The importance of patience

By: Kobus Fourie


The grey rhebuck ( standing like a statue, silhouetted against a Tanzenite blue Karoo sky. His broken horn clearly visible between his erect ears as he tried to make sense of the thing somewhere behind him that alerted him. I was close enough to see the details of his furry coat as I sit slightly below him on the edge of a rock formation in the dried-up stream, a stream that would turn into a raging brown-water waterfall when the heavens open up and soaked the parched soil.

We spotted the lone ram from the valley below, and for a time, after we lost sight of him behind the mountain, I was sure he would be spooked by the three Klipspringers that took flight as we make our way below their mountain top bastion, but when we spotted him again moments later, he was still grazing in the same direction as before. A hasty summary of our position indicated that a run up the mountainside would bring me into a very favourable shooting position, downwind and in front of the grazing 'vaalie' with the setting sun behind me. It is a rarity for a cunning adversary like a vaalie to found himself in such an unfavourable tactical position, and one that I certainly intend to exploit to the fullest.







The gully which I use to stalk the rhebuck. The buck was standing at the top left of the picture, and I was in the middle right near the green bush at top of the gully.

I could only see his head on the skyline, and impatiently I raised myself to get a better view through the 8X range finder, for the moment my ghillie suit was masking my movements from his impeccable eyesight. All I had to do was to wait patiently for the buck to satisfy his curiosity, and continue feeding along the top of the ridge, and in ten paces, he would be in the perfect position for me to take the shot. I sit there on the rock for what seemed like minutes, but the buck didn't move a muscle, I surveyed my immediate surroundings, and found a big rock that would serve as my dead rest for a shot at the buck as it now stand. I slowly raised myself, trying to get to the rock unseen, but the sharp eyes caught the movement, and his head snapped at me as he spotted the movement. I was caught in a precarious position, feet wide apart, my knees bent acutely, and my torszo leaning forward – no stable position for a secure shot. I had no choice, all or nothing, biltong or drooling on the biltong shop window. I raised the Ruger, and settled the bead in the rear notch, took a six-o'clock hold on the visible part of the buck's body, and squeezed the trigger.

The 7mm magnum bucked in my shoulder, and as the front bead lifted off the buck, I could see the bemused expression on its face as he nonchalantly turned around and trotted away lightly over the rock strewn ground. In a desperate attempt to correct my blunder, I raced up the incline towards the spot where he disappeared over the horizon, but as I reached the top, struggling to get the wonderful precious gulps of oxygen in my burning lungs, the buck was, predictably nowhere to be seen. I looked back and saw Berna coming up towards me, I turned my head and looked in the direction the buck disappeared. I had no witty excuse, no explanation, just my incompetence to ponder, all I could do was look down at the patina stained PMP case in my hand. Am I really that much out of practise?








There are 9 grey rhebuck in this picture. Try and count them.

Apart from a few teasing remarks about my shooting ability from Berna, the walk back was pretty much in subdued silence. Even with open sights, I knew the Vaalie, a mere 70 meters away, should have been in the bag, and also the nagging self recrimination in the back of my mind told me the truth; if you only waited 5 minutes, the buck would have dropped to the shot in its tracks. I did not apply the necessary patience and wait for the buck to present me with a unmissable broadside shot. I once shot a Jackal while it was sleeping under a bush because I showed the necessary patience in walking slowly in the bush veld, and not coming around the bend in the dirt track like a panzer on the warpath. I know my mistake, and now I have to fix it, and, fortunately for me, the Karoo have the perfect medicine to teach a hunter infinite patience – Dassies! (






The dassie can be seen in the middle of the picture. They are extremely weary, and have very good eyesight. But they cannot resist to bask in the sun.

The dassie is a guinea pig like creature that lives in the myriad of rocky ridges and krantzes that is dotted all over the Karoo. And having the same appetite as rodents, the dassies cause a lot of damage to the surrounding veld, and are in direct competition with the sheep for the most nutritious grazing.

Due to ignorance and mismanagement, the natural predators of the dassie, namely Black eagles, Caracal and Leopard have largely been eradicated from the area. The Leopards have almost disappeared from the Karoo as a result of the sheep farmers, and the Caracal are actively controlled because of their destruction of the young lambs and immature sheep. The Black eagles ( however, the main predator of dassies, are unfairly branded and prosecuted as 'sheep killers', largely through ignorance. Our own personal experience with Black eagles during lambing season on the farm is that they will readily take to feeding on an already dead or still-born lamb, but only in exceedingly rare cases actually try to catch a live lamb. So rare in fact, that in three generations of farming, no lamb kills could be attributed to Black eagles on our farm.

Due to their size, and the fact that I was looking to teach Berna how to use a rifle, I selected a .22LR for the job of teaching me the lost art of patience again in front of the Dassie krantz. A quick search trough my supply of .22 ammo revealed a sufficient quantity of CCI Stingers, excellent for the job at hand, but any high velocity hollow point will work just fine. In the past I had good results with Winchester 'power point' and more recently with Remington 'Cyclone', and when it was still available, Swartklip 'Blitzer'. The later the local SA manufactured ammo, but sadly no longer available. The only reason I do not mention the wide selection of other HV hollow points is simply that I have no personal experience with any of them. The Stingers function flawlessly in my Peter Stahl conversion kit for my CZ75, hence are my my first choice for use in the pistol.

The Karoo had some good rains, and the animals reproduced in good numbers this year, and I was sure we would get some regular chances at the young inexperienced dassies. I took the .22 pistol along to back up Berna, and to practise my long range pistol work if and when the opportunity presented itself. My dad removed the scope from the Brno Mod 2 some time back when he butchered the pig, and I quite like the feel of the rifle with open sights, so for now at least, I decided to continue my back-to-basic open sight odesy. Without the scope on top, the rifle is also lighter and easier for a novice like my fiancé Berna to handle.

This is the view we had from our chose ambush position.

Dassies have special eyes that enable them to look directly into the sun to spot their most formidable predator, the Black eagle, and because of their great eyesight, I decided we should wear our ghillie suits to camouflage us as much as possible as we sit in ambush and wait for our quarry. Dassies love to sit in the sun and soak up the heat before retiring into their lairs for the night. The most success can be had by selecting a west facing rock-face that shows the tell tale white urine stains of the inhabitants. The dassies will sun themselves in the last rays of the setting sun, and if disturbed, will rush inside the rock crevice, only to reappear a short time later as the heat of the sun or the cold of the crevice overcomes their fear for the danger outside. Waiting for them to reappear is the perfect test of patience for the hunter.

When we arrived at the krantz, the dassies scurried from their sunny perches on the prominent rocks, and I did get a good opportunity to put my .22 pistol to work, accounting for a dassie 60 meters away before the krantz was quiet, only the two Egyptian geese in the river doing a fly-by and voicing their displeasure at the fusillade of shots that disturbed their forage in the cool crystal clear water of the pool where the river makes a turn in front of a bend in the krantz. I knew from experience that no dassie will show itself again for a while, so I settled Berna in a very nice ambush spot before retrieving the dassie the luckily fell from the ledge where it died, 10 meters of the ground, to take a couple of pictures.











Berna showing the dassie I shot.

Dassies are always covered in all kinds of parasites, and are usually not fit for human consumption, but are however popular with some of the coloured inhabitants of the Karoo. I personally prefer to leave the dead dassie I had shot for the resident Black eagles. Catching a dassie is by no means easy for a Black eagle, and I am happy to provide the raptors with a freebie whenever I can. When I was still in school, there was a breading pair on one of our farms, and supplementing their harvest with dassies I killed for them, was one of my great pleasures over weekends when I was away from boarding school.

I took some pics of Berna and the dassie before settling down beside her and start pealing a orange as we prepared to wait for a dassie to show himself. I had ranged the likely spots on the krantz beforehand, and adjusted the sight on the rifle accordingly. The previous day on the improvised shooting range, Berna showed herself to be more than capable to make a clean kill on a dassie, so I had no reservation in letting her try for her first dassie. As mentioned earlier, there was young dassies on the krantz, and much to my surprise, we barely waited 5 minutes before a young one peaked over the edge of a rock 60 meters away.

It was a very difficult shot over that distance with an open sight at such a small target, and I had no real expectation that Berna will actually hit the dassie. I was spotting with the bino, and was very surprised and proud when her shot strike the rock less than 2 centimetres below the dassie; apparently my girl can shoot more than just a little. I judged her reaction at the miss to see how she would handle it, but could only smile at her genuine disappointment at the very near miss. When I showed her a dassie from a distance for the first time some days ago, she thought they are cute, and subsequently I was not allowed to hunt one. But after showing her the damage they do, and telling her more about the creatures and that we will be feeding the eagles with the dead dassies, she developed somewhat of a passion for hunting them.







Her 'little friend'. The dassie can be seen on the topmost tip of the rectangular rock that lay at a 45 degree angle roughly in the middle of the picture.

The slightest of movements caught my eye, and with more of a reflex action than a deliberate sighting, I raised the bino for a better look at the very same rock Berna had a go at the dassie 10 minutes before. Sure enough the little bugger was back, sitting on the rock with his uncharacteristic white whiskers gleaming in the sunlight. He made no move to expose more than his head, and Berna took another shot more to chase him back into the rocks than in hope of hitting only his exposed head. Over the next 40 minutes or so the little dassie lived a very charmed life as he keep on appearing every 8 to 10 minutes to provide Berna with shooting practise. Every time the bullet disintegrated against the rock only centimetres away, but she never could get the bullet and that particular target together, even I had a go at the dassie, but failed to draw blood either.

So much for this particular hunting spot, I decided to try another krantz a couple of hundred meters upstream. That particular krantz usually had a couple of resident dassies, but at this time of the day the sun would be shining directly into our eyes, as there was only one approach to the krantz that kept us hiden from the dassies. Sure enough our careful approach, trying to use whatever little cover there was atop the almost barren rock formation, was spotted be one of the many pairs of eyes scanning 360 for danger, and the shrill alarm call echoed against the hillside as the dassies scattered to the four points of the compass. Well, maybe not today, but we walked to the edge anyway, just in case.

There was no dassies left on the krantz, but Berna spotted two sitting in the riverbed below us. She was looking directly into the sun as she trained the rifle, and I shielded my eyes and waited for the sharp crack of the Stinger leaving the muzzle.

Shooting into the setting sun is never easy. This picture shows the shot Berna had to take directly into the sun.

One of the dassies scurried to the safety of the rocks, and I urged her to take the shot. The crack of the shot was followed a instant later by the thud of the bullet striking the dassie, and the dassie did a somersault at the impact of the bullet. I was about to congratulate her on the shot when the dassie miraculously jumped up and made for the impassable thorn trees on the far side of the river. I tried a 'Dodge City' quick draw with the pistol, but failed to get a bullet on the fast disappearing prey. The thorn trees was impossible to penetrate, and on the neighbouring farm anyway, making a follow up impossible. Not a one-shot-kill, but with a hit like that, the dassie will be dead within a couple of minutes. First blood for Berna, just unfortunate that we could not recover the dassie to take some pictures.

As the shadows of the mountains raced across the plains, we headed for the farmstead. The dassie I had killed with the pistol was placed on a rock for the eagle, and I scanned the sky in vain for the bird as we walk back. No matter, we will be back tomorrow to see if the eagle had visited the 'drive-through'. As we walked we discussed the hunt, and we both agreed that the open sights was maybe a little difficult for a novice like Berna to start with. The 4x32 scope was at home, and it was a small matter for me to mount and zero the scope when we arrived at the house just before dusk. On our way back, we walked through the camp of lambing ewes, and was royally entertained be the spectacle of a young lamb sleeping on his mothers back. I was fortunate to get close enough to take a photo, and the picture provided us with some laughter the evening when I showed it to my parents.

This is not a sight you see everyday. This lamb is very fortunate to have such a patient and understanding mother.

After fitting and zeroing the scope for 60 meters, the average distance our quarry would be in the krantz, I give Berna a few shots to familiarize herself with the new set-up. She took to the scope like the proverbial duck to water, and after 3 sighters was hitting a tennis-ball size rock 70 meters away with boring regularity. She wanted to keep on shooting at the various rocks that made such tempting targets, but the light was fading fast, and this time of the year it gets a little cold to be outside. It was obvious she was a lot more comfortable and proficient with this set-up, and was excitingly talking about the next day.

The next afternoon found us on in the same location that we occupied the previous afternoon, this time Berna had a lot more confidence in her equipment, and was scanning the krantz with interest for signs of a dassie. The first dassie duly made an appearance, but she had difficulty in picking out the well camouflaged creature against the rock face. I took the rifle, and blinked in amazement as the shot hit the rock above the dassie, a field adjustment to the scope was most definitely in order. A small rock served as the target as I adjusted the scope, using the rim of a empty case to turn the turret. After three shot I was satisfied with the zero of the scope and handed the rifle back to Berna. And best of all, the eagle had picked up thedead dassie from the previose night early in the morning as well.

I spotted her little friend from yesterday, and the rifle cracked, but still he proved elusive to bag. After a couple of missed tries at the little one, a big dassie came running along the ledge in the krantz towards the mound of loose rocks that proved so effective in sheltering her little friend. A smidgen more than a pace away from the loose rocks the dassie halted and looked in our direction. I heard the click as she disengaged the safety, and I unnesseseraly told her to take her time. The 22 cracked and I heard the slap as the tiny piece of lead found its mark. I knew the dassie was hit, but he didn't drop on the spot, instead making it to the cover of a rock. I congratulated Berna on her first confirmed kill, and assured her the dassie would be dead within a very short time. I am not sure if she entirely believed me, but the situation sorted itself out a couple of minutes later when the fataly wounded dassie came tumbling down from the rocks. I took the rifle from her and administered the coup de grace, ending her first dassie hunt.

A very proud huntress with her first dassie.

The coming weekend we had a wing shoot scheduled in Victoria West, with my long time friend Tommie and his fiancé, Nel Marie. We packed with great anticipation the Thursday evening, and by 8 o'clock Friday morning, we pointed the pick-up north and started the 4 hour drive. After fortifying ourselves with a quick breakfast in Laingsburg, we drove north on the N1. This time of year is bitter cold in the Karoo, and the combination of the heater in the vehicle, and the rising sun baking down on us through the wind shield was wonderfully hot and cosy.

We caught up on all the conversations we missed over the past months over a delicious Impala stew that Nel Marie prepared for dinner, a young Impala she hunted the previous weekend. Our plan was to start at 6 in the morning and pick up some more guns for the shoot along the way to the farm, which is about 50 kilometres outside of Victoria West. On the farm we would meet the other guns for the hunt, many of them old friends I had not seen in a long time. The frost was blanketing the Karoo veld with its icy embrace, and poor Nghala on the back of the truck had a icy ride, but the excitement of the hunt had none of us, including Nghala too worried about the cold.








The sign that welcomes visitors to Victoria West.

After the joyous reunion on the farm, the strategy for the day was plotted. All the shooters would use a back road and drive towards the big dam on the farm that the birds fly to when they are disturbed on the alfalfa fields where they feed. All the guns would sneak into position behind the dam wall, taking care that the birds does not spot any of us from below the dam as we move into position, and wait for the designated beater to chase the birds away from the alfalfa fields. There would also be a sniper with a 22 Hornet rifle behind the dam to keep the birds flying, and not sit on the water the whole time.

All went according to plan, and while stalking into place, a humorous situation occurred when the line of guns flushed a rabbit. Nghala, being the full blooded hunting dog that he is, immediately gave chase. The little rabbit was a very old and wise character, and led Nghala straight to the dam wall, and, he was almost on top of the rabbit when had to seriously break to prevent him from going down the steep incline over which the rabbit disappeared in front of him.






Showing some of our bag for the day.

Egyptian geese (, and a spuwring


At around 10, we heard the beater making noise to put the birds to flight, and hopefully over our well laid ambush. Minutes later we could hear the wing beats of the Egyptian geese and the excitement behind the dam wall was building tremendously. I was positioned in the middle of the wall, and it was the path the geese chose to escape. I heard then before I saw then and I was ready when the flock appeared into view over the wall. They spotted me an instant later, and veered to my right, I picked a bird that was flying a little bellow and behind the others, and swing the gun through him. I could see the feathers dislodge as the 35 grams of AAA shot hit, but the geese miraculously keep on flying. My second barrel had no effect either, and after I reloaded, the birds was out of range. I could hear the other guns barking around me as my gaze followed the geese I had wounded. Mercifully it went to sit on the water close to our sniper, and he finished the geese with a well placed shot.

After a couple of minutes of intermittent flights of birds, the air was without movement, and we break the guns and picked up the birds we bagged. There was a wounded bird on the water, and no matter how we tried, nobody could hit the bird, not even our sniper. I had my 22 pistol with me, and having some experience in long range pistol work, the geese was almost 180 meters away, I decided to have a go. I keep on hitting the water very very close to the bird, but I had difficulty in actually hitting it. Only after I fired nearly 50 shots did I finally manage to kill the wounded geese. I had a try earlier on a spurwing I thought was wounded, but give it up after I failed to hit it with a full magazine. When we made our way back to the vehicles, our sniper on the opposite bank had accounted for the spurwing I shot at earlier, and now both the spurwing and the geese was drifting on the dam. Fortunately there was a slight breeze blowing that would blow the dead birds towards the shore in a couple of minutes.

The 22 Hornet bullet that was recovered from the Spurwing next to a 22 LR Stinger. The fact that the bullet did not penetrate the Spurwing is testimony to the toughness of these birds.

After the shoot we went to the overflow in the dam wall for a barbecue and to shoot some clays to relax after our exciting shoot. While the fire was burning out, Berna and me went to pick up the two dead birds still on the dam. The first one was easy as the wind had blown it onto some rocks, but the spurwing was a very different story. The shoreline was covered with weeds, some growing well into the water, and the spurwing was stuck behind some of these weeds. I had no choice but to take off my shoes and pants and waded into the freezing cold water to do the retrieving myself. The morning the temperature was only -3 degrees, and the water didn't feel much warmer. My legs were completely numb from the cold as I sit down next to Berna to get dressed again. The feeling in my legs slowly returned as we walked back towards the others with the two birds.

Retrieving the Spurwing from the icy water was not the highlight of my day.

Berna expressed her desire to have a go with the 12gauge, but my lovely fiancé is very small, and I knew the gun would hurt her to much, maybe later, and with a nice 20gauge. On our way back to Victoria West we had the opportunity to visit an old friend that was on his farm for the weekend. We arrived just before dark, and couldn't resist the temptation to go for a walk-up geanea fowl shoot before it gets too dark. When we spotted the birds it was very late, and getting dark fast, but we had to have a go. With the light so bad that we couldn't see the beads on the shotgun barrels any more, we managed to bag three birds before having to call it a day. Now all that was left was to sit around a roaring fire to drive the cold away and enjoy each others company.







Continuing our tradition. The customary empty shot shell full of peach snaps to end the hunt.

It was with great sadness that we said our goodbyes the Sunday afternoon before we left for my parents farm again. Who knows how long it will be before I can see all my friends again, and share their wonderful company in the hunting field again. But until then, we have the most wonderful memories to cherish for the rest of our lives. And to my lovely beautiful fiancé, thank you my love. Thank you for your understanding and interest in my life's passion. You are a amazing woman.








Thank you honey