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Diary of an African Safari: Days 2,3,4

By Skip Berry

One of my top desires on my trip to Africa was to get a Zebra skin to hang on my wall. Nimrod Safaris had lined up a hunt for the following day on a ranch about 45 minutes away that had more zebra than they wanted, so the next day we were off to hunt that ranch. It was about 15,000 acres of very rugged hills/small mountains and when Wilhem, my guide for that ranch asked me if I could ride a horse, I quickly understood why. 

Safari Camp, Africa
Safari Camp

He explained that we could hunt on foot up from a truck, but that we could cover more ground and be more efficient if I could I am no expert horseman, but I have ridden on hunts and pack-in fishing trips out west, so I agreed. And boy was I glad I did. 

I had been expecting the zebra hunt to be more of a "shoot" than a "hunt". I had picture a bunch of striped horses out on a plain that we would sneak up to, then pick one out for a shot...I couldn't have been more off base. We were hunting Hartmanns's Zebra, otherwise know as Mountain Zebra and the nickname was well chosen. This reminded me more of an elk or sheep hunt as we rode up and through rocky canyons, along ridges and across valleys. frankly I was thanking god for inventing horses! 

After a couple of hours we decided to cross a valley and rode down a steep ridge. As the hunting gods always work it, when we were down in the valley, Wilhem spotted a herd of 6 Zebra....MOVING ACROSS THE RIDGE WE JUST CAME DOWN!!! To make matters worse, as we were sitting there watching the zebra, I spotted a LARGE Kudu bull on the opposite ridge and both the zebra and the Kudu were watching US! 

I had a quick conference with Wilhem, and told him that I had been seeing lots of Kudu at the other ranch, but that this might be my only day to hunt the zebra, so we took off back towards the zebra. We put a ridge line between us and the zebra rode as far as possible, then dismounted and climbed towards them, keeping a large rock pile and some bushes between the zebra and ourselves.
Skip Berry with his Hartmann's Zebra
Hartmann's Zebra

We had left the horses where the Zebra could see them, hoping the horses would hold the zebras attention and the ploy worked. But when we got to the rock pile we were still almost 300 yards away and there was nothing but open, rocky hillside between the zebra and ourselves, so I settled in and tried to make a good rest on the top of a large rock. The rest was pretty solid, but I had to contort badly to get behind it. The zebra were nervous, knowing something was wrong, but not really knowing where we were, and they paced back and forth. Any second I expected them to run up and other the top of the mountain ridge, so I quickly got on target on the last zebra and when he turned and gave me a quartering shot, I fired....and missed clean! I was kicking myself as they ran up and over the top of the mountain. 
We rode up to the spot where they had stood and spent a long time looking for hair, blood or anything sign of a hit, but we were convinced that I missed. I was kicking myself mentally for blowing what might be my best chance at the zebra I wanted so badly, but Wilhem said "Let's go find them again" so we mounted up and climbed to the highest hilltop to glass. 

After an hour of looking we still hadn't found them so we started riding again to an area where Wilhem thought they might go if spooked. It was a "badlands" type of area, with lots of canyons cutting through some large hills and as we rode a ridge above a canyon, Willhem suddenly stopped and put his hand up, then I heard it, the clacking of hooves on the rocks and behind us we saw the zebra running up a draw out of the canyon right below us and heading for the next ridge. 
I grabbed my rifle and went to dismount, and in my haste, my boot caught in the stirrup. I was glad that nobody was there with a video camera as I about broke my neck trying to jump off the horse, but I finally got down and got into a sitting position to shoot. The last zebra was about 150 yards away, quartering away and trotting when he stopped for a moment and I fired. I could see no sign of a hit and Wilhem yelled to shoot again so I did as he crossed the top of the ridge. I ran to the top and saw them again watched them gallop away, when I noticed that now there were only 5 zebra running!!!??? Wilhem agreed and we decided my zebra must be dead somewhere on the side of the mountain. We back tracked and there he was and it was beautiful! 

As the trackers skinned the zebra, we followed the blood trail and traced him back to my first shot. Many people say zebra are the toughest plains game in Africa and after examining the scene and looking at the zebra as it was dressed I agree. My first shot had entered through the ribs and angled into the off shoulder, tearing off the top of his heart and shredding both lungs. This was at 150 yards with a .300 WBY shooting 180 grain Noslers. That zebra gave no indication of a hit and then ran 200 yards UP a mountainside, then turned and ran 50 yards back down a draw before collapsing! I had missed with my follow shot, but the zebra was already done for, he just refused to admit it! The zebra was over 600 lb. was probably the toughest hunt I had in Africa. A lot of people have said things like "how can it be any fun to hunt a "horse", but they have never chased zebra in the mountains! 

The next day was overcast and we spent the morning chasing a band of 3 Kudu bulls over the rocky hills of the main ranch. One of the bulls was HUGE, but they always managed to just keep one hill or group of trees between us until they gave us the slip. We broke for lunch (we usually sat out the time from 12-3 pm to avoid the most intense heat/sun of the day) but as we ate lunch, a storm came in and we spent the rest of the afternoon watching a downpour in a desert country and drinking cold ones! 

The next day started off with more rain, so we decided to take advantage of the downtime and traveled the 5 hours south to Nimrods tent camp in the Kalahari Desert on the Botswana and South African border. This is where we would chase, Impala, Springbok, Kudu, Eland, and the biggest Gemsbok in the world! 


Day 1 - 2, 3, 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8


Contact Skip Berry at Skip Berry Outdoors or call him at (616)813-3645

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