The minutes ticked by slowly and in whispers Karl and Ronald asked me about my first shot. The reply was very positive – 50 yards away over shooting sticks at a perfectly still buffalo, piece of cake! At this point I still did not realise the massive mistake I had made … We slowly approached the spot where the bull had stood and was greeted by the welcome sight of a drop of deep red blood. We followed the blood trail and within a hundred paces found more drops of blood. I suddenly realised that I hadn’t heard the death bellow yet. We kept on following the blood trail and although the clock only showed 07h00 it was stinking hot and humid. Thirty minutes later, still on the blood trail, I could see that the track joined up with the other bulls again and I got that sinking feeling … I had wounded the bull!
Another hour on the spoor and Karl gave me the horrible news: the buffalo was bleeding on both sides. Although I had shot him on his right shoulder, he was bleeding on the left side as well. Blood was dripping onto the soft Kalahari sand, as well as being smeared on the bushes and grasses about two to three feet above the ground. This meant only one thing: I had shot too far forward.
After another hour of tracking, we found the herd standing in the shade. We had passed the 10 km mark now and we were feeling it. We left the trackers and Ronald underneath a tree and very cautiously covered the thirty to forty paces. We came to within fifty paces again from the bulls but we could only see five shapes and only three of them clearly. We looked for blood but it was difficult to spot on the animal’s dark skin in the grass and thick bush. Those who have been in that horrible situation of wounding a buffalo, sable or black or blue wildebeest would know exactly what I am talking about. We had to go closer but at the first crack of a branch that we climbed over, they were off, crashing into the bushes. I looked back and could see the hope draining from the tired faces behind me. Then, to our great relief, our sweat-soaked PH called for a 40-minute water break. He intimated that the buffalo had not seen us and would not go far. However, I think what he meant was: “Take a break and drink enough water; you are going to need it!”
The next four hours was absolute torture – 44°C and humidity that felt like 200%, and each time we bumped the bulls, the pace would pick up. The wounded bull was still amongst the herd, with the blood trail confirming the dreadful situation I had put us all in. We walked more than 25 km and it took us more than seven hours. I had done some hard hunts before but this escapade at this pace in the soft sand was beyond awful. Everyone was feeling it, sweating and swearing and gulping at the water the tracker dished out from his backpack.
That is when Karl looked at his GPS and made the call: We had to try and get in front of them. They had the wind behind them and they were running now without stopping, smelling us all the time. These buffalo had to drink and they were heading in the direction of the Kwando, the only water source in the area. Because of the severe drought, all the water holes and pools were dry. We would radio the Cruiser, eat lunch and then try and head for the road close to the river and hopefully see where they had crossed. We didn’t have any option – on tired legs and with burning lungs, we had to walk the 3 km to the nearest road …
We made a fire and had some very nice and welcome kudu steaks. We had enough water and had a 30-minute nap – me under the Cruiser, Ronald under the table and Karl and Ricky in the shade of a tree trunk, all trying to hide from the scorching sun. Even the heat from the V6 petrol engine above my face was pleasant compared to the relentless sun.
After the break we drove in the direction of the river, which was still about 10 km away. We found the spoor where the buffalo had crossed the road and, getting out of the Land Cruiser, confirmed that the wounded bull was still with them. At that stage the sun was already heading towards the western horizon. The buffalo were in the dry riverbed, and the last cover we had was about one hundred paces away from the herd. I swopped guns with Ronald as his double had a Trijicon RMR fitted and zeroed at 50 m. Karl confirmed which bull was the target, and as the third buffalo from the left turned, I fired at the middle of the shoulder. I fired a calculated second shot that was a solid hit. This time, with the right shoulder broken, the bull only managed eighty paces before going down. We approached with caution and I put a shot through the spine to end this horrible day. It was finally over.