TYLER (TYLER MORNING TELEGRAPH) - This has been the summer of discovering Africa for a number of East Texas hunters, but Tyler's Eddie Clark did it with a twist.
Making his first safari to the continent, the Tyler homebuilder hunted with both his rifle and his bow, and he didn't just use the bow for plains game antelope. In fact, his first kill was a cape buffalo, one of Africa's big five.
Although tempted to head to other African nations with bigger hunting concessions, Clark opted instead to book a 10-day hunt through Bush Africa Safaris in the Limpopo Province. His primary reasoning, like others going for the first time, was to get a feel for the African way of doing things. Just as important was he was being joined on the trip by his 12-year-old son, Caden, and father, Ed.
"Dad doesn't hunt, but I wanted the three of us being and he really enjoyed going out with Caden," Clark said of the July hunt.
Hunting in South Africa is different from the rest of the Africa because it is on game ranches with a variety of animals that are managed more in the Texas hunting style. Hunting, especially bowhunting, can still be challenging.
However, it also helps to be lucky. Caden Clark has experience with hunting game in Texas with a bow, but because of his size he only shoots a 40-pound draw. Realizing this was too light for African game, Clark had him set up to shoot with the outfitter's .25-06, but also with a newly-purchased crossbow. Clark's thinking was he would start with smaller antelopes and move up. Caden, on the other hand, started with big game and never backed up.
"The first morning we went out he had his crossbow and I had my bow," Clark said. "We were sitting in a hide (blind) and this nyala came up. "We had been sitting there for about an hour and 15 minutes, and it came up at about 28 yards and he drilled it. I wasn't going to let him take something like that first, but then I said what the heck."
Before the trip was over, Caden added a kudu and eland with the crossbow, and took an impala and blesbuck with the rifle.
The outfitter allows rifle hunting, but specializes in bowhunting. Because of that it has a number of blind locations around scarce waterholes on the ranch. That is where Clark was sitting on day two of the hunt.
"My first animal was the cape buffalo. I wasn't expecting that to be the first animal, but when you are bowhunting you have to be ready for whatever comes into range," he said.
Clark had actually drawn on a big eland and was about to take the shot when the guide told him to wait. The hunter looked to the side and there stood a wary cape buffalo waiting its turn to come to water. It was evident that because of the windy conditions that the bull was in no hurry.
"It took an hour and 12 minutes from the time we first saw him until I got an opportunity for a shot," Clark said. The hunter said that with any noise or change in the wind the buffalo went on alert.
Clark was carrying the 70-pound bow he typically uses for hunting white-tailed deer and wild hogs in Texas. Instead he amped up his arrows and broadheads. Using 180-grain German Kinetic SilverFlame point, he brought his overall arrow weight to 780 grains.
"I had to use my 60-yard pin for a 30-yard shot and my 50-yard pin for a 20-yard shot," Clark said.
His shot on the 40 ½-inch cape came at 27 yards, but like shooting a big feral pig with a lighter set up, Clark said the arrow only penetrated the bull's tough hide just enough to penetrate its vitals.
"If I had to do it again I would go with an 80-pound bow," he said.
Although a cape buffalo is a hard animal to bring down with a rifle, Clark said technically the most difficult hunt for him was a blue wildebeest. The hunter said the 32-yard shot was tricky because of the size of the herd that came to water. To get the animal he wanted he had to wait until it was clear of the others.
In all, Clark took five of his 11 trophies with a bow including a 41-inch sable.
Along with the hunting, the trio also took time to visit a nearby village.
"That was humbling. It let (Caden) see the kids over there and what they have. When we went to leave we gave them almost everything we had, clothes, candy…it didn't matter," Clark said.
While enjoying the introduction to Africa and a three-generation trip, Clark said South Africa will indeed be his gateway to other nations on the continent in the future.