By Otha Barham / Outdoors Editor
“With my heart pounding, I heard the signal from my professional hunter (PH) to shoot. We crept ahead to just 20 meters away from the giant beast, but I couldn't get a clear shot through the thick brush. So, quickly, before the wind changed, we backed out and stalked in on her left side.”
Rassie (pronounced RAH-see) Erasmus could not have been more prepared to take an elephant with a bow. A professional hunter living in South Africa and owner of Archery Afrika, a bowhunting shop, he rifle shot a steenbok at age five, a kudu at six, and a lion in Botswana at 12. He completed professional hunter schooling at 19 even though he couldn't begin guiding until he reached 21.
When Rassie discovered archery, it quickly became his hunting method of choice. He only uses rifles to cull females from overpopulated game herds. Here it should be noted that African game animals are unlike familiar animals on this continent in that most species there, including elephants, live typically in large herds and are plentiful to the point of serious overpopulation in many areas. One elephant can consume 330 pounds of plant material a day and of course hundreds or thousands can devastate a landscape.
In some areas of Africa elephant herds are endangered or are in balance with the area's total environment. In such situations no hunting is allowed and poaching is severely punished; some countries having a history of searching out poachers and shooting them on sight. A major reason for such widespread and serious game protection is the enormous revenue from worldwide hunters who legally hunt the surplus African animals.
Sand from the nearby Kariba River muffled the footsteps of Rassie and his PH as they slowly circled the Zimbabwe elephant's backside. The hunt had taken 11 days to find an old female elephant with no calf.
When Rassie heard his PH say shoot, he crept forward, crouched and took aim just beneath where the crease between the shoulder and chest ended. Pulling back and holding the 115 pound-draw bow with its 850 grain metal reinforced carbon arrow was easy, boosted by the huge volume of adrenaline in his bloodstream.
Rassie released and held his breath as he watched the arrow penetrate right up to the feathers. “Perfect,” he remembers saying almost aloud. The elephant trumpeted and burst through the Jessbush, leaving the hunter safe from being pounded into an inch-tall pancake of blood, flesh, crushed bones and dirt. “Relieved, I sucked air into my bursting lungs,” recalled Rassie.
The party waited 30 minutes, followed the easy trail, recovered the expandable broadhead intact and came upon the very dead elephant 160 yards from impact. The perfect heart shot had brought down the beast that provided meat for nearby villagers for many days.
(Note: Barham interviewed Erasmus for the complete story of this hunt, which ran in Buckmaster's Rack magazine. See Erasmus' account of the story online in Africa's Bowhunter magazine along with more photos of the elephant.)