SA JAGTER/HUNTER | September-Oktober 2022 | Deur WAHEED MAHOMED

Letter to the Karoo.jpg

LETTER TO THE KAROO

The Karoo has a way of endearing itself to the hunter’s heart.

 

Dear Karoo,

I hope that this letter finds you in peace and weathered tranquillity. It was not too long ago that I had the honour of spending some time in your company, for which I will be forever grateful. I was always partial to the forests and bushveld of South Africa and did not hold you in very high regard. Your semi-arid plains appeared too bare to create much excitement in me – oh, how that has changed in the last few days!

 

I experienced my first voorsit hunt on your plains during July 2022, and it has changed my perception of you forever. Herewith is a recollection of our brief time together. I could not contain my excitement at the prospect of our first encounter. The day started off at five o’clock, with a 600 km journey ahead to the hunting field.

 

The drive was long but filled with chatter, meeting our hunting companions and the exchange of pleasantries before we were on our way again – three vehicles and eight hunters in high spirits.

 

On the first day, you and I were left in each other’s company. Most first-time meetings can be a little awkward, especially without any other people to carry the conversation. It was intimidating to be so exposed and without any distractions. Your scorched appearance showed your resilience against time and the barrage of climatic shifts you had endured over the millennia.

 

A few hours went by, and I felt like we had eased into a relaxed conversation. You showed me your flora, birdlife and a few springbuck, but they were too skittish or too far away for any engagement. Our conversation intensified when I took aim at some springbuck. The shots missed their intended targets because of user error – I incorrectly compensated for the distance of the animals.

 

I used too much holdover when the springbuck were actually close. There was no wounding, only springbuck scurrying for their lives as the shots rang out. After that bout of excitement, and as the day drew to a close, I spotted a lone ram wandering towards me. Your winds grew colder and your appearance darkened against the dipping sun. As the solitary ram got closer, it turned away from me. In a rushed decision, I decided to take a chance at it. My view was unobscured, and I could see the ram looking to the left, his backside towards me. I would have to place the shot far back due to the shooting angle and shoot through the back, left side of the rump to penetrate the chest cavity – a quartering-away shot that would result in great biltong loss.

 

Carefully, I squeezed off the shot. The angle was good, but the shot was too low as I had used the 100 m zero. The ram went down but was not fatally wounded. I rushed to chamber another cartridge. Seeing a farmhand moving towards the buck, I realised it was too risky for another shot, so I jumped up and rushed towards the downed ram. As I got closer and the tracker was out of harm’s way, I shouldered the rifle and put a second bullet between the ram’s eyes, ending its suffering. You smiled upon me, and we ended our conversation for the day with a ram hunted late afternoon.

 

On the second day, we arose early to a clear, brisk morning without cloud cover. It was much warmer, but two layers of clothing were still required, even though I would spend the day in the sun. Despite clear skies, the wind was icy in the afternoon. Apart from the sound of the wind and occasional radio chatter, all one could hear was the animals and the voices in your head – the voices we drown out with the day-to-day busyness of city living.

 

By mid-morning, we were in each other’s company again, and I was dropped off at the bush that would be my cover for the day. After my sighting in and poor performance of the previous day, I re-evaluated the aiming point and dialled the reticle two clicks to the left because both the target and shot placement indicated I was biased to the right.

 

An hour later, I had already hunted a springbuck ram at 150 m with a perfect heart/lung shot. He was trotting up the side of the fence, looking for an openingto get through. As he turned broadside, I squeezed the trigger. Jolting from the impact, the ram ran about 20 m before expiring.

 

Our morning conversation was off to a great start! As we talked, I noted that your contour consisted of flat, red soil, dotted with small shrubs and koppies in the distance. Your character was silent, and you wore cologne that smelt like freedom. It was easy to identify far-off dwellings on your topography as they were surrounded by lush clumps of trees and bright greenery, forming a stark contrast to the small bushes and red soil. If only I were not shackled to the trappings of modern life, I could live here in the solitude where the mind feels free and the soul feels light.

 

The absence of cellular reception afforded me freedom from electronics and social media that steal time from us without us realising it. I believe this is why we feel so busy in the modern world: we are busy with busyness, wasting time by occupying it with social media and meaningless scrolling and news.

 

Here you and I sat, without radio waves, engaged in meaningful conversation about being. We briefly talked about two of your inhabitants, Piet and Lolla. They were very hospitable, and at the age of 72, they moved around with relative ease. In fact, Lolla moved around with the speed of someone 20 years her junior! You had cared for them well and raised them to be strong. Their home was modest, containing only necessities and many repurposed items. Make no mistake, they were not simple-minded, but only simple in their needs of material items.

 

Around three o’clock, Petri, who was close to me in the field, called, “Waheed, hulle is op pad jou kant toe!” He was referring to three springbuck that were walking up from his easterly position towards me. Our conversation slowed. I started glassing the area to find them and eventually spotted them about 400 m off. You murmured softly to me as they came strolling towards me in single file. I eased off the safety but thought to myself they would run away when getting closer because that was what happened numerous times earlier that day.

 

The springbuck closed in slowly – 300 m, 200 m, and finally, 150 m – now within reliable shot placement range. I wondered if they would stand still. The ram at the back seemed the largest of the three, so I focused on him. As I whispered to him, he stopped to look around. I seized the opportunity, exhaled, held steady and squeezed. The shot rang out and I saw the puff of dust rising from his back from the bullet impact. He nearly buckled before sprinting a few metres. I immediately chambered another cartridge, but he was close enough for me to see the blood starting to colour his nose. I knew he would be going down soon. In my scope, I saw the other two springbuck dashing off in a zigzag pattern. As my intended target succumbed to his wound, I noticed that one of his travel companions stopped to look back. As he came to a halt, I was in the perfect position to squeeze off the chambered

cartridge.

 

The two shots must have been taken within a minute of each other, but behind the scope, time had slowed down and I did not feel rushed into the shot. I felt in control and steady, but it was the “bloodlust” creeping up on me that I was aware of and feared. As soon as the second springbuck was hit, I saw it fall and already found myself chambering another cartridge to aim at the third one. However, I staved off the “bloodlust” by lifting the bolt and telling myself, “Enough!”

 

Watching the third springbuck escape, I stood up. “I have two and I’m done,” I radioed. Walking in the direction of the harvested animals, I could easily spot the second buck lying in the dirt. Then I went further east to find the first one, a real beauty, and carried it to the other buck to take a unique picture of the two animals hunted together in the field.

 

By mid-afternoon, it was all over. I packed away my gear and waited for the transport to collect me and my bounty that lay before me. We ended our conversation with a smile and with your gift of two superb springbuck. The last night was one of relaxation and regret – regret that the next day I would part ways with you. I wish we had more time together. There was something about your silent demeanour, your wisdom; a beauty I could not understand but can now fully appreciate.

 

Dear Karoo, thank you for the time we could spend together and the gifts you graciously granted me. I will be back!