When my friend suggested we go to Africa back in 2015 to hunt plains game I barely blinked before I answered, YES! This was going to be an epic journey with a few close friends on a bow only hunt on the dark continent. But what would we hunt? I wasn’t familiar with all of the species of plains game and how we were going to hunt them. Will we hunt from a blind, a tree stand like I am used to or will we be spot and stalk hunting these unfamiliar creatures? So many questions to be answered. We prepared for this hunt in every way possible. I bought a shot placement guide for African plains game online so I could study them and be as prepared as I could once we arrived. Through my studies I found that all of the vitals in the plains game animals are slightly forward from what we are accustomed to in the states. This is going to take a lot of focus and clear mind to make sure we are taking ethical shots with each animal. As if there wasn’t enough pressure traveling halfway across the world to hunt!
July of 2015, we arrive at our destination at Stanley Petierse Safaris in the Limpopo Valley of South Africa. This place was incredible and far exceeded my expectations. We were quickly greeted on the drive in by a herd of blue wildebeests running directly across our path. I was in awe. This was my first sighting of a plains game animal. The blue wildebeest was also one of the animals on my list for this hunt. They were huge and breathtaking. It still seemed unreal that in the morning I would be on my first African bow hunt.
Day one on our hunt we go to a spot where we were hoping to encounter an Impala. We sit in a blind similar to one we would hunt out of in the states. This particular blind was made of cinder block and sheet metal. It also had a one way viewing window so you could watch the animals near the watering hole. Tons of guinea’s, vervet monkey’s and warthogs crowded the watering hole as I see something coming from my right that caught my eye, it was a herd of cape buffalo. I took a step back to alert the PH (professional hunter) that was guiding me about the incoming buffalo. He told me not to worry but my heart still raced. This blind was no match for an angry buffalo. The herd of a dozen or so came into drink and were quickly on their way. I felt a tremendous sense of relief as they left our area. I was still concerned about bumping into the herd on our way out with only a bow in hand to defend ourselves. We unfortunately never encountered the Impala we were hoping for but we decided to switch it up for the evening hunt and go to a new blind in a different area. That evening as we sat in what the Africans call a pit blind we waited patiently for a blue wildebeest this time. A pit blind sits halfway underground. The windows start almost at ground level. It’s a far cry from what I’m used to. This particular blind is about 5 feet wide and 7 feet deep. It’s made of stone with an aluminum roof on a wood frame. As we sit comfortably awaiting one of my target animals to come in we hear some rustling outside. We finally get a visual of the disturbance and it is a lone cape buffalo and he is eerily curious about our blind. He’s getting closer and louder. Next, we hear a loud shrieking sound as the buffalo thrashes his mighty horns against the aluminum roof of our tiny hut. He now seems like the big bad wolf that just might blow our house down. I tense up immediately. The sound is that of nails on a chalkboard. He continues to investigate the hut circling it and thrashing the roof repeatedly with his horns. As he completes his circle of our hut he stops in front of the tiny staircase that leads inside. There stands a tiny wooden door that was the only thing standing between us and the rogue buffalo. Boom! The buffalo reached his head over the stairwell and swung it sideways ramming his horns into the door knocking out the piece of material that was covering the small window to keep light out. Like the movie Jurassic Park when T-Rex finds the people hiding under their vehicles, the buffalo slowly leans his head forward and puts his eyeball right up to that little window to find me shivering against the wall. I was sure we were about to die or I was going to be forced to shoot this buffalo with a bow in self-defense. Luckily, while this was happening my friend was in viewing distance of our pit blind and could see what was going on. She quickly called the ranch owners for backup letting them know about the buffalo. Within minutes (what seemed like an hour) the ranch owner arrived to save the day. He tries running the buffalo off with his truck. He’s driving it in circles but the buffalo refuses to leave. I see him throwing large rocks in his direction but nothing works. Now we are told we need to get to the truck. The only thing standing between me and this two-thousand pound killing machine is a truck but it is my only escape. We quickly open the door and I sprint up the stairs to getaway. As I jump inside the truck and close my door the angry buffalo charges the truck on the opposite side and rams us right on the driver side wheel well. He hits us with such force and gets his horn under the truck that he actually lifts us up off the ground as he lets us know why he is one of the Big 5 game animals in Africa. I screamed with sheer excitement. It was the rush of a lifetime! How incredible it was to witness and be apart of this kind of experience. In the end we were able to return to that same pit blind where I took my first African plains game, the blue wildebeest. It was amazing to see these herd animals come in so close and really understand their behaviors. Hunting herd animals is such a different experience than what I am accustomed to. They stay close together and you really have to pay attention to your surroundings, the other animals that are there with them and particularly the target animal. It is easy to get confused on which animal is which as their distinctions from one to the next is barely visible. I’ll never forget my wildebeest as I was able to execute a perfect shot dropping him within 20 yards of where I shot him. But then, there was the recovery. Don’t think I hadn’t forgot about the buffalo that tried to tear the roof off of the pit blind earlier. Luckily, he never came back! The rest of the week went really smooth and I stayed highly aware of my surroundings. This was truly the experience of a lifetime!