Back at Work: Safari 2012 Journal Entries: Day 9 – Tuesday, July 24th, 2012 (part 2)

by david on September 11, 2012

Johann takes an elevated vantage point atop a small koppie, where he can direct Willie and me to the gemsbok in a route unobserved by all of the other eyes in the group.  From there, he directs Willie and I to go all the around the koppie to get to a small berm on the other side.  If we can get there unseen we can peak over the edge and wait for the springbuck herd and our gemsbok to walk right past us at a distance of 50-60 yards.  After we round the koppie we crawl to the edge of the berm and wait for instructions from above.  Once again I am in the situation of having time to think about what is to come.  I have mixed emotions about being in this situation since it has its good and bad points.  Having time to plan and get ready might sound good to some but I find it can be a curse as well.  If I have too much time to plan I tend to overthink things and that increases the odds of me making a mistake.  Sometimes I think it is better if you just have a split second to react and no time to think.  I seem to do better if I just rely on my training and do what I am supposed to without conscious thought.  I’ll have to wait and see what happens this time. 

            Willie and I are just below the crest of the berm, laying on our backs, and looking up at Johann for instructions.  He will tell us when it is safe for us to raise up and take the shot.  We are in place for only a few moments when I get a face full of dust and a very depressing feeling.  I close my eyes and silently hope for the best.  When I open them, I glance up at Johann looking for some sign of encouragement but I find none.  In fact, he is on his feet making his way down the koppie in plain sight.  This tells me all I need to know.  This wind carried our scent right to the herd and they are long gone.  A quick lift of my head confirms what I already know, bringing another quote to my thoughts, something about “the best laid plans of mice and men”.

            After a quick war council, we decide to give chase.  It is possible the herd only picked up our scent without visual confirmation and they might not have gone too far.  Johann knows which way they went and we head in that direction.  The walk is not too bad.  It is mostly flat so I am not too worried about catching up with them, that is until I am led to the base of an enormous koppie.  Instead of going around it like the animals did, Johann decided we should climb, spot them from above, and then plan a stalk.  So much for my “best laid plans”.  Up we go.  The incline is steep (I would guess at least 55 degrees), which forces me to shoulder my rifle to allow for the use of my hands to navigate the incline.  It looks like we will gain between 300 and 400 feet in elevation before we come close to the top.  If all of that was not bad enough, the side we were going up was made up of loose rock and I must watch every step so I do not end up unexpectedly at the bottom. 

            We manage to make it to the top and I am only huffing and puffing slightly.  I am relieved to see our quarry in plain sight about 600 yards away from the base of the koppie.  I am not sure what happened next.  We are just sitting there, slightly below the top of the koppie, when the gemsbok turned and ran for all he was worth in the opposite direction.  We all look at each other with our mouths hanging open in disbelief at what just happened.  There is nothing left for us to do except come up with plan “J” or “K”.  I can’t really remember which we were on at this point in the day.  We head up to the top of the koppie and glass unsuccessfully for another gemsbok. 

            It is getting close to lunch time and we decide to cruise by some water holes just in case there are any gemsbok in the area.  Three times we spot gemsbok, three times we stalk gemsbok, and three times none qualify for a management gemsbok.  It’s just as well, as I am getting hungry and I am ready for lunch.  Tualuka must be the

‘Promised Land” for gemsbok as they all appear to be happy and extremely healthy.

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