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Diary of an African Safari: Day 6

By Skip Berry

When I went to pack my hunting duffle bag to leave for Africa, my camo Hydro Fleece jacket and pants where in the bag. I almost took them out since Pieter had told me I wouldn't need rain gear in the Desert. I decided to leave them in my bag since they took up little room and I was traveling very light so space/weight wasn't an issue. I figured the jacket would be good for around the campfire at night and the pants, hell I just figured Murphy’s law would come into effect did.
Skip Berry & his Impala

I woke up before daylight on day 6 to hear rain POUNDING on the tent! I had 3 days of hunting left and was not about to sit out another day because of rain. In North America we get rain, snow, sleet, sun all of it and since our seasons are short, you hunt when you can hunt, screw the weather, so I pulled on the rain gear and went to breakfast. Pieter was the one who was really in for it because he usually NEVER gets rain during hunting season so he just had cotton cloths and a light cotton jacket, but he did what good outfitters do, gritted his teeth and said "let's go get your Impala" Pieter had made arrangements for us to hunt a ranch that would normally be about 45 minutes away and we left to be there at daybreak. This ranch had a large Impala population, so that was the prime target for the day. This morning the roads were washed out from the freak storms and were like driving on sleet, they were so swampy so it took us an hour and a half to get there a little after daybreak. It was still raining steadily when we got to the ranch. After drinking some coffee offered by the ranch owners (everywhere I went to hunt in Namibia, the ranch owners wife’s almost took it as their personal duty to see that their American guest was feed and taken care of), we moved out to look for a good Impala ram. We started off across the ranch heading for a rocky area known to hold lots of Impala, but about 3 minutes down the road saw a large group of Springbok, an animal I hadn't collected yet. We stopped to evaluate the Springbok, when I noticed a brown animal under a tree off to the right of the group of Springbok. Pieter confirmed that it was an Impala ram, about 400 yards away. Through the rain and because of the overcast sky, Pieter was having a hard time judging the Impala. They have single black horns that curl up, out and back and the difference between record book and average is about 5 inches. Pieter told me that he thought it was a pretty good ram, but couldn't be sure. It was definitely not a juvenile, was mature, but he couldn't see if it was better than average. 

We got out and started working up a hillside to get a closer look. As we got inside 300 yards, the Springbok spotted us and moved out. The Impala hadn't seen us since we left the truck but got nervous and move a ways. He acted like he would bolt at any second. I decided that I would take him, that he was a good, pretty Impala, if not great and got a rest on a large rock. He's a little over 300 whispered Pieter. For me, that is a pretty long shot for a 100 lb. animal and he was quartering toward me, looking for us, but I had a good rest and felt confident I could take him. I knew the .300 WBY was more than enough gun and would hit about 3-4" low at that range, so I held high on his chest and squeezed the trigger... 

That was when I made the worst shot of my trip...I could hear the "smack" of the bullet hitting the Impala, but I don't know if I pulled the shot or simply had a "flyer". Probably I just pulled the shot, but the bullet hit low in the body...and well right of the target. Instead of the chest, I hit him behind the stomach just in front of the near hindquarter and out through the off rear leg. He bounded away without going down but was hurt badly. This was one of those times that the ole high velocity/high energy thing that gets debated on this forum about every other week came into play. Even though we was not hit in a vital area, the shock of the bullet had blown a big hole in the animals abdomen.. was not a pretty sight as he stumble away over a ridge into the next valley. He would die for sure, and on the open, rocky hillsides it was not likely we would lose him, but I wanted to end it quickly and finish him before he suffered more. We quickly moved up on him and as we looked over the hill, there he was about 80 yards away, walking slowly quartering away for us. I quickly shot him behind the shoulder and probably had the most visible evidence of how fast a .300 Weatherby is...I can't really explain it well, but in the same instant I pulled the trigger, I could "see" the bullet tear through him and out the front of his chest and plow into the hillside in front of him, while he just dropped straight DOWN in a heap. He ended up be a nice mature Impala ram that will look good on the wall, but was very average. I was pleased none the same since they are very pretty and he would look good on my wall. 

We were back at the ranch less than 1/2 hour after we pulled out and the tracker started skinning him. While we were watching the tracker skin the Impala, the rancher informed us that there was a very good Blesbok ram that had wandered onto his ranch some time ago. It seemed that he had taken up with a herd of Impala does and had decided to make this ranch his home, even though he was the only Blesbok there. Pieter asked if I wanted to try and add the unexpected Blesbok to my list of animals and given that it was only about 9am I said "sure". That Blesbok turned out to be quite a challenge. It took us two hours of moving about the ranch, stopping to climb hill and glass, but we finally spotted the large group of Impala does and the Blesbok Ram. We stalked him several times that day and even tried to ambush him by setting up on a hillside and sending the trackers with the truck to a point past where we had glassed the Blesbok, in hopes of "spooking" the herd past us for a shot. We foiled at every attempt and finally retired for the drive back to our tent camp for dinner. Throughout the day we spotted several nice Impala rams, but none much better than I had taken so we had stayed focused on the Blesbok. It had been a fun day with the quick success on the Impala and plenty of stalks on the Blesbok, but this time the Blesbok won. 

Keep that in mind if anyone tells you that hunting in Africa is a sure thing! If we wanted to spend more time on him I am sure we would eventually get the drop on him (and I sure one of Pieter's clients will this season), but he was fun to hunt while I was at that ranch and not a top priority of mine. I wanted to focus the last two hunting days I had on the Gemsbok and Springbok back at the tent camp. 


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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