Exclusively for the web |3 Oktober 2019 | By WIKUS JORDAAN

Hunters pay the bills

August finally arrived and we were on our way to a farm near Marble Hall. The farm was not very big and catered mainly to eco-tourism, but the accommodation was very nice and we quickly settled in. A little while later we gathered at the shooting range, which was a short drive from our lodge, to check our rifles. Several people had brought along crossbows. Leon brought his custom .460 G&A and when he offered it to me to test fire, I could hardly control my enthusiasm. Expecting a substantial shove, I leaned forward, lifted the rifle, took aim and squeezed the trigger. The recoil was very noticeable, but the bullet struck the target exactly where I had aimed.

The next morning produced the typical “first morning” scramble for guns, boots, breakfast and coffee. We divided into groups with my group setting off towards the hills behind the lodge. We spooked a few impala, which crossed a road in front of us and then ran down the hill. Continuing along the road brought us back to the same impala herd. Several of them gazed at us as we were silhouetted against the morning sky. Taking a shot was impossible so we continued the hunt. As often happens, we did not get a shot at anything during the morning and eventually returned to the lodge for lunch. Ben, who had taken a zebra, and his son, were already there.

 

After lunch, the farm manager dropped off Mauritz and I on the southern part of the farm, and it wasn’t long before we spotted a small group of zebra. They were unaware of our presence and we managed to get to within 150m of them. We stalked closer, keeping the sparse trees between us and the herd. Every time they moved, we moved and every time they stopped, we froze in our tracks. After several minutes we ran out of cover and it was time to take a shot. Keeping a single tall tree between us and the herd I waited with my Winchester .375 H&H at the ready. The leading zebra must have sensed us because he suddenly bolted and the whole group followed. We needed to cover about 100m quickly to get to the next line of bushes.

 

We could see the zebra in the distance and followed in a parallel line, about 150m from the herd. Stopping to consider our options, we noticed that the herd had turned slightly towards us and if they continued walking would cross in front of us. There was dense vegetation in front of us but slightly to our left was a 3m-wide clearing that would allow me to take a shot. I got ready on the shooting sticks and waited. The first two zebras crossed the clearing at a fast trot... then two more. The next one gave me a chance and, aiming quickly, I fired the .375 H&H. The zebra bolted and disappeared. Not sure how well hit he was, we followed up and soon found blood. It was pink and frothy, indicating a lung shot. We followed the tracks for about 400m until we reached an open area, then circled around until we came to a crossroad where the herd had crossed. We followed the tracks and within a few steps I spotted the zebra lying in a clearing. Not sure whether it was indeed dead, I put in an insurance shot before approaching my prize trophy.

 

LOADING THE ZEBRA

The farm was not equipped to handle the loading of large animals and when the manager arrived, we saw that he had an old tractor tyre with him. Instead of loading the zebra on the bakkie, it was rolled onto the tyre, secured and then “towed” to the skinning shed. Everything I had ever read about the preservation of animal skins stated that the most damage happens when a carcass is carelessly transported and now my zebra was being dragged on a tyre behind a vehicle for several kilometres. Arriving at the skinning shed, the zebra was so full of dust that it was unrecognisable. However, after a good rinsing with water the zebra was again recognisable for what it was. The skinning was done very efficiently, but when the skin ended up in the same container as the stomach content I was not impressed. Fortunately, I always bring along a bottle of disinfectant and instructed the skinners to remove the skin, wash it thoroughly and then soak it in the disinfectant for an hour.

 

We returned to the lodge and when the farm manager picked us up again for a late afternoon hunting session, we stopped at the skinning shed again. I then learned that the skinners did not follow my instructions. They only used about half a cup of the disinfectant for both my and Ben’s zebra skins. Filled with trepidation I requested that the skins be thoroughly salted and kept in the cold room.

 

THE DROUGHT

After dropping off some hunters in the veld we headed for the game feeding area close to the main gate. The impact of the drought was clearly visible. The bush was dry and lifeless, the red sand devoid of grass. I could not help but wonder how big a portion of our group’s day fees and other monies paid for this hunt would be used to buy fodder for the game.

 

Ed had taken an impala ewe not far from the lodge. Ed is not the most talkative person, but from the broad smile and three grunts that he finally uttered, we all knew exactly how proud he was of his shot.

 

The next day I had ample time to reflect on my hunting trip. When the rains come everything is honky dory. During good times it almost seems as if there might even be tension between the eco-tourism and hunting industries. However, when a drought hits and money is tight, it is the hunter that carries the animal welfare bills. Considering the number of game farms in South Africa, it is clear just how massive the contribution of the hunting fraternity is to conservation.

 

Months later, when I received my perfectly preserved zebra skin back from the tannery, with no hair loss, I further concluded that soaking a game skin in a little disinfectant is probably the best investment anyone can make on a hunting trip.

  Lees ook                                                                                                                           

'n Erfenis vir jagters

Soos dit maar oral in die wêreld gaan, is Suid-Afrika se geskiedenis ook met wapens geskryf. Sonder wapens sou dit ons voorvaders veel langer geneem het om suidelike Afrika te tem. Ek skryf hierdie stukkie uit die oogpunt van die jagter, maar moet soms noodgedwonge na politieke gebeure verwys.

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