21 May Hunting Cameroon – A hard-earned Trophy
I find myself, sitting in a sparsely shaded spot amongst the Burned-out Grass stalks. Thousands of Mopani Bees are swarming me, absorbing any moisture they can find from my drenched clothing and facial orifices. There is no sense in trying to swat them away as there are just too many. Just endure it the way it is. Under my arm is an empty water container, drained of its content a long time ago. Every muscle in my legs and feet are aching from the long march leading up to this point.
Through my half-closed eyes I am staring down towards the ground. What I see is my out stretched leg, blackened by the dust and soot, a leather gator scratched and dried out by the long days in dry and Hot conditions. At the end of the leg is a South African made shoe called wildebeest, worn out, scratched and in dire need of a polish, the front of the rubber sole, freshly separated from the rest of the shoe, leaving a gaping and hungry appearance.
What I am looking at tells a story and I start reflecting on the day, as it started at 7:15 am, ending now at 12:30 pm.
If you re-trace my foot-steps, roughly five Kilometers as the crow flies, you will find an equally tired Hunter, sitting next to his giant Eland Bull, hunted in an Honorable manner.
Mark Schroder hails from Houston Texas, loves the Outdoors and any kind of activity that gets him there. We hunted together 4 years prior to this day, in the Selous Game Reserve Tanzania. Mark wanted to Hunt somewhere different and where he could hunt during the early part of the year. We decided on a Giant Eland hunt in Cameroon. My friend has a Community concession close to the village of Poli, in the North of the country. I chose this area as it is so much cheaper than some of the Prestigious areas, further south from us. Mark agreed and the hunt was booked for late February and into early March of 2019.
By the time Mark arrived in Garoua, I had been hunting for a month or so already, in the Eland area.
We reached the last day of our 12-day hunt. Mark had already filled his license with Class B species and had also taken a very nice Red, Central African savannah buffalo.
We were still speeding along the dirt track with the truck, to an area where we expected to find Eland tracks, when the trackers pounded on the roof of the truck, shouting Elan Elan!. It was just past 7 Am.
Mark and I jumped out of the truck and were faced by a huge Giant Eland Bull in the herd. He was totally black in the face to his nose. His chest was Broad and his neck swollen to abnormal size. The horns had an outward sweep to them with heavy pronounced ridging spiraling towards the top. What a beauty !.
I placed the shooting sticks where we had a clear view through a narrow gap between the bushes about 120 yards to the Bull, for a face on shot, but Mark just could not get the cross hairs stabilized on him. I felt the cool of the breeze on my neck as the wind shifted, like so many times before on the hunt, and the whole Herd, about 40 animals, thundered off in a cloud of black dust. Eish!. was all I could Muster.
The Trackers were also discouraged but with a bit of convincing, off we went for the Umpteenth time.
At first the tracking was easy, Following the heavy imprints in the dry earth was easy as the heavy hoof prints left their mark. The Eland were obviously intent on getting as far away as possible from us.
The tracks led us north east towards some villages, we knew they would not enter, so it was a matter of time before they would stop or turn. This area was also frequented by Nomads and their Cattle, they are not supposed to be there, providing a constant struggle between wild and domestic.
These Nomads wander between countries and zones with no respect or regard to rules and or laws. An ominous looking bunch of people, living of the earth and as tough as it gets. All of them carry these extremely sharp Sward like Machetes, which are used to cut fresh Branches from the tops of trees, in order to feed their cattle with. I am sure these weapons are also used for many other purposes, and by the looks of it, they know exactly how to use them.
We periodically spotted the trail end of the Eland, getting promising glimpses of Old cows and younger Bulls, but never again the “Black one”. The thermometer was now also starting to climb closer to the 100 degrees mark, which it would soon pass by. Water has to be used sparingly as we have to carry with us what we going to need, generally about 4 Liters per person.
More or less 2,5 hours in on the track, we heard voices. By now everyone was already drenched in sweat, tired and despondent.
The voices meant only one thing, Nomads, their cattle, and not good for our Hunt.
They came closer and their path seemed to be directly into our direction.
For some reason, this got or trackers excited, the prospect of capturing some of the herders got everyone in good spirits again.
We all spread out and crouched in an ambush formation. The first of the Long-Horned cows came into view, following a game path that would lead them straight into our position. Vegetation were sparse due to the Burn, but never the less onwards they came. We could see 4 herders following mainly in the wake of the Cattle herd, of around 25 strong.
On a previous encounter, I was most impressed on how “obedient” the cattle were to their herdsman. They would turn and run or charge on command from the Herdsman. One of them gave the Signal which sounded somewhat like a screech and like one the whole herd turned and thundered off into the distance.
Not wanting this to happen this time we let them come closer with the first 2 herders a mere 20 yards away now. They were just kids, with the 2 at the back appearing to be adults.
One of the Trackers got too excited and broke soon, charging down all the while shouting a war cry.
Even I got excited and we all gave chase on tired and sore feet. Pandemonium broke out with cattle dispersing in all directions. The Herders had no chance to “command “their herd, and had no choice but to depart in the opposite direction from our charge down.
I watched as our head tracker ran them down one of them, grabbing him by the scuff of the neck with his right hand and grabbing the machete by the left hand. Once subdued he was ordered to sit down.
This culprit was a mere 7 or 8 years old. Not long after the no 2 tracker appeared with another of the culprits, of similar age, the adults long gone. It must be agreed that it is a case of everyone for himself, even if you are just a child.
Now the hunt had to continue, captors in tow. I gave the two boys some of our energy bars we carried and off we went again on the track.
The time spent with the Nomads gave the Eland a bit of a break and it was not long before we caught up to them, now seeking shade and a resting place. For a change, the wind was also in our favor and we skirted the herd trying to get a side view of the moving Herd. Still there was no sign of the “Black one”.
We set up shooting sticks in a gap between the trees and waited. Mark controlling his breathing after the pushed march and excitement of the chase. A few cows passed and then a Bull appeared in the space between the trees. There was not much time and I shouted “shoot” not expecting the shot to ring out, but Mark did not disappoint.
I saw the Bull buck and disappear.
As soon as this happened I started doubting my call to shoot. I asked Mark which animal he shot at, his reply was, the one you told me to shoot. LOL, with my response being, well let’s go see what you shot.
Up until that point there had been a great many hardships, ups and downs. 11 hard days of Hunting Eland, every day, walking for an average of 2 to 6 hours a day after these very elusive animals in difficult terrain.
We left the tracker to lead the way up to the downed animal no more than 100 meters away.
A shout of approval and joy rang out and I realized we had what we came for, a well-earned giant Eland Bull.
The Bull we saw, the Black one, eluded us but Mark took a respectable Bull in an Honorable manner.