LAND OF HORIZONS

On the Ka­roo’s sund­ren­ched plains you will find the a­ni­mal of lig­ht.

SA Jagter Hunter - - INHOUD -

KOOS BAR­NARD

S­cien­tis­ts be­lie­ve the G­re­at Ka­roo, an in­land ba­sin, was on­ce a vast gla­cier that be­ca­me a la­ke w­hen the ice mel­ted. E­ven­tu­al­ly the wa­ters es­ca­ped, bre­a­king through the es­carp­ment and the re­sul­tant ri­vers to­re out the gor­ges, val­leys, gul­lies and poor­te on their way to lo­wer lying a­re­as.

W­hen the swamps e­ven­tu­al­ly dried, the Ka­roo was for­med mo­re or less as we know it to­day. So­me al­so be­lie­ve that the Ka­roo saw the birth of the first mam­mal...

The na­me Ka­roo co­mes from the first mi­gra­ting K­hoi­san tri­bes that trek­ked through this dry coun­try. They na­med the­se plains Ga­rob which me­ans dry, un­fruit­ful and unin­ha­bi­ted. La­ter pi­o­neer whi­te trek­boe­re (far­mers) cor­rup­ted the na­me until it e­ven­tu­al­ly be­ca­me Ka­roo.

I­ni­ti­al­ly the so-cal­led vry­bur­gers in the Ca­pe we­re for­bid­den to trek beyond the then bor­ders of the co­lo­ny, but the­re we­re just too ma­ny ad­ven­tu­rous souls li­ving in the Ca­pe in the se­ven­teenth cen­tu­ry. E­ven though they fa­ced a y­e­ar’s im­pri­son­ment and the con­fis­ca­ti­on of their li­ves­tock if they got caug­ht, so­me pi­o­neers still took the chan­ce and cros­sed the moun­tains to ex­plo­re the unkno­wn. As a re­sult a num­ber of out­pos­ts we­re es­ta­blis­hed all o­ver the Ka­roo.

O­ver the y­e­ars so­me of the­se out­pos­ts be­ca­me towns of which Beau­fort West (1818) be­ca­me the big­ge­st. Ma­ny ot­her towns sprang up in the Ka­roo. S­try­den­burg, a small vil­la­ge star­ted by the Dutch Re­for­med

C­hurch in 1892 was one of the last. Ap­pa­rent­ly the town fat­hers we­re a quar­rel­so­me bunch, dif­fe­ring a­bout ma­ny t­hings, thus the na­me of the town e­ven­tu­al­ly be­ca­me S­try­den­burg (di­rect­ly trans­la­ted it me­ans the pla­ce of quar­rel­ling).

MY DES­TI­NA­TI­ON

Kar­reek­loof, the hunting ve­nue I was he­a­ding for, lies a­bout 40km west of S­try­den­burg and was es­ta­blis­hed in 1881 by I­sac Ed­ward W­rig­ht as a tra­ding post for far­mers of the vi­ci­ni­ty. The W­rig­hts mo­ved to South A­fri­ca w­hen an an­cestor, the re­ve­rend Pe­ter W­rig­ht, was dis­pa­t­ched to the coun­try by the Lon­don Mis­si­o­na­ry So­cie­ty.

As the tra­ding post be­ca­me mo­re po­pu­lar I­sac W­rig­ht tra­vel­led to Eng­land e­very two y­e­ars to tra­de wool, skins and ot­her pro­ducts, and to buy sup­plies for his tra­ding sto­re. All the goods we­re trans­por­ted by horse-dra­wn cart from Ca­pe Town to Kar­reek­loof. The tra­ding post e­ven had a post of­fi­ce w­he­re post ar­ri­ved on­ce a week on T­hurs­days. »

» Through the success of his tra­ding shop I­sac W­rig­ht was a­ble to buy mo­re land until the pro­per­ty grew to its cur­rent si­ze of 38 000ha. The W­rig­hts, who be­ca­me le­a­ding far­mers in the Ka­roo, far­med with sheep, go­ats, horses, catt­le and ga­me. Hunting and con­ser­va­ti­on was al­ways part and par­cel of Kar­reek­loof. Ma­ny fa­mous pe­op­le vi­si­ted the pro­per­ty with O­li­ve S­chrei­ner being one of the first. In 1899 she des­cri­bed the farm as “...it seems li­ke he­a­ven.”

To­day this hu­ge pro­per­ty be­longs to Wi­aan van der Lin­de who is well-kno­wn in the ga­me in­du­stry. He is a foun­der of and still a co-o­w­ner of Win­ters­hoek Sa­fa­ris, one of the le­a­ding hunting/con­ser­va­ti­on com­pa­nies in South A­fri­ca.

In e­ar­lier ti­mes the G­re­at Ka­roo was ho­me to re­gu­lar mi­gra­ti­ons of mil­li­ons of springbuck. The last two g­re­at mi­gra­ti­ons took pla­ce in 1892 and 1896. In 1896 the springbuck pou­red through the main s­treet of P­rie­ska and ap­pa­rent­ly the ma­gi­stra­te sat on the steps of the court­hou­se and pic­ked off a good num­ber of them with his rifle.

I men­ti­on all of this to il­lus­tra­te that the Ka­roo has al­ways been tee­ming with springbuck. To­day Kar­reek­loof is no dif­fe­rent. I ha­ve ne­ver seen so ma­ny springbuck on a sin­gle pro­per­ty. The ter­rain on Kar­reek­loof com­pri­ses of rol­ling hills and o­pen, gras­sy plains. The lat­ter in pla­ces co­ve­r­ed by lar­ge pa­t­ches of drie­do­ring (three-thorn) and swart­haak (black-thorn) bus­hes. Not on­ly springbuck, but a wi­de va­ri­e­ty of plains ga­me spe­cies, in­clu­ding buf­fa­lo, sa­ble, ro­an, e­land, gems­buck and ku­du (to na­me a few) thri­ve on this hu­ge tract of land.

THE HUNT

Du­ring my vi­sit I shared Kar­reek­loof with A­me­ri­can hun­ters. They we­re al­lo­ca­ted one part of the pro­per­ty that spans 30 000ha whi­le I had 8 000ha all to my­self – w­hat a pri­vi­le­ge! The­re are no in­ner fen­ces on Kar­reek­loof and you re­al­ly do get the fee­ling that you are out in a wil­der­ness a­rea.

For this hunt I u­sed my Bla­ser cham­be­red in .270 Win­ches­ter and lo­a­ded with 130gr Sier­ra Ga­meKing bullets. The­se we­re lo­a­ded to on­ly 2 700fps be­cau­se I knew that I would most li­ke­ly ta­ke bo­dy shots and the slo­wer bullets would ho­pe­ful­ly cau­se less me­at da­ma­ge than on­es le­a­ving the muz­z­le at 3 000fps. It was my first vi­sit to Kar­reek­loof and be­cau­se I would be hunting on my own, I wa­sn’t going to ta­ke any chan­ces. If I ma­de a mis­ta­ke and wound an a­ni­mal the­re would be no help in the form of a hunting vehi­cle to quick­ly fol­low up the a­ni­mal to dis­pa­tch it.

Being a walk and stalk hun­ter I al­ways try to get as c­lo­se as pos­si­ble, li­mi­ting my shots to 250m, e­ven in o­pen coun­try. A 130gr, .277” bul­let at 2 700fps has a rat­her cur­ved tra­jec­to­ry, the­re­for I cho­se a sco­pe that would ma­ke t­hings a litt­le e­a­sier – a Lynx 2.5-15x50 fit­ted with the SA Hun­ters cross­hair. This cross­hair has se­ver­al hash marks on its lo­wer ho­ri­zon­tal leg which al­lows you to aim off pre­ci­se­ly at lon­ger dis­tan­ces.

Kar­reek­loof has a pro­per 300m shoot­ing ran­ge with a con­cre­te bench. So, the day be­fo­re my hunt star­ted I spent so­me ti­me shoot­ing at 50m in­ter­vals from 100m all the way out to 300m to ca­li­bra­te the sco­pe and the tra­jec­to­ry of the 130gr Sier­ra bul­let. With that do­ne, I felt re­a­dy to tackle the wi­de o­pen spaces. I wish mo­re South A­fri­can hunting out­fit­ters had pro­per shoot­ing ran­ges li­ke this one at Kar­reek­loof.

W­hen hunting in o­pen coun­try I al­ways car­ry a tri­pod and

do most of my shoot­ing from the sit­ting po­si­ti­on. Be­cau­se of the stands of drie­do­rings and blackt­horns I al­so an­ti­ci­pa­ted ta­king shots from the stan­ding po­si­ti­on and the­re­fo­re cho­se one of my ex­ten­da­ble tri­pod shoot­ing sticks. Ot­her im­por­tant aids we­re my Leica bi­no­cu­lars, my Leica ran­ge­fin­der and my GPS. The lat­ter is an in­va­lu­a­ble pie­ce of e­quip­ment – it pre­vents me from get­ting lost w­hen hunting on my own in un­fa­mi­li­ar coun­try with no land­marks, and it e­na­bles me to find my way back to my bak­kie af­ter dark or re­co­ver a­ni­mals af­ter sunset that I ha­ve shot e­ar­lier in the af­ter­noon.

W­he­ne­ver I hunt in rough ter­rain I al­so ta­ke al­ong le­at­her glo­ves and knee pads. You of­ten ha­ve no ot­her choi­ce but to co­ver fai­r­ly long dis­tan­ces on hands and knees. Suf­fer on­ce and you quick­ly le­arn the va­lue of good pro­tecti­ve ge­ar.

I had three days to shoot six springbuck which was mo­re than e­nough ti­me. The o­pen ter­rain would be a chal­len­ge though and al­so of cau­se the ma­ny ey­es of the lar­ge num­bers of a­ni­mals. Hunting on foot in o­pen ter­rain calls for a cer­tain le­vel of fit­ness. I pre­fer to park my bak­kie at a cer­tain spot and walk from the­re inste­ad of dri­ving a­round until I spot ga­me and then stalk the a­ni­mals. I wa­sn’t going to ta­ke any long-ran­ge shots and get­ting c­lo­se e­nough me­ant that I had to cra­wl a lot or shuf­fle al­ong on my back­si­de in a sit­ting po­si­ti­on.

WOR­KING HARD

Star­ting at sun­ri­se on day one I hun­ted hard but af­ter four hours still ha­ven’t fi­red a shot. I spot­ted a small herd of springbuck af­ter on­ly 20 mi­nu­tes but the wind was un­fa­vou­ra­ble, so I had to ma­ke a wi­de de­tour to get the bree­ze in my fa­ce. Then I bum­ped in­to steen­buck, dui­ker and wart­hog which I had to a­void to get within ran­ge of the springbuck. The springbuck in the me­an­ti­me had mo­ved in­to a lar­ge, den­se pa­tch of drie­do­rings. W­hen I was e­ven­tu­al­ly in po­si­ti­on un­der a con­ve­nient wit­gat tree (shep­herd’s tree) I still could not ta­ke a shot be­cau­se the drie­do­ring bus­hes we­re too high. I could ma­ke out flas­hes of whi­te and tan but did not ha­ve a cle­ar shot. The a­ni­mals star­ted drif­ting off to my rig­ht and e­ven­tu­al­ly caug­ht my scent. Need­less to say, they took off in a hur­ry.

I shot the first springbuck at noon af­ter stal­king it through a pa­tch of black-thorns. The dis­tan­ce was 158m and I had to ta­ke a stan­ding shot o­ver the shoot­ing sticks. By then the wind had pic­ked up and I found it dif- fi­cult to hold the rifle ste­a­dy. The ram was fee­ding to­wards me at an an­gle and to get a cle­ar shot I had to mo­ve out from be­hind a bush. A­fraid that the springbuck would spot me, I did not ha­ve much ti­me thus de­ci­ded to shoot him at the juncti­on of the neck and shoul­der. At the .270’s re­port the ram col­lap­sed in its tracks.

I was still gut­ting the a­ni­mal w­hen I spot­ted a num­ber of springbuck wal­king in sin­gle fi­le to my left on a low rid­ge a­bout 450m a­way. Look­ing a­round I no­ti­ced a num­ber of con­ven- ient­ly pla­ced black-thorns that ho­pe­ful­ly would e­na­ble me to get c­lo­se e­nough for a shot, so I grab­bed my rifle and set off. I was lucky be­cau­se the springbuck pau­sed to nib­ble on so­me low bus­hes. That e­na­bled me to get within 270m, u­sing the black-thorns as co­ver. From the­re on I shuf­fled clo­ser on my back­si­de with the rifle res­ting a­cross my lap.

As the a­ni­mals star­ted mo­ving a­gain I was 226m from them. They mo­ved be­hind so­me drie­do­rings but I fol­lo­wed one ram through the sco­pe and the »

» mi­nu­te he cle­a­red the bus­hes I cal­led out to him: “Hey ram!” He stop­ped and tur­ned, quar­te­ring to­wards me. I shot him of­f­cen­t­re at the ba­se of the neck. The 130gr Sier­ra al­so drop­ped this one on the spot. Tur­ning the ram o­ver, I found that the bul­let had ex­i­ted in front of the back leg on the far si­de. Me­at da­ma­ge on this ram was mi­ni­mal.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE

W­hen hunting in o­pen ter­rain patience is the hun­ter’s big­ge­st virtue. Mo­ve slo­w­ly, ta­ke your ti­me and try to blend in with the sur­roun­dings. Ga­me a­ni­mals are quick to spot and i­den­ti­fy the hu­man form w­hen we walk u­prig­ht. If you ha­ve no phy­si­cal li­mi­ta­ti­ons (an in­ju­ry or being di­sa­bled), get do­wn on all fours and cra­wl or shuf­fle al­ong on your back­si­de on your fi­nal ap­pro­ach. Mo­ving that way you can fool ga­me, e­ven w­hen they spot you be­cau­se a­ni­mals of­ten can­not i­den­ti­fy w­hat you are. Re­sist the ur­ge to co­ver as much ground as you can. W­hen doing that you mo­ve too fast and the ga­me will spot you e­a­si­ly. Stop, ta­ke a bre­ak and let your bi­nos do the se­ar­ching. Wait pa­tient­ly, ga­me will of­ten co­me to you. Ob­ser­ve which rou­tes the a­ni­mals ta­ke and am­bush them. That is how I shot the fourth and fifth springbuck rams on Kar­reek­loof. Num­ber three was shot at a­bout 100m af­ter bum­ping in­to a small ba­chel­or group w­hen I ex­i­ted a den­se pa­tch of black- thorns c­lo­se to a gul­ly.

Spen­ding ti­me un­der a wit­gat tree in the af­ter­noon on day one I no­ti­ced that a good num­ber of springbuck mo­ved al­ong a roc­ky rid­ge to a gras­sy plain at mid­day whi­le ot­hers trek­ked o­ver a low rid­ge la­ter in the af­ter­noon to gra­ze on a plain dot­ted with pa­t­ches of drie­do­ring sh­rub. At the foot of the rid­ge was a ni­ce shep­herd’s tree that I could use as an am­bush point.

I re­tur­ned the next day at a­bout 2pm and wal­ked slo­w­ly al­ong that roc­ky rid­ge w­he­re I ma­na­ged to in­ter­cept a group of six a­ni­mal. Drop­ping to my bum I shot a ram at 179m. A­bout an hour la­ter I vi­si­ted the shep­herd’s tree at the foot of the ot­her rid­ge w­he­re I plan­ned to am­bush the springbuck. Af­ter two hours I was a­bout to gi­ve up w­hen a ba­chel­or herd of a­bout 20 rams ap­pea­red so­me dis­tan­ce a­way. They we­re ta­king their ti­me and e­ven­tu­al­ly I shot one at 201m at last lig­ht. By the ti­me I had the a­ni­mal re­co­ve­r­ed it was dark.

That left me with a w­ho­le day to shoot a­not­her springbuck. The­re we­re springbuck all o­ver the pla­ce but mos­t­ly in wi­de o­pen ter­rain and I batt­led to get c­lo­se e­nough. Then the wind pic­ked up and at a­bout one o’clock it was re­al­ly ra­cing o­ver the plains. I spot­ted six rams, bed­ded do­wn in a shal­low but o­pen de­pres­si­on al­most de­void of plants. The wind was in my fa­vour and all of them we­re fac- ing a­way from me. A very long and pain­ful­ly slow stalk fol­lo­wed. I cra­w­led on all fours, then shuf­fled on my bum and e­ven le­o­pard cra­w­led. Ma­na­ging to get a sin­gle shep­herd’s tree be­t­ween me and the a­ni­mals I shuf­fled clo­ser on my back­si­de. So­mething on their left sud­den­ly a­lar­med one of the rams and he jum­ped to his feet, the ot­hers fol­lo­wed. One of them mo­ved cle­ar of the rest, stop­ped and tur­ned to look at so­mething to my left. W­hen the cross­hair sett­led be­hind his shoul­der I pres­sed the trig­ger. This one was the he­a­viest of the six I had shot.

SPRINGBUCK GALORE

With my hunting do­ne I spent the la­te af­ter­noon hours at the shep­herd’s tree w­he­re I am­bus­hed buck num­ber fi­ve.On the big plain in front of me I coun­ted al­most 100 springbuck. The­re we­re so­me young­sters in a play­ful mood, run­ning to and fro, pron­king joy­ful­ly. W­hen a springbuck pronks it lo­wers its he­ad, ar­ches its back and boun­ces stiff-kneed off the ground in a se­ries of high le­aps. Whi­le doing that a mar­su­pi­al­li­ke pouch on its rump (cal­led a pronk in A­fri­kaans) o­pens li­ke a fan to dis­play the long snow­w­hi­te hair it con­tains.

The springbuck’s Zu­lu na­me, in­sep­he, which me­ans ‘the shi­ning tas­sel’ re­fers to the pronk’s whi­te hair. Ac­cor­ding to Zu­lu folk­lo­re the springbuck got its na­me w­hen the sun god ca­me do­wn to e­arth to gi­ve the hu­mans, who li­ved li­ke a­ni­mals, pro­per laws and kno­w­led­ge. They soon pro­spe­red but tur­ned on e­ach ot­her, fig­hting. Sad­de­ned the sun god de­ci­ded to le­a­ve, but the hu­mans, fe­a­ring that they would lo­se their kno­w­led­ge, kil­led and ate his flesh in the be­lief that it would ma­ke them cle­ver.

With the sun god’s de­ath both the sun and moon died and the e­arth be­ca­me dark and cold. Hi­ding in a ca­ve the springbuck pray­ed to the gods not to de­stroy the e­arth be­cau­se of the sin­ful hu­mans. Af­ter ma­ny mont­hs the gods de­ci­ded to ans­wer his pray­ers. The god­dess, Mot­her E­arth, ga­ve birth to the sun god on­ce mo­re who im­me­di­a­te­ly re­sto­red the warmth and li­fe on e­arth. Mot­her E­arth then ga­ve the springbuck its spe­ci­al na­me, in­sep­he. She told the springbuck that he will be kno­wn as the a­ni­mal of lig­ht, faith and re­li­a­bi­li­ty.

It may be just a sto­ry, but w­he­ne­ver a springbuck’s li­fe is ta­ken the hun­ter is re­min­ded that this is in­deed the a­ni­mal of lig­ht. At the mo­ment of de­ath the pronk o­pens to dis­play that beau­ti­ful snow-whi­te hair. So, next ti­me you kneel be­si­de in­sep­he be thank­ful for the sun’s warmth and its li­fe-gi­ving lig­ht. * For mo­re in­for­ma­ti­on on Win­ters­hoek Sa­fa­ris and Kar­reek­loof send an e-mail to in­fo@ win­ters­hoeks­a­fa­ris. com or pho­ne 053-204-0042.

OK­TO­BER 2018

Springbuck num­ber six was shot in very o­pen ter­rain af­ter a long stalk. The dis­tan­ce was 188m. This ram was the he­a­viest one of the six. My Bla­ser in .2 270 per­for­med well on o this hunt.

LEFT: Kar­reek­loof is ho­me to a wi­de va­ri­e­ty of plains ga­me spe­cies. I stal­ked this ni­ce sa­ble bull to ta­ke his pic­tu­re.BOTTOM LEFT: Our Toyo­ta bak­kie at the en­tran­ce ga­te of Kar­reek­loof.BOTTOM RIG­HT: An a­ri­al view of the lod­ge and ot­her buil­dings at Kar­reek­loof. Fa­ci­li­ties and ser­vi­ces are fi­ve-star qua­li­ty and the hunting on this hu­ge pro­per­ty out­stan­ding.

W­hen hunting in o­pen coun­try, be pa­tient. Sit do­wn, wait and let your bi­no­cu­lars do the se­ar­ching.

I lo­a­ded 130gr Sier­ra bullets for my Bla­ser .270 Win for this hunt. Be­cau­se I an­ti­ci­pa­ted ta­king bo­dy shots a lig­ht lo­ad, that pro­du­ced an a­vera­ge of 2 700fps at the muz­z­le, was u­sed.

Rams num­ber two and three we­re shot within mi­nu­tes of e­ach ot­her. In this pic­tu­re ram num­ber three is on the left-hand si­de. No­ti­ce the en­try wound at the ba­se of the neck.

Ram num­ber two was shot at 226m. The bul­let en­te­red s­lig­ht­ly off-cen­t­re at the ba­se of the neck and ex­i­ted in front of the far­si­de back leg.

A­not­her pic­tu­re of ram num­ber six. Stal­king ga­me in such o­pen ter­rain calls for patience and lots of ef­fort if you are not pre­pa­red to ta­ke long-ran­ge shots.

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