Possible pull quotes: Not unlike in a lot of stalks, the hartebeest sensed something was up.
By Wade C Gear
It is said things usually come full circle, and I guess that could be said for hunting adventures. Truth be told I have had a number of “once in a lifetime” hunts, but it seems those that have really meant the most are those that I have gotten to share with my family.
Since anyone’s first safari will always hold that special place, it was only fitting that I took my children to the place it all started for me back in 1999, and that place is the Rooipoort Nature Reserve outside of Kimberly South Africa, one of South Africa’s oldest conservation areas dating back to the late 1800s.
Our trip was planned for the summer of 2015 with Madubula Safaris. We had hunted with Madubula many times previously – a first-class African outfitter. It was great to drive into the camp where my first adventure had taken place, and to see the excitement on my kids’ faces as we saw hartebeest, impala and springbok. After sighting in the rifles we enjoyed a wonderful meal and a few sundowners around the fire – the talk was the anxious chatter of our kids and what they wanted to hunt during the next few days.
The next morning as we watched the sun come up we saw several gemsbok slowly moving over one of the hills. I saw a distinct smile on Katie’s face – my older daughter – as she said that that was one of the animals she wanted to hunt.
We headed out on a crisp morning just to drive around to see what was moving. I had suggested we should definitely take some black wildebeest because I knew how big they get here, and that they are not common in every hunting area. As we drove out into one of the area’s large pans, we spotted several bulls standing out in the open, so John our PH decided to take Katie on a stalk. As we watched from a vantage point they walked at an angle towards the animals. After altering course several times they ended up almost 200 yards from the bulls and, as we watched one bull jump, we heard the shot. After a quick follow-up shot he was in the salt!
Anyone who has tried an open stalk across hundreds of yards on an alert animal knows what a difficult shot this can be, so naturally I was very proud of what she had accomplished.
Now it was 14-year-old Libby’s turn to see what Africa had in store for her. Late that evening as we headed back to camp we saw a good red hartebeest bull alone in an area that would allow for a good stalk, so again I found myself watching from a vantage point as my daughter headed out to try and get her first animal of the trip. Not unlike in a lot of stalks, the hartebeest sensed something was up. But as it watched, John and Libby slipped within range, and after getting settled on the sticks she, too, had her first animal of the trip! So after pictures and an unbelievable African sunset we once again enjoyed the warmth of a camp fire and repeated the stories of the day’s adventure.
Over the next few days my girls hunted hard, and I actually took time to go after a sable for myself. We looked at several bulls that seemed big to me, but John wanted to keep looking. So one afternoon as we headed to a specific area, I noticed curved horns sticking up from a clump of bushes out in the middle of a grass plain. After making sure it was a good one – which didn’t take long – we made a short stalk with the wind in our faces, and I got a magnificent 46-inch sable, truly one of Africa’s most beautiful species.
The next day we decided to continue our tour of the property just to see what we could see. As we came around a bend, there was a group of gemsbok headed up a hill. John quickly got Katie on the sticks as a beautiful bull stopped at the top and looked back one last time. It was just enough time for Katie to take her shot. At the shot we watched the bull run off, and were afraid that we had a long follow-up ahead of us, but Katie assured us her shot was good. To be certain, John released Mosey, his Jack Russell, so that if the bull had been wounded he would bay him quickly so we could get in a follow-up shot. Fortunately, as Mosey crested the ridge we heard him start to bark, and sure enough when we got to the top, the bull had only gone a short distance. The pictures certainly reflect my daughters “told you so!”
The next several days were devoted to more of Africa’s beauty and many more animals, including a springbok, blesbok, another black wildebeest and red hartebeest, and a spectacular eland that Libby stalked and shot with a .300 Win Mag. All told they each got four animals. However, they also hunted hard for an animal that was not willing to cooperate. Libby wanted a baboon and tried for several days to get close enough for a shot. Katie wanted to keep working on her “tiny ten”, but although she focused on a duiker, it eluded her. We also took some time to visit a site on the property with Bushman rock art. It was surreal to walk through and look at these drawings done thousands of years ago, and to see those that showed animals no longer found in this region, such as lions and elephants.
I am blessed to have been able to share these experiences with my kids – it means more to me than anyone will probably ever know. I have had these hunts filmed and my excuse is so that my kids will have a lasting memory of our trips.
(The real reason is so when I am too old to remember my name I can watch and relive each hunt all over again!)
Oh, and as we left Rooipoort, they let me know that next on their list is Cape buffalo. But that’s another story!
Wade is a Texas native who has hunted Alaska, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana and Colorado, plus Africa 12 times, completing the Big Five. As well as being a writer, he believes in teaching his kids to respect the outdoors and wildlife, and that the most important aspect of the hunt is not the kill, but the hunt itself.