I woke G-Man up and we strolled over to the dining room in the lodge and ate our fill of bacon, sausage, eggs and toast which were set out waiting for us, I really do love hunting in Africa. After breakfast I topped off my cup of coffee and then took a seat on the porch. The weather was perfect, clear blue skies, a slight breeze blowing in my face with a temperature of about 50 degrees. I could hear the water running and the clanking of dishes as the kitchen staff went about their duties cleaning up.
I watched G-Man, who had my camera, take pictures of the chickens who were milling about the yard and Sasha, the boerboel, not the brightest dog on the property but sweet as could be.
|These chickens provided our eggs for breakfast daily|
|Sasha, a big, dumb loving dog.|
Abel and Sam joined us on the porch to discuss the plan for the day and shoot the bull. We would be leaving in about 2 hours to hunt another property about 1 hour away for a blessbuck for both G-Man and myself. If we closed the deal today we would be done, we would have checked off every animal that was on our list when we came to Africa.
As G-Man played with Sasha and chased the chickens Abel, Sam and myself soaked in the great weather and shared stories of previous hunts we had been on. Abel talked of guiding hunters on lion hunts and Sam shared stories of scaling the mountains of New Mexico guiding elk hunters.
Scott soon came out and said they were getting a delivery of two young kudu males for the property if we wanted to come watch.
Once the excitement was over it was time for G-Man and I to collect our gear and get ready to leave. G-Man and I went to our room to grab our gear and since we didn't know how late we would be out and with the wind picking up we grabbed our cold weather gear anticipating a temperature drop as well.
While we were packing our bags I looked out the window to see Temba loading a cooler into the back of the Toyota Helix (similar to Toyota Tacoma in the US) so we would have drinks and snacks for this trip. I double checked G-Man's bag to make sure he had everything he might need and once I was satisfied we shouldered our bags and walked to the truck.
G-Man and I loaded our bags in the back and situated our rifles in the backseat. Temba would ride in the bed of the truck while Sam and G-Man occupied the back seat and I got shotgun. As everyone was loading into the truck the wind began to pick up, it came out of nowhere but you could hear it and then you felt it. As we were navigating the hard packed red dirt road to the exit we watched the wind whip up any loose dirt and blow it across the road.
I was reminded of my time living in Lubbock and Amarillo, this wind was blowing dirt, leaves and bushes all over the place. I was actually getting a little concerned about G-Man being able to make a shot. The wind will not only affect the flight of your bullet but it will have an affect on how steady of a rest you have and since we would be on foot the rest is usually off the shooting sticks and with such strong wind it would not be the sturdiest of gun rests.
The ride was fairly uneventful, except for the wind attempting to toss the Hilux off the road. As we arrived at the new property we were welcomed by massive wrought iron gates built under a thatch roof awning. As soon as we entered the property we started to see game, Gemsbok, Zebra, Red Hartebeast and Blessbuck. They were in a very large field, probably 400 acres in size and were obviously on high alert. As we made our way through this field they moved away, they were already over 1000 yards away but with the wind they were very nervous.
The wind is a great cover for hunters as it not only covers any noise your might make it also eliminates an animals sense of smell, as long as you have the wind in your face. Animals know this and become more watchful and cautious because of it. The wind...a blessing and a curse.
Abel decided we would give this herd of animals a break and see what we could spot in another section of the property and then we would make our way back on foot to look over the blessbuck a little later.
As we were driving we spotted 3 rhino, 3 very large rhino! They are remarkably animals and are huge! It was a privilege to be able to be so close to wild rhino, they were cautious of us but curious as well I think.
|Rhino - SS Pro Safaris 2012|
|Rhino - SS Pro Safaris 2012|
After watching the rhino for a few minutes we began to make our way back towards the herd of blessbuck we had spotted earlier when we entered the property. The four of us loaded into the bed while Temba assumed the role of driver so it would be quicker and easier to exit the vehicle without spooking the blessbuck. The plan was to use the slight rises in elevation to cover our movement and dismount from the vehicle and move through the high grass of the field to make our way into an island of trees in the middle of this field. We were betting on the blessbuck walking within rifle range of this clump of trees we were hiding in and if everything worked as we hoped myself or G-Man would be presented with a shot opportunity.
We quickly unloaded from the truck and quickly covered the 100 or so yards to the trees. Once we made it inside the trees we got set up, G-Man was with Abel and Sam was with me. G-Man was going to use the shooting sticks and I was going to use a tree branch as a shooting rest. The wind was perfect, I mean it was blowing in our face, the 40 mph wind I could have done without.
The memories drifted from Lubbock and Amarillo to Kuwait and Iraq, this wind was picking up every loose bit of sand and brush and blowing it straight into us. We all had to wear our sunglasses and pull our hat brims down low to try to protect our eyes and face as much as possible.
When we exited the vehicle Temba drove to the backside of the herd on the opposite side of the field from us and parked. He was not pushing them but was sitting there in hopes of making the blessbuck nervous enough to move in our direction.
G-Man is a good shot and on most days I would be pretty confident in a shot out to 200 yards for him but with the wind I was really hoping to limit his shot to under 150, closer to 125 or 100 yards if at all possible. However, things typically do not go according to your plan when hunting. The blessbuck did move in our direction however they would not come any closer than 180 yards. As we waited all of us being patient, like you would expect from season hunters.
Abel glanced behind us and he noticed the three rhino we had spotted earlier were moving in our direction, slowly and with no real destination in mind it would seem. Abel though did not like the idea of all four of us on the ground with nowhere to really escape to if need be so he started asking G-Man how he felt about taking a shot at this distance. G-Man was full of confidence but I was a little less confident. As I have discussed in previous post's if you draw blood you pay for the animal whether you recover it or not. A blessbuck is not as expensive as a bushbuck but you still don't want to waste the money or wound an animal. I asked G-Man to get into position and to tell me how everything felt. Are you steady? Yes. Is the wind moving you, the rest or the rifle? No, I'm good. I told G-Man if he hit's but we do not recover there are no do overs, he said he understood and was good to go.
Now, the heard we were hunting had a mix of male and female blessbuck as well as common, white, copper and yellow blessbuck, the common blessbuck being the one we were after.
Now here is where the hunt became really difficult. Blessbuck are a herd animal so they were all staying very close together, the price difference between the different color phase/sub species was noticeable and we were only allowed to shoot males, but both male and female have horns. The only way to tell the difference between the two is the males have thicker horns.
When I asked Abel how we tell the difference between the male and females and he told me the males have thicker horns I asked him if he was bs'ing me, I was looking through a pair of Carson 10x50's and I could not tell the difference in horn thickness between any of them. "That's why they pay us the big bucks" was Abel's response.
We relied heavily on Sam and Abel to pick out the right blessbuck and it became a game of counting.
"Okay G-Man, see the brown one , it's the 16th from the left standing behind the white one, Yes, okay, see the brown one 3 to the right of that one, Yes, okay that is the one we want to shoot."
G-Man was already on his rifle and I quickly got on mine, at his shot I was going to shoot as well if the blessbuck did not drop to back him up.
Because the animals were directly upwind of us the wind was not a concern in regards to the flight of the bullet so I told G-Man to hold right on the shoulder for the shot.
As G-Man is taking up the slack in the trigger the blessbuck moves to the right and is now the 22nd from the left and G-Man has to shift his position a little.
As G-Man re-positioned himself, Abel tells him, "if your good take the shot." I only needed to slightly adjust my rifle to keep my scope on the blessbuck. As I hear the go-ahead from Abel I too begin to take the slack out of my trigger, waiting for the report of G-Man's rifle.
BANG! As G-Man send his round towards the blessbuck at 2600 fps I watched for and listened for the report of the hit but there was none, the herd of blessbuck took of in a sprint getting clear of the area and the blessbuck we were targeting was running just fine.
Abel and Sam were both watching through their bino's and agreed, no hit. Abel quickly checked on the rhino who also spooked at the sound of the shot and were heading in the opposite direction.
The blessbuck ran away and to the left of us towards a tree line that was only about 20 yards thick but masked another field from our view. Abel called Temba on the radio and told him to come pick us up.
G-Man and I checked our rifles to ensure the safety was on and climbed into the bed of the truck once Temba arrived. I talked to G-Man and told him unless we were able to get much closer I did not want him shooting again today, the wind was just too strong. He seemed to be okay with that decision.
On Abel's command Temba pointed the truck towards a large berm, which was every bit of 25ft high. The berm tapered off and met the tree line where the blessbuck had went. As we made the drive Sam began distributing drinks and snacks from the cooler.
We pulled up right to the edge of the berm and unloaded. Abel low crawled to the top to confirm the blessbuck were in this field. As Abel reached the top he signaled for us to come up as well. I grabbed the large sandbag from the back and carried it to the top of the berm to use as a rest if a shot presented itself.
The wind again was in our favor, it was blowing from our right to left and since the blessbuck were directly in front of us they would not be able to catch our scent or hear us.
The blessbuck were even more spooky than before, the grass was much shorter in this field than the previous, the wind was picking up even more and having just been shot at it was apparent they were not going to stand still for us. The herd kept moving right and then left, covering distance of about 200-300 yards before turning back the direction they came, almost as if they were pacing. Animals would stop for brief moments to feed but the herd as a whole did not stop moving.
This made the counting of animals that much more difficult. By the time Abel would spot a shooter and relayed it to me, that animal would be in a different spot. I stayed glued to my scope for 3 hours as I counted blessbuck over and over again.
The sand had worked it's way into my socks and down into my boots from the constant adjustments as well as into the waistline of my pants. What was supposed to be an easier hunt then what we had experienced in previous days was beginning to test the patience of each one of us. Everyone knows misery loves company, with the blowing sand and setting sun the temperature was starting to drop quite a bit and none of us had grabbed our coats when we walked up on the berm.
The routine continued, "see the brown one, 33 from the right behind the yellow one, no, it's 41 from the right in behind the white one, okay but I don't have a shot." Then the heard would move at a quicker pace and there was no shot opportunity. This went on for another 15-20 minutes before Abel came up with an idea. Once we spotted a shooter whose vitals were not covered by another animal or that was not directly in front of another animal he would stand up to hopefully get the herd's attention and freeze them giving me enough time to take a shot.
It was a gamble, the light was fading fast and if they spooked off we likely would not get another chance on them before the sun dipped below the horizon.
So we watched until Abel said, "18 from the left, brown one behind the white one." I said "okay" and started counting, Abel stood up from where he too had been laying, I couldn't see him but I knew he was standing because each animal stopped and looked our direction. Within 2 seconds of the herd coming to a stop I was on the blessbuck and squeezing the trigger. Sam called out the range as 182 yards, I was already holding square on the shoulder when the rifle went off.
My blessbuck jumped in the air like he was a bare back bronc at the rodeo, however when he came down he was dead and folded up in heap. While we did not have to hunt for days for a blessbuck the environment itself made the hunt difficult. We all high fived and back slapped and quickly made our way down the opposite side of the berm and over to my blessbuck.
At the shot Temba had started the truck and as we started to walk over he began to drive around the berm and would meet us at the downed blessbuck.
I was sitting in my office at work looking over the price list about 1 month prior to my hunt and I had no idea what a blessbuck was so naturally I turned to google and searched. I couldn't help but think they were an ugly animal but really unique with their long face, I decided then I was going to add it to my list of animals I was going to hunt in Africa.
As we approached my blessbuck it was obvious he was dead but I tapped his eye with the end of my rifle barrel just to confirm, yup, he's dead. I grabbed him by the horns and lifted his head up to look him over, I felt very proud of him. He was not easy to hunt and it was an entirely different hunt than I had ever experienced. The counting the different animals in the herd and trying to keep track of an animal as they moved made things very interesting at times.
Abel grabbed my camera from the truck and Temba and I began positioning the blessbuck for pictures. The wind continued to blow and the temperature continued to drop so we hurried through the pictures and loaded up to head back to the lodge.
|Blessbuck taken with SS Pro Safaris 2012|
|Blessbuck taken with SS Pro Safaris 2012|
|Me and G-Man with my blessbuck taken with SS Pro Safaris 2012|
On the drive back Sam and G-Man fell asleep, Temba was curled up in the bed trying to stay out of the wind as much as possible. I reflected on the last 6 days of hunting that I had just experienced. At the age of 29 I just hunted and killed 6 different animals, saw animals in their native habitat that you can only see in zoo's in the states and some you won't even see in zoos.
I didn't want it to end. Tomorrow would be our last day to hunt, G-Man still had some room in his allotted budget so I set it up with Abel for G-Man to hunt for an Impala tomorrow and I decided I would add a female impala. Since the cape for my impala was in bad shape due to not being recovered until the next day I decided I would shoot a female for the hide.
The rest of the drive Abel and I discussed lion hunting, after his listening to his stories from earlier in the day I was hooked, I had to hear more. As we arrived back in camp we unloaded the blessbuck and went into the lodge for dinner.
After dinner everyone cleaned up and then went out to the firepit to enjoy a few drinks and enjoy the company of others. G-Man called it an early night, the 6 hours of sleep he got earlier in the morning was not cutting it, he was tired! Scott shared stories of previous leopard, lion and buffalo hunts he had guided hunters on, adding fuel to my desire to hunt dangerous game.
With a few beers consumed and the lack of sleep over the past 48 hours I was starting to get sleepy. Abel, Same and I hashed out the plan for tomorrow morning, G-Man, Sam and Frank would hunt to an elevated blind over looking a water hole in hopes of a male impala. Abel, Temba and myself would drive around in search of a female impala, which we both expected to take somewhere around 30-40 minutes.
As I walked up to the door of my room I could hear G-Man sawing logs, he was sound asleep. I sat down on the bed and took my boots off and as I took my boots off red sand came pouring out.