Breaking the Drought – Part 1

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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…

 

Mark Haldane of Zambeze Delta Safaris on Hunting and Conservation in Africa – Dallas Safari Club

OK, so Frances and I got to interview many super stars in our industry – Craig Boddington, Jérôme Lanoue of L’Atelier Verney-Carron, etc – at the Dallas Safari Club Convention, but no one is a bigger super star than Mark Haldane of Zambezi Delta Safaris.
 
Mark isn’t just a Professional Hunter, he is a conservationist par excellence, and a humanitarian. He believes that to conserve ecosystems you MUST involve the local people.
 
Check out the results from our interview of a conservationist/humanitarian here.
 
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H-S Precision’s Redesigned PLR!

Dan Z Editor of TheTruthAboutGuns.com is pumping out Frances’ and my video interviews from the DSC Convention. The next one is already up and is with Josh Cluff of H-S Precision. Check it out if you love accurate, long-range shooting and hunting rifles! You can see the article here.
 
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A Brother’s Suggestion, a Family’s Orders

“Let’s go hunting.” It was as simple, and complex, as that. My brother, Randy, and I had been chatting on the phone. I think he knew I was in trouble. Of course, he knew that I had received my diagnosis of Stage 4 cancer. He also knew that the prognosis was bleak. And, I think he knew that I was despairing of not living out my so-called ‘allotted time’ – not walking my daughter down the aisle, not ever seeing my grand-kids, not celebrating my 50th wedding anniversary…The list went on.

Honestly, I wasn’t despairing about not seeing another hunting trip. But, Randy’s statement sent a slight thrill through the body that had been cut open twice and, most recently, poisoned with drugs designed to kill the mutated cells. He was suggesting a trip to the Western US, a region we both loved. I thought for just a moment and then asked, “What about going to Africa?”

Though my brother had been on a Safari, I had never seen the continent where many hunters are said to find their dreams fulfilled. It took only the briefest discussion for us to decide to investigate whether a Safari was possible – financially for both of us, physically for me.

I first went to Frances my, [very] long-suffering, wife of 40 years. We discussed the financial cost, and then we discussed the big question – would I be able to handle the physical side of the Safari. This latter issue might seem like an odd concern for those of you who know that Frances and I had just spent 10 days in the Himalayas, trekking all the way up to ~16,000 feet in elevation. Also, just prior to my diagnosis, I had been a runner for 20+ years. So, why the discussion about being physically able to hunt?

The answer was that the treatment for my particular cancer had knocked out most of my endocrine system. This left me without the capability of producing the molecules needed to keep living, especially when in the midst of physically-demanding activities. But, there were medications that could help.

Shortly thereafter, Frances and my children used the Arnold penchant for sarcasm-in-love and indicated their vote for the Safari with this shirt:

Marching Orders from MY Family

So, Randy and I planned our trip, with my brother making the suggestion that we hunt with Blaauwkrantz Safaris out of Port Elizabeth, SA.

In the midst of the planning, I realized that I needed to let the folks at Blaauwkrantz know about my situation. I was a bit concerned that they might not be very excited about my particular malady, especially given that my prime species would be the Vaal Rhebok, an animal found only in mountainous regions.

My concerned message was met with “Mike, we will take very good care of you.”

Remembering my sarcastic bent, you will understand that I interpreted this to mean that they would send me out with a PH capable of carting my carcass out of the mountains when I fell off my perch.

That latter inference was accurate in that my PH, Arnold Claassen, was a former Rugby player. And, since he was capable of carrying whole Impala down hills, he could have easily handled my limp body.

1a) Loading up the PH

Fortunately, Arnold never had to test his human-body-carting capabilities on our Safari. Though, early in our Safari, as I struggled up the slope to find the Vaal Rhebok, he noted my gasping and asked if I wanted him to carry my rifle. I stopped, popped another Hydrocortisone tablet, and demurred.

We found our trophy, and Arnold didn’t need to roll me down from the top of the mountain.

5) Happy PH

You may be asking what the point of this post might be? Here it is. If you are facing a diagnosis that is dire, and you are a passionate hunter, consider going hunting.

No, I don’t believe hunting saved my life, thus far giving me almost three years of clear scans. I believe that is attributable to God and modern medical treatments.

However, my wife and children’s love, my brother’s love, and the care of Arnold Claassen and all those at Blaauwkrantz provided this cancer-challenged man with an adventure that lifted his spirits in a way that no other experience likely would have. The memory of that one adventure has continued to buoy my desire to fight this disease.

By the way, Randy and I head back to Africa in 2020 to share another Safari, this time in Mozambique – and Frances is going along for her first taste of Africa.

I intend to keep Kicking Cancer’s Ass.

1) On the Lookout

Quotes of Note: How Times Have Changed?

“It is curious to hear the nonsense that is talked and to see the nonsense that is written about the distances at which game is killed…I always make it a rule to pace off the distance after a successful shot, whenever practicable…and I was at first both amused and somewhat chagrined to see how rapidly what I supposed to be remarkably long shots shrank under actual pacing.” (T. Roosevelt. Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail)