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Diary of an African Safari: Day 8

By Skip Berry

When Tomas, our camp "do it all" woke me up, I could see incredible streaks of red and blue over the large dune to the east of camp. I grabbed a cup of coffee and walked to to the top of the dune and watched what was probably the best sunrise of my life, but I was sad to know this was my last one in the Kalahari. 
African Safari Tent Camp
Safari Camp

It had rained most of the night and was a little chilly, but the day was dawning bright and clear and the coffee was hot, so we would have a perfect day to try and find one of the large Gemsbok that the Kalahari is famous for. We drove 1/2 hour to the far end of our ranch, and started looking for the herd of Gemsbok we had spooked the day before. Pieter got the "eyesight badge" as he he spotted a lone Gemsbok skylined on the top of a dune a very, very long ways away. After watching for a while, the whole herd feed over the dune and we were able to get an idea of which way they were headed, so we bugged out to head them off. 

We circled ahead a couple of dunes in the direction they were headed, after getting the wind in our favor. We then skirted behind a large dune until we felt we were directly in their path and climbed up, finally inching over the top to peer into the valley. Everything was going according to plan, we were on top of the dune directly in the path of the herd. 300 yards in front of me was a dune, with the valley below, so as the herd crossed over the dune, they would be in the valley below me, and all within range for minutes as we would pick out the biggest animal for a shot. I was prone, dug into the sand, and had a rock solid fire zone over the whole valley, so my confidence was high! But as is so often is the case, the animals forgot to follow the plan. We waited for quite some time, scanning with binoculars watching for the first animal to appear over the dune in front of us. It seemed like forever when Pieter said something in German that I didn't understand, but was pretty sure was a curse of some kind. The herd had changed path somewhat and had skirted around the dune in front of us and was now about 200 yards away, off to our right, and if we moved to get into shooting position they would surely spot us. 


"Be very still now Skip" Pieter had whispered, so even though I could not see the animals and was dying for a look, I just lay there in the sand not moving. Meanwhile ants crawled on me, increasing the temptation to move, but I knew that if I did, the sharp eyes of these animals would surely pick it up and they would spook I just lay there for what seemed like hours, ignoring my urges to move.

Pieter tapped my arm and I knew what he was thinking. The herd was going to skirt around the edge of the dune that we were on, so that there would be a short period of time where they couldn't see us, then they would be in the valley BEHIND us....I would have time to sit up, spin around, and get ready for a sitting shot at the herd behind us, but since the wind would then be blowing toward the animals, we wouldn't have long to pick the best one and shoot before they would scent us, not to mention that we would be sitting on the open hillside and an animal might see us spook. 

All of a sudden Pieter whispered "now" and we both sat up and spun I could see to the end of our dune and into the valley below us. I settled into a sitting position and Pieter slapped the shooting sticks into the sand in front of me. Seconds later, the animals started appearing around the end of our dune and feeding into the valley. We held our fire, waiting to get the whole herd into the valley so Pieter could see the biggest animal, but racing against the clock before they got directly downwind of us and spooked. After scanning the herd, Pieter whispered "take the 3rd animal from the front, she is the tallest", but when I got on her, she was surrounded by other animals and the animal never was in the clear... I was starting to think we were going to lose the chance, because the main group was now around her and they were ambling farther and further away, the lead animals having moved past 200 yards and getting farther by the minute. Pieter quickly looked again and said "get on the 4th animal from the back, he's a bull, but very good length and nice and heavy!", so I got him in the scope and tracked him as he walked, but another animal was walking with him an partially blocking his body! We were racing against the clock, trying to get the shot before the animals moved too far out into the wide valley behind us or they smelled/spotted us and spooked, when my animal stopped for a couple of seconds to chew on the grass, and the other animal continued on, clearing the body of the Gemsbok we wanted. Pieter barked "now" but I was already squeezing the trigger and the roar of the .300 Wby drowned him out! When I came out of the recoil, the whole herd was scrambling away and I couldn't tell which was my animal so I couldn't follow up with a second shot... and even though the sight picture had looked solid and I thought I had made a good shot, I got that feeling of panic, the feeling of "damn I missed". But I had done my job, as had the 180 grain Nolser, because seconds later, one Gemsbok stumbled a bit, then crashed to the ground!!! My trophy was down and Pieter and I high fived each other and took off down the dune towards my 8th trophy of the trip. 

As we walked, Pieter told me that he was sure he had herd the "smack" of a solid hit, and when we got to the animal, he was proven right. The bullet had entered high on the near shoulder, crashed through it and both lungs, then exited low through the off shoulder (because of the downward bullet path as I shot off the dune and down into the valley) The Partition had deliverd massive shock and penetrated through both shoulders...I couldn't have ask for better bullet performance. The bull was very heavy and measured right at 40", putting him well into the record books, and very high for a bull. 

As our tracker brought the truck around the dunes for pictures and to winch him up, I was elated at the excitement of the hunt, the animals showing up where they weren't supposed to and the race against time to find the good animals and get them before they got out of range or spooked. I was as happy as could be, but then a feeling of sadness came over me as I realized that the best hunt of my life was now over. But hey, there's always summer of 2002.... 


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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