Back to Africa Chapter 4


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Roebuck
August 7, 2007, 02:36 PM
We still had some light left so Allan suggested that we might go and look for some last light kudu. The kudu, I guess, is everyone’s favourite. It is a strikingly beautiful antelope, with highly developed sense of smell, hearing and vision. Their camouflage is excellent and they are not known as the “Ghost of Africa” for nothing. Literally, they are there in plain view one minute and invisible the next. We searched for a long while but although we did see kudu, there were none of trophy standard. There was one thing that I did pick up on. The minute Allan announced that we were going after a kudu he changed visibly. He became much more intense and concentrated, focussing on little things ignored before. When I asked him if he was aware of this, he replied that “Kudu are different” and that most PHs love the challenge of a kudu hunt. I wonder what he would be like on a lion hunt!!

Earlier that day, we had stumbled on a caracal (Lynx), whilst looking for the nyala and when light had faded and we were returning to the base, I saw another. One is allowed to shoot caracals free of charge, like baboons, when you happen upon them opportunistically but in this case, they did not give me the chance and both cats got away safely. Perhaps next time?

We made our weary way back to our hotel, stopping by the base buildings to see if there was any news regarding our nyala but alas, there was none. The farm hands said that they would be trying again the next day and with that sad news, we made our way back to the hotel where after a few beers, T-bone steak and a good night’s sleep, I would be ready to try again.

We were on the hunting ground before first light and made our way carefully to a likely kudu area, while the farm hands resumed their search for the nyala. Scanning all the ground carefully, Allan picked up on a good Kudu bull around kilometre away. He had good long horns with a nice twist leaving the white ivory coloured points, facing slightly forward.

We started a long and convoluted stalk after this bull but it seemed to be that just as we were getting into shooting range, he would move on. We stalked that kudu bull for more than three kilometres before I finally had him in my riflescope’s cross hairs. When Allan clocked him with the rangefinder at two hundred yards, willing my breathing back to normal, I composed myself for the shot. The bull moved from cover to an area where the whole length of his back was visible. It was now or never and I squeezed the trigger and heard the reassuring thump of a bullet striking and the kudu bull staggered, moving slowly away to my left. Reloading quickly, I watched him moving slowly along and when again he gave me a similar opportunity, Allan said, “Shoot him again.” I did and the shot was a mirror image of the first shot but on his other flank. He went down to the second shot and racking the bolt again, we moved forward to where he lay.

Seeing that he did not require another shot, I made my rifle safe and reached for the water whilst Allan reached for the camera. It had been a long and tiring workout for a most worthy quarry. Allan had captured the shot on video, a wonderful memory caught for eternity.

Here is the kudu.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/KuduonGround.jpg

And now with a happy Roebuck.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/KuduandDavid.jpg

And happy Roebuck and PH Allan.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/AKuduDavidAllan2.jpg

And with Rube and Msetele.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/AKuduDavidRubeMsetele.jpg

Now that we had the kudu safely taken care of and Allan had returned to his usual relaxed self, we turned our thoughts to warthogs. Now I love to hunt warthogs, I don’t know why, I just do. The humble warthog is apparently one of the top most popular trophy species. They are ugly brutes with the females only being a tad better looking than the males by having two less warts. I was looking for a better specimen than I had shot during my previous hunts and with this in mind, we set off trekking through some typical warthog country, lots of bush with plenty of thorns. Come to think of it, most bushes in Africa have thorns and one needs always be vigilant or one spends time back at camp, magnifying glass and tweezers in hand, thanking the “Powers that be” that you don’t need a mirror as well!!

We came upon a group of warthog almost immediately but none were of trophy size and we carried on trekking. Suddenly Allan stopped and pointed to his left. A very nice male warthog had allowed us to creep up on him and when he realised we were there, beat a hasty retreat. Allan told me to shoot when I got the chance but unfortunately (for me not the warthog) he placed himself behind some bushes before I could get a bead on him. Allan instructed me to shoot him when he came out of the bushes and I would have done so had the warthog been listening to Allan as intently as I had. The warthog made his escape by keeping the bushes between me and him and never allowing me another sight of those lovely big tusks.

No problem, we had lots of time or at least, I thought we had. Darkness comes suddenly in Africa, much more so that in Europe and when the light began to dim, we were mentally postponing the warthog hunt until the following morning. However, luck had something else in mind and as we came upon another group of warthog, Allan identified a suitable male eighty yards away.

Here he is.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/WarthogonGround.jpg

Roebuck is the one wearing the ball cap!!

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/ADavidWarthog2.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/DavidandWarthog.jpg

Msetele and Rube pick him up.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/RubeandMseteleCarrywarthog.jpg

And carry him back to the truck.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/RubeandMseteleCarryWarthog2.jpg

Reporting back to Charles’ bungalow, we were advised that the nyala was not found and that Charles’ men would look again the following day.

In the event, it was not and has not been found to date. Looking for a dead nyala is a bit like “the needle in a hay stack” in bush country like that, with lots of cover and crevices where it might have laid up to die. The alternative scenario is that it is still alive and kicking and out there somewhere. Neither Charles or any of his men have seen a wounded nyala and every one I have shown the video to, including three more PHs and a bunch more hunters, have been of the opinion that the nyala is dead. Whichever is the case, there is no nyala trophy for Roebuck, which means I will have to go back again next year. Charles also offered to take me fishing for carp in the Great Fish River that runs through Huntshoek AND cook me a brai (bar-b-que) so I really must go back.

Having said our goodbyes and thank you, we drove back to Komga (well Allan drove back and I pulled my usual stunt of falling asleep) and the comforts of Rentons’ Lodge, where my friends and hosts were ready with cold beer, fine food, full bodied wine, good wishes, a little sympathy and commiserations for a trophy lost and congratulations for those gained. (All of this made me feel a bit better but my thoughts were with the lost nyala. I do hope the first scenario was the case and that he died quickly and we just couldn’t find him.)

The next morning, the fifth day of my hunt, we were out to get a gemsbok (oryx). Like the kudu, the gemsbok was another animal that illness whilst on last year’s hunt had stopped me getting, so I was feeling excited at the prospect of turning another dream into reality. The hunting ground was about an hour’s drive away, near to the town of Queenstown, so I did not need to be out of bed until 0500hrs. Three cups of coffee and a pocket full of bananas to provide me with a potassium fix and we were on the road. The news of the day was reporting a municipal workers strike and there were warnings that gasoline deliveries to filling stations might be affected. This being so, we stopped off at a gas station about half way and topped up the fuel tank of the truck. Wandering into the little shop area of the gas station, I discovered that they were selling many varieties of biltong. Biltong is dried meat and is very similar to the jerky that I have had in the U.S. but cut thicker. Allan recommended the quality of this particular biltong and bought some beef with fat biltong and some ostrich biltong. Both were delicious and by the time we arrived at the hunting area, we had eaten more than half of it.

Arriving at the hunting area, we paid our respects to the farmer and proceeded with the hunt. This ground was reasonably flat ground, with thorn trees and high grass, quite a contrast to the terrain at Huntshoek. This should be much easier I though. But it wasn’t much easier, just easier, the long grass was tiring to walk through and I ended the day with some of my muscles that had gone unused previously, reminding me that they were still there!!

We did see some gemsbok that day but mostly cows. We did see two bulls but one had a broken horn and the other was not of a suitable size. There were lots of warthogs and the farmer had asked me to shoot those that I saw but although I saw plenty, none gave me the chance of a shot. We left as darkness was falling, having walked all day without the opportunity of a shot. But we all know that hunting is like that. The only guarantee is there is no guarantee. At that point, I decided that a potassium fix was in order and as I reached into my fleece pocket for a banana, my hand found only mashed banana, unfit to eat and clinging to the fleece material. It took some effort to clean it out. Moral? Don’t put all your bananas in one fleece pocket!
Having made our way back to the Lodge, gemsbokless, I sat musing that there was plenty of time left and as I enjoyed some cold Windhoek Lager with my companions, Andrew and his two PHs planned for the next day’s hunting.

Paul was to try for an Eland and a Gemsbok, as was Iain. I was still on for my gemsbok. We were to go to an area high in the mountains near to Queenstown, where I had been the previous day. The terrain could not have been more different. These hills were steep and high. Ear poppin’ high.

Arriving at the hunting area the three of us, accompanied by our respective PHs positioned ourselves around a huge bowl-like valley, about three quarters of the way up its very steep sides. There was a herd of gemsbok on the valley floor and as we watched their movement, we wondered which of us would have the first opportunity. Iain was positioned a kilometre or so to my left and Paul, similar to my right, though Paul was out of sight, behind a jutting out cliff. The gemsbok came within my range of vision though they were nearer to Iain. Allan picked out a likely gemsbok bull from a group me that was feeding behind some thorn trees on the extreme right of the herd. This group of gemsbok were quite a distance from the main group that were nearer to Iain’s position. Having identified the bull that Allan had pointed out, I put my self in a reasonably comfortable sitting position, with my rifle on a long bipod. I had ranged the bull at three hundred and eighty-five yards and from my good shooting position, was confident that I could take a successful shot. I watched this bull feeding behind the thorn tree for thirty-five minutes, leaning over my rifle and exposing the left side of my face to a sun that did not feel too hot but was strong enough to give me a two tone face!! Before I got a chance to shoot, Iain did and when his shot rang out, my gemsbok left speedily, along with the others in the herd. I went to find a place where the sun would make the right side of my face as red as the left. Talk about turning the other cheek!!

Iain had thought that he had missed that first gemsbok and as we all went our separate ways to carry on our hunt, Iain came across another gemsbok bull and shot it.

Iain’s Gemsbok.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/SouthAfrica06174.jpg

Paul had gone on to find a fine eland bull. Eland, I believe, are the world’s biggest antelope and can grow up to 1000kg in weight (2200lbs). He dropped it with a neck shot at three hundred and fifty yards, giving it another shot to make sure before going to retrieve it. Eland are massive. Here is Paul’s one.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/Eland.jpg

And with Paul.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/PaulEland6.jpg

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/PaulElend10.jpg

And with Andrew and Paul.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/PaulElandAndrew.jpg

Iain got an eland too.

Iain’s Eland.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/SouthAfrica06167.jpg

And at the processing area, my gemsbok in foreground, eland at back.

http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v517/DavidWatt/DSC00770_edited.jpg

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