Yesterday’s buff show was a most unique treat, and one never to be forgotten. The current client had not been finding jumbo big enough to satisfy as of yet. Having been hunting only four days, and two of those half days, it seems their expectations had run head on into the reality we were experiencing.
I do NOT hold myself to be an elephant expert, far from it. But I know a little luck is required for any hunt, and for jumbo luck is generally closely tied to the amount of kilometers your feet travel. It would be nice to find the elephant of your dreams from the vehicle, make a short stalk, and have your trophy. It does happen mind you, but more than likely it is miles and miles of foot travel to find the one you want.
More days of the grind would pass in a monotonous succession of mornings and evenings, dust, sore feet and dampened expectations. Maybe with more “luck” things would turn around, only history yet unwritten would provide proof. It is now day eleven, the grind is taking its toll on both hunter and guides. In elephant hunting attitude is paramount. If you start the day defeated, you may find your day follows that lead.
Hunting elephant is not only about being able to walk many miles, day in and day out, it is also a mental game. Every day begins a dance, and then a grind, as good tracks lead to nothing or less than what was hoped for. Big feet do not always equal big teeth. More miles driven and tracks followed. Dust, and more dust, and soft sand making every step a real effort. The track you follow is crossed and re-crossed by cows and calves and other bulls, then occasionally lost or it leaves, the area – think park boundary or concession.
Today was no different. A good track followed by the PH and a scout for eleven kilometers, until it led to a good bull. The call made, the truck was brought to within several kilometers. The hunter and PH reunite and retrace the path to where the bull was last found. The giant beast had not traveled far in the afternoon heat, and a close approach to within twenty yards brought hunter and quarry together for the first and last time.
The jumbo taken, the hunter is left quietly to his own thoughts with his elephant to commit to memory everything that hunting this majestic creature has entailed. In a final tribute, the hunter performs the ceremonial severing of the tail that establishes ownership, in an African ritual more than a century old.
The word goes out. Today via cell phone or radio, in the old days via “bush telegraph,” and within an hour or so, two-dozen men arrive to cut a road through the bush to the kill site. More people appear mysteriously from the bush and the animal is processed onsite. White cloth bags by the hundreds are filled with meat. The process goes on throughout the night, and by mid-morning next, nothing is left. Nothing. No bones, no skin, no meat or tissue, only some dark stained sand to mark the spot where this jumbo fell.
The sustenance his body provides will feed many hundreds of people for several weeks. To those who say they want to ban elephant hunting, I say, they have never seen an elephant carcass rotting in the sun, while the surrounding population starves from the lack of the much needed protein, now lying waste. Poaching is a crime, frequently receiving condemnation via lip service and little else, to the detriment of all humanity. Hunting is conservation, “the wise use” of a natural resource. Food for people, funds for nearby settlements, wildlife enhancement, and anti –poaching units to protect the natural resources.