Cookhouse RSA February 2007

Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Cookhouse, Republic of South Africa Thursday March 1, 2007

There is more than one type of pig in South Africa. Obviously Pumbaa a character from the Disney movie The Lion King has educated the masses of children around the developed world about warthogs. These long tusked, dirt covered, mud digging wallowers are not alone in the swine department on the Dark Continent.

I was at the very end of my second safari in the East Cape of South Africa with Ballantyne Trophy Safaris out of Fort Beaufort. I had pretty well finished up with the whole list of 32 species that are offered in this area, but so far in four weeks of hunting the elusive bushpig had escaped me. We had tried on multiple occasions to sit in a blind at dusk for a couple hours into the night. We were downwind of a rotting carcass waiting for a hog to come and devour the succulent maggots engulfing the putrid corpse. Three attempts so far and no luck. The blinds offered great shooting position and comfortable seats to rest in until the right moment. However, it was not to be.

We were passing through Ft. Beaufort one afternoon after an unsuccessful morning of stalking white springbok in 130 degree Fahrenheit heat we had stopped for an ice cream cone when we met up with a childhood friend of Charles’ nicknamed ToTo.

ToTo is a massive powerful man who loves hunting and dogs as much as anything in the world. A pensioner wounded from the special forces conflict in the Angolan Bush War, ToTo had a pack of dogs to hunt lynx, leopards and bushpigs. It seemed natural that I should look over his photo album and decided at once that I needed to hunt with this man. Why not take a trial run after pigs tomorrow morning? This would certainly sell me on a leopard hunt in Namibia next season.

We woke early for the drive toward Cookhouse and turned off into the fog and across a fenced pasture following a Mazda pickup filled to capacity with a fierce pack of 12 pig hounds. We stopped at a stock tank and let John, the dog handler round up the pack and head into the thickly brush choked hills rising 1000 feet above us. The dew and fog raised the humidity to an unbelievable level. By the time Charles and I had moved into the brush to wait in a strategic spot we were completely soaked.

We began to hear the howling of the dogs as they cut a trail. The sound came and went as the dogs chased the hog around and around for three hours. We crawled, ran, and clamored over, under and through the thick tangle of brush. It seemed that soon the pig must tire out, but it didn’t. When the chase came our way we got ready, but then it moved away and over the cloud covered hill above us.

We ran again to stay within hearing, then the dogs told us a different story with their howling. The pig was at bay about half a mile from us. Now we had to move fast before the aggressive hounds were torn to pieces as they went at the sharp tusked monster they had finally caught. I moved on hands and knees in the mud dodging huge scary looking spiders. The thorn thickets were tearing my arms and legs to shreds. I am sure that if I was not in such a hurry I would have noticed another of the notorious residents of these hills, the Cape Cobra! Luckily I did not get the opportunity to meet one face to face and closed the distance to the howling dogs.

I caught a glimpse of a black creature rushing out of a cave under a thicket of warren bushes. It had huge sharp tusks and was coming right at me. A blur of black and white came from the right as a hound tore his fangs into the flank of the hog. The razor tusked head came around and slashed at the dog which let go and the pig retreated back into the safety of the dark thicket. The hounds stayed right on it. A dog would go in to try its skill, then howl in pain and fear and run back out with the pig chasing.

I followed the instructions of Charles and John carefully and tried to skirt the flank of the thicket to get a shot. Another series of attacks by the dogs and more squealing when I saw the pig rush me again. The pig was huge, almost 230 pounds! The tiny black eyes spotted me and saw something they did not like so the pig wheeled again back into the brush.

“Shoot! Shoot!� yelled Charles, but the brush was so thick that I could not even see the creature 10 feet from me. The monster was taking quite a toll on the hounds so I had to get this over with quickly. Charles helped me to aim in the right direction and I saw a spot of black fur slightly darker than the inky void of the thicket.

After pulling the trigger of the .222 rifle, the pig squealed a horrible death knell. The dogs rushed in and began to rip their fangs into the thick hide to avenge the terrible injuries to their comrades. John moved in and threw the dogs off the dead carcass and dragged it out for me to see. What an incredible sight. It was huge and black with a ghostly white face and man did it stink! I was elated at this display of dog handling skill by talented hunters.

The trek back to the trucks through the thick brush took us an hour and it was starting to get really hot. The pig was gutted after photos and the dogs were given their reward. The hounds tore the guts apart in a grisly gruesome bloody mess of growling, barking and flying bodies. After reveling in pig entrails, the first aid began for the wounded warriors. An antibiotic powder was applied to the wounded dogs while they were held tightly by their handlers.

This was an awesome adventure and a new type of hunting for me to experience. If you are interested in having an honest chance to hunt 32 species of game in the East Cape, Charles Ballantyne of Ballantyne Trophy Safaris is the man to talk to.

This was the grande finale to my trip, finishing off my wish list of South African fauna. Twenty eight species taken, 23 days of hunting, two trips and 23 species by bow and arrow. Charles has the game, the land, the connections, the experience, the skill and the intensity to get you into position to achieve your dreams of hunting in the East Cape!