Fri 13th – Black Friday, unlucky for some, maybe safer to stay in bed. Fortunately I’m not superstitious nor did it seem anyone else was either so 4.30 am had us on the road again. Sable Rd actually, I think Simon had seen one there once to give it the name. I said to Simon that we should maybe shoot a mid 30’s bull and get one in the salt seeing as it was day 9 now and time running out, then can concentrate on something bigger. Agreed. We cruised up the road looking hard when all of a sudden excitement. Grande palapala. I was locked and loaded in an instant and there it was, a black sable bull angling away at around 140 metres. He paused in a gap in the trees and I let rip, thump. Well that sounded ok and he bolted out of sight. I was still a little apprehensive as we approached the spot he’d been standing, then there was blood and lots of it. I’ve shot a lot of animals over the years and I knew straight away this guy was going nowhere. We found him crumpled up in a heap less than 100 metres from where he’d taken the bullet, high up a foot behind the shoulder angled forward. Suddenly it hit me, it was over, I’d finally achieved a goal I’d set some 14 months ago. Two trips to the other side of the world from where I live, hell I’d done some miles to be at that spot at that moment in time. The mandatory photo session ensued then it was loaded up and back to camp. On approach to camp the trackers on the back started to sing and clap and then the rest of the camp emerged to join in. Quite touching it was and something never to be forgotten.
The avo was a plan to go to the plain and sit for the evening and see if anything would come to water. I said to Simon a bigger Sable would do nicely. We hadn’t gone far down the road when we encountered a small group of Sable that had just crossed the road. I could see 3 bulls but the first two were of a similar size to the one I’d shot in the morning. The 3rd was in a gap easily shootable but couldn’t get a look at his horn length. By the time Simon got a decent look and called it as a nice bull (yeah ok more information please) he was on the move again. He stopped in a half gap but with a bit of foliage in the way but I let a shot go anyway. (Remember Zambia for christs sake?) I had a vision of water spraying up but it was on reflection afterwards dust where the bullet struck. Thinking I’d hit him we followed the group for several hundred metres bumping them twice more before they crossed the road. At that point Simon got from Tumi & Raymond that I’d missed. Really?
The next smart plan was to drive the roads ahead of where they were going and see what we could find. An hour later we were almost back to the starting point and where I thought they might be and wallah there they were. Simon said the one on the right, well there were several on the right, but I could see a big black bull partially obscured by foliage half way to him. I had to lean across Simon for the shot and lean heavily into his family jewels. Boompha!!
“You missed” said Simon “Eh”
He ran a bit and stopped, in the clear this time. Wham and he jumped as the bullet struck him. He ran to the left as the rest appeared to go right. “Got him that time” I thought as I’d got a good shot off on the middle of his shoulder. We off over to the spot and Tumi walked purposely along parallel to where they’d run. I’m thinking after about 400 metres of this that the bull had run the other direction and was dead there somewhere. We headed back to look and as the light was starting to go I thought we won’t see blood by the time we get there. I was blabbing away to Simon as we walked back more on the line the herd had headed when Tumi put his hand up and stopped us. The herd was directly in front and didn’t know we were there, standing looking at their back trail while we were now in the opposite direction. Simon commenced a sneaky stalk from tree to tree as the light was now going fast and we had no time to muck about. There was initially no sign of the bull, not even the 2 other bulls seen originally were there, just cows. After a few minutes they started to walk past us no more than 50 metres away. Then Simon said “there he is out to the right” I had to wait a bit then saw a big black shape coming through and what’s more I could see he was limping. As soon as he passed an open bit I let him have it and he thundered off at a great rate of knots. As I ran up I heard Simon say “you shot a female, you shot a female”
“The hell I did” I said, I had been around Simon long enough already to know he was winding me up. The bull had run 50 metres and was down. The first hit was so low on the front left leg as to be of no consequence and if we hadn’t got him then we wouldn’t have. The bullet drop at 250 odd metres had been at least 15 inches. Didn’t think it necessary to allow at that range but obviously the heavy 220 grain slug drops quite a bit. Lesson there. The first shot would have gone under him too.
By the time the boys arrived with the bakkie it was well dark so all the photos were with the flash. There was much glee and merriment and more singing and hand clapping as we arrived back at camp. As David Bowie sang “We can be heros just for one day”
I could probably wager a bundle of cash that no other kiwi hunter has ever shot 2 truly wild free range sable bulls in the one day.
Evidently tradition in Simons camp says that much beer should be consumed and rum and red wine when a sable is downed. I managed to keep tradition but just to further young Christiaans training as a PH. Simon gave the tracker boys a lie in next morn or was it more for our benefit?
Sat 14th – I was up around 7am and after a bit of coffee and breaky we headed off at 8am to check the area where we’d shot at the sable for “peace of mind”. Nothing further was apparent so we walked a hundred metres and Tumi gave a Duiker call on a Reed caller he made. After about a minute a nice male duiker came running up to us and stopped at about 10 metres before scarpering. The 30-06 pill was faster than the little duiker and caught him perfectly in the middle so no damage was done to the cape. Straight back to camp where very subdued singing and hand clapping was evident after cajoling from Simon. Obviously that part is reserved for grande palapala.
The avo was a drive up sable road and apart from some nice pics of a duiker by the bakkie it was a quiet evening.
Sun 15th – Penultimate day. Saw a herd of sable near camp but just females and young. Later on bushpig road another herd with a bull no bigger than what I already had. Then a lone bull that was also similar in size. Now they were starting to show themselves. Saw a couple Reedbuck on the newly named “Kiwi road”
Avo we went to plain to sit for evening. The reedbuck was there again with a nice male but he needed another year. They starting whistling so we gave up and went to try and find the big reedbuck we’d seen earlier. He’d heard we were coming and kept out of sight.
Mon 16th – Out early on final hunting day. Saw the nursery group of sable near camp. No bulls there. Later saw 5 Eland cows running off, first we’d seen though sign was always evident. Then another small herd of sable that had a very good bull but by the time it was identified as such they moved on. We did follow them for a bit but they are hard to get up on from behind as they always watching their trail.
The last avo hunt was up and down bushpig road to maybe spot the big bull from the morning. We did strike a herd last light but were beaten by darkness
Tues 17th – A 4am start had us heading for Nampula airport and the long 50 hours or so of travel that it was going to take me to get back to Auckland. The only hiccup was Qantas cancelled our flight from Sydney to Auckland and so took a bit longer than it should have.
A big thank you to Simon and Christiaan for making my hunt a success and the camp team supporting them. It’s a proper no frills hunting camp, which is how I like it. It’s real hunting, not shooting and there are good numbers of true free range sable available mixed up with a lot of cover.
It looks like I’ll probably be back in SA hunting Nyala with Simon before too long.
Nice report Neil P, I am glad you got your Sable. You did the hard yards and was rewarded. I would love to do this hunt one day. By the way the Aussies played their best game for a long time last night.
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