Mysterious Causes Of Death In Animals Shot Without Any Vital Organ Penetration. Part 1. A Springbuck Ewe Dies For No Obvious Reason.

by Andrew McLaren
(Soutpan, Free State. South Africa)

The more you hunt, the more stories you have to tell!

A recent experience when an Australian client shot a non-trophy blue wildebeest bull as part of a cull hunt made me think back of two long ago hunts. To remain chronologically correct, I’ll first I’ll tell what happened on my first Kalahari springbok hunt.

I was a guest of a group of hunters with whom I have never hunted before. We were to hunt a number of animals in the true Kalahari. The hunt started when we stopped in a very big natural pan, just inside the designated hunting area, to refuel the Land Cruisers from drums of fuel and get a bite of breakfast after driving all night to get to the hunting area. As it was my first time with this particular group of hunters, I was offered the first shot. Now some guys were sipping coffee to get the taste of gasoline out of their mouths after making a small mistake with the fuel hose and sucking up gasoline to siphon into the fuel tanks. Others were just passing the time, when Mike, the leader of the group saw a lone springbuck far out on the pan. He asked me to, instead of rinsing my mouth with coffee to shoot the springbok ewe that was a long way off in the middle of the pan. I said; “Sure I’ll just walk closer and stay in line with the vehicles so she will not see me so easily, and when I get into range I’ll take the shot.” To this Mike replied with a smirk that, seeing that: “You, as a Professional Hunter, should be able to take the shot from here!”

S*&t, I don’t remember exactly how far it was, but she was really way out there! Anyone who knows Kalahari pans know that there is nothing to help you judge distance at all: Just bare clay flat as far as the eye can see. I hate taking unnecessary far shots: But here I was being put to a test by a group of very nice guys – who subsequently became good friends. I had personally tested the rifle, a Ruger 300 Win Mag and 180 grain Hornaday load the day before and knew for sure that the rifle was very accurate and sighted in for 250 yards. A very steady rest was found over a Land Cruiser front wheel that was turned very sharply out, with a good rest for my trigger hand elbow on the front bumper. I was, then (Please note the past tense!) a good shot and had often plinked at very far rocks with a big bore rifle. I had a good idea of bullet drop, but had at best a guess that this target was “very far”. How much hold-over would be required? Eventually I aimed just between the tips of the horns of the female that was standing facing us directly, and squeezed off gently. The trigger broke cleanly and unexpectedly, and I instinctively knew that the shot was good. But was my hold-over estimation close enough?

On the shot, after recoil, I actually saw in the telescope the bullet strike. Saw the whole body lurch on impact, faintly heard a “thump” – it was far you recall, but she did not go down. Instead she walked fast a tight little circle with tail wagging rapidly. I was very glad to see that she was on four good legs, and as she was facing me directly, I thought the bullet must have hit a lung, and that she will soon die. The encouragement from Mike and other friends to “Shoot it again!” was not heeded, as I was simply not going to miss a shot at a fast-walking animal at that very long distance. Although it felt like a long time that she was walking in small circles with tail wagging madly, it was actually probably less than a minute. Then she keeled over! By the time we got there she was stone dead.

My question was “Where did the bullet impact?” There was no sign of a frontal entry wound, and absolutely no blood on the carcass! Nor any blood on the ground where she lay. Strange! We examined the carcass even more closely and found a cut of about 1 ½ “ long in the skin at the bottom of the sternum or breast bone that had hardly penetrated the skin! The wound looked like just a scratch that removed some hair and 1/16” or about 1 mm of the top layer of the skin. A few very small drops of blood oozed into the cut – but so little that none dropped onto the ground. Look closely at a non-pregnant springbok female facing you directly – the ‘lowest’ point of the body is the front of the breastbone. Very strange to have an animal drop within a minute or less and then die within a few minutes, where there is absolutely no sign of a bullet penetrating into any vital organ. The actual reason for the death of this springbok remained a complete mystery to all of us.

That hunt was in 1986, and the possible cause of death remained a mystery until recently.

Click here to post comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Your African Hunting Stories.




Pinterest