Super Trophy

It was a grand morning and I remember it vividly. We were taking the long way back toward camp after the early morning run to check cat baits. The air was dead calm and smoke clouded the horizon turning most everything in sight to some shade of orange. Johnny had pointed out and identified a couple of birds butt I rarely ever paid attention to them, and we had just driven into a thin segment of open mopane forest. The land in front of us was just opening up again with scattered timber giving way to burned and yellowed grass. Johnny had no sooner grumbled something to the effect as to “where are the freakin wildebeest?”, when those bulls appeared. As I recall, there were three of them. I was immediately struck with their different coloration, vivid, iridescent in the sun, almost blond hued in the smoky tint. All of them looked huge, or so I thought, compared to the other two wildebeests that I had shot on earlier safaris. We piled out of the Toyota and double timed it down the road with trackers following us only a short distance before Johnny set the sticks. I remember wondering if Johnny had hurt his foot sometime before because of his peculiar gate. I had not noticed it the morning before when we had walked down the puku buck in harvested and burnt rice paddies. First shot, bull facing right, hit, but was a little far back. I would have guessed about 175 yards. He hunched up and lumbered off to the right a little ways and stopped with his buddies. We waited for a clear shot at him as the bulls huddled around their wounded comrade. Second shot at about the same distance missed and the chase was on. Third shot was going away but also hit and he slowed perceptibly. Hurried and harried fourth shot quartering away was again a miss. By then the bulls had disappeared into the distant high yellowed grass. Our little group of assembled white and black men huddled briefly along the edge of the shade. There was a staccato flurry of mixed Chichewa, Afrikaans, and English, out of which some plan was made for the follow up. Mark and Sadie were in the jump seat of the Land Cruiser quietly watching events unfold, and Sadie was, as always, videoing the entire affair. Off we went across the charred black stalks of burnt grass, me sidestepping as quickly as I could to keep pace, and Johnny ambling along like Walter Brennan. The trackers had fanned out slightly as we moved across the stubble. Coming up against the edge of high yellowed grass, Johnny turned to me and in a very excited voice, and with both hands out, twice said, “you want me to shoot ‘em,….. let me shoot ‘em.” No doubt over the past twenty two years he’d seen his share of muzungus who couldn’t shoot. He knew very well how really good this bull was and he didn’t want it getting away. Fortunately, I didn’t have to answer, for the answer would have been no, when one of the trackers ended our impromptu conversation with news of the bull’s location. Game on…………again. We merely walked around a backyard sized stand of unburned head high yellowed grass and there he stood beside a scraggly mopane tree facing us slightly turned to his right. The other two bulls were in the process of abandoning their death watch and were kicking up their heels in that pitching rock and roll gait leaving little puffs of gray dust hanging in the morning stillness. Distance was at best sixty yards. Fifth shot was steady and relaxed on the mandatory cross sticks and this great bull folded where he stood, his last stand fully made up to the noble end of the game. Photos ensued and Mark and Johnny both kept telling me what a great trophy this Cookson’s Wildebeest truly was. Even then Johnny had already made plans to enter the great bull for score. Yes, I am deeply gratified and genuinely honored to have taken this wonderful animal. I recovered two of the bullets out of this bull. The 300 grain Swift A Frames did their job. One weighed 299 grains and the other weighed 297 grains. They are set aside in my little gun room here in Montana.