SOUTH AFRICA: 2021 South Africa (Northern & Eastern Cape) Hunt Report

Hank2211

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Day 6

The next ten days or so went by in a bit of a blur, with a few exceptions. I’ll try and be as concise as reasonably possible . . . at least for me.

The topography of Niel's farm covers just about everything you’d want. Feel like climbing? There are hills and mountains. Stalking in thickets? There’s plenty of brush. Feel like longer shots in open country? There’s open plains (one area in particular is called “Serengeti”). The only thing that makes this culling rather than difficult hunting is the sheer number of animals. If your stalk is busted, you just move on and try again. The animals can get away from you pretty easily and you might not see them again that day.

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On our second day at Niel’s we went towards Serengeti, to see what might be grazing in the sun in the early morning. As we drove towards the area we could see we were disturbing the animals, and black wildebeest and blesbok were running everywhere, as they often do. I’m never really sure which thinks it’s being chased by the other, but maybe both think they’re being chased by the other. Regardless, it can make hunting either of these species difficult.

John parked in some trees and we got out. Fortunately, there was a sloot nearby and that allowed us to more or less get into the middle of the area without being seen (provided the wind was right). We’d find sloots (if that's the plural of sloot!) to be very helpful in the time we spent at Niel's. From time to time we peeked up to see what might be around and finally, we decided we’d gotten about as close as we could to some black wildebeest. We stepped up out of the ditch and John put the sticks up. He then had to identify the non-trophy animals . . . that done, I took a quick shot (but mindful of the scope issue!) and a wildebeest took off, dead on his feet. For some reason, the others pretty much stayed put – an unusual event in my experience. John said if I wanted, there was another I could take, so down it went. We then focused on a blesbok which seemed mildly amused by the entire affair. Another quick shot and the blesbok went down. By this time, all the animals had run, but three in less than a minute seemed reasonable work, so we went to pick them up.

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The meat now in the truck, we began a slow drive around and found the blesbok which had run after the first went down. I was feeling pretty good about my shooting at this point, which is usually the sign of impending disaster, and today was no exception. So another shot on an unsuspecting blesbok, but this time, it was a terrible shot. A hit, but seemed to be too far back. Off it went with the others in the herd. Never a good sign – I prefer when they peel off from the herd right away.

I waited for another shot, and it came, but I was in a hurry and didn’t take my time. A pull, rather than a squeeze, and a miss. Second quick follow up and another miss. Now, I’m flustered, and they’re off again. I could recount the story of finding this fellow, but suffice to say it took the rest of the morning and about 5 more shots to finish him off. Unbelievable. To shoot so well (reasonably well?) and then to shoot like this? Not only was it terribly unfair to the poor Blesbok, but I’d be out of ammo (at least, my ammo) before long. But John doesn’t give up, and that’s a good trait in a PH. We agree that: 1. You clean up the mess you made, and 2. You owe it to the animal to put it out of its misery as soon as possible.

So we headed back to camp with four animals in the back of the truck, and my not feeling nearly as good as I should, given the number.

I should add at this point that Niel’s alternative to hunters taking off game is game capture. The game capture people pay him a (very small) amount for each animal caught, and they keep the meat. I pay him substantially more for each animal I take off, and he keeps the meat. A win-win. Niel has a large cold room, which I was filling with carcasses. His brother, apart from being a sheep farmer, has a commercial abattoir on his farm, and comes to pick up the meat on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, one of the blesbok from this morning likely won’t provide a whole lot of usable meat. I will do better.

We went back out after a nice lunch (served “al fresco” – nice when it’s still snowing back home!). The afternoon yielded another black wildebeest and another two blesbok. No disasters.

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Total for the day: 4 Blesbok; 3 black wildebeest.

Running total: 12 animals.
 
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LivingTheDream

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In fact – and this worries me a bit (am I getting sentimental in my advancing age?!) – I’m happier with myself for not having shot the rhino than I think I would be if I had actually killed it. And I’m one of those people who says “an animal is an animal.” But there’s something about rhino .
I felt the same way after darting my rhino. Watching her run off afterwards was pretty emotional for me. And you are spot on about the skin, there is nothing like it. Great report!!
 

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Did you know the shots were off the moment you pulled the trigger? There is some 6th sense that can feel a good or bad shot. I appreciate the frank recital of the events. There is no hunter who has never missed or had a bad shot. (A guy who claims so that wouldn’t be fun to hunt with!)
 

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Having a PH be "Cheeky" about missing......
You brought back a memory of one fella who tried that on me. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to know I had not missed and we both got a laugh.

After the Rhino hunt you have experienced the perfect introduction to Bow hunting. It is just as you describe your Rhino hunt. What an incredible experience.
I have still not been blessed with the required patience for Bow hunting, but I am stubborn.

Well done.
 

Hank2211

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Did you know the shots were off the moment you pulled the trigger? There is some 6th sense that can feel a good or bad shot. I appreciate the frank recital of the events. There is no hunter who has never missed or had a bad shot. (A guy who claims so that wouldn’t be fun to hunt with!)
I thought the shots on the four fallow deer were good - each sounded like a hit. But I knew I’d missed on the earlier shots - I used to have a sometime habit of “helping” the rifle - kind of nudging forward as I shot. I did that in both the earlier shots. And I find that as I shoot worse, if I don’t take a moment to ”re-set” myself, it gets worse. Here, John (my PH) was taking advantage of the fact that I was not in a great place after two misses to have a bit of a laugh. So even though I heard what sounded like a hit, I allowed myself to be convinced I’d missed . . .

John and I have hunted together enough that I get his sense of humour, and he gets mine (I hope!). And frankly, the best way to ”re-set” yourself is to have a laugh at your mistakes and then focus on not making them again. I find if I start to stress over the mistakes (as I can) it’s a lot harder to overcome them and move on.
 

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This is accurate advice for life too! I’m glad your PH knew how to help hit the reset button.
 

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Great report as always!

I'm behind here and got to read it all at once on a lazy rainy day.
 

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Day 8

Day 8 started out wet. But not wet enough to stop us from going out. I felt a little bad for the guys on the back of the truck, but they were well-kitted out in waterproof gear, hats and gloves, so of we went.

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As we drove around, looking for opportunities, the rain began to increase. At one point we spotted a scraggily looking springbok a few hundred yards away and decided to start the day with him. John and I got out and he grabbed the sticks while I grabbed the rifle. I was trying to keep my gun dry, but soon gave up and settled for keeping the scope dry. Pretty quickly the sticks went up, I took the shot, and the springbok was down. We hurried back to the truck while our better-dressed retrieval team went to pick him up. At this point it was positively raining, and we decided to try to wait it out, parking near a large tree so the guys could get some shelter. As much as the rain was interfering with our plans, it wasn’t lost on us that Niel needed lots of rain to re-fill his dams.

As an aside, on the subject of the dams, it appears that a minister in the South African government said on TV that the drought was the fault of the whites. If they hadn’t built the dams so big, they’d have filled up, he said. I actually thought that was really funny!

After a decent interval. the rain turned to intermittent drizzle, so we were off again. We came across a small group of impala and decided to try for one. They seemed content behind some trees for far too long, so we moved in on them, which caused them to run. But unfortunately for them, not far enough. A decent shot and one was down. It hadn’t been lost on me that they’d run towards some fallow deer, which decided not to move off too far either, so two of those went down.

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We decided to keep going, and we soon found a nice herd of blesbok to our left on the uphill side of the road. Again, we jumped out and moved forward along the road until we were within shooting distance. I quickly lined up on a nice one (by which I mean, of course, not nice) and it dropped. The shot, though, caused some commotion and other animals, which may have been hiding from the rain under trees, came out to see what was going on.

John pointed a pair of young male kudus and said want one? Sure . . ." The one on the right." He was downhill to the right of the road. A quick shot to the shoulder and he was down. And then another quick shot on a blesbok which had stopped on its way up the hill. And then another blesbok. At that point, I was out of bullets in the rifle and it was time to catch my breath anyway.

Four animals, one a kudu, in the space of less than one minute, starting to my left, moving about 180 degrees to my right, and then back to centre and up about 40 degrees for the final shots Lots of good practice! Not sure if I should apologize or be pleased. I’ll settle for the latter – especially since each only took one shot!

Once we’d recovered them all, it was really time to head back. Now it was pouring rain, so back we went. It was getting really hard to keep track of all of this shooting – I’m glad John told me early on to keep a running tally, and we would compare at the end of each day. After a couple of days, it’s hard to remember exactly what you shot and when!

Niel met us as we drove by the house on the way to the skinning shed/cool room. “No luck?” “Lots of luck!” He didn’t seem at all bothered by the kudu (which had been on our cull list in any event . . . but still . . . young kudu bulls? I did feel a bit of remorse about that.) In fact, John and Dean had already decided that they would make biltong from the kudu, so the meat came back to the house where they began the initial marinade with spices we’d picked up in Cradock. Nothing ever wasted.

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I dried my gun thoroughly and we settled in for a bit of an early rest, waiting for the rain to stop.

After lunch, the rain had pretty well stopped, so we got ready to head out. By now, as some had predicted, I was beginning to run low on my own ammo. If this continued, we’d have to move on to Niel's!

John had an idea for the afternoon which he'd mentioned before. Niel had a large field of unharvested lucerne (alfalfa for us here in North America, I think) and the fallow deer and some warthogs were hitting it pretty hard around dusk each day. So we headed off to that field to see what could be done.

We stopped the truck a few hundred yards from the field and began a slow walk in. We hadn’t gone more than a dozen yards when a warthog came trotting along about 50 yards upwind of us. I’m not sure who saw it first, but we froze on the spot. John put the sticks up very slowly and I got the rifle up. A quick whistle, the warthog stopped to see what was up, and down he went. Clearly, he had dinner on his mind and didn’t pay enough attention to his surroundings. A lack of situational awareness, I’d call it. Always dangerous. Sometimes fatal.

We retrieved the warthog and John said, “Look, after that, no more may come, but we won’t know unless we try. Still up for it?” Yup. So we continued to the Lucerne field and hid behind some round bales, with the sticks up, just in case.

Not ten minutes later, John had a look and said “there’s three warthogs feeding. A big one and two year-old ones. You can try for all three, but start with the big one.” I slowly got up and got the picture. They had no idea we were there and were feeding, and I mean really feeding. Snouts down and barely looking up. I lined up on mom and let her have one. She began to run in circles and the younger ones seemed unsure of what was going on. So another quick shot and a second came down. At that point the third ran away, so we went to see if it might have stopped and looked back. It hadn't, unfortunately.

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Wow. We set up for a picture – three warthogs. A good few minute's work. Or so I thought. On the way back to the house, John had me take two more blesbok. Just because, I guess.

Daily tally: 5 blesbok; 2 fallow deer; 1 impala; 1 springbok; 3 warthog; 1 kudu.

Running total: 33 animals.
 

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Hank — nice reporting, sounds like a hoot. I also agree that darting rhinos is much harder than rifle shooting. Red leg, I took measurements of my biggest rhino and lots of photos for taxidermy. Cost was basically 5000 plus shipping from one of America’s best— problem is not enough wall space
 

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If you have already put it in your report, I missed it. What bullet are you using in the .275?
 

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If you have already put it in your report, I missed it. What bullet are you using in the .275?
Hmm. Perhaps too much Macallan @Red Leg? I'd suggest moving to red wine, but I believe you're saving the good stuff for when you lose our bet. If only I could recall what it was.

Here's what I said at the beginning:

I’ll be shooting Rigby branded bullets (140 grain) which are really Hornady Interlocks.

Now that I'm through being difficult (for which my wife thanks you), I will tell you that I've about run out of these at this point in the story. Niel had two types: Remington Core-Lokt 140 grain and Hornady SST in 139 grain. Why these aren't 140 grain is a mystery, at least to me. Next chapter will reveal the saga of these bullets.

Unfortunately, unless you load your own (I don't), you pretty much take what you can find in .275 Rigby.
 

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Sorry for the delay . . .

Day 4

Today was rhino day. The day I complete the Big 5, or at least a version of it. I admit I was a little apprehensive – I’d never seen a dart gun, let alone fired one. But I pushed those thoughts away, had a nice breakfast, and then we headed out to the range, where I met Wiaan Van der Linde, the owner of Wintershoek. He would be my PH for today. I’d met Wiaan many years ago and throughout the years, I've always considered him a thoroughly decent man, and a friend.

Wiaan has always kept rhino, and currently had over a hundred on the property, both white and black. I asked which we’d be hunting today and he replied “white.” I asked why not black? He laughed and said that he’d have to shoot 7 out of 10 black rhino darted – they were so temperamental that the odds of them charging the darter were that high. I was fine with white rhino – the aim today was emphatically not to kill a rhino!

Wiaan showed me the dart gun I’d be using. It was essentially a .22 LR rifle which had had a tube placed on top of the barrel, running parallel with the regular barrel, which wasn’t used at all. The top barrel would have a dart inserted into it, and then a .22 blank loaded, which would fire the dart when I pulled the trigger. There was a scope on top of the new barrel, which meant that it was more than a little high for quick target acquisition – I’d have to take my time. Wiaan said we’d more than likely have time, since optimal range was 30 yards, but that we could go to 40 if necessary. At that distance, if the rhino knew I was there, it would be long gone, so if it was standing, I’d have time.

Some rhinos had been spotted some distance away and as we drove out to their general vicinity, I asked Wiaan about security issues. He confirmed that he’d lost a number of rhinos to poaching the past couple of years, and this was always organized crime rather than opportunistic poaching. He’d recently changed security companies and this seemed to have improved things, but the proper security was quite expensive. I have a lot of sympathy for those who keep rhino – they are doing something which the world needs, but without any support from government or NGOs which claim to want to “save the rhino.” I won’t get into that discussion here, except to say that hunts like the one I was on help, in a small way, to preserve rhino by helping those who keep rhino to pay at least a small portion of the bills associated with that activity.

We stopped somewhere Wiaan estimated was within a kilometre of where the rhino we were looking for might be, and from there, it was on foot, with Wiaan carrying a rifle and me carrying the dart gun. It was a windy day (the temperature looked set to change from summer to fall, if not winter), which would help us, although it tended to make the animals more skittish. We set out and it was some time before I saw the rhino, but once we were within some hundreds of yards, Wiaan pointed them out. From then, it was a bit of a cat and mouse game – there were four of them, which made our life much harder, and they seemed to move from cover to the open and back, always checking. Our stalk was quick movement followed by freezing in place, repeatedly. We were never busted, but it took much longer than I expected to close the distance.

Now, I’m going to cut to the chase (no pun intended!). I can’t go into detail about every aspect of this hunt, but I will say this: it was one of the most thrilling and tiring hunts I have been on in years. My mood ranged from excited, to worried, to exhilarated, more than once.

Eventually, we were successful and I was able to touch my rhino. I felt his heartbeat behind his front shoulder, and I couldn’t swear which heart was beating faster – his or mine. The skin felt rough, but nothing like an elephant’s – no sharp hairs to pierce your skin, and the rhino was sweating – the result of running after the darting - but not a bad smell (unlike, say, giraffe). He was in good condition though – the result of the care people take for these valuable and impressive animals. Though he couldn't know it, this minor inconvenience he was suffering was helping all rhino!

I will say this about completing the Big 5 by darting rather than killing a rhino. Unless you want to argue that the only rhino which counts for the Big 5 is a black rhino – a view I can respect as being reasonably historically accurate – darting a rhino can be much, much more difficult and challenging than killing a rhino. I could have shot this rhino at 200 yards or 100 yards, without any trouble at all. I could (and hopefully would) have asked my PH to get much closer, but I’m virtually certain that no PH would have taken the time to get me within 30 yards of the rhino before putting the sticks up. At least on this hunt, killing the rhino would have been so much easier than darting it that as far as challenges go, I’m good with myself and claiming the Big 5.

In fact – and this worries me a bit (am I getting sentimental in my advancing age?!) – I’m happier with myself for not having shot the rhino than I think I would be if I had actually killed it. And I’m one of those people who says “an animal is an animal.” But there’s something about rhino . . .


View attachment 401614
Simply awesome! Congratulations on taking the final animal in the big 5! An incredible accomplishment of a lifetime one I aspire to
 

Red Leg

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Hmm. Perhaps too much Macallan @Red Leg? I'd suggest moving to red wine, but I believe you're saving the good stuff for when you lose our bet. If only I could recall what it was.

Here's what I said at the beginning:



Now that I'm through being difficult (for which my wife thanks you), I will tell you that I've about run out of these at this point in the story. Niel had two types: Remington Core-Lokt 140 grain and Hornady SST in 139 grain. Why these aren't 140 grain is a mystery, at least to me. Next chapter will reveal the saga of these bullets.

Unfortunately, unless you load your own (I don't), you pretty much take what you can find in .275 Rigby.

Thank you!! It was simply so much trouble to sift through all that again, I took a chance that you might re-post (your spouse must be a delightful woman). :E Angel:

Sounds like a great hunt. Will be taking my Highland Stalker to Zambia in August (loaded with the 170 gr Oryx.)
 

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Day 9

Our ninth day was a bit unusual, at least in the afternoon. In the morning we shot 3 fallow deer, one impala and another springbok. A white one with an odd horn. Oh, and he might have been limping.


The springbok was lying down, and John, naturally, didn't want me to shoot him lying down. Low percentage shot. But after trying to get him up, I said I was comfortable with the shot . . . so John said OK. You might be able to hear his reaction.

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We also had another interesting encounter. You can encounter snakes at any time, but if you spend enough time in the African bush, you will likely eventually encounter something like this guy – just hope you’re walking and not belly-crawling when you do!

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Where's Waldo?

This seemed to be a cape cobra – he must have been trying to get some sun, because he didn’t seem too put out by us. Having said that, I’d have been a bit happier if he had been more put out and had left, rather than lying there watching us. And tempting me to do something stupid like, say chuck a branch at him when I was standing about 10 feet from him. Not sure it was one of my brightest ideas, but it did eventually send him in the opposite direction . . . letting me see just how fast he could move when he wanted to!

A couple more perspectives:

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I’ve always enjoyed hunting bushbuck, and in the afternoon John told me he’d arranged with Niel for us to go to Niel’s brother’s farm (about a 25 minute drive away, even though the properties abut – on a mountain). Apparently Niel's brother had some nice bushbuck.

Our first attempt turned out to be futile – the wind changed direction and made the place we had decided to stake out futile. So we headed to a lucerne field, on the understanding that bushbuck often came out to feed at dusk. We staked out one field, sitting in a corner with an expansive view of the entire field. We could see female bushbuck, the odd fallow deer, but no males. After about an hour of this, John woke me up (!) to tell me that we’d best move to the next field, which was about two hundred yards away, separated from our field by a substantial tree break.

As we began to walk along the left edge of the field we had been watching, a young male bushbuck emerged from the far end (where we were going) and began to feed slowly in our direction. We froze, because he could clearly see us every time he raised his head. But he was in no hurry – no need to be, and we just decided at one point we had no choice – hopefully he wouldn’t run into the next field and scare whatever happened to be there. So we began to walk again, and sure enough, he ran, but away from the new field.

Once we got to the edge of the next field, we could see that there was a fair amount of activity there. Lots of fallow deer and female bushbuck. In fact, so many that we were worried we’d be busted, even though we stood on the edge, mostly still covered by trees. It was starting to get dark – not much time left it anything was going to happen. At one point John said he’d found a nice male and told me to get on the sticks. I couldn’t see him with the naked eye – John mentioned that my scope could probably gather more light than my eye!

Unfortunately, the movement of getting up on the sticks caught the attention of a female fallow deer. She took a look and raced off. Fortunately, this was the rut, and a male had been chasing her around the field making the burping noises they make, so he raced after her. This must have seemed like normal behavior to the other animals, because they looked up and then went back to eating. Luck was holding.

I got the rifle steady and I could just make out the bushbuck John was talking about. Lucky to have a good scope and luckier to have an illuminated reticle – I wouldn’t have been able to see the crosshairs otherwise. I took a breath, let it out and squeezed. The bushbuck jumped up, then raced off, changed direction, ran some more, and then fell over. I watched to see if he’d get back up, but he was done. After the congratulations, John said he would go get the vehicle, while Dean, the tracker and I went to find the bushbuck. By this time we needed a flashlight to see, and it took a few extra minutes to find him. A nice cape bushbuck, taken at (very) last light.


As an aside, I've shot a number of Cape bushbuck as well as a few Chobe bushbuck, a Limpopo bushbuck and a couple of harnessed bushbuck. I missed out on the Abyssinian and the Menelik’s while I was in Ethiopia, so I will have to return for those.

Daily tally: 3 fallow deer; 1 impala; 1 springbok; 1 bushbuck

Running total: 39 animals
 

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Which of these turned out to be the best flavor over the coals?
It sounds like the butcher certainly was busy! Were you getting passthroughs on most of your shots? (The bullet performance part is coming, I know)
 

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Which of these turned out to be the best flavor over the coals?
It sounds like the butcher certainly was busy! Were you getting passthroughs on most of your shots? (The bullet performance part is coming, I know)
I can’t say which one I really preferred, at least not yet!

so far, most of the shots haven’t passed through, other than those on the springbok (which are quite small bodied here). A significant percentage have come to rest under the skin of the opposite side. But today I change ammo!
 

rinehart0050

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Great report so far. I do not like snakes! Just heard from my Zim outfitter that one of the PHs was attacked by a cobra, spit at him and everything. Luckily, he was not bitten... but he did fall down a cliff trying to get away and broke his leg!
 

Hank2211

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Day 10

Day 10 was back at Niel’s, doing my bit for drought-stricken farmers!

This was really a fallow deer day – I shot 8, along with one blesbok. This crawled out of the blesbok’s nose while it was in the back of the truck:

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The same worms affect black wildebeest apparently, and cause them more than a little aggravation, although the worm won’t kill its host.

I changed ammo today, from the Rigby 140 grain Interlocks to Hornady 139 grain SST. We re-sighted in the scope and found that the new stuff shot a bit differently than the old, so adjustments were made. The bullets performed well enough – they pretty much all exited, leaving gaping exit wounds. The only problem was that I seemed to be hitting the animals all over the place – hardly ever where I was aiming. John commented once (or twice) about my shooting, but I didn’t think I’d changed anything. The animals were falling, but these were fallow deer and if you make a big enough hole anywhere, you’ll likely either still kill it or at least slow it down enough to get a second shot. Having said that, second shots aren’t great for the slaughterhouse. Personally, I think it’s the ammo.

Daily tally: 1 blesbok; 8 fallow deer.

Running total: 48 animals

Day 11

We headed out to a new area today, one which seemed to be a home for our neighborly locusts. An interesting aspect of this entire farming area is that many of the original fence posts remain – and they were made out of rock. I have a hard time imagining the original farmers hewing these posts out of rock and then digging the rock into the ground. In any event, the locusts seemed to have taken a fancy to the rock – I assume because of retained heat.

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We chased some blesbok around for a bit. I shot one, but again, not well. We had to chase it for a bit until I managed to get a second shot into it, which again wasn’t great. This was beginning to bother me. But at least it was down.

As we were walking back to the bakkie, we saw another group of blesbok coming downhill towards us. John set up the sticks, and I took the shot. At first, it looked good – the blesbok dropped to the shot, but John said be ready in case it gets up – I’ve had this happen before! And sure enough, it did get up and raced away. My second shot was either very far back or at miss – couldn’t really tell at that point.

In watching the video, we could see that the first shot hit it high above the shoulder, so likely just shocked it. Yet another bad shot. While that wasn’t uncommon, the fact that it was high was uncommon for me – when I blow a shot, it tends to be too low. I can’t remember the last time I shot too high, and I was sure I was holding lower than the shoulder.

We still had to try to chase this one down. And that proved extraordinarily difficult. We spotted it from time to time, and in fact I got some shots at it, but none seemed to really connect. After a few hours, and using Rocket and Mendeli to try to maneuver the herd in our general direction, even John took a shot with my rifle – we both wanted to put an end to this and it was a running shot at 300 yards or more, something John is an expert at. Yet this time, he hit the blesbok in the rump. Some damage done, but not enough to slow it down.

That was an entire morning gone, and I had one blesbok and one wounded one to show for it. We decided to head back for lunch and let the animals settle down. We’d take up the chase again in the afternoon.

During lunch I was talking about the shots I’d taken since I’d switched ammo. John said he was a bit surprised he’d hit the blesbok so far back, so he suggested we shoot a few rounds at the range and see if there was a problem.

So after lunch, we settled the rifle into the sled, and took some shots. What had seemed to be pretty close to dead on a couple of days before now seemed to be way high and left. So we changed the scope. And the shooter! But shots were now going left, right, high and low. This seemed to be a scope problem.

Dean suggested we try the last batch of ammo – the Remington Core-Lokts – and see if there was any difference. We got a box out and while we had to move the scope once to get the shots near the bull, at least it was grouping shots pretty tightly. Once we got the scope settled, this ammo was shooting one inch groups at a hundred yards.

I don’t know what the problem was, so I’m not attributing fault – I’m just relaying the facts as we found them. It doesn’t make sense to me that the SST ammo would shoot all over the place, while the Remington ammo would group correctly. But that’s what happened.

We went back out that afternoon to try to find the blesbok, and much to my surprise, we did! He was walking slowly, and his head hung down, so it was nice to finally put an end to a battle that had gone on far too long.

Daily tally: 2 blesbok.

Running total: 50 animals
 

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Day 12

We decided the roads high in the mountains has likely dried enough that we could safely look for vaal rhebok today. We left Niel’s early to get to a neighboring property about a half hour drive away. This place felt truly remote – no one, other than the caretaker and his family, for miles around. We climbed high into the mountains, on roads the construction of which impressed me enormously while simultaneously scaring me half to death. It’s truly amazing to see roads carved out of sheer mountainside.

Unfortunately, while we saw lots of game (and were adopted by a secretary bird which didn’t seem to want to leave us), we couldn’t find any vaalies which were bigger than the one I already had. For once, I stuck to my guns, so to speak, and didn’t fire at anything which didn’t meet the pre-determined standard. But a beautiful day nonetheless, filled with impressive views. I was in awe of a place seemingly so far from what we call civilization, and so beautiful and peaceful. It’s at times like this that I want to find my own piece of paradise far away from everyone and everything.

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We returned to Niel’s and had a late lunch. Niel told us there still seemed to be warthogs in the lucerne . . . so after a bit of a break, we were off again!

The set-up was very much like the last time – we set up the sticks behind bales and sat down to wait. Within less than 15 minutes we could see three warthogs feeding, again what seemed to be mom and a couple of kids . . . I took my time and made a good shot on mom. She raced about a bit, causing the kids to wonder what was going on. I got a second one in the field, but the third ran away before I could make it a triple . . . but I ran forward to see to the right where the third had run, and it had stopped under a tree outside the field . . . so down it went. I was feeling quite pleased with myself when John noticed a fallow deer some 50 yards away monitoring the proceedings . . . and since I still had a round left, well, down it went as well!



IMG_0735.jpeg


Four shots, four animals. More lucerne saved! I was quite pleased with that work as we headed back to the farm. John said that Niel had a special evening planned, and I should just wash up and we would head back out. A few questions, but no answers.

When we’d washed up, we got back into the truck, and John drove to Niel’s big dam, not far away. We parked under some trees, and John brought out his .375 (buffalo in the vicinity) and his shotgun. Still wondering . . .

As it turned out, Niel had planned for some duck shooting, followed by dinner outside. A beautiful table had been set just outside an unused water point. A bonfire was ready to go inside the water point and a grill and a bar had been set up beside the fire. With the sun beginning to set over Africa, the scene was entirely magical.

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I didn’t mean to break that magic, but I told John the odds of actually shooting a duck out in the open were something approaching nil, but it was worth a try. And, for once, I was right! If ducks see you, they give you a wide berth, unlike sandgrouse. Ducks must be the same the world over. We did that for a bit, until the lure of a cold Castle over-powered the desire to try to shoot ducks which were too far away!

So it was off to the beer . . . and then we discovered that the buffalo were indeed in the area, a bit too close for comfort – there was a fresh deposit about a foot from the table! No problem – we moved the table close to the fire!

We drank beer, next to a roaring fire, watching the sun go down, solving all the world's problems. What a way to end a day hunting in Africa.


Once the fire had created enough embers to fill the braai, John shovelled the coals into the braai, and a “braai pie” was put on (really worth trying), and some enormous t-bone steaks came out of a cooler! We ate like kings, content with the world.

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I told Niel is was in fact our pleasure to save his lucerne from marauding herds of warthog (really!) and he didn’t need to be so effusive in his thanks! But it was really appreciated!

Daily tally: 3 warthog; 1 fallow deer.

Running total: 54 animals.,
 

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