Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Happy days and rhino charges

A mate of mine dropped into the DaggaBoy blog on the weekend and rang me today to ask about the photograph in the header -
   "When did you hunt rhino Dagga?"
Short answer is I didn't! Though that is me with my old Brno ZKK602 lining up on the more motivated of a pair of White Rhinoceros; the old girl is chambered in .450 Ackley Magnum.

I was with my pregnant wife and daughter on a game ranch at Hartbeesfontein in North West Province and amongst other things, we were hunting the beautiful bontebok; perhaps the rarest and most beautiful of the Damilscus genus. I was fortunate enough to roll a massive blesbok, the closest relative of the bontebok, a couple of days earlier after failing to collect one on previous hunts. The old ram was big bodied and carried a heavy set of horns. We hadn't had any luck finding a good bonte ram.

We spent much of the day stalking Mountain Reedbuck in the rocky and scrubby steep country along the western edges of the property. Too smart for us today.  It was getting pretty late in the day so we headed back towards the lodge for dinner. As the Toyota rolled down a dusty track, a nice looking ram sprinted through the bush to our right and my PH and I hopped out of the bakkie and hit the spoor.

Our ram walked cautiously with ears pricked straight up from his long face, made to look longer by the less than impressive horns that sprouted from the pedicel, an upward extension of the skull. 

This pedicel is peculiar to the Damiliscus genus, the blesbok and its close cousin, extinct in the wild, the magnificent bontebok, as well as the related topi, tsessebe, korrigum and the tiang. The Alcelaphus genus that includes the various hartebeest and the beautiful hirola, almost extinct in its native Somalia and Kenya, are the only other species that carry these not-so-impressive, heavily ringed horns that make the head of these antelope look abnormally long.

We caught him moving across a small clearing and I cradled the .300 in the shooting sticks. I waited till he slowed, almost stopped, before I took up the last bit of weight of the trigger. The 180gr Woodleigh Protected Point out of my .300 Weatherby Magnum caught the ram square on the shoulder and he slumped to the ground.   My PH gave me a big man-hug and together we raced over to my most prized antelope to date.

The trackers and skinners drove over to where we stood with the girls on board; it was grins all 'round. As soon as the bakkie stopped, two mature white rhino came racing out into the clearing. Our skinner Oupa grabbed my Ackley off the rack and passed it down to me as I handed the Weatherby to the PH. One of the beasts stomped and scuffed at the dirt and made short mock charges in our direction.

   "Don't shoot Dagga!" called my PH as we both stood with rifles at the ready.
   "So what needs to happen before I shoot?" I asked.
   "When he knocks me off my feet, then you can shoot."

The stand-off lasted a few tense minutes while we waited for the animals to head back into the bush; then with a huff they were off into the thorny acacia and the only thing they left behind was a cloud of dust. And all the while, the missus was standing behind me - click, click, clicking away!    

We all spent some time with the bontebok and had a good look over the magnificent animal before loading him into the bakkie. Back at the skinning shed, we threw back a few beers while Oupa and Zulu carefully skinned the ram and and prepared the skull for a full-body mount.  Happy days.

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