I previously wrote about the correct placement for African animals – and the response and remarks have been interesting – from “I didn’t know” to “I haven’t been taught that” to the gung-ho attitude of “I will just bring a bigger cannon”…
But let me share some of the stories of looking for the “Grey ghost” who has taken flight after a not – so – carefully – placed – shot. And often that shot has been caused by nerves –“buck fever” strikes again!! There is absolutely nothing you can do about it, the hunt has been hard, your patience has been tested, your skills set has been stretched – and all this time the anticipation has been growing together with your excitement. After stalking for what felt like hours and hours – your PH carefully steps out from cover, places the tripod shooting sticks and points you in the direction – and there he is, 130yrds away, magnificent!! You are mesmerized as he stands side on, his harem surrounding him, when suddenly one of the cows barks – your heart feels as if it’s going to burst through your chest as it is pounding so hard. Is it going to come down to this moment? You have worked for days, hours spent crawling, hardly breathing – and when the opportunity presented itself you were too slow – startled, mesmerized – whatever, but suddenly he is running. You’re are about to fall into the depth of depression when your PH calmly says to you to get ready, he will whistle and the bull will stop in it’s stride for mere seconds – there won’t be another chance.
He whistles and the bull stops suddenly and looks back– and this time you are not going to let him get away – in those few adrenalin fueled moments all the coaching of shot placement are long forgotten – after all you have shot plenty of game back home – whitetail and mule deer almost every year, last year it was that magnificent Elk – and instinctively you pull off the shot….
And the Kudu bull takes off….
The next decision is often the most critical in recovering the animal that has taken flight! The inexperienced hunter will usually charge after the wounded animal, he has a good idea of where it was hit – the light is fading and he desperately wants to arrive in camp with blood on his hands, so off he goes, on the blood trail – and the thinking is that you are going to get him around the next corner….
When the animal is wounded, he will run to the first cover he can find and try and hide. He doesn’t know what has happened other than something is seriously wrong. At this point, if he is not disturbed he will stiffen up and shock will set in.
So if you know or suspect that the animal is wounded – as difficult as it is, don’t break cover, sit tight. Mark where he was standing when he was hit and see where the last place you saw him before he disappeared from view. Look for distinguishing features – bush can be very deceiving and unless you focus on that spot, hours can be lost just looking for that spot. If you are already at last light, come back again early tomorrow – as a rule of thumb African nights are cold enough for meat not to spoil – however, predators are always a risk, but generally, you have no choice.
After about an hour or so approach the spot he was standing when shot and after finding the blood spoor, move in the direction you last saw him. Always make a mental note, or mark with a stone or something similar, the last spot of blood – especially when the droplets get sparse. This gives you a starting point each time you lose the spoor. By this time the wounded animal will have started to stiffen up (gets cold, especially if it is cold weather) and will have lost a lot of blood – when you do walk onto him, he may just stand and look at you, and if he does run, will be slow and lethargic, giving you plenty of time to drop him before he flees.
So what happens when you come in “hot and fast” – the wounded animal gets a huge surge of adrenalin and takes off – literally!! And the Kudu has been known to run with all sorts of injuries. I have often cleaned up after a bad shot and it is not uncommon to follow the wounded animal for 10 -15 km’s and this in mountainous territory.
A well-trained dog is invaluable in these times – be wise though, an undisciplined dog can be a nightmare.
Some of the mistakes that lead to a wounded animal are:
Not having a steady rest
Shooting too far back – gut shot
Shooting too high and missing the vitals
Not judging the distance correctly and not taking the bullet drop into account
Going for a head shot and missing the brain
Not enough “gun” for the target
Plain old “buck fever”
Telescope that have moved during transit
My advice – take your time, be patient, have a “can –do” attitude and look for the smallest of blood specks. Wounded animals don’t want to run – patience and perseverance will get your animal to the skinning shed.
Good luck out there!!