by: Tom Powell
My first South African safari was a learning experience to say the least. The trip started with the theft of all my camera gear, binoculars, range finder, archery release aids, pocket knife, cell phone chargers, and even my brand new Under Armour long underwear at the Johannesburg airport. I was told my checked baggage, with bows and accessories, could be routed through to Kimberly, South Africa, which was my second stop there. Wrong! Your checked baggage must be picked up in Johannesburg, the point of entry in South Africa. When I did not pick up my luggage in Johannesburg, someone rat holed my luggage and helped themselves to the choice items. Luckily they could not get into the hard sided bow case and did not take my arrows. That was real nice of them. At least I had both of my BowTech bows and Victory arrows with broadheads.
With the gracious offerings of my professional hunter, I was back in business with loaned binoculars, range finder, and a release aid, but lost 2 days of my hunt trying to get the lost luggage delivered. My goal on this hunt was to take a nyala, a beautiful antelope a little bigger than a mule deer buck, with chevrons on its face and long hair on its chest and legs. Most of the hunting took place in blinds waiting for animals to come in; however, the nyala was a spot and stalk hunt and took most of the day to finally get within range of these really spooky animals. In the late afternoon, we found a group of nyala with a large bull in it, which I believe was the same group that we spooked that morning. Finally the big bull came into about 40 yards and I was able to place a vital hit to harvest this beautiful animal. I was elated to be able to take this animal and fulfill my goal in South Africa.
The sable was something that I didn’t even dream of taking, since they’re typically very expensive; however, my PH, was able to make a deal with one of his buddies to hunt an older sable that did not develop the horn length that it should have. A sable is one of the most desirable and hardest to hunt antelope in South Africa, spooky and sneaky beyond what I ever envisioned. I waited in a mud hut blind most of the day and saw several Sable, but not the older one. Then after about 8 hours, as evening approached in this little hut, the right Sable came in to about 20 yards. I was more nervous about placing the arrow correctly on this animal than any of the others. The hit was perfect, directly inline with the shoulder and about 1/3 the way up from the bottom of the chest. The sable circled and crashed a short distance from the blind. I so wanted to get out of the blind and go check out my kill. However, hunters are given specific instruction to stay in the blind after your shot and allow the PH to come to get you. This is a safety thing and also prevents other animals from understanding that there is danger that comes out of the blind. Walking up on this animal brought tears to my eyes. Majestic is the word that comes to mind to describe this beautiful animal.
The zebra. Lets just say that I did not even plan on taking a zebra, thinking that it looked too much like a horse to shoot. But, when a rogue zebra is killing other young zebra and a baby Giraffe, it’s another matter. The PH told me about this animal and that they wanted to take it, but had not seen it in quite some time. Sure enough the zebra that met the description of the rogue animal came into my stand one afternoon. I hesitated for quite some time before sending an arrow on its way. The outcome was way more than I expected and was an experience that I will never forget. That stallion zebra was huge, and is one of the most beautiful animals in Africa.
So, what was my take away from this Safari? Two things – First, collect your checked bags in Johannesburg to avoid theft. Second, the vitals of African animals are farther forward than that of animals in the U.S. So, instead of aiming just behind the front leg, you shoot directly in line with the front leg, about 1/3 the way up from the bottom of the chest. All together my harvests included an impala, blue wildebeest, water buck, nyala, zebra, and a sable. With no cameras and an exhausted cell phone battery to operate the cell phone camera, I was not able to get photos of the impala, wildebeest or water buck. After a few days, we were able to get into town to get a charger for the cell phone camera and I got photos of the zebra, nyala and sable.
My thanks to BowTech for being my sponsor and allowing me to be on their shooting staff. I carried two BowTech bows to Africa. One was the standard Prodigy, the other was the Chris Kyle Legend, the same bow as the Prodigy, and a tribute to Chris Kyle, the American Sniper. I used both bows on my trip, using the standard Prodigy for the first 3 animals, and the Legend on the next three. Both bows performed flawlessly and proved to take the extreme environment of South Africa. I ended up giving both bows away, one to the owner of Grootplasts, the concession where I hunted and the other to my professional hunter.