This morning we set out once again under the rising African sun. Yesterday Mother Nature showed us how easily she can outmaneuver humans and question was if she was to do the same today or if she would be more generous?
Baboons and birds
There was a slight overcast on the horizon, which soon came upon us, and provided a soothing cover from the scorching heat. It was a good walk, where we climbed a huge koppie in order to get a view of the area, but got nothing in sight and therefore continued along the dry riverbed. All was calm with the baboons giving us the occasional shout and the birds warning their surroundings of our presence.
We walked for about two hours as we approached an area where the remains of a once majestic Elephant lay spread out with bones and dried skin. Apparently this Elephant died on this spot, after it had been shot by a farmer or a cattle keeper in the area. Only wounded, it continued but eventually fell to the ground and died a slow and agonizing death.
Hunting the solution?
The issue and clash between humans and Elephants once again get evident when you see the effects of this, once huge living thing. The problem with predators and elephants on cattle keeping and farming is prominent in Africa, but little is done to find a sustainable solution. Yes, the predator numbers can be kept at bay through hunting, but Elephants that cause a lot of trouble is still illegal to shoot. Farmers do apparently often shoot at the elephants to keep them away from their grounds, only hurting them, which can lead to a slow and painful death, while also making them angry and hostile towards humans. Many say that permitting hunting of the elephants should be applied as part of a solution, as the numbers are far too great and the problem grows. Sooner or latter culling is necessary to be done, to sustain the population and to save natural areas destroyed by them. So why don’t apply a continuous cropping of the numbers?
The moment of truth
As we walked onwards from the fallen Ellie, our tracker suddenly spotted a Kudu about 200 m away from us, behind some trees. All of a sudden I froze inside and started shaking. I could feel adrenaline starting to pump through the system. Was this to be my opportunity? The nerves started to play tricks on me and I started to reflect whether or not I should go through with this or not? These thoughts were brief and an instinct kicked in and slowly and quietly we moved closer to the target. The one kudu was actually part of a group of four, one female and three males.
This was the moment of truth and we moved into position. I put a round in the chamber and removed the safety. I was shaking…Adrenaline was pumping in my body and thankfully I could rest the rifle on a steady branch of a tree to gain extra stability. The oldest bull was right in front of me with his back towards us. The wind was in our favor and I was told to hold the shot until the bull moved a bit, to uncover his side. I looked in the scope and I could see the bull starting to move with the rest of the group. With the rifle held firmly in my hands with the sight set on the triangle above the front leg of the bull, I was told that now was my chance, he was showing his side…
When I first was approached to try hunting, I was a bit skeptical to it, as I had no previous experience of hunting and nor did I have much experience of shooting a rifle. How can the ethical killing of an animal be upheld based on these criteria? Can I be taught enough in one day of practice and teaching, to make sure I can take out an animal without unnecessary suffering? These thoughts have been following me the whole time and even though the introduction was thorough and the books telling me exactly where to aim to provide an immediate killing shot, I had my doubts.
What had I done?
I couldn’t really remember the whole event right afterwards, but I’d pulled the trigger and the bang had sent my hearing into a dull ringing tone. I could see the group dispersing in every direction and the bull too, only to hit the ground after five-six meters.
I’ll be honest to admit that I wasn’t sure if I’d hit it at all or if I’d injured it. I knew that I had the sight set in the right area, but given the fact that this was my first time and that the bull was actually moving, I couldn’t be sure. All I knew at that time and place was that I was shaking like a leaf, the bull was down on the ground with his back legs kicking and I was filled with regret and guilt. What had I done?
We approached the bull and the tracker concluded that the bull was dead. It was apparently a perfect shot to the heart that had sent him to an immediate death without much suffering. Though this was a relief to hear, I still felt remorse for my action. This noble 300 kg kudu bull, the older of the group, was lying dead on the ground thanks to my actions. I had done this, no one else. The blood was and still is on my hands.
No trophy photo
I refused to take any trophy photo of the bull. That just isn’t what I want and I see no glory in it. In fact I see it as a great disrespect towards the animal. But I guess it is all up to the hunter to decide on this. The killing has been done and that’s the end of what really matters. I sat down next to the bull and thanked him and Pacha Mama for what they had given to us. This bull will feed many people in this area. Today Pacha Mama decided that this was my turn. I’m not a religious person in any way, but at that moment I thanked for what was given.
Flood of emotions
After a few silent moments with the bull I came more and more at ease with the situation and the remorse was turned into gratefulness for having been given this opportunity. The regret and guilt was still present, but I would say that this shows that you’re emotional and in tune with reality and nature.
I realized later on that the moment before the shot was fired, that I relied on my instincts. You get one opportunity to take that shot and this I’d been told, but I still can’t remember thinking about taking a shot or not. An instinct acted and pulled the trigger.
I’m not trying to glorify this whole episode in any way. I did do it. I fired the shot that killed this magnificent living creature and I’m to be held responsible for it. I admit feeling disgusted about it, when I saw him lying there in a puddle of blood and mud. It wasn’t pretty and there’s no glory in it. At least not from my point of view. But I don’t regret doing this and nor do I feel any shame in it.
Hunting is a fact and mustn’t be perceived that all types are the same. There are different types of hunting, where some are better and some are worse.
No regrets…Rest in peace
I did my hunt by foot under the same sun as the animals. We tracked them and tried to outwit them, but as the majority of times, we were in fact outwitted by Nature. There were no cars only feet walking and the fact that we got lucky today was the fact that the wind was on our side. The animal was killed in an ethical way, from an ethical hunt.
With the outmost respect for Nature I know that what she gave us today was a gift that will benefit many. I know that every part of the animal will come to good use and I also know that it will feed those in need, both the family and staff of the farm, but also others, as it will be donated to the church in Kamanjab this coming Sunday.
No regrets, but sadness for this fallen majestic creature. I write this post in honor of the male kudu, whose life I took today. Rest in peace…
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