This is the third post in a series about my Namibia hunting safari. You can read the previous posts about our preparation for the hunt here and about my first African trophy here and you can read the subsequent posts about my long shot on a red hartebeest here, about the final days of the hunt here, and about the lessons I learned from the safari here.
When I went to Namibia on Safari, the trophy I desired the most was a Greater Kudu bull which I believe is one of the most impressive looking species in all of Africa. With their long, spiral horns and enormous size, they are very physically imposing, but at the same time possess a certain grace and dignity that most other large animals do not. Fortunately, Dirk had plenty of kudu on his ranch and was more than happy to help me in my search for a trophy kudu.
My father’s Kudu
During the evening of our second day of hunting, my father took a very old kudu bull while we were hunting over a water hole. A number of cows and calves came out of the bush and began to drink at the water hole. Dirk urged us to be patient because there was a very good chance that a nice bull would follow them out right before dusk. Sure enough, right at last light, a bull stepped out into the clearing and started walking towards the water hole. My father shot him with his Winchester Model 1886 in .45-70 Government. Later, when we closely examined the kudu, we noticed that he had a very small third horn growing between his eyes. The kudu was very old and his longest horn measured just over 51” around the curl, making it a nice trophy. However, the third horn made this particular kudu a very unique specimen.
The following day, Dirk, his dog Bruno, and I set out in search of my kudu. We spent most of the morning tracking what appeared from the size of the tracks to be a large kudu bull. Dirk led the way and used his skills as an expert tracker to follow the trail of the kudu. Bruno was not used to find game; only to track and find dead and wounded animals. While tracking, Bruno followed Dirk and I followed Bruno. On this hunt, we walked for several miles through the bush, but never caught up with the kudu. That evening, we sat overlooking another water hole that kudu liked to frequent. While we saw a number of warthog and kudu cows, no kudu bulls appeared at the water hole before dark.
The next morning, we set out again on the trail of another big kudu bull. I was carrying the Martini-Henry as I followed along behind Dirk and Bruno. Carrying the Martini-Henry while stalking game posed a problem that I had not considered when I first received it: the Martini-Henry has no mechanical safety. Not feeling comfortable carrying a loaded rifle without a safety while walking, I decided to carry it with a round in the chamber, but with the chamber partially open. When the time came to shoot, I would simply raise the lever, close the chamber, and fire.
As the sun slowly rose and the temperature warmed, we walked through the bush following the kudu tracks. Dirk paused and whispered to me that the tracks were very fresh and to be on the lookout, since the kudu was probably very close. My pulse quickened and I tightened my grip on the Martini-Henry as I checked to ensure that it was still loaded.
We slowly moved forward through the bush and I kept a vigilant eye on the vegetation in front of us. As we followed the kudu’s trail, we passed through patches of bush so heavy we could barely see 25 yards ahead and then into more open areas where we could see over 100 yards as the vegetation alternately grew thicker and thinner. At the edge of one of the more open areas, my eyes were attracted to a rapid movement. I caught at glimpse of an enormous kudu bull running away from us. My heart sank as I realized that he had seen us first. Dirk whispered to get ready to shoot, as kudu will often run from danger and then stop to look back. In one smooth motion, I closed the chamber on the Martini-Henry and brought the rifle up to my shoulder.
The kudu ran behind a large, thorny bush and turned to look back at us. It was the last mistake he ever made. Only his head, neck, and the front of his left front shoulder were visible as the bush blocked the rest of his body. He was just over 100 yards away and Dirk told me to use his shoulder as a rest and quickly shoot. Dirk covered his ears as I rested the forearm of the Martini-Henry on his shoulder and aimed at the kudu. He was standing broadside to me, but the bush blocked the usual aiming point. Since he was standing so close to the bush and I was using such a heavy bullet, I decided to shoot through the bush. I aimed at where I thought the center of his shoulder was, and squeezed the trigger. The 400 grain bullet plowed through the bush and into the kudu’s shoulder with a loud “slap.” Seriously wounded, the kudu took off.
At the sound of the shot, Bruno sprinted after the kudu. He was trained to start barking and try to corner a wounded animal so Dirk and I could quickly conduct a follow up. If he found the animal dead, Bruno would not bark and return to the hunters to guide them to the animal. We slowly followed the kudu and Bruno and heard no barking. After a short period of time, Bruno returned and led us to the dead kudu. Shot through both lungs, the kudu had run less than 50 yards before expiring. Once again, the Martini-Henry had done the job well. We found the bullet lodged under the skin on the right shoulder.
The kudu was a mature bull that had magnificent, deeply curled horns that grew almost straight up. His longest horn measured 53” around the curl. He made the SCI record book with ease and qualified for the Namibian Professional Hunter Association medal system gold medal. Since it was so beautiful, majestic and impressive, this kudu was undoubtedly the animal I’m most proud of from that safari.
Upon close examination, I discovered that the soft point bullet from the Martini-Henry exhibited almost no expansion. The Martini-Henry loads I was using did not have a high enough velocity for the bullets to expand. Luckily, the .466” 400 grain bullet hit the vitals and produced a large enough wound that expansion was not necessary in this case. The Martini-Henry could not safely shoot at a higher velocity than the loads I was using, so the only way to obtain better expansion would be to use a more rapidly expanding bullet. If I had to do it again, I would have used a hollow point bullet which would have produced a more rapid expansion at the moderate velocity exhibited by the Martini-Henry.
Click here to read the next post in the series about my long distance shot on a Red Hartebeest.