Bow, arrow and a Common Reedbuck!
By Frank Berbuir
Previously, we were lucky and happy to finally take a nice mountain reedbuck after four days of intense hunting. Now the next challenge awaited us – a common reedbuck.
It was the end of August and I had made it back to South Africa to hunt with bow and arrow again with my PH Izak Vos from Vos Safaris.
We were on a property close to Bela Bela in the beautiful Limpopo province. Deriving its name from the geothermic hot springs around which the town was built, it was called “Warmbaths” until 2002.
After arriving and settling in, we wanted to do a game drive to get familiar with the area, the terrain and the game, especially where to find the common reedbuck. Even on game drives I always take along my bow and arrows because you never know what can happen.
In the early afternoon we slowly made our way through the bushveld. The first animals we saw were some nice nyalas and warthogs. Suddenly, as we rounded a bush, four Cape buffalo bulls where standing in the path just about 10 meters in front and they were not really amused to see us. We stopped and kept dead quiet – you could hear a pin drop. The gang of four were moving and shaking their heads and sniffing to catch our smell. Fortunately the wind was in our favour, and after some bluster and showing off, the bruisers turned around and moved slowly back into the bush. That was an exciting encounter!
We continued our drive. Suddenly, “Stop!” I whispered to Izak. “I can see a pair of horns sticking out above the grass.” We checked with our binoculars. Bedded down in the grass was a good specimen of a common reedbuck. Carefully we sneaked out of the car to try stalking closer because the ram was lying about 80 meters from us. As quietly as possible we tiptoed from bush to bush. We managed it to shorten the distance down to 50 meters when suddenly the buck stood up.
Unfortunately at that moment we were in the open between two bushes, but luckily the antelope did not look in our direction. Quickly I pulled an arrow out of my quiver and put it on the rest. I was at full draw and ready to release the arrow when the reedbuck turned his head and stared at me. Not good. In the moment I released the trigger to send the arrow, the ram ducked down – string jumped – and the result was clear: I overshot him. What a pity, but that’s life.
“Don´t worry, the buck was just surprised to see us,” Izak said. “Probably he will not go far and we might have another chance when we follow him slowly as long as he is in sight.” No sooner said than done, we found the arrow, and watched to see where the reedbuck was going. We checked available bush cover, keeping an eye on him. Fortunately he did not run, and we could follow him slowly through a bushy area. About an hour later we arrived at on open plain and saw him standing calm and relaxed 65 meters from us across the plain at the edge of more bush.
Only problem was, just grassland between him and us and no cover to hide and sneak in closer. It was a far shot for bow and arrow, but I had practiced far shots. I’d give it a try. I put an arrow on the rest and pulled the bow, aimed a bit lower in case he might string jump again – and undershot him! The arrow flew directly behind his front legs, under his chest, into the bush. He jumped and vanished into the bush.
Izak looked a bit disappointed while I was more than upset and was swearing at myself.
We decided to leave it for the day and trudged back to the car to return to camp. I also wanted to check if it were probably just buck fever, or something wrong with the bow, sight or arrows. Back in camp I did a bunch of shots on the practice block and decided to take the sturdy German Kinetics Silverflame broadhead instead of the mechanicals I had used. Their flight and shooting result was more precise.
Izak handed me a beer and told me to relax at the campfire.
“We will find him again tomorrow. Don´t worry. Relax. He is an old buck and they are territorial,” he stated. Sitting around a nicely burning campfire under the African sky with a tasty South African beer – yes, indeed that is relaxing, and on top of that dinner was different. Usually we liked to braai around the campfire but this was a different specialty – Spaghetti Bolognese, but instead of the usual ground beef, it was made with wildebeest – unbelievably delicious. It was so good that I overate!
Next day – new chances! It was an early morning when we started, and not that we were superstitious but both of us skipped shaving this morning in the hope of better luck. We drove the bakkie close to the place where we had seen the reedbuck the day before. At crawling speed we moved forward checking the area with the binoculars.Then we spotted him bedded down in the grass in front of a bush about 200 meters away. He did not notice us. We stopped, got quietly out, and started our stalk. It was quite challenging moving forward between the bushes and grassland so as not to spook the ram. But silent and slow, step by step we shortened the distance down to an incredible 32 meters.
He was lying calm and relaxed, unaware of us, maybe because it was early morning and still a bit crisp. Meanwhile I was totally different as I could feel my heartbeat rising rapidly when I drew the bow in slow motion and aimed at his chest cavity. Suddenly he stood as I released the arrow, hitting him hard. The reedbuck jumped and bounded off at full speed. We watched him out of sight and gave it a break for 20 minutes. It also allowed me to calm down and get back to normal blood pressure.
On the spot we found a good blood trail and followed it for about 50 meters before it abruptly stopped. That was strange. We called Jacob, the tracker of the farm to help us in following the tracks. It took us three hours before finally Jacob found him slipped under a dense thick brush. These trackers and their abilities to read the signs are amazing.
We all were relieved to find the reedbuck and I was more than happy to have taken a common as well as my southern reedbuck. Again, it was an awesome and challenging experience with bow and arrow. Again I had a tremendously good hunt with unforgettable impressions and memories with my friend and PH Izak Vos from Vos Safaris in South Africa.
Shoot straight, take care, always good hunting, “Waidmannsheil” and “Alles van die beste”. Frank
Bow: Mathews Z7x @ 70 lbs
Arrow: Carbon Express Maxima Hunter 350
Broadhead: Silverflame XL 2-Blade @ 125 grain
Optics: Zeiss Victory Binocular & Nikon Rangefinder
Camo: Sniper Africa
German hunter Frank Berbuir is passionate about the outdoors and hunting – especially bowhunting, which he has practised for more than 19 years. Although he’s bowhunted in several countries, he’s become addicted to hunting in Africa since his first safari in 2004. Frank is a mechanical engineer and risk manager in the automotive industry