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Hunt: Africa 2011

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Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby Safarigent » Thu Aug 18, 2011 7:52 pm

Shhhh...... They are right over there, below that tree with the white trunk.
But i cant see them and i say so. Right there, look, they are looking at us.
??????? And i thought i had good eyesight.
How am i to hunt an animal if both my Professional Hunter and the trackers can see it without even using binoculars?
But the animal i was hunting is the Greater Kudu. Also called the grey ghost of the bush; and i am now finding it out first hand!!!
But lets rewind back a bit to how i actually managed to reach here.
Over the past couple of years, my interest in the shooting sports has been piqued. I have been around shotguns and rifles since i was a child. There is a certain mystique and aura associated with them. i have always been a great fan of wilbur smith, hathaway capstick and others, then i joined up here and came across people who had hunted. it is my good fortune, that i have made friends, who helped me out. somebody let me try out his rifles, somebody let me look at his trophies and answered my questions patiently, yet other dear friends whom i havent met but have bombarded with silly questions over messages umpteen times.
i finally narrowed down the outfitter i wanted to go to, shortlisted the animals i wanted. as i was going on a hunt for the first time i had to acquire the whole set of clothes and accessories required to hit the ground running there, so as to speak.
over the months this was all done. clothes were made, advice was taken, things were brought, animal anatomy was studied, shooting from different poses was practised,fitness was increased, books were read and reread, posts here and on other sites were checked again and again, ballistics were studied. dad was roped to teach me how to sneak around in the bush quietly.
i tried to do all that i could because this was a realization of a dream, and i wasnt going to mess it up just because i wasnt prepared.
Finally, the big day came and after hopping off the plane in jo'burg, i met the my PH, we got into his pickup and pushed on towards our destination which was 4 hours away.
He had his son, sister in law and her son too. they were going to visit his wife who had just given birth to a lovely little girl.
so the happy group starts out and i start peppering him with questions and questions and questions. the more i spoke to him the better i felt about my choice and the more i looked forward to the hunt tomorrow. the country side was spectacular and a visual treat. miles of rolling hills and golden grass, cool winds and blue skies. a black ribbon running through this picture postcard scenery and no one else around for miles. no horns, no rickshaws, no red lights, no paan stains, no garbage.
five and a half thousand feet up above sea level, i was beginning to fall in love with this place.
before we knew it, we were there, but before we got anywhere, i wanted some biltong and dried sausage. food i had read about and now was longing to eat. so we stopped by at a small store run by an old german afrikaans lady and got some. very charmingly, all the brown paper packets had some small saying or thought written on it by hand. things we dont find in the fast paced life of the metros. we made a quick detour and dropped off our passengers off at Claytons(my PH) home and drove into the manor where i would be staying for the duration of the hunt.
wow
african trophies. and then some more.
but there was not time to admire the house just yet. i wanted to fire the rifle i would be using and get used to it.
so off we went to claytons parents farm after picking up some ammunition from the store. made a makeshift target using black duct tape on the side of a microwave case. set it up at 200 yards and fired a few shots. good grouping. happy all around. met his parents, had a cup of tea with them. gracious hosts, heard some old hunting stories. saw how they made biltong at home, and we were off. came back to the manor. unpacked.
very cold. turned off the airconditioning. showered and came down for dinner. spent a good hour looking at the various trophies. that first dinner i shall never forget. a cosy fire, a light mist outside, great company. and awesome food.
we had double baked steinbuck with mashed sweet potatoes with greens. i was ravenous and along with the excellent conversation, ate a tad bit more than usual. no problems, i shall burn it all off tomorrow me thinks. and oh, how i burnt it!!!
but thats a story for tomorrow.

-- Thu Aug 18, 2011 8:51 pm --

Up at 5. Bloody cold. coming from delhis cauldron to this freezer was a real eye opener.
but like me ole man says, there is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
up go the clothes. jacket. scarf. gloves. woolen socks. hat. i carried a knife on my belt and a swiss army knife in one of the pockets. chapstick. sun glasses. spare pair of laces. hankerchief. binoculars.no perfume, minimal lotion.
i steal a look in the mirror and think i look quite fetching. atleast i looked the part(or my interpretation of it) now we had to see if i could play the part. butterflies in my stomach. prayer on my lips. resolve in my hands.
breakfast. drive out to the ranch. not talking a lot. i am immersed in my thoughts. the enormity of the day is dawning on me. i am going to take a life today if the gods are with me. if my gods are with me. what about that animals god? his desire to live. how would i feel if somebody hunted me for sport. unsettling questions. clayton offers me some of the dried sausage to munch on, i refuse. thoughts which one cant answer satisfactorily on a short 20 minute drive but which assail you in their enormity. all these months my mother dissuaded me and it all comes back to me. i remember her arguments and my counter arguments.
will that animal feel comforted knowing that i won the argument with my mother. in the end i decide that if it written in my destiny to hunt an animal, then it is. life is very often not black and white and it occured to me that i was treading in that grey zone. my hunt helps conserve more animals. and i leave it at that.
we arrive and pick up the trackers and move out onto the game park. the sun breaks out and its a beautiful morning. a new day starts. today an animal will die and i let slip a small prayer that all goes well and the animals dont suffer.
my dad told me something which he had read.
you dont hunt to kill. you kill because you have hunted.



A hunter.
i am he.
i shrug other feelings behind me and focus on the present.
screeeeecchhhhhhh..... the car stops. slowly, so as not to startle anyone. its reversed.
kahtie(the head tracker) spotted something. we get out and walk across to have a look.
i begin to ask where they are

"Shhhh...... They are right over there, below that tree with the white trunk.
But i cant see them and i say so. Right there, look, they are looking at us.
??????? And i thought i had good eyesight.
How am i to hunt an animal if both my Professional Hunter and the trackers can see it without even using binoculars?
But the animal i was hunting is the Greater Kudu. Also called the grey ghost of the bush; and i am now finding it out first hand!!!"
i fumble and get my binocular up. look around, find them after a few moments. my heart skips a beat. then another. etheral, tall, beautiful and graceful, two kudu looking in our direction. big ears pointed to gather as much sound as they can. immobile, on the verge of flight. handsome, in a suit of grey chalk stripes. they are the ultimate denizen of the shadows. is one of you mine, my brothers? clayton says that they are young bulls, we should leave them alone. we quietly make our way back to the pickup. my heartbeat has gone up a few notches, my breathing a bit faster. I notice this as i sit. i feel alive. connected. i felt a connection when they looked at us. they looked at me. this land is magical. the engine starts and i am drawn back to my immediate surroundings.
we spot some giraffe. clayton tells me a few interesting things about them. we continue. kahtie taps on the roof signalling that he has seen something. has seen some kudu on the opposite slope. its amazing how they spot animals at fantastic ranges!
we get out, the three of us and clamber up to have a better look at them. as usual, shikari shambhu cant find the animals and has to be guided onto them. feeling foolish.
and then i see them. two old males, clayton tells me.hanging around with a small herd of kudu.
i see them all, the youngsters, sticking by their mothers side, nuzzling each other, the does, delicate, guiding the little ones along. the adolescent ones, daring to go out further. the sedate mature dominant male. self assured. the older bulls, a little behind, perhaps drawing solace from being around their own kind. they had herds of their own but got thrown out by younger challengers and were now living together. two pair of eyes is better than one.
clayton looks them over and decides that the one in front is ours. i am ready.
we get back. i pick up the rifle, clayton tells me to chamber a round and put it on safe. not very happy with that but i do as he says. we leave the car.
The hunt is on.
clayton and kahtie decide its best if we move down the valley towards them as they are upwind of us and moving away. we start getting down. i am very aware of the weapon on my back. i am very careful not to point it at either the gentleman in front of me or the one behind me.the slope is stony.moving carefully. we finally reach a vantage point where there is a clump of trees. we halt there. clayton and i crawl around. its stonier. ouch. we are immobile. my leg goes numb. cant move. the kudu are on the opposite slope. by the time we are in a position to take the shot, they start moving up directly away. the range is increasing every moment and we dont have a shot. i put the gun down and just watch them go up and over the ridge.
once they have passed, we confer again and start moving behind them. go down, cross a stream, up again. we reach the top and the kudu have disappeared. kahtie has a feeling they have gone that a way and we start. suddenly we hear rustling through to our left. kahtie was wrong and now we are upwind of the kudu. they stand still, we stand still too. i have no idea what we are going to do now.
as one, they explode out of the bush and take off. they are headed diagonally across the valley floor, across a donga and then over a ridge into some very thick bush. clayton tells kahtie to go back to the pickup. he looks at me and asks if i am ready? hold on!! ready for what? what are you saying? i am newbie, remember? no time. i say yes.
and he says follow me.
we head into a dead run to cut across the valley floor and up the hill across the ridge. we have to reach there before they cross the ridge, otherwise we will lose them in the bush. i hold the rifle in both my hands, so that it points at right angles to the both of us. and run. high grass, thorn trees, low branches. we run. we suddenly come up right in the middle of the herd and we try to take a shot, but i am not happy and the opportunity passes. we head off to the right. i suddenly spot two kudu on my right and they have wheeled away and going off. i tell clayton this but he says our kudu are upfront ahead of us. i dont think so but we continue pounding up the slope. halfway up, we see the first of the kudu get over the ridge and disappear. our chance is gone. now we cant observe them on the opposite side and the bush is too dense to follow them in.
we rest on the slope. i am panting like a dog. takes me 5 minutes to gather myself.clayton says there is a road 200 yards up the slope and he is going there to call up the pickup and for me to follow at my leisure.
i start 5 minutes after him and on reaching the road cant find him anywhere. is this a practical joke they play with firstime clients? not very funny. i can hear noises or i imagine i can hear noises. funny situation. i am thirsty and i want to take a leak!!!! but i dont want to be caught pants down by mr spots!(there are two of them on the farm)i know it is being unrealistic, but i am alone and i am not very happy about it.
clayton comes back in sometime and we talk about our stalk. it feels good. but damn, i am thirsty and i dont want to look like a wuss and ask about the pickup but boy, am i mighty glad when it does rumble into view.
i down some water and then join kahtie and clayton.
they have posted a few chaps to watch that valley and we move on. its midday yet and before the end of the day, i will have drawn blood, not once but twice. if only i knew that then.
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby prashantsingh » Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:57 pm

Beautifully written AB Mehta. I almost felt I was there once again.
Now please put up the snaps.
A.S.A.P.
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby dr.jayakumar » Fri Aug 19, 2011 10:07 am

enjoyed reading your experiance.
please post some snaps.
regards
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby mundaire » Fri Aug 19, 2011 11:21 am

Good read, keep 'em coming! :) ...and yes, waiting for the pix :D

Cheers!
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby Olly » Fri Aug 19, 2011 12:43 pm

Nice writeup ! The pics might speak a 1000 more words... !! :)
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby Safarigent » Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:10 am

We crest a rise and sit and glass some giraffes.
there hasnt been any rain now for a while here, so the grass is dry. the giraffes are using their tongues and picking out what leaves they can off the trees. little mr bean pole is fooling around mamas legs and almost runs into a tree. by the time i remember my camera, they are over a rise in the field.
we move on ahead and look at some wildebeest. funny creatures. they have the subspecies known as blue wildebeest on this farm, clayton tells me and it was in 2001 that...
the phone goes off.....
no, its not the kudu, but they have spotted a small herd of Impala down in a different part of the valley. clayton looks at me, and says that perhaps my first animal in Africa wasn't meant to be a big kudu straightaway.
I agree and we push towards the Impala. We get down into the valley and get off the truck. guns loaded, safety's on. the hunt is on.
we move into calf high brush and get down. impala are alert creatures and we very carefully move closer. we are headed towards a bunch of acacia trees from where we will get some cover and might get into a good shooting position.
suddenly, one male looks towards us. and we all freeze. i am mid stride. clayton has his arm extended to one side. cant see kahtie, he is behind me. i start getting a burn in my thigh after some time. not good.
playing statue with mother nature isnt easy.
the animals lose control and we take a breath. my knife is knocking against the rifle butt and i push it back behind me. the two extra bullets clayton has given me make a small clicking sound every step. uh oh, not good.
i put one each in my breast pockets. very pleased with myself.
after some more time and callisthenics we reach the little clump and i get my first look at the impala. there are quite a few of them. the one with the biggest set of horns is a young male. clayton says i can take him if i so want. there is so much to infer from that. this animal can pass on his genes to the other generation. its not always about the inches. there is an older one with decent horns. i can take either. no pressure. its my choice. i make it.
he sets up the shooting sticks. i take a bead slightly behind and above the point of elbow. control my breathing. those last few moments, i dont see the animal, i dont see the background, nothing. i see my reticle, and i hear my breaths. i squeeze the trigger. i hold the aim
reload. nothing. i am disappointed. i get up and clayton shakes my hand.
the old fellow i aimed for is down. i just couldnt see him in the high grass.
the young one leads his herd away from us. good bye my friend, live well.
clayton and kahtie shake my hands. we walk ahead. i can see him now. on his side.
we circle around and approach from behind. clayton gently touches him in the eye, no reflex action. he is dead.
a heart shot. he died a quick painless death. i am glad.
i cant smile. there is no bravery in this, there is no happiness in killing some animal from far away.
i squat and touch him. he is mine. no one can take it away from me. he is part of my memory now. subsumed to me. is that why we men hunt? to own something in so intangible a manner that no one can take it away from us?
i stroke him. i say sorry. i love him. i touch his coat. his delicate face. the scars. the little black ticks with red legs around his scrotum and anus. i take in every small detail in. clayton is busy getting the pick up and kahtie is sitting to one side.
i do a little something for him. i offer him the wind, water, the sun and earth. i wish him god speed.
the truck is here and suddenly there is a lot of activity around. the animal is being put into position for the photograph. clumps of grass are being removed. soil is being dusted off. the head is set. we take the photographs. i am asked to smile.i refuse. strange looks. shrugs. and more photographs.
i help in loading him into the back of the pick up. unload the gun, safe it.have some water.get into the car, the knife which i pushed back now hurts me and it goes back on the side. i am not happy with the arrangement and decide that it goes on the left side tomorrow. we drive off. i talk to clayton a bit and we head towards the maintenance shed. midway there, another phone call, the two kudu have been spotted close to where the impala was taken but a little ahead. a quick three point turn and we are off again.
out at a ridge. meet the other trackers. they infer in their language, zulu i believe.
i am ready. we go over and glass the area. i can see one, but clayton says thats not the one for me. itshis partner that i cant see and they can, which is the prey.
we move back and take a circuitous route to stay on the obverse slopes and downind of the kudu. come up on their track.
holy mother of..
where are we? there didnt look to be this much of brush from up there!!
clayton is also a bit unsure of his bearings. but kahtie is resolute. he knows.
we trust him.
very daintily, moving where the dry grass clumps arent present. using our hands to move away the branches.
dont step on the loose stones. dont let the barrel get snagged in the branches.
what seems to be the longest time of bumbling, we reach a spot from where we have to squat and go. or crawl.
the kudu are 300 yards away and they are lightly grazing and generally staying in the shadows.
we start inching our way slowly.
we stop and i am informed that the shot will have to be taken from here. rough guess of 250 yards. any closer from here, and they will hear us coming.
i can still only see the one who is the smaller of the two.
shikari shambhu and his eagle eyes!
eventually i see the other one. i told that when he steps out, i should take my shot. i am in a half crouch, no shooting sticks to help me. i have a small tunnel between trees with low branches. can i take the shot?
yes, i can.
he steps into view, moving left across me. i take aim and squeeze.
he goes down and i reload. he gets up and runs away going across right now.
Damn. that wasnt supposed to happen. i look up to clayton and he asks me to fire again, same spot. i acquire him in my field of view. between two widely spaced trees i take the second shot. nothing!!!!
i can see he is in pain. i can feel a stinging in my eyes. this is not how it is supposed to be.
he now quarters away from me to the right. if he runs away from us now, he will suffer for a long time. clayton asks me to stop him and i aim for the pelvic girdle. he is down. his hindlegs that is. still standing on his forelegs. i am running towards him. i catch a thorn in my neck. clayton is behind me, telling me to take it easy. i can feel the tears coming. i try to hold them off.
i reload the fourth cartridge from my pocket and put it into his heart.
its over for him.
i am standing there dumbly looking at him. i get my hankerchief out. clayton let me be and circles around and towards the kudu. checks and declares him dead.
i am feeling guilty about this. this wasnt hunting, it was torture.
i move towards him. clayton is examining the bullet holes and trying to figure out what happened.
the first entry wound is at the place it should be at, only it is higher up, the wound is around an inch long.
presumably, my bullet hit a branch or something glancingly and moved up. missing the heart. the second shot i didnt give a lead on the running kudu and the bullet went behind the heart in line with it. lung shot.
the third one shattered its pelvis and the fourth one put it out of its misery. i was in control again, but feeling awful. kahtie says the first one should have killed him. clayton says that it happens and that there is a reason this is hunting, not target practise.
its a fine old kudu bull. a lot of hair off its neck. probably from rubbing it on trees over the years.
i do my thing with. admire him. i feel bad about him. but it only spurs me to be better next time.
i check his teeth. worn down. my fine, beautiful kudu. i feel a bond with him. i knew him only for a few hours, but he will live in my memory forever.
we start the pictures. his tongue is hanging out. i dont want him demeaned like that.
i push it in. clean the blood up and we take some more.
after everything is said and done we get to the shed. both the impala and kudu are skinned. i watch. i want to help but i cant, i dont know what to do so i observe. there is no repulsion. unlike the other carcasses i have seen in india at the butchers, these are my animals and there is nothing repulsive about them.
i go up to clayton and request him for something. he sombers up and says its the right thing to do.
the hearts are brought to me and i cut off a piece each and eat them one by one.
the first fruits that this dark virgin called africa has given me from her bosom.
its very cold and windy now. the sun is down but i insist that i want to watch the whole process.
somebody brings me the first bullet which should have killed him. it had lost velocity on impact, mushroomed and moved up without even entering the ribcage. a souvenir.
clayton measures the horns, the impala is a bronze medal trophy and the kudu is a silver.
is that what it all comes down to? i guess so. i am happy right now. i am not part of the numbers game; not yet atleast.
i grab something to drink and finally when everythings been cut and quartered we leave.
i came on this farm in the morning a different man and i leave it so much more attuned to nature, so much more sensitive to the beauty of the bounty on this land. appreciative of the gifts we have and the need to preserve it so that tomorrows children can enjoy them too.
we get home, i shower. i wash my hands. again and again.
the smell of blood doesnt go away.
dinner is good. i have regained my good cheer. and the fire helps.
it was a good day. i fall into bed. tired but happy.
tomorrows a new day. up again at 5. alarms are set and prayers are said.
good night and sweet dreams.


P.S. i have numbered the pictures. could not figure out how to put them in the right sequence. i apologize for that.

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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby xl_target » Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:07 am

i cant smile. there is no bravery in this, there is no happiness in killing some animal from far away.
i squat and touch him. he is mine. no one can take it away from me. he is part of my memory now. subsumed to me. is that why we men hunt? to own something in so intangible a manner that no one can take it away from us?
i stroke him. i say sorry. i love him. i touch his coat. his delicate face. the scars. the little black ticks with red legs around his scrotum and anus. i take in every small detail in. clayton is busy getting the pick up and kahtie is sitting to one side.
i do a little something for him. i offer him the wind, water, the sun and earth. i wish him god speed.


AB,
Excellent narration. I'm so glad that you are able to have this experience (and a little jealous, I guess).
Thanks for sharing your feelings after the hunt. Your reverence for nature is very evident, as it should be.
Your disappointment on failing to make a one shot kill is quite natural for any hunter with ethics.
Thank you for letting us share this experience with you.
“Never give in, never give in, never; never; never; never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense” — Winston Churchill, Oct 29, 1941
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby sa_ali » Sat Aug 20, 2011 4:32 am

Excellent write up and even better animals you got. I am sure it has being worth it.

Thanks a ton for sharing the pics.
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby prashantsingh » Sat Aug 20, 2011 8:08 am

That's a beautiful Kudu. What lovely horns.
Fantastic snaps and a lovely write up.
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby kragiesardar » Sat Aug 20, 2011 8:51 am

Great trophies, awesome write up, wonderful pictures. Congrats!! Thanks for sharing.
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby Safarigent » Sat Aug 20, 2011 2:13 pm

its taken a lot out of me to write this down.
the next two days were spent looking for nyala.
i will recount that in a couple of days time.
as always thank you all for your encouragement.
regards
A
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby doctor » Sat Aug 20, 2011 3:11 pm

abmehta wrote:
my dad told me something which he had read.
you dont hunt to kill. you kill because you have hunted.
.


the moral of the story , what i feel.

nice write up.
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby Safarigent » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:33 pm

very true sir.
my PH told me of one client he had many moons ago, who was interested in only wounding the animals and then wanted to film them until they died.
the PH put the animal out of his misery and chucked the fellow out the next morning.
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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby 357 S&W » Tue Aug 23, 2011 3:09 am

abmehta wrote:very true sir.
my PH told me of one client he had many moons ago, who was interested in only wounding the animals and then wanted to film them until they died.
the PH put the animal out of his misery and chucked the fellow out the next morning.



Your PH did the right. If I was there I would have kicked him out the very moment he mentioned me his intentions. What on earth he was thinking.


On the other note, thanks for sharing the pictures. You got yourself great trophies. I can understand the feelings for the first hunt and I am glad you are on the right track of becoming an ethical hunter. Congrats.
:cheers:


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Re: Hunt: Africa 2011

Postby rraju2805 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:27 am

Nice writeup & awesome pic...
Thanx a millon ...

We are waiting for more pic & story...
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BUT YOU CAN"T FOOL ALL OF THE PEOPLE ALL TIME
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