Safari 2012 Journal Entries: Day 8 – Monday, July 23nd, 2012 (part 2) Springbuck

by david on August 30, 2012

Johann and I walk quietly through the veld not talking much.  He is scouting for game and I am just trying to keep my head down and not cough again anytime soon.  We travel for only about a third of a mile or so when Johann gives me the “stop, freeze where you are, and be quiet” hand signal.  I can tell he really means it by the way his finger tips are moving back and forth.  I do not even breathe.  I don’t really know what is going on, but whatever it is, I don’t want to muck it up.  The herd of springbuck was evidently not as unnerved by my cough as we thought they were.  They are standing only 50 yards or so away. 

For the next 30-40 minutes, we are stalking in the purest definition of the word.  We take a few steps, stop, look, and listen, only to repeat the process, while gradually closing in on our prey.  I try to stop it but my mind sometimes drifts and I wonder if a lion or leopard feels any of the same emotions I am feeling at this moment.  Maybe it is a fallacy to attribute human emotions to an animal, but I wonder.  I am feeling an adrenalin rush at the prospect of a successful hunt.  I am fearful of one misplaced step alerting the prey to our presence.  I am so focused on what I am doing that everything else going on around me ceases to exist.  If I am unsuccessful, it is not really a big deal.  To a predatory cat, an unsuccessful hunt may mean starvation of its self or its offspring.  I have to think that the cat must be experiencing feeling of some kind.  A hand signal from Johann to move forward yanks me back to reality and I slowly and deliberately move one foot in front of the other.

We follow the herd to an area near a farm road, and it opens up a little affording a better view of the herd.  I am not really sure how but we have gotten close to the herd and they are still unaware of our presence.  Johann sets up the sticks between two bushes and motions for me to get ready.  There are animals all around us and I am thankful for our camouflage clothing.  As long as we keep our movements to a minimum and the wind does not betray us, we should be ok.  I watch the springbuck as they feed all around us, some coming within 30 yards.  A few even look straight at us with what I would best describe as a bewildered look on their face.  It is as if they know something is not quite right, but they can’t put their finger (or hooves in this case) on it.  Johann is still glassing for the lead ram, so I just watch the herd feeding and milling about all around us.  The lead ram is finally located and deemed good enough to take.  I finally see the one Johann is directing my attention to and I ease the rifle onto the shooting sticks and take aim.  Just as I center the scope on his vitals, he steps behind a bush and out of my line of sight.  He stays hidden for a few moments, and then he reappears, but he is now behind another springbuck.  After that, he has moved back behind the bush and out the other side.  This time, he is in front of some cattle that have magically appeared on the scene.  After a few bites on grass on that side (maybe it was greener), he stepped back behind the tree and stayed there.  He stayed there for so long, I thought he might be taking a nap.  Anyway, it was long enough that I was getting uncomfortable on the sticks.  I am determined not to move because the rest of the herd is still all around us.  With 30 or so pair of eyes looking for danger, it does not take much to set them all to flight. 

This ram stays gone for so long, I am starting to think about taking a nap.  Finally, he pokes his head back out except at double the original distance.  It seems he walked straight away from us after stepping behind the tree.  He is still walking and grazing, but I have a good bead on him and I am tracking his every move through the scope.  Beside me I hear a faint whisper:  “Do you see him?”  “Yes.”  “Are you ready?”  “Yes.”  Before I have time to process another thought, Johann bleats at the ram.  No response.  Another bleat stops him dead in his tracks, and I do mean dead.  Before the sound of the second bleat fades away, it is replaced by the report of my 9.3.  The impact literally rolls the ram and he hits the ground so hard that I only catch a glimpse of what is happening through the scope.  The ram is a very nice, old ram.  He is not huge lengthwise, but his bases are huge and I begin to see what Johann was talking about when he is compared to the other ram.  I am happy with the trophy, and even more so with my shooting, five shots, five kills. 

As we set up for pictures and wait for the truck, I notice the herd of surviving springbuck is still fairly close by, maybe 80-100 yards.  They are sort of just milling about not looking alarmed or heading for parts unknown.  When I mention this to Johann, he gives me a biology lesson on springbuck.  The herd is now without a leader.  Without the leader to lead them to safety, they do not know what to do so they stand around waiting and watching.  I ask how long they will be this way and he reply is “Only for a day or so.  Another ram will take this one’s place fairly quickly and things will return to normal.

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