Adelaide RSA February 2005

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
South Africa February 2005
February 14, 2005 2:15AM
Emily picks me up at the shop at 2:15 AM to get to the airport early for my 6:00AM flight to Atlanta. Check in does not open until 4:15 , but the flight leaves on time and arrive after a short flight at 9:00AM. It is really exciting to be returning to Africa again 15 years later. I wish III were coming as well. It is a nice Valentines gift for Sarah to be cooperative and let me go hunting for 2 weeks. I have never really gone anywhere all by myself before and it will be quite an adventure to meet new people. Once the plane has arrived at the gate, I hustle over to check in at the South Africa Airlines desk and then wait a couple hours for the next leg of the journey to begin. I sit and read a novel and a man sits down next to me and offers me a bag of Doritos. I decline, but he insists and I give in. He is about 30 years old and middle Eastern looking. I find out after a long conversation that he is a business man from Malawi, a small impoverished nation north east of Zimbabwe. I have never heard of it before. He is originally from Lebanon, but his family decided to have him go to New York to work with an uncle in the diamond business. He traveled around the world picking up and transporting precious stones for the business. He had been to Antwerp, Sierra Leone, Israel, Thailand and many other gem processing centers of the world. After several years he wanted to go home to live, but the violence and fighting caused him to stay away. He ended up losing all his money due to price fluctuations in the market between the Congo and Antwerp. Eventually he found his way into the wholesale used clothing market. He is currently returning from a trip to meet with charitable organizations in Houston, Phoenix, Miami, and Atlanta. These organizations, like salvation Army and others receive donations of mass amounts of used clothing. They sell some of the best items in stores, but the rest is sorted, graded and sold to wholesalers from third world nations. This fellow buys the clothing at very low bulk price and has it loaded into containers for shipping to South Africa and onto Malawi. He has completed arrangements to purchase 2 container loads of clothing a month for $8000. the shipping will cost an additional $4000 and then he will sell the product to local wholesalers for $20,000 per container. There are around 2,000,000 articles of clothing in a container. The items are then disbursed to street vendors who sell them in towns and villages all over the countryside. I have always wondered about how we could see poor Africans dressed in clothing covered with iconic pop culture symbols and name brands. They only have one or two sets of clothing and it costs them about $.25 for an item. This seems cheap, but in several of the interior African countries, the annual average income is under $200, most of which must be spent on food. I have some apprehension about spending twp hours associating with a young middle eastern man who would be profiled as a terrorist candidate, but I learned some very interesting information from him. His wife is from Sydney Australia, and he has 3 kids, 7, 3, and 2 months old. He is pretty nice. When our flight is called for boarding we separate, and I never see him again, but I have received a valuable lesson about the world and the people who live in different areas of it.
I board a large Airbus A340 plane half an hour late expecting a 7 hour flight with a stop at SAL island in the canaries for fuel. The flight is only 50 percent full which is nice so everyone can spread out a little bit. There are personal entertainment systems for each passenger with movies, games, TV shows, music and a flight information map. It helps to pass the time, and the service is excellent, but it is still a brutally long trip. The stop at SAL island is for an hour or so and no one is allowed to leave the aircraft or get on or even use the restrooms. Airborne again service resumes and for 9 more hours the boredom continues. I try to rest, but have a lot of trouble doing so as I am so excited and wound up. Eventually the 17hour flight is over as we land at Johannesburg International Airport. I deplane and get through customs with no troubles. As it is not the normal hunting season there are no lines for the weapons inspection and it goes smoothly. A short walk over to the domestic terminal to check in for the flight to East London. I have a porter carry my gear and he is elated to have the work. I give him $5US and he thinks he is rich. The airport is not very busy, but it seems a lot different than when I was here 15 years ago. I change $750US for $R4400 and go have a huge steak for $R70, about $12US. Quite a deal. I notice that at the stores around the terminal the prices for most goods, especially electronics are outrageous, at least 3-5 times what they are at home. Food on the other hand is really cheap. The terminal seems old and not maintained all that well. There is a lot of cheap labor around and I estimate that there are 3 times as many workers as are really required. The industry that I am able to see seems light, outdated and using lots of obsolete equipment. The combination of cheap labor, limited foreign exchange and small market make for an industrial sector geared more for repair and maintainence than efficient production like I am used to in the States. I purchase a bunch of post cards and fill them out and read while I wait for the flight to be called. I am exhausted, but feel I better stay alert and plan on resting when I arrive at camp. The flight to East London is on an old 737 and is 30%full. I notice that the prices for blacks to fly is heavily subsidized and their cost is only 10% of the fare I had to pay. The trip is only 1.5 hours and I can see the countryside pretty well the whole time. There is agriculture and mining in evidence, but little else. The airport is tiny, hardly bigger than Hoven SD and the 737 only flies in and out a couple times a week. The plane needs the whole runway to land and takeoff. I see a number of Guinea fowl strutting around right on the tarmac and there is game fence surrounding the whole area to keep large animals off the property. I am promptly greeted by Charles Ballantyne. On the approach I saw the Indian Ocean. It was very calm and light blue. I am the only one with checked baggage and so it does not take long to collect my things. Charles and I hit it off right away. He is 25 years old and I am pleased that he is in good physical condition and has a great attitude toward bow hunting. He has done some himself and worked with his father and brother for many years as a PH. There is a grain terminal in East London and rail acces. The town is very small and settled by the British in the 1820s.
We have a 1.5 hour drive ahead of us and get started right away. Charles has already picked up some supplies and has one black fellow along to help him. We load into a white diesel Landcruiser pickup. I get the left seat and the helper climbs into the truck bed for a nap on the way back home. The town gives way immediately to scrub, olive trees and low brush. It is very hilly and mountainous, rising to 2500 feet above sea level very quickly. There are lots of rundown shanty towns, ghost towns, blacks standing all along the road waiting for a ride. The roads are terrible. I remember that when I was here last the roads were in excellent condition.. Charles claims that the road money has gone to lining the pockets of the politicians and their entourage instead of to the people. The Ballantynes have a couple older Landcruisers to haul around clients. They are well suited to the job. The area we pass through next is called Saska. It is a huge black resettlement area taken away form whites who once worked the land. Mostly the blacks are unemployed, about 90%, but there is some seasonal work harvesting citrus though really nothing else for them to do.
We arrive at the ranch and immediately see 2 blesboks and a Kudu. I can hardly believe that I am back in Africa again. I have discussed my intentions of hunting mainly with bow and being satisfied with whatever the outcome. I will shoot anything I see and not be fussy with size or certain species. Charles figures that I will get a chance at maybe 4-6 animals in the hunt and I feel this will be pretty good. I had been warned by other outfitters and hunters that February is a bad time to go and no one goes then. Anyone who would take my money would only be leading me on. I disagree and think that I will have a chance to try it anyway. I have the time now and I want to see what Africa is like in the spring and summer instead of the fall and winter like my other visits. It is lush and green now instead of dead and brown. Obviously the animals can hide easier, but I can too and sneaking closer should be easier. One possible problem is that the snakes and insects will be very active as well. It will be very hot and rain a lot instead of cool with no rain in the forecast for weeks at a time. Oh well. Here I am and I will get the most I can from the experience. Charles has never hunted this early and has never hunted with a bowhunter before, although he has bow hunted a little himself. He looks forward to the challenge as do I. The weather is pretty decent, 75 F, but very muggy and overcast.
The lodge is quite nice with a trophy room and a long banquet table. The fellow that rode with us is the head tracker and skinner. His name is "Tools". He speaks very little English, but is very competent at his job. There are two small Jack Russell terriers for blood tracking dogs that accompany Charles on his hunts. There are 20 plus species available in the wild right on this piece of property and I can hunt right out of the door of my cabin. I meet Amy, Charles' girlfriend and the head cook, housekeeper. She is extremely pleasant and about 20 years old. Charles was a PH working for Amy's father who happens to be the guy I watched on OLN for several episodes of an African hunting journal. We visit for a couple hours then have a nice hotdish for dinner. I was very pleased to learn that I would have the place to myself, there would be no other hunters. I am wiped out so I head for bed immediately. I have a king size bed in a screened in cabin with shower. I unpack my gear, setup some arrows and stumble into bed at 10:30PM. The plan is to be up at 5PM to have a quick breakfast and start hunting. I have only a brief thought of how lucky I am to be here before everything goes blank and I fall into a deep sleep.
February 16, 2005 Hunt Day 1
Up at 5:00AM, quick breakfast and then I work on sighting in my bows. I am a little nervous shooting in front of observers who are judging how well I can shoot and how hard they will have to work to get me close, and then after all the work will I be able to get the job done or will I screw it up? Anyway, I sight in ok out to 80 yards and am satisfied. Charles and Tools seem pleased and we decide to head out and hunt.
We drive about 25 miles to the Kingsdale property where the Ballantyne family home is. It is a cool morning but will probably get hot later. We travel over a very rough road and pass through a tough looking black town. As soon as we pull through the gate onto the property, we spot a group of 20 or so impala and a few eland. I am tremendously excited to see animals right off the bat. We back off and give the animals some room and then begin a stalk, which was nearly successful on several occasions for both impala and Eland. After an hour we decide to move to another area and try to get close to some impala. Again we see a lot of animals, but do not have luck getting close. We scout around with the truck and Charles decides we should take a walk around a stock dam and try for a Lechwe in a location where they are often drinking. We begin a stalk of about 2.5 miles and as we get close, the animals spook and run off from the waterhole. However, shortly thereafter I spot a small group of warthogs and sit tight as they head right towards us. I wait until the larger of the group is broadside at 26 yards and let fly a Rocket broadhead tipped Matrix 300 shaft into the vitals of the swine. The arrow passes through both lungs totally surprising the wretched beast who squeals terribly and tears off into the bush. The pig only makes it 20 yards before collapsing to the red earth. We take a bunch of pictures and wash up the pig so it looks presentable. I am elated. It is my first bow kill in Africa on the morning of my first day and it is a clean kill. The ice is really broken now and my confidence starts to set in. The pig has medium size tusks and is certainly not a record book trophy, but it is a real trophy to me. We load up the beast into the truck, have a drink break as it is starting to get very hot, around 95-100now and the sun beats down powerfully. We bring the pig in to the ranch house for Tools to work on skinning it and we head into the field again. We went on a long stalk down some gullies to see whatever we could see and saw tons of animals. After several failed stalks, close calls and miscalculations of the wind direction, a group of 15 fallow deer ran right at us. I was hunkered down in a gully near a well used crossing point and the deer thundered practically over me. I spotted one that looked like he had a pretty good rack, drew and waited for him to run into my sight. I shot just in front of him as he was running fast and the arrow struck his jugular at 5 yards. The startled buck dropped like lights out and was dead at my feet. It is a light tan colored coat and the rack has 19 points. I sure don't know anybody who has a 19 point buck shot with a bow. I can not believe that at 12pm on the first day I have two nice trophies in the box by spot and stalk archery. I sure am not going to touch a rifle now that I have tasted some success with stick and string. We take pictures of the buck, clean him up and head to the house for sandwiches. I notice that I have become a bit dehydrated and drink a lot of water. Also I am getting quite sunburned so I belatedly put on some lotion.
The home is old and very sturdy. It has a 30s decor feel. It has thick concrete walls, hardly any windows, high ceilings, and few lights. There is a beautiful garden all around the fenced compound and a lot of shade from the trees. It is cool in the house despite being nearly 110F outside. There are many great trophies of African game displayed throughout the house.
We go out onto the savannah area and sit on a high blind overlooking a game path. We see animals in every direction. Immediately a group of 6 Eland come past to feed. After watching for 20 minutes I decide to shoot the largest in the group. He is much larger than the one Dad shot in 1989 in SA, but as I begin to draw, the group takes off. For a couple hours we watch animals all over through binoculars, but none come close. We see Mountain Reedbok, Black Wildebeests, Blue Wildebeests, Re Hartebeests, Impala, Lechwe, Blesbok, jackal and a wild cat. There are also tons of beautiful birds and all manner of interesting insects. It is tremendously hot and we are totally exposed to the sun. I am sweating profusely and need more to drink. As we are thinking about getting off of the stand and looking for a little shade, the group of Eland return to take a drink. There are two additional members added to the group. At 530PM after 15 minutes of patience I get a 36 yard shot and screw it up, hitting the big bull eland much too high in the neck. He is hurt badly, but still very mobile. The whole group runs off to our left, and I take a follow up shot at 80 yards . The arrow passes through he paunch of the running beast. I am a little disappointed now, but the group stops 150 yards from us to wait for the wounded bull to catch up. We jump down from the blind and sprint after the bull. He lays down and we angle for another shot. As we approach to 100 yards, the bull stiffly rises to its feet again and tries to trot off, but it is hurt bad from the two shots already. I shoot again at 85 yards quartering away from me and the arrow from the 95 pound draw Matthews Black Max 2 enters the right rear paunch and exits through the front of the left chest, passing through all of the vitals in the process. The bull falls almost immediately as if it's legs were chopped out from under it. We rapidly approach as the sun is setting and we do not want the beast to get up again. I take one more insurance shot from 40 yards and the bull is done. I have sure had an amazing day. It is great to be back in Africa. We hurry to take pictures of the 1200 pound antelope and make a call on the radio for the truck and some more guys to help load the massive creature. Despite an initial poor shot, I receive quite a few positive comments on handling the long follow up shots. These guys have never seen a bow killed eland before, including Charles, and they are amazed that all 4 arrows passed entirely through the animal, even at 85 yards the long way through almost 5 feet of torso. We need 5 guys and a winch to maneuver the carcass into the Landcruiser which squats under the load. We drop off the carcass at the house at a block and tackle cleaning station where tools again goes to work. It is dark now and I meet Howard Ballantyne, the owner of the operation and Charles' father and also Eve, Howard's fiance from England.
We drive back to the outpost camp and stop in Adellaide on the way . I meet Dillon of Game works wild game meat butchering. He does thousands of wild animals that are both hunter shot and culled b his teams to sell to restaurants and grocery stores in the larger cities. He and Charles shoot hundreds of Kudu, Blesbok, springbok etc. for meat. They have trucks set up with shooting rests and lights. They drive around with a large refrigerated truck with meat hooks in it and shoot the animals in the head so there is no meat damage. Teams of blacks work to gut the animals and drag them to the truck to cool them off.
On the hour drive back the sky breaks open with fierce lightning and rains terribly hard. The temperature drops and it becomes more bearable even if very humid. We rush in to the lodge and are greeted by Amy who has a tremendous dinner of wildebeest steak, squash, broccoli, and potatoes. I am exhausted again, so it is straight to bed. Today I saw hundreds of animals, had a dozen opportunities to shoot and made three kills, making 20 bow kills now in only 2 years.
I fall asleep quickly after a shower, looking forward to another tough day of heat, humidity and a lot of walking, but hopefully the luck has not run out. Even if it did I have already accomplished as much as I had dreamed possible. Hunting in Africa is really Awesome. I love it here!!
2/17/05 Hunt Day 2
Up at 5AM, quick breakfast of cereal, milk and fruit. Start hunting right outside the door today. Sunup at 6AM, start out walking slowly through scrub bush, still hunting and stalking. A group of blesbok spooks and darts back and forth through the 10 foot high thorny trees. At 720AM a very nice ram blesbok blunders toward me. I have a clear shot at 55 yards, draw and wait for him to stand still. He is looking away from us because the wind is in our face and his. He stops quartering towards me and I let an arrow fly into his chest cavity at 340fps. He whirls his head towards us, bucks into the air, and tears off downwind. After 50 yards he stumbles and lays down. One of the Jack Russell terriers charges towards him and the ram stands to fend him off. He is at bay and no longer paying any attention to us. He thinks that the dog hurt him. I carefully stalk toward him and another arrow through the lungs takes him down for good. The feisty little dog bites and tears at the ram. He is a tough beast and would probably not back down from anything at all, even if he were to be facing death. Number 4 from Africa for the stick and string is in the box. The animal is rich dark brown, about 100 pounds , has 1/2 twist horns, enormous glands under its eyes and is truly a unique animal. The blesboks are from the damalisc family and are found throughout southern Africa. Pictures, load up in the truck and then back out again. Charles does a very thorough job of making sure that the pictures are of the highest possible quality. The animals are cleaned carefully, positioned naturally so the horns have a good background, the sun to the photographers back, the hunter positioned correctly and many shots are taken at different settings to ensure excellent results. With the digital it is obvious that the pictures will look great.
For this next hunt we head into a deep valley that is wet and steamy. The bush is super thick. You cannot even see into it. It is lush and beautiful. Everything is covered in thorns. Full of snakes, birds, insects, flowers, vines and other plants. The trucks make their way up and down the steep muddy tracks to bring us to a stand. We sneak out of the truck and head into a raised blind overlooking a waterhole. Tools drives off and we wait for something to make an appearance. The jungle is alive with noise and small creatures moving about. We can see up the side of a steep hill on the other side of the valley. Nice Kudu are often seen here and shot by rifle hunters on this hill, but usually much later in the season when the foliage has dropped off the trees. We wait for about 2 hours and finally see some movement in the thick jungle opposite us about 150 yards away. There is a group of 15 nyala approaching the waterhole!! I watch carefully through the Leica BRFs and see several cows and calves. There are a couple young bulls that have long horns, but not so thick yet. These animals approach the water very skittishly, as the wind is swirling and changing direction constantly. Luckily they come for a drink and then still deep in the bush we see a very dark bull that Charles says is the herd bull. He watches from the thick cover here we can not see his horns. The others drink 20-50 yards below us and finally the herd bull feels it is safe to approach. He carefully makes his way to the water staying back in the brush as much as possible. He is almost ready to emerge at 45 yards from me broadside. His horns are very thick and long. He has a very dark coat and thick mane. He tests the air with his sharp nose and then gets a sense of something he doesn't like. He bolts into the jungle again with the rest of the herd following . They return 3 times, but the big bull maintains his distance, watching the action from the safety of the jungle foliage. It is a cooler day and rains off and on constantly. There is a blanket of fog covering the valley. The nyala wander back up the hill and disappear down the valley. Charles decides that we have sat for long enough, so we climb down from the blind and slog through the shin deep mud up the slippery road for a mile or so to find tools napping in the drivers seat of the Toyota. We return to the lodge to dry off, clean up and have a hot lunch. A couple hours later the really heavy rain has stopped and the sun is coming out, burning off the fog and mist. We walk to another very thick area to sit on a high stand and wait to see something move by. We see impala, kudu, duiker, mountain reedbok and warthog all at long distance through the thick cover and I try a shot at a nice ram impala. It is 44 yards, a close shot, but there is tons of brush in the way. I try to thread an arrow through to hit him, but the arrow deflects away 20 yards before getting to him. He dashes off through the brush never to be seen again. On the walk back we find the arrow 200 yards downhill from where the ram had been standing. We stalk carefully along surprising many animals, but there are no possibilities for shots at anything due to the range and the thick cover. There are many large holes in the ground from aardwolves and the terriers run down the deep burrows to rout out the animals. I am wary that one may explode from one of the holes and attack me, but none appear. We leave the dogs behind and head back to the truck. Eventually the dogs appear, covered with mud and blood. They have killed something down in the hole and torn it to pieces.
We are treated to a superb dinner of Kudu steaks, vegetables and potatoes. I am worn out from the day, but very excited to have seen a coupe hundred animals of 6 or 8 species and taken a great trophy blesbok. I am sleeping by 10PM and I think that I have adjusted to the time difference with no ill effects. In the moments before drifting off I think about the wonderful day and dream of what tomorrow may hold in store. Until then I will rest to fortify myself for whatever lies ahead.
2/18/2005 Friday Hunt Day 3
Up at 430AM, quick breakfast, load gear into Toyota for the trip to Kingsdale ranch to hunt in the savannah area. It looks to be a very nice day. We drive out onto the huge flat plain between two sets of high ridges and Charles decides that we should setup an ambush for a Black Wildebeest in an area that is dominated by one particular huge old bull. We hunker down in a gully and wait. It only takes 10 minutes before a herd group of about 12 individuals comes walking down a game trail. The old bull leads the group and passes by at 65 yards. I have no cover as I rise to draw and sight on the lungs. The bull turns towards me then back broadside. I shoot and the arrow hits him in both lungs, but too high for instant results. The bull runs off like crazy, whipping from side to side and all the others join in. The thundering hooves and churning dust obscure any clear view of the particular bull, but we find the arrow is covered with pinkish blood and there is a decent trail to follow, but it is lost after a short period due to the other animals trampling it. Charles radios for Tools to come in the truck and he searches carefully and locates the blood trail again heading in the opposite direction of the rest of the herd. A mile or so later and he has lost the trail as well. Charles radios again for more help. Howard, Eve, and several more trackers arrive on the scene. They scour the area and after a couple hours of finding no trace, an old man who it seems can hardly walk or see mutters something in a tribal language to Charles and points up to the far ridge. Sure enough, through binoculars I can clearly see a large black wildebeest standing apart from a herd of others that has a large dark red patch high on his chest. He is nearly 2 miles away. This old man can really see. I can not see the animal at all without glasses, and this old fellow can not only see the animals, but a spot of blood on the side of a specific animal. Amazing! We jump in the nearest vehicle and race to get on top of the distant ridge before the herd heads over it and is lost again. We get above the herd and Charles hands me his .300 Win Mag. At 360 yards we jump out and run to a rock to use as a rest. I sight through the scope and fire. I miss over him as he is downhill and I am sure I flinched. Anyway the herd runs off. We get in the truck again and race after them. This time we get to 280 yards and again I take a shot, this time braced on the hood of the truck. The beast whirls and falls, rolling down the steep incline and over some rocks, but he isn't getting up again. I am pretty excited to have found the animal, but a little disappointed that I could not finish it with the bow. I do not think that we could possibly have approached the wounded bull in the open plains or even on the ridge to get a bow shot. Had the old man not seen it, it could have run off for miles and miles in any direction and never been seen again, or maybe it would have dropped any second.
I run over to the downed creature and he is beautiful. At a distance he looked totally black, but closer I see that there are many shades of black and dark brown splashed across it's body. The gnarled horns are massive and deadly looking. The arrow wound is through both lungs, but high up. The wildebeest would certainly have died soon, as there is frothy pink blood flowing out of the arrow wounds on both sides. These animals are sure tough. The will to live is very strong here. I guess with crocs, cheetahs, leopards, lions and hyenas after you all the time you would have to be pretty tough or you would never make it. We load the bull into the truck which is tilted precariously on the hill and drive to a safer location to take pictures. I thank everyone involved and they all hurry away back to what they were up to before the call for help came in on the radio.
It is time for a break for lunch and the shade feels good as we devour our sandwiches lying on the ground behind the truck. After a short rest, we are dropped off at the top of a high ridge and spend the next 5 hours hiking up and down the 2500foot high hills. Up to glass, down to stalk the gullies and ravines. Up again, down again. I am not in very good shape for this. I will have to improve to be able to hunt in real mountains in the future. We scurry over boulders, along shale slides, up rugged cliffs, and down rock slides. I see an aardwolf, which is actually kind of small, size of a rabbit, but looks like a hyena. It eats mostly grubs and other insects. I disappears down a hole under some rocks to safety. They are endangered and can not be legally shot. I also see a large snake skin probably from a python. We see hundreds of game animals, kudu, blesbok, fallow deer, impala and kudu, but they are all at long distance and we can not get close. The ambushes that we set are not successful either. Sometimes the wind is against us, sometimes the animals just head another direction or take a different path , and sometimes they see us. As we crest a ridge, a mountain reedbok is lying below 150 yards down on some rocks. We stalk carefully down the steep hill and get closer. The ram senses something is up, probably hears us coming from the falling rocks that we are kicking loose and stands to look at us. I have a snap shot opportunity at 62 yards. The footing is bad, I am out of breath, and the reedbok is tensed up. Did I list enough excuses? Anyway I missed and the little critter bounds off down a ravine and disappears. Tough luck for a lot of hard work.!
As the sun is getting close to the horizon, we sit down by a road and wait for Tools to come get us. I realize how dehydrated and sunburned I am. When the truck comes, I have to shake Charles awake. I am at least glad that he is tired as well. The ride back to the lodge is a short one, as I fall asleep as soon as I sit down in the truck. I hardly make it through dinner, and am asleep again as soon as my head hits the pillow. What a day! It was a lot of hard work, some disappointment, but also some good luck and another great trophy. Only three days in and I have equaled my best thought of success for the hunt. Five species in three days all taken with bow. Oh, and a little help from a .300. I can't imagine what the rest of the trip can possibly hold. .................ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ
2/19/2005 Saturday Hunt Day 4
Up after what seems only a couple minutes rest even though it was 7hours. Out hunting after breakfast of eggs and bacon. We head over to the low lush valley south of the lodge again where we saw the nyalas two days ago. We trek down the steep paths and climb into the blind overlooking the waterhole. The morning is cool, about 55F and foggy again. It is actually cold in the shade of the jungle trees. We wait a couple of hours, but the fog is so thick that we can't see much at all. We leave the valley for now by walking back up the muddy steep roads and then head to some pasture land to still hunt for impala. We stalk along stealthily behind thorny bushes and wait to look around for movement, keeping the wind in our face. We spot a white blesbok in the middle of a 500 yard wide clearing. He is looking the other way into the wind and laying down. We have no cover at all once we each the edge of the clearing, so we lay down and low crawl as quietly as we can. It is excruciating. There are thorns and stickers everywhere. After 200 yards of belly crawling, we sneak a look and find that the white damalisc has not budged a bit. He is still 100 yards away, so I take the lead and inch closer. At 75 yards I decide to try a shot. I strain to draw my 95 pound Matthews Black Max2 2 while laying on my back and then sit up to shoot. At this instant, the blesbok must sense that something is wrong because he springs to his feet and turns in my direction. I have a clear chest shot, so I take it. Before he can react, he has been hit through the lungs and drops to the dirt with a thud only 10 yards from the impact. I am really pumped up over this shot and stalk. It was an awesome rush!! The adrenaline now floods into my system and I jump up and down and shout. As I examine the animal I see that he is not really white, but kind of grey hairs mixed with yellow and some white. He has the same facial glands as the brown blesbok. These damaliscs will make a great pair. Pictures, a quick drink break and then off to stalk some more for Impala. We see tons of them and can get a couple hundred yards away through the brush, but there are usually dozens of individuals in the groups and the best ram is in the center. When one ewe or kid spots us, the jig is up and the whole herd bounds off through the thick brush. After several failed attempts and several hours, We creep along the backside of a berm near a waterhole and get to a spot where I can attempt a shot at a nice ram that has wandered to the edge of the group to round up some stray ewes. Charles ranges the ram at 80 yards, but as I shoot the arrow sails 6 feet over the back of the beast. I can not believe it! The string noise causes all the impala to burst away and be gone. I range the location again and get 55 yards. Charles must have gotten something in the background for a laser return. We check our lasers out and they do not always agree. My Leica is a lot more consistent at middle ranges than the Bausch and Lomb that Charles carries. He swears by it for rifle ranges, but I think that it may have a little trouble at closer bow ranges. I will have to be careful to double check in the future. Impala have been my nemesis. When in Zimbabwe, I wounded and lost a nice ram ,and so far I have missed two on this trip as well. Deflated we try a few more stalks on the wary animals, but they all fail for various reasons and so we decide to head in for lunch. It is very hot now, around 110 again and very humid.
We drive around to spot animals and try to decide what to try next. It is so hot that most of the animals are lying in the shade, and when we walk around we are so hot that it is tough going. We spot a couple Kudu bulls in the distant scrub trees and thick bushes. We try a stalk towards them, and it comes close to working, but as we get nearer, an unseen cow kudu sounds the alarm. I see a bull burst from a nearby bush, draw and try to sight, but there is only the most brief shot at a bolting animal. Although it was only 15 yards in front of me I had no idea he was there and was totally unprepared for the shot. Anyway I don't have time to shoot. In the thick cover we can get close to the kudu, but we can't see them and it is too thick to shoot until I am 5 yards away. It does not work out well. We try it a dozen more times and I get to 5 yards of a cow kudu before she realizes the danger and she bursts from cover shocking both of us. I see a little bit of several bulls, but have no chances in the brush. We will have to try something else. Later we emerge on the edge of a 150 yard wide clearing. There are 25 impala contentedly grazing along the far edge of the clearing. We hide behind a bush and look for the herd ram. I spot him and move carefully along the edge behind cover to get a clear shot. I range him at 80 yards and sight on him. He hears the string snap and jumps forward. The arrow hits him in the paunch and they all tear off into the thick stuff. I find the arrow and with a sick feeling I realize that it is covered with green bile. It is a stomach shot and will be very hard to find. There is no blood to be found. Tools appears on the scene and walks all around with me to search for the wounded ram. Impala just are not my strong suit!! After a couple hours we do not have any indication of his presence and give up . We hike a couple miles to a stand and sit to watch for any movement. The sky is dark and suddenly the wind comes at us with enormous force, almost toppling us from our precarious perch in the 15 foot high blind overlooking a water tank. The sky rips open and we are deluged with sheets of driving rain. Thunders and lightning shake the earth and we are drenched in a second. Since it was so hot we have on only t-shirts and become very cold instantly. It is a few mile hike through the strong downpour to the lodge. We are sopping wet and I take a shower to warm up. The rain has dropped the temperature 40 degrees in no time flat. I get to sleep early tonight after a hot dinner of butternut squash soup and chicken. The bed feels good tonight and I fall asleep to the beat of hard rain on the tin roof. It was another awesome day. I had a bit of bad luck, but thrown in with all the good luck I sure have nothing to complain about. I now decide I will really have to get an impala to break the curse. I am thankful to be here and having such a great time.
In the middle of the night I am awakened by a crawling feeling and realize that the bed is covered with insects of all types crawling all over me. I am so tired that it doesn't bother me, but in the me, but I laugh and remember the TV commercial at home where a couple are looking for an exotic location to vacation and awake to find their bed screen covered with bugs. In the morning it is already steaming even though the sun is an hour from rising. It will be a scorcher today. Charles bangs on the tin wall and I spring out of bed for a shower. I am sweating already and the shower does little to alleviate this as I am drenched in sweat as soon as I emerge from the cool water. I have dry clothes and Amy will wash and dry the wet ones from yesterday, but sweating so much they are wet right away anyways.

2/20/2005 Sunday Hunt Day 5

We drive to Kingsdale at 530am to try for Gemsbok. For 5 hours we try to anticipate the movements of these elusive animals. We spot them in the far distance, like 5 miles away and try to hike and stalk towards them. When we drop into a ravine or valley, we expect that they will be closer, but they more often have disappeared altogether. Back up to a high spot to find them again and start over. It is like they know we are after them and they stay a couples steps ahead the whole time. We take a break near noon and try to find some shade for lunch. It is way over 100 again and I down over a gallon of water. After lunch I spot a small snake in the grass ahead of where I am walking. It quickly slithers away and down a hole. It gives me a shiver, and I can't tell what it was. Also see lots of other crawling bugs, and birds. We stumble upon a sleeping mountain reedbok at 30 yards and I miss a hasty shot. Thick grass deflects the arrow and the startled beast bounds 75 yards before turning to see what happened . I try again at 90, 95 yards and 120 and 150 yards, but the animal is so small and flighty that he can almost dodge the arrows. We watch as one of the Jack Russells chases him for a 1/2 mile down a grassy gully. How could I miss at 30 yards from a sleeping animal?!?! Damn it anyway. You don't get much easier shots than that. I have now lost 5 more arrows scattered all over the area. A determined search yields just one arrow found by Tools. Luckily I brought lots of ammo, but I did not expect so much action. I hope I do not run out. I am less than half way through my hunt. At the rate I am going, I will soon have to make some arrows or try spear hunting.
We hike across a n open area of savannah grass and sit under a tree to rest. We notice that a very nice Red hartebeest is heading right for us. He is all alone , has his head down and has huge black gnarled horns atop his odd looking head. He keeps coming and I get ready for a shot. He passes us broadside at 57 yards and I take a shot. It hits him perfectly, but there is no reaction. He just keeps trotting along. He breaks into a run at the impact and goes for 300 yards. I find the arrow covered with pink frothy blood and can't believe he is not down. Charles hands me the rifle again and says we better try to take him because he will outdistance us in no time. We may never see him again, even if he dies soon. There is some thin brush between us, but I decide to try a shot anyway. I get on one knee, sight through the scope and try to decide how high over him to aim. He is now about 450 yards away. Suddenly he tips over and doesn't get up again. We rush over and after gutting him we are amazed to see that he had two holes in each lung. The expandable broadheads opened properly and cut big hole in the lung tissue. How could he have run 600 yards or more. There seemed to be no reaction at all except to fall over finally. The old gnu has a strange flat face, huge horns. black nose, and dark red orange hide. He is 400 plus pounds. A real old bull as evidenced by the worn teeth. He had been kicked out of his herd by younger stronger bulls and was left alone to fend for himself and eventually starve to death. I can't believe my luck. Well as long as there is still time we load up the red hartebeest, and look for more.
Another impala goads me into a shot. The stalk brings me to 55 yards, but brush deflects the arrow again. Can these animals be taken by stalking with a bow?!?!
A short stalk towards a big Red Lechwe bull near a waterhole yields a 62 yard opportunity. I calm myself down and take the shot. It connects, but is a bit back towards the liver area. The Lechwe stiffly trots in to the bushes and grunts at each step. We run after him, but quickly lose him in the brush. The blood trail is easy to follow and I almost step on a small grey black spotted snake. It startles me and I watch it slither away. I call to Charles to ask him what it is. He hurries over to get a look. He says it is a Skapestrakker. It is a non venomous snake. Charles says they hardly ever see snakes and he hates them. He stomps on it and kills it. We wait for a couple trackers to come to us after a call on the radio. A young guy only 15 years old finds the bull lechwe and hurries to show us where it is. I stealthily approach and it is still breathing and facing away into the brush. I take another shot into the ass and penetrate all the way through the chest. The creature's head collapses to the dirt and he lays still. Carefully Charles approaches to downed beast and probes it with his rifle barrel. It is dead. Three black trackers ., Charles and I grab on to the lechwe to drag it out of the bushes and into a more photographically appealing location. It is a large 250 pound animal an the ground is rough. Finally we manhandle the beast into a suitable position, clean it and cut the brush in the area to the ground. This is a real bow trophy. There are not more than a couple guys in the world who have taken Red Lechwe with bow. These animals are one of the real unique species that the Ballantynes have on their extensive hunting concessions to go after. It is a real beauty and I am proud of it. We load up the truck once again. I start to realize that I have shot 30 arrows already and may soon run short of sharp broadheads. I only brought 45 thinking I may get a shot at a couple animals at most and shoot maybe 5 or 6 arrows at the most. I am sure glad I decided on bringing my whole supply.
We try driving up some very steep hills to spot for mountain reedbok. It is so steep that if the truck turned sideways, it would surely roll down the hill. We see a couple nice rams at long distance, but they run off as soon as we stop the truck. As we reach the crest of the mountain at a 50-60 degree slope the other side drops away and the view is unbelievable. I can see many more mountains in the distance, but all are lower than this one. I can see miles and miles. It really does feel like being on top of the world. This is a new part of Africa to me. I love it here. Turning around is very scary. I get out just in case. The trip down is even scarier. It is about 3500 feet top to bottom and the slope is about 50 degrees average. Why did we drive and not walk. I think Charles just wanted to try it to see if his truck would make it. I would love to have been able to drive, but the responsibility is better off with Charles since it is his truck. Charles claims that we would have had no chance on foot anyway because the reedbok would see us coming and run off before we were within 300 yards. We would never see them first he claims. Any way we are out of daylight. Quite an off roading adventure for sure!

This is unbelievable. 8 bow kills so far. My dad must be watching from heaven and helping to herd these unwitting animals into my line of fire. How else could I have such luck?!? The ride back to the lodge and dinner are a blur. There is so much going through my mind that I can hardly think straight. I begin to think about the bill that I am running up. Oh well, this is what I have been working hard for. If I pass something because of the cost I will beat myself up later. We do not have these critters back home. This is the time to hunt. Dad would approve! Make hay while the sun shines. I guess the siding on the house can wait a couple more years. Oh and we better cut back on groceries and all the other non necessities!
What a super day! I can only hope that the rest of my time is a fraction of this so far. If I never see another animal I have already done better than I could have possibly imagined! The hot sticky night and all the thoughts running through my head delay sleep for a while. Eventually I succumb and get 4 or 5 hours of rest.
2/21/2005 Monday Hunt Day 6
Up at 445AM, hunting at Adelaide ranch at 545. We spot and stalk all day for Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Duiker, steenbuck and Waterbuck. Came to 50 yards of Blue Wildebeest, and 15 yards of Kudu cows. I break off a leaf of a large aloe vertex tree and rub the yellow sap on my sunburn and scratches on my arms. These trees are allover. Tools and the other trackers think I am crazy. They will not touch the stuff Charles says. I find out that most aloe for medicinal purposes is commercially grown in RSA. Charles tells me to try a taste of the bright yellow sap excreted from the leaf. I am dubious, but it is aloe and supposed to be good for you. The taste is awful. Not only is it bad, but it soaks into my tongue and takes hours and hours to disappate. Everyone has a good laugh at my expense.
Near the end of the day we had an ambush setup for a group of Impala. 40 Impala come up out of a ravine into a clearing where we had rushed ahead of them and waited for a couple hours while they doddled along on the opposite ridge. While waiting I heard what sounded like a lawnmower heading towards me. I looked up in the air and saw a massive swarm of bees 150 yards long and 50 feet in diameter fly by. It must have been millions if not billions of bees. It was a awesome sight, but also a little scary. It is very sunny, and 100F. Deafening and it had me pretty tensed up and hoping that they did not head in our direction. Finally the Impala start to appear at the far edge of the clearing. There are a bunch of fawns playing around the perimeter of the herd. They run, jump and cartwheel through the air. These little animals almost seem to be able to fly. Certainly these are the most acrobatic antelope I have ever seen. We are under a tree, and covered by some thin bushes, holding stone still. None of the animals notice us and soon they are all around, as close as 5 yards. They are totally oblivious to our presence, but the large herd ram is blocked by too many other Impala. Suddenly he rockets to the outskirts of the herd trying to get an errant ewe to get back into position and stick with the group. I try to move carefully and alter my position. I need to shoot behind, turn around and clear some bushes. I slowly move praying that none of the close antelope notice. They do not notice and I come to full draw. The ram is 60 yards off. I let fly and the impala jumps straight up.. The arrow has just grazed his front leg. He heard the string and jumped. I can't believe another Impala has made a fool of me. All the impala scatter, run off and regroup heading along their original path well out of range.
Dejected, we hike away to the truck. Tools drops us off at an area where a creek passes near a stand. Charles tells me he has figured out a neat trick. He has a predator call that sounds like a wounded rabbit. While calling for jackals, he noticed that duiker often appeared as well. We climb into the stand and call for a while. Nothing comes after about an hour and the sun is setting. When we climb down and see a ram duiker about 40 yards from us. It runs off, but the theory is proven sound. We will try it again another day.
2/22/2005 Tuesday Hunt Day 7
Up early again. This morning I am a bit startled to find that I have a visitor in the shower with me. There is a huge black hairy spider climbing down the wall near the soap dish. I'm glad I turned on the light and looked around first. At home I mostly shower in the dark. The spider has a thorax about 3/4 inch diameter and it's 8 hairy legs form a circle 2 inches in diameter. I retreat from the stall and go to get one of my arrows. I return armed and ready for a violent encounter. I stab the body of the monster and impale it, then bring it outside and fling it into the long grass behind the cabin. You just never know what you will run into around here. I finish cleaning up and then we head to Kingsdale. Arrive before 530 to get started early. It is extremely foggy and cold, with no wind at all.
The first stalk for impala is a bust as could very well be expected. While driving along a road to get to another area to walk, we spot a steenbok only 40 yards away. It is bedded down and hiding from us. I jump down from the truck, draw and fire instinctively. The tiny animal is pinned to the ground through the chest and dead immediately. This ends up to be a high ranking record book trophy. The tiny antelope probably only weighs 20 pounds, but it is the largest species wise trophy I have taken so far. Charles and Tools are elated. We clean up the little guy and take lots of pictures. Charles has never heard of anyone getting a spot and stalk steenbok before with bow, let alone one of this magnitude.
Next just a mile or so away we stalk up to a herd of impala, and I finally get my chance. At 65 yards a nice ram makes a blunder that costs him his life. He stops right in a gap between some thick bushes and I shoot. It is obviously a good hit through the lungs quartering towards me. Charles lets loose his terrier Spuddy to chase down the ram and bring him to bay, but it is unnecessary as the Impala les down 150 yards away and dies. We rush over to the fallen ram and I feel like a huge weight has been lifted from me. It has taken 15 years and 6 missed shots to get this animal. It has thick long horns and a large neck. It will make a super addition to my expanding collection. Quite a start to the day, 2 great trophies by 8AM.
Next we drive up to a mountainous area to look for a mountain reedbok. Wee see quite a few at long range, but after a couple hours we see one and stalk closer to what I think is 40 yards, but it is actually 25 and my arrow skips over it's back. It was bedded down and I missed a chip shot again at a laying down not alert animal. How can this happen after just making a couple nice shots that were a lot harder than this one. Somewhat dejected I walk on and 10 minutes later we see another one stand up out of it's bed at 25 yards. This time I am sure of my shot, carefully draw, sight and shoot. The shot is true and the 75 pound reedbok runs 50 yards before collapsing. This animal is like a fawn deer with tiny horns. It is not a huge specimen, but I am extremely excited. It is a rare trophy and although we saw a lot and had several chances, not too many are taken with bow. Now that I have taken 3 animals by 10AM I feel like I am on a roll, but should stop to take a breath and rest for a few minutes. We sit down in the shade and rest for a little bit. As we get up I notice that there is a 5 foot long slender snake shimmering in the sun hanging in a tree 35 feet from us. It is a boomslang. It is a female and extremely venomous rear fanged snake. It usually goes after birds and other snakes, but encountering one in the wrong circumstances would be very unfortunate. I ask Charles about it, but he does not know too much other than that we should get away from it very quickly.
We take a run to the cooler at the ranch to drop off the three animals and have lunch and a Coke. Back into the field by 12PM. It is very hot again, about 100F and pretty windy. We drive around to spot for Kudu and Gemsbok. We happen upon a group of 4 springboks on one of our hikes to get a good view of some Kudu. I try shots at the unsuspecting animals at 95, 115, and 120 yards. With the wind I do not have much of a chance. The speedy antelope tear off across the flat savannah. I am intrigued by these animals and want to try for them some more. It would really be something special to get one of these guys. We get a call on the handheld that some of the trackers have spotted a group of Gemsbok a couple miles away. We hightail it to the area on foot to get a look. We see the group, head towards them quickly, try a stalk but after an hour or so they just take off and head over a ridge. We spot another group a few miles away and head for them. An elaborate plan, several hours of stalking, spotters up on the surrounding ridge, guys walking to drive them toward our ambush location and an hour of waiting in a deep ravine at a well used crossing spot does not pan out. The herd seems to be in on the plan and comes toward us. They change direction only a couple hundred yards away and go through a different crossing. I never see them, but apparently the plan was close to working out. I do see a little monkey sitting in a tree by my ambush hiding spot. He is eating some kind of fruit and is not aware of me. I watch for 1/2 hour before he is startled by something and scampers off. Also during this stalk I got real close viewing of 20-30 giraffes. There is one huge bull giraffe that seems to be in charge of one of the herds. I get pictures from 20 yards of lots of giraffes. They move along very quickly and seem to flow as they move. Their long necks sway as they run along. I have seen these before and even fed them at the Atlanta Zoo, but these are wild and free. I can not get enough of this kind of experience to satisfy me ever. It is almost unbelievable, but sitting up on a ridge looking for kudu and Gemsbok I see thousands of animals of a dozen species arrayed all over the savannah below. There are hundreds of springbok, hundreds of impala, hundreds of kudu, hundreds of blesbok, hundreds of wildebeests and dozens of individuals of 6-8 other species.
We hunt until dark and return to Adelaide ranch at 915PM to a great dinner. 3 more animals makes 11 for the trip so far with 2 days still to hunt. Charles makes some calls and arranges to have us hunt some new land tomorrow. I can't wait. It is unbelievable . I love it here and need to get the most out of every minute. I have told myself that I can sleep and rest at home, but I am getting tired after a couple weeks away from home. At least I will rest well tonight. I do carefully check out my bed thought to make sure I am the only occupant. I awake again to find myself covered with bugs. I shake off several hundred of them and roll over to fall back asleep.
2/23/2005 Wednesday Hunt Day 8
Started out at 430AM for an 80 mile trip to the Were ranch in the Southern Karoo. I see the constellation of Orion upside down, the Southern Cross and many unfamiliar star formations filling the sky above. The roads are all gravel and very poorly maintained. As we speed along we come over a ridge and nearly run through a huge herd of goats being herded along by a couple blacks. They nearly caused a bad accident for us by not placing safety flags and lanterns behind their flock as is required by law. Charles honks at them and they do not seem to even care. We drive on and the land flattens out considerably. The earth is red colored and covered with scrub no taller than 5-6 feet and very thin. This area is much hotter and gets virtually no rain. It is true desert.
We head through a gate and proceed to the landowners home to pickup one of his black boys to show us around the property. There are springbok all over,, but they maintain quite a long distance and stalking them will be almost impossible. We drive around to look for a suitable ambush site. We locate a good spot with brush to hide in. Charles and I hike to the spot while Tools and the other fellows drive to a high spot, locate a large herd of springbok to attempt to drive toward our ambush. It does not take long for the action to start. First a small group of springbok blunders past our location even before Tools has started his drive to flush them. I take a 95 yard shot at a black ram. I have to lead him by about 6 feet due to the strong wind. I am very lucky today I guess, because the arrow flies true and severs the jugular of the black ram. He takes a couple steps and collapses. About this time the herd that Tools' crew is supposed to flush toward us heads by in a bout the same location that I just shot. I cross my fingers and toes and fling an arrow at the lead ram 105 yards away. Amazingly the lead is correct again and again the arrow hits the neck of the ram, who just like the first ram spews all his blood out of the neck wound after 10 steps or so.
After a grand total of 45 minutes crouching in the needle sharp cactus like nettle bushes I am done springbok hunting. The guys really think that I tried to hi the antelope with neck shots and are totally impressed. Charles speaks to them in tribal language and they look at me and laugh. A lot more babbling and Charles tells me that they can not believe what just happened. Two springbok at nearly 105 and 95 yards. They think that I have special powers and spirits that obey me. For the next few days the blacks seem to treat me with a great deal of respect. We retrieve the animals, clean them and take a bunch of pictures. The sky is bright blue with huge fluffy white clouds, but no chance of rain. Again it is approaching 110F and the sun is really intense. We return to the ranchers home to cape and skin the springbok. The ettiquete is that the landowner is paid for the trophy and receives the meat. Colin Were is suitably impressed as well. He thought it was a joke that we would try for springbok with bow and arrow but decided to humor me and let me try it. He thought that when we returned that I had had enough and wanted to quit. He is in shock that we have already finished and got two record book animals, one of which is a pretty rare black ram. He asks a lot of questions about my bow and other archery equipment, all the while shaking his head in amazement. I too can hardly believe what has happened. We quickly finish up at the house and head for the Kingsdale Ranch, about 1.5 hour drive away. for some more gemsbok action.
On the long drive I find out that Charles worked as a PH for Amy's father, Larry Gillewie. I saw several OLN shows featuring Kim Hicks hunting with Larry as his PH. They went after Blue Duiker with shotgun, plains game in the Grahamstown area, and took a convoy trip to hunt Cape Buffalo in Mozambique using an ultralight to help locate the herds in the tall grass of the swamps. Charles says that Jim Shockey has hunted with him while PHing for Larry. He was a really nice guy and had a nice wife and kids who traveled with him as well.
At about noon we arrive and the heat is almost unbearable. A thermometer near the house shows 110F in the shade. It must be 120 or more out on the savannah. We drink a lot of water, have a couple sandwiches and talk about our plan for Gemsbok. We again set up an elaborate plan involving 4 beaters and 3 observers all covering different approaches. Charles and I will wait in a ravine or under a group of trees depending on where the herd seems to be heading. We will be guided by the observers perched high on the surrounding hills. We take 2 hours to set everyone in their locations, and as soon as we are in position ouselves, the beaters begin to move down from the hills . The observers guide the beaters to areas where it is likely that the gemsbok are laying in the shade to stay out of the powerful sun. It is very exciting to hear the chatter on the radios. The plan is working! Gemsbok are starting to erupt from the brush ahead of the beaters. They are still a long way off, but the observers say they are headed right for us. We are directed to go to a confluence of two ravines and wait for more to develop. Tools calls out that a group of 15 gemsbok will be on top of us in minutes. I strain to see movement in the distant brush, but right before they emerge in to the shooting lane I have chosen, they alter direction and take another path through the ravine. I am disappointed, but Tools says stay still, another group is on the way. 15 minutes later they begin to trot up out of the ravine opposite my position. I kneel facing the spot they will pass me, and wait as the line comes into view 75 yards away. I study the length of the horns of these majestic beasts. They are grey with huge chests, black and white accents and of course immensely long straight horns. I wait for the one with the longest looking horns, draw and fire. I am firing up hill and the arrow hits high on the chest. Both lungs are hit, but pretty high. The gemsbok rears his head, whirls and the whole group of a dozen animals stampedes past our position. We lose track of the wounded bull in the dust and mix of bodies. They soon disappear into the brush and trees, but the well placed spotters up on ridges a mile distant can watch the whole show. As Charles and I climb out of our hiding spot to find the arrow and look for blood, Tools report that he has seen one individual break off from the herd and head into the thick brush where he lose sigh tof it. This brings up a dangerous situation. Gemsbok have those long spear like horns for weapons, not decoration. A wounded gemsbok is very dangerous and will lie in wait for a pursuer to approach, then erupt from cover to impale it's pursuer. They have been known to kill attacking lions and leopards and more than one unwary hunter. All of the eaters head in the direction indicated by Tools and another of the spotters picks up Charles and I in the Landcruiser. We drive to the area where the wounded antelope was last seen. An hour of looking and a young boy out on his first hunt excited radios Charles that he has spotted a blood trail and followed it into the thick brush. Charles looks a little worried, as any injury will be his responsibility. He orders the boy to back out of the cover and wait for help. The boy then says he can see the gemsbok and Charles yells for him to get out of the dangerous situation. Charles grabs his .300 Win Mag when we reach the area and the boy leads us to the spot he saw the wounded animal. I have an arrow nocked and the understanding is that if possible I will get the first shot, but in a matter of safety Charles will drop the beast with his rifle. When we gat there we see a very prominent blood trail and find a huge pool of gore and clotted blood. The ground is still warm from the gemsboks body heat so he must be close. Suddenly Tools reports that he has seen the antelope erupt from the opposite side of the small copse of trees and thick brush. It heads out onto a wide open savannah area. One of the trackers runs for the truck while Charles, the boy, and I negotiate a very deep and steep walled ravine to come out on the savannah plain. We can not see the bull, but Tools reassures us that he is still there and meandering through the knee high grass. The truck arrives and we speed toward the beast. We are bounced and jostled terribly, but Charles presses on along the rough track. The gemsbok comes into view and when it sees the truck it begins to run again. It is obviously hurt very badly and runs with a limp and can't run straight. It turns a semi circle and faces us down. I jump from the truck with Charles covering me and try a 120 yard shot that hits the enraged bull in the left hip. He mock charges from 120 yards, stumbles and turns away, then falls to the ground. We carefully approach the fallen antelope. It's head is still up and it fixes me with a terrible hateful glare. I hit him again from 60 yards high in the back. Closer and closer I get approaching from his rear. Suddenly he lunges forward trying to get to his feet and whirl to face us. He tries, but is in no condition to complete his endeavor. He falls again to the ground. A final shot through both lungs from 35 yards and his head drops to the ground. He is finally dead, but to make sure Charles advances and pokes the gemsbok in the eye with the muzzle of his rifle. There is no reaction and Charles breathes a big sigh of relief at the successful end to the gemsbok hunt. All of the spotters and beaters rush down to congratulate me. It was a true team effort that never could have succeeded without everyone doing their part and working hard in the terrible heat. I am exhausted from the heat and drink about a gallon of water. I am dehydrated and have a terrible headache. We take pictures and load up the big animal. It weighs about 600 pounds and takes 8 of us to hoist him into the back of the cruiser. Everyone piles on and the truck squats down on the springs. It will be another beautiful trophy. It is now 3 for the day, and 14 for 9 days. Unbelievable.
We sit for a while in the shade and drink more water. There is still time left in the day so we drive back to Adelaide ranch at 4PM and stalk for Kudu, Duiker and Bushpig. We encounter several large boar warthogs thrashing around in the mud to stay cool, but as we approach they thunder through the brush away from us to safety. I never have a good shot, but there are a couple with really nice tusks. A couple hours of still hunting and then just before dark we head to a tower above a rank rotting kudu carcass. We climb up, test out a spotlight, check the range to the maggot filled pile and then settle down to wait. Bushpigs come to these carcasses to feast on the maggots. The plan is to wait until we hear eating and bones crunching, turn on the light and hopefully make a good shot at the temporarily frozen pig. It is only 30 yards, but the angle is steep down, I can hardly see my peep sight or the pins, and there is precious little room on the platform for two of us to manuever. We sit an hour or so and nothing happens, so we climb down and head back to the truck as we hear thunder crash in the distance and lightning illuminates the sky. We just make it to the truck as the rain begins to pour from the sky. It is extremely hard rain and we can hardly see the road ahead of us as we drive back through deep puddles and mud.
At the lodge Amy has a great dinner of Eland steak, salad, and cream of mushroom soup. It has cooled off a lot and I need to wear a sweat shirt to bed. I collapse and fall asleep right away. Again I am joined by thousands of insects seeking refuge from the deluge outside. The rain beats on the roof and it is very relaxing. I do not even get up to shake away the bugs I am so tired.
2/24/2005 Thursday Hunt Day 9
The morning comes much too soon and it is still drizzling. I cleanup and we have a little more relaxed breakfast. I take some time to spread lotion all over myself to ease the sunburn, insect bites, poison thron scratches, heat rash and sore muscles. I have only 12 arrows left of the 45 that I started with and only 6 new broad heads. I borrow a diamond stone from Charles and sharpen 6 more used broadheads. They will not be good enough for a first shot, but ok for follow ups. I go over my gear and it is all holding up quite well. Nothing has broken and I have everything I need , but nothing extra. I have three sets of clothes and it is lucky that Amy does the laundry every day so I have dry stuff to wear. A couple hours and the rain stops. It is steaming already 100F. My dry clothes do not stay dry long. We try for Kudu, spot and stalk for 6 hours with lunch in the field. Somehow Kudu have eluded me so far on this hunt. Charles feels that this reflects badly on the Ballantyne operation, as most hunters come with Kudu as one of their top priorities. I do not really care, with all the success so far. We have seen lots of Kudu, but not had a shot opportunity. On one stalk crawling along a gully toward a large Kudu I hear a loud hissing sound and glance in the direction. The sound is chilling and I see a large snake reared up 30 feet from me. It is a yellow spitting cobra with it's hood spread warning us to back off. I take the hint, stand up and quickly jog off away from the deadly venomous cobra. Pretty exciting, but I get the shakes after I get to a safe distance. The snake drops into the grass and we hurry away. The Kudu see us and all rush away into the thick brush.
We decide to try a totally different area. The temperature is terrible again and so we try the thick shaded valley where we hunted for Nyala. It is cooler, but still 100F. On a ridge we get a glimpse of a huge waterbuck with several others. We have to cross a thick valley, and climb a steep incline to get close. We run up the hill to keep close to the moving waterbuck herd. They stop occasionally to eat from the trees and grass. There are lots of insects buzzing around us and tons of mosquitoes. I get bitten dozens of times and it is very hard to stay still as we watch the waterbuck. We spot the large bull and I stalk closer on my own. Suddenly it looks right at me. Instead of bolting it comes closer to investigate. I hold my breath and it is a stalemate. I start to get a tingling sensation in my legs as they go numb. the waterbuck moves forward a couple feet hiding it's head from view, but exposing his vitals at 65 yards up hill. I draw and sight on his lungs. The arrow flies and he jumps up and flinches, then runs off along the path parallel to the ridge. Charles is sure that I missed, but I do not think so. We find the arrow 20 yards from where I hit the bull and it is covered with dark red blood. Probably a liver hit. Great. This is an expensive animal, we have no help, and the cover is thick. We can't find a blood trail but decide to search along the paths in the direction he headed. After a hundred yards we have had no sign. I decide to look downhill a little and I am astounded to see the huge beast crumpled in a heap against a tree 50 yards down the hill. We rush down to investigate and see that the hit was definitely fatal, perhaps a little far back, but it did the job. The waterbuck is huge, with course grey hair, huge chest, a white ring around it's rump, and best of all, massive curved horns. The animal is covered with bloated ticks and rather repulsive . We decide that we need a lot of help to move this 900 pound beast up the hill to a place where we can work on it. There is no radio signal in the valley, so we mark the area and hike to the top of the ridge. We are able to get a hold of Tools and tell him to get help. An hour later Tools, Arnold, a couple other blacks, Glenn and Howard arrive on the scene. We have to cut a 5inch diameter 12 foot long pole to lash the waterbuck to. 8 men grab the pole and we struggle to carry the waterbuck up the hill 500 yards to a place where the truck can get close to a fence. Getting the animal over the fence is also quite a chore, but with all the help we manage. On the flat ground we take pictures and then load the great waterbuck into the truck. Everyone piles into the truck again and we drive back to the lodge again. It is late and we have an early dinner with plans to night hunt for duiker.

Dinner is quick so that we can get out right at dark. Amy is the driver of the truck, Charles holds a car battery powered 2 million candle power spotlight in the bed of the truck, Tools plays lookout and I sit waiting for the action to begin. Amy drives along some rough paths slowly with the headlights out. It is very dark and hard to see the road ahead, consequently it is a really rough ride. Quickly Charles turns on the spotlight and pans it around looking for the reflections from the eyes of little animals. We spot many Rock Hyrax, like large jackrabbits, and a couple female duikers. Then suddenly they spot a nice male duiker and drive right for it. The frightened little antelope freezes and at about 30 yards I try a shot out of the back of the truck. I miss because I can't see the pins or the peep sight. This continues as a couple more tiny rams are spotted, and I decide to have Charles try to hold the light behind me so I get the benefit of the light for my sights. This seems like it will work a lot better, but shortly the battery for the light runs out and we are done without another shot. I did gat 4 or 5 hurried shots, and who knows, maybe I got a duiker, but the crew did not think so. They never even bothered to look. In the dark, I think a pass through shot on a tiny animal may appear to be a miss as the arrow hits the ground on the opposite side with barely diminished velocity. Anyway we do not recover any arrows either and have no way of knowing without looking.
Off to bed and one more day ahead to try mainly for a nice Kudu, or whatever else happens to be in range. It is so much fun here and so may species and numbers of animals, it is just incredible. I wish I could stay fro months, not just a couple weeks. I would not want to live here based on the social problems, but the wildlife and countryside are extremely appealing. It seems from conversations with Howard and Eve, that many Whites are leaving Africa for good. When the blacks were given control of the government, productivity dropped, corruption ran rampant, unemployment soared and crime reached unprecedented levels. The US and Australia are the most popular destinations for expatriot South Africans. The problem is that landowners can not sell to anyone they want. They must have government permission and the money must be kept in ht e country. There are limits on how much money can be taken out of the country by travelers to make sure that wealthy South Africans can not leave. Hardly anyone comes to live in S Africa and with AIDS killing off 10% of the blacks per year, there are predictions that ht e4 million whites will outnumber the 40 million blacks within 15 years. The whites obviously hope to speed this along and drag their feet at any health reforms that would benefit the black population. One must be very careful working with the blacks, as 85% of males between 15 and 40 are infected. If one of them is hurt, they must just be left alone. No one will dare to touch them for fear of HIV. Stories coming out of Zimbabwe are even worse than I had heard. The country can no longer feed it's people, it is totally corrupt, whites are targeted fro assassination, land theft, bullying, and intimidation. There are no remaining white owned ranches or farms, all of them being seized. The blacks that took over are government cronies of Mugabe and have no farming skills. They lat the farms go to ruin, wreck everything, tear down the buildings and sell all the scrap for salvage. There are severe fuel shortages and it can be impossible to get gas so travelers must carry enough with them to get where they are going and back. Often police and soldiers confiscate gas and travelers are left stranded. I do not think I will consider going back here for a while until things have changed quite a lot for the better.
Friday February 25, 2005 Hunt Day 10
Up at 5AM, hunting at 545AM. Looking for Kudu all day. 5 1/2 hours of spot and stalk, but no connection. Lots of close calls, but not close enough. The morning is very cool, only 60F. There is another rain storm coming. Back for lunch at 11am. After lunch we head back to look for the impala that I hit several days earlier. We had passed an area where we smelled a rotting carcass and decided to check it out. We walk around and look for an hour, but we no longer smell the decay and we do not find anything un fortunately. Charles figures he will eventually find it later on when out with another hunter.
I feel exhausted, so while Charles handles some business, I lay down and take a nap for 45 minutes. Feeling refreshed, we head out for the last time this trip to hunt for Kudu. There is a slight mist and rain, but I decide to hunt anyway. We stalk for 3 1/2 more hours and see warthogs, waterbuck, nyala and kudu. We end up trying a raised stand overlooking the thick shaded nyala valley and wait for kudu to pass by. Tools is on the opposite side of the valley and spots several groups of kudu. There are two pair of bulls that are heading along a path toward our ambush location. Perhaps I will get lucky and have a chance. Suddenly two bulls appear 60 yards away and I draw for a quick shot. The bull I am sighting on does a twisting jumping dance and runs off. I was in the middle of my shot and the arrow passes over the back of the Kudu. Why did the bull act so erratically? When we go to check for the arrow, we are walking along some loose shale on a incline of about 45degrees. I am very surprised when Charles flies up the hill and about knocks me over. I catch a glimpse of a thick grey, black spotted snake only 2 feet from my left foot. Charles is panicked, but calms down and begins throwing stones at the highly dangerous venomous Berg Adder. Charles stepped on the snakes head and realized that he should not be feeling something soft under his foot. He then realized I was stepping on it's tail and he tackled me to save me from a bite. Luckily the snake was pinned down by both of us and it was cold so the deadly creature was not able to strike as quickly as it would in hot weather. We decide to quickly leave the area before we run into another snake. Charles claims he has not seen a snake for a couple years, and in this trip we have seen 5 or 6 deadly reptiles at very close range. It is exciting to see these creatures, but at the zoo it is a lot safer. We return to camp at 7pm. I clean up, change clothes, pack p my stuff and pay my bill. We have a very nice dinner that includes my new favorite soup made from butternut squash. Howard, Eve, Glenn, Amy and Charles all join me for dinner. We have very nice conversation and they are very impressed with how the hunt ended up as am I. 15 animals in 10 days is totally amazing. We had expected perhaps 4 or 5 animals, not 15. I spoke with the booking agent about the hunt and he was incredulous. He could not believe it either. He thought that it was probably a record that had never been accomplished by a bowhunter before. At least none of them have ever heard of this many species in as few days all with bow before. I almost got the SCI Grand Slam of African game in a single trip. I know that this has never happened before. Ballantyne ask if they can use a testimonial and my pictures for their advertising. I say sure, thinking again of how lucky I am. Gary Strasser will submit an account of the hunt to several magazines and use the pictures for advertising in a couple magazines including the SCI newspaper. I am elated and vow to return in a couple years to get some more of the species that I missed this trip like cape kudu, duiker, blue wildebeest, caracal, bushpig, cape bushbuck, oribi, klipspringer, bontebok, blue duiker, white springbok, vaal rhebok, and cape grysbok. There is a lot ahead still. I excuse myself and head for bed. I am tired and fall asleep quickly not even thinking about the trip ahead of me tomorrow.
Saturday February 26, 2005
We getup early and Charles, Amy and I load up the truck with my gear and head for Port Elizabeth. We head through the Waterberg mountains, about 3500 feet high and very steep. There are lots of beautiful Blue Blomego flowers along the road and on the hillside slopes. We pass through Grahamstown, a university town where Amy McGillewie is from. She is studying by correspondence to be a grade school teacher. It is a bout 100 miles to Port Elizabeth. I do a little shopping and we stop at the beach so I can take pictures of the Indian Ocean. The city is very modern with highrise buildings and suburbs. There is a containership port, a railhead with lots of rotting hulks of steam engines as well as old diesel equipment. Mainly the South African railroad is electrified now. We get my pictures developed and then I am dropped off at the airport.
There is a short wait for the 737 to pick me up as well as 150 other people. This airport is a lot larger than New London , but still only like Duluth or so. The short flight is uneventful. I spend the time looking over my photos marveling at the experience I have just finished up. At Johannesburg I switch terminals and have a long 8 hour wait fro the flight back to Atlanta. I buy some food, beef jerky and a couple more books and read until the boarding time. he Airbus is full this time and the 20 hour trip is awful.. I sit next to a man from the US department of Agriculture and Business development. He live in Mozambique now and helps the people there to develop businesses to grow the fledgling economy. He mainly works with cattle, but there is also some hunting starting there again. The country really needs a lot of help after 25 years of civil war and guerilla fighting. The roads are in bad shape, the infrastructure almost nonexistent, no foreign trade and they can not feed themselves. The outlook is bleak without a lot of money from the IMF. They can not possibly pay it back , but that is the case with most of the IMF loans. This fellow was born in Brazil and lived there with his family until he was 12 and speaks fluent Portugese., the language of Mozambique. I sleep as much as possible, but not really restful. Customs in Atlanta is a breeze, with a short wait for the final leg home to MSP. Touchdown at 1215PM February 27, where Sarah and the kids are anxiously waiting to see me. It is good to be home. First stop El Loro