My African Hunt – Eland Hunt
Brother Thomas had come to fill out his previous 10-animal African hunt and wanted an Eland in the worst way. I hadn’t decided on an Eland but pulled out the old 358 Norma Mag. This old bolt action was sporterized back in the ’60s on a 1903-A3 Springfield action, sitting in lovely walnut furniture with a custom, deep-blued barrel and express sights. I added a vintage 2 3/4 power “post and wire” scope, anticipating some heavy brush hunting.
After our morning hunt, followed by a light lunch and requisite afternoon nap, under the watchful eye of a lovely Blesbok, we proceeded to a friend’s sizable farm in the mountains about an hour away going northeast, past Adelaide.
After much driving up the steep, rocky roads-much as Colorado-we arrived at a high-country farm at the base an enormous box-canyon. Then up an even rougher road, every rock enhanced by the durable but unforgiving straight axles on our indestructible Land Cruiser, we gained a commanding view of most of the canyon and cultivated farm at its base.
After some serious glassing, my ancient Leica 8×35 binoculars were of little use in such a big country, so the smart guys used their 10×50 binoculars built by Zeiss and Swarovski; all laser rangefinder equipped, of course.
Finding animals several miles off is an acquired skill
Finding animals several miles off is an acquired skill, and prairie dog hunting doesn’t count. A bit like elk hunting without the snow. I did see many animals, including Black Wildebeest, Baboons, and Zebra, but few before the others had already dismissed them.
Finally, we were ready to have a stalk on these enormous beasts.
There was a herd of more than a dozen bulls and a good number of cows separated by a few dozen yards opposite the hillside we were glassing from a couple of miles away. The plan was to go back down to the valley bottom, have a leisurely lunch, and then send the two trackers, with Mr. Russell, to drive the bulls back to us on the opposite side.
We dropped the trackers off to the east side of the canyon and drove over the west for a half-mile hike setting up a hundred yards or so above the canyon floor. Then we waited and glassed, watching the trackers deftly cut the cows from the bulls, pushing them down and away while the bulls came around the bottom rim of the box canyon at a leisurely pace, as if it were their idea.
After an hour or so, we noticed the sizeable herd of wildebeest milling around several hundred yards to the north and between the eland and us being driven our way. They seem to be always moving, and when the eland approached, they began to get all excited moving our way and then reversing back to the north.
Comical honking, jumping, and general hysteria
It wasn’t long before the comical honking, jumping, and general hysteria brought both wildebeest and eland running right at us, then splitting this way and that. One wildebeest, then one eland then three wildebeest and so on going up and down around us until I couldn’t tell where they had all gone.
Our Professional Hunter signaled silence and for us to stay put while he gingerly walked 10 yards north of our stand and stopped cold. After a minute, he back up slowly, indicating the eland were just in from of him a few yards away. The wind was right, and we set up just behind our position as the bulls worked their way below us and began to run back up the hill.
Nick had his sticks up, and Thomas was in position with his new Model 700 Remington in the traditional .375 H&H at the ready. Just then, several bulls came pounding up the hill, trying to get around us and back up the mountain to heavy cover. They were less than 50 yards from us and made quite an impression as they pounded away.
My African Hunt – “No time for sticks”
No time for sticks, as I watched Thomas smoothly follow and touch off a .375 at what looked like a Brahma bull. As the huge bull rolled over at the crack of thunder from Thomas’s compensated 375, the PH turned to me, saying: Do you want one?
Sure. I stepped up. Which one? The second. As the first bull cleared, up came the second and my vintage Norma Mag. Finally, a running shot in the hill country, just like home. The 2 3/4 power Lyman with post and cross-wire couldn’t have been better as I shot the beast quartering away uphill. The 250 grain Nosler partition drove through his hip and stuck in his hide opposite his lungs as he instantly rolled over feet kicking in the air.
Two bulls shot about 20 seconds, and as many feet apart were both DRT, dead right there. Incredible!
My brother John saw the picture of the four-wire fence we traversed on our way out and joked that they almost made it. Fact is they say a 1-ton eland can jump a ten-foot wall. I don’t know if our animal weighed a ton, but it did take eight locals, a Professional Hunter, and a less than average-sized plumber to get one on the back of the Land Cruiser!
Both animals were typical in size with the Professional Hunter pointing out Thomas’s likely older with a broad “brush” and wide base for horns a bit shorter than mine. Diplomatic all the time that Nick.
More fun than any human should be allowed to have.