Making our way out of the 100 000 acre area that afternoon, opting for the scenic route out with a cold beer in hand, we had time to reflect on what had been a truly exceptional day. Bill had enjoyed a day like no other, hunting wild partridge in their natural home range. Dave and his team had not only found success in a magnificent Lechwe, but had topped it off with a lucky Vaal Rhebuck. Could life be much better?
We all sat back, sipped our beers and savored the moment.
Before hitting the final home straight we reached an age-old floodplain, the river had long since stopped flowing with the same vigor as in the past, giving way to a subdued meandering stream. Niel suggested we have a final glass for the day, he’d seen a big Kudu in that particular area not so long ago. We all took to the roof of our trusty Land Cruiser, making use of any vantage point available on the flat terrain.
We immediately spotted him – exactly as Niel had described. He was magnificent.
I confirmed to Dave what we’d spotted and informed him he had to follow me as fast as his weary legs could carry him. Time was not on our side. Leaving Niel and Zwayi on the roof of the truck, watching the Kudu, we made our approach. With a slight crosswind blowing off our backs, we knew we had to get below him if we were to stand any chance.
We circled our way below him. We now had the wind in our favor, but the Kudu was nowhere to be found. We decided to head in the direction of where last the bull was spotted. Soon we found another bull, feeding no more than 80 yards ahead of us, unbeknown to our presence. Still we could not spot our bull, keep in mind this would be Dave’s second East Cape Kudu, it would have to be the big one or nothing.
Suddenly there he was. I opened the shooting sticks; Dave got comfortable and squeezed off the 300 WinMag. The bull lunged forward and disappeared into the nearest ravine. The shot looked good.
We signaled for Niel and Zwayi to bring the truck as close as possible before grabbing Bongo and Foxy. The dogs picked up on the blood trail immediately. Within minutes we could hear all hell break loose with water splashing, dogs barking, and brush breaking as the bull tried to make his escape. Then all went quiet.
We reached a stream and lost the blood. We had no idea where our Kudu or dogs were at this stage. Nightfall was now well upon us, and I decided to ask Dave if he’d head back to the truck. His hip wasn’t any better and the growing darkness would only make things harder for him. Niel, Zwayi, and I continued, now walking blindly. At one stage we thought we’d heard a dog barking in the distance, but dispelled it as our imagination playing tricks with us.
Then there it was again. We questioned if it was even our dogs? It had to be ours, but man they were a long way off. We debated the situation and agreed it was the best and only option we had. We set off towards the noise. As we got closer we realized it was most certainly our dogs and the wounded bull.
With no artificial light at hand, I made the call to shoot. If any of my dogs were to die at the hands of a bullet, it might as well be mine. I saw Niel breathe a sigh of relief as we crept in closer.
We could barely make out the bull, but could see the white in both Bongo and Foxy’s coats from time to time. By going slowly and getting in close we soon realized there was a chance that we’d silhouette the bull in the night sky.
The following morning saw us rise to grey skies and the promise of foul weather on the horizon. We were relocating to Glen Harry in search of Dave’s all important Sable.
The following morning we were woken by thundering rain, the storm was now in full swing. In vain we headed out and got lucky with a Zebra before calling it quits for the day. Traversing the mountain tracks was becoming dangerous, it wasn’t worth the risk. We retreated to camp to enjoy the comforts of a warm fire and a fine bottle of Cape Wine.
Our Sable was nowhere to be seen. It had been three days without a trace. We were all getting desperate and I was getting nervous. At one stage both Dave and Bill picked up on it, the rising rivers were clearly worrying me. Sooner or later we’d be stranded – crossing flooded rivers was becoming extremely dangerous.
I made the call. We’d head back to the coast and have our team on the ground at Glen Harry assess the water levels while searching for Sable. Waiting on the flood to subside was getting us nowhere.
Day eight was spectacular. The sun came out and not a breath of wind dared lift its head. We headed down towards the coast and into the forests that hug the beaches of the warm Indian Ocean. We were after Blue Duiker, the smallest antelope in southern Africa.
We hunt these fleet-footed masters of the forests with Jack Russel terriers, waiting on animal paths and clearings in the dense undergrowth. One has to practice extreme patience while employing a keen sense of sight of your surroundings, ensuring you’re ready when the slightest movement may mean a passed opportunity on a Blue Duiker.
For the remainder of the day we concentrated on Oribi. Dave had been intrigued by the smaller antelope living along the coastal belt of the Eastern Cape. Ever since that first trip he wanted one, but the limited number of permits issued each season meant that he’d had to wait until 2012 to get an opportunity to pursue an old ram.
Later that evening we received a call from Glen Harry. The rivers were down and Sable had been spotted. We were leaving at 4am the following morning to cover the 3 hour journey north.
Having heard that we were leaving camp at 4am, Bill decided to pass on the day’s events and instead opted for a Big 5 Game Drive.
Our last day was spent tying up a few loose ends while squeezing in a hunt or two. Bill and I beard witness to Dave committing a crime, which we were sworn into secrecy. Threatened with an inch of our lives if ever we were to divulge.
We’re not great “goodbye people”, but saying goodbye to Dave and Bill was no fun at all. We had all become great friends over the last two years. We have shared our worries and solved the problems of the world around crackling campfires. We have witnessed each other at our best, and at times at our worst. We have often agreed and more often agreed to disagree. More importantly, we may have met as strangers, but left as friends.
It’s amazing what Africa does to one….