In my mind, no other animal quite
signifies Africa as fully as the gemsbok. Their
beauty, incredible markings and elongated dagger like
horns spell AFRICA in capitol letters. Therefore,
this majestic antelope held the number one position on
my first South African safari wish list. The remainder
of the roll read, number two…blesbok, number three…kudu,
number four…impala, number five…warthog and number
six…blue wildebeest. If I could be so lucky!
After months of research, pouring over anything that
could be found pertaining to hunting South African
plains game with bow and arrow, I very confidently chose
a safari company. Dries Visser Safaris, booked
through Stick and String Outfitters of Pine Colorado,
would host my nine day adventure.
Dries Visser Safaris has specialized in bow hunting
for the last 12 years, in which time it has risen to be
one of the top safari companies in all of South Africa.
Citadel, the main hunting area encompasses 20,000 acres
and is exclusively reserved for bow hunting. With
a variety of game that includes at least 27 different
species, it looked to be a bow hunter’s paradise. The
key strategy would be to hunt water holes from carefully
placed permanent blinds, with the average shot being
15-20 yards. It sounded perfect.
It was October 2005 and with our booking for the
middle of July 2006, we had nine months to ready
ourselves and our gear. By we, I mean that my son
in law Al would be taking the trip also. Al is a
professional videographer and to have my safari on video
would be priceless.
I’m going to skip right over the travel from Seattle
to the Visser ranch, except to say “it was
looooonnnnnggggg”, and get right to day one in the
Matt Burrows of Stick and String Outfitters and I
would be sharing a Professional Hunter (PH) during the
hunt, so on the first morning Al and I would be dropped
off at a blind by ourselves. Hein Lottering, the
PH would sit with Matt in the A.M. and pick us up
between two and three in the afternoon to switch blinds.
That morning we had a virtual parade of game come to
water, animals we’d only seen in magazines, books and of
course, on the internet. Waterbuck, including two
bulls in the 27 to 28 inch class, spent nearly three
hours within bow range. Several red hartebeest,
both bulls and cows came to water. A group of five
impala ewes drank for several minutes before drifting
back into the bush. One lonely warthog came in to
quench his thirst and everywhere we looked there were
little gray Vervet monkeys. Although on my list,
Mr. Warthog had some growing up to do as his tusks would
measure only about five or six inches in length.
No other animal on my wish list made an appearance and
no shots were taken except with the cameras.
Just before 3:00 Hein called to say he was on his way
in and I gave him the OK. Al and I both heard the
truck coming but only after several waterbuck rapidly
vacated the waterhole leaving a heavy cloud of dust in
We were going to move to a different blind for the
evening hunt and am I glad we did. Nothing in the
bushveld moved for the first hour as we sat, patiently
waiting. Only whispers were used by Hein to let
both Al and I know there were two small warthogs
approaching. They came, watered and were gone as
quickly and as silently as they had appeared.
Minutes later, Al looked over at his camera viewfinder
and said “there’s a big animal coming” and just like
that a beautiful kudu bull had stepped from the heavy
cover and was standing a mere 14 yards away looking
straight at the blind. Take him right on the first
white stripe mid body was all Hein had to say, but he
did add “he’s a really good bull.”
The three of us must have telepathically willed the
bull to turn broadside and when he did my arrow hit its
mark. Anxiously, we viewed the video and the shot
looked good. About ten minutes after the shot Hein
spotted the bull still on its feet but looking very
sick. It would be dark soon as the big orange African
sun was falling fast and rather than taking to the trail
right away Hein thought it best to let the huge bull be,
go back to camp, eat dinner and come back in a couple
hours. We would return with extra help in the form
of Jock the wonder Jack Russell tracking dog and a
couple of the Visser staff professional trackers.
After a wonderful meal of kudu this and kudu that
with kudu dessert we were back out looking for kudu.
My bull had gone down within 300 yards of the blind and
took only minutes to locate. Nothing could have
prepared me for this experience. Walking up to
this regal animal brought tears to my eyes. I
could not believe what a truly magnificent first African
trophy I had taken. With fabulous, long, wide
spreading horns, ivory tips and a below the neck mane
that is 10 to 12 inches in length, it will occupy center
stage on the Africa wall in my trophy room. And,
it’s all on film.