South African Impala

An unexpected challenge, impala was giving me fits during my hunt last year in South Africa.  I had hunted hard for three days, without a single shot fired.

On the second day of the hunt, all three of the other hunters in camp had harvested an impala.  The most plentiful game animal in South Africa, there are an estimated 40 to 50 million impala in South Africa alone.  I was nonetheless excited about the prospect of harvesting a record book ram.  We had seen hundreds of impala, including several good rams over the three days.  However, a good shot had not presented itself.

Our hunt was taking place in the middle of the roar, breeding season for these sleek and wary animals.  The roar of a ram impala sounds much like a leapord roar.  Loud and agressive their call seemed such a stark contrast to their appearance, after three days I still was not used to the irony of the males’ call. Their call is only matched in their agressiveness as we saw countless younger males challenged with their life by the older males.  Perhaps the only animal I have seen fight so viciously is whitetail deer in North America.  Perhaps a result of their abundance, I couldn’t help ask myself why we couldn’t seem to close the deal on a trophy class impala. 

On the third day of impala hunting, we finally tried a property that had not been hunted as consistently.  After perhaps only an hour on the property, an impressive impala stepped into view at 150 yards.  A perfect opportunity, if we could only get the ram to step clear of his compadres.  That was when the fever kicked in.  I started getting wobbly and couldn’t slow my breathing.  I will never tire of the adrenaline rush of hunting.  But the timing was not good.  I tried to calm myself as I slowly squeezed off a shot.  I instantly knew it was a clean miss.  Careful checking verified what I had suspected. 

So I gathered my pride and followed my PH in the direction of more mating calls about a mile into the bush.  It was like trying to follow a flock of birds through the forest.  As soon as we would get close, they would move out of range and behind more thorn bush.  Finally, we zeroed in on a second group of impala that we could see through a thicket of trees.  No more than 50 yards away, not only did we not have a clear shot, but the group did not hold a single mature male.  What we had failed to noticed was an old ram sneaking in on the herd from behind us.  Suddenly, Pieter turned and whispered an emphatic “shoot that one.”  I turned to see an great ram 25 yards behind us in the trees and closing fast.  I waited for him to step into a shooting window and fired a shot into the shoulder. A short and anxious tracking job, a fabulous record book animal and one exited hunter.  Perhaps one of the most elegant of all african shoulder mounts, Jennifer can’t wait to add this one to the collection.

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