Last day lesser kudu
Members of the spiral-horned antelope species are never easy to hunt.
There are ten spiralhorned antelope species native to Africa. I mention just a few: kudu, bongo, sitatunga, bushbuck and eland. All are handsome, wary and difficult to hunt and it was no different for an American client, Harry Swanson and his wife, Irene, when they were looking for a lesser kudu. The Swansons already had a sitatunga, kudu and many lesser trophies on display at their home in Reno when they visited Tanzania where I was employed as a pro- fessional hunter by Wengert Windrose Safaris. It was my job to help them realise their dream. Our headquarters were in the tourist town of Arusha, with a view of Mount Kilimanjaro.
It was early morning and still dark when my crew and I arrived at the New Arusha Hotel – famed for the movie The Snows of Kilimanjaro, which starred Gregory Peck and Eva Gardner! With me was my “mainman” Swai, a man of all trades, as well as my skinner Jackson. While the luggage and the clients’ two gun cases were loaded onto the Land Cruiser, Harry and Irene slid into the cab next to me.
We headed out of town through deserted streets. At first, the road was paved and it took us towards the Kenyan border. We stopped at the village of Monduli – the name derived from the extinct volcano sitting snug in the background. There we picked up our game scout Patrick. As the sun rose we turned onto a dirt track and headed towards Lake Natron. The parched country seemed to consist of only dry thorn thickets. An impala ram with magnificent horns sprang across the road in front of us.
“Harry, you must shoot it!” I said excitedly. “It’s close to thirty inches!”
Swai and Jackson scrambled to unpack Harry’s .30-06. We grabbed a water bottle and the shooting sticks. The odds were against us and the breeze not in our favour. We tracked it for two hours, spotted it twice, but finally gave up. Heading back for the truck, we saw middens of dik-dik droppings and caught a fleeting glimpse of these pygmy antelopes. They scurried away in zig-zag leaps, stopped inside the thickets and gave their zik-zik alarm call. We finally reached the truck at midday and arrived in camp late that afternoon.
Our tents were pitched in typical East African style below flat-topped acacia trees on the bank of a dry river. The staff appeared, dressed in smart uniforms, smiling. They shook hands
Harry Swanson with the lesser kudu mentioned in the story.