This is the second part of several covering our most
recent African hunt.
After our successful hunt in Port Alfred, the little
area on the eastern coast of South Africa, we packed up our gear and headed
out to Baviaan to join the rest of the group. We had hunted that morning for
Blue Duiker but had no success and it was time to move on. Jason and I were
the only ones who had decided to hunt the Port Alfred area so the camp was
closed up in wait for the next batch of hunters.
The drive to Baviaan was about 2 1/2 hours from Port
Alfred. We arrived there in early afternoon and found out that most of the
guys had already taken several very nice animals including Bontebok, Lechwe,
White Blesbok, Vaal Rhebok, Grey Duiker and Bushbuck. As we drove into the
camp I had noticed several white specks on one of the hills surrounding the
camp. Anxious to get hunting I asked John about them. He said they were White
Springbok. One of the guys in camp said there were no big ones in that group.
I knew that was usually not the case so I grabbed my gear as Puff was grabbing
his and we loaded up in the back of the Cruiser and headed out with John at
We drove up the hillside on rough dirt paths and the
closer we got to the animals, the more they moved back, keeping the distance
about the same. John had given the herd of about 30 animals a good once over
and said there were at least 4 or 5 good ones in there.
We figured if we stayed in the cruiser we could cut the
distance slowly but surely, but if we got out of the cruiser, they would be
gone. We started to angle almost even with them but easing a bit closer as we
went. Hardly enough so you could tell it but we were getting closer. At about
125 yards John pointed to one lone male and told me to pile out of the truck
when it was behind a large heavy pile of brush. We both piled out and the
truck continued on it's way but this time easing away from them.
I had my suspicions about my 338 GNR barrel, that had
taken a very hard fall in the cruiser while going up a very steep hill in a
hurry to get to the dogs that were chasing a Lynx in Port Alfred. The cruiser
had gone over a large hump in the dirt track and the gun, which I normally
place under my thigh so I can hold on to the steel roll bars with both hands,
had coming flying out from under my leg. It had slammed into the steel bar
behind us, hit a glancing blow on the raised steel floor and then slammed into
the bar surrounding the tail gate, before hitting the floorboard.
The gun just didn't feel right to me. I couldn't place
why it didn't feel right, but this barrel had been to Africa with me at least
3 times before and was an old friend. Something just wasn't right. But I
decided to give it a try on this white Springbok.
The big male stood there broadside watching the cruiser
drive down the hill. I got my breath back quickly and put the crosshairs on
his frontal chest area. At the shot he tucked in his rear quarters and leaped
away. That wasn't a good sign. usually if they do that it is a sign of a hit
too low or too far back.
The big male Springbok ran about 30 to 40 yards and
stopped behind a large bush. I couldn't see his shoulder but tried to place
the crosshairs on a spot about where the shoulder should be. I don't like
shooting thru brush but if the animal is right directly behind the brush,
there is a very good chance that you will hit him. If he is standing 10 feet
or so behind the brush, never take the shot as the bullet can spin off and
miss the animal totally, or even worse, just wound him.
At the shot the animal staggered and went another few
feet down the hill before piling up in a heap. We quickly ran up the hill
toward him. The trackers were mumbling to each other but it was a good mumble,
not one of those "watch out he's going to get up" type of mumbles.
As we got there, sure enough, my first shot had been back in the short ribs.
The second shot even further back in the ham. Now I was convinced something
was wrong with my 338.
We piled the animal into the back of the cruiser and
headed back down hill. On the way I had John stop at a hundred yard range they
had set up to sight in guns. I had the trackers set up a target at 100 and set
down at the improvised bench. At the shot none of us could see the hole in the
target. I tried another. Still nothing. We brought the target back to 25 yards
and tried again. This time the hole was just barely on the extreme edge of the
box, off the target by at least a foot even at 25 yards. This meant the gun
was shooting at least 2 1/2 to 3 feet off at 100. I took the barrel and looked
it over good and almost immediately found the problem. The barrel had hit
either the steel bar or the edge of the steel platform when it took a fall and
it actually bent the barrel right at the muzzle brake, which would be the
thinnest part of the barrel. I checked the inside of the brake and you could
see where the bullets had been hitting the front of the brake, destroying any
accuracy. This barrel was trashed. But even though one of my old trusty
barrels had been ruined, I still had my old faithful 378 GNR barrel and my new
280 GNR which was as yet unproven.
We went back to the lodge for dinner and to do some gun
rearranging. After dinner I took all my 338 ammo out of my belt pouches and
put it back in the boxes and substituted it for 378 GNR. Little did I know
that 378 GNR was to be really put to the test in the next day or so.
The next day started out sunny and bright. We had
planned to try Black Springbok today and headed off to the area where they
called home. On the way there we ran across a small herd of White Blesbok.
Very unusual animals. Like the regular Blesbok but a bright white color. John
and Bill got down off the cruiser and started their stalk. So as not to spook
them with too much movement, Jason and I stayed with the truck. we could watch
the stalk and saw Bill take his White Blesbok with 2 good shots from his 338
Then on to Black Springbok country. John had the
trackers set up sort of an improvised blind for Bill Firman as the Black
Springbok are very wary animals. The are constantly on the move and this was
about the only way we could get within shooting distance of them. Sure enough
within an hour of the time Bill sat down behind his pile of brush, a small
herd of Black Springbok came by and Bill got his animal with one shot of his
338 GNR. A really nice male Black Springbok. It wasn't to be that easy for me.
John and I sat for a short while behind some brush
waiting for a herd that we had seen to wander by but they took another route
and went way behind us. It was just as well as John
likes sitting in a blind about as much as I do. About 30 minutes is all either
of us can stand.
We went up on a hill where we could watch the animals
movement and had been watching them for maybe 10 minutes when John whispered
to me, "here they come, get ready". I had been watching another
group and didn't even see these. The good thing was they didn't see us either.
They paused about 175 yards downhill from us and I took a shot at the big
male, and missed. They still didn't know where we were and ran a short way to
our left, now maybe 200 yards out. I shot again and missed again. They ran
down hill and we eased down behind them at a quartering angle hoping to head
them off. Just as John had planned we got to a point just above them as they
ran below us at maybe 165 yards. They were not going to stop so I waited until
they paused a bit and took my shot. Another miss. This was beginning to be no
We walked down the hill to an old fence row that was
broken down and sat down behind some brush that had grown up around it. My
confidence was shot. I held out my hand and could see a slight shake to it. I
needed to hit something damn quick or it could take days to get my head back
together. We sat behind that clump of brush for a short while and then John
said they are just over the rise, take a shot. This time I had to use the
shooting sticks, for one because they were slightly over a rise and I had to
fully stand up to see over it and for two, that shake was getting worse. This
time I put the gun on the crossed sticks, called myself a couple of pretty
foul names and settled the crosshairs on the animal. At the shot he staggered
and almost went down, but gathered himself together and ran like hell. But at
least I had hit him.
Now that some of the confidence was coming back we went
hard after him. he was hit hard but still moving. He stopped to lay down and
we spooked him up. He paused at the crest of a hill about 100 yards away and I
put another bullet in him. This time he was down for keeps. Now I have shot
2000 pound animals with my 378 GNR and have had them drop on the spot. In fact
dozens of animals have dropped to this barrel, most of them several hundred
pound animals. Yet this little 40 pound animal had blown my confidence all to
hell and almost ruined this part of the hunt. As we put him in the back of the
cruiser it started to rain hard. And continued to rain,it rained heavily and
turned bitter cold. For those of us sitting in the open raised back seat it
was miserable. We were all soaked to the skin by early afternoon and called it
a day a bit early.
The next day several of us were showing the signs of
being soaked and frozen the day before as we had the sniffles and were
beginning to feel the first signs of coming down with something. But it
promised to be a pretty day, as soon as the sun burned off the low hanging fog
and clouds. It was chilly but clear and no rain.
Within an hour Bill had wounded a nice Mountain
Reedbuck. He went over a hill and John said he saw the bullet hit high on the
right front leg, not a killing shot and he could run for days. John said he
felt he knew where the animal would head so rather than follow him on foot we
planned to take the long way around the hill to head him off. As we went
around one mountain we saw a large herd of Waterbuck and some Red Stag
scattered in among them. This area is very much like New Zealand and the red
stag do well here. We were just a few miles from the ocean and the cool damp
weather was perfect for the Waterbuck and the Red Stag too. We drove over a
series of hills and when crossing one we spotted a small group of Mountain
Reedbuck. There was a good male in the group and John and Bill piled out of
the cruiser and started easing up on them. A short 20 minute stalk and bill
had a nice Mountain Reedbuck down. We put him in the back of the truck and
continued over the hill and down into the area we thought the wounded Mountain
Reedbuck would head for. We had no more than stopped the cruiser and started
scanning the hillside and the wounded Mountain Reedbuck came over the crest.
This animal was limping heavily so we knew it was our wounded animal. John and
Bill got out and set up the sticks and at the shot the animal went down. Bill
had himself a nice pair of Mountain Reedbuck.
Just about an hour before dark the storm front eased
back in and fog rolled in. We spotted a herd of Vaal Rhebok on a hill in front
of us. Just as we spotted them and began to glass them the fog rolled in. John
and I got off the truck and went down a steep hillside trying to get on the
hill above the Rhebok and get a shot before darkness set in. We scrambled on
the lichen covered rocks as fast as we could but the going was extremely rough
and slippery. We finally got to the rise overlooking the valley where we had
first seen them but they were not there. At least not that we could see. The
fog kept rolling in and out making visibility very iffy at best. We walked
over to the edge of a rock cliff to look over the edge and sure enough, there
they were with their backs to the rocks for safety. But they had either seen
us or heard us because they took off at a hard run. With darkness quickly
closing in we called it a night.
The next day dawned bright and clear. Chilly but clear.
We headed up to the top of one of the mountains for Vaal Rhebok. This time we
spotted them fairly early and John and I went on a long hike. We planned to
walk to the top of one mountain and be able to look down on where they were
feeding. Very seldom do mountain animals look up. Danger, to them, always came
from below. We managed to get to the top of the hill and peek over. Sure
enough there they were . John stuck the shooting sticks in front of me and
told me 275 yards, take the male on the far right. I tried to steady my
breathing and took the shot. I shot just over his back. They ran but not away
from us. They still thought the danger was below them. They actually came a
bit closer. This time I sat down and braced my elbows on my knees. I asked
john how far. he was already scanning them with the range finder. he quickly
said about 255, same animal. I steadied myself and slowly took up the slack in
the trigger. At the shot John and the tracker both yelled. The Rhebok was
We started the long trek down to where he lay and as
usual the downhill part is worse than the uphill with rocks that roll out from
under your feet making walking hard as hell. When we got there John and the
trackers seemed extremely happy with him. Not having shot one before or even
seen one up close, I had to take their word for it. But I was happy. There are
only 3 or 4 Vaal Rhebok in the record book with a handgun, so any Rhebok was a
We got back up to the truck, took some pictures and
headed off to another ridge, where we saw the ones the night before. As we got
there the small herd was still there. This time Bill and John went after them.
This time the Rhebok ran right to left in front of them and over a small rise.
John took Bill to that rise and to a clump of brush. Looking over it, the old
male of the group was still there. All Bill could see was the head and neck
but that was all that was needed. Bill took the shot and had his Rhebok.
Early the next morning we had all our gear packed up and
headed out for Rooiport. We had to drop off two of our hunters in
Bloemfountaine so they could fly back to the states, but the other 4 were
headed to Rooiport northwest of where we were and right on the edge of the
Kalahari Desert. We were to go into the camp there, get settled in and early
the next day 2 cruisers were heading to Kimberley to pick up our second group
of 6 hunters.That would give us 10 hunters in the big tented camp in Rooiport.
I will have more on this part of the hunt in a couple of days in the next
segment of Africa 2006.