|Our journey begins in Atlanta where we rendezvous with Doug Nelson our pheasant-hunting friend from South Dakota. He intends to do most of his big game hunting with a bow. (Not us, we brought guns!) We enjoy an evening meal together, and are almost run down in the hotel parking lot by a lunatic in a van, (Dear Lord please don't take us until after the hunt!).
We leave in the morning. Having never been in the international part of the Atlanta Airport I must say it really was an international experience. You could enjoy people watching as folks from all over the world rushed by. We board our 747 and Elaine our travel agent had arranged for us the best seats in the house. Right at the exit where you have tons of legroom, this is a great luxury on such a long flight.
After the longest commercial air flight in the world, Atlanta to Cape Town, a 14-hour flight with a two-hour layover in Cape Town, followed by a one hour flight to Port Elizabeth. Our Professional Hunter (from now on called PH) greets us at the airport. We are so excited to finally be in Africa that we forget to be tired. We have arrived in a whole new world!
Our first clue that everything was going to be great was upon learning our PH's nickname, Americans have a hard time with Afrikaner names, so they called our PH Beans, of course you know this is the name of our Master Hunter Golden Retriever. What a wonderful omen. Beanie drives us to Summerset East and Tollie's where we will be staying. On the way we see our first monkeys running wild on the side of the road, you know you are in Africa then!
That evening while sipping some wonderful South African wine our PH ask us what we want to hunt and what we expect to achieve with our trip. We tell Beans that we have come mostly to hunt birds (Here I might mention that to most South Africans it is impossible to imagine someone being passionate about bird hunting, to them hunting is about big game) and while we want to experience African big game hunting we have no clear idea of what to hunt.
We also say that for us, just being in Africa and to be hunting in Africa is the thrill of a lifetime. And we promise not to judge the success of our hunt by the size of the trophies but by the enjoyment of the hunt itself. This means we value the whole experience, the stalk, the climb up the mountain to get a clean shot, the meals, the drinks, the new friends made, and the stories after the hunt; this is what makes the experience of hunting so special. The pleasure is in the "whole package." "We hunt not to have killed but kill to have hunted." José Ortega-Meditations on Hunting.
The next morning we start off with a trip to the range to check the zero on the rifle and (I imagine) to evaluate the new hunters. After a minor adjustment to windage Beanie pronounces us ready! Of course we realize that shooting off a bench rest at paper is no guarantee that you will be up to the task of shooting at live big game in the field.
Interesting note: Beanie's rifle was also a .270 his favorite caliber and the rifle itself was a custom 98 Mauser rifle, the very same rifle that his great grandfather had carried during the Boer War. (If you enjoy history you must read about the Boer War, the South Africans were the world's greatest riflemen shooting the British soldiers primarily in the head at ranges of three hundred yards)
After a delightful breakfast in Tollie & Karen's dinning room we are off searching for Dyxie's Zebra. This was Dyxie's first real big game hunt and we had spent time getting her acquainted with the .270 before leaving home. She could put all of her shots into an 8" paper plate (about the size of the kill zone on big game) at 100 yards and about 3 out of 4 at 200 yards.
|All of the big game hunting that we did followed a basic procedure. Go to an area the PH knew would be rich with game. Then use your binoculars to locate the game we were after. (Suggestion: buy the best binoculars you can afford, as you are going to spend lots of time looking through them. You may skimp on your riflescope, as you will be using it the least of all.) After locating the game we would then drive to the area and proceed to stalk it, attempting to use the wind and sun to our advantage.
Dyxie was packing the Winchester Model 70 in .270 and I was carrying the video camera. It did not take Beanie long and he located a small herd of Zebra. Let's roll!
I might mention one hazard we encountered in this particular valley. There was this really nasty cactus there we nicknamed the "Jumping Cactus". As we would be busy stalking, attempting to move quietly through the veldt, our pants legs would get covered with these horrible sticky things! They had long spines and would actually go through your leather boots; upon using our fingers to remove them we discovered they also had nasty little spines that would embed in your fingers as well. We soon realized why Beanie was carrying a Leatherman Tool with pliers.
Dyxie held up well on the stalk and did everything Beanie told her. She & Beanie made progress towards the zebras by keeping clumps of brush between themselves and the zebras. (I attempt to video and stay out of the way) When Beans determined that they were close enough (about 120 yards) he set up the shooting sticks (a wonderful invention, three wooden dowels held together by a small piece of inner tube. Thus providing the shooter a portable bench rest to shoot from). Beanie tells Dyxie which animal to shoot, and then he whistles at the herd. This causes the animals to freeze and look up. (We would later see him repeat this procedure many times and use it to save my bacon on a Kudo hunt later on)
After waiting what seemed a small eternity. Dyxie carefully lined up her crosshairs and takes her shot. Up to this point, everything had been absolutely quite. A few whispers exchanged between Beans & Dyxie, quite, careful placement of feet to not spook the game. And then BANG, the thunder of a rifle shot being closely followed by the satisfying thump of the bullet telling us that yes, this girl can shoot!
I look at Beans, just a little nervous, as a wounded zebra is noted for its ability to run miles with out stopping. He looks back with a large grin and a big thumbs up! At Bean's insistence (I wanted to start right then!) we wait long enough for him to smoke a cigarette and give the zebra a chance to realize it was fatally hit.
About 50 yards away lay a very dead zebra with Dyxie's bullet through her heart. Yes, since you shoot zebras for the hide, as they have no horns, and since the males generally fight each other, biting chunks out of each other's hides. You generally shoot the females.
Now the work begins, Dyxie's zebra was big, probably around 500 lbs. Beanie radios for help and a crew drives up. First they arrange the animal for photos. This takes about 45 minutes, as moving the animal and posing everything is a big job. Beanie handles the photography portion as though he were a professional photographer and then the zebra is loaded on the back of the truck to take him to the skinning area. There is lots of hand shaking and congratulating. Job well done! Dyxie will have a great story to tell during "toddy" time tonight!
Now it is time to find me a blesbuck.
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