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.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The fox and his rabbit

It was a very cold July morning on the NSW central tablelands when the photo of the fox and his rabbit was taken.
I was on a state forest hunt with fellow R-licence holder and good mate Lulwut.  Access to this particular forest requires a short drive along a private road and it was along this road we met this dog fox with a rabbit he'd just collected, and very determined to cross the road.  

Said fox trotted forward and I rolled the Hilux forward to cut him off. The red dog doubled back and attempted to cross the road behind us so I let the Toyota roll back and he stopped somewhat confused.  Hmmm.  He raced forward and I cut him off again, very odd.  Lulwut reached around to the back seat and grabbed my Canon DSLR and I quickly fitted the IS55-250mm lens.

We played the game a bit longer till the fox stopped for a minute, staring straight down the barrel, breathing heavily, but holding firmly onto his prize. Click, click, click…

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Invasive Animal CRC

For those of you who don't know them, the Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Centre is funded by the Commonwealth Government and builds on the strong foundation provided by the Pest Animal Control CRC prior to 2004

"The centre aims to counteract the impact of invasive animals through the development and application of new technologies and by integrating approaches across agencies and jurisdictions.  It is the first time that research, industry, environmental, commercial and government agencies will work together to create and apply solutions for invasive animal threats."

This week, IA CRC have been granted a further $19.7million of funding to continue their research operations into the future. 

The Invasive Animals CRC has also been running a photography competition in recent months for images of feral species that they will incorporate into their 2012 corporate calendar. I quite like the winning entry...

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

The first post

The two crates of precious cargo had arrived on Qantas flight QF064 from my friend Rupert Dedekind's workshop in Pretoria. It had been a drawn out process and in amongst the ream of documents that accompanied the consignment were Australian CITES Import Permits, CITES Export Permits issued in South Africa, province permits confirming that the animal products - horn, bone, tusk and skins - were hunted legally, a Veterinary Certificate stating treatment of the trophies and a manufacturer's declaration confirming:  same. 

With everything in order, Australian Customs and AQIS expedited the clearance and inspection process and I found myself cruising through the city streets with my precious cargo in the ute. The trip from AQIS at Rosebery to my office on the northern beaches was uneventful other than the particularly hot November weather.  I was happy 

And later that week, I found myself crawling around the factory floor with my two daughters, aged 21 months and 3 years and 7 months, smoothing out the skins of a couple of lovely Burchell's Zebra. The girls were loving the crate unpack, it was like Christmas and they oohed and aahed as I carefully laid out each trophy. 

We were all in awe as I unrolled the Hartmann's Mountain Zebra rug shell. The girls squatted around the stallion and as they handled his mane ever so carefully, I realised how lucky I was, at least for now, that my daughters shared my passion for hunting.   

So I've decided to share my love for hunting; the quiet time in the bush, the smell of guns and leather and burnt powder, quiet but determined stalking, the thrill of the chase, harvesting game, meat and trophy field care and preparation, and dealing with meat and trophies at home. For decades now, it has not been merely a sport or a pass time, but very much the single activity that allows me to maintain my equilibrium in a busy and stress-filled city life. 

And I hope to share the hunting lives of like-minded souls, perhaps passionate for different reasons - it'll be fun to have the opportunity to find out. Hope you enjoy reading the DaggaBoy blog; visitors are always welcome.

Happy hunting. Daggaboy.