HORSEBACK SAFARI - John Rogers/2018
It is the policy of Tootabi Hunting Safaris to ensure client satisfaction to its fullest. So when John Rogers booked a hunt with an unusual request the Buchner Family Outfit did not hesitate to meet his requirements. You see, not only was John a natural born hunter he was also an adventurer and his dream was to hunt Africa the way it was done in the days of old – on horseback!
The great adventure began when John and wife Sherry arrived at the Port Elizabeth airport in South Africa. With them was John Howe, horse wrangler from Colorado. The American party was met by Loodt and transported to their first hunting grounds. On the way the outfitter assured both hunter and wrangler that a string of well trained horses was awaiting them and a great hunt planned. The visitors, tired after their long flight, finally relaxed knowing they were in good hands.
The 10-day hunt began in the Karoo – a great expanse of open plains studded with rocky hills and rugged mountains. Coming from the state of Utah John felt quite at home in the endless vastness of the landscape. As always, the first thing they did was check the sighting of John’s rifle. A few shots from the .284 Browning proved the rifle had suffered no mishap during its long flight in the holds of different aircraft. Then it was time to hit the saddle and head off across the plains.
The first outing was mainly to get everyone used to their horses and show them the type of terrain they would have to hunt during the first few days. The enjoyable out ride was halted by a sudden rain squall that left the riders sopping wet in seconds. Returning to the lodge they were soon in dry clothes and warmed on the outside by a blazing fire and on the inside by cheering drinks.
The next day they rode off into the morning sun. It wasn’t long before they spied a Letchwe enjoying the warmth of the new day. Slowly they moved forward not sure of how the animal would react to the sight of mounted men. They managed to get within 70 to 80 yards of the Letchwe when a sudden shift of wind alerted the animal and it scampered off. Continuing the hunt the horsemen drifted among st the low hills, eyes ever on the lookout, and finally their patience paid off when another Letchwe was spotted. After a stealthy approach John drew his (00) pound bow and released the deadly steel tipped arrow. The Letchwe was cut down virtually where it stood – John’s first kill in Africa - and accomplished exactly the way he wanted.
The trophy was conveyed back to the lodge and the party relaxed over their lunch. Soon it was time to mount up and again set out across the plains. It was a perfect afternoon and in time they spotted a good fallow deer lying down in the long grass. Because it was a difficult shot John chose to use his rifle and with one shot bagged his second African trophy. That night the very successful day was celebrated and fireside plans were made to next hunt the largest antelope in Africa – the great Eland bull.
So at dawn Loodt led the mounted party towards the distant mountains – just like his Boer forefathers did so many years ago. They rode for miles, their sure footed mounts carefully picking their way up and down the rugged rock strewn terrain. The suddenly they saw it – an Eland bull standing on a slope way across a valley. Making their way around a hill they eventually came out above the animal and looked down. The Eland stood about 400 yards below them. Realising his hunter could not get any closer Loodt gave the OK to shoot. Taking a dead rest over a rock John took his time - then confidently squeezed off. The great beast went down in its own shadow. It was truly a great shot followed by much backslapping and hand shaking. But now the real work began.
The wrangler brought up the horses and they rode down to where the fallen giant lay. The animal was gutted and then cut up and pounds of meat were tied onto the pack horses by the experienced wrangler. Eventually, with the hard task completed, the party headed back. Unfortunately grumpy ole granny nature again decided to have some fun and the rain came down. However, being sopping wet did not in any way dampen the spirit of the riders. After arriving at the lodge they decided not to go out again that day.
The following morning dawned bright and sunny and they again headed for the mountains. This time their quest was for a blue wildebeest – the heaviest of this varied species. Eventually a distant wildebeest was seen standing alone. At first they chose to bypass the anima but then decided to take a closer look. On easing their mounts forward Loodt declared the animal to be a very good bull. With that John decided to take the shot even though it was a long one. So dismounting he made ready to shoot. The animal was obviously getting nervous and before fear overcame its curiosity John mounted his rifle and fired freehand. In the hands of a marksman the deadly flat shooting rifle did its job well. They all saw the beast recoil then recover and wildly dash off. Quickly they mounted up and gave chase following the spoor dog leading the pursuit across the veldt. Eventually the dog brought the bull to bay and a single shot brought an end to the chase. The wildebeest proved to be a grand old bull with moss on its horns – a magnificent trophy. This time the recovery vehicle was called up to take the heavy beast back to the skinning shed.
Well, so ended phase one of Johns African adventure. The next morning they left and headed south for the East Cape. A few hours later they were comfortably settled in at the Tootabi Hunting Safaris headquarters. Here the visitors found the landscape totally different to the Karoo. The comfortable lodge, situated on the brow of a hill, looked out across rolling hills covered with thick bush. The valleys were deep and heavily wooded whilst in between the hills open grasslands provided areas favored by plains game. This was truly a hunter’s paradise that held game ranging from the little duiker up to buffalo with everything else in between. Unfortunately rain again washed out plans to hunt that day; but Loodt did take the Americans out to show them the lay of the land and so prepare themselves for the days ahead.
Unfortunately, they awoke the next morning to find the rain coming down again. Well, his client had come a long way to hunt and Loodt made sure he did. So the day was spent prowling around in the 4x4 hunting warthogs and baboons. These very destructive animals are regarded as vermin and every attempt is made to keep their numbers under control. In this task John did well. That night a change of hunting grounds was planned. They would again hunt on horseback and their objective was to be a zebra.
They left at dawn the next day and travelled to the Albany district just over an hours drive away. Having greater hill top grasslands it was a good area to hunt on horseback. It did not take long before a zebra was spotted. Dismounting they approached on foot using the scattered thorn trees as cover. Finally in range Johns deadly rifle flashed once and the zebra went down. It was an adult female with a beautiful unmarked skin – unlike the hides of stallions that are always covered with scars from continuous fighting. Never the less, John said that he would like to shoot a stallion because he wanted a bigger skin, so the hunt continued. High and low they hunted but to no avail; the crafty stallions had taken to the bush at the first sound of a shot. So after a tiring, but exciting day, they returned to the Tootabi hunting grounds.
The following day john, ever the adventurer, decided he’d like to go on a seafari. So Loodt arranged a morning cruise around Algoa Bay. The trip back to the Port Elizabeth harbour took just an hour and the Americans were welcomed aboard a large catamaran by the skipper. The break from the bush was enjoyed by all and by mid afternoon they were back on the shore. On the way back Loodt stopped over at a large nature reserve where his guests were taken on a game drive and able to take photographs of rhinos, hippos, crocodiles, lions and elephants plus many species of Africa antelope.
The next day, the second last one of Johns African adventure, was to be devoted to getting the hunter a good Nyala bull using his bow. Nyala are regarded as the bigger cousin of the elusive bushbuck and being bush dwellers are just as secretive. So the search began in the deep valleys, through scattered thorn and across grasslands. While moving about Loodt pointed out a big warthog grubbing around on a far hillside. John’s attention was immediately drawn to the long teeth flashing in the sun – and he just had to have that hog. It was another long range shot but taking his time the hunter pulled off and they all saw the hog spin around then dash into the bush. Quickly they hurried over then spread out to look for blood spoor. While doing so the horse wrangler, John Howe, came across a deep hole in the ground. On closer examination he determined that the hog had entered the den. Looking around he saw the tracker searching the ground nearby and called the man over. The pig – he said – is in there. Carefully examining the entrance the tracker said - no its not. I’m telling you –insisted the wrangler –the pig is in there. No-said the tracker! Ok – said the wrangler – stick your arm in and prove it. So with a big grin the tracker lay down and shoved his arm and half his body down the hole. The Colorado horse wrangler was next treated to the most hilarious sequence of events he’d ever seen this side of the Rocky Mountains. From the hole came a deep low grunt and this was followed by a loud shriek from the tracker who flew into the air with his arms flapping like he was trying to get airborne. At the same time the grotesque face of the hog appeared with its tusk flashing like cavalry swords. Seconds later a gunshot put an end to the show. It took three men to drag the huge hog from its den.
And so the last day arrived and John had still not fulfilled his wish to shoot a Nyala with a bow and arrow. Once again the hunter set out with high expectations as Loodt led him and the wrangler into Nyala territory. They saw all sorts of game but only after covering many bush miles did they at last find a trophy bull. The majestic animal was stalked but just as they reached the 75 yard mark it spotted them and simply disappeared.
Undaunted the hunters pushed on through the bush that seemed like a jungle to John who was used to the semi desert conditions of Utah. All the while the sun was crossing the sky slowly bringing an end to that last day nearer and nearer. Just as Loodt was beginning to doubt his motto”What the client wants - the client gets” he spotted a bachelor group of Nyala bulls. In seconds he and John were sneaking forward making use of every bit of cover. Slowly the gap was closed and the PH indicated that it was time to shoot. John drew back the string of the powerful bow and sent the deadly shaft streaking through the air to bite deep into the selected animal.
But... one second it was there... then it was gone! Both men knew the Nyala was hit so they waited a while then moved forward to the kill zone. The blood spoor was easily found and following it up they came across the broken off shaft of the arrow. A short distance further on they found the dead Nyala – a toothless old bull with magnificent horns. The hunt was over. Besides the few holdups due to bad weather the Americans agreed their safari had been a wonderful adventure – just what Tootabi Hunting Safaris always promise - and always deliver.
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