SOUTH AFRICA: In Pursuit Of The 29 June 2104

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Stocky, Jun 28, 2015.

  1. Stocky

    Stocky AH Veteran

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    Earlier in the year at the SHOW Show, I had mentioned to one of my friends and colleagues Lee Hoots, editor of Successful Hunter and Handloader Magazines, to join me on one of these excursions. Although normally I would have liked my safaris to have some time between them to recoup from the journey, the only time Lee had available was in May so off we went on another adventure - a rhino-dart.

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    The Woozy Rhino

    Straight-away from OR Tambo, Africa Maximum Safari's Sr. PH Wernher "Walla" Albertse, Hoots & I hooked-up with another well-known PH, Abrie Arlow and began the long drive to the Eastern Cape to dart a rhino. Upon arrival at the lodge we’d call home for the next several days, we settled in and began orientation for this unusual type of excursion.

    We would be accompanied by a veterinarian, who met us at the lodge at sunrise for a familiarization with the dart gun. He explained that we’d be using a form of morphine - only literally 10,000 times stronger. One drop of this stuff would be deadly to a human. The dart gun he handed me was a modification of a Mossberg .22 LR bolt action rifle where the dart itself is propelled by the gas generated by firing a blank in the rifle’s chamber. The gas is bled-off into a separate upper barrel where the .50 caliber dart resides - the amount of gas desired is adjustable depending on the yardage - a dial I would have to pay close attention to given the dart’s heavily arched trajectory.

    I was further instructed to forget everything I already knew about shot placement, the goal is to put the dart into any big muscle - any leg or high on the shoulder would be ideal. We had a grand total of 30 minutes from the sound of the shot to give the darted rhino a quick check-up by the vet, take our photos and administer an antidote.

    After a couple of test shots on an archery target, we were off - after one of the largest and deadliest critters on the planet with what essentially amounts to a Mossberg .22 rimfire. There’d be no stopping a charge, no backup .458 and just one single tranquilizing dart that takes several minutes to work.

    We managed to locate a pair of the beasts around 10 am. It was promptly decided, due to the hunting party’s visibility Walla and I would attempt the stalk alone while Lee Hoots, Abrie, the vet and the landowner’s daughter would watch the event unfold from their perch on higher ground.

    Walla & I circled wide downwind until we reached the bottom grassland, then we slipped into some patches of trees where the rhinos were grazing. Due to their poor eyesight, we were able to close the distance rather quickly using the trees as cover, however once we had closed the distance to under 100 yards the animals became a bit nervous - with us on all fours to close-in to darting range.

    As we slowly raised ourselves to a crouching position to spot the game, two nice bulls began nervously walking in our direction looking right straight at us. As we froze, uncomfortably half-erect staring them down at under 15 paces, we were busted. It was now or never.

    The problem was, with the rhino pair facing us there was no good shot and at any moment they’d be off, so I began slowly raising the dart gun. As soon as I moved they started to spook - the smaller bull took off, however just for an instant the bigger of the two bulls turned broadside to follow his buddy and I let loose and managed to get a dart into his upper right biceps. Oh, crap, would that work?

    Upon hearing the shot, here came the trucks screaming down the hill and following the darted bull who by now had joined the rest of the herd. The herd took off at a gallop but it soon became apparent one bull was trailing the rest, obviously getting a pretty good buzz on. As he became woozy the vet, his assistant and the farmer’s daughter ran up to the animal and tossed a blanket over his eyes to calm him down. As he moved about they followed him, keeping the blanket in place until he began stumbling about. At this point the vet grabbed his horns and wrestled him to the ground with about 20 minutes left on the clock.

    Once we had his vital statistics and pictures, the antidote was administered and our bull was off to join the rest of the herd.
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    Note: Sadly, poachers killed this magnificent creature for his horns a few months later.


    The Bonus Suni
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    After our hunt in the East Cape to collect the third of my Big Five we headed north to the thick forests of Kwazulu-Natal for some pigmy antelope hunting, specifically the Natal Red Duiker (for the Africa 29) and perhaps the diminutive Livingstone Suni as a bonus since they share the same habitat. The suni would come into bow-range first. As Lady Luck was once again smiling upon us, he would rank #2 with the crossbow and in the Top 20 overall.

    Red Duiker Balls

    The Natal Red Duiker is the only animal native to South Africa that qualifies as a ‘forest duiker’ for the African 29 Grand Slam Award so a successful hunt was essential. Unfortunately for the hunters (Walla and I), red duiker habitat are some of the thickest, tick-infested coastal forest the R.S.A. has to offer. As a side note, duiker trails through this tangle are not exactly people friendly being that the little critter is less than a foot tall.

    Two other factors were complicating our pursuit as well. I wanted to take the little bugger with a crossbow. Last but far from least is the fact that we wanted a male. Little did I realize that the only way to definitively tell a ram from an ewe in red duiker-ville was the presence of a rather large pair of testicles commonly protruding from the hind-end of the males - the size and shape of the two sexes were otherwise quite similar, including the horns.

    You read it right - we were to spend our entire week if necessary looking for duiker balls.

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    Therein lies the rub - take one guess which way a red duiker is generally headed when you finally get a look at his sex organs. You guessed it - he’s running away. To make matters even more difficult it seems these little pigmies know exactly what their hunters’ seek to catch a glimpse of as they scurry about. Yep, they have learned to keep their tails tucked tightly against their little bums, hiding their oversized balls from easy view. So for the next three days our primary conversation went something like this…

    “There’s one! There, to the right at 2 o’clock.”

    “Male or female?”

    I dunno, you see balls?” I can’t make them out, dial up the scope.”

    “I don’t see any, it’s a female … wait are those balls?”

    “Yep! I see balls! Oh, crap - there he goes….”

    “Damn! It was a male, too.”

    One item of interest I had noted during all this was, right before sunset, what looked like a male and female pair would make their way out to the middle of a nearby clover field to browse on the good stuff. Couple hundred yards distant, well out of bow range, but like clockwork every evening there they were.

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    Guess what we did, four days and 53 tick-bites later? (Hint: It involves a .280 Ackley Improved Rem 700, a sandbag, one dead duiker and three happy hunters.)

    Duiker In Distress

    Enroute to a photogenic spot to take some Red Duiker pics, we noticed at the other end of the same clover field stood a decent gray duiker. Now, these bush duikers are very common in South Africa, common enough in fact that I had let other, larger trophies than the one we were now viewing, walk away in favor of other species. However now, as completion of the 29 Grand Slam drew closer, they had naturally risen much higher on my To-Do list.

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    As this one walked about we saw he had a very bad limp. His front hoof had a nasty infection, swollen to the size of a baseball and oozing with pus. Rather than allowing him to suffer any longer the decision was made to take the steps necessary to offer him a Florida retirement package, taking his place of honor on my wall.

    Pumba Has A Bad Day
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    I still had a couple of days left to hunt while, unbeknownst to me, Tick Bite Fever began its onset. Chalking my lethargy up to several really challenging days in the Natal bush, we made the drive back to Swartruggens and Jacques’ home camp, with me whining all the way that I has spent almost three solid months in Africa the past year-and-a-half and had no warthog to show for it. The primary reason for this was the fact that I had some scope mounts come loose the year before and I missed a standing broadside shot at a nice one literally the third day of my first safari. Sure, we had seen other warthogs since however Walla simply would not let me go home with a second-rate animal, making no exceptions even for the lowly piggies.

    So Jacques made a few calls and put us in warthog heaven the next day. Since the Dragonslayer - my pet .375 H&H Model 70 Winchester - hadn’t seen any action since the hippo hunt a month before, I put a 300 Barnes factory load in the pipe and had my warthog in the truck a couple hours later.

    Top 10 Impala

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    Every hunter that goes to Africa shoots an impala, right? They’re as common as whitetail deer are here. This would give any hunter that takes a Top 10 critter in this category something to brag about, no? I believe it does, and this is one of my favorite trophies ever.

    This critter coming to bag was not luck, at least in the sense of some other Top 10’s I’ve taken. Sometimes a blessed hunter finds him or herself staring face-to-face with a monster when anything with horns will do. Or perhaps while in Africa one stumbles across a Top 10 animal (like the suni) while hunting for some other species so he takes the shot. Perhaps a new record book trophy just wanders into view while sitting in an archery blind.

    Not this one. Everyone knew he was right there on Jacques’ place. They’d watch him from the lodge, prancing and jousting with his peers just a few hundred yards from a campfire where literally everyone had a gun handy. But here there was no shooting was allowed, especially not for this guy. He’d go well over 25” per horn and every PH in camp knew it - they just couldn't seem to find him when they were actually hunting impala.

    At any rate, we got the go-ahead and headed out with two days left to try to collect him with the crossbow. But somehow, this impala knew it. No sooner did we begin a stalk than he lit out for the thickest, meanest thorn brush at the exact opposite end of Woodstock Farm.

    We spent the entire day catching glimpses of him, a reddish-brown spot with unmistakable horns moving through the brush, but not once would he offer what could be remotely considered a shot. From one property line to the other we drove, huffed and stalked, over and over, to no avail. He had simply up and disappeared so we retired for the night.

    The next morning was more of the same. No impala, at least not the ram we had our sights on. A new plan was in order - a plan to still hunt the thickest brush on the farm, a spot furthest from the farmhouses, a spot an old record ram may very well have decided to hang out, safely hidden from hunters.

    It was about noon when I heard Walla whisper, “There he is.” Peeking through a hole in the brush, there about 20 yards into the thicket was a telltale brown patch of hair.

    “That him?”

    “I think so. Yes, it is.”

    “Risk a shot?”

    “Yes.”

    The next sound was the sound a 550 grain arrow makes as it sails through the brush, threading itself imperfectly through an opening the size of a softball, then that familiar sound we heard many times in the preceding weeks, the sound of an arrow finding hair and completely passing through its intended target.

    The ram had bolted with the shot, running through the dense brush no more than 100 yards, but what a 100 yards it was. More than an hour later, chopping through the tangle, Walla following blood, located him, dead.

    Thus the hunt ended. In two months of hunting we had stayed in numerous excellent lodges and guest houses (Jacques learns his hunters' tastes well), covered 4259 miles in Walla's HiLux, had taken 20 critters (including a jackal plus Lee's that I didn't mention), eight that rank in SCI's Top Ten by method plus the SCI Top Ten overall lion (all methods).

    African 29 / Big Five Animals Remaining - Elephant, Leopard, Dik-Dik

    (Note: Lee Hoots was also very successful on this trip, but I promised to let him write it up in Successful Hunter magazine. I've already written-up the Namibian Horseback Hunt in the forum where we collected the dik-dik.)
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 1, 2016

  2. Hank2211

    Hank2211 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    I am seriously jealous of the suni! Well done!
     
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  3. aaronraby1

    aaronraby1 AH Enthusiast

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    that makes two of us! haha and that red duiker! looks like I need to get to natal! very well done by the way!
     
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  4. Nyati

    Nyati AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats, a great hunt !
     

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