The Eastern Cape
We left off in the East Cape of South Africa, a place with a long history…
From the early colonization by the Dutch in 1652, the British takeover in 1806, and their defeat of the Dutch Boers 1902, to the end of Apartheid Africa in 1994, South Africa has never been a dull place.
When an American thinks of Africa, especially one of my generation, he can’t help but imagine Tarzan’s Africa with friendly elephants, silly chimpanzees, and ferocious, but manageable, lions at every turn. Then, of course, there is the jungle with convenient vine-to-vine transportation and a liberal dress code.
Then there is the UNICEF Africa with starving children, enormous heaps of trash, and malaria everywhere.
My African Hunt
Wanting to be fully prepared, I read quite a lot of Africa and decided malaria would be an excellent place to start. But alas, malaria has been all but eradicated from the Cape. No worries there, but for the environmentalist trying the save the planet (ban DDT), human cost be damned.
The South Africans (S.A) do have a nasty tick, but who doesn’t? At any rate, spending most of our time on the lake or down by the river on the farm, ticks, and mosquitoes-Spanish for “little fly”-are everywhere. I likely have Deet in my blood and no Lyme disease yet. In fact, we suffered from no bugs to speak of, but we were there in the dry season.
Which leads me to another idea I had about Gin and Tonic. Being one of my standby cocktails and part of my English heritage-on my mother’s side coming from Adams, Smiths, Light foots, and the like–wouldn’t it be great if a “medicinal” G&T would stop all threat from these various tiny marauders? No such luck. It seems the FDA finds quinine too dangerous for 21st Century man, so the allowed dose in anyone, or ten, G&T’s is just too low to inoculate even a suitably imbibed individual.
My African Hunt – Gin and Tonic
As for drinking while hunting. Yes. After each hunt, we started with wine and local beer–both great–served in the old powerhouse, which used to house a Lister diesel generator. There are miles of wind-driven generators across the windy planes stretching out to the northern hills. Power can be unreliable, so a small Honda keeps the lights on when necessary.
The old powerhouse is quaint, seating four comfortably at the bar with a fantastic veranda and outdoor fireplace. A zebra rug underfoot.
After a couple of nights, I thought gin and tonic would be nice, even if it offered no protection. When I ordered one before dinner, our host, Nick Bowker, seemed quite surprised volunteering that it is a popular local drink, he and his tribe being English, but few American visitors requested it on their African hunts. I have to say it is tonic that makes a great G&T.
Dinner was the back-strap from a Mountain Spring Buck. Excellent. And what is any meal without a sweet dessert? Never disappointed.
Oh yes, and the hunting.
My African Hunt – Kudu Hunting
The Kudu was on my list. He likes heavy cover, and the first afternoon out, we drove up a trail and stopped for a moment in dense brush. As I looked out the window of the Land Cruiser and the “Grey Ghost” was looking back at me, not 20 yards away. That didn’t last, but after a long day hunting, Nick found another down by the river in dense brush.
We stalked afoot for a mile or two until within 200 yards or so. I threw up the 280 Ackley stoked with 160 grain Nosler Accubonds at 2800 fps. I had a hard time getting the rifle to settle down, and he decided he couldn’t wait.
Another quarter-mile hike, and he was curious again. This time was standing dead still and looking right at us. In an instant, Nick had the tripod shooting sticks set up, perfect height, and direction. Through up again and waited for him to turn for a nice broadside shot. No luck. I swear Kudo must play a lot of poker.
Finally, with some anxiety, I decided to drop one under his chin
Finally, with some anxiety, I decided to drop one under his chin. Not ideal, but at 230 yards or so, it should’ve worked. Well, you could hear the solid “thud,” and all seemed happy. I thanked God, prematurely, at about a half-a-squeeze, but wouldn’t you know it, that damned Kudu didn’t know he was supposed to roll over. Instead, he turned into that “Grey Ghost” they talked about and alluded our PH, two savvy trackers, and Mr. Russell to spite a good blood trail for a couple of miles. Perhaps the tried-and-true Nosler Partition would have done the job?
It was getting dark; we retired and started the next morning again. A day spent tracking over hill-and-dale with the trail running out and reality sets in. I had shot and lost my first big game animal. It is the ultimate dishonor for a hunter to lose such a beautiful beast to poor judgment. My impatience cost me the biggest and most beautiful antelope and a real two-turn beauty at that. Of course, the “you shoot ‘them, you bought them policy” on an African hunt was in effect, so we all pay for our mistakes, as it should be.
Even the dog wasn’t talking to me
The next morning we went after the Nyala, last reported, and I felt better about life in general and hunting in particular. Thank you Thomas for helping me get the order right.
Next instalment; Land of the Eland…