South Africa’s Grey Ghost

10 10 2013

This post was originally published on Ladies in Camo’s website at http://ladiesincamo.com/lictoth/2013/06/20/south-africas-grey-ghost-diane-hassinger/

We traveled several miles from the lodge, to an area that was known to hold big kudu.  They are known as the Grey Ghost, and they certainly lived up to their name.  We would catch fleeting glimpses of their horns glistening in the sunlight, then they would be gone.  Several times we tried to stalk.  Once we came close enough that when they sensed our presence, they almost ran over top of us fleeing.

The following morning we were again going to search for an elusive Grey Ghost, when we spotted a trio of males in the distance.  We slowly and methodically closed the distance to 80 yards.  At that point I braced my gun and took a shot at the biggest male.  That is almost an oxymoron statement; of course I would shoot the biggest one!

The 2 smaller ones turned and ran back the way they had come, but my buck forged ahead, crossing into a tangle of mesquite type bushes.  Everyone was so certain I had had a perfect shot that we took off at once to find him.  There was no blood, not even a drop that I could find, but everyone was still confident.  Sure enough about 40 yards off of the trail laid my kudu!

I don’t understand what the physical differences are from our North American animals, I had heart shot this kudu, and he didn’t leave a blood trail, and my guide and tracker were at no point alarmed by this.  Your emotions can run the entire gauntlet of feelings in just a few moments of hunting; the elation of a good shot, the disbelief of no blood trail, the fear that your animal will not be found and the elation again when your trophy is found.

Diane with her very real Grey Ghost, aka Kudu

Diane with her very real Grey Ghost, aka Kudu                               Photo Credit:  Diane Hassinger

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Water’s Edge Water Buck

10 10 2013

 

 

 

 

 

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We were traveling close to the Limpopo River for my Water Buck hunt.  The terrain changed so much in just a very small area.  We went from arid desert like conditions to tropical and lush.  The Limpopo River had been dammed up to provide irrigation for a ranch, and in the process, they created a multitude of man-made lakes and marshes, perfect habitat for water bucks.

Shortly after lunch, we spotted a trio of water bucks.  One of them stood out from the rest.  We tried and tried to put on a successful stalk, but the winds kept swirling, and even though they were not spooked, they were uneasy.  Later in the afternoon, my husband and our tracker raced up to where we had just completed a stalk.  That had spotted an even bigger buck!

We quickly made our way over to the area.  Sure enough there stood a magnificent water buck and 2 does.  Altus quickly set up the shooting sticks, and I took aim.  I actually suffered from buck fever at this point.  I was so nervous about making a bad shot.  I took a cleansing breath and squeezed the trigger.  The way he hunched up and tucked his tail, everyone knew I had hit him good.

My tracker immediately took off to look for his trail.  We followed behind, certain that we would find the buck right inside the tree line.  Problem was, he wasn’t there.  My niece spotted him walking toward the water.  I pulled my gun up, and waited for Altus to verify that he was the same buck.  We couldn’t be sure, so I waited.  We went back to where I had shot him, and started tracking from the beginning.  The trail led us right to the water’s edge.  There was a barrier of reeds 20 feet or more thick.  We couldn’t enter the water due to the possible presence of crocodiles and hippopotamus.  Almost on cue, we could hear hippos barking or grunting, it was an eerie sound coming from behind the reeds.

Pete. My tracker, and I heard what sounded like crashing into the water.  I was sure it was my buck, and he was down.  Despite the thought that we were so close to him, the decision was made to call it a day, and start looking again in the daylight.  That made for a long night.

The next morning, Altus, Pete, my niece Morgan and I picked up the trail again.  We circled the lake to see if he had exited the water, and the only trail we found was coming out right where he went in.  We found him not more than 20 yards from the water’s edge.  I was so happy and relieved at the same time!!  He was beautiful!!

Over all he had only traveled 150 yards, then back 20 yards closer to where we had started.  My tracker theorized that the buck exited the water shortly after we left, choosing to bed down under a corpse of trees.  I am so thankful he did.  I feared he would be eaten by crocodiles or so water logged the meat would be ruined.  Instead here he was, and not one bit of meat would go to waste.

 

This post originally was published on Ladies in Camo’s website at http://ladiesincamo.com/lictoth/2013/06/10/waters-edge-water-buck-diane-hassinger/





Simon Says-with a Blue Wildebeest

10 10 2013

This post was originally published on Ladies in Camo’s website at http://ladiesincamo.com/lictoth/2013/06/09/simon-says-with-a-wildebeest-diane-hassinger/

Who would have thought, all those years ago, playing Simon Says would have been preparing me for hunting skills!  Recently I had the opportunity to test my Simon Says skills with a Blue Wildebeest.  He of course got to be Simon. 

Simon Says “run quietly”.  Simon Says “Creep low to the ground”.  Simon Says “Back step”.  FREEZE!!  Oh no, Simon didn’t say so!!  You get to start at the beginning again!  I swear I could hear the local birds were laughing at us when we would get busted.

So my stalking went for 2 days with my target Wildebeest, Simon, calling the shots.  I would get close, but no shot opportunity existed.  

On the morning of my 3rd day, we spotted a bachelor herd, and in their midst was my shooter male.   The wind was perfect for a stalk.  We started our game again, but this time the odds seemed to be going my way.  When we crept along the brush, we were perfectly camouflaged to the wildebeest.  We took an hour and 15 minutes to cover 60 yards.  Sometimes we would gain only inches, other times we would stand frozen for several minutes to alleviate any concerns the herd might have.  Finally my PH Altus set the shooting sticks up, and I knew the right bull was in range and open.  About 50-60 yards away were 7 bulls, I had 2 openings in the brush , but the one on the far left and in back was the biggest male, and the one we were searching for.  As I waited for a clean shot, I calmed my racing heart and evened my breathing.  Finally the bull in front stepped away, and I squeezed the trigger on the one in the back.  Altus whispered “Perfect Shot!!” and we watched and listened.  The herd ran to the right around some brush, and we heard a crashing in the brush.  The herd then raced back to the left without my bull in tow.  We waited only a few minutes then headed off to start the tracking process.  Pete immediately found a pin head size spot of blood, and my heart sank, that’s it?  I was going over the shot in my head, over and over, when Pete yelled something in Afrikaans.  I didn’t understand the words, but I knew my bull was found.  He had only gone about 30 yards from my shot; he was indeed what we heard crash into the brush.

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He measured 27 1/2 “wide, with great bosses of 10 ½” for each circumference.  A few more measurements and Altus informed me that he should easily make the SCI Records.  My bull will be always be known to me as Simon, and I will cherish the game we played that day. 

Photo Credit:  Diane Hassinger





Heart Shot Impala

10 10 2013

This post originally was published on Ladies in Camo’s website at http://ladiesincamo.com/lictoth/2013/06/09/heart-shot-impala-diane-hassinger/

It was finally time!  We were about to take off for our adventure in South Africa.  We had been planning and saving for this trip for a long time.  I knew the different animals, the shot placements and their habits.   The only thing I had not researched enough was the airlines.  We had a lengthy delay in our first airport, which led to our plane landing after our flight to Johannesburg was due to take off.  Luckily a Gate Agent was waiting for us, and whisked us off at a very quick run, to our departure gate, where they had been holding the plane for us.  The flight was as good as you can get, for being stuck in a seat for 17 hours.  My sleeping bills that the Doctor prescribed wore off not even half way thru the flight, so I fidgeted and flopped around like a fish out of water.  There is just no way to get comfortable after that amount of time.

We arrived in Johannesburg the following day, and immediately tried to claim our bags.  We had a bit of a language barrier, and then it became apparent that we had no bags.  Both gun cases and the 4 suitcases were all missing.  I filed the necessary claim with the agent, who informed me that our bags were still in Washington, DC.  ?????  They wouldn’t put them on another flight until our claim was filed.  So the earliest we could expect our clothes and guns would be in 2 days.  After arranging for the gun import permits to be awarded without our presence, we made a quick detour to a Woolworth’s.  Of all things my first purchase on our trip of a lifetime would be for socks and under garments.

The evening we arrived at Amanita Safaris, we took a quick ride around the area to scope out the terrain and wildlife.  This was our first opportunity to view Impala, Giraffe, Kudu, Gemsbuck and more.  The morning could not come fast enough!

As all of luggage and guns were lost by the airlines, I was loaned a 30-06 by Erik.  After just a small adjustment, the rifle was sighted in.  Our hunt started and I was in awe of all the magnificent animals we were able to see.

We tried several spot and stalks, but the wind was swirling, and the impala would bound away from us.  Finally we spotted a huge herd of Impala, with one male that stood out.  As we crept through the brush I kept reminding myself that the shot placement is different than our North American animals.  We slowly got into position, and my PH Altus quickly set the shooting sticks.  I placed the crosshairs on the Impalas shoulder and prayed it was the right spot.  I fired.  The Impala dropped right where he had stood!  A perfect heart shot!!  That was a confidence booster to be sure.

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When we took my trophy back to the skinners, they informed me that I had hit the heart perfectly in the center; it was as if it had been measured out!  Boy did I need that to assure myself.  This was going to be our dream trip of a lifetime after all!

Photo Credit:  Diane Hassinger