Gary's Gun Notes #44 (part I)

Our 2006 African hunt is history and we set quite a few new records. For one my guys took 90 animals, of which it looks like 85 or 86 will go record book. This in itself is a real record as we normally have 85 to 86% record book. If we get 85 animals to hit the record book that will put us in the 94% range. I hope to get the tentative score sheets this weekend. The finals will be 60 days out to allow for the drying time but the record book positions very seldom change more than one position in the book after the mandatory drying time. 

This hunt was one of the more strenuous ones and one of the most unusual ones also. First off we started out at a concession down on the lower east coast called Baviaan. This was much like a mixture of Wyoming, Montana and British Columbia. Hills that stretched straight up and some that were just endless rolling terrain. Elevations around 7000 feet which made it a bit more difficult for some. 

The animals were of a totally different variety and many of which I had never even seen before. They all seemed to have one thing in common, they loved to run and normally that run was to the top of the nearest hill.

While the first group headed to Baviaan from our starting point at the East London airport, two of us headed in a totally different direction. Jason "Puff Daddy" Parr and I headed to a place just a few hundred yards off the coast and a place that had yet another unique group of animals. 

Jason and I had decided that we wanted to hunt Cape Grysbok, Lynx, Blue Duiker, Cape Bushbuck and possibly some of the other critters that inhabited that area. The unusual part of this hunt was twofold, one, we were to hunt with dogs. These were big Blue Tick, Red Tick, Plott and Walker hounds. There are the same type dogs we hunt wild boar and black bear with in the southeastern United States. The dogs were handled by the local villagers and the way it worked was that they would go out at daylight with their dogs and start hitting the heavily wooded sections for the trail of a Lynx. While they were doing that we would be hunting other animals. Then if they found the scent and got on a big cat, the handlers would radio us and we would haul ass to where they were in hot pursuit of the cat. 

The second part that was unusual was that we would also hunt the Cape Grysbok at night with spotlights, something most of us never do, or at least don't admit to doing. The Cape Grysbok is a little 20 pound critter with 2 to 3 inch horns. They are nocturnal and the only way to hunt them is at night. They are also one of the very few animals that males and females both have horns and both are huntable. There were only a small handful of them in the handgun record book so I was anxious to hunt them.

We went out early the first morning after Bushbuck. We went to an area that was inhabited by lots of Bushbuck. Now all we had to do was find a big one. I had a couple of Bushbuck from the 2004 hunt so it was Jason's turn to shoot. We went thru a large heavy brushy area and under large sections of head high hanging brush. During one of these jaunts we walked out onto a large bluff overlooking a river maybe 200 feet below. John and his trackers all sat down to scan the area looking obviously for Bushbuck. We immediately spooked a band of baboons who barked at us and moved off to our left down the bluff to even heavier brush.

After scanning the area for 30 minutes or so John started looking straight down the side of the bluff, looking into the heavy brush just 200 feet below our feet. After a few minutes one of the trackers pointed to a patch of heavy brush and whispered something to John. They conferred for a couple of minutes, all the while I was doing my best to see what they were pointing at. Finally I saw it. Just a small dark patch in the brush that was straight down from us maybe 150 to 175 feet down. It was a bushbuck in the dark part of the brush where he thought he was totally hidden. I couldn't tell which was the head and which was the tail but apparently John and Vincent the tracker could. Finally John called Jason over to the edge and pointed the animal out to him. With a good pair of binocs you could just make him out. Jason got on his knees and leaning over the edge found the Bushbuck in his scope. At the shot the Bushbuck fell and rolled to one side, spine shot and down for good. 

John sent a couple of the trackers off to one side of the bluff that was a bit lower than the part we were on to get the Bushbuck. No more had he sent them off then the radio crackled to life. It was the dog handlers and the dogs were on the trail of a Lynx. We immediately ran back to where John had parked the Land Cruiser, piled in and hauled ass for the spot the handlers told us to come to. When John gets excited we get to that area in a hurry and we did. That Land Cruiser left the ground several times going hell-bent over large dips and humps in the road but less than 10 minutes later we were at the spot where they told us to meet them. 

They had left one of the young dog handlers to guide us to where they were. We immediately grabbed our guns and followed the dog handler. We hauled ass for probably 10 minutes before getting close to where the dogs were. We now could tell they had the cat bayed. The terrain is straight up and down and extremely heavy brush covered with a large thick vine the thickness of your wrist. We scrambled down the hillside after the handler until we could see the dogs. As we got to the bottom of the hill where we were near the tree the cat was in I saw him, all the way at the top. All I could see was his head. I tried to ease around to see some of his body for the shot but he saw me and leaped out of that 40 foot tree like it was 5 feet high. 

The cat hit the ground running with the dogs and us right on his tail. John turned to me and said "don't try to get a perfect shot. You won't get it. Shoot thru the brush if you have to but put a bullet in him, he's a fucking monster". We followed the cat for another 5 minutes and he treed again. This time as I got up to where I could make out some part of him, I threw up the 338 GNR Encore, put the crosshairs on what I thought was his chest and touched it off. At the shot the cat leaped up in the air swapping ends and fishtailing the way cats do when hit. As he hit the ground the dogs were on him in an instant but he was already dead so the handlers pulled the dog off and handed the cat down to us where we were standing in a dry creek bed. 

The car had long black tufted ears and was a tawny color all over with some faint white spots on his hindquarters. He was a big cat. John looked at me and just raised one finger. Having hunted with John for 14 years I knew what that meant, another #1. We packed the big cat out to an opening in the brush and took some pictures. He was a really nice old cat and much bigger than I had expected them to be. 

After taking some pictures we went up the hill again and left a couple of the trackers in a shady spot to skin the cat while we went off in another direction looking for other game. We drove around for a couple of hours, seeing a lot of game, but nothing worth shooting. After a hour or so we went back to the spot where the tracker/skinners were and picked them up. We drove back to camp for lunch and an hours rest. 

After lunch we had almost the same thing happen that had happened early that morning. The dog handlers called again and said they had yet another cat running. And again we were running too. We got to the area where the chase started and met up with the handler and again we were hot on the trail of the cat. This time it was Jason's turn to shoot. And his chance came very quickly. the cat had treed just ahead of us but down a very steep slope full of the same clinging vines and heavy brush. As we slid down the slope we noticed movement straight out from us at the same level we were. It was the cat way up in the top of a tree but the top of that tree was level with us standing there on that slope. John pulled Jason into a position where he could get a shot and the cat was history. Jason was also using an Encore chambered in 338 GNR. One shot and the cat was down. 

We managed to get down the hillside a bit more and met one of the trackers coming back up with the cat on his shoulders. We followed him up the hill and to a cleared spot where we could get a good look at the cat. And a nice one he was too. Jason's Lynx was a much darker red than mine with the black tipped ears. A really nice cat. Our luck had held and both of us had taken Lynx that John figured would rank #1 and 2 in the book. 

We went back to camp for a couple of hours rest before the next segment of the hunt, the night hunt. The sun went down about 8 PM and we were in the truck shortly after that heading out looking for Cape Grysbok. They feed in open fields in the evenings from dark until about 11 PM. To hunt them you drive slowly down old deserted roads with a spotlight scanning the fields. We immediately started seeing eyes flashing and glowing in the dark. All Duikers, but we weren't hunting Duikers. Hundreds of Duikers, everywhere. Finally a different type of eyes were looking at us. John had told us if we saw a Grysbok to shoot as soon as he told us too as they don't stand still for long. This one apparently had read the same book. he turned and rambled off away from us. The driver spun the truck around into the edge of the field getting us back in view of the little animal again. This time Jason had his shot. the 338 GNR barked once and his Grysbok was down. 

We walked up to the little fellow who was down in a heap. John immediately got excited as he looked at it. It's an old one he said and with big horns. Now when you are talking about a Cape Grysbok and you mention he has long horns that usually means about 3 inches and that he was. His horns measured about 3 inches rough measured. A great Grysbok. Jason was happy because he had read one of Boddington's articles where he had hunted Grysbok several times but never got one over 2 inches, saying he didn't think the mythical 3 inch Grysbok existed. Jason was looking forward to sending him a picture and gloating a bit. 

Back at camp we hit the sack quickly as morning was only a few hours away and Blue Duiker was on tap for the next day. We were up at daybreak and in the truck shortly after that. We drove to some long rolling fields that had small patches of trees every so often. As we got to the patches of brush we found they weren't as small as we thought, probably measuring several hundred yards around, with those heavy clinging vines and very heavy underbrush. This time we had different dogs. These were Jack Russells of every shape, size and color. The villagers each had a Jack that you could tell was their pride and joy. Each had his prize Jack with a rope around their neck for a leash. They all let the Jacks loose at one end of the brush while we were at the other end. I think Blue Duikers are the most frustrating animals I have ever hunted. They are normally hunted with shotguns but even if I had a shotgun up to my shoulder pointed in the general direction I don't think I could have got one of them, they are so fast. They are a deep blue/black in color and the size of a large rat and very fast. They would come out of the brush almost at your feet and instantly be in another patch of brush long before I could get the pistol up, much less pointed in the general direction. I never got a shot and we hunted several of those large tree covered clumps of brush. Jason resorted to using a shotgun but even though he got a shot he never touched hide. They come out of the brush ahead of you about level with your right shoulder running to the left. They disappear about level with your left shoulder, visible for maybe 1 second. At the end of the day it was Blue Duikers 10, hunters 0. We finally gave up in defeat and headed back to camp for a couple hours rest before going back out for the night hunt.

After dinner we got our gear and just at dark went back out for Grysbok again. I had my 338 GNR again and it was my turn to shoot. We drove the same roads but saw nothing but Duikers for almost 3 hours. Time was running out. It was very windy and the Grysbok were hiding in the brush, not venturing out to feed. Finally a few minutes before 11 PM we saw the eyes of a Grysbok. It saw us and hauled ass running toward a large brush pile. We lost sight of it about half way there and John got the driver to drive around in a circle and watch a small patch of brush. John said the animal would be in that brush pile, and sure enough he was. As we drove up to within 40 yards of the brush pile he darted out heading for another brush pile. I foolishly tried a running shot and naturally missed. But as the Grysbok got to the edge of the brush pile he stopped and looked back. All he saw coming was a 338 caliber bullet. 

This was another large Grysbok, almost identical to Jasons, both 3 inches or a little better. Both should be in the top 3 or 4 in the book and now I could send Monsieur Boddington a picture also of a Grysbok over 3 inches and gloat a bit. We headed back to camp for a couple of hours sleep. We were scheduled to pack up in the morning and head up to Baviaan where the rest of the group was hunting. The first part of our hunt was, for the most part, very successful, except for those damn little Blue Duikers. But maybe next time on them. We had our Lynx and our Grysbok, two of the hardest animals to hunt in Africa. 

I will cover more of this hunt in the next Gun Notes which will be in another week or so. I will have a couple extra Gun Notes so I can cover our hunt better. Remember our next hunt is scheduled for April 1 thru 7 of 2007 and we would love to have you join us.



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