With kudu being number one on Grace's wish list, it soon became evident that one does not simply shoot a trophy kudu bull. You hunt them, and you earn them. Preferring to keep to the thick brush, much like whitetail deer, kudu hide very well for an animal the size of a cow elk. We glassed kudu every day on our seven-day safari, and it was amazing to see them seemingly vanish or appear in areas where we thought we had constant visual surveillance.
The fifth day of our hunt began with light rain shortly before daylight. As we sipped morning coffee we watched a patch of fog ghost through the area we intended to hunt for the day, a free-range area where thick acacia surrounded a mountain of brush and boulders. It was ripe with kudu and the promise of a good bull we had spotted earlier, but were unsuccessful in stalking in the thick vegetation.
After our second cup the fog rolled out and the promise of clear skies followed the drizzle. We made our way to the rocky mountain and immediately glassed kudu at its base a mile distant. Mark reckoned they would pass through a saddle where we had seen kudu a few days earlier. We needed to cut the distance and get there before they did, so we made our way around the mountain and crept up the hill, opposite the saddle, and waited. Grace and I crouched below as Mark cautiously crawled over the crest to see if he had in fact been correct in his assumption. He was, and he motioned for Grace and I to come up to his location. A small bull and a couple cows passed below and ahead of our position about 200 yards out. They were not alert, just meandering along, nibbling on the brush. A few seconds later further movement caught our eyes. The big bull was coming, following the same path set by the others.
Grace got ready, sitting down behind a large rock, intent on using it for a rest. Mark quickly provided his fleece cap for a buffer between rock and rifle stock. The bull walked up on the distant hillside just below the level where we anxiously watched a couple football fields away. As Grace found him in her rifle scope, he slowly ducked his head and twisted his long spiraled horns under the limbs of a big acacia tree, vanishing behind it. We knew there was no way he could escape the area without being seen, we just had to wait for him to reappear. And wait we did! Dozens of minutes passed and small rocks under bent knees began to feel like hatchets. We slowly and deliberately made efforts to ease the discomfort, all the while our eyes remained glued on the area where the bull had faded into the landscape. Then, as smoothly as he had walked into the acacia, he walked out. He sauntered back into plain view. He stood there, broadside, for a solid count of 10. Only trouble was that a bush approximately 15 yards from us blocked Grace's view of the bull!
Mark and I realized this at the same time, but too late. The bull slowly walked down and stood in a thin strip of acacia and scrub...and the waiting game began to play out all over again. Fearing some of the cows might see us, we did not want to risk any unnecessary movement in changing position, so we waited as motionlessly as possible. To our left a mountain reedbok ewe appeared and almost immediately locked her focus on our unfamiliar shapes. For a time she stood motionless, staring in our direction in hopes of detecting the slightest movement. We sat like statues, ignoring the increasing discomfort from the rock. Then she let out a traffic cop whistle that made us tense and jerk slightly at the first sound of it. She blew her whistle several times and hopped back from whence she came. Luckily for us, the kudu paid her no heed.
Time crept by. I was amazed at how still kudu can stand for extended periods of time. He stood in the same position so long, without moving a single part of his anatomy, that I began to question if what I was seeing was a living animal or if it were my mind and eyes playing tricks on me.
Then movement, as the big bull began to slowly make his way out of the brush and toward a small clearing. Grace slowly sat on the rock she had originally planned to use as a rest and I handed Mark the Primos shooting sticks. They made ready as the bull continued to move toward the open and I whispered for Grace to keep breathing....”focus, breathe, squeeze.” He turned beautifully, his left side facing us. Grace took careful aim, vertical crosshair straight up the front leg, horizontal one third the depth of the body from the bottom.
At the shot the bull jumped and kicked while Grace was running the bolt and preparing for a follow-up shot at my encouragement. Mark said there was no need, as the big kudu stumbled and fell downhill to his final resting place 20 yards below. Mark stood up, raised his arms in the air and gave his best Texas style,“YEE-HAW!!"
For us it was a dream come true. Grace earned her kudu, hunting him fair and square. For me, well, having my 18-year-old daughter hunt with me is like having my little girl back, and that could be the greatest trophy of all....