It all started when I met Charl at my local archery shop in January 2012. The owner of a South African bowhunting outfit, he portrayed a beautiful college of photos and hunting experiences to all of us at the shop that day. By the end of his presentation, I had a powerful desire to travel to the Dark Continent in pursuit of exotic beasts. It wasn’t something I could suppress; I knew I must do it, and it was now or never. I booked the trip.
Over the next few months, I honed my skills at the archery shop by shooting the 3D course as often as I could. When I could shoot a ping pong ball off a rotating Ferris wheel powered by a microwave oven motor, I knew I was ready.
June 10th finally arrived and I found myself at the local airport, pulling my overweight suitcase and bow case, with a camo Badlands pack strapped to my back. The flight was delayed due to a lightning bolt striking the runway. My plane was already loaded and sitting on the runway, and I wondered if this was a sign. We eventually got cleared for takeoff, and I somehow managed to sleep away 12 hours of the 16 hour flight.
Once we touched down in South Africa and I stepped foot in the Johannesburg terminal, the excitement really hit me hard. I collected my luggage and began searching for my outfitter. As I was rounding a corner, I almost walked into a bear of a man. I quickly looked up to apologize, and recognized Charl’s unmistakable form. His guide was wide-eyed as he looked me over, easily the youngest client he’s ever had (and a female, at that). We passed the 4 hour drive to the hunting area by snacking on kudu jerky and getting to know one another.
The next morning was our first hunting day. Bright and early we were served breakfast, sighted in the bows, and we were off. The time in the blind passed quickly with the variety of animals we spotted. In the early afternoon, I was rewarded with a nice Nyala bull presented me a 30 yard shot. I carefully aimed and sent the arrow on its way, and my first African trophy was in the salt.
The next day was fairly uneventful, with not much seen. Just as daylight was starting to fade, a zebra stallion made a fatal mistake. Posing perfectly broadside for me, my pink zebra-striped arrow made short work of him. After a 40 yard tracking job, we proudly carted him back to the skinning shed and dinner was on me that night! Zebra steak is incredibly delicious, in case you were wondering.
Fast forward a few days of hunting sun up to sun down without any action. I had my heart set on an eland, the world’s largest antelope. Charl was guiding me that day, and he warned me that elands were not the easiest game to hunt, and not to get my hopes up too high. The morning was passing slowly, and I was just starting to nod off when I heard a distinctive click clop click clop. I snapped awake and Charl was motioning to get my bow. The hoof beat of a mature eland bull sounds like none other, and we knew what was approaching.
By a miraculous stroke of luck, the herd bull was the first to enter my view. He was a mere 20 yards away, his dewlap (or “blanket” as it’s affectionately called) swaying with each stride he took. I waited for him to turn broadside, trying to ignore the trembling in my legs. When he finally offered me the shot, I took it. A cloud of dust rose up as the herd charged off. At 5’4″, the grass was well over my head so Charl radioed for assistance and I was told to wait in the truck. With fresh leopard tracks in the dust, they felt it was safer to track my eland without me. It was the most nerve-wracking time of the entire trip. The crackle of the radio with a scratchy voice speaking Afrikaans was music to my ears. I asked the tracker sitting with me to translate, and he said “We got him.”
The 2,300lb monarch was absolutely impressive to behold. I later learned that this particular bull had appeared on the trail camera and had been hunted by the landowner ever since, but had not been seen in the flesh or on camera for the past 3 years. He was presumed dead of old age. Charl told me this bull had by far the largest body size he’d ever hunted. It took 8 men to load him onto a trailer, and much brush had to be cleared to get him out. When we arrived back at camp, everyone was waiting to see my monster bull. Much excitement was shared and the eland provided an excellent feast for the whole camp.
At this point in the trip, I was on cloud nine. I was convinced it couldn’t get any better. But there were still a few hunting days left and I decided to try for a waterbuck. It took the remaining days, but persistence paid off and I was rewarded with a 28 yard shot on a beautiful waterbuck bull. He scored 29.5″, and qualified for the Roland Ward record book.
After acquiring 4 incredible animals, it was time to pack up the shiny pink bow and head back to the USA. It was easily the most amazing experience of my life, and I am anxiously awaiting the taxidermy to be delivered.