It started out as such a wonderful day. Bright azure sky, light breeze, and, best of all, we were traveling back into the mountains that formed one boundary of the 100,000+ acres of the Blaauwkrantz Safaris property. About an hour out of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, the so-called ‘farm’ (it sure looked like a huge ranch to this born-and-reared Texan) contained thick, lowland brush, open meadows, rocky slopes and, my favorite habitat, wildly-beautiful mountainous terrain. That’s where we were once again heading, to continue our search for the diminutive African antelope known as the Mountain Reedbuck. Though not a member of the Pygmy Antelope group, a mature ram will only weigh in around 65 pounds. This is not much of a target for a hunter used to shooting at big game animals that are at least twice that weight class. Having failed to get a chance at a trophy ram while hunting in the mountains near Graaf-Reinet – some 3.5 hours from our present location – we were now focusing our attention on the rocky slopes of the main Blaauwkrantz farm. As I say, it started out as such a wonderfully-promising morning…
We had made it all the way to the highest ridgeline when Arnold or Jambo identified movement as belonging to a group of Mountain Reedbuck. We quickly unloaded ourselves and our gear from the truck, and began the patented crouched-jog that simultaneously allows a rapid approach, while keeping the hunters out of the line of sight of the quarry and, most importantly, wearing the client out in the space of just a hundred yards or so. (Note to self: Don’t ever brag to the PH about how much time you’ve spent on your physical fitness program.)
Arnold and Jambo went ahead, positioning themselves where they could glass the opposite slope. It took no time at all for them to confirm the presence of a trophy Reedbuck male lying out of the wind directly across from our position. Arnold, slowly rose from his position on the ground, extended the legs of his shooting rest and whispered, “200-yards, directly across from us, lying side-on, with his head to the left.”
Given the wonderful clarity and magnification of this riflescope, and the solidness of Arnold’s rest, I was able to, precisely and steadily place the crosshairs on the exact spot I desired. Sadly, this is when the beautiful morning came unraveled. You see, I had read numerous tales of how experienced shooters/hunters always adjusted for strong crosswinds by “holding into” said wind. Well, there was one heck-of-a crosswind that day in the mountains. I did what the professionals do, I adjusted my hold to account for the bullet deflection that would surely occur. The problem is, I’m not a professional. I’ve never practiced how to judge the effect on a bullet’s path due to wind, elevation, temperature, the curvature of the earth, Druid chants, etc. So, I held into the wind, and hit the little ram right where I was holding – way, way too far back.
Now, I could have rescued the morning right there and then if I had settled down, taken my time and allowed the little antelope to drop back down into a resting position, but instead, I threw round-after-round at the small form. In fact, after the finish of the whole sad episode, and we had the beautiful, trophy Mountain Reedbuck in hand, my PH quipped “You know, I turned my ankle on all the brass you left on the ground.”
But, back to the title of this piece. The real hero of the whole affair was Jambo. After my barrage, the Reedbuck staggered into a copse of trees. While Arnold and I kept watch, Jambo quickly headed down the ridge, crossed the ravine and climbed the slope to the small grove. He had wisely carried a radio with him in case he needed Arnold to reorient him once he reached the opposite slope. Shortly after he disappeared into the tree-line the radio in my PH’s hand crackled to life and Jambo muttered something in Afrikaans. I immediately asked “What did he say?” To which Arnold answered, “He says the ram just has one horn.” I nearly fainted and said, “Oh crap, I shot off one of his horns!!” Arnold smirked and answered my cry with, “Just kidding.” That is the closest I’ve ever come to shooting someone with malice-of-forethought.