The next morning we were quickly on our way, and immediately saw two very large pigs feeding in the daylight in the field where there always seemed to be several blackbuck. We made the circuit several times, with pretty much the same results of the previous two days.
We did come across a nice group of axis, including an atypical 11pt that was in velvet. He wasn’t ready for harvest though, but there was another shooter with him. It was very, very tempting – but never really got a good shot opportunity after I decided I was going to settle.
Cody helped out by scouting the ranch looking for bulls on the opposite side from where we were. Pretty soon a text came in he was on a young bull, and off Adam and I went. As we rolled up to his position, he pointed out a young, smaller bull not too far often who was intent on watching us. Cody said, he’s young – but if you want him, go ahead. I decided yes – but after all the mental prep work, in this position I was I couldn’t find a solid rest to shoot from – the cross hairs kept dancing around. I certainly didn’t want to make a poor shot – not on a nilgai – and by the time I called for the sticks and Adam rushed them over to where I was, the bull faded back into the brush. Daammmn! That was my opportunity.
We started our circuit again, but I was dejected. The nilgai won this round. I told Adam to circle around where we had seen the axis earlier. As luck would have it, they weren’t too far away. It was almost 11am, and I had decided take one. We put a stalk on them, having to enter some heavy brush. Adam whispered “there are two big bulls in there”, and I swore I thought he meant axis. We entered the heavy brush, but we could hear them run off. Adam and I lost sight of each other, so I back-tracked to the road to be safe. When we reunited, Adam said he had a bull at 65 yards – when I realized he was talking about a NILGAI, and not an axis – I was bummed to say the least. We regrouped back at the Ranger and I looked at my watch. It was 11:48am.
I told Adam, “OK, let’s make ONE more circuit around and then call it quits”. Adam said fine, let me get another water from the house. We drove back to the house, Cody was packing up to leave (I had packed my Jeep that morning before we left), picked up a water, and started for the east side.
We rounded a corner and saw a bull at 400+ yards scamper around a corner and head north along the fenceline and VANISH. Still, I got gun in hand – and we edged up. He was gone. As we drove along the levee road, looking to our right, and came up to an intersection that led back to the house. I was still looking for that bull to the right when Adam slammed the Ranger to a stop and said “shoot him!” in a strong whisper.
I had no idea what he was looking at, but automatic pilot took over and I brought the gun up as I began to look left. The next moments were a blur, it happened so fast. Without time to think, I saw a bull standing at the edge of the brush ahead of us to the left. I can’t remember clearly, but put the firedot from the Leupold at a point in the middle of the vitals and squeezed the trigger. I vaguely remember seeing Adam cover his ears out of the corner of my eye.
Don’t remember the bang or recoil of the antique 55-year old Browning, but I remember seeing the nilgai jump and kick his back legs – and he was gone! My mind went numb.
I came back to the present when I heard Adam repeat himself to me. I didn’t understand what he said, but I offered “I think I got him”. I heard what he said next clearly as I was coming out of the fog. “How confident are you of the shot?”, he asked. “Pretty comfortable”, I lied – already beginning to second-guess myself. Did I really hit him? Couldn’t remember exactly where I aimed, thoughts poured through my head. I knew he jumped – and I COULDN’T have missed at this range, could I’ve? But still, never fired this gun at animal. Heck, I’d only put 11 rounds through the gun totally since I got it.
Adam bolstered my confidence when he said, “I think you whacked him pretty good”. I heard it hit, and I didn’t hear much crashing through brush. I think he’s down, let’s go over there.
Now here’s where the fun starts. We drove down to the closest point we could get, which was on a road right next to a SWAMP. The nilgai was standing on the other side of the swamp when I shot at him – about 60-70 yards from where we were now standing. The water didn’t look too inviting, and I didn’t have any waterproof – besides the water was over boot-high.
Adam wasn’t fazed a bit. Got on the phone and called Cody, and said “Bring the truck, we just shot a nilgai”. I heard Cody’s response, “No sh-t?”. Adam replied “Yup, and bring your waders….”. I looked at my watch- it was 12:15pm.
Not 5 minutes later, Cody arrives with the recovery vehicle. He says, “Where is he?”, and Adam points a finger across the swamp. Moments later Cody has his waders on, backup gun slung over his shoulder, and starts across the swamp as Adam and I give directions.
We guide to them spot where the bull was standing, and he begins to look around. I am still shaking, sat down and lit up a smoke. I am very concerned now for a bunch of reasons. Hoping I made a good shot, hoping we find him – not wishing for a long tracking. Dreading the possibility of a long track on a wounded animal that could run into the night. Upset at creating a bunch of work for Adam and Cody.
Adam notices me wringing my hands. “Don’t worry, he says – you whacked him hard – we’ll get him”. It helped – a little.
A long 5 minutes goes by, and then we get the first message from Cody. “Blood everywhere! On the trail”. I feel better. A few moments later, then next message sends a wave of relief. “Found him, he’s down – he’s a good one.” Texted pics of horns soon follow, and there is elation all around.
Then Adam gets a call, and the next message is not so good. I overhear from the phone: “I found him, but I don’t know how in the h-ll we are going to get him out of here”. He didn’t run very far at all before dropping, but it was further away from any open area.
Adam and Cody have a phone call, and these guys proved beyond all doubt they know what they are doing. A brief consultation and the “Nilgai Recovery Team” springs into action. This was amazing to watch.
They decided the closest extraction point was from a levee road about 90 degrees from where he was shot. They moved the truck into position, somehow got it positioned crosswise on the levee road without it slipping into the swamp, and got the winch into position.
The winch only had a cable of about 50-60ft I guess, so they got another strap material a cut a section to cover the distance from where the winch cable would reach to the animal. After a couple of times where the strap broke, they got it going smooth.
And that’s how they got him out of there, 50-60 feet at a time. Winch, retie, wait for winch to cool down, repeat. Probably was maybe 150-200 yards from the road, but it wasn’t long before they had him pulled through the swamp and loaded on the back of the truck.
Meanwhile, I was able to find a dry path around the end where I could walk to where he dropped without getting too wet or muddy. It looked like a jungle back in there!! Post-mortem showed a fatal double-lung shot, which in all honestly – was just a tad high, but the .375 H&H and the Barnes got a clean pass-though with an entrance and exit hole of about 3/4 inch and heavy blood trail. You can see from yourself on the pictures. The animal was standing slightly quartered to me, facing right – entrance on right side, exit on left.
Took him to a meadow where they cleaned him for the “money shots”. Nice pretty pics, I’m sure you can tell theirs from mine. ☺
All in all, from the last minutes of the hunt, to having him gutted and on the way to cold room was only about 2 hours. Amazing. 10 hours later I was back in Dallas with my Nilgai hunt only a memory.
And that, my friends, was my experience Nilgai hunting with Double Shot Outfitters. One for the books!! Memories to last a lifetime.
Now y’all go get you one!! These guys were the best!!
Cody with waders crossing the swamp to look for the nilgai