“As usual, I was anxiously waiting for my SKB double-rifle guncase to appear after my flight from Johannesburg into Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport. I breathed a sigh of relief as the agent brought it into the check-in room on the other side of the glass partition.
“If my brother had not grabbed my arm, I would have been pounding on the glass a few seconds later. Instead of placing the guncase onto the empty spaces on the shelf, or setting it down on the floor, she raised it up to chest height and dropped the case onto the concrete. I guess she was making it crystal clear that she was anti-hunting…
“That episode made me start wondering if there was another option available that might act to camouflage my firearms a bit better than my beloved SKB carrier…”
My latest book review, this one on Taylor’s African Rifles and Cartridges, just appeared. This is a text I return to over-and-over-again when researching rifles and cartridges for hunting in Africa, and elsewhere. I hope you too love this classic Africana!
“…if you properly respect what you are after, and shoot it cleanly and on the animal’s terrain, if you imprison in your mind all the wonder of the day from sky to smell to breeze to flowers – then you have not merely killed an animal. You have lent immortality to a beast you have killed because you loved him and wanted him forever so that you could always recapture the day. You could always remember how blue the sky was and how you sat on a high hill…” (Robert Ruark; Horn of the Hunter)
While I settled gently back into my chair, I checked my watch; it was eleven thirty. I was now convinced of my failure in this morning’s hunt for a buck. I figured that if there had been one nearby, he probably scented me, or heard me snoring, or saw me strip and re-dress. I was fairly dispirited, but now my concern shifted to the possibility of losing one of my few opportunities to collect a doe for the freezer. I listened for any movement, in order to take advantage of the next chance I got to carry the doe home. I was in this frame of mind when I heard a slight rustling to my left. I breathed a sigh of relief that the cover scent was again proving its worth, as the sound was coming from directly downwind. I slowly turned and stood to be able to get a good look over the intervening black berry and privet. I spotted the tannish gray head of a deer and gently brought my gun to the high skeet position in case the animal turned out to be the doe rather than the yearling. The deer form took shape as it cleared the brush. Instead of the doe or yearling, there stood a buck 17 yards away, its rut-swollen neck extended in the classic ‘sneak’ pose. I had been observing basket eight pointers since opening day, but this deer’s body was half again the size of those youngsters. He walked with the stiff-legged gate of the mature bucks shown on hunting programs. I saw three long tines on his left side as I began to raise my 7mm Remington Magnum to my shoulder. He continued to ease through, acting just like a buck would if he was investigating a hot doe. I then realized he was probably being reeled in by the combination of the Tink’s urine scent and the living, doe decoy. I had to aim high on his shoulder to shoot over the brush that now stood between us.
I have read of animals falling from under the shooter’s sights. Usually the writer is referring to elephants. However, no African big-game hunter has been more excited than I when this buck dropped at the report of my gun. Upon later inspection, I found that the 175 grain Nosler Partition had caught him in the spine. I chambered another round and waited, hardly noticing the doe and yearling now standing frozen 10 yards behind me, looking towards the spot where the buck had fallen. I heard a gentle rustling and then no sound at all came from where the buck had stood. I waited another minute, closed my rifle on an empty chamber, and carefully climbed down the ladder. As I stepped from the lowest rung, I saw that the doe and yearling had not moved. Now they were staring intently at me. The doe lifted her right front leg and stomped it sharply on the ground. I moved slowly along their front, but not until I was within feet of the yearling did they turn, raise their flags and spring into the brush.
I had to circle wide of the hedge that stood nearly as high as my head. As I rounded the corner of the obstruction, I spotted the form of my first Whitetail buck with more than 2 points to a side. He was “only” a seven pointer, but in my eyes he was magnificent. When weighed later, he tipped the scales at approximately 160 pounds on the hoof. I knelt down beside him and breathed a sigh and prayer of thanksgiving. How can one not be in awe of such a creation. I thought of the offerings given by Native Americans at the sight of their kills; offerings to their gods and to the slain animal, offerings that reflected their recognition that the taking of a life meant they would live. This reflects a different belief system to mine, but one that echos a proper respect for the life taken in order for memories to be borne in the hunter.
Check out my latest book review, this one covering Craig Boddington’s American Hunting Rifles II.
My eyes popped open as the yearling’s bleat made its way through my sleep-deprived brain. He let out another mewing cry as I slowly lifted my rifle from the arms of my camouflaged sling chair. I was glad I no longer had to worry that I would fall asleep in my tree stand and wake up swinging to and fro from my harness strap. Since joining the hunting club in Greene County Georgia, I had enjoyed the comfort of being cradled safely in my camouflaged chair in the large treestands. Although not reflecting the best of hunting techniques, around 10:00 a.m. I would invariably drop off to sleep for 30 minutes or so. This was the second time, on this particular stand, that a yearling’s bleat had startled me awake. This time, however, I was hunting during “either sex” season. The yearling was 15 yards in front of my stand, walking slowly in my direction. While he continued to call, I slowly rotated my head to look behind me. There she was. A mature doe was standing 10 yards behind the tree, waiting for the yearling to catch up. I must have been snoring quietly while she walked directly under me. This was indeed poor hunting technique.
As I slowly raised my rifle and placed the crosshairs on the doe, the yearling complained again to his (presumed) Mom. I hesitated. This couldn’t be happening. I know I was raised on Bambi, but surely I could look past that and take some venison home. In the midst of my misgivings I had a more important thought. I really wanted a buck. However, not just any buck would do. I was hunting a QDM (Quality Deer Management Area). The rule was that we could only take one buck a year (except for a limited number of spikes), and then only a buck worthy of mounting. I slowly lowered my rifle again and thought about the Tink’s hot doe urine that I had carefully smeared on the three trees in front of my stand. If I didn’t fire at the doe, maybe I still had a chance of seeing a big buck. Then I thought about the time. It was 11 a.m. and I had rarely seen a deer wander in at this time of day. Since I also had never shot a buck larger than a forkhorn, and that taken when I was 10 years old in Texas, I did not hold out much hope that my buck drought would be broken this morning. Maybe if I went ahead and dropped the doe and pulled her out, I would still have time to get back to the stand for the afternoon hunt. I raised my rifle again, but now the doe had gone behind a screen of brush. I held the crosshairs where she was standing and willed her to take a step forward into an open area. Instead, I watched her partially-hidden legs fold underneath her as she bedded down. Although somewhat disappointed on being foiled in my halfhearted attempt to take the doe, I was also delighted to have fooled these wary creatures into feeling safe not more than 20 yards from my stand.
I was still turned halfway around in my chair, watching the flicker of the white hairs on the now dozing female, when a loud snort erupted from somewhere to the doe’s left. She levitated to an almost standing posture, but then slowly lowered her body back down as the hidden yearling continued to sneeze, but more quietly. I wondered if the doe was thinking, “You dumb kid! You scared me half to death.” As I settled comfortably into my chair, I recognized another dilemma. I was going to need to start removing clothes since the sun was now shining on me and I was beginning to roast. I thought about this for a moment and worried about accomplishing my partial striptease without being seen by the bedded deer. I slowly stood up, all the while watching the doe’s ears. She did not appear nervous while I slowly pulled off my orange vest, camouflaged shirt and the down vest underneath. I kept looking at her as I replaced my shirt and orange vest. I pulled out the Tink’s cover scent and once again misted myself. Through this whole exercise, the doe nibbled unconcernedly on some tasty plant material near her bed…