I shot the first eland bull I ever saw. It was my first African safari and we were hunting along the southern edge of the Limpopo River with Hennie Badenhorst of Lyon Safaris. There were eight hunters in our party and half of the group had eland on their wish list. A wealthy Texas business man was one of them.
On the second day of the hunt, rifle builder Charlie Sisk, my sister and I were riding with Badenhorst. We were hunting but mostly just enjoying Africa. The Texas tycoon was hunting with another PH from Lyon Safaris and they were looking for eland. Just before noon Badenhorst got a call on the radio that the hunter from Texas had wounded a nice eland bull. The PH was requesting Badenhorst bring his excellent blood trailing dogs to their location to help follow up the spore.
When we met the hunter and his PH they had dejected looks on their faces. Badenhorst, Sisk, the Texas trophy hunter and his PH took off behind the dogs and my sister and I remained, out of the way, in the Land Rover. The hounds were cut loose and quickly found the bull and in short order we heard a shot and heard the dogs struggling with the eland. Then there was another shot and about five minutes later the massive bull stepped into the two-track about 80 yards away.
I grabbed a rifle as I watched the animal attempt to stomp the three dogs into a blood puddle. The bull started toward us and I placed the crosshair at the base of his neck, pulled the trigger and he dropped. The wealthy Texan was upset he did not get to finish his own animal but I had no intention of letting the bull suffer any longer. And, at that time, decided I didn’t care if I ever shot another eland.
Two years later I was back hunting along the Limpopo with Badenhorst. I was there to try out a new short action, .50-caliber hunting cartridge developed by fellow West Virginian Michael Cyrus. Cyrus’ idea with his cartridge was for it be something that could be used on any game animal from whitetails to buffalo. Our original plan was to take quiet a few cull animals including wildebeest, warthogs, impala and hartebest but Badenhorst suggested we try the big gun out on the worlds largest antelope, eland.
The first two days we saw eland but could never maneuver ourselves into position for a good shot. On the third day things changed. We were motoring along in the Land Rover when Badenhorst spotted a bachelor group of eland bulls. We hastily set up for a shot and when one of the bulls turned quartering to me, I whacked him with the big 500.
I lost the bull in the violent recoil of the .500 Cyrus and looked to Badenhorst for hit confirmation. He shrugged his shoulders and looked at the young tracker he was training. The tracker and the driver both thought I missed and Badenhorst said, “I did not see any reaction from the bull.” I felt the shot had been good and the range was just short of 100 yards. Considering an eland bull is about the size of a Volkswagen, I doubted the shot had been wide.
“They are still there behind that group of trees, let’s try to get closer,” Badenhorst said. So we sneaked toward the antelope and when we had closed the distance to about 70 yards Badenhorst turned to me, whispering, “They are going to run out from left to right. Can you shoot on the move? There’re three bulls. Shoot the last one. That is the one you missed!”
When the third eland came out at a dead run, I found him in the aperture sight, tracked him a bit and squeezed the trigger. He kicked his rear legs high, ran about 40 yards and piled up. Badenhorst slapped me on the back and said, “Great shot! Let’s go see him!”
We took about three steps and something big and tawny colored to our left caught my eye. It was the first eland I had shot. He was standing with his head down, his legs spread wide and there was a trickle of blood running down his shoulder.
I pointed to Badenhorst and said, “There’s the first bull you thought I missed. He looks dead on his feet”
The trophy fee for an eland bull is not cheap, typically around $ 2600 and I could see Badenhorst’s face take on a whiter shade of pale with the realization we had two bulls down. After all, he had called the first shot a miss and directed me to shoot the second bull. So, the monkey as it were, was on his back.
I have now taken three eland, two of which I was technically not supposed to have shot. I’m okay with all three. Partly because I have no intentions of letting an animal suffer because of the bad shooting. (I would expect someone to do the same if they saw an animal I had wounded, staggering around.) And, partly because the last two bulls were both clean kills and I did exactly what my PH said. That’s just my luck with eland. Maybe next time I will take three.
Cross Outdoors, www.crossoutdoors.com
Lyon Safaris, www.lyonsafaris.com