His name was Don. A 6 ft. 4 inch tall, wide at the shoulder narrow at the hip Rhodesian. We stood at the massive eland bull, a few minutes after I had finally put a 9mm 115gr FMJ through its brain from 15 yards away. Finally, at last it was dead.
Earlier a 235gr FMJ .375 bullet from the BRNO ZKK 602 had neatly sliced the flesh of the left shoulder just above the heart. What was supposed to have been a perfect running shot into the atrium caused this poor placement when the bull swerved hard right as I pulled the trigger. Then after tracking it for more than an hour we saw it against the slope of a hill and ran around the hill to cut it of and Don put a 180 gr Winchester Silver Tip from his pre-64 Winchester M70 from dead ahead into the hollow of its throat. It simply ran past us and I put another bullet from the big BRNO through the low shoulder. It slowed its pace but resolutely stumbled on, refusing to fall over.
I did not have the heart to shoot at it again. Don was fed-up (with me no doubt), sat down and said: "Dries it is your eland, go and get it." Following at a respectful, out of sight distance I walked on behind it on the very conspicuous blood trail. And walked on. And on. Can any animal shed so much blood and still be upright and walking? Eventually I heard it fall and carefully approached from behind. It was down but held its head up, looking at me. I could not get myself to put a .375 into the brain from that distance, put the BRNO down and drew my FN Browning.
After holstering it again I just stood with it, watching the sphincter muscle relax and to my shock also saw the front end excretion I had read about. Big, clear tears rolled from both eyes and wetted the sandy soil. The final neurological stress relief as sinusoidal fluid passed through the directional valves now relaxed in death, we like to tell ourselves. This was my first eland and I silently swore it would be my last. Finally Don arrived, smiled kindly and said: "I wanted you to be with him as he died. He did too."
Less than a week earlier I had seen this man in action - soldier against soldier in a fierce anti-terrorist war. Saw his ability with an FN FAL in a running firefight, saw his hard, resolute focus in a small group's counter attack, outnumbered by 7 AK 47s for every FAL. That was the body count.
Now we sat there by my big eland, resting. Then he shifted position and absentmindedly tied a knot into the tail hairs, patted the bull on its rump and said softly: "My goodness, what a handsome bastard you are! This was not a fight between us, OK? We were never at war with you, you understand? We just needed the meat, you know...". His voice trailed off, he got up and walked behind a bush and suddenly I realised I also needed to get rid of the specs of dust that had found its way into my eyes.
Buck fever is OK after the event, I suppose.