Safari 2014: The Caprvi Strip / Update 05/19/2014 The Lion and the Sand Grouse

by david on May 19, 2014

Last week I promised another tale of wingshooting in Africa, so here goes.   I was on a seven-day buffalo hunt in Chirisa National park in Zimbabwe.  It was day six and I had been able to take my first buffalo that morning.  With the majority of the day spent, I decided to try some sand grouse hunting.  Being an avid bird hunter in the states, I had wanted to hunt birds in Africa for a long time.  What really whet my appetite was reading the descriptions of Robert Roark’s and Peter Capstick’s shoots.  Those fast and furious shoots just before sundown had me daydreaming for years.  I just had to give it a try.

I was lucky enough to have a most generous PH by the name of Phillip Smyth.  I say generous because since I did not have enough baggage weight allowance to bring my own shotgun, he had agreed to allow me to use his “Greener”.  The gun was exquisite and probably one of the best examples of British gun making that I have put my hands on.  There was only one problem.  It had double triggers.  Being a spoiled American, all of my shotguns, including my double barrels, are single or single selective triggers.  I found out how big a problem this was when earlier in the trip, when a sand grouse eased along the side of the road on our way home. Phil suggested that I try to take the bird as practice for later in the week.  He neglected to tell me that you cannot put fingers on both triggers at the same time.  That is, unless you want to amuse your hunting party by loosing both barrels at approximately the same time and that is exactly what I did.  After he quit laughing and picked himself up, Phil explained that although you could start with either trigger, then use only one finger and move it after the first shot.  He also told me that he preferred to start with the rear trigger and move the finger forward.  That would prevent one’s finger from slipping and would prevent another accidental discharge.

I was trying to keep all of this in mind as we started down the dry bed of the Sengwa River to find a perfect spot for our evening hunt.  That proved to be difficult.  The experience of taking my first “buff” that morning kept creeping back in.  I really should not have been surprised when the land cruiser jerked to a stop, but I was.  It seemed that another sand grouse was tempting me by walking along the bank of the river.  Phil said to get out, sneak closer, flush the bird, and then take another practice shot with the gun.  I took the shotgun, stepped out of the truck, dropped in two shells, and closed her up.  The solid clunking sound the action made when I closed was a sound that I knew, and it was comforting to hear that familiar noise.  So comforting that I was able to slip out of the “Africa big game hunting mode” and into “American upland hunting mode”.  I thought of a fat rooster pheasant trying to slip away through the thin grass of a late season hunt.  I started trying to get closer to my quarry and cautiously placed one foot in front of the other while not taking my eyes off of the bird.  All of this was to no avail because, for every step I took, the silly bird took three or four.  Before I knew it I had traveled about fifty yards from the truck.  I decided that I was wasting time and needed to flush this bird and move on.  I placed my trigger finger alongside the action and then clicked off the safety.  Then I took my boot and kicked up a bunch of sand at the bird, figuring it would fly and I would shoot it.  Wrong.  The darn thing just sat there looking at me like I was crazy.  The only thing left to do was take a run at it to flush it.  That worked, but doing so put my feet along with the rest of my body out of position for a proper shot.  The result was two loud booms and a bird that was headed for parts unknown.

Dejectedly I turned toward the truck to look for some support.  Boy, was I disappointed.  There was not only no support, they were all laughing their backsides off.  How rude, I thought.  They were supposed to be taking care of me in this place so far away from home.  I was going to give them a good piece of my mind when I got over there.  When I got to the truck, they were just catching their breath.  Just as I opened my mouth to get in the first words, Phil stopped me cold with five words, “You sure scared that lion”.  “What lion?” was all I could reply back to him.  “The one at the edge of the bush about 200 yards that way”, he said.  “What lion?” came out again as I looked in the direction he pointed in.  “The one that watched you the whole time you were out of the truck”, he replied.  “What lion?”, I heard myself say one last time.  At that, they all broke into hysterics again and all I could do was climb back into the truck and await further explanation.

When things quieted down, Phil explained what happened.  I had not gone very far when Leonard, Phil’s tracker had spotted the napping cat in the bush about 200 yards off to our right. The lion had not really shown any interest in me other than to watch the chain of events unfold.  It had decided however that when I swung at the bird and fired in its general direction, there was a quieter place to nap somewhere else.  Phil told me that at the second report from the shotgun, the lion jumped up and disappeared into the bush.

In hindsight, that was a valuable lesson learned the easy way.  Do not slip into “American hunting mode” while you are in Africa.  There are a lot more things in Africa that could be interested in eating or stepping on you than we have to deal with in the States.  With that thought in mind, I went on to have my evening sand grouse hunt.  It was not fast and furious, but it was most enjoyable, even if I did have to keep looking in the bushes for lions or other beasties



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