Gary's Gun Notes #25
Our most recent African hunt is now history and I think as a whole we all learned a lot. It was one of the hardest hunts I have ever been on. Not hard as in physically demanding or hard as in harsh weather. It was hard due to very dense terrain. Most of our shots were at ranges of 20 to 30 yards and even then I needed a scope to find the animal. The brush was extremely dense and heavy on both sides of the path we were walking and on each side of the dirt roads the Land Cruiser traveled.
In almost every case, the animal, when hit would turn and run, even with a full shoulder shot where it broke the shoulder and exited on the off side. Blood trails were almost non-existent, which meant crawling on our hands and knees thru the heavy greenery. The brush was like what you would find in Georgia or east Tennessee, and in many cases, required crawling just to get thru. Combine this with the fact that there were very many elephant in this brush feeding and it made for a puckering situation.
Several times while sitting in the brush waiting for movement from an animal that we knew was there but couldn't see, we had to move or quietly ease to the side when an elephant would feed right up to us. Once we had a full herd including several cows with calves cross the path we were on. They were going to the same waterhole we were. This meant we had to ease thru the brush as carefully as possible. Coming upon a cow elephant with calf could be a lot more fun than we were expecting.
The elephant weren't the only warm obstacle we had to overcome. There were numerous lions, leopards and cheetahs in the area. We saw a lot of them and they would run off but it only takes one that decides not to run off to really ruin your day. Once we had a lioness tracking us in the heavy grass. The trackers spotted her a couple of times, each time following us at a short distance. We tried to set up bait in several trees to entice her to come on in for the party but were never successful.
On one stalk for Kudu at a waterhole we were spotted by a cow Kudu who barked a warning to the others at the waterhole, ruining our stalk. On the way back out our tracks were covered over by the tracks of a large male lion. And when you are walking back in almost dark conditions this can be an eye opener.
Our hunt started off with my luggage and that of Charlie Herfs getting lost. Our guns arrived fine but no luggage which meant no clothing or ammo. Hunting nude was not an option. Charlie was able to borrow some 300 Win. Magnum ammo from our PH and I had the option of borrowing some of Jason Parr's 378 GNR if necessary. I very seldom shoot anything the first couple of days anyway, so it was no problem. The luggage arrived on the third day intact and solved the problem anyway.
The first day out Jason Parr shot a Steenbuck with his 378 GNR which should rank top 5 in the world. Due to the extremely heavy brush, Jason opted to use his Ruger #1 in 375 H&H the rest of the hunt as it would be quicker to get on target. Jason had a helluva hunt, taking the mentioned Steenbuck, impala, gemsbok, kudu, zebra, and blue wildebeest. He and John Abraham worked their asses off the last 2 days trying to get up on a herd of eland but due to the brush were not able to get within good shooting range. John and Jason probably walked 20 miles the last 2 1/2 days. The area they were hunting in was farther inland from the river and less dense but still heavy brush and hot sandy conditions.
Charlie hunted with me most of the time and experienced the same problems I did of finding the animals. Charlie also decided to go with his 300 mag in the Ruger #1 for a bit quicker chance at getting a shot at the animal before it disappeared into the brush. Like Jason, Charlie earned his animals, by walking miles a day, especially for his gemsbok and his waterbuck. His waterbuck stalk entailed a long crawl and Charlie finally shooting his rifle by bracing it on one of the trackers ass while he lay prone. All in all Charlie took 3 very respectable animals, taking the Gemsbok, waterbuck and bushbuck.
Chuck Place and Greg Schuchmann, from Colorado and Georgia, respectively, also had a great hunt. Chuck had practiced endlessly with his 375 GNR#2 encore but wisely switched back to his rifle because of the dense hunting conditions. The same held true for Greg who had one of our custom 454 revolvers but who went back to his rifle for his shots. Greg and Chuck also had a very memorable hunt taking Kudu, gemsbok, zebra, warthog and impala, among others.
Rick and son Mark hunted together and even though they hunted in a style that I despise, that being hunting from a blind, they did very well. Now, hunting from a blind is fine for some people but not me. There is also nothing really wrong with it but when I think of blind hunting I think of some old fart that can't walk or a little blue haired old lady that can't see 50 yards. But on the other hand, some of my best friends like to hunt from blinds. Larry Kovach loves it and I've seen Larry walk 20 miles in one afternoon so the not being able to walk scenario doesn't fit him. To me and my warped sense of thinking, hunting from a blind is ambushing, not hunting. I personally would give up hunting before I would hunt from a blind. But nevertheless, Rick and Mark did very well. Rick took a bushbuck and impala while Mark got a kudu, impala, warthog, blue wildebeest and baboon. All in all an excellent take.
fared well on this hunt, not losing but one relative, that being the baboon Mark
Sim took. Jason scared hell out of several of them with near misses and some
not-so-near misses, as did Rick Sim.
While in the
area for the bushbuck we were in territory crowded with hippo, crocs, monitor
lizards and an occasional snake. On one dam we crossed we came upon a brown
cobra. This was after we had crawled for a couple of hours after my first
bushbuck in the same type terrain. That was enough to pucker one up.
The gun laws are changing as we speak and I won't know to what extent for probably another 6 weeks or so but I will keep you informed. I was sure glad we had Air2000 handle our firearm permits and all the paperwork. We talked to several guys that did not have their permits yet nor did they have any of their paperwork taken care of. When we had finished our clearance they were all still standing there waiting to be OK'd. We walked thru with no problems at all with just a cursory glance at the serial numbers of our guns and no check of our ammo. This will all work itself out and settle down. As I have told several people that were distressed by the changes, this is nothing new for Africa, just new to South Africa. They are simply changing their laws to where they are in line with other countries. If we want to hunt in Africa we will have to learn to bend a bit. To me it's worth the slight hassle and the bit higher costs for one of the greatest hunting experiences to be had.