Neil said that the Old Bull would walk down the narrow trail, between the towering slopes of the krans, just before last light, meandering his way on old tired legs, neck struggling to keep up his impressive head, once such a powerful display but now worn and fading, like he was, in his own twilight and as his own, greater journey came towards an end.
Neil could sense the doubt in my eyes; more especially given that I would have to make the trek under the mid-day sun up and over and into the kloof; and once in position perch myself hidden from the trail but exposed to the burning heat while I waited for him to arrive, ... or not.
Neil simply smiled, as only Neil does, and answered my unasked question: “He will come; you will see”.
I made the sweaty trek and on cramped haunches sat and waited for Neil to be wrong.
Neil was shown to be partly right; but partly wrong too.
My focus caught by two magnificent Bulls on the skyline of the adjoining ridge, silhouetted as the sun started to dip and shadows fell, suddenly was interrupted by a sense of a presence, rather than by any sight or sound or smell.
He was right there in front of me, within 40 yards, walking straight and proud and strong, with head held high and his magnificent spirals arrogantly displayed as only youthful adulthood permits.
The Old Bull and the Hunting Gods both had instead sent the son as an emissary; to test my resolve and character; and to challenge my ability to decline an offering that was not really mine to take at all.
I drew my bow as the Hunting Gods knew I would; whistled for his attention; and still he stood, silent before me, watching me, presenting his heart, and so his life, for me to take at will.
I released the bow, but not the arrow; and he moved to the sound, slowly, away, turning once again, still within range, to taunt my decision.
Choreographed by the Hunting Gods Neil arrived in time to see him crest the ridge and move towards the beckoning gloom, where he disappeared from sight.
Sometime soon I will again make the trek and this time wait for the Old Bull, and not for his son, to show. This time I will believe. This time the Hunting Gods will send him down the trail to where I wait. Perhaps I will speed him towards his end ... but perhaps not. Irrespective, the honour and privilege will be mine ...; and perhaps his too...
My father and I have been hunting at Donkerkloof almost annually for a decade. Every year we have a wonderful walk and stalk experience in this hilly part of the Karoo. Neil and his staff are experts at this type of hunting and I learn something new from them on every occasion.