20/10/07

Phantoms of the forest.

By Kobus Fourie

Tragelaphus scriptus, or more commonly known as the bushbuck, occur throughout South Africa where suitable habitat can be found. As its name implies, it is a creature of the bush, and spent as much as 80% of its life in dense bush. The Bushbuck belongs to the genus Tragelaphus or spiral-horned antelope. The other Tragelaphus species found in South Africa are the Kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros) the Nyala (Tragelaphus angasii) and, even though not what most hunters consider a true spiral horned antelope, the Eland (Tragelaphus oryx). Because the Bushbuck specie is found over the entire African continent, some 40 different subspecies have been described. In South Africa we only have the southern bushbuck, (Tragelaphus scriptus sylvaticus).

The southern bushbuck is a medium sized antelope with the ewe having a shoulder height of 63 to 74 centimetres, and the males slightly bigger at 73 to 86 centimetres, and our southern specie is markedly bigger than the subspecies occurring to the north. A mature ram weigh anywhere from 30 to as much as 70 kilograms. Young rams are a chestnut brown colour with long hair that gives the buck a furry appearance. As the ram gets older it usually turns a darker colour, and can turn almost black on its back and upper legs. Ewes are a light red-brown to a light fawn brown. Mature rams have a yellow-white mane across the back from the shoulders to the base of the tail. The tail is short, furry and white beneath and is lifted during flight to show flashes of white from behind. There is a distinctive white stripe on the front of the neck. Some rams have a prominent white chevron on the nose, while this particular colour is faded or almost lacking in other rams. This colour variation does not appear to be regional, as bushbuck found on the same farm exhibit this difference. The white spot behind the eye is constant however.

A row of white dots and 1 to 3 short vertical stripes are present on the flanks, along with scattered white dots across the hindquarters. Colouring differs widely throughout the distribution range of the southern bushbuck. Of interest is that the rams lack the facial sent glands used to mark territory. Bushbuck spoor is a slightly elongated, double hoof with a sharp pointed end and a rounded rear. Size of the front print is a little bigger than the rear because of the slightly heavier forequarters. Front spoor measures about 27X40 centimetres for an adult ram. Only the rams carry horns, and these are smooth with a flat triangular cross section that spiral towards the tip, almost completing a full turn. Rowland Ward minimum is 38.1 centimetres. The number one measures 54.29 cm, and was shot near Groblersdal, Mpumalanga province during the 2002 season.

Tommie and our mutual friend who lives in the Free State, Albie van Zyl, had a very good trip some time ago when they had hunted and fished near the Kei river mouth in the Eastern Cape. After their trip, he told me I absolutely must hunt there as soon as I get the chance. I always kept the idea in the back of my mind, and one evening when I phoned him, I casually asked, more as a joke than anything else, when we are going to hunt there. Imagine my surprise when he told me; "in three weeks time". I had just sold my farm, and was still busy moving, so fitting the hunt into my schedule would be very difficult. The saying, Ďwhere there is a will, there is a way" certainly came to mind, especially after I heard that Albie, our friend from the Free State, would join us. I havenít seen or even talked to him in ages, so going hunting with him and his family would be an impossibility for me to miss out on.

Jaco with his very nice Bushbuck ram. Notice the ram is blind in his left eye, and the torn left side of his lip. Bushbuck are ferocious fighters, and no doubt his opponent has some scars left over from their encounter as well.

Even though bushbuck occurred on all the farms I owned in the bushveld, I never hunted one on any of the farms. Having grown up in the Karoo where there is no Bushbuck, I cherished the occasion when I saw them on my farm so much that I never hunted them. My first introduction to hunting them came when I had to guide a Hungarian client who hunted one on the banks of the Limpopo river, and having been told how lucky I was on that hunt, I just had to hunt bushbuck again. For me hunting bushbuck is special not just because it is such a beautiful and difficult animal to hunt on foot, but also their preferred habitat is always some of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in South Africa. The Kei river hunt was scheduled for the end of April, exactly the time the new owners of my farm wanted to move in, so I really had to work extra hard to finish moving before the start of the hunt.

As I opened my rifle safe, I looked at each of the rifles in turn, and as I run my fingers over each stock, the memories of all those good times I had with them by my side floods my mind, but deep down I know there is really only one rifle in my battery that would do for this hunt. Because of the habitat preferred by my quarry, the rifle I chose would have to be short so that it donít snag on branches, lightweight so that I can crawl on hands and knees through the thick underbrush without tiring to much, and powerful because a wounded Bushbuck ram can be just as deadly as a wounded Buffalo. The scope would have to possess a wide field of view to permit fast shots at a fleeting target, be of low magnification so that the whole animal can be seen in the scope at the short distances that Bushbuck are generally shot, and to enable me to keep both eyes open in the event of a charge or a running shot. A illuminated reticule would also be of help since a scope that meet the above criteria usually donít have a very good light gathering capability, and the dense undergrowth can get very dark at dawn and dusk.

My fingers close around the stock as I lifted the black rifle from the safe, and the smell of gun oil that drifts to my nose as I opened the bolt really put me in the mood for the hunt to come. The rifle is a .303 that had its barrel cut back to 19 inches, and fitted with a synthetic stock. The scope, mounted halfway down the barrel, is a Lynx red dot with a 3 MOA dot. The 3 inches the dot covers at hundred meters is no handicap in a rifle built specifically for hunting in dense bush where the shooting distance seldom exceeds 50 meters. Because the particular farm we were to hunt on also had open fields that offer the hunter with longer shots, I also packed my .308 because the 1.25-4.5X26 Lynx scope mounted on it makes it more flexible, allowing me to use it for the longer shots when set on 4.5 magnification, and in the thick stuff when set to 1.25 power. It does not have an illuminated reticule, so the low light shots might not be so easy with it. The ammo I selected was 174 grain Hornady handloads for the .303, and a 180 grain Hornady handload for the .308. Both loads have proven track records as far as accuracy goes and both hit with enough authority to prevent a nasty hand to hand confrontation with an angry bushbuck.

As all my thing were still packed after my move to the apartment I rent in Warmbaths, I had no choice but to travel light, electing to buy the provisions I need in the holiday resort of Kei Mouth itself where we would be staying. I only packed the two rifles, my two dry storage boxes with hunting equipment and camera box, and a few clothes in a over night bag. It felt strange going hunting with so little, and I kept thinking I must be forgetting something. The drive to Kei mouth would take me the best part of a day, so I set my alarm clock for midnight and try to put the excitement in the back of my mind as I struggle to get some sleep before the 1200 kilometre drive that lay ahead. By quarter to one I locked the house behind me, and with a full moon high in the night sky, I set off with great expectations on my journey that would take me to a part of South Africa I have never been to before.

Jaco carrying his buck to the farmstead. By this point he is covered in ticks from the dead Bushbuck that are looking for a new host to feed on. We are wet up to our knees from walking through the wet grass, and a wet jean clings to your legs, making walking very tiring.

By starting so early I was able to miss the traffic in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Driving so early in the morning also meant the traffic cops are fast asleep in their nice cosy beds, and I was able to let the needle of the speedometer hover around the 140 mark for most of the way. Just before dawn I filled the tank in Bloemfontein, and looked forward to seeing a new part of South Africa as I turned the pick-up onto the N6 towards East London. The full moon was casting a ghostly light on the wide open plain around me as I drove past the farm were I had hunted two years before, Albie and his wife was still there and would be joining us shortly. The owner of the farm we were to hunt on was in Bloemfontein with some of his horses, and they would be getting a lift from him on his way back to Kei Mouth.

The towns I had seen but only on a map greeted me as the pick-up made short work of the black tarmac ribbon beneath; Smithfield, the Anglo-Boer war battlefields and monuments before Aliwal North, crossing the Caledon river that used to be the frontier in the early days of South Africa, the Penhoek pass through the Stormberg, Queenstown with its wild frontier history as the Eastern Cape was settled during the 1800s, the small romantic towns of Cathcart and Stutterheim and finally Komga, the last town before my destination. The Eastern Cape is second only to the north of South Africa when it comes to game farming, and as the grass pains of the Free State gives way to savannah just before one reach Queenstown, it is obvious why. A testimony to the wildness still retained, is the presence of Anatolian dogs amongst the flock of sheep, keeping watch and preventing the many predators from enjoying a take-away lamb dinner.

Tommie and Jaco (Jakkals) where driving up from Victoria Wes, and we would meet at a little holiday resort called the Whispering Waves. The 6 person chalets are situated on high ground right on the edge of the Indian Ocean. The height of the chalets affords any one enjoying its lodging with the most spectacular view of the ocean. Given my early start I arrived 4 hours before the others, and not having been to the sea in the last 8 years, I was appreciative for the time I could spent alone, just sitting in front of the chalet, watching the waves rolling against the rocks and the marvellous sound washing away the fatigue I felt after the long drive down. Unable to leave the rifles unattended I could not even go to the shop and get a few cold ones to treat my friends when they arrived, but Iím sure they will understand.

My friends arrived at about five oíclock in the afternoon, and they certainly havenít travelled light. After we finished unloading, it was too late to drive to the farm, some 20 kilometres away, to sight in the rifles and we spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying each others company. Karoo mutton is famous for its outstanding taste all over South Africa, and the eveningís meal of barbequed Karoo lamb and our traditional South African sausages was certainly fit for a king of kings. Despite the amount of catching-up we had to do, the conversation became less and less flowing as the sound and smell of the sea captivated each of us and turned his thoughts within himself, and in no time, we started drifting towards our beds for a well deserved rest and a fresh early start the next morning.

We woke up to a landscape covered in mist and everywhere the green grass was covered in a heavy layer of dew. The drive up to the farm was a prelude of things to come as the game behind the high game fences blinked their big green eyes as the headlights swept its yellow hand through the darkness. We turned right at the sign proclaiming the land as Sunray farm, the property of Clint and Julie-Anne Gower, and stopped at the farmhouse just as the farmhands were starting with their daily chores of feeding the cows and taking care of the horses. Our appointed guide showed us a suitable place to zero the rifles before we start the hunt. I was finished after five shots from my rifles, but the .243 Jakkals was using just did not gave its full cooperation very easily that morning. When he was satisfied and had again regain confidence in his rifle, we engaged our guide to find out the likely locations the bushbuck preferred. Bushbuck has the habit of coming out into the open in the early morning and late afternoon to sun themselves. It is often the best time to get a good ram. I guess it get pretty cold in their forest hideouts, and getting some warmth from the morning sun must feel very good to them; I certainly enjoy it in the winter months.

While Tommie and our guide were trying to communicate in a mixture of native languages, Jakkals spotted a very nice bushbuck ram grazing in the open across the narrow valley. Tommie quickly raised his binoculars to his eyes in an attempted to judge the length of the horns the ram was carrying, and presently pronounced it a fair representative specimen. Jakkals offered me the shot, but it was just too easy, and knowing it would detract a great deal from the hunting experience, I declined. With our blue-overall-clad guide in front, we set off straight for the buck. The ram quickly disappeared behind some trees as we descended into the ravine. There was a dam in the stream and I almost forgot we were hunting as we emerged from the trees on the bank of the dam and the amazing sight unfolded before me. The waters edge was covered in numerous tracks of wild pigs, bushbuck, jackal, otter and almost every other wild animal found on the farm.

Our guide poses for a photograph with the Bushbuck. He caused us a few anxious moments when we lead us to a shooting position - non too quietly.

We made our way across the dam wall, and as our guide noisily made his way up the other side of the valley, I felt sure he would spook the ram. Instead of quietly moving dry branches aside, he would break them like an elephant would in his unwavering quest to get Jakkals in a shooting position. I was keeping well back, and could not spot the ram as the guide pointed it out to Jakkals. Not being able to see the animal afforded me the chance to watch Jakkals in action, I saw the excitement in his movements, and could not help but smile as I saw him grab a thorn tree to steady his aim. The tree trunk was the size of a mans wrist, but he almost bend it over double as he leaned into it. I heard the muffled report of the suppressed rifle a millisecond before hearing the slap as the bullet found its mark. We spread out in an arc and started to advance towards the downed buck. The first shot had only broken its spine, and as soon as he was able to, Jakkals finished his hunt with a well placed shot to the shoulder. All that was left now was to take some photographs and carry the buck out towards the house.

In our hurry to start the stalk, we left everything except our rifles in the vehicles, and in order to take the photographs, Jakkals had to walk back to the farmstead to get the camera. Since there were enough people to help with the photos and carry the buck back, I took the opportunity to hunt the thicket on the bank of the ravine we had crossed. This time I had no overexcited guide to rush me, and I took my time as I slowly made my way upstream. I expected the bush to be thick, but not so dense that I could not even crawl through on my belly. My intention of hunting the thickets did not look possible after my initial reconnaissance up the edge of the stream, so my hunting strategy had to be revised to me hunting the edge of the thicket instead. The path that I was walking on was covered in tracks, causing me to keep all my senses as observant as possible, the slightest movement can be the flick of a ear, the most imperceptible change in light can be the reflection of the sun on a horn, and the most indiscernible noise can be the nimble lips of a bushbuck plucking a juicy leave from a branch.

I only had 400 meters to hunt before I came to the fence that mark the beginning of the game camp, the rest of the farm being fenced with cattle fence that cannot restrict the movement of game. As I stepped into the small two-track dirt road running next to the fence, I turned left towards the farmstead to see how the others were doing with the skinning of the buck. Upon reaching the house they were nowhere to be found, taking the photos took longer than I anticipated, and I met them just as they crossed the dam wall and started making their way up the side of the valley. The ram was getting heavier with every step, and Jakkals was starting to breath heavy under the load, the dew covered grass had drenched his jeans up to his knees, causing the material to cling to his legs and making walking even more strenuous. Fortunately we sprayed ourselves with Byticol tick repellent when we arrived on the farm so he did not have to worry about the ticks covering the buck climbing onto him. I had packed the repellent after been warned about the millions of peperticks on the farm. Peperticks are the size of a pinhead, and the only way u know there are peperticks present is by the thousands of extremely itchy bites on your body.

Tommie and I left Jakkals to skin his buck as we set of in the direction the guide had pointed us, hoping to catch a nice ram in the open as he sunned himself. It was still very early in the season and there was still plenty of food for the buck inside the thicket, so they did not have to come out into the open to feed, and as a added problem, it was not all that cold either so the real big bucks did not spent much time sunning themselves. As we walked the scenery was truly splendid, but we did not see a single bushbuck, just the spoor and droppings to indicate that the farm is indeed a bushbuck paradise. Tommie carried his shotgun in the event that we came upon a bushpig, he had been hunting bushpig since his teens, but so far they have eluded him. We sat down on the edge of a small dam for a five minute break before continuing our hunt up the low hill to our left. There are not a lot of rocks or stone lying on the ground, so in theory crawling through the thicket should not be so painful, but the ground is covered in small mounds of earth that the earthworms push up as they burrow into the soil. The earthworms in that part of South Africa are huge, they are about 30 centimetres long and as thick as a cigarette, so the amount of soil they push up from their holes are considerable, making crawling over it just as painful as crawling over rocks.

By the time we reached a clearing in the bush again it was almost midday and we headed back towards the farmstead for a well deserved siesta. By the time we got to the house, Jakkals had finished skinning the buck, and had driven back to our chalet in Kei mouth to put the quartered carcass in the fridge. Tommie and I sat down in the shade of a small tree, and with a magnitude of farm dogs coming up to eagerly greet us, talked about his previous hunt on the farm as we waited for Jakkals to return. Jaco had brought his fly rod with him on the trip, and he had the presence of mind to bring it back with him after dropping off the meat. There were two dams on the farm that had fish in them. The smaller of the two was the one that we had crossed when we stalked his bushbuck and a little downstream was the bigger of the two, and also the most beautiful. The small one had tilapia (Tilapia mossambica) from Mozambique, and the lower one had plenty of large-mouth bass (micropterus salmoides). I am not a fisherman, but fly-fishing had always appealed to me and I jumped at the opportunity to see what fly-fishing was all about. Hopefully I would get a few lessons in the art, and if there is any possibility of me mastering it, a fly-fishing outfit would be the first thing on my shopping list when I get back to Warmbaths. After having some cold barbeque left over from the previous night, we set of for the dam to see if the fish would humour our efforts with a bite or two.

A very nice large mouth bass caught with a fly-rod in one of the dams on the farm.

Resting my rifle against the trunk of a convenient tree, I hung the rangefinder from a broken branch and looked around for a nice place to sit from where I could watch Jaco in action with his fly rod. Being a beginner in the art of casting himself, he selected a fly from his selection and began swishing the line ever further out. The time of day was not the best, the morning and afternoon are best, and the winter is not the best season for bass fishing either, so me and Tommie didnít expect him to be rewarded with a strike for his troubles. Large-mouth bass hibernate and are a lot less active in winter, but there is usually a few who will reward the persistent fisherman for their efforts. In winter their metabolism is reduced to the extent that they require only about one quarter of the usual amount of food, so the angler has to try a wide assortment of bait to tempt one.

Bass are normally surface feeders and eat insects, baby fish, fledglings, eggs and mice that have fallen into the water, worms and even small snakes. Large-mouth bass like cover and will hide near anything that will shelter them. The more difficult it is to fish in a particular spot, the greater the likelihood of finding bass there. Patches of weed or water lilies or a submerged log are favourite bass haunts. Bass prefer clear water and a spot where the vegetation provides shelter, they also like a stream running into a dam, as the oxygen content of fast flowing water is higher. A favourite bass haunt is underneath a dead branch hanging into the water. The dam had just such a dead branch hanging in the water some 40 meters away from where Jakkals was standing on the dam wall, and this is the place he tried to land his fly. Tommie and me where still talking about how lucky he would be if he caught something when the rod bend double as the bass took the fly some five meters from the dam wall.

Bass often follow the lure for some distance before taking it, consequently taking it so close to the wall. He did catch a fish against all our predictions, and now we were all watching with renewed interest as he tried again. After catching a few more small fish, he allowed us to try our hand at casting. I am proud to say that I did not hook myself or tangled the line so much that it had to be thrown away, and are now the proud owner of a brand new fly-fishing outfit. After satisfying myself that I could indeed master my lifelong dream, I handed the rod to Tommie who decided to try another spot, and he did catch a small fish on a fly rod for the first time as well. He too is now the proud owner of a fly-fishing outfit, and our hunting trips will get a lot more interesting in future as we search for places we can both hunt and fly-fish.

Tommie with his catch. Maybe not so big, but at least he is holding it very professionally.

When the sun was a hands breadth above the horizon we set of for a part of the farm known as the pantry. After our adventure at the dam we slowly made our way up the hill to get into position before the buck started to feed again in the afternoon. We had decided to change our hunting method from spotting and stalking the buck to still hunting. Still hunting is finding a spot where the buck are likely to appear and sitting motionless for a long time while waiting for the buck to hopefully make an appearance. The pantry was a part of the farm that is bordered by a deep ravine, covered in dense bush at the bottom, a low hill on the left as one looked down the ravine and another deep ravine over a slight rise to the right. The buck could enter the open space that is the pantry from three sides, making it a very good spot for our chosen ambush tactics.

We chose a spot, sitting down in the edge of the tree line, on the left side of the pantry, about halfway up the slope of the hill. Our spot gave us very good view of the clearing, but sitting in the tree line meant that a buck could come out into the open right next to us, if that were to happen it would make for a few awkward tense moments. I lay down in the soft desmodium, a member of the clover family and used as cultivated pastures in that part of the country, and as we waited for a buck to show itself, I allowed myself to drift into a daydream as the sound of nature wash over me. The sound of the birds singing was fantastic, and somewhere down in the ravine a bushbuck barked its displeasure at something, how I could just close my eyes as I lay under the tree and sleep like a prince. The sun disappeared behind the hill we were sitting on, and I sat up as I judged this to be the time when the action would start. Tommie was the first to spot movement in the long grass some 60 meters ahead of us, and no matter how hard I tried; I just could not spot the animal he was looking at. Only after the ewe had moved a few paces into the clearing could I see her, to Tommieís great amusement, but I did get my own back when I had to point out to him the ewe that had appeared no more than 25 meters in front of us a little later.

As I sit there and marvelled at the beautiful animals in front of me, I became aware of tiny hooves stepping on some dry leaves behind me. I turned my head as slowly as possible, but the ewe standing in the game trail less than 5 meters behind me was just to close and I only saw her back as she vanished into the bush. Another ewe and a warthog with her three piglets graced us with their presence, but no ram made an appearance. The sun was now behind the horizon and the light was fading by the minute, pretty soon it would be to dark for me to shoot, and we reluctantly made our way back towards the farmstead. As we walked back we spotted more ewes and possibly a ram that was silhouetted against the light sky on the horizon, but taking a shot at it would have been irresponsible and unethical. Even though we walk back without carrying a buck, I was happy to carry only the welcome burden of the experiences of a wonderful day, besides this is only the first day, who knows what joy tomorrow could bring.

That evening we toasted Jakkals on his luck and made our plans for the next day. Clint had arrived back on the farm the previous night, and the next day promised to be a sweet reunion as Albie and his wife arrived with Clint. Jakkals decided to stay and try his luck fishing in the ocean in front of the chalet. As per usual we were on our way before the sun peaked over the eastern horizon, and daybreak found us on the farm, greeting our friends with warm smiles. Today Tommie and I would hunt the same part we hunted the previous day while Clint took Albie to the easternmost part of the farm to try for his buck. Albie had hunted on the farm 3 or 4 times before and all the other members of his hunting party had shot a bushbuck on those occasions, but he never got an opportunity.

Immediately after crossing the big dam wall we spotted three ewes grazing to our right, but there was no ram with them. After walking a further 100 meters or so we heard a shot, and wondered who would be shooting so early. The dew on the desmodium had drenched all my clothes from the knees down and the wet jean was getting heavy with water and to make matters worse, was clinging to my legs, making it feel like is was walking in quicksand. We painstakingly hunted the edge of every clearing in our assigned sector, but by eleven oí clock we returned to the house empty handed again. We knew the buck was there, but getting one was proving a very difficult task indeed. Tommie and I sat talking under the same tree, this time joined by Madeleine, Albieís wife, and their 9 month old daughter, Zita, when Clint and Albie arrived back from their hunt. The shot we heard earlier in the morning was Aldie finally getting his buck after so many tries.

A happy hunter. Not all the animals with a reputation for being cunning that he hunt will be so easy.

We spend a few more hours chatting before Clint took us to the eastern part of the farm, not for hunting, just sightseeing and showing us what he plans to do with the place. They concentrate more on the horseback excursions they offer along the wild coast itself than on entertaining clients on the farm itself at this point, so the development of the farm is still a work in progress. The place is certainly beautiful, and I believe that once the farm is fully developed, it will be one of the premier hunting venues along the wild coast. After returning to the farmhouse, Tommie and I went back to the Whispering Waves to pick up Jaco, who had been entertaining himself with some sea fishing in the morning. He only had a few nibbles on the bait he was using, but nothing took the bait, and he had nothing but a big smile on his face to show for his morningís efforts. He packed his fly rod again to do some fly-fishing in the big dam on the farm whilst Tommie and I hunted in the afternoon.

This time I took the .308 with its different scope to see if I could stretch the day a little before it becomes to dark to take a shot. We again chose the pantry as an ambush site and set off two hours before the sun would dip behind the hill to the left of the pantry. Jakkals walked with us until the dam, where he stayed to practise his art. This time we sat down more to the middle of the clearing, just like Clint suggested, but we had to call it a day when it became to dark to see an animal through the scope. This time only the bark of the bushbuck broke the monotony of the second slowly ticking by. We made our way home where we found Jakkals, who at least had some success in the dam with his fly rod. We spent a few hours talking at the farm before heading back to the chalet, tomorrow we would hunt the deep valley on the eastern part of the farm, the same one Albie had success in. Jaco had enough of fishing, and would be joining us on the hunt. There runs a dirt track down the valley, and the tactics would be to walk slowly in the track, stopping frequently to listen and scan the hills to both sides for bushbuck with our binoculars.

Early the next morning found the three of us in position at the entrance to the valley. Walking the +/_ 2 kilometres to the end of the track took us about 4 hours, but we did not see a single bushbuck. We sat down at the bottom of the valley and enjoyed a cup of coffee from the flask Jakkals had carried in this backpack. The scenery was unbelievable, the smell of the veld overwhelmed the senses and the singing of the birds interrupted only by the occasional call from one of the vervet monkeys watching us with big eyes from behind the branches of the trees was heavenly. We had hunted hard for three days without getting a single opportunity at a bushbuck ram, but I was as happy as I had ever been. The hunt was one of the best I had ever had, and with no regrets whatsoever I gracefully conceded to the bushbuck. Besides what better excuse could I possibly have for coming back to this wonderful place.

We did see a ewe as we walked back the same way we came the morning, but I was not really hunting anymore, just enjoying my surroundings. It was a little before midday, and there would be enough time for the others to go fishing in the sea. The drive to the beach at Haga-Haga took no more than half an hour and I was able to feel the seawater washing over my bare feet again after about 8 years while the others prepared their tackle. Tommie and Jakkals did not have a fishing license, so they would be spectators only on this day. Albie used a fish head to try and catch a shark while the others were not going after something specific. Maybe the conditions were not the best that day because they did not catch anything, but everybody had the time of their lives as we all enjoyed the outing. At five in the afternoon we decided to call it a day, and on the way back Tommie convinced me to have one more try for a Bushbuck on a spot we havenít tried yet.

I took the .308 out of the gun case as Clint gave Tommie directions to the spot he considered to hold the best promise. We walked slowly down the lane that had been cleared underneath the overhead power lines to our assigned position. The spot was maybe not the best because the clearing cut in the dense thicket was no more than 8 to 10 meters wide, and any buck that came out into the open would be too close for me to do anything other than remain motionless and watch. The only time I would get a shot would be if one stepped into the open some distance up or down from were we where sitting. We waited until it was too dark for me to use the scope, but to no avail. As we walked back to the farmhouse it was getting really dark and I was hoping not to step into an Aardvark hole.

Tonight would be my last night before the drive back tomorrow, and we sat around the fire until the early hours of the morning. Albie and his family would join me on the drive back so far as their farm in the Free State, and I, being used to drive alone, was looking forward to their company. I had spent 4 fantastic days hunting a very beautiful part of South Africa, and had met great people in Clint and Julie-Anne Gower. A sincere heartfelt thank u to them; I hope to be back shortly for round two with the bushbuck on Sunray farm - with my fly rod as well. To my friends who made the weekend even more exceptional, thank u all, lets do this again a lot sooner rather than later. Sunrey farm has the following website for anyone interested in having a look. www.sunrayfarm.co.za