It was a cold winter morning. It was still dark but the sun is slowly changing the dark shapes outside the hide in to trees. The birds are just starting the first overture of the morning bush symphony.
I settle in with a warm cup of coffee and a thick jacket to ward off the morning chill. I am ready for what the day might bring and what the bush is willing to sacrifice.
My main target is a big Blue Wildebeest bull I have been hunting for the last two years. The guys from S'Dudla Safaris had game cameras on all the water holes on the concession. The decision was made last night to hunt from one particular pit blind. The bull had been visiting the water and salt lick regularly there during the past week.
The Blue Wildebeest's naturally occurring range includes south and east Africa. They inhabit the areas between the swampy wetlands and deserts of this region. This includes areas with dense bush to open plains.
Blue Wildebeests must drink once every day or two to survive in dry areas. A blue wildebeest's body stores water much like a camel. This can mean a long wait for the bow hunter at a waterhole. It is quite possible to sit all day at the waterhole and the wildebeest simply never show up. The bow hunter must get ready when they appear as it will likely be the only chance at a blue wildebeest for the next day or two. Fortunately, they drink long and deeply when they do drink. So the hunter need not rush the shot. When the blue wildebeest comes to water it is wise to patiently wait for the perfect shot opportunity and be ready for it.
A Blue Wildebeest's dental anatomy includes a wide row of incisors. Their mouths are flat and broad. This adaptation allows them to feed on the shortest grasses not easily grazed on by other animals. They can also feed on the remnants left behind by other animals. This is practically the opposite of the adaptation of the giraffe. A giraffe's long neck adaptation obviously allows it to feed on vegetation that is too high for most animals to reach. The blue wildebeest survives on that which is too short for few animals to reach.
The dominant Blue Wildebeest marks a territory of up to five acres. They accomplish this by leaving dung heaps and marking with glands on their body. Blue Wildebeest have pre-orbital glands and glands in their hooves for marking territory. The dominant bull may occupy this territory for just a couple months or year round.
I was in this very same hide all day yesterday. The Bull came in with a herd of cows and young animals. They spent at least twenty minutes around the water and salt. The Bull just did not give me a clear shot opportunity. There was always something preventing me from launching an arrow. A cow standing in front of him. He was facing straight on. When he was standing broadside had another animal right behind him. Not wanting to wound another animal with a pass through arrow I just had to wait...
Blue wildebeest are probably some of the ugliest plains game animals in Africa. They do not have the grace of the "Grey Ghost" (Kudu). They are not as secretive as the sleek Bush Buck. They are not as uniquely marked as the Burchells' Zebra. Still, I love these hunch back clowns of the bush. With the dark skin, wide horns and thick boss, the Blue Wildebeest resembles the Cape Buffalo. Like the Cape Buffalo the Blue Wildebeest also has a reputation for being very tenacious and hard to kill. I know of a couple of Professional Hunters that were injured or had close encounters with the Blue Wildebeest. Blue Wildebeest have earned the nickname of "Poor Man's Buffalo".
We Professional Hunters have a joke about these Poor Man's Buffalo's. "They are born sick and every time you give them a lead pill they only feel better and they run even further" This black humor comes from long and hard experience hunting and guiding clients for Blue Wildebeest.
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Blue Wildebeest has a very prominent hump on the shoulders and mane. Viewed broadside this means the spine is actually on the mid-line of the body. This makes for difficult shooting. Because if the hunter shoots for the middle of the body he may hit the animal too high and with a bullet going over the spine or just touching the spine. A high shot means a long and difficult job tracking the wounded animal. Most of the time, animals shot too high will recover from the wounds if they are not found.
Even when it comes to bow hunting at bow hunting distances one can easily miss judge shot placement. One must remember to allow your shooting angles to compensate for sitting in a pit blind an elevated blind or a tree stand.
I prefer hunting Blue Wildebeest with fixed blade broadheads. Broadheads like Slick Tricks, Muzzy, Montec G5 and NAP Thunderhead have all been used with great success by bow hunters in Africa.
An arrow with a total weight of 420 grain should be the minimum weight for African plains game. Heavier arrows allow for better penetration and pass through of the arrow resulting in a better blood trail.
Most compound bows set between 65 to 70 pounds will deliver more than enough energy to drive an arrow through the vitals. A lady or young bow hunter with a 40 to 50 pound bow will also do the trick on a Blue Wildebeest. Then the hunter should use a heavy arrow something in the region of 550gr and restrict the shot to a maximum of 25 yards.
It was a slow morning in the hide with just a couple of young impala rams visiting the water. I started to wonder if the Blue Wildebeest are going to come back to the water today after spending time there yesterday. I have learned that perseverance goes a long way when it comes to bow hunting and that once you have moved into a hide or tree stand it is best to stay there the whole day instead of moving from spot to spot. You see more animals you don't spook animals around the hide and you will get the shot if you have the patience to stay put and wait.
Just after midday and I am again reading the pocket version of the "Perfect Shot" by Doctari. One has to be able to visualize the vital area at the different angles the animal might be standing. I still believe the middle of the vital triangle shot is the most effective way to "pull up the hand brake" of any animal. With a top of the heart and double lung shot no animal is going to go more than 60 to 100 yards. The middle of the vital triangle shot also gives you the biggest target to aim at and should your arrow hit a bit low you have a heart shot. With the arrow going a bit high or to the left or right you still have a double lung shot ensuring a quick clean kill.
Another couple of impala came in just after 13:30 and there is a really nice ram with them and I started to wonder if I should take the impala or wait the rest of the afternoon for the Blue Wildebeest.
I decided to gamble on this last afternoon of the hunt and let the impala drink in peace and hopefully serve as living decoys. I might get a shot late afternoon at another impala if the wildebeest do not show.
Not thirty minutes later I heard more animals walking and as I looked up I saw the same herd of Blue Wildebeest cows and young animals I saw yesterday coming into the water but this time the bull is not with them!
They spent the next ten minutes around the water drinking and I was frantically scanning the bush for a glimpse of the bull that was with them yesterday. Then some of the Wildebeest cows moved about twenty yards from the water and lay down while the other wildebeest just stood around. Finally forty minutes after the first Wildebeest came to the water I saw the Bull. His thick boss and wide spread of the horns he really is a magnificent animal. He walked slowly to the water and by now I had the bow in my hands and my heart was beating like a blacksmith's hammer against my chest. I waited.
He moved from the water to the salt and he presented me with a twenty one yard, slightly quartering away shot. I waited for him to settle down on the salt before I drew the 75 pound Tribute back. The HHA pin started on the opposite front leg moving up until it settled just next to the shoulder in the middle of the vital triangle. All of a sudden I see the white fletching on the Carbon Express Maxima hunter arrow tipped with a 125gr Slick Trick Standard disappear and the Wildebeest bull exploded in a flat out run. I kept quiet and listen to the herd running not knowing why the bull had started running.
After two years of hunting for this specific bull and a lot of practice with the bow everything had finally come together. I am sure the bull will not go far. I called the PH on the radio and waited until he stopped in the truck next to the hide before climbing out.
We walked to where the bull stood for the shot. Thirty yards behind where he stood, I found the arrow with bright red blood on the white fletching.
We started walking on the running spoor and almost immediately started getting fresh blood spoor. Fifty yards further there he was. The Slick Trick broadhead had once again done a great job for me.
I am now addicted to hunting the Poor Man's Buffalo and what a bonus the meat makes for tasty table fare...
About the Author: Born in the eastern highveld of South Africa, Gerhard grew up shooting, hunting, and fishing. He would learn to fly fish for rainbow trout at the age of 6. Gerhard shot his first antelope (Duiker) at age 10 and his introduction to wing shooting came around the same time. The Guinea fowl would come to know that Gerhard was a natural with a 12 gauge shotgun. Gerhard would go on to join the South African National Defense Force where he spent 10 years before resigning as a Captain. In 2005, Gerhard would take interest in archery. In 2006, he qualified as a Professional Hunter. He currently offers rifle hunts, bow hunts, and wing shooting hunts to clients. Gerhard is a dedicated and passionate bowhunter and shows it as a member of the 2010 Bowtech and Slick Trick Pro Staff teams. Gerhard is also a qualified Field Guide and is currently working to gain experience to qualify as a Trails Guide that he may take guests on walks in Big 5 country. You can contact Gerhard via the Hunting Resource Forums.