By: Justin Felisko
May 19, 2016
PUEBLO, Colo. – Cooper Davis sat in the six-foot deep ground blind in Zululand, South Africa, and kept his compound bow aimed directly on the spiral-horned antelope taking a drink of water.
The nyala was chilling in the dense woodlands near the main watering hole of the 6,000-acre subtropical park and Davis, with his eyes intently focused on the nyala, couldn’t find his shot.
Like he has done so many times in his bull riding career, Davis remained calm though.
According to his hunting guide, Davis knew this specific nyala was one of the smartest of his species in the area the Dare to Bowhunt outfit opens to its visiting hunters. People had been trying to bag this exact nyala for the past three years, but the animal had always found a way to escape his predators.
That was until the nyala made a mistake and Davis was there to capitalize.
The nyala had been stealthily positioning himself between two wildebeests from the moment Davis laid his eyes on him.
“When I was trying to get my shot, he would go and stand behind another animal,” Davis said. “He knew where the hide was basically. He finally made the mistake of walking out a little too far beyond a wildebeest. I had to shoot between the two of them. I just kind of threaded the needle.”
Davis’ nyala was one of the biggest in the world. It measured in at 73 inches, which is the length of both horns and the circumference of both bases.
“This is one of the Top 25 ever taken in the world,” Davis said. “They do measurements and stuff there. It was wild.”
Davis spent 10 days in South Africa from May 2-11 on a bow hunting excursion at Dare to Bowhunt. The bow hunting operation offers two popular areas for guests to hunt at, and Davis elected to take his father, Chad, to Zululand. The Davis’ were able to hunt a variety of animals such as kudus, gemsbucks, nyalas and warthogs.
Zululand is five-and-a-half hours from Johannesburg.
“The way you start out is they get you set up in camp, and it is a resort basically,” Cooper said. “It is really nice. They take you out the first morning and you sit out over a watering hole in a hide. They dig a six-foot hole into the ground and put a dome over the top of it. You basically sit there all day until you see what you want to see. There are animals coming around the waterhole all day because it is their only source of water. It is a different way of hunting.”
The Davis’ would normally wake up around 6:30 a.m. and have coffee and a small breakfast. Father and son then spent the rest of the day hunting until about 5:30 p.m., with a break in between for a packed lunch.
Cooper, who successfully killed a Kudu and Impala the first morning, and his dad would then eat a traditional South African dinner in the evenings at the main lodge.
“Most of the time it would be what we killed that day to give us an idea of what everything tasted like,” Cooper said. “When we were there, I think we had a kudu, impala, and those were the two main dishes. It was surprisingly really good. I was skeptical at first, eating all of that.”
Cooper first learned to hunt with a bow when he was 13 years old, and his dad first brought him hunting with a gun when Cooper was five.
“I have wanted to go to Africa ever since I was a kid, and I always wanted to shoot a kudu since I was six or seven,” Cooper said. “With my dad, he always wanted to go on a kudu hunt. He said, ‘Oh, I am never going to Africa. It is too far. It is not safe and all this stuff.’”
Chad wasn’t supposed to originally go on the trip with Cooper. However, Cooper’s wife, Kaitlyn, didn’t feel comfortable about the couple leaving their baby boy, Mack, who celebrated his first birthday Thursday, with their extended family for that long of a time period.
Therefore, Kaitlyn surprised Cooper by calling Chad to see if he would be willing to go in her place before telling her husband.
“It had been a long time since we have been in a blind together,” Cooper said. “After I got all of my animals, we kind of sat together and had some alone time together. I probably haven’t hunted just with him since I was 12. It was cool being able to do that again and see him shoot an impala, warthog and a blesbuck.
“It was pretty cool and something I will never forget.”
Now back in the United States, Cooper turns his attention toward the June 4 J.W. Hart PBR Challenge BlueDEF Tour event where the No. 7 ranked bull rider in the world standings will be faced with another bovine challenge.
This time he won’t be in a blind in South Africa. Instead, he will be potentially be getting on the back of 2016 World Champion Bull contender Jared Allen’s Air Time if he can win the Young Guns Challenge.
Fans can watch the event exclusively on PBR LIVE.
Air Time has only been ridden once in 27 career outs at all PBR levels of competition.
“I don’t think there is any bull that is not rideable,” Davis said. “I think you have to be on your day and you just have to beat him head-to-head.”
In other words, much like his hunt, you just have to wait for the right moment.
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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