Africa Adventure, Part 3: Big ‘Treestands’ and Big Fish of Uganda
Tim Herald 05.31.17
My hunting partner Kendall Kilbourne and I were finished in Karamoja with a couple of great buffalo, so packed again to move to the Kafu River basin for East African sitatunga, EA bushbuck, and Nile bushbuck.
Sitatunga are aquatic antelope that live in papyrus swamps. They have elongated hooves to help them walk on the floating reeds, and in general are very secretive. Generally, you hunt them from machans, which are raised platforms built in the swamp, sort of like homemade shooting platforms. Sometimes machans are built in trees near the swamp edges, and our outfitter had areas chopped out of the 12-foot-tall papyrus so we could see sitatunga, and the cut areas had new growth and acted like food plots. The hunt was to be much like a whitetail pursuit.
We had a full moon, worst drought in 5-plus years, and everyone told us how hard the sitatunga were going to be. We did four sits with Kendall without seeing a bull, and we decided to split up and hunt separately. The next sit, he saw a bull, and they passed him, but they really second-guessed the decision.
After we split up, I saw nothing my first morning or afternoon, but the next morning out, I was perched 25 feet up in a huge tree overlooking three cut areas. An hour after daylight, I had a bull come out. My PH, Div, told me it wasn’t a monster, but it was a mature bull, and he thought I should take it considering the terrible conditions. I went back and forth, and the bull walked out of our opening. He came back, and we debated again, and again the bull left. We talked more, and finally I told Div if he showed up again, I would shoot. Third time’s a charm, right?
Of course he showed up, and I dropped him at about 200 yards. I was very happy as he was a beautiful animal. We had watched him a lot, he was mature and conditions were tough, but he was definitely not a huge trophy bull. I think the guys were a bit disappointed, but I was advised to shoot, he was mature, and all was well with me.
I had heard from some friends how many bushbuck were in Kafu. The situation is there are Nile bushbuck there that don’t get huge. They are quite small in body, and look like harnessed bushbuck. They are beautiful. There are East African bushbuck, that are darker, not nearly as marked with spots and stripes, they are bigger in body and in horn.
Kendall took a bushbuck that should easily be the new world record with a bow, and that evening he had a great old sitatunga come out, and he made a great shot. What a day he had!
I was looking for a 16-plus-inch ram, and we literally looked over hundreds. I have never seen anything like it. A morning or evening drive could easily produce 50-75 bushbuck sightings.
A few days later, we all went out together in the afternoon, and I decided I would shoot a 15-inch EA ram if we saw one, or if I could find a really good, old Nile that was marked pretty but still had major horns, I would go for that, too. The more I looked at the pure Nile bushbuck, the more I liked them and was leaning that way.
I passed on a few 14.5-inch EAs early in the afternoon, and I know I was stressing PH Christian out. The next bushbuck we saw was the largest Nile I had seen the whole time, and it was an instant decision.
I stopped the truck as the bushbuck walked off. Christian and I got down, made a stalk and got within about 80 yards of the ram that thought he was hidden on an anthill.
I popped him in the shoulder with the 7mm, and he jumped straight up and went down.
This is absolutely one of the most beautiful animals I have ever taken. His coat was just beautiful, and he was a nice older ram. The trophy pics don’t do him justice because it began raining just as I shot him and his coat was wet.
So our hunt was over, but we still had a few days left, so Kendall and I decided to go back to Aswa and go Nile perch fishing near Murchison Falls. Nile perch can get absolutely huge, and are known as great fighters, often jumping, even when they are 100 pounds.
We were able to fish the next afternoon, and the only hit we had was a really big one that I fought for a long time, and he came off quite close to the boat. We saw lots of wildlife from the boat and in the park as well, including a nice old bull elephant, an 18-foot croc that looked to have had an old back injury, buffalo, hippo, etc.
The next morning, we went up to the falls and Kendall caught a 10-pound Nile perch on a big Rapala in the current. We saw a lot more animals along the shores, but no other fish. We decided we would give it another shot in the afternoon because it was that or a game drive in the park.
About 15 minutes into the afternoon session, Kendall hooked up. He fought the fish for 10 minutes or so, and it broke off. We both felt it was also a very big one. A bit later he had a run, but the fish spit out the bait (nearly a 2-pound waka). An hour or so before dark, I got a hard run, and got the fish hooked. It went toward the middle of the Nile, and after a while it came up and shook its head. We could see it was a good-size perch, and everyone was excited. It made a couple more runs and jumps, and I finally got the fish to the boat and bank for photos.
We measured length and girth, and by our guide’s chart, the fish was a 70-pounder. By Nile perch standards, that is a nice one, but not nearly a monster. The owner of the lodging we used in Aswa caught a 150 pounder in a tournament when we were there the first time.
This was a bucket list thing for me as I have wanted to catch a Nile perch since I have ever known about the species, and we worked hard and had a great time fishing for them. I was honestly just as excited about the perch as I was any of the animals I hunted. Sunset came, we got off the water, and the fun was over. That was a fantastic way to end one of the best trips of my life.
Versatile Gear for Hunting and Fishing
I am a big proponent of sunglasses for hunting and obviously fishing, and my choice for years has been Costa Del Mar. A lot of people don’t think about sunglasses for hunting, but a good set of shades will cut glare and help you see game and everything else better while in the field. I hate squinting all day, and we all know the benefits of polarized lenses for fishermen.
I have a number of Costas, but I find myself wearing my Saltbreaks the most. They just feel great. I have a pair with with green mirror lenses that have 10% light transmission and are made for enhanced vision and contrast for fishing inshore and on flats. They were perfect on the Nile River.
I am really excited about Costa’s new Sunrise Silver Mirror lenses that were recently released. These are extended wear lenses with 30% light transmission that makes them the perfect tool for dusk and dawn performance. With their heightened contrast, these lenses are perfect even on overcast days, and are very useful for hunting as well as fishing and general use. Check them out.
It was hot on this safari, and especially while fishing on the Nile. I brought along my Yeti Hopper Flip 12 cooler (above), and was glad I did. We loaded my cooler with drinks and ice every morning, and at sunset, we still had cold drinks every day. After chasing buffalo or fishing for hours in 90 degree temps, a cold water or beer at the end of the trail or day was a treat.
The Hopper Flip 12 is tough as nails, and it was in the back of our hunting vehicle every day taking abuse but functioned perfectly. I really like the compact size and cubed shape of this cooler for trips, and the wide-mouth opening flip top makes for easy loading and access to your food and drinks. As with all Yeti products, it is a champ at keeping ice.
Editor’s note: Tim Herald is an owner and hunt consultant at Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA). To book this or any other high-quality hunt anywhere in the world, contact Tim at [email protected]. WTA’s services are free; WTA is paid directly by the outfitter, and your hunt cost is the same whether you book directly with an outfitter or through WTA.