This past week I tried something that I had never done before and that was actually setting up camp in the bush in area we would go hunting. I was able to invite my missionary friend Vernon Smith on this trip and it was a great time of fellowship as we slept under the stars and cooked our own meals over the camp fire. We were about 2 ½ hours from Arusha and about 1 ½ from the main road leading from Arusha to Nairobi. It was very dry area and I can not even begin to explain the dust.
The first evening we set up camp but I did not sleep much do to the excitement of hunting the next day. We got up at 5:00 am and we were hunting with our three Masai game scouts and trackers by 6:00am. We were hunting for four animals which we had bought a license for . A warthog, eland, grant’s gazelle, and wildebeest. The warthog and eland were the priority as they had eluded me in previous years hunts. The Gazelle and Wildebeest were our back up animals so that we did not go away with anything.
While looking for fresh Eland tracks the guides yelled for us to stop the vehicle and as they spotted a warthog. He had come out of his whole in the ground just as we had driven by. He ran about 20 meters before stopping to look back. When he did it was a shot in the neck that had brought him down. 1 down and 3 to go, and it was only 7:00am.
While the guides skinned, gutted, and packed up the warthog, I took off with the main game scout in search for fresh eland tracks. Tracks where everywhere and soon we were on some tracks that looked recent. We followed these tracks through the deep dust for over an hour and before long, there they were, three Eland, the largest antelope. They immediately ran and we chased them on foot. They would stop to look back from time to time but never gave us a good shot. I decided to take a shot before they were lost again in the thick bush. It was about 200 meters away and it appeared it landed but after chasing them again we lost the tracks and there was no sign of blood. We decided to head back to the car and try again with some other tracks.
It was not long after that 2 Wildebeest were spotted in an open field by themselves. It was Vernon's turn to shoot and after getting a good position and picking out the biggest one he took care of it with a nice shoot to the heart.
Now with two animals in the down and neatly packed into containers in the back of the car the search for more Eland tracks started again. We soon spotted a herd of Eland which immediately ran away into the bush and the hunt was on again. We followed tracks again for about an hour and knew we were getting closer because of the fresh manure and other bodily functions along they left along the trail. Once they were in sight I took another shot from far away but apparetly missed again because there was nothing to show that it was shoot.
We were exhausted from an active morning of hunting and so we decided to take a break. We ate lunch under a tree and were back to hunting again. It was not too long before we spotted another herd of Eland which once again ran away from us the opposite direction. One was separated from the group and we choose to follow him. Thanks to the great driving of Vernon he was able to get us close enough this time to bring down this huge animal but it took three shots. While skinning him we noticed he has been shot four times! This was as Eland from one of the earlier hunts and a shot through the back of the ear was just a few inches off from bringing him down earlier. It was good that we got this one so that it did not have to suffer with a wound.
After over an hour of skinning, gutting, and packing the meat into the car it was now around 4:30 pm. We decided to head back to camp and if we saw any Gazelle along the way to go for our last animal. About 15 minutes from camp we saw a large herds of Gazelle in a wide open field. They were very far away and it was windy this time of evening. We tried to get close but they would run away each time. We decided to take a few shots but after each of us trying a few times the distance and the wind proved to be too much. I decided to take one more last shot, I chose a nice mature male in a group of about 20 which were walking in a straight line. To my surprise he went down with a shot to the heart. We stepped it off and it was 330 meters, my best shot of the day and maybe ever.
We made it back to camp with about 1/2 hour of light left. While a few of us skinned the Gazelle the others hung up meat in the trees of our camp site. We enjoyed some grilled Gazelle with our Masai guides around the fire that night to end the day.
The next morning we packed up camp and headed back to Arusha with a car full of meat and memories that will last a lifetime.