“Still want to go? It could be dangerous!” Scott Kendall, our PH, said. Hoping for a shot opportunity, I replied, “Yes!”
It was the seventh day of our hunt, and I was getting anxious. My wife, Berit Aagaard, widow of the talented writer and Kenyan PH Finn Aagaard, had killed a good bull on our second day after a classic track and stalk. Our trackers, Robert and Stephen, eased her within 25 yards of a ruminating dagga boy. Scott made a sound, the bull sprang to his feet, and Berit coolly dropped him in his tracks. Now it was my turn to try to do the same. We were hunting along the famed Limpopo River bordering South Africa’s Kruger National Park. The riverside vegetation was very dense, often reaching above our heads. We frequently followed game trails that led to several heart-stopping encounters, leaving us with clicking safeties, racing hearts and rifles at the ready, but no shot opportunities. Once I almost turned to Berit with Ruark’s own query on my lips: “I don’t know why you let me do these things! Why the hell don’t you keep me at home like any wife would if she loved her husband?” Berit would have laughed and been as amused as Mrs. Ruark.
We struggled out of a ravine blundering face to face with a pod of elephants—females and young. Scott’s tense whisper, “Don’t move,” needed no explanation. The “stare-off” lasted but a moment; the matriarch, with tail up, arched back, ears flapping, screamed out a hair-raising trumpet and wheeled around, leading her charges away. A tense moment! Looking at those massive bodies reminded me of Finn’s comment: “I don’t know, you stand 20 yards from a big bull elephant and look up at him, and then you look at the little pop-gun of a .458 in your arms—and you think, ‘Am I going to stop him with that little thing?’ It’s awesome.” I knew just what he meant.
Scott had tried to find a bull for my rifle, to no avail. As always with iron sights, I wanted to keep my shot inside 50 yards. Tracks confirmed that large herds were feeding nocturnally on our side of the river and returning to Kruger before daylight. We kept tracking individual bulls to find they beat us to the river. We tried drives, which pushed several bulls out of the thicket, but always too far for my rifle.