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Adventures in East Africa, Volume 3: The Hunt

I love hunting. In Missouri I hit every season for white tail deer. I can’t get enough of it; I guess it’s in my blood. I’ve been hunting ever since I can remember. One thing that I have always been fascinated with was the idea of an African Safari hunt. When I was younger I read stories about Teddy Roosevelt and his big game hunts through East Africa. There is just something mystical about it, man/woman going and doing something so primeval and basic.

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One thing I knew about hunting in Africa is that it is, for the most part a rich man’s sport. There is no way I could afford to do this on my own.  So, I left the dreams behind and focused on more important matters and dreamed about being back in Missouri for the next deer season.

Although I did not mention my desires to anyone here, I have a good friend who is also working as a missionary and we golfed together occasionally. He knew my love for the outdoors and hunting. One day as we were golfing at an old British course here in Eldoret he mentioned something to me. “Do you want go hunting while you are here?” I almost laughed because I thought he was joking. “No seriously, I have an invitation from the chief of the Pokot tribe to go.” Ok, it seems real now. My heart racing I said, “Does a bear crap in the woods?” Yeah, that is really what I said.

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We scheduled the date and then talked about what we would be hunting. No, it would not be “big game” by any means. Actually it would be the smallest species of antelope in the world, the dik-dik. After that he told me, we will be hunting with primitive bow and arrow. After I had agreed to the hunt, he contacted the chief and a craftsman made me a bow with six steel tipped arrows. Since this was a few months out, I decided to practice in my yard. I had shot a recurve bow before so I had a little training but this was still different and awkward. After a few months I felt pretty confident.

The day finally arrived for us to depart for Pokot land. In order to get there we had to take his Land Rover and travel about five hours inland, farther than I have ever been into the interior. Life is different there. No power, no running water. Everything is made by hand. These people are skilled craftsmen and hunters. They live off the land. The Pokot have been there for thousands and thousands of years and honestly, not much has changed.

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We took bags of clothing and shoes we had collected and distributed them to the tribe. They loved it and it was the least we could do for their hospitality in letting us stay there. It was an honor to meet the chief and upon arrival I gave him a gift. A war club decorated in beads that I had a craftsman make for him in Eldoret. He loved it and welcomed us in. He lived in a humble concrete building. All the rest of the houses or “bomas” here are made of mud and grass but his was concrete. We ate a good lunch provided by one of his wives; while eating we talked about scouting some area that night. The chief agreed to guide us in our scouting as well as hunting. He was an expert hunter, providing meat on the table since he was a boy.

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We loaded up the truck and went scouting. A few of the men of the village also came along. These were the experts; they knew how the dik-dik moved, when they bedded down, where they went for water and food. The terrain in Pokot land is very dry. It is almost a desert but it is filled with scrub brush. This is perfect for the dik-dik to hide in. We tramped around for about 3 hours scouting out the terrain. We saw around 3 dik-dik, which was a good sign.

After scouting, we were very tired. We were just happy to keep up with the young warriors of the village as they moved though the bush. It was hard to sleep that night. Anyone who is a hunter understands this. Any night before the hunt is always restless.

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We got up at about 5 AM. The chief was standing right outside out door, with the best hunters from the village. We suited up and grabbed our bows and arrows and goat skinned quivers. This was what I had been waiting on, it was finally here. After loading up in the truck we made our way to the bush. Since there were so many of us hunting today, the chief decided to split up into two groups. The chief guided me and a few warriors while his good friend guided my friend and a few other men. One young boy accompanied us that morning, he was about 12. The chief told me that he was the best hunter in the entire village; he had put 6 dik-dik on the table daily. These guys were expert with the bow and arrow. Not only had they been hunting since boyhood, they were in a constant border war with Turkana. The main weapons of choice: the bow and arrow.

When my party left, still in darkness, we walked slowly and quietly through the scrub. It is hard to spot these small deer but the chief was very skilled at spotting them. He told me “There! There is one!” I would look and look without seeing it. On the hunt we walked into some of the most beautiful land I have ever seen. Mountains on each side of us and desert plains and scrub in between. The one thing we had to look out for was the thorns. I had never seen thorns this big but they were lying all over the ground. They could puncture a truck tire, no problem. Most of the men ran barefoot through this, which amazed me.

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After seeing some exotic birds, we still had yet to take any shot at a dik-dik. I knew it would be tough because of how small they were. Finally, the chief motioned for our party to stop and get down on the ground. There was a dik-dik about 60 yards ahead. I knew this would be an impossible shot, but it’s all we had. The chief told me to ready my bow and take a shot. I slowly stood up, readied my arrow and pulled back. I arched my bow and shot. The arrow landed about 3 feet from the deer and before I knew it, he was running away. We pursued him for the rest of the hunt, covering many miles.

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Neither party got anything that day. The chief asked me if I was disappointed, I said, “Absolutely not!” I just had the opportunity to go hunt with some of the most skilled hunters on the face of the earth. Actually killing the animal was not what I was looking forward to, it was the opportunity to learn from these men. To watch them move, like the deer, through the bush. That is what I wanted. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I was very thankful to the chief for his generosity in taking us. It is a trip I will never forget as long as I am alive. He did invite me back, so I may have another opportunity before we leave in September.

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