Safari 2012 Journal Entries: Day Four – Thursday, July 19th, 2012 (part 2) Bad Night and Mountian Zebra

by david on August 10, 2012

 

In an instant, we are out of transportation mode and into stealth mode.  We peek over a small rise to our right and a small group of zebra are grazing completely unaware of our presence about 250 yards away.  I had already informed Johann that I wanted to sneak in for close shots on this trip, and to do so here would take some doing.  If you haven’t figured it out, already I have unintentionally made things difficult for myself this trip, so why stop now.  To get to within my 100-yard range, we will have to negotiate a steep grade with loose rocks and then cover about 100 more yards over small rocks that crunch with every step.  Johann instructs Willie to stay up top and spot for us.  He also knows the fewer feet will make less noise.  He motions me forward and we start our impossible stalk.          

            The pace is excruciatingly slow, but we manage to descend the slope without scaring our intended quarry into the next district.  Now for the gravel.  We ease one foot up and ease it down, and we repeat this process for the next twenty minutes.  Sometimes there is a larger rock to step on, but, for the most part, it is one muffled “cruuuunnnch” after the other.  The sun has already disappeared behind the mountaintop when we stop behind a tree some 80 yards away from (by some strange miracle) the still unaware zebra.  Johann glasses the herd for a few minutes, and then he slowly points out the animal he wants me to take.  I ask no questions, trusting his judgment implicitly.  He eases the shooting sticks into position and I place the rifle in the cradle and prepare myself to shoot.  The sweet spot on a completely broadside zebra is low on the shoulder.  There is a chevron resembling a Private’s stripes that I pick as my aiming point.  Hit that, and you have your zebra.  The animal is slightly quartering away and I mentally picture the chevron on the zebra’s other side, and put my crosshairs on that imaginary target.  One good thing about the slow stalk is I do not have to catch my breath.  I take three deep breaths, let the last one half-ways out, and start my trigger pull. 

            The sound and recoil startle me when the shot goes off.  This is a good sign that I did not pull my shot.  The zebra hunches up into the air (another good sign) and takes off.  I try to get one more shot off, but the brush is thick and I fear I may hit the wrong animal.  I try to keep my eyes on the animal, but it soon is behind a tree and I lose track of it.  Tjokkie somehow magically appears beside me and congratulates me on the shot.  I am not as sure, as the last I saw of the animal it was in high gear and headed elsewhere.  He explains that from his higher vantage point he saw the bullet pass through the off shoulder right where it should have and the animal will not go far.  We go to where we think the animal went down and start looking for a blood trail. 

            We look for a several minutes and see nothing.  I start to worry I screwed up.  That would be par for the course with the way my luck had been running the last two days.  We walk back and forth for a few minutes more, and still nothing.  Then I hear Willie shout, “Over here.  You’re looking in the wrong place!”.  After darting behind the tree, the animal had headed uphill, not downhill.  Willie had watched the whole thing and had seen where the zebra went down.  We were just now finding out about it because Willie had the presence of mind to hike back up to the next ridge where he could get cell reception and had called camp to request the recovery vehicle before coming down to where we were.  Who says kids today don’t think.           

            We made our way over to where Willie was calling from and the zebra had fallen into a drainage washed out by the rainy season.  It would have been tough to find had he not seen it go down.  The animal went maybe 20-30 yards before succumbing to the shot.  As I backtracked, it there was a blood trail even I could follow.  From now on, unless I see it go down, I am starting the tracking at the point of the shot.  I made myself nervous over nothing and would have saved my self some grief had I done so.

            It is close to dark now, so taking pictures becomes our focus.  We move the animal into position and clear the brush around it.  I am grinning from ear to ear when I finally get into position for the first picture.  Heck, we all have our pictures made with the zebra in some combination or the other.  Now, all we had to do was wait for the unimog.  While we wait, I ask Johann why he chose this animal, because from a distance I can’t tell one from another.  He tells me that he had chosen this mare because she was old and barren.  She maybe had another year or so of life, but would probably not have borne anymore foals.  He also chose her because I wanted a zebra rug and since mares do not fight like stallions do their coats are not full of scars.  Upon closer examination that proved to be correct as her coat was gorgeous and scar free.  I am most happy. 

Johann Veldsman & David Brown

 Willie Isle, Michael Tjiveze (Tjokkie), & David Brown

Part 3 Tomorrow

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