What defies ethics to you as a hunter? Is it the thrill of the chase in an environment that is acceptable to you and respectful to the animal you’re pursuing, or is it the comparison of what the world considers acceptable? Dare I say it may be a matter of personal choice, a place within oneself where you as a hunter feels comfortable with your actions.
I’m not entirely sure that I hold the answer to this complex question, but I’d like to share a story that has got me thinking, possibly in a manner that I have not considered before.
But before I get ahead of myself, picture the scene of a nervous PH standing in his booth at the Dallas Safari Club, trying to come up with a plan after a request from a good friend wanting to hunt Vaal Rhebuck and Klipspringer. It’s not the fear of pursuing these masters of the mountains, the dare devils of the rocks or the spotting scopes of the hills, but the thought of doing so with a man without hips.
Never the less, fast forward to early June – we always make a plan. Well this time it turned out we were part of the plan.
Lee and Debra Friend, together with their son, Coltyn, were back on their second hunt with John X Safaris, and with them came two of the finest guns we’ve ever seen. Lee was packing the Gunwerks 6.5×284 , and Debra and Coltyn shared the Gunwerks 6XC, both were fitted with Nightforce optics, an important aspect in the entire setup.
All three hunters enjoyed a great deal of success, hunting a variety of world-class trophies, including a massive 43″ Cape Buffalo and breath-taking Giraffe. As per usual the fun never stops with the Friend’s, one of the many reasons we enjoy having them on safari!
On the plains game front a number of shots were long, but nothing more than 200 yards, all fairly acceptable under African conditions. Up to that point we considered all “very” doable for Lee. The challenge would come on the mountain dwellers; we were yet to see if Lee’s cowboy days had caught up with him. At age 54, Lee boasted 2 replaced hips, a couple fused vertebra and the years in the saddle had taken their toll.
Lee’s Vaal Rhebuck would be our first challenge on distance. It’s for good reason why they’re considered one of Africa’s toughest. Unparalleled agility and sight allows them to stand out from the pack. A lucky break one morning saw two months of scouting and planning come together, a great Vaal Rhebuck was spotted. A slow, but cautious stalk ensued; finally we were in position – 400 yards out.
Lee dialed in the yardage, took a deep breath, and squeezed off a round.