Hunt in South Africa with Pawprint Safaris – June 2018. The plane ride to South Africa was tedious, and the 13-hour layover in Paris didn’t help. On the other hand, it allowed me to stretch out on the floor and get some badly needed sleep. I arrived in Johannesburg tired but not exhausted and anxious to clear customs and see if my rifle and munitions had arrived. I was met by Johan the PH from Pawprint Safaris I would be hunting with, and Joan who represented Rifle Permits (.com). We proceeded to the firearms control office, where, thanks to my paper work being in order and the help I received from Rifle Permits, we sailed through with no issues at all. I was looking forward to the drive to Pawprint Safaris Balule Game Farm lodge, it would give me a chance to see part of the world I have not seen, and get to know Johann a bit. I was surprised at how modern South Africa seemed, I should not have been, but there you go. There was a lot of industry evident, well-established highways, modern buildings, lots of modern cars and motorcycles. Real motorcycles, not just scooters. Things I would ride, 1000cc Hondas, Yamahas, BMW 1200cc enduros etc. Perhaps you can tell something about a person by the way they drive, I don’t know, but Johann drove with a careful considered reserve that I would learn seemed a reflection of his nature. As we travelled he told me how much he loved his country and how frustrated he was that there was so much corruption. South Africa it seems, has even more corruption in their political system than there is in say Canada or the United States. Or at least it is more overt… In South Africa they seem to vote for people that appeal to the uneducated masses, who once in power appoint their friends and relatives into positions of power, despite their qualifications. Hmmm…. At any rate, corruption is rampant, those in power seem more interested in getting what they can while they can than doing a good job of running the country. Johan has a wry sense of humour. He told me that he was an expert artillery gunner in the army and qualified to train others on a number of different artillery weapons. This qualification was good for life. But his firearms permit was only good for five years, and even though he was a PH who had owned and used guns all his life, if his permit ran out before he renewed it, he stood a good chance of having his rifles confiscated. I loved the irony of that. We arrived at the lodge after a couple of hours, and I was able to meet the rest of the team. Pieter Erasmus the manager/owner, Rindi the woman who takes care of marketing etc., and was Pieters partner, Max the tracker/skinner and Claudius the cook. A friendly likeable crew all of them. Johan gave me an hour to settle in, then we walked over to the range to check the rifle. I was surprised that it was shooting about an inch to the right. I had spent countless hours and rounds getting ready for this trip and left home with it dead on a 100 yards. I was using a CZ550 Safari Classic in .375 HH and shooting Swift A Frame 300 grain slugs. I had also brought along some Woodleigh 300 gr. Protected Soft Points. I had adjusted the charge of IMR4350 powder a few grains to achieve the same point of impact. Why two different bullets you ask? Curiosity I suppose… I knew the reputation of the A Frames and they came recommended by Pieter. But according to the Woodleigh rep in Canada, the Woodleighs were similar but a bit softer and quicker to expand. More on this later. At any rate, two clicks to the left on the Leupold VX5 1x5 scope, and I was back on center. With the gun check done we were off. We drove up the paved road a short distance and then turned off through a gate and proceeded up the hill on a rough dirt road. After a short distance we parked the rig and leaving it with Max, Johann and I proceeded quietly as we could through the veld. Many tracks were in evidence, zebra, wildebeest, Nyala, and some of smaller antelope species perhaps duikers. We had not gone that far when Johann rounded a bush and suddenly stopped and stepped back, crouching down. Then I could hear it, an animal blowing and snorting repeatedly as it tried to wind us. I whispered “What is it?” but I could not hear Johan’s answer. There they came, trotting forward into view, I recognized them instantly, but they were the first Blue Wildebeest I had ever seen. An obviously very large bull was standing proudly at the front starring us down almost aggressively. Johann whispered “That is a very nice bull.” I watched them for a few seconds before they all galloped off to our right. Leading up to the hunt, I had assessed and re-assessed what my quarry would be on this hunt, and although Wildebeest had been on it, I decided to apply the trophy fee towards a Nyala instead. Money is a factor unfortunately. But then we walked quietly forward a bit, and there with even more snorting and blowing was the herd of Wildebeest, with the bull front and centre standing proud and obviously taller and more muscled up than the rest. He watched us for a few long moments, then whirled about swishing their tails they all galloped off. I was hit almost immediately by regret. What had a I done?? I had come all the way to Africa to hunt, and no Africa collection of trophies is truly complete without a wildebeest. I told Johann I was having second thoughts, and he just chuckled. Johann called Max on the radio and we arranged a pickup a short distance later. After exploring some open terrain and seeing some wildebeest in the distance, then some impala, red hartebeest and blesbuck we headed back down the rough, steep rocky road returning to camp. I am not sure how he did it, but somehow Max spotted a very nice Nyala skulking through the bush above the road. The light was fading, he was driving, the bush was dense and the Nyala was about 90 degrees from his field of view up the steep bushy hillside to his left. Amazing. Quickly stopping the buggy (as Johann calls it, it is actually a 2015 Land Cruiser pickup I am pretty sure I would cut off a finger to own) he and I jumped out and snuck up the hill as best we could trying to catch the Nyala. Amazingly we did, Johann set up the sticks and I had the rifle in position, but just as I was aligning the crosshairs on the Nyala standing about 30m away in a screen of bush, he took off and we did not see him again. I had originally thought I would pick up one or two of the smaller antelope such as impala and Blesbuck, but after seeing the wildebeest I changed my mind. Size does matter… We returned to camp where I was able to enjoy several glasses of delightful South African red wine Pieter had picked up to accommodate me. Dinner was centered around game meat, but I have forgotten the details at the time of writing. Suffice to say it was delicious. The next morning, (after a poor sleep thanks to jet lag) we headed off to try for Sable. There was a property that had been used as a game farm some time before, that had good a good game population, about an hour away. It was surrounded by other properties that were active game farms, and in fact we saw various herds of animals behind game fences. There seemed to be some cross pollination of species going on through the fences. Four or five hundred yards away we could see a pair of Sable fighting, just below a cattle fence at the foot of the mountain. But the wind was wrong and after entering several gates, we parked the buggy and off we went, quietly moving through the veld, in single file. Before too much time had passed we ‘bumped’ a Nyala. For those not familiar with Nyala, they are a beautiful antelope about the size of whitetail deer. They are one of the spiral horn antelopes, and very distinctive markings, a long ruff under their neck as well as a long main and bushy tail. Many consider them the most beautiful of antelopes. We stalked through the veld trying to catch him but we did not have any luck and gave up after a few minutes. Continuing on, we occasionally spotted impala running off through the bush, usually not far away. This allayed my concerns we were making too much noise, if we were getting close to them we had a chance at something else. Suddenly Max stopped and stepped back, pointing quietly ahead. Johann drew my attention to the Nyala sneaking away, again about 30 meters away. He was moving through some denser bush from our right to our left. Johan whispered “He’s a good one.” I did not have a clear view of him, but Johann put up the sticks and said “Wait” I could not see his head, legs, bottom of his chest or back half, but I could see his left front shoulder and the ribs behind. I told Johann “I have a shot.” “OK, take him.” He whispered back. I pulled the trigger, and could see the animal was staggered by the round. He ran off in that low to the ground hurting manner I have seen deer do when hit hard through the lungs. We hurried after him, and sure enough started seeing obvious spatters of blood. Very shortly there he was laying on his side, dead. A beautiful trophy for sure, but it took me some time to appreciate what a fine specimen he was. The horns curved up and out, then back in, and finally back out again, ending in fine ivory tips. They were thick to the end and very symmetrical. Johann pointed out that the hair was thinning out on the neck and remarked this was a sign of age. A fine old bull, at the end of his life cycle. After posing the Nyala and taking photos, we marked the location and continued in the hopes of finding a Sable in the bush on the side of the mountain. Max in the lead, then Johann and finally me, we moved at a steady pace as quietly as we could, over terrain that was at times rocky at times sandy and slowly circumnavigated the mountain. From our elevated vantage point, we had a good view of some adjourning game farms and saw herds of Blesbuck, sable and even some Nyala grazing in the open fields behind the game fences. We did not see any sable or any more Nyala on our trek around the mountain, other than what we saw in the fenced fields. We did see numerous impala and I think we saw a steenbuck, but no Sable. Eventually we had come almost full circle and bumped into a cattle fence in poor repair. It was broken in places and there was evidence of game simply walking through the spots missing wire. Twice we saw small herds of Kudu tentatively step into the open and after gazing at us, leap the fence and lope into the bush covering the hillside. Once we were very close to a nice dark Nyala bull, and could have shot him easily, but they were now off the menu. The bush ended along the fence to our right, and large fields opened up. A herd of cattle were visible in the distance and then a herd of Livingston Eland cows and calves who watched us alertly for a bit then moved off. Then we saw a large black Sable about 500 meters off standing right out in the open but facing other Sable that were behind the game fence. This was most likely one of the ones we had seen fighting earlier, but we had come around the long way and now had the wind in our favour. Unfortunately he was in the open and would spot us trying to get closer. Johann suggested we had nothing to loose and we crossed the cattle fence and headed obliquely across the field. There was a herd of Blesbuck watching us nervously about 250 m away, and they decided to get out of the area and ran to our right stopping occasionally to check our progress. Johann whispered this might work to our favour, the Sable had spotted us and was watching us alertly, but Johann changed our angle of approach so that it would look as though we were interested in chasing the Blesbuck. The Sable was still interested in fighting or breeding and he began dividing his attention between us and the other Sable behind the fence. We continued obliquely approaching the Sable till we were about 200m away, when Johann asked if I wanted to try a shot. I asked that we continue to get a bit closer. At about 150m the Sable decided he had enough and started to run to our left. We stopped, I got on the sticks and the Sable stopped as well watching us intently. Johann whispered some tips on targeting and I placed the crosshairs on his near inside shoulder and squeezed the trigger. As the rifle recoiled I momentarily lost the sight picture, but saw him stagger and almost go down. Then he was off, I reloaded, and he staggered again, and almost went down again, but recovered and ran as though not a thing was wrong. He stumbled a few more times and went down again, kicking. I was on him and said to myself that if he so much as raised his head I was sending off another round. It was not necessary. The Woodleigh I had been using had impacted on the point of the shoulder smashing it entirely, passed through part of the lungs and took off the top of the heart before stopping at the diaphragm. And there he was, a fine old bull. His horns were scratched and scarred from recent fighting and thick to the end from years of use. The bases were thick and close to touching and he was in very good shape, a heavy, well-muscled specimen. It was one of the strangest stalks and easiest recoveries I have ever done. After loading the Sable we set off to find and load the Nyala which had been sitting there for several hours. Then it was back to Pawprint for a very late lunch. That afternoon, I suggested that we go for a drive, to sight see and spot game. I had no intent of shooting more specimens but took my rifle just the same. We went to a property we had not visited before, and I met the owner Riaan a jovial friendly fellow, who proceeded to take us on a walk of his property. Before too long we were sneaking along in a crouched position till we came to an open meadow behind a screen thick bush. I could see some Blesbuck gazing intently in our direction, and then heard the now distinctive sound of a snorting Wildebeest. Johann whispered that there was a big bull in the meadow. I asked if the bull was the equal of the one we had seen the day before and he assured me it was. I cautiously peered through the bush and could see a nice bull looking intently in our direction. Johann put up the sticks, and thinking what the hell, I set up and aimed directly at the bull’s heart thinking this was going to be a good shot. I pulled the trigger and could not believe it when the bull humped up then ran straight off with no other evidence of being hit. It had been a close shot, I felt very confident, yet there he went out of sight at a full gallop about a hundred yards off. Scrambling down the bank we gave chase, and only found a couple of drops of blood. We rounded the end of the meadow to the right and moved forward looking fruitlessly for more sign of blood, when I spotted him lying to one side beside a dry stream course. The shot had hit further back than I intended, but as my dad used to say, you can’t argue with success. It was another very large old lone bull. I want to have a Euro mount done of the horns and skull and have the hide tanned. The giraffe The next day we were going after an old dark Giraffe that had been part of a herd on an adjacent property for about eleven years. The idea was to make a neck shot, and I would have been confident of that except for my performance on the Wildebeest. I was now very nervous. The day dawned bright and clear, there was frost on the grass and windows of the vehicles. We met again with Riaan who it turned out was caretaker of this property and looked after the animals that resided on it. He let us through the gate and assured us that he had a good idea where on the property the giraffe would be found. At least if not today then tomorrow. When giraffe are hunted, a team is standing by to ensure that the meat does not go to waste and it gets butchered and taken to a cold room as soon as possible. Once a kill is made a call goes out, and the team and extra vehicles come in to aid in the harvest. The kill must be made in the morning as it takes a full day to process the carcass and the work for the skinners is not over then. They still have to deal with the hide. It is lashed with deep incisions every inch or so about a half in or deep so that the salt can penetrate the one inch thick skin. We commenced a very quiet single file search for the giraffe which you would think would be easy to find. It is amazing how such a tall animal can still blend in the surrounding bush. After some time of walking quietly along, Johann suddenly stopped, stepped back and crouched down. I did the same, and peering through the screen of bush, could see the long neck and then the head of a giraffe gazing intently in our direction maybe a hundred to a hundred and twenty five meters off. We had been spotted by one of the cows and she knew something was up. Freezing in position we could not move, and she did not move either. Several others appeared, including the bull, a huge, very dark handsome fellow. They had not seen us and continued to browse unconcernedly. After about 20 minutes of not moving the cow turned to move off and catch the rest of the herd. Once she was obscured by a tree, Johann took advantage of that to stand up and move off to get behind another screen of bush. I followed him, but the bull stepped out into the open, saw me, and turning loped off followed by the others. We didn’t think they were badly spooked, and Johann decided to employ more or less the same tactics that had worked on the Sable. We walked away from the Giraffe till out of sight, then swung around under cover and proceeded to stalk towards them again. We got to within around 75 m moving behind various bushes, but that was it. The Giraffe were on to us again, and watching intently in our direction. Johann indicated he was going to set to set up the sticks, and he stepped into the open with me right behind him. I had turned on the Firedot illuminated reticle on the Leupold scope, and once on the sticks placed the bright red dot on the bull’s neck about two feet down from his chin. Johann cautioned me to make sure the others were clear from behind him and after waiting a few seconds and it looked clear, it seemed to me that they were going to run again and I pulled the trigger. Rindi had told me that when hit properly in the neck a giraffe will collapse like a building being demolished, and this is exactly what happened. I reloaded and broke into a run to close for a second shot if needed. He was definitely down, but still not dead. Johann had me shoot him again through the brisket and into the heart so as not to damage either meat or trophy. So there you have it. Thankfully I had made a good shot, hitting dead center on the neck. I had used an A Frame and I was somewhat surprised that it had not exited, but it had smashed the spinal column to bits. I told Max I would give him a $10 tip to recover the bullet which he did. I had done the same thing with the bullet from the Sable, a Woodleigh and the comparison was interesting. And now the work began, for the skinners at least, and later everyone was involved in the loading and unloading of the meat and hide. Once the photos were done (posing the animal was an engineering feat in itself) a huge tarp or ‘sail’ as the locals call it was spread and the giraffe moved onto it. This was to keep the meat as clean as possible. The skinning commenced, and once the animal was half skinned, the guts removed, then the quarters on that side. The carcass was then turned and skinning finished, then the final field butchery was completed. Loading everything was a chore. Johann had a new buggy and had not had time to outfit it with a winch so it was man-handle all the way. It took two trips to town to get all the meat into a locker and the final tally was 890 kg. The heart and liver was given to locals who helped Riann with the properties. The hide weighed at least 175 kg and ranged in thickness from a half inch to over an inch. After seeing the load of work that Max and his brother Morris were doing I had given each of them an additional $10 tip. Not much but hopefully it helped. You can see the thickness of the skin on the underside of the neck. The bullet hole is visible as well. I am planning on having the hide tanned as a flat skin, I’m saving the front feet just as curios, and taking the two front leg bones for making knife handles. All in all a very memorable day. Ruminations on a Rest day. The next day was intended as a ‘rest’ day. Not that we had been exactly taxing ourselves to this point, but originally I did not understand how the hunting here would differ from what I was used to (hunting in fenced areas in which game was bred and contained to hunt), and it seemed prudent to allow a few extra days to hunt. If the days were not used then it would give me time to reflect on the experience I had flown half way around the world to enjoy. I had suggested to Johan he take a day or so to go see his family who lived some distance away. I was looking forward to quiet day to read and write, and think on such conundrums as: why do we hunt? I began to consider what had lead me down this path. I guess it started when my Dad moved his young and growing family from the States to Northern British Colombia to pursue a dream of starting a ranch. He was also concerned about the increasingly prevalent attitude of the U.S. considering itself to be the ‘watch dog of the world’ as he called it, and with young boys in tow, did not want us fighting in conflicts on foreign soil. He had been in Korea, and didn’t want that for his kids. We arrived in BC in August of 1960, just before the start of the hunting season and soon I began seeing huge carcasses of moose hanging from crossbars in back yards, something which I found immensely intriguing Not long after I was able to accompany him and a friend on a successful moose hunt. I was hooked. When I was nine, I saved far a year and finally had enough money to buy my own .22 Cooey single shot rifle for a grand total of $16. It took awhile as every time Dad needed a bit of cash he knew where my piggy bank was. Once he paid me back I went straight down to the chain-saw, sporting goods store and picked up my prize. This was full sized gun, and I could not wait to try it, so off the family went to the dump to try ‘er out. After Dad explaining how the thing worked, I gave it a shot so to speak. I am sure you can imagine my disappointment when I could not pull the knurled knob back to cock the gun! I tried and tried but I just could not do it, and had to allow Dad to cock it for me to my consternation and shame. It took several visits to the dump, but finally I found that by pinching the gun between my legs and using both hands on the cocking mechanism, I was able to ‘do it my own self’, something that gave me great satisfaction. I year or two later, we returned to visit our relatives in Salt Lake City, and I was able to supply enough grouse brought all the way from Northern BC to supplement Christmas dinner. I saw myself as a hunter now, and mainly self taught. Dad had neither the time or interest, so I was on my own. Most of my free time (that is time not spent haying, building fence, barns, digging wells etc. and oh yeah – going to school) was spent hunting and trapping. I dreamed of hunting big game and if I had any money left over from buying shells, I spent it on the occasional edition of Outdoor Life or Field and Stream, magazines I would devour end to end. The magazines were filled with stories of hunting in North America, but my imagination was captured by the exotic tales of hunting abroad, in India and Africa. This was hunting! Elephant, lion, rhino, buffalo, tiger! What could be better? Exotic animals in exotic locations. I could not think of anything I wanted to do more. At the time it did not matter that I was living in a location teeming with wildlife. Moose, deer, black bear, grizzly bear, and in the mountains mountain goat, caribou. The odd wolf, coyotes, lynx, cougar and much more filled out the roster, but no matter. These were not exotic. Or so was my thinking at the time. And so many years later, after decades spent travelling the world, rock, ice and alpine climbing, back country skiing etc. I felt I had lived. And then I remembered Africa. To folks that don’t do much, each trip I have made has been dubbed “the trip of a life time!” “ You are sooo lucky to be able to do that!” It’s not luck. My investments have been in life. My expensive toys aren’t boats or RV’s, they are living. And so even before the end of my last trip hunting in Namibia, I knew I had to return and ‘up the ante’ as they say. Plains game hunting was, and is, fantastic, but I hungered to pit myself against at least one of the big five. I have shot several grizzlies that had harmful intent, a few moose that had the same, and a misguided mountain lion that saw me as food. But I wanted to go the Africa: the Big Five. Cost versus Value – 3am Father’s Day. Assuming one is comfortable and family cared for, what is the value of a thing? - Is it what it cost you in dollars? - Is it what it cost you in effort? - Is it what you can sell it for? - Is it what it pays back? Most things you buy begin to lose value the second you hand over your hard earned cash. If you have invested wisely you may see some ‘payback’ or return on investment, a number in your account that continues to grow and gives you satisfaction in your astute investment. Some things, whether they are tangible assets or otherwise have some value when sold, which will perhaps allow you to re-invest the funds in something that will give you more benefit than the ‘thing’ was doing. If it took effort to achieve something, whether it was to build something or accomplish something, this often offers the most satisfying reward, in my mind. It may be building your own home, it may be climbing a mountain, or it may be seeking adventure, actively pursuing all the color and vitality this lonely planet we live on has to offer. When our final days grow short, and the light begins to fade, I doubt we will dream of the great investments we have made, or the healthy bank account balance we will leave behind. I imagine we will see a tumbling kalidescope of memory, the things we hold dear, the beautiful moments we had, the faces of people we love, either already lost, or still with us, the moments and actions that define our existence and illustrate who we are. Hopefully our regrets are few, when we finally settle into that dark oblivion. A moment of magic As I have said, I was enjoying a rest day of reading, writing, and thinking, thinking about life and what had brought me here, when at the periphery of my vision I noticed movement. Glancing that way, I saw Pieter’s 12 year old daughter returning from playing with her brother at the drying pond. I had noticed them both there earlier, the girl (who’s name I have forgotten) was enjoying some of her last days of childhood by clambering about on a large boulder set in the middle of what had been a pond in the wet season, but now was surrounded by deep, wet mud. She was striding briskly across the arching bridge that spanned the fish pond in the courtyard. I expected to see her feet caked in muck, but they appeared clean, so I called out to her “How did you manage to not get your feet covered in mud?” Pausing briefly, she swung her head in my direction her long hair swinging over her shoulder, and eyes sparkling, she flashed me a huge unabashed grin, her perfect teeth catching the last orange light of the sun not quite set. Without saying a thing, she continued on to the lodge. It had been answer enough. Why hunt. Like many hunters and perhaps an even greater number of non-hunters, I found myself trying to define what I get out of hunting. I think there are several different influences that combine to create a whole, but lets explore the first that comes to mind. I have always felt the urge to hunt is a primal urge, in my case and I am sure for many others providing meat for the family was huge motivating factor that allowed me to spend time out of doors enjoying the wild. Then again perhaps I have not evolved as much as those that loath the idea of killing an animal. But it seems to me that all humans share the urge to hunt to one degree or another, they just express it differently. For some it is shopping on-line or at the mall for that perfect deal. It is a challenge, and this is where I think hunting has kin ship to war and sport. I understand many will not agree with this concept, but consider this: Why are aggressive team sports so popular? Why do so many choose a team to rally behind and become so emotionally involved in this synthetic conflict? Why do so many people, once the basic needs of life are met, create some challenge to pit themselves against? It doesn’t matter if it is rock climbing, cycling, golf, long distance running, many humans find or create challenges they can pit themselves against. Rising to those challenges provides a template, a yardstick against which one can measure oneself. It provides a catalyst to explore ourselves, our potential, and often our environment. However hunting has much more to offer than mere challenge, or a connection with that primal DNA that allowed our species to succeed. It gives one a reason to re-integrate with nature, to pay close attention to the wind direction, the noise made as one tries to move silently through fallen leaves or dry gravel, to listen to the various calls of birds, to hunger for the warmth of the first rays of the sun on a frosty morning. It allows us to slip free of the shackles and constraints of our daily lives, and get just a bit closer to our true place in the Nature that has evolved on this wonderful marble hurtling through the void. The fire By the time evening had fallen and the rose coloured glow on the Western horizon gave way to the thin crescent moon shining above Venus, I had sat by the fire four times. The first time was early, before anyone else was up. Anyone that is except for Max the skinner/tracker and Morris his brother. I did not know they were about, but thinking I might be able to coax some flames from last nights coals, I headed to the firepit. To my delight, they had beat me to it and had a nice little blaze going, over which they warmed their hands against the frost of the morning. Pulling up a chair, we engaged in the pleasant sort of conversation one does with virtual strangers around a fire in the early morning. Max asked what was next on my hunt list. We discussed buffalo hunting, and I asked Morris if he would join us for that. He replied ‘no’. We talked about the enormous amount of work from the day before dealing with the carcass of the giraffe. Max summed it up in his laconic way: “Now it is done.” Eventually others joined us, Pieter and the Rindi, till eventually Claudius called us to breakfast. The next session around the fire was around noon. It was still quite cool, and I had absconded with a beer from the bar, stoked the coals to life, and pulled up a chair against the wall where the increasing warmth of the sun was undiluted by a breeze. The next I knew , a firm hand had hold of one of my knees and was shaking it. “Sir” Max was saying, “You should go lie down”. It took me second to remember where I was and why, and then I noticed I still held my virtually untouched beer. The fire had burned down again. I sat up, wiping the drool off my chin, and drank the now warm beer. The third time at the fire was just before dinner when Pieter got a proper fire going, and we all gathered for drinks and conversation. The kids and the dogs scampered about, we adults exchanged stories, and everyone generally got to know each other a bit better. Claudius began grilling back-strap steaks from the Nyala I had killed the two days before, which turned out to be delicious and very tender. The fourth time at the fire was after dinner. We all gathered for drinks and Rindi very kindly presented me with a beautiful drawing of a Cape Buffalo she had done. (This now resides with place of pride among other cherished mementos in my living room.) All in all it had been a relaxing, marvellous day, that had very little and yet everything to do with hunting. Father’s day Father’s day was going to be a non-event for me this year. Johan was home with his family (I had the good fortune to meet them later, I doubt you could ask to meet finer people or a nicer more cohesive family). But Pieter had graciously invited me to join himself and his two children on a drive through a game reserve that was not too far distant. I immediately accepted. This was going to be any unforgettable opportunity! Unfortunately I did not record the name of the park and do not remember it… We all loaded into the very comfortable crew cab pickup and we were off. We did not spend too much time on the highway before we turned off into the reserve roads. Very shortly we came across a few rhinos lounging about on the pavement. There was a very young calf with them, not more than a week old. It was great to see. During the course of the drive we saw all manner of game, giraffes, elephants, more rhinos, hippos, jackals, a lioness, wildebeest, impala, crocodile, waterbuck and more. At one point the road was blocked by a very large bull elephant walking slowly towards us. Pieter decided discretion was the best defence (no offense Pieter, but I don’t think this comes easy to you…J and he backed slowly away looking for a spot to turn around. As we were doing that we looked to the side, and there about 3-4 meters away was another elephant, just beside us on other side of a thorn bush! Later on we came to a site where there were a lot of vehicles parked on the side of the road, the sure sign of a kill, along with vultures and jackals. And sure enough, there it was – a lioness gorging on a huge open carcass of – what? Hippo? Rhino? Young elephant? We could not tell. But she was surrounded by about 20 jackals who sat in a rough circle hoping for her to become distracted so they could dart in and grab a mouthful. Seeing a lion in her own environment allowed me to really appreciate the size, power and majesty of that species. We arrived back at the lodge that evening having had a marvelous day of viewing the wildlife Africa is famous for, but the day was not done yet. A few days before I had been extoling the virtues of my chicken wings, and I was asked to put my money where my mouth was. So I had asked Jan to bring some chicken wings back from the butcher shop, as well as a few other ingredients including the makings for stuffed baked potatoes. I spent an enjoyable couple of hours invading Claudius’s kitchen, (he was most patient and helpful I must say) preparing the chicken wings and potatoes. They seemed a success if I say so myself. But perhaps they were too kind… The Buffalo The day of the buffalo dawned crisp and cold. A hard frost was on the windows of the vehicles and a fog hung on the ground, giving the veld a ghostly, other-worldly appearance. After a quick bowl of cereal and some coffee, we were off. I had told Johan I wouldn’t mind a down day to write and soak in the ambiance of Africa, and he had arranged to meet us near the area we were going to hunt, after spending Father’s Day with his family. I had been a bit nervous about today, not out of fear of the buffalo, out of fear of botching the thing up. But I had trained for this day, developing loads, spending a lot of time at the range and shooting off sticks. I was physically in decent shape, and as the ride progressed I could feel that old surge of confidence and anticipation I had felt in the past on many adventures involving technical climbing; a passion of mine till first family commitments and then a bad shoulder curtailed. We met Johan at a gas station and after taking turns peeing in the bush, we were off again. Soon we arrived at the property we were going to hunt. It was an 800-acre gamed fenced parcel, that contained a herd of buffalo bulls, sable, impala, waterbuck, warthog and blesbuck. Eventually the owner of the property showed up. He was going to spend the day with us, trying to locate the buffalo. After unlocking the gate, we geared up and took off on foot, walking quietly single file, watching intently for buffalo. Impala and blesbuck darted through the veld beside us, pausing at a safe distance for final looks, before continuing their flight. Once we saw a very large warthog, with a single very long tusk. Had he two, I would have been very happy to take him. Striking a line roughly towards the center of the property and then turning about 75 degrees to our right, we headed up the hill till eventually we came to a game fence. We had seen game. We had seen steaming piles of buffalo dung. But no buffalo. Turning to our left we travelled several hundred meters till we began looping down hill in our silent, single file parade. John, the land-owner lead, followed by Johan, then me, then Pieter, and then Max. Every so often we would see other game; impala, blesbuck and once a very nice sable. The sun rose in the sky and the temperature soared, till we were all over-heated in the jackets we had worn against the morning chill. Eventually we arrived back at the buggys where we thankfully dropped our jackets and drank some water. We had been gone several hours, and the incessant calling of the turtledoves had begun, broken only by the long “Kaaaawwwww…” of the parrot like go-away-bird. As it always does, the fog lifted and dissipated with the rising sun, leaving a bright blue sky. It was decided to change tactics a bit. We would go for a drive in the Land Cruiser to search the property till the buffalo were found, and then do a stalk on foot if we spotted a suitable bull. Soon we had bumped into a small herd at the top of the property. I learned later they seemed to like to hang out here, more trees, more shade, more cover. We must have been very close to them earlier but we had not seen them. It soon become apparent that the buffalo behaved very differently towards a truck than they do towards people on the ground. When the truck appeared, they would often gaze curiously at it. But if there were human feet on the ground, they wasted no time putting distance between them and the humans, like any other wild animal that is hunted. Pieter commented that buffalo in a game fence were much more wary than wild free-range buffalo. He also said that the lion hunts that take place inside game fenced areas are more dangerous than hunting ‘wild’ lions. Lions that are raised and then released into a controlled area, have lost much of their fear of humans, and are often more antagonistic, while ‘free range’ lions still have that fear and are shyer. We recommenced foot travel, now that we knew more or less where the buffalo were hanging out. Before long we had brief glimpses of small groups of buffalo charging away, looking like small locomotives on legs. Suddenly we saw one exit a small group of trees about 150 yards distant and stand looking at us sullenly. Johann had a quick look at him through his binos and declared, “It is a good one, you can take him”, as he set up the sticks. I placed the rifle on the top of the bipod and set the brightly glowing red dot of the Leupold on his shoulder. There was only one problem: there was a dead tree several inches thick about the mid point between the buffalo and I and I could not get a vantage I was confident with. The dead branch or small tree was covering the exact area I was trying to aim for. A few seconds went by as I tried to manuvour to find a clear vantage, but the buffalo had seen all he needed to and thundered off. I am sure Johann found my hesitation frustrating, but I was determined to not shoot till I felt good about the shot. We continued through the dry golden grass, arriving eventually at the buggy, where we had some water. After a brief rest we set out again, we bumped several more buffalo, set up the sticks several times, however I could not get a good clear shot. The bulls choose to seek refuge in the densest bush they could find, and always obscured by branches, leaves and shrubbery. The bulls were now alerted they were being hunted and the only glimpses we caught of them were their rumps charging away in the opposite direction. It was decided to have lunch and a nap and give them a chance to calm down. After our break, all piled into the back of the hunting buggy again to take a quick drive around and see what we could see. It did not take long to find a herd of bulls lounging in the shade of a small dense copse of trees. We stopped to glass them, I thought there were several good bulls in the group, but Johan felt the bosses were too soft, a bit too young. Suddenly a magnificent looking bull, which had been watching us intently, began striding aggressively towards us, looking down his nose at us. Had very deep dropping horns with a very rounded curl, as though his horns had been formed around a soccer ball. He would give those horns a shake and then stride towards us a few more steps, till he was approximately 50 meters away. “We must go” Johan said “He wants trouble” and we drove off. Johan decided he and I would take off on foot, and John would take off in the buggy and search some other area. We walked for a bit, upwind at a medium pace, steady and quiet We were in the open veld, approaching another dense copse of trees and bush, when a very large black bull was seen running towards us and then into the trees. I immediately set up on the sticks, ready for him to exit, but as soon as he entered the trees he stopped, and milling about, seemed to check all directions for trouble. I could see him fairly well, but once again he was obscured by a screen of bush. Johan said, “He is good.” I waited. I breathed deep. I thought about shooting him in the head, but there were branches in the way. I was ready. All he had to do was step clear… The bull laid down. For about a minute, then gazing in the direction he had come he jumped to his feet. Then I saw it: the buggy was toiling slowly through the grass about 150 yards distant, with the bull in the bush between us. Even if I had a clear shot, I could not shoot now! Hoping the Land Cruiser would keep going, hoping the bull wouldn’t spook too badly, I waited, ready. But the guys in the buggy had seen the bull hiding in the trees and stopped for a better look. The bull suddenly bolted from cover, about 25 yards away. I traced his backside with the bright red dot hoping he would change direction just enough for a decent shot. He didn’t heading more or less diagonally away from me. Folding up the sticks and swallowing our frustration, Johan and I headed over to meet the buggy. It was only then the guys saw us, as we rounded the copse of trees that the bull had been hiding in. After a brief discussion, it was decided that since it was nearing the end of the day and the buff were on high alert we should make one last drive of the property in the hopes of spotting and then stalking a nice bull. The shadows grew long as the sun was very close to setting. And then it did, to the last cries of the turtledoves. A herd of nice looking bulls was spotted a short distance above the road, and we drove past as they watched us cautiously from the thin cover they were standing in. Parking the buggy a short distance up the trail, we disembarked and walked quietly down hill till we were close to where we had spotted the bulls. And suddenly, there they were. They had moved down the hill and stood amongst some thorn bushes looking our direction. Several stepped free of the rest and moved into the open to get a better look at us in the deepening gloom. The sun setting and oncoming twilight seemed to relax the bulls and give them more confidence… Johan and I were in front; the others had hung back a bit. Johan was glassing them at about 35 meters, when he declared “The one on the right is a good one” and he set up the sticks. He was a good one all right. He had his nose up and pointed our direction, and you could see the heavy boss, the deep drop and good curl, unobstructed by any foliage that I could see. You could also see the black silhouette of the massive muscular body, poised for action. What you could not see however was detail. The bull was black, he was standing in shadows and evening was upon us. Thinking, “This close, on sticks, I cannot possibly miss. I will aim dead lower center on that black mass and go for it…” I felt calm, steady and confident. Placing the brightly burning red dot in the center of the black mass about where I thought the heart would be, I squeezed the trigger. As the .375 recoiled I momentarily lost the image of the buffalo, but as I was reloading I could see him staggering backwards a few paces and almost go down. Then he gathered himself and ran off with the rest away from us, through the thorns and over a low rise of ground. I broke into a run and started after them hoping to get another shot into the bull, but Pieter called out and said “Rick, we must wait.” So we did. He said, “Now the fun begins”. I fully expected to hear the famous ‘death bellow’ any moment, but it never came. I was asked how I felt about the shot – “Very good” I replied. So we waited a few minutes and then off we went, expecting to find the carcass of the bull. Everyone had seen the shot and the way the bull staggered backwards as though hit by a mallet and everyone concurred he was hit very hard. I moved forward beside Johan and his .458 Lott, followed by Pieter and his .458 Win Mag and John with his .375. Everyone loaded and cocked, safeties on. We followed the buff over the hill watching to all sides, but found nothing. No bull, no blood. Returning we were joined by Max the tracker and John’s employee. I was asked to show them exactly where I felt the buffalo was standing when I shot and I did. But I did notice a young sapling about 1” in diameter that was freshly cut cleanly off about 30” off the ground. I did not mention it as I felt that they would have seen it also and it seemed several feet to the left of where I felt the buff had been when I shot. Once again we followed the path the buff had taken, spreading out, hoping to find blood. It was all to no avail. We looked with greater and greater intensity for blood or a carcass, retracing the route we had taken several times for up to 400 meters with no sign other than a few tracks and disturbed stones. This was my worst-case scenario. I hate wounding an animal, as do all hunters. I had failed after countless hours reloading, shooting, and choosing components for this hunt. It was now dark and there was nothing for it but to return at first light to try to find the wounded bull. I was very discouraged, depressed even, the folks at camp could sense it and took turns trying to cheer me up. I had dinner, several glasses of fine South African wine and went to bed. The next day dawned clear and cold. After a quick coffee and some cereal we scraped the ice off the window of the Land Cruiser and Johan, Max and I were off. Max road in the back bundled against the cold and somehow managed to sleep during the drive. On the way we discussed strategy. Johan said we would first drive about the veld looking for the body of the bull. Failing that, we were going to meet John and some of his farm workers, divide the property in a grid and slowly search each grid of the 800-acre area fanned out. He cautioned me that if we happened to be in the vehicle when the bull was spotted (assuming it was alive) we were going to shoot from the vehicle. It was all about recovering the bull at this point. But I told him that if at all possible, I wanted a chance to make the kill and asked that he not shoot unless a) the bull was charging and close, or b) was getting away. He agreed that was fair. First we drove the trails in the lower half of the property hoping to find the body. We all felt the bull was hit very hard. As we were doing that, John sent his three (unarmed) men to scout out the denser thickets. I wondered if they had been late for work that day… We found nothing. It was decided to do one more drive to the upper end of the property to check out some denser thickets the buffalo liked to hang out in. Nearing the top, we suddenly spotted a herd of bulls of various ages at about 50 yards off, however there were two very large black boys with them. As we weren’t on foot, they took a few seconds to gaze at us as Johan quickly scanned them with his binos from the back of the buggy. “Rick,” he said, “There is your buffalo!” “On the right?” “No, on the left!” I swung the scope towards him as he turned to look at us, but it seemed he was looking straight at me. When he did that I could see blood around the right side of his mouth. Telling Johan I had him, I put the red dot on his nearest shoulder and squeezed the trigger. At the shot he humped up slightly, then turned and ran out of sight, a little over a hundred yards away. They suddenly he and few others came running back towards us, and again disappeared. Once again we waited a few minutes, then making sure the scope was turned down to 1x and the safety was on, Johan and I set off cautiously after him. We had only gone about 15 yards or so, when John in the Land Cruiser returned. He had left after the shot to try to catch sight of the stampeding herd. Max jumped out and spoke excitedly to Johan for a moment who then approached me. “It’s OK” he said, “He’s dead. Max saw him fall.” Whew. I was happy the animal was found, and was not going to waste. But I was not happy with the way the whole thing had gone down. “Face it,” I thought “no one to blame but yourself”. Johan and I walked through grass and soon found the bull lying on his stomach, dead. But now we were able to inspect him, we found something very curious: my first shot had hit just behind his mouth on the right side and opened up the hide for about 6” to 7” before entering the heavy muscle of his cheek. Johan broke off a stick and attempted to push it into the hole, but it only entered about 2”. As well he noted that there were several ‘scratch marks’ devoid of hair on the cheek just past the bullet wound. Hands were shook, photos were took and the bull was loaded whole. Johan had not yet had time to mount a winch in the back of new truck, so it was going to take a bit of ingenuity and muscle to Egyptian this bad boy into the back of the buggy. The plan was to roll him onto a steel frame Johan had, that was about 16” wide and 7’ long. It had wheels at one end and a pair of legs that could be folded down to support one end of the load. The bull was to be lashed to the frame, one end lifted with a jack, the legs folded down to support the weight and the jack moved to the other end to lift that end. Then it was to be a simple task to back the truck up to the frame and slide the whole lot into the truck. Or at least that was how it was supposed to work, but of course it was not quite that simple. It did work however, on the third try. Credit is due to those involved, but a winch and ramp still gets my vote… We later learned the bull would have weighed approximately 1600 pounds on the hoof. Once back at Pawprint, I was intensely interested in seeing what the effect of each bullet I had fired at the bull had been. The round that killed the bull had hit him below the center of the right shoulder passing through both lungs and the blood vessels at the top of the heart and through the far ribs before being stopped by the hide, a perfect A Frame mushroom. I watched the fellow working on the head expecting to find shattered teeth, a broken jaw, or something but other than the gash on the cheek there was nothing and only minimal bruising. Feeling there was nothing more to see, I went up to the lodge to have a beer. A bit later Pieter came in with a very intent look about him. “Rick, what bullet did you use on the buffalo?” I told him an A Frame. “Can you show me others?” he asked. So I retrieved an unfired cartridge and the bullet from the neck of the giraffe. He hurried away. A bit later he came back followed by Johan. “I have something to show you,” he said, and holding out his hand he dropped a deformed bullet or what was left of it into my hand. “Where did this come from?” I asked. “From the buffalo’s cheek” he said. “It only penetrated about 2”, and there was total bullet disintegration. Absolutely unacceptable. I wanted to make sure we had the facts straight before we spoke to you. Had this bullet done it’s job it most likely would have hit either the brain or spine or at the very least put him down for a second shot.” Johan weighed in with “You can see where the bullet blew up before it finally penetrated; the shrapnel scratched the hair off the cheek of the bull past the final point of entry. But it only penetrated about 2”…” I sat looking at this malformed slug in my hand. I could not believe it. I had purposely loaded all the rounds I had brought on this trip in one setting to ensure consistency. I had used new brass and recently manufactured bullets. Then it struck me… This unfortunate circumstance was not my fault. The clouds in my mind parted and the sun began to shine again. I felt much better. Sure I could have done things differently; perhaps I should not have taken the shot since in the deepening gloom I could not see detail on the body. Perhaps I would have seen any stick that could have been in the way. Maybe I should have waited for the bull to turn sideways. If only, maybe, but … whatever. That shot should have put him down. Looking closely at the bullet shard I could see how it was deformed to one side as though it had been pushed or turned aside so that it was perhaps traveling sideways. I feel that had the bullet maintained a straight-ahead trajectory, it would have brained the bull taking out the back of the skull or hit the cervical column. I was not at all satisfied with the experience but I felt better about my part. Perhaps there will be a next time… These are all .375 H and H, 300 gr. Swift A Frame bullets. The first on the left is of course unfired. The next is the bullet that actually killed the buffalo. Great penetration – performed as advertised. The next is misshapen but this is the bullet that pulverized the spinal column of the giraffe at around 75 yards. The last is being held in that position by the pen. This is the one that did not penetrate more than 2” however it did rake along the hide of the side of the cheek of the buffalo. The wound is easily seen in the photo above. Day Seven – I believe. Johan and I spent the day on various stalks and attempts to find a zebra. We did not get a shooting opportunity although I ‘sights on’ one a couple of times running away. On one open hillside we had tried to stalk close enough to a pair to make a shot, but there was too much game in the way and everything spooked. First it was the large herd of impala that took off. Then it was the wildebeest, followed by the zebra, the eland, and finally the herd of blesbuck. Johan had sent Max to approach them from one side of the open hillside where they were all grazing and sunning themselves in the early morning sun. We had stalked from bush to bush through the veld to find a closer position to hopefully get a shot when the animals began moving. It kind of worked, but even though the zebra were well within shooting range, they moved past us quickly. We picked up our pace to a trot to try to catch them in the open, but try as we might we did not get a decent opportunity. I was on sticks several times and once had the bright red dot on the back of one, but it did not stop, slow down, or turn broadside. We continued hiking around the hill and found a decent trail descending from the hill we were skirting, across a valley and up the hillside opposite. We decided this offered as good an opportunity as anything and set up here to wait in the bush. The most interesting thing I saw were several small bright yellow birds flitting about the thorn bushes… Giving up on the hide, we crossed the valley and started up the trail on the opposite side, moving quietly but steadily. A small herd of impala appeared on our left about 20 meters away and filtered past us, but no decent rams. Once on top of the hill, it looked promising. There were a lot of zebra tracks around, as well as wildebeest and impala. We moved through the bush, now downhill, as quietly as we could, and evidently we were quiet enough as we came across a nice kudu bull, which browsed slowly below us about 30 meters distant, looking huge and majestic. It moved off to our left and we carried on. A bit later we came to an open meadow that had a number of warthogs grazing and digging in it but nothing very interesting. Eventually we joined a 4x4 track that lead downhill. Johan called Max and arranged to have him meet us at the bottom of the hill in the buggy. As we moved downhill a herd of 8 to 10 blue wildebeest charged across the trail about 200 meters below us. I’m not sure why they ran, we were still moving quietly and the wind was in our favour. Meeting up with Max we had some badly needed water, and continued sneaking about in the bush but to no avail. We decided to head back to the lodge for lunch and a rest. That afternoon we went to a neighbouring property to try again, but other than a couple of duikers we did not see much on this property. There was game there, just not where we were. Eventually we headed back to camp and a much needed cold beer (Pawprint makes a point of keeping beer cold – a very welcome thing!) It had been a good day. I had had a great hike, seen a lot of game, and felt good about seeing game at close range. Day Eight – 1st Zebra The next day we tried a different property for zebra. The first while we spent trying to sneak around the rather dense bush lining both sides of a dry creek bed. Moving about in a zigzag pattern, we saw lots of tracks and manure but no zebra. Eventually we worked our way onto some more open veld beside 80 acres or so that was in the process of being turned into a field. It looked like the bush had been knocked down a couple of years ago and left. A flock of guinea fowl trotted down the trail in front of us, suddenly they exploded into flight and were joined by a dozen more screeching flapping birds. Anything with a lick of sense would know something was about, but there was nothing for it but to continue. Curving back to our left we walked along the edge of the new clearing, watching out into the very tall grass. After a few hundred yards, I noticed several animals silhouetted against the sun. I could not tell what they were; they were about 200 yards out, all but hidden in the tall grass and against the sun. Then I saw one raise it’s head – zebra. There were several there, grazing in the open but mostly hidden by the grass. I gave a quiet hiss to Johan who turned back and a quick look through his binos confirmed my observation. We ducked down, the zebra were moving the same direction we were, but had not yet seen us, thanks to the tall grass. Moving diagonally, we closed the distance to about 150 meters or so, but were now in the open and the zebra were about to enter the bush. Then they saw us, stopped and watching us intently. Johan said “The second from the back.” I was on the sticks but did not have a real clear shot thanks to the grass. I pulled the trigger, sending the 300-grain Woodleigh on its way. The sound of a “Whump” followed the concussion of the gun, and the zebra staggered back obviously hit. He staggered back further throwing his head up, and through the scope I thought I could see blood tossed from his mouth. We waited a minute and Johan said, “He’s down.” And we walked up to him. The other zebra had stayed with the stallion till we approached, but as we approached they ran off. He was much smaller than the mountain zebra I had shot in Namibia, but the striping was almost as well defined. A beautiful specimen. I hoped to take one more; I want to upholster a couch in the someday-to-be trophy room. That afternoon we decided to try for an Impala. Evidently Pieter and Johan had released some on the property a few years earlier, and the decided it was time to harvest the ram, and allow one of the younger ones take over stud duties next year. They said that these impala are skittish and hard to find most of the time… it turned out Pieter didn’t really think we would have much luck, and was trying to give me something to do. Johan and I left the buggy with Max at the bottom of the property and set off sneaking along in the usual manner, diagonally up the hill. Shortly we came across some of their Brahman cattle, I asked Johan if he had a permit for these… he ducked back and down and whispered “Impala!” And there they were, several ewes browsing through the bush angling past us about 25 meters away. “Get ready,” he said, “ the ram will come”. And then I saw it, or rather the ends of his horns moving through the bush. Johan put up the sticks, but I didn’t like the position, I would have to shoot right past a cow, if she swung her head or moved the wrong way… At any rate, the ram moved away without an opportunity and we followed. Unbelievably the impala gave no sign they were aware of our presence. We snuck off to one side and set up again as the ram grazed towards us, showing the tips of his horns. Suddenly he raised his head giving me a clear shot at his neck. I took it and he dropped on the spot, legs stiff and tail quivering in the air. Johan was laughing – “I do not believe it!” he said. Evidently he had planned on hiking up to the top of the property and hunting down. But he held little hope of finding them. I asked him suspiciously “Are you sure you did not know they would be here?” but he professed total innocence. It was the luck of the draw. Day 9. Trying for baboons. This morning we went off to a property that was having trouble with baboons that I wanted to help out with. This was Riann’s (whom you have met before) parent’s home. We met his dad who explained the usual route the baboons took, and where they might appear. He explained they usually showed up every third day or so and today was day three. We were to ‘set up’ in the old farmhouse, now a guesthouse, where we were to lurk about the windows watching for any bands of marauders to ambush. None came, I guess they got the memo, but I had a pleasant morning checking out the old farmhouse and writing in my journal. Day10 Sunday – A day of doing nothing. Johan (at my suggestion) had gone home to spend Sunday with his family and I stayed behind to hang out and basically enjoy being in Africa. I spent the morning hanging out and writing in my journal, but eventually the relaxing became tedium and Max and I headed out to the watering hole to try to ambush a warthog. Pieter wanted one for sausage, and if a real nice one showed up I wanted it for myself. I had picked up a great warthog in Namibia, so I if I was going to take one for myself, I wanted something exceptional. So off we went. The watering hole was not far, and we were trying to time it to hit the mid day rush. The pigs like to roll in the mud to cool off and often return for a last drink before sun down. Max had been here this morning and there was evidence of fresh boughs and greenery festooning the walls of the ‘hide’. We settled in just before noon, and I fought to keep from dozing and falling off my perch in the mid day sun. Many turtle doves took a break from their incessant cooing to fly to the mud flat picking their way gingerly to the water to drink. My head was lolling on my chest when I became aware of noises from just below me! Something was squelching around in the mud sending bands of ripples across the small pond. Whatever it was was so close it was hidden by the bank just in front of me. I glanced at Max and pointed at the ripples, but he could not see anything from his position behind me. He stood up as tall as he could to try to see over the bank, “Pig” he said. I readied my rifle and shortly the warthog appeared about 15 to 20 meters in front of me. His tusks were about 3” long and I whispered to Max, “Shoot?” he replied “Small one.” I whispered “Pieter?” I could not hear his reply, too many years working in industry have taken their toll. I asked again, he shrugged and nodded. The pig had stood quite patiently during this near silent exchange, and I placed the burning red dot between his eye and his ear. Just as I was squeezing the trigger he decided that there was something quite interesting he needed to attend to in the bush and off he trotted. I tracked the back of his head with the red dot, but choose not to pull the trigger. Settling down again, we commenced our wait and were soon rewarded by the arrival of two female nyala. I would have to say these are some of the most beautiful antelope I have seen. If you haven’t seen nyala, the males are the size of a deer and have spiral horns and long-haired dark bodies. A think ruff hangs from their necks to under their chest and a long main stands from neck and shoulders. They have pale cream colour stripes running from their backs to their bellies and a pattern of cream coloured dots on their faces including a chevron just under their eyes. The females however look as though they could belong to a different species. They have a very delicate fragile appearance, have delicate, sensitive faces, with almost oversize doe like eyes and large ears that constantly twitch and turn searching for the faintest sound. They are a rich golden colour and have very distinct white stripping running down their sides. The females also have a long haired fluffy tail that hangs down almost to the back of their knees. They seemed to swish that tail constantly as they picked their way delicately to the waters edge where they took turns drinking. They then paused briefly before retracing their steps through the mud and back to the bush. It had been a beautiful interlude. We saw nothing else that session by the pond and left to have lunch. That evening we returned in the hopes of surprising a pig coming for an evening drink before returning to his burrow to wait out the long chilly night. Nothing appeared other than various birds as the evening silence descended on the bushveld. The last mournful cries of “Kaaaawwwgh” from the go-away-birds hung in the air as the setting sun turned orange, setting the sky afire on the horizon with colours of orange, then red and finally purple. The still brown water of the watering hole reflected a mirror image of the sky above adding to the gentle kaleidoscope of fading colour. That evening was the usual drinks at the bar, talk of sports, rifles and scopes. Dinner was tasty as usual, followed by a retreat to the fire for more drinks. Day 11 – another zebra. Due to the poaching of a rhino we were not able to hunt the reserve that Pieter and Johan had originally planned on hunting zebra. All hunting had been shut down pending the investigation. We had one zebra in the salt, but we were having trouble getting another, so we drove some distance to a private reserve that reportedly had a lot of game. Upon arriving we spoke with the owner who told us where two different herds were hanging out, more or less. After entering the property two things became immediately apparent: 1. There was game everywhere, judging by the tracks. 2. There was almost nothing left for them to eat. Most browse and graze was gone, stripped bare. I believe he had been hauling in hay to feed the animals till the rainy season. Selling a few off would supply cash to offset the cost of feeding and also reduce the load on the environment. He told us some other hunters had been on the property over the weekend and had wounded several blue wildebeest. He asked if we saw them to dispatch them. We drove across and open field to an area he had indicated we may encounter zebra, and almost immediately Max, who was driving, spotted a herd about 350 yards away. Quickly climbing from the back of the buggy, Johan and I began our stalk, but the zebra were cautious and alert . They spotted us and ran off. We carried on in the direction they had run, keeping behind thorn bushes as best we could, and soon spotted them again. Once again they ran, and once again we carried on. Soon we spotted them, but this time we managed to keep cover between them and us and closed the distance to a bit over 150 meters. We were forced into a low position to see under the thorn bushes and setting up the sticks Johan immediately jumped to one side declaring “I just spined my butt on a bloody thorn!” Sitting down gingerly lest the same thing happen to me, I set up using one leg of the sticks as a rest and my right elbow supported by my right knee. I felt very solid. Johan said “on the shoulder…” and I moved the red dot up the chevrons of the leg and then laterally a bit to the inside as the zebra was quartering towards us, watching us. I pulled the trigger, and lost sight of the target but it felt good. I asked Johan what he thought and he said it was hit hard. We waited a few minutes and then moved up. We were both sure he was down as the rest of the herd was milling about watching us intently but not running off. Once a herd member is down, they often wait for their fallen comrade. We advanced a bit further and now they ran, leaving a low lying layer of dust hanging in the morning air, backlit by the rising sun. Very shortly we could see the motionless body of the stallion lying in the open. The 300 grain Woodleigh had broke the near shoulder, passed through the heart and lungs and exited the ribs behind the opposite shoulder.