I had chosen Roy Vincent as my PH because he was amenable to my hunting style– walking rather than hunting from a vehicle. He was very physically fit so we made a perfect team. The man liked hiking as much as I did. We had a fine old time, Roy and I, collecting 18 trophies– not counting the Impalas used as Leopard bait– as we roamed wide and far from dawn till dark daily. A world-class Kudu taken with the Sako in .375 H&H. Impala, Zebra and Sable taken with the 300 Weatherby Mountain Rifle produced by Rifles, Inc. Then back to the .375 for Cape Buffalo (a story in itself, involving creeping around IN a herd of these mammoth bovines in thick cover—the kind of cover Peter Hathaway Capstick describes in DEATH IN THE TALL GRASS). And so on. We dined on the game I killed. Mornings began with breakfast in the chilly pre-dawn. We would then drive the Land Rover to a likely spot for the game to be pursued for the day and commenced walking—looking for sign. Lunch was based on Biltong—southern African jerky—produced from the meat collected during the hunt. Dinner was delectably prepared versions of the same meat, consumed in the dark back at camp.
We had several more encounters with elephants. As Capstick observes the giant grey beasts can sometimes be perceived in dense cover as simply big boulders. And so we could bounce off a herd so close I could have the touched the hide of one member with an outstretched rifle. The method of escape was to keep the wind in our favor and quietly—very quietly—sneak around the herd and resume our march. Time would cease…we were living in the now completely, utterly. The same timelessness settled over us when we tracked a wounded lion for a day. (We will be getting to that story in due course.) Same thing occurred when we found ourselves among the Cape Buff throng, mentioned above. I will never, ever, forget hearing the rumbling of elephant belly at eye level as I crept by the source of the sound.
Or seeing elephant trunk-size holes in dry stream beds; the canny beasts will drill down feet beneath the dry surface and suck from the water table their keen sense of smell ensures them lurks there. Mighty useful, those talented trunks.
And so it went—every day rambling, rambling till we crossed tracks to follow or spotted animals to stalk. On the occasion of a kill we would trek back to the truck and snake it to the kill sight for retrieval of the trophy. We thus rolled up a great many miles afoot. Through Baobab glades and aptly named wait-a-bit brush and the tall, tall grass. I’ll never forget Roy up in tree searching out over the grass for just the right Buffalo to stalk.
There was the day my Sarah decided to go hunting with us instead of reading and watching crocs and hippos out in the lake. Do my readers know the sound an innocuous little Impala makes? Perhaps a chirp like a cow elk? Or maybe a bleat like a sheep or goat? Not hardly. The little buggers emit a deep guttural roar, a loud one—for all the world sounding to the novice like a lion! Simba! King of the jungle. So Sarah was hiking along with us, slowly, carefully, over the rough terrain that fateful day as we searched for game. The deal was this: under no circumstances were we to leave her…we were to stick by her side no matter what. So. We spotted a huge Kudu across a valley. About 350 yards out. I flopped prone and took a poke at him with the .375. Whap! A hit. He crashed off into the brush…and…me and Roy and our trusty trackers did what all men do in such circumstances: We leapt to our feet and hightailed off that ridge and raced across the valley toward the brush the Kudu had bashed into. It was a flat-out run we four menfolk put on. (What about Sarah? Uhhhhhh…oops.) We had just begun the dash when we bumped an Impala. Who roared. Loudly. Not many seconds after finding the dead Kudu my little town girl showed up beside us—gasping for breath, dripping wet with sweat, eyes as agog as the night the elephant chased us. Pissed? Nope. Just very, very happy to be back among men with guns. We explained to her about the sound Impala make. We explained earnestly. Very earnestly.
Who knew my Sarah could sprint across rough ground like a Gazelle?! A Gazelle with a lion on its tail.
More to come….