Bowhunter Aug/Sept 1993 issue
BRUSH WITH TAWNY DEATH
By M.R. James
The lioness was maybe 60 yards away when Paul Schafer heard her warning growl and the swishing of tall grass as she charged. Professional Hunter Con Van Wyk, armed with his .375 rifle and standing a few yards away, hadn't yet heard or seen the big cat. jarred by the sight of the onrushing African lion, Paul quickly nocked an arrow and readied himself for the shot that he knew would not stop the cat's determined charge.
By luck alone Paul was carrying his Schafer recurve instead of the video camera he'd he'd moments earlier. He, Van Wyk and another bowhunter, Ted Jaycock, were driving back to camp through Zimbabwe brush country when they saw a lioness loping along just ahead of the Land Rover. Quickly braking the vehicle, Van Wyk gave his hunters a chance to film the lion. But the lioness soon disappeared and the only chance for more video footage was to trail the big cat at a respectful distance and hope to catch sight of her again.
As Van Wyk and Jaycock scrambled from the Land Rover, Paul noticed that his video camera's battery had gone dead. Laying the camera aside, he snatched up his bow- more out of reflex than design- and hurried after his two companions. Walking 150 to 200 yards without catching sight of the lioness, Paul had just stepped into an opening in the thick brush when he heard the warning growl and glimpsed the onrushing cat.
The big lioness targeted Paul like a tawny, radar-guided missile-and there was no mistaking her intentions. Everything, Paul said later, unfolded like a scene from some African adventure movie. He fully expected to hear a rifle's report at any second and see the lion fold, skidding to a dusty stop at his feet- just the way it would happen on the big screen. But this was no safari movie. No shot came and when the lioness veered around a bush scant yards away, Paul drew released and watched his arrow bury itself in the animal's ribs. At almost the same instant the explosion of Van Wyk's rifle seemed to shake the very ground.
The stricken lioness instantly swerved away and slammed full bore into Van Wyk who frantically working the bolt to jack another cartridge into his rifle's chamber. Failing, he instinctively threw up the weapon just as the lion hit him. The cat bit down on the rifle, shook it and raked the Professional Hunter with her claws, shredding clothing and flesh alike.
A sturdy African outdoorsman standing over six feet and weighing a solid 200 pounds, Van Wyk struggled to keep his feet under him and to avoid the lion's powerful jaws by jamming the rifle into the cat's mouth. He appeared oblivious to the slashing claws that were quickly turning him into a bloody mass.
Paul nocked another arrow and stepped closer to the combatants struggling less than 10 yards away, looking for an opening. The lioness caught the movement and fixed Paul with a brief stare before suddenly dropping off Van Wyk and turning to bound away. Instinctively, Paul shot again and drove a second arrow through the lioness as she disappeared into the brushy tangle.
Van Wyk stood naked and bloody, still grasping the tooth scarred rifle, looking down at the rips in his thighs and hips. Claw marks ran from his side down across the groin. Despite the wounds and gore, Van Wyk was able to joke about nearly losing his manhood before suggesting they return to camp and seek appropriate treatment for his wounds. Later, only after showering and applying antibiotics directly into the tears in his flesh, did Van Wyk seek professional medical attention.
The lion attack immediately was reported to Zimbabwe game officials who arrived the following day for a field investigation. Stiff and sore but stitched and wrapped with bandages, Van Wyk led officials to the attack site. He also tracked and located the body of the 350-pound lioness sprawled about 150 yards away. Two arrow wounds traversed the body, chest to flank, and a single bullet wound was found just below one eye. Van Wyk, who glimpsed the charging lioness at the last instant, fired from the hip just as Paul released his first arrow. it had been enough to divert the lion's attention to him- and likely save his client from mauling. Following their investigation, Zimbabwe game officials promptly cleared Van Wyk and Paul of any wrongdoing and declared they had acted in self -defense.