Sim­ple ple­a­su­res

SA Jagter Hunter - - INHOUD - By MI­KE FER­RAR

We’re not hun­ting t­his y­e­ar on the farm. It’s a Bi­bli­cal pre­cept to ha­ve a fal­low y­e­ar e­very se­ven y­e­ars. Last se­a­son we tal­ked a­bout gi­ving the ga­me a bre­ak, but we we­re in­de­ci­si­ve. Ho­we­ver, 2016 was a very dry y­e­ar, by Ja­nu­a­ry, the farm was as dry as a bo­ne, the veld was poor, and we lost a lot of spring­buck. That ma­de the de­ci­si­on e­a­sy.

We con­tacted all our re­gu­lar clients he­re and in Eu­ro­pe to tell them that con­di­ti­ons we­re such that we would not be hun­ting in the co­ming se­a­son. Ha­ving spo­ken to ma­ny of them a­bout the pos­si­bi­li­ty last se­a­son, it was not too gre­at a surprise. Per­haps for­tu­na­te­ly, t­his has coi­n­ci­ded with the fall in our Eu­ro­pe­an mar­ket, as a re­sult of the De­part­ment of Ho­me Af­fairs’ di­sas­trous vi­sa re­qui­re­ments. For­tu­na­te­ly too, it is ha­ving a gre­at ef­fect on the ga­me. They’re much mo­re re­laxed al­re­a­dy, ha­ving been left en­ti­re­ly to their own de­vi­ces sin­ce last Au­gust. Walk and stalk next y­e­ar should be good!

THE ALLURE OF HORNS

W­hat is it a­bout the allure of horns w­hen hun­ting? So ma­ny hun­ters pick out the a­ni­mals with the lar­ge­st horns w­hen hun­ting – and not ne­ces­sa­ri­ly for trop­hy si­ze. Bil­tong and pot hun­ters do it as well. Yet, as Can­dy, who com­mands the com­mis­sa­ri­at well knows, the jui­ciest and most ten­der cuts don’t co­me off so­me ho­a­ry an­te­lo­pe with big horns! Re­cent­ly she said to Pa­tch, her el­dest boy, that she wan­ted a ni­ce young fal­low deer for the pan­try – a pen­kop­pie stag, or a young doe. Off he went, rifle shoul­de­red, ra­dio in his poc­ket. So­me hours la­ter my ra­dio crackled, and Pa­tch ca­me through. “Can you bring the bak­kie? I’ve got a deer, on the ot­her si­de of the wind­mill in the cor­ner ne­ar the boun­da­ry and the Ma­casser­fon­tein Ro­ad.” Du­ti­ful­ly I set off, on­ly to find an e­nor­mous­ly ple­a­sed Pa­tch, with an ex­cel­lent re­pre­sen­ta­ti­ve stag, with a rat­her hand­so­me rack of ant­lers. Can­dy was not ple­a­sed. “No car­pac­cio from tho­se old rug­strings, Pa­tch,” she re­mon­stra­ted. “But Ma, he just step­ped out of the bush, he­ad up, ant­lers back, look­ing mag­ni­fi­cent, no i­dea I was the­re. Look at tho­se palms, I couldn’t re­sist it!” His re­gal he­ad and hand­so­me rack now ga­ze out o­ver the books in the farm­hou­se li­bra­ry.

THE ULTIMATE SURVIVORS

With no hun­ting on the farm t­his y­e­ar, and es­pe­ci­al­ly with no trop­hy hun­ters, the­re’s a de­arth of ga­me me­at for the pan­try, the sausa­ge ma­chi­ne, and the bil­tong drying room. The fal­low deer are, I be­lie­ve, the ultimate survivors a­mong the ga­me spe­cies he­re in the Ka­roo. I al­ways mar­vel at their a­dap­ta­bi­li­ty, e­qual­ly at ho­me a­mong the o­aks, horse ches­t­nut and pla­nes of Wind­sor Gre­at Park, as a­mong the A­ca­cia kar­roo ( soet­do­rings) al­ong the banks of the Gre­at Brak Ri­ver. Du­ring the droug­ht, they we­re scar­ce he­re. No re­specters of an or­di­na­ry stock fen­ce, they’d mo­ved off to green­er pas­tu­res, ir­ri­ga­ted off the wa­ters from the tun­nel co­ming from the Ga­riep Dam, much to the cha­grin of the ir­ri­ga­ti­on far­mers. Co­me the rains in Fe­bru­a­ry, they we­re soon back to gra­ze the succu­lent new green gro­wth sprin­ging forth in the veld. Now they’re in re­la­ti­ve a­bun­dan­ce a­gain.

WILY DEER

Fal­low deer ve­nison is de­li­ci­ous. W­het­her on the ta­ble as a ro­ast, a si­r­loin gril­led to per­fecti­on in the We­ber, as bil­tong, or fil­ling out a sausa­ge ca­sing, wet or dry, it’s won­der­ful fa­re. And the com­mis­sa­ri­at has fi­led mo­re than se­ver­al re­qui­si­ti­ons of la­te! But he­re’s the di­lem­ma. How to hunt w­hen we’re not hun­ting? Com­pro­mi­se is the na­me of the ga­me. The­re are a few a­re­as on the e­as­tern and sout­hern ed­ge of the farm, re­la­ti­ve­ly far re­mo­ved from w­he­re we do most of our hun­ting. Through one of the­se is a walk we fre­quent­ly do, kno­wn as the Ci­r­cuit, a ple­a­sant six ki­lo­me­t­re rou­te he­a­ding north, then cros­sing from the wes­tern to the e­as­tern bank of the Gre­at Brak, and ci­r­cling back to the hou­se. Re­cent­ly, on im­pul­se, I grab­bed my rifle as I set out with Hat­tie, my young sprin­ger by my si­de, for a bit of la­te af­ter­noon exe­r­ci­se round the Ci­r­cuit. Cros­sing through the ri­ver, we en­te­red so­me fai­r­ly thick A­ca­cia kar­roo, tur­ning south in­to a gent­le litt­le bree­ze, fresh on my fa­ce. As we we­re a­bout to e­mer­ge in­to »

Hun­ting for a pan­try buck inste­ad of a trop­hy can al­so be a ful­fil­ling ex­pe­rien­ce.

» the o­pen, I caug­ht a glimp­se of mo­vement be­low the bran­ches a­he­ad. A litt­le troop of deer went can­te­ring off in­to the o­pen veld, mo­ving south e­ast. The spa­niel was on full a­lert, tail wag­ging fu­ri­ous­ly as she qui­ver­ed with ex­ci­te­ment.

The fa­mi­li­ar tingle of the chal­len­ge of the cha­se cour­sed through me. I know the­se deer – they lo­ve to bre­ak a­way, see­mingly to di­sap­pear, but ci­r­cling round to co­me up be­hind, and up wind of the thre­at that dis­tur­bed them in the first pla­ce. E­ast, and be­hind me, stret­ched a s­wat­he of fai­r­ly den­se A­ca­cia kar­roo. C­licking my fin­gers at Hat­tie, I tur­ned back northwards, mo­ving as fast as I could, slo­w­ly drif­ting e­as­t­wards as I went back, to­wards w­he­re I knew the a­ca­cia pe­te­red out on the ed­ge of o­pen veld a­gain. As we ca­me to the ed­ge, pat­ting Hat­tie and whis­pe­ring, “S­tay, s­tay,” I tur­ned south a­gain, in­to the gent­le litt­le bree­ze, and slo­w­ly, qui­et­ly we wor­ked do­wn the ed­ge of the bush li­ne. Hat­tie in­stincti­ve­ly stay­ed with me, her tail a tel­l­ta­le of her ex­ci­te­ment, li­ke a flag flut­te­ring in a bree­ze. In the stalk it is li­ke being “in the zo­ne”. No­thing el­se in­tru­des. E­very sen­se is shar­pe­ned, look­ing for mo­vement, lis­te­ning for the crack of a twig, fee­ling the bree­ze and e­ven smel­ling its scents.

I ho­ped I had been quick e­nough, get­ting be­hind the deer in their ci­r­cling be­hind w­he­re they had i­ni­ti­al­ly bro­ken co­ver. You ne­ver know. So of­ten they just di­sap­pear from the fa­ce of the e­arth, le­a­ving you baf­fled and di­sap­poin­ted. And mo­re of­ten than not, with a long trud­ge ho­me! Then I saw them. Just on the ed­ge, gra­zing un­con­cer­ned­ly a­bout 120 y­ards a­way. With the wind gent­le in my fa­ce, they we­re bliss­ful­ly u­na­wa­re of my pre­sen­ce. Mo­ving back in­to the co­ver of the bush, my fin­gers on Hat­tie’s neck, we ed­ged clo­ser to get a cle­a­rer and u­nob­structed tar­get. But ga­me seems to ha­ve a sixth sen­se for dan­ger. We ma­de no sound and the wind was in our fa­vour, yet sud­den­ly se­ver­al he­ads ca­me up, look­ing a­round cau­ti­ous­ly. I e­a­sed do­wn on­to my haun­ches, and sat mo­ti­on­less with Hat­tie’s soft neck skin pin­ched be­t­ween fin­ger and thumb. Af­ter a few mo­ments, I e­a­sed the bolt ca­re­ful­ly back and for­ward, wis­hing the clicks and clunks could be sof­ter. As I slo­w­ly stood, the litt­le herd gent­ly mo­ved for­ward to­wards the o­pen, a­lert to an unseen dan­ger, yet un­cer­tain. A good-si­zed doe stood bro­ad­s­i­de on, look­ing back to­wards me in the dar­ke­ning bush, with the la­te af­ter­noon sun glo­wing a­bo­ve and be­hind me. Per­haps that’s w­hat tip­ped the ba­lan­ce a­gainst her, as I smoothly shoul­de­red my rifle and took her just be­hind the shoul­der.

It was a brisk walk back, e­la­ted and hap­py. The com­mis­sa­ri­at will be ple­a­sed, I thoug­ht. Hat­tie ran­ged a­he­ad, flag tail wa­ving. She hadn’t flin­ched at the shot.

An un­plan­ned hunt. A sud­den chal­len­ge. U­nex­pected success. A hap­py dog and a hap­py hunter. Sim­ple ple­a­su­res!

The stag that Pa­tch shot. A ni­ce ram but not one that’s good for the pan­try.

T­his is the fal­low deer doe Mi­ke men­ti­o­ned in the sto­ry. His dog Hat­tie is po­sing with their pri­ze. Pan­try bucks li­ke t­his doe can al­so pro­vi­de a very en­joy­a­ble hunt.

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