Combined diary entries by Carl van Zyl & Paul Brisso
Day 7 – September 16 – The Bushbuck gods came smiling………
Carl owed me a good Bushbuck, and not just because of yesterday. When I hunted with Carl a couple of years ago in the East Cape, South Africa, a Bushbuck was the one animal on my “wish list” where we came up empty. Late on the last morning of our hunt I was on the sticks waiting for a magnificent Cape Bushbuck. He was following two females and was about to take two more steps forward to clear a bush and present an easy shot, when he inexplicably deserted his companions and melted into the heavy brush to bed down for the day. We returned that evening and he came out too late and at the wrong place . Carl still claims he has that same ram waiting for me and a return match.
I was frustrated with my shooting. The previous day was not good and I couldn’t do anything but blame myself. The rifle I brought for plains game seemed ok at the initial sight-in on day one, and I had written off my fatal, but high right shot on the Red Duiker to operator error.
Fortunately Carl had more confidence in my shooting ability and ran us to the range before setting out this morning. I was surprised to find my rifle was shooting considerably high and right. After a few rounds we had the rifle dialed in. A fairly good excuse for the poor shooting was a confidence builder.
We spent a slow-morning cruising the forests looking for Bushbuck without much success. After an early lunch, Poen suggested we wait out a pan for the afternoon as one in particular was the favorite watering hole for a number of good rams.
I am not good at sitting, but was willing to follow the decision of the PH’s. About noon we were in position. Carl and I were situated in camp chairs, me with a book and Carl with his diary. Poen and the trackers were perched above us on a termite mound watching the pan. Not 15 minutes had elapsed before Poen saw “the” Bushbuck returning from a midday drink. After some maneuvering and detailed guidance by Carl and Poen on how to find the ram in the heavy brush we had him down.
Day 8 – September 17 – Unchartered virgin territory….
With our Bushbuck success fresh in our minds we headed out with great anticipation after Sable. Poen had a plan for today.
Up until this stage we had seen and hunted areas I’d personally seen before on previous trips to Mozambique. I had asked Poen if he knew of an area in the concession that seldom saw people. He knew of just the area.
As we traveled we found areas overgrown with old dead grass, grass of this nature provides very little nutrition for the wildlife and one seldom finds any game in these areas.
By burning off the dead grass, one revitalizes the soil and germinates the dormant seeds. Within weeks this once unpalatable grass will be a maze of green flourishing with fresh growth and the arrival of wildlife.
Later in the day we came upon a rural village in the bush. We showed Paul how the locals lived and lent a hand where it was needed.
What a day! 100 kilometers of off-roading later and we had seen unbelievably wild country side. Started the biggest bushfire I’ve ever seen, and stalked up to 180 yards of a great old Sable bull watching over a herd of 70+ females. In the end Paul turned him down. He was a classic, great shape and hook, but he lacked depth and we still had three days left to hunt. It was Paul’s call, I sure hope it doesn’t come back to haunt him.
Day 9 – September 18 – A sad day….
Yes, today was a sad day. We had hunted so hard for a good Sable. Our efforts had come up short on numerous occasions, but we continued on knowing our luck would turn sooner rather than later. It had to come.
When it came, it came with anger, disappointment, and a sense of loss. It sucked every emotion out of the entire team. Hollowness engulfed us as we watched the magnificence of such a majestic animal ……so helpless.
He didn’t deserve this. To be caught in a poachers gin trap. He had given so much more to the world he lived in, his mere existence was more than we could have asked for. Hunters had ensured the sustainability of him and his kind, poachers had robbed both us and him of a fair contest.
With heavy harts we walked up to the bag of bones and gut wrenching smell, his leg had started rotting away in the blistering Mozambican sun. Paul had put him out of his misery.
Now you may ask or question the trophy pictures? Simply – respect. This old bull will be treated in the same manner as any other trophy hunted. He will be given his dues, skinned out, the meat processed as best we can, and he will be mounted. He will come to rest in California where he will grace the walls of Paul’s home, and will not be forgotten.
He will also be a symbol of hope, but for that we need some time. The wheels are turning; plans have started falling in place for one of the biggest private anti poaching fundraisers to date.
January 2014 will be an important period for Coutada 11. Mark and his team together with Craig Boddington, will be hosting a special fundraising auction in Dallas, TX. Without a moments doubt or hesitation I’ve assured Mark that John X Safaris will also be involved. We’ve come a long way since those first safaris in Mozambique all those years ago, Coutada 11 has become a favorite of both ours and our clients. But more on that in a month or two’s time.
Day 10 – September 19 – A hint of desperacey has set in, but hope is not far off the horizon.
With time running out and still no Sable for Paul we’d be lying if we said we weren’t all starting to become increasingly anxious. While Paul had put the old bull out of his misery yesterday, it still wasn’t Paul’s Sable. We had two days left, and no PH likes entering the last day short on a major specie on license.
Our bearing we chose today was a gamble, but we needed to do something different to change our fortunes. And change they did. At mid morning we bumped a great Sable, but were unable to get onto him prior to seeing him disappear into the forest. We immediately set off on his tracks.
Within two hundred yards we found him bedded in the very next clearing. Cautiously Paul maneuvered into position, found a small shooting lane in the foliage and readied himself for the shot. Surely we had this bull, he was only 60 yards away, oblivious to our presence.
And then for no reason or rhyme he just got up and strolled away. We all sat there in a haze of Mosquito’s amazed at our run of bad luck.
We moved on for lunch onto the edge of the flood plain and watched Poen and our tracker, Gotchi, pickup on fresh poacher tracks. Soon they were running on the tracks hoping to find a poachers’ camp and capture the culprits responsible for the old Sables broken leg.
A couple of days earlier Gotchi had noticed freshly cut papyrus and had a suspicion of poacher’s recent activity at a waterhole. He had asked us to hang back while he checked the path for any gin traps.
In the end their time and fresh tracks ran out, and we continued on into the afternoon.
At dusk we spotted a lone Sable bull, making his way from the edge of the flood plain into the forest for the night. We all took off at a brisk run, hoping to reach a predetermined palm before he crossed the last clearing. It felt like a now or never moment.
With seconds to spare we made it, got Paul steadied on the sticks and waited for the Sable to reach the clearing. He strolled along, continuing in the same direction as before, before coming to a halt behind the only small tree in the clearing. Only one more yard and we’d have a shot.
And then he was off, a group of Liechtenstein Hartebeest had winded us off to the left. We were fuming.
Gathering our gear we headed back to the truck, and then suddenly our luck changed. That’s hunting for you, when you drop your head and feel like giving up; a lift is not far around the corner.
We were back! Heads up, tomorrow will be our last and final day, we need to make it count.
Day 11 – September 20 – To close for comfort!
This morning we were met by a theory from Gotchi. Gotchi reckoned the hunting gods had given us a Sable and Paul had turned it down. Our lack of success was our punishment. He was set on his belief, but did make mention of the fact that Paul had also done a very good deed by putting the old poached bull out of his suffering. In his eyes a fair trade, noting in his cheerful manner; “Mushie Baas, Mushie”(Great boss, great!) Well I’m glad one member of the team felt things were great and the deal was done?!
By mid morning we’d bumped a couple of nice bulls, but the presence of other game gave our position away once again, and by midday we were desperate. I was somewhat beyond – to be frankly honest. I couldn’t send Paul home without a Sable.
A bit too close for comfort!
Lying here quietly in bed looking back over our safari, Mark is being his usual busy self across the room. In the distance one can hear the rhythmic chirp of a nightjar, only to be rudely interrupted by the shriek of the ever-present Bush-babies in the Mango tree above our room. Staring out through the open door, we can see the moon rising in the distance, bright and red…. “The Buffalo will be on the move again tonight”, Mark interrupts the silence, “Yes my friend, much like Paul and I in the morning.” It’s time to head home.