October 2009 – East Cape, South Africa
What a relief! Our first Spring rain has arrived and hopefully has dampened the dust in most of our concessions throughout the Eastern Cape. It will be a good month before the grass turns green, but should coincide with the first young of the season. Further North, in the Zambezi Delta, Mozambique, we have a hunt starting from Coutada 11. Hunting on the Zambezi at this time of the year is extremely hot with temperatures often reaching well into the forties Celcius.With such good rain falling outside, I thought I’d take you back to early June this season, when the weather was just as dry for long periods of time, but instead of rain we had snow that day.
Most hunters who have hunted South Africa, would have heard about Vaal Rhebuck, many hunters would have tried and many would have failed to rise to the challenge, but some have had more than mountains, steep gradients and terrible weather and have succeeded. Brett & Shellie Wright joined Professional Hunter, Carl van Zijl, for one of those memorable hunts on a day when the weather and Vaal Rhebuck would not cooperate.
Our day started before sunrise, a quick cup of coffee, a rusk and a short drive into the mountains within our Northern area. Rain belted down for most of the way, as we climbed higher and as the Land Cruiser moaned under the steepness of the climb, snow started to fall. Motioning to Brett that we could come back tomorrow, he assured me that he wanted to be part of this adventure, typical Brett, never one to shy away from a challenge!
We spotted our first group of Vaalies an hour into the hunt, obviously sheltering from the weather, there was a male with the group, nothing to write home about, so we continued our climb to 6000 feet. Once at the top of the highest peak we sent our tracker, Boy, onto the back side of a ridge, while we glassed the valley below. Nothing. Only a heard of Black Wildebeest in the distance. As hope started to fail us, we saw Boy crawling back over the edge of the ridge. Boy had spotted a group of Vaalies with a good male, 800 yards below our position.
After surveying the lay of the land, it was agreed that Boy would crawl into a thick Rhino Bush to keep an eye on the Vaalies with the spotting scope, while Brett and myself would follow the contours of a stream on the opposite side of the valley, hoping that the bad weather would allow us to approach undetected. Things went well for the first mile of our walk, the terrain was steep, but nothing out of the ordinary. As we approached our last point of drop off where the Vaalies could spot us, we realised that what looked like a stream was now a waterfall! Looking at one another and realising there was only one way down, we promptly leant back and skid all the way down the slippery surface of the waterfall. Once at the bottom we gathered ourselves and our equipment and continued slowly with our final 200 yards of our approach.
While skidding down the waterfall, we had spooked a small group of Mountain Reedbuck, which in turn had gotten the Vaalies anxious, forcing them to move into a valley that Boy at the top of the ridge could no longer see. We continued slowly, until we finally spotted the group feeding out of the wind and snow. All this time, the snow had not given us a break yet, with both of us drenched and equipment in a mess, I signaled for Brett to crawl up next to me and get as comfortable as possible in the mud. The shot was always going to be difficult, we didn’t expect it to be easy, considering what we had been through to get to this position. The range finder finally settled on 311 yards. I asked Brett for the third time if he was sure he was on the male? Not a reply… just a solid thump as the Vaal Rhebuck ram fell back into a small ravine.
Excitement filled the valley, with Boy running the full face of the ridge to reach us where we were admiring the Vaalie. Shellie, who all this time had been sitting in the truck, decided to brave it out and bring the truck down a decent most Professional Hunters would not consider driving on a dry day. The sun even decided to join us for the photos!