Safari 2012 Journal Entries: Day 8 – Monday, July 23nd, 2012 (part 3) Springbuck

by david on September 4, 2012

On the way back to the lodge, we are cruising past Jan’s (Johann’s friend and fellow PH) father’s place, when the brakes on the truck lock up and we skid to a stop just as a huge leopard runs across in front of us.  I mean this cat is stretched out and going as fast as he can.  The truck has not even stopped rocking from its sudden stop when Willie hands me my rifle.  Johann is already out of the truck with his and as soon as I have a grip on mine Willie’s feet hit the gravel.  The leopard has disappeared into some very thick vegetation on the other side of the road.  The strip of vegetation is only about 20 yards deep and it buts up against a sheer rock face that is about 150-feet high.  That puts a very large cat within 50-60 feet of us. 

I load the rifle (I refuse to travel with it loaded) and ease myself out the door of the truck to join my friends.  Johann tells me to keep my eyes open for the cat, as it would make Jan’s father most happy (he is a cattle rancher) if his farm had one less leopard on it.  He and Willie walk up to the edge of the bush and try and spot the cat either in the veld (almost impossible given their coloring) or on the face of the cliff trying to escape.  I prefer to keep a little distance between anything with teeth and claws so I hung out a few feet further back. 

Keeping my distance from the road’s edge was made more difficult by the traffic.  A gravel road that normally sees 10-12 cars a day now seems to be like the rush hour in LA.  Even more distracting (at least to me) is that no one seems the least bit curious as to why there are three guys dressed in camo carrying guns standing in the road.  Maybe all the dust the cars are kicking up is preventing them from seeing us, I simply do not know, but we are not on their radar.  The traffic seems to be finally thinning out, and, when the dust settles, we may get another glimpse of the cat.  Maybe this bit of luck would be the icing on the cake to make up for the elephant hunt going south and my being sick.  I would not get to keep any trophy, but I would keep one hell of a memory.  Heck, I already had one hell of a memory.  

In actuality, it takes only two minutes for the traffic and dust to settle and we start looking for the cat in earnest.  Johann and I keep our eyes pasted on the veld and cliff face while Willie locates the cat’s tracks in the dirt road.  He is able to follow the tracks across the road and we locate where the cat went over the fence, but that is as far as we dare go.  More than likely, the cat has already been up and over the rock wall only 50 feet away.  He could have simply walked along its base until he was out of range, or he could be laying 20 feet away watching us.  We’ll never know.  What we do know is the vegetation is much, much too thick to go in looking for him.  A leopard differs from most dangerous game in that he gives you no warning when he comes for you.  A lion will almost always roar, an elephant trumpet, a buff snort, but not Mr. Spots.  He is just on top of you before you know he is even close.  Unless you can see for a short ways, he has all the advantage.  It does not take much to convince us that discretion is the better part of valor in this instance.  No matter how bad we would like the cat, the risk is not worth the reward.

            The afternoon found me relaxing and catching up with my journal.  I try to make complete entries every evening but sometimes it gets late or I am tired and I only make notes.  When I have time, I go back and expand the notes filling in between the lines, so to speak, adding individual details and all of the little nuances of each situation.  I have never gone more than a day in doing so before this trip.  The only saving grace is I was sick and there was not much going on anyway.  Maybe I should have forced myself to write while I was under the weather.  With a fever and various drugs running through my system, there could have been some really “interesting” stories put down on paper, but I think I will stick to nonfiction for a while.  I am actually enjoying a lazy afternoon with my thoughts.  To be able to have such a day — to stop and smell the bushveld if you please — is one of the reasons I am taking eleven days in country this trip.  Hint #33 in the book advises you to keep a journal and make daily entries, and this is what I am doing (albeit in a modified form this trip).  The little bits of memories fade from memory too quickly if you do not put them to paper.

            The evening finds us headed back to Orpheus.  Danie and his wife, Carina, have invited us to dinner.  They are longtime friends of Johann and Vera’s and, as I mentioned earlier, I met Danie in Pennsylvania at a hunting show last February.  Carina is purportedly a very good cook and, since I love to eat, this sounds like fun.  Add in a few more people into the conversational mix at dinner and the night is guaranteed to be fun.  I am caught off guard by a whitetail and a wild turkey mount on display in Danie’s trophy room.  He collected them in the states on a previous visit.  After I got over the shock of seeing them there, I found they fit in rather well.  Dinner is enjoyable, with lots of good food, drink, and conversation.  It ends too soon, as we must head back as we have another early start tomorrow.  __________________________________________________________________________

Technical notes for those of you who asked:

The shot on the springbuck came at 60 yards.  The ram was quartering to me and I aimed for the front edge of the shoulder.  The bullet entered the shoulder and exited out of his back on the other side.  Upon closer inspection, the bullet passed through the spine.  Hitting the spine is what knocked him to the ground so dramatically.  My scope was turned down to 2x magnification in order to keep a wide a field of view as possible.  In all honesty, I do not remember if I turned it up before the shot or not.  My guess is not, as I was afraid of spooking the other springbuck around us. 


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