Caprivi Strip, 2014 Part 14

by david on April 17, 2015

The Dance

4:30 is awfully early to get up on vacation, but it was necessary for me to be ready to leave by 5:30 especially if I am going to have time for a quick breakfast and coffee. Hot coffee was all that kept me functioning in the back of the truck as we left in the predawn hours. The weather in the Caprivi gets hot quickly when the sun comes up.

The coffee was especially welcome today as we were going to sit and glass awhile for some buffalo. Hunting buffalo in the Caprivi can be likened to dance. If the buffalo make a certain move, the hunter has to make the correct countermove. The buffalo’s moves are dictated by the rainy season and its resulting time schedule. Where the water is found has a great deal to do with the buffalo’s behavior. Politics and hunting regulations of the neighboring countries have also begun to effect the dance. It is almost a kin to an unwanted rival trying to cut in. To make a long story very short, Botswana is just the other side of the Chobe River.

Botswana outlawed almost all hunting a few years ago and the resulting animal population explosion resulted in a food shortage. On the Botswana side of the Chobe, the grass is been so completely consumed that there is nothing but bare ground for as far as the eye can see across the river. The trees and shrubs are being eaten down to short stumps. That translates to a mass river crossing twice daily. Each evening, the buffalo (and all sorts of other critters) cross the river into Namibia to find something to eat. Every morning they cross back to escape the hunting pressure. Our hope was to find buffalo still on the Namibian side of the river. This was our third attempt to find a dance partner, but Mother Nature was keeping our dance card empty at the moment. With no buff to be found, we decided to head back to the core area to see if we could find the group from the previous evening.

We have just started in that direction when Angel spotted elephant. We pulled into the shade of a few trees to try and be less conspicuous and start glassing. There are quite a few animals in this herd, probably 40-50, and several bulls that qualified for “own use” status. Byron showed me the bull he has selected. Though not quite what I wanted, he is close enough and we can get to him. Byron, Johann and I start closing the distance. The pace quickens to a little more than a fast walk, much too fast for me to remain stealthy. At this speed it was inevitable. Sure enough, there was a loud crack as my foot came into contact with a stick. The “crack” resulted in a startled elephant and away he went. Luckily, he and the rest of the herd did not know what made the noise and could not pick up our scent, so they did not go too far. Byron was none too happy about me stepping on the stick until I reminded him of a conversation we had on day one. I told him, “I can go fast or I can go quietly, but I can’t do both at the same time”. When I move quickly, my head is up and I am watching where I am going not looking at sticks on the ground. If I am going to watch the ground, not what is in front of me, I will be moving slowly enough so if I run into something it will not do too much damage. Anyway, the result was a blown stalk and the start of a game of cat and mouse that would last from 7:15AM until 4PM.

Monday: Cat and Mouse


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