We gather around the table and join hands to offer a prayer for the breakfast we are about to enjoy, the family and friends present, and the bounty of the days harvest to come. The hunters will split into two groups. One will hunt this morning, the other in the afternoon. This is not a trophy hunt, but rather a long weekend escape to the family farm to replenish the household freezers with protein.
I am privileged to be able to join both groups as an observer. Our morning hunt consists of three friends of the family who are targeting gemsbok. They are not disappointed. We harvest two very nice cow oryx. The first is spotted nearly a half mile away in a small group of nine animals. A careful stalk and a solid first shot puts the animals to flight. The lung hit oryx begins to lag behind the herd and a second running shot at over two hundred fifty yards collapsed the animal in mid stride. It is a wonderful specimen stretching the tape to nearly forty three inches of dark annular ringed horn, in good symmetry, reaching towards the sky. The second Gemsbok by comparison is almost anticlimactic. A close stalk, a single shot at only one hundred twenty yards, and a respectable thirty seven inch plump animal is ours!
We return to the farm and offload our bounty, grab a quick bowl of soup some freshly made bread, and a nap. Our second group of hunters consists of Corne Kruger, his father in law Christo, brother in law Stefan, myself, and Quentin the driver/tracker. We leave just after three to hunt the far side of the ranch. We see plenty of oryx, but they are shy, and move away over several ridges at the sight of the vehicle. We stalk a solitary springbok ram for ten minutes, and one shot later, he is ours. Not a half mile further we spot warthogs. The performance is repeated, and we claim a good tusked sow. Move several miles, glass. Repeat. Gemsbok are gathered in a small bowl about five hundred yards from us. The stalk is on and perfectly executed. Upwind, using the dense shoulder high cover we sneak in. A shot sounds, and another fat cow oryx is added to the total.
On our way back to the truck we stumble upon four waterbuck just over the ridge. The male has a chipped right horn several inches shorter than the left. Corne dictates he is a target of opportunity. Sticks up, bang! One shot more and we are done. After adding these two animals to the previous bag we head back to the farmhouse in the fading light. Just ahead we find a group of twenty gemsbok. a quick stalk of several hundred yards, one last shot as the sun sets and we have five animals in the afternoon hunt alone.
We return to the farmhouse, nee lodge, and allow the staff to begin their job of processing our harvest. The waterbuck will be sold for meat, the other animals processed for family consumption.
We gather at the bar for the comparing of notes from the days hunts, stalks and shots relived, the family of friends and hunters shared camaraderie, as it always has been. The fire is warm against the chill of the night air. We are clustered around the flames as they grudgingly yield the necessary coals for a wonderful braai to come, snuggled into our jackets under the african sky. The braai is a story unto itself and will be told in another post!