Thursday 24 February 2011, started like any other day for me. I got to the office, made some coffee and settled in behind my computer. I usually get to the office nice and early to give myself some time to plan my day, read some e-mails and of course to visit a couple of bowhunting forums to see what my fellow hunters are discussing. Whilst browsing, I logged into Facebook to see if any of my friends have uploaded any new trophy photos, I came across a post by one of my now close friends Danie Massyn, outfitter and owner of Lenyati Safaris.
He was advertising Giraffe bulls that he had available to be hunted for a very reasonable price, on one of his many concessions available. Later that morning I contacted him to enquire about the offer. Danie told me that he had five bulls available for a special price with all costs included on a 6200 hectare bowhunting concession near Alldays in the Limpopo province of South Africa, and that three of the five bulls have already been booked that same morning! So without hesitating I booked my Giraffe hunt, and confirmed a three day hunt with him to start on the 4th of March 2011. As I was going to hunt the Giraffe with a compound bow, I needed some time to prepare for the hunt, so it all worked out nicely. Hunting a Giraffe bull with archery equipment (or even with a rifle), is no easy task and there is a lot of preparation involved before attempting to hunt this enormous animal that can grow up to 1400kg. I started out by visiting Archer’s Edge in Pretoria, which is arguably the most reputable archery pro shop in South Africa. The the owner, Redge Grant and all of his employees are die hard hunters and have a wealth of knowledge and a passion for the sport of bowhunting. I told Redge about the Giraffe hunt, and he suggested that we immediately start with my setup. Bradley Matthyssen (my “personal bow technician”) started working on my staff shooter Athens Exceed 300 compound bow, whilst Redge and I looked at the most suitable options available for my bow setup, with regards to arrow weight, spine and broadhead choice for hunting Giraffe.
We settled on Carbon Express Pile Driver Hunter Arrows, with 5 inch feather vanes, tipped with 315gr Grizzly Stik Nanook broadheads. The total arrow weight was 763gr, with a FOC value of 20%. With my Athens Exceed 300 set at 70 pounds, I got 229fps with my 31 1/2” draw length. We did the calculations and I was very happy with the outcome of 89 ft/lbs kinetic energy and a momentum value of 0.78. The setup was adequate for Giraffe and Buffalo, which gave me some peace of mind. With my new big game bow setup tuned to perfection, I had to spend some much needed time on the range. I practiced 20, 30, 40 and 50 yards, as well as in between ranges, 25, 35 and 45 yards. I spent the following week before the hunt speaking to fellow hunters that had taken Giraffe with a compound bow. Everyone said the same thing: “Make sure your PH has a back up rifle of .458 or bigger!” Two close friends of mine had wounded and lost Giraffe bulls the previous season, and I tried to learn from their mistakes to make sure I take the animal down with one arrow as fast as possible. I studied the animal’s vitals and the required shot placement every day, closing my eyes and visualising the animal at various distances and standing in different positions. One of the all time great golfers, Gary Player once said: “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” This was something I took to heart to try and eliminate all possible human errors before going on the hunt.
The time had come; it was 03:00 on the morning of the 4th of March 2011. Little did I know that this was to be a very historically important day for my hunting career, as I left for Alldays with my best friend and hunting companion Edu Van Staden. Arriving in Alldays some 4 hours later, we met up with Danie from Lenyati Safaris and we drove to the luxurious lodge where we would stay for the duration of the hunt. We unpacked, had some coffee and discussed possible tactics for the hunt as Danie had been scouting the area that the five Giraffe bulls frequent for a couple of days prior to the hunt. I took my bow out of its case and shot at 20, 30 and 40 yards to just make sure that the bow and my nerves were all still in working order. Danie picked up the trackers, and we set off to start the once in a lifetime hunt.
We then drove to an old beacon in the bush where Danie climbed the high tower to see if he could spot the Giraffe from the elevated structure. As he got down he said that they were about three kilometres from us in an eastern direction. We took all the necessary gear from the hunting vehicle and departed on foot in the direction of the Giraffe. The trackers with their amazing knowledge of the bush and its inhabitants, Danie equipped with the rangefinder and binoculars, Edu with the video camera and me with my bow and quiver. The wind was perfect, gently blowing towards us as we approached the wary herd of Giraffe. What struck me first was how big these animals are when you are on foot, their massive size alone are more than enough to doubt your equipment, let alone their reputation as one of the toughest big game animals to hunt, that walk the African continent. We then spent the following moments, picking one of the more mature bulls, and after deciding on which one we would hunt, we started the stalk. You would think that these animals would be less wary than Impala or other more common bushveld species, as they are not frequently hunted by predators, but make no mistake, Giraffe are one of the most difficult creatures to approach, as you can’t hide that easily from them, being so tall and blessed with good eyesight (the Giraffe in this case, not myself) and also that within the blink of an eye, these enormous animals can disappear like a needle in a haystack in the African bush! After some time we got closer to the bull I had chosen, and Danie ranged him at 53 yards, a bit far for my liking, I didn’t take the shot, as I didn’t want to take any chances. I was advised by Redge to limit the shot to a maximum of 40 yards if possible, for my equipment to be able to deliver enough energy to penetrate the Giraffe’s thick skin and tough bone structure. They following 3 hours we got within 50 -70 yards from the bull, several times, but again, I wanted to make sure of my shot, as a wounded Giraffe would disappear like a thief in the night on the 6200 hectare concession.
Finally we got within range, using the Sickle bush and abundant Acacia trees for some cover. Danie ranged the bull at 42 yards, a distance that I was comfortable with, but this time, as luck would have it, the bull was standing quartering towards us, and not enough to be able to get in a frontal shot, which is the desired situation, as there is little bone in the way of the vitals when the animal is facing you frontal. We waited for about a minute or two, with the Giraffe bull unaware of our presence, before he decided to slowly walk away. With buck fever now making a firm presence as we got so close to a shot, we continued the stalk toward the bull. Suddenly everything fell into place within a matter of seconds, and before I knew I was on fulldraw with Danie ranging the bull standing ever so slightly quartering away from us at 37 yards. I took a deep breath and settled my 40 yard pin just above the middle of the shoulder straight up the middle of the front leg. I squeezed the crisp trigger of my Tru Ball Beast release, and I saw the arrow flying toward the spot I had aimed for. It was almost as if it happened in slow motion, and the second as I let the arrow fly, I knew that I could not have taken a better shot. The arrow hit home, with a distinct “thwack” sound as it penetrated to the fletching on the right hand shoulder of the animal.
The Giraffe bull then starting galloping off with something that I cannot describe otherwise than a “wheelie”, similar to that of the stunt that bikers perform when they lift a motorbike’s front wheel of the ground. He then headed into the bush, and shortly thereafter we heard the sound of trees and bushes braking under the weight of the animal as it went down. A mere twenty six seconds after being hit (we later counted on the video) by the arrow he went down. We waited for a while before approaching the bull cautiously, but the magnificent animal had expired by the time that we had got to him. We all stood there for a couple of minutes, in amazement, staring at this beautiful creature, with no one saying a word, just the sound of the wind playing in the leaves of the trees and the birds chirping in the background. Danie congratulated me, and I then thanked him and the trackers for their help to get me within range of the bull. A quick photo session followed, before they slaughtering, as the sun took a firm place in the African sky and they had to get started as soon possible so that the meat would not go to waste.
I then walked away into the bush, took of my hat and closed my eyes as I took a knee to thank our Creator for giving me this amazing opportunity to hunt one of his fine creatures. That night, we celebrated the successful hunt around the camp fire under African stars, with a fine scotch and new friends. Later that evening I opened a bottle of South African red wine that I had acquired prior to the hunt, by the name of “Tall Horse” with a colourful Giraffe logo on the bottle, something I thought would be quite appropriate to celebrate the hunt with, given the species that was hunted.
Hunting a Giraffe with archery equipment is a “tall order”, but if you do your homework and you practice enough you will be able to successfully hunt one of these spectacular animals. This was an unbelievable experience for me, and a that I will surely treasure for the rest of my life.
Here is the video:
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