This story I share is unique in my experience. Indeed, I have never seen the opportunity on a Lord Derby Eland be repeated 3 days in a row in my lifetime. Unbelievable.
In May 2006, Jean-Paul, Jean Vannier and myself welcomed 3 hunters from Brussels: Walter, Guillaume and Jean, each one hunting with one PH. In the interest of fairness, they chose to rotate every four days.
Their main targets were Giant Eland for both Guillaume and Jean and Elephant for Walter.
Plants and soil, washed by the first rains, release a bouquet of subtle scents. Antelopes’ fawn coats stand out from the verdant landscape. Africa had put on its green mantle.
9th day of hunting. Jean accompanied me. On the track, we spotted the cast footprints of 2 Giant Elands joining a herd of 10 animals. Stems from which viscous sap spurt out, confirmed their proximity. Contact occurred. The natural shield of a mound of earth allowed a fast approach. Already, a majestic Eland was standing in profile 30 meters ahead, while we remained contemplative for a couple of seconds, the shooting order blocked to my lips.
Jean aimed and released his bullet. The Giant Eland jumped up and disappeared in a breakneck trot. We tracked him for a few miles: there was no trace of blood.
Hence, Jean thought he missed his shot. Was a trigger malfunction or emotion the cause ? After handling Jean’s .375 rifle, I noticed it variably striked from a shot to another. I felt my host’s confidence somewhat impaired. There was no other alternative than to bear this defect until such time the rifle could be returned to the gunsmith.
We got back to camp, quite disappointed.
The very next day, we encountered the footprints of about 50 Giant Elands on the track wet with dew. We traced them back within an hour. The herd was enjoying a morning nap. I could spot 2 bulls, resting in the shadow of a massive tree. One of them detected us immediately and raised, followed by the second. Crouching, I pointed Jean to the one on the left. A single shot echoed. The Lord reared up and disappeared behind vegetation. The superb trophy would fall 20 meters further.
The rest of the herd filled us with a phantasmagoric spectacle. With shaky steps, the Elands headed towards us, the horns proud, haggard eyes and noble countenance.
They did not locate us and approached to only 20 meters from us. I pulled my ‘’Canon’’ out and shot an entire camera film of the tangle of helical horns and striped coats. From that distance, we could admire the drape of their undulating dewlaps. Thin white stripes naturally enhance their brisk and intelligent eyes.
I peered at the powerful muscles of 3 big males, swaying under their roan skins. Intrigued by the rattling sound of my camera’s shutter release button, they disappeared such as ghosts, picked up by the vegetation. Magical instant.
That very same morning, Jean-Paul brought Guillaume to shoot a Giant Eland to the nearest hour. Unfortunately, the wounded animal leaded them to a long track, which remained vain until dark.
In the evening, each of the protagonists gave his version of the event, while savoring champagne and Eland bone marrow on grilled toasts. The animal had been shot three-quarters from back side, standing in a slight land depression. He had reared when the rifle discharged. Very little blood had been spotted during the distressing tracking for which the animal had never stopped. Would the bullet merely have gone through a thigh ? One thing is for sure, it had not gone through any bone nor abdomen, otherwise the animal would have lied down at least once. So many questions with no conclusive explanations.
The feast given in the honour of Jean’s Giant Eland was in full swing, divided between jubilation for some and frustration for the others.
The next morning, I took the initiative to return on the area where the tracking of the wounded Giant Eland ended. After a 10 minutes intensive walk, we noticed an animal form moving along the field 300 meters ahead. I adjusted my binoculars: a Giant Eland crossed our field of view, the heavy head, a trickle of dried blood on the top of his thigh. He looked devastated. It was Guillaume’s Giant Eland without a doubt ! What an incredible chance this was to find him back on a 50 square kilometers area ! We approached. Jean struck him down from a hundred meters away.
The answers to our questions appeared obvious to this point: Guillaume’s bullet had hit the top of the Eland’s thigh, crossed his muscles without touching any bone, tangentially entered his bladder to finish in his prepuce. The edema had spread along the lining of the abdominal cavity. The Lord was condemned.
Jean returned the trophy to his friend Guillaume, who promptly found back his good mood. That night once again, we invited the savannah spirits to join us for the celebration.
How many hunters can boast about their opportunity to shoot on 3 different Giant Elands in 3 days ?
This article is taken from our latest publication “Maguida, Chronicles of a White Tracker”, now available for purchase !