It was starting to register. This
was no dream, but a fantastic reality achieved after two long years of
planning. It was early July, 2005 and I was bowhunting in South Africa.
Day two of my ten day safari started
with a scenic ride in the back of a diesel Toyota pickup. The morning air cool enough
that it required a fleece jacket to stay warm. As we rounded red-clay roads
carved through seas of tall grass and spiny thorns, herds of wildebeest and red
hartebeest trotted away in clouds of orange dust. Spiral-horned kudu bulls
stared from afar before darting for cover. By 9 AM I was seated on a plastic
chair in a blind built on 14-foot tall stilts. The blind, or hide as the locals
called it, included a concrete floor, walls of thatched grass and a tin roof.
Two windows, each measuring 8 1/2-inches x 20-inches complete with black
curtains, served as shooting holes. Eighteen yards away was a pool of calm
The first visitor of the day was a
male ostrich at 9:50 AM. His black plumage in stark contrast to the white and
tan feathers on his tail and wings. His huge reptilian-looking feet seemingly
more suitable for dinosaurs than birds. He dipped his head into the pool of
water like a ladle in a punch bowl, gulping water and jerking his head up to
swallow. After he quenched his thirst and wandered into the brush, it was quiet
for the next hour. Prime time for waterhole action in South Africa is
usually 11 AM till 2 PM.
At 11:30 I heard them before I saw
them. The sounds of trotting hooves on hard-packed clay coupled with grunts and
snorts. Warthogs! The mob of six porkers, two sows, one boar and several
babies, stalled at 30 yards sniffing the air. The big boar was the first to
break away and trot toward the pool. His tusks were long and white, the color
of sugar cubes. Not yellow-colored like the other warthogs I?d seen on day one.
At 18 yards he touched his snout to
the water, his front legs bent and resting on his callused knees as he slurped
noisily. I went on auto pilot as the 65 pound BowTech Old Glory bow anchored at
my cheek. My fluorescent 20 yard pin settled low, tight behind his right front
shoulder. I remembered the advice from my young Professional Hunter (PH), Marco
impalas are the two worst string jumpers. Take only close shots and aim a bit
The carbon shaft blasted through the
broadside boar in a blink, right where I wanted it. The hard-hit 160 pound pig
leaped into the middle of the shallow pool, splashing water like a geyser. I
immediately saw red staining the hog?s gray side. Soaked like a sponge, he
trotted out of the pool in a frantic dash for cover. Seconds later I heard a
crash in the brush just beyond where I last saw him. As I tried to absorb
everything that has just happened my mind raced and my heart thumped hard in my
chest. ?I just shot my first warthog?,
I thought to myself. ?Awesome?!
The radio crackles and I report my
good fortune to Marco. ?Sounds like a good hit. Stay in the blind for another
hour or so. Your pig is not going anywhere and it?s prime time? he fires back
in his smooth South African accent. ?Well done?, he says before signing off.
For the next hour there is never a
blank canvas in front of me. I spy eland, a single red hartebeest cow, a lone
wildebeest bull and a dozen more warthogs. Unique birds like the Gray Laurie,
Redbilled Hornbill and Guinea fowl fuss around the pond.
It?s shortly after 1 PM when a pair
of impala rams materialize from under thorn-covered acacia trees. The two males
flick their tails and joust their horns at each other like swords, slowly
growing closer to my hideout. The second ram has wide, heavy horns. I guess
each handsome, ribbed horn at 23 to 24 inches long. The last six or seven
inches of each black horn are smooth beyond the ridges of the lower horn. This
is a sign of a mature trophy ram according to my PH.
The smaller ram is first to drink.
Anticipating a shot, I draw the bow and wait. The larger ram walks around the
first and pauses, quartering steeply away. I lean into the shooting window
slowly. He stands in the same muddy tracks as the boar warthog from earlier, my
first blood-stained arrow visible lying on the ground just past him. As I?m
mentally picking a spot he turns offering a better, only slightly quartering
At the shot the ram leaps across the
pond and trots under the acacia trees. I?m confident of a good hit. Through
binoculars I can see my arrow just past the pond, ten yards from the bloody
warthog shaft. The once chartreuse feather fletchings on my shaft are damp and
red. The impala ram is lifeless less than 70 yards from the blind. A
razor-sharp 100 grain Rocky Mountain Turbo broadhead punched through both lungs
proves to be a deadly missile.
After another call on the radio,
Marco arrives fifteen minutes later. He was already in route to help recover my
warthog. We take up the spoor, bent at the waist searching for sign. Piet, a
gifted native tracker dressed in olive drab pants and jacket, leads the way.
Piet points out tiny drops of red blood barely visible in the sandy earth. Then
there is an obvious smear of crimson on tall yellow grass. Patiently, we follow
the clues. Piled up 150 yards from the waterhole, I practically stumble over
the dead hog. Pulling him free of the spiny brush, his tusks are thick and long
and pearly white as I remembered them. Marco jokes that my pig must have seen
the dentist that morning. My wife, Amy, is there to share the excitement with
me as we laugh and share the thrill of recovering wild game in Africa.
grin for pictures between my ugly warthog and my gorgeous impala ram, I can?t
imagine how bowhunting or life could get any better.