest of the herd ran off a short distance as well. I stood up, shaking like a leaf, in realizing what had just happened. It’s funny, Mike said the hunt would be the hardest thing I’ve ever done until it came time to shoot. Then, it would all come together like clockwork and seem almost easy. He was right on the money. The entire time I kept my focus and thought of nothing but shot placement.
Off in the short distance, we could hear the wounded bull moaning. The villagers kept scaring the other elephants. They would run away from the wounded one but would run back to him. It was a constant running back and forth. I was ready to go after the one I shot but Dudley said that it was too dangerous. He was too close, the others were agitated and it was getting dark. We decided to leave until the next morning.