I would like to add to the article by Cleve Cheney in the October issue titled: Bow hunting the Bongo.
I was blessed to have hunted these magnificent animals professionally in the Rainforest’s of Africa with both rifle and bow. The clients that usually hunt for Bongo are the type that have hunted most of the normal plains game species and are now looking to complete the spiral horn species or they just love hunting in the “Green Hell”.
The two countries that produce the best trophies and where most of the hunting occurs are Cameroon and the CAR (Central African Republic). Both these countries have excellent trophies and good numbers of Bongo.
For bow hunters the CAR can or could be a huge problem if Bongo is on their list. This is because of the hunting legislation in the CAR. This will be explained later.
One thing that 99% of hunters do not realise is that hunting in a tropical rain forest does not give you a lot of hunting time. Even if first light is at 5:30 in the morning, you will only be able to see at around 8;30 in the forest because the canopy is so dense that light does not penetrate until the sun is high in the sky. Your normal hunting day will also stop at around 4;00pm as the same applies again.
The climate – although wet, can dehydrate a person to the point of collapse in just 4 hours if enough water is not consumed while hunting. If you drink water only when you feel thirsty you are looking for trouble. A hunter must make a point of it to drink at least 500ml of water every hour. The heat and humidity saps water from a human in no time.
In Cameroon it is legal to hunt with dogs. Dogs are only used to hunt Bongo because like a Bushbuck, they will bay and fight the dogs. This will give a bow hunter the time to sneak in and get close enough to release an accurate arrow. It will normally be at 10y or less because of the vegetation.
Many people frown on this method for some strange reason. It proves that they have never hunted Bongo in a Rainforest. By baying the animal the hunter can assess the animal for age, sex and trophy quality. Many females are shot in other areas especially with rifles as they also carry horns and the hunter can only see parts of the animal. By using dogs this cannot happen. If the animal that is bayed does not fit the requirements, the dogs can easily be recovered and the animal can live another day.
In the CAR, hunting with dogs is against the law and the way that 99% of the Bongo are hunted is from a Machan (high seat) overlooking a natural salt lick at night. These natural licks are normally in open spaces of several hundred yards across. Bongo do not cross open spaces during daylight so sitting in a Machan during the day will be a waste of time and the distance will be too long for a shot.
The best piece of extra equipment a hunter can and must have with him is two pairs of good quality garden scissors. Us hunters are tall and large people. There is a reason why the Pygmies that inhabit the forest are only 4 feet tall at most. You will be an expert tree pruner at the end of the 14 days of hunting – guaranteed!
There is no insect repellent in the world that works for the bugs that live in the Rain forest. The best is to have long sleeve shirts and long pants and a fly-mesh over your head. There are tiny Sweat-flies that can and will crawl into your nose, ears, eyes and mouth. There are more species of ants that want to bite than anywhere else on earth. Bees are a constant irritation buzzing around your head looking for moisture.
To hunt the Bongo is not so difficult. You follow a cut-line and look for tracks. When a large track is crossed and it is fresh, the Pygmies take over and follow it until they are close enough to let the dogs run. The only thing you must do is keep up with them running at full tilt and shoot straight when the time comes. Easy?? Try it and come and tell me.
Contrary to believe is that commercial tree-cutting does not play a role in the decline of Bongo numbers. The reason is sunlight. Next to the Lebeki National Park in Cameroon the harvesting of certain trees in certain numbers are allowed. There are more Bongo, Forrest Sittatunga, Dwarf Buffalo, Forrest Elephant and countless Duiker and Pig species in the area where tree-cutting is done than in the National Park.
“Pucassa” is a plant that needs sunlight to grow. In the Rainforest, Pucassa is like Lucern in South Africa and it only grows where the trees are felled so that sunlight can reach the jungle floor. This attracts the animals from all over. In the “old forest” where there is no tree cutting, there is no Pucassa and therefore fewer animals.
The Pygmies do not make an effort to hunt Bongo for themselves. It is much easier to trap or hunt all the Duiker and Monkey species than the much larger Bongo. Leopard, Forrest Eagles, Pythons etc are a much bigger threat to Bongo in the forest than humans are. Total deforestation is the biggest threat of them all.
The meat of a Bongo is some of the best that I have ever tasted. It is the same as Reedbuck. Soft and tasty. When cooked wrapped in leaves like the Pygmies do it you will not taste better even in the best restaurant in the country.