Safari 2012 Journal Entries: Day 8 – Monday, July 23nd, 2012 (part 1) Springbuck

by david on August 29, 2012

Once again, the alarm goes off way too early (5:00 am), and I fight the urge to pick my feet up of the cold floor and put them back under the covers.  Can’t do it, though, since we are heading to Danie’s place to hunt this morning and I do not want to be late.  Once again we are hunting springbuck.  For some reason, Johann is not happy with the one I took on the 20th and wants to look for a better one.  It is all good with me as I get to do what I love to do, which is to hunt in Africa.           

I met Danie Van Vuuren in Pennsylvania last year while I was helping Johann work the Eastern Sports show in Harrisburg.  He is a PH as well as a farmer and that keeps him doubly busy.  His hunting concession/ranch, “Orpheus” has some nice springbuck rams, and that is where we are headed.  The trip is a short one, about 40 minutes or so, and we will again be having breakfast on the fly.  Cup of coffee number four, fresh from the thermos, and some granola bars are going down good in the quiet of the morning just before sunrise.  I have mentioned before that I love this part of the day (even though I dislike getting up some mornings), as it gives me time to collect my thoughts, reflect, and prepare for the day.  With the granola bar gone and my coffee cup topped off, I start to look around at the terrain we will be hunting.  It is much different than Ermo, where I took my earlier springbuck.  Instead of being smooth and open, it is rocky and covered in brush.  It takes some effort to find a place allowing a line of sight that will exceed 30-40 yards.  This is Africa, and a different day means different type of hunting.   

There is no elevated location to glass from, so we leave the truck and strike out through the bushveld to see what we can see.  The morning is cold and the exercise gets my blood pumping and forces warmth to return to my fingers and toes.  This is stalking at its best.  We walk a short ways, maybe 60-70 yards, where we stop, look, and listen for our quarry.  We are looking into the sun as it pokes it head just above the tree line, and I can’t see much of anything.  I content myself with just enjoying the hike and taking in the sights and sounds of the early morning.  With the crunching of the stones under our boots and the glare of the sun, this is more difficult than you would think.  It takes a little practice and a great deal of concentration, but eventually I can filter out the noise and glare and am able to use the senses of sight and sound more efficiently.  The fluttering of a bird’s wings or the movement of its shadow across the ground forces me to notice a great many birds of multiple species feeding all around us.  We are traveling quietly and fluidly, and the birds seem to pay us no head.  This is so cool.  I know the birds do not really consider us a threat, but to move among them almost unnoticed is somewhat of a surreal experience.  We travel only three quarters of a mile or so when Johann and Willie spot what we are looking for.  Once again “the game is afoot”. 

The springbuck are working their way through the brush some 60-80 yards away.  I can catch only glimpses of movement through the thick vegetation, but I CAN see them.  Maybe I am getting my “game eyes” back early enough on this trip to actually do me some good.  The herd is directly between the sun and us, so picking out a particular animal is next to impossible, and judging his headgear, is impossible.  Optics are of little to no help as they only magnify the glare and hinder more than help.  The wind is blowing steady from the herd to us and we decide to try and get in front of them and set up an ambush.  We switch from slow and ultra-stealthy mode to fast and “sorta-kinda-quiet mode” and try to head the herd off.  The springbuck evidently decide to do the same thing and take up a parallel course to our own offsetting any gains we make.  The best we can hope to do is adapt our strategy somewhat and select a vector that will allow us to close the distance without actually getting in front of them.  We hope that the new angle will provide us a small window to glass the herd and select a ram.  That is, until I screw the whole thing up.

My cold has started breaking up and my sinuses are starting to drain.  I would normally consider this a good thing, but maybe not during a stalk.  With my sinuses draining occasionally, there will be a sudden uncontrollable itch in the back of my throat resulting in a cough.  This cough comes on so quickly that my brain does not really have time to register that it is coming and is not able to plan a course of action before the start of the cough.  This is exactly what happens as we close to about 60 yards of the herd.  The first half of the cough is out before I can clamp both hands, daypack, and hat over my mouth to stifle the cough.  This 1.665-second event causes me two problems, the obvious one being that the first part of the cough makes the springbuck leave our immediate vicinity.  The second part of the cough causes me great discomfort during and afterwards, as I have to force both eyeballs back into their correct location and try to return my eardrums to their proper shape.  To top it all off, the “stink-eye” I receive from my two hunting companions makes matters just that much worse. 

Because of the blown stalk, Johann sends Willie back for the truck with instructions to take the truck around to the back side of this stretch of veld and meet us after we hike through.  We head off in separate directions — Willie towards the truck and Johann and I deeper into the veld.

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