Hunting the small antelope in a big way
Hunting the small antelope in a big way
Andries will you be interested in hunting the west coast? Client cancelled a hunt for three species of small antelope. West coast you say? Well I one's travelled as far as the Salt River and I imagined I have seen enough or the fact being the lack of things to sight sees, I turned around. Way would I hunt an area that consist of low laying shrub, red sand and nothing much more. I promise you Andries there is much more in this remote part of the land that meets the eye!
As a boy I grew up with the hunting of Steenbok and Duiker. Over the years I collected quite a lot of them and added to my collection a fine five and a half inch Southern Bush Duiker but a Rowland Ward minimum Steenbok eluded me. I was assurance of getting a Steenbok that would easily make the book. But what sealed the deal was when Ian, my friend and PH, whispered the magic words that one of the three will be a klipspringer. With this the chips were down and the trip was booked.
It was just after ten in the evening when we turned into Garies. We quickly transferred the goods to the hunting vehicle and headed 60 kilometers into virgin country. We reached camp an hour later and by midnight it was lights out but as always the imagination of shooting that monster kept that much needed sleep at bay. It was still very much dark when Ian awoke me from a deep and private meeting with Morpheus. Coffee? Light crept in from the east revealing a country that was hidden from us the previous night. Massive amounts of rocks grew up from deep valleys almost touching the heaven. This is truly Gods country, only hindered by time. Mans hand hasn't reached this far yet and being there that morning was monumental. Slipping into my kit, especially my hunting boots always brings a satisfying and reassuring feeling that the hunt was about to start. Wrapped my Leica Geovid binoculars with its combined range finding capabilities around my shoulders assure the fact that the shooting range will be testing. Klipspringer hunting is well known for long distance shooting and with mostly a bushveld hunting background I would be lying if I said I was not nervous.
The mountains glowed a beautiful red and gold when we started crawling up the steep gradient to where our quarry called its home. A full hour passed before reaching our destination and within stepping out of our vehicle we spooked our first family of Klipspringer or Klipbokke as the west coast people call them. Two females and a young male. You don't necessarily have to see a shooter to be assured that you are in the right spot. Two hours later we managed to have covered the most part of the mountain top and seeing a total of 22 klipspringer. One looked worthwhile and we wanted a second look but as is typical nature of this little Houdini he vanished into thin air. The day was heating up and the water was running low and we decided to returned to the vehicle. On the decent we spook a pair and they passed relatively close and when I picked up the binos it didn't take much to see he is definably what I want. Man that's him, what do you think? I didn't wait for a reply, it is like they say: the big ones look big! I dropped onto the rock and in one fluent movement the Harris bipod was open. The distance between him and us was opening up fast as he descended the mountain. Please stop, just 2 seconds will be enough. The crosshair was tracking him as he took onto a small platto but he never stopped. He disappeared from sight onto the next ledge some 350m away. Tears where so very close but this was not the time. In seconds we were descending the mountain in top haste. We looked and glassed the area where they disappeared but they were gone. Head hung low we headed back. Round one went to the Klipspringer. Evil tricks the mind plays on you when you have time, time like when you head back to camp and that full hour is spend on flashback of that massive Klipspringer. Will I see it again? Or even better yet would he allow me to put a crosshair on him?
Midday was spent with a braai and a quick snooze to make up for a very short nights rest. Later when the country started to cool down a little bit we explored a new part of the property. We drove up a narrow gorge with the utmost care as the previous months rain washed out the road. 全top came the command of the third of our party, Petrie. He is the sharpest of eyed people I have ever seen. Petrie decided to join me on short notice and is a good friend of Ian's. I will go as far as to say he is a necessity to spotting game. He pointed out a pair of klipspringer scaling the mountain. With binos out we quickly accessed the quality of the male. A shooter! I got out and made for a spot that I could lay down to have a steady shot. Binos confirmed the range to be 220m. He stopped on a rock which was so typical to them. I squeezed the trigger and the shot rang from the 7mm Rem mag. As I recovered the words came from Ian that both of them are making the way further up the mountain. Missed? I was so sure, so steady but yet the little dainty Klipbok was making his way up the mountain until he disappeared from sight. He was a beauty and he was gone. My confidence was at an all-time low. Two hours later we reached the summit with no trophy to report but what a view. We were on top of the world and we spent a good portion of time to take it all in. The fast distances the eye could see in all four directions of the compass are hard to put into words.
The son was hanging low in the sky on the return to camp. This was the time when the little buck referred to as brick in color would make his appearance. It was not long when a peach of a Steenbok would show himself. With a quick consensus he was in the salt and sporting a lovely pair of 5 and a quarter inch horns. Smiles all round and after some lovely pictures we continued home for some grub and much needed rest. The Steenbok was an opportunistic animal but I know after years of hunting to make the most of these circumstances. In the past I have passed those up for shooting from a vehicle would not be the most ethical way of hunting. But when lady luck winks at you it would be ignorant to not except the gesture.
With the fire burning high we held counsel that we will quickly drive to the canyon where I missed the Klipspringer and just make sure he wasn't hit and maybe if he was still around to have another look at. If this is not successful we will swing around to the opposite side of the property to the spot where the monster Klipspringer gave us a slip. I am not known as a pessimist but going for the second chance buck doesn't really build confidence. But thats the plan and we were sticking to it. My body was feeling the strain of a long day of mountain hunting and it wasn't long before I crawled into my sleeping bag for much needed rest.
The morning air was fresh and blowing into our faces as we scanned the cloof where I missed the day before. The hillside opposite of us was just starting to get bathed by the morning sun and the disappointment of the previous day was fading from memory and replaced by the beauty of the surroundings. No Klipspringer but making sure for the second time that I didn't hit him was a relief. Nothing as bad as wounding but losing a trophy because the hunter did not do everything in his power to make sure the trophy is overlooked is probably far worst. Well nothing for us here so let's swing back to see if we can't locate your ram and if we lucky relief you of the nightmares you will have about him for some years to come! came the words from Ian. He was right; the night before the last memories was about the big ram, so the nightmares have already started.
We were slowly driving around to the western side of the mountain to the place we last saw our quarry. On our way we stopped at least three times to look over respected groups of between 2 and three klipspringer but nothing of interest, nothing like the one were looking for. But we had one weapon with us that will eventually swing the hunt in our favor. Petrie and his keen eyesight. It was not long when the excitement in his voice portrayed the presence of a group of klipspringers. The excitement was boiling in all of us for this was the exact area we lost our trophy the previous day. As quickly as I lifted the binoculars I dropped them and exchanged them for my rifle. It is him! We got out and made our way towards them where they were halfway up the ridge. We closed to about 220m when they started to get weary. I got down and readied myself for the shot. Confirmed the distance and took aim. I must admit that a Klipspringer makes a very small target and having only a nine times magnification doesn't make much of assistance. I squeezed the trigger and the shot ran out. As I recovered the strong whispered words came from Ian: you shot low, you missed quickly I worked the bolt and pushed another 7mm Rem Mag round into the chamber. Distance, distance please! 260 and still running said Ian. We will have to get closer, I can't make those shots, I replied. We got up as the pair disappeared around the ledge into a shallow klofie. As we sneaked around the ridge they were already aware of our presence and started to open up distance between us. I opened up the Harris bipod and got down onto my stomach. By this time the adrenalin was coursing through my veins and added to my instability. He stood on small stone in the brush 220m away. I took aim and fired with the same results as the first shot. Another missed shot and the tension heightened and the shakes got worst. He stopped again and I made another empty casing with no results. He ran again and came to a stop on a rock outcropping. I was down to the last round in the magazine but I was out of self-confidence and at this point I believed the last shot will just add to the disappointment. But I am ever convinced that the law of averages came into play here. If you miss enough some or other time something will hit, even if by sheer luck!
I squeezed the trigger for the fourth time and by this I was sure the last opportunity. I was still recovering from the recoil when the yells surrounded me that he was hit. I also recalled the last thing I saw was a klipspringer collapsing from the rock. Well I was starting to feel much better but hitting something is one thing, laying your hands on that trophy quit something else! My feet barely touched the ground as I quickly ascended the mountain side to where my price awaited me. The first glimpses I caught of him were the grey and golden sheen of his coat through the brush a mere 2 meters away. My heart was beating in my throat; I managed to get my trophy although very lucky. None the less he is mine. As I bent over to retrieve him from the bush where he fell, I was flooded in emotion. He was big, 4 and a half inch monster big! I was on top of the world, literally and physically!
We spent some time to get amazing pictures of him and the surroundings. I sat back to gather myself and settle back into normal again. I was pleased. Hard work, pursuance and a big chuck of luck brought a hunt to a very positive end. I will do it again, not changing anything, well maybe just improving my shooting!