Safari 2012 Journal Entries: Day Five – Friday, July 20th, 2012 (part 2) Springbuck and Wildebeest

by david on August 15, 2012

 Johann never stays still for very long.  After his and Willie’s contest of trying to hit a rock tossed into the air with another rock, he starts glassing again.  I don’t see anything but a whole lot of nothing as we are in the open savannah and there is grass for miles in every direction.  I ask if he sees anything and he replies that there is a group of springbuck about three miles away I might want to have a closer look at.  I squint in the direction he is looking and, sure enough, about three miles away I see a lone tree with some little black dots beside it and I describe what I see to him.  I am proud of myself for seeing what he sees before the last day of the safari (which is almost always the case).  He lowers his binoculars with a strange look on his face and promptly informs me the black dots are actually cows.  The springbuck are on the other side of the tree.  “Curses, foiled again!”.  At least I still have a few more days to see something before or at the same time as he does and still beat my last-day-of-the trip norm.           

            Thankfully, I spot a cloud of dust some miles off, and that turns out to be Tjokkie bringing the truck.  It pains me to say so but I am saved from further embarrassment by a cloud of dust.  We get into the truck and Johann heads straight for that single tree in the middle of nothing to get a better look.  We stop about a mile away and he climbs up on top to get a better vantage point.  “You up for a short stalk to see if we can get up close on those rams?”, he asks?  I see no possible way we are going to get anywhere close to them, but I have learned not to underestimate my friend.  When he says something can be done, it normally can as long as I can follow his instructions.    

            We start our mile long stalk by putting the tree directly between us and the largest group of springbuck.  There is another group of three about 400 yards off to the right of the main group, which we can do nothing about other than stay outside of their panic zone.  We also walk single-file, with me stepping in his each and every footstep.  I do this not to minimize noise but to minimize our silhouette.  From a distance we do not look like two men sneaking up on something; we look rather like a large, four-legged animal that would not pose a threat.  This will work up to a point, but will allow us to get only so close.  When we get to that point the line of site will, hopefully, have changed enough to allow that single tree to conceal us.  Between walking in unison, stopping when we are being directly looked at, and using the half-dozen cattle (the black dots I saw) and the tree to obscure us, we cover the mile in about half an hour.  It is mid-day and the African sun is beating down on us unmercifully.        

            We finally reach the tree, and I am relieved we have not spooked the animals and will get a chance to glass them a little better.  I am even more relieved (you might say down-right ecstatic) when Johann drops down to crawl under the tree’s canopy and puts the tree trunk between himself and the herd of springbuck.  I follow him under the canopy and start liking things even better.  It has to be 15 degrees cooler in the shade and I can sit, relax, and wait for further instructions in relative comfort.  The trees canopy comes to within about 30” of the ground at the perimeter and gives us almost 80” of vertical clearance in the center.  Yes sir-ree-bobcat I could get used to this in a hurry.  The tree provides the most comfortable hiding place I have ever had on a hunt. 

            The rams are bedded down, evidently taking a siesta, and they seem content.  The problem is that the one Johann is most interested in needs to turn slightly for us to get a good look at him.  We wait, and wait.  Fifteen minutes goes by and still nothing, no movement at all.  Johann whispers, “Get ready, I am going to make him stand up”.  I ease over to the side where I can see the best and spread the sticks out as low as they will go.  In this position, I can sit on the ground and use the sticks to support the front of the rifle, and I am very stable and comfortable out to about 300 yards’ shooting distance.  That distance will not be necessary, as these rams are 110-120 yards away.  When I am set, I let Johann know, and he “bleats” at the springbuck.  One by one, they start to stand up, all but the one we are interested in.  The others start milling about and a few start toward the water trough where the cattle have been hanging out.  More and more springbuck are headed to water, and this guy is still contently snoozing away.  The first ones to head to water are now ten to twelve yards from our hiding spot, and getting closer.  If either one of us moves much at all, the tree will not provide enough cover to keeping us from being spotted.  Finally, the ram starts to stand and Johann gets a clear look at his head gear.  It is a snap decision.  Just as the ram starts to stretch, Johann says, “Shoot”.  Before the sound of the “t” in shoot is said, the 9.3 barks and drops the springbuck in his tracks.  He did not even get to finish his stretch as he stood.  After the grins and handshakes, we walk over to the ram. 

            When we reach the ram, the flap of skin along his back is starting its final pronk.  Pronking refers to the behavior of jumping or bouncing like a ball with a flap of hair erected along its back to show the white undercoat.  The Afrikaans’ word “pronk” means to show off.  Whether this is showing off or serves as an announcement to others of danger, no one is sure.  Upon death, however, the animal’s nervous system reactions cause the flap of skin to pronk one more time, displaying the white underside for a few moments.  It is quite a sight.  We take our picture and wait for Willie and Tjokkie to get to us in the truck.  I am happy with my shooting so far — two shots, two animals.          

            We load the ram in the truck bed and head for the main lodge at Ermo.  We leave Tjokkie to cape it, salt the hide, and have his lunch while we head to a mountaintop observation site to glass for animals to stalk after lunch.  On the way, we come across our third herd of wildebeest of the day and get a glimpse of what might be a big bull.  We back the truck out of site and the stalk begins.  The results are better than this morning as we stalk this group a mile and a quarter before the fickle wind betrays us and the herd heads for parts unknown at full speed. 

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