"So, have you ever thought of hunting in Africa?" This query, posed by my dog training partner and friend, Randy, has lead to an addiction only other Africa veterans will understand...oh, labradors, of course. At first, I rejected the idea, because I had thought about it when I was much younger, but I'd dismissed the notion due to generous doses of ignorance, and a lack of funds. That was then. A few months back, Kent Shaw of 3S Safaris posted an offer on AH that I just couldn't turn down, especially considering that I was going to be in Africa, anyway, visiting friends and touring Botswana and the Caprivi Strip. The deal was $2,500 for a full seven day hunt with Hennie van Jarlsfeld and Tahlita Olivier with Umzingeli Safaris which houses its clients in the wonderful Grey's Gift Lodge in the EC. Impala, blesbuck, springbok, and kudu were included in the package, but I substituted the blesbuck for a bushbuck, and all was set. Oh, I must explain the title. I had attempted to harvest a bushbuck on previous occasions, but the sly little beasts had always eluded me. On my first trip, which I foolishly thought would be my only one, I failed to find one in the Limpopo, and lost a chance in Zambia; I had had my sights on a nice Chobe ram, when my PH said something to me before I pulled the trigger. I cannot recall what he said or asked, but when I put my eye back to the scope, the ram had vanished. Then, the weather beat me on my next trip. Unseasonable cold and drizzle stopped most animals from moving, and my PH was unable to locate a ram despite our logging a lot of miles both on foot and in the vehicle. And so I arrived at the Port Elizabeth airport at the end of May, and met Hennie and Tahlita, my PHs, guides, and friends for the next days. We got to know each other on the ride out to Grey's Gift, and it was clear to me that I had made a great choice. Several conversations with Kent had given me confidence that I'd be in good hands with Hennie and Tahlita, and this proved to be true in so many ways. We arrived at the lodge with plenty of time to enjoy the magnificent view over the valley from the commanding heights of Grey's Gift. To be honest, I was shocked at the place; a poor, little prairie boy such as I is much more used to tents than chalets, but I decided I could tough it out. Several beer and a magnificent dinner later, I resolved to lap up every moment; after all, once I'd returned to my hovel, I'd have to eat my own cooking. After a final drink or two, I went to bed early, eager for the adventure to begin. Day One dawned to a very strong but warm wind and heavily overcast, leaden sky, so we were all anxious to see how the conditions would affect the animals. While on the drive, I became well acquainted with Longone, Umzingeli's tracker/skinner/comic. His indefatiguable good humour, and uncanny ability to sight game were highlights of the trip. We arrived just after dawn, and were greeted by the landowner, Mark, who had just seen a good kudu, but the bull was having none of it. He knew this game well, and had no intention of being the main contestant in our game. We continued our hunt, relying on Mark's knowledge of his farm, but by noon we hadn't gotten onto a kudu. I did turn down a shot on a fantastic waterbuck, though. Hennie spotted him in a little opening between acacia thickets, over three hundred meters away, but the bull had seen us, too, and didn't take his eyes off us. I had the rifle on the sticks a couple times, but given the distance and strength of the cross wind, I decided against it, a choice I don't really regret. We stopped for lunch then continued our search for a bull without Mark, who was called away to chase poachers operating in broad daylight! In any event, the day ended without a kudu, but I had no concerns, because I was hunting in Africa!! What more could one want? Day Two arrived a little sooner than I'd have liked. I had walked my sixty-year old butt a lot further than I thought and the extra glasses of wine and Cohiba Robusto in the outdoor bathtub before bed hadn't aided my rest. In addition, my plantar's fascitis had flared up, so I knew that I was going to be moving gingerly for a bit. The sky was bright and the air crisp and cool, both of which Hennie and Longone knew were good omens. As the sun rose, they assured me, the animals would be very active compared with the day before. We returned to Mark's farm and followed Longone's hunch, and were immediately rewarded. A kudu and his small harem took off across the bottom of a dry dam, stopping only briefly to afford me a long attempt, which I missed...low, both Hennie and Longone advised. We took off in pursuit and Longone soon spotted the group deep in the bushes. Unfortunately for this bull, he was a little too preoccupied with the girls, and we managed to get into a good position for a shot. I squeezed, but the rifle's report was not followed by the tell-tale thwack of a bullet striking its flesh-and-bone target. I assured them that I did not miss, but none of us were sure of a hit. Longone scampered off to see, and soon we heard his call that the bull was down. Hennie and I drove over and I petted the old boy and thanked him for his sacrifice. We set him up for photos, then loaded him for his journey to the skinning shed where Longone promptly prepared him for a shoulder mount. Once he had completed his task, we had lunch and decided to find a warthog (you never just shoot the animals on your package, do you?!). By the way, the bullet had passed between ribs on both sides, which explains the lack of an impact sound. I assured them that I had intended that, but their BS detectors were on full alert. Before long we found a nice hog, dispatched him with a single shot, and returned to the lodge, early enough to celebrate the day's success with another PH and his client, and dug into another sumptious meal, a photo of which is attached below. More to follow.