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The Real Africa
June 24, 2009
OL's Hunting Editor Andrew McKean traveled to South Africa's Limpopo Province earlier this month to hunt plains game. The trip offered him the chance to pursue mountain reedbuck, a small, nervous antelope that is found only in mid-elevation grassy slopes.
Sunset over South Africa's Drakensberg Mountains. The longest and tallest mountains in southern Africa, the Boers called them "Dragon's Teeth." The natives called them ukhahlamba, or Barrier of Spears. It's here that I hunted for mountain reedbuck.
My PH, Gerrie Van Zyl, glasses a mountainside for mid-day movement. Mountain reedbuck originally wasn't on my bag, but when I learned no one had hunted them on this property in 20 years, I jumped at the chance to hunt steep, rough country for the elusive antelope.
PH Van Zyl and tracker Alex Mufuta take a break. Hunting mountain reedbuck requires lots of hiking, covering feet of elevation as well as miles of rough foothills country, glassing high slopes for the shy animals. Mountain reedbuck look much like American white-tailed deer, but are smaller. The rams have have dainty, forward-jutting ringed horns.
A trophy dung beetle encountered during the hunt. Most of the hunting in South Africa's Limpopo Province is on farms. The appeal of mountain hunting for reedbuck was the chance to experience old Africa, before high fences and well-appointed lodges spoiled visiting hunters. For me, hunting reedbuck was a lot like hunting elk on Western public land.
In two full days of hiking, we never saw a reedbuck, though we occasionally heard their shrill alarm whistles. Toward the end of the second day we climbed high in the Drakensbergs to a remote slope that looked like classic reedbuck country.
On the way we encountered rhinos, giraffes and troops of baboons. As we walked by a remote waterhole, we disturbed this huge hippo, a grumpy bachelor that rose out of the mud, stared us down from behind a screen of thorn trees, and then started to charge us. Mindful that hippos kill more Africans than other dangerous game, we quickly left the neighborhood.
Finally, success. With waning light, Gerrie and I finally spotted three mountain reedbucks, two ewes and a single ram, scampering up the mountainside above us. I missed the first shot, but anchored the ram with the second shot from my CVA Apex in .243. The ram tumbled down the mountain, finally landing near this rock, where we hastily posed for photos before carrying the ram off the mountain.
I was so relieved at bagging the ram, and he ended up being a whopper, at least as far as reedbucks go. Entry for SCI's record books is 17 inches. Back at the lodge, we taped this ram's horns at 24 inches.
It turned out our work had just begun. I gave PH Gerrie Van Zyl my gun and binoculars and hefted the reedbuck onto my shoulders. The ram weighed only about half as much as a good whitetail, but the steep, ankle-turning terrain made it a chore to pack the carcass down the mountain, which was quickly being draped in darkness.
After nearly pitching off the mountainside, I was happy to reach the more gentle foothills where we had to fight clothes-grabbing thorns before we reached the pickup.
My hunting wasn't done. Two days after I bagged the reedbuck, I shot this great warthog.
I also took this zebra stallion. I used CVA's new single-shot Apex on the hunt, taking full advantage of its ability to change out barrels. I shot the zebra with a .300 Win. Mag., the reedbuck and the warthog with a .243, and did some predator hunting with a .223.
And I shot this great blesbuck with CVA's .50 muzzleloader barrel. Normally these antelope are hunted in the open plains, called the "highveldt" in Afrikaans. But at Mafigeni Safaris (mafigeni.com) the blesbuck stuck to the tight thorn brush. I had to belly-crawl the last 30 yards to get a shot at this ram.
OL's Hunting Editor hunts rough country for a record-book reedbuck.
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