Dries suggested the option of starting to hunt plains game now - rather than waiting till after the leopard. This made sense since it could be a while before a cat hit, and I could find myself with little to no plains game hunting time. He also suggested that I sit at the same waterhole as last evening. There was a chance that those Gemsbok would return. Apparently, that one big Oryx was quite a trophy.
After a quick breakfast I headed out to the waterhole for a long day afield. My instructions were to keep a two-way radio on channel 2, and if the bait is hit, they will call me to organize my gear and would swing by to pick me up.
I was in the blind by 8:00 AM and I saw my first "animal" approaching an hour later. It was a wild Ostrich - a tall male. Now there is a story about this ostrich. Apparently this Ostrich had attacked Michael, one of the guys from Arizona. The Ostrich knocked him down and was stomping him before he was scared away by the trackers. Besides the assault, he complained that when the Ostrich showed up, nothing else would come to water. So I had an attitude.
A female Ostrich soon joined the male and as the hours clicked by they simply fed, and fed, and fed until I couldn't take it anymore. It was time to avenge my fellow bowhunter.
I quietly picked up my Bowtech and slowly opened the shooting window. The Ostrich looked up briefly but went right back to feeding. I then thought - "where are the vitals on an ostrich?" Now, I'll probably catch hell from the ethics police but I was confident that if I shot him like a turkey - I wouldn't be too far off. I let the pin settle and waited for my favorite "gobbler" angle. The release was good and my arrow passed cleanly through his vitals. Big bird dropped right in front of my blind.
I radioed for the trackers and the ostrich was in the truck and on the way to the skinners. I climbed back into the blind but not for very long. Over the speaker on my radio I heard "Pat, do you copy?"
It was Dries.
"You must get your things together - the big male hit the bait - we're coming to pick you up."
I swear my pulse increased 30% and stayed that way the rest of the day.
We reached the river blind and started setting up the final gear for the hunt. That included the listening device and the red bait light - both necessary for night hunting leopards. As I was videoing Dries setting up the bait tree, Ben yelled something in Afrikaans - and he was pointing to things around our blind.
I could tell by the look on everyone's face that there was trouble. Dries explained:
"The leopard walked around the blind - several times. He's onto us. That's very bad."
I was anxious to hunt but I listened to the options carefully and left the decision to Dries. He recommended that we get everything set up - the light, the listening device, and the blankets in the blind - everything. Then when he hits again we'll just sneak in and hunt. There was too much risk hunting this evening. If the cat catches us in the blind, it's over. He won't be back.
We spent the rest of the afternoon getting everything setup. For our last chore, Ben lit a pile of cow dung on fire and set it on a rock inside the blind. The smoldering poop is a technque Dries uses to mask human scent.
We backed out quietly and drove back home. The female also hit the other bait again, but still no male.