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Thursday, July 7, 2016

Animal Behavior - A Perspective

When talking with a Kodabow friend recently, the subject of "Wildebeests" came up. Jim had just returned from Africa where he successfully killed a Cape Buffalo with a Kodabow Crossbow. (Truly an unbelievable hunt.) Jim and I were discussing the variety of animals encountered on a typical African hunting trip. Compared to North America, Africa has a very diverse animal population with so many different animals that a hunter can be overwhelmed sitting at waterhole watching the parade of critters coming and going. For a new hunter, it takes considerable time and study just to be able to identify these animals by name.


(source: Wikepedia Images)

Some might think that a Wildebeest is a strange looking creature. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. There are Black Wildebeests and Blue Wildebeests to further complicate matters and attract your interest. 

I needed to tell Jim my Wildebeest story. It was early morning and I was in South Africa not far from where Jim recently hunted Cape Buffalo. I grabbed my vertical bow and walked out along the bush road along the Limpopo River. The river was now dry in the African winter. It was a chance to slowly observe Africa awakening for 45 minutes or so before heading up to the main house for breakfast. I looked across the dried riverbed to Botswana which serves as the border between Botswana and South Africa. Animals cross back and forth .... there are no fences. Every turn in the dirt road could deliver a new surprise. I walked slowly. I was being careful. The bush was filled with noises from birds to monkeys as the sun arced upwards. In the distance, there was a sound - "a dull jet plane roar." While the sound was slowly increasing, it was just another African curiosity at the moment. I dismissed it and moved along. Every day in Africa brings the unexpected. But darn....this sound was really increasing in intensity. REAL LOUD now. I looked in the direction but could see nothing. Then it all became clear. Headed my way and arriving in a matter of seconds was a large herd of Wildebeests in a full stampede. FULL STAMPEDE. 

No idea what caused the alarm but these boys were moving fast and headed my way.
Maybe the high speed exodus related to the Wildebeest being a favorite food of lions, cheetahs and hyenas. They were coming and coming fast.
Some animals exhibit stampede behavior and stampedes can be very dangerous. Not all animals will exhibit stampede behavior but cattle, wild horses, elephants and wildebeests are among the critters that gather in large numbers and will run in a large herd together at any signs of danger. Sometimes, it doesn't even take a predator in the vicinity to get Wildebeests moving. They just seem a little crazy. After all, the Afrikaner word "wild beast" is a pretty accurate description. They are just wild. Jim told me that he has seen a herd bolt for no reason. One minute - everything is fine. The next minute, pandemonium can break out. One twitches an ear and floors the accelerator and everyone follows. Running at 50 mph and weighing 500 lbs each, the Wildebeest herd was passing by just feet away from me. I was in the middle of a bad situation as I watched animal after animal veer left and right. I tried to make myself small hiding behind a 2" tree. Stampedes are dangerous and a fatal situation can quickly develop for any animal or human in the path. I guess 50 to 75 Wildebeests passed by my position in less than 10 seconds. They moved so fast that attempting a shot with a vertical bow was fruitless. I think I was pretty lucky looking back at the situation. The morning with the Wildebeests is right up there with so many other African experiences ..... ( such as - Did you see that Black Mamba?)  




Another Kodabow friend opted to rifle hunt this year with his Weatherby .340 Magnum. He just returned in June from a great hunt in Namibia. This appears to be a nice specimen of the elusive Black Wildebeest.

It takes money and intent to travel to Africa.
Not as much money as you might think but far more personal initiative than you might ever expect. It is a long difficult flight or series of flights. Then comes a long ride to camp. But every day --- every day --- is the best hunting day imaginable. Along the way, expect to confront the unusual and at times, the dangerous. Africa is a wild place and the Wildebeest is just as wild as the continent.