By Tom in Oregon
A knock at the door of the well-appointed room at the hunting concession was the pre-dawn wake up call. I’m already up though, anticipating another incredible day. Time for coffee and breakfast first. The day broke clear and cold. So cold that there was a layer of ice on a dog’s water dish. One of the native staff brought a chunk of ice to show everyone. She was grinning from ear to ear at the wonder of frozen water. Apparently it doesn’t happen very often in the Limpopo River Valley. Even in June. Winter in South Africa . . .
Today is warthog day. The goal is to get a brace of the ugly beasts. And as the camp doesn’t care to eat wild hogs, the meat is to be hung in a tree, strapped to a branch using bailing wire.
Several places are selected around the 60,000 acre concession when leopard activity is noted through tracks or other kills. An incoming hunter has paid a princely sum for a 21 day leopard hunt. We want to make sure there is constant activity for him. Tag fee alone is $32,000, on top of daily rates and whatever else he decides to take.
Yeah, I’ll contribute to that success.
We make an hour long drive to our hunt area. Occasionally stopping for wildlife.
This 10,000 pound beauty walked 20 yards into the bush and just flat disappeared. Amazing.
We make our way to a treehouse overlooking a water hole. When I say tree house, it’s literally a house built in the trees. I’m sure at some point it was a good idea. But trees grow. At different rates. The concrete floors are angled, doors won’t close, walls have shifted so bad, cupboards have fallen down.
Toilet? Nah. Not going to go there. But, we were promised that this is prime territory for Pumba.
After we get settled in, we start watching. And watching. And it finally dawns on the three of us. There is a light breeze wafting from us towards the water hole. Dang it! So, our P.H. (licensed professional hunter), Eli Van Der Walt, leaves for a few and comes back with sun dried elephant poop. Dung. Road apples. Check that, road watermelons. Then he proceeds to light it with my Bic lighter.
Ahhh, ambience. The aroma of, well, it’s not bad. It’s not Chanel No.5, but it’s not bad. Eli assures us that the insense-like dung will not only keep the tsetse flies away, but it will totally mask our scent.
We glass, and we glass, and we glass. We spot many warties. But they don’t allow shooting females. We have to ask, how do you tell at a quick glance? So he gives us a quick learning. Female warthogs only have one “wart” near the eyes. Males have two warts on each side of their faces. Like this juvenile male.
Note the wart below the eye and the second one above the tiny tusk. While fun to watch, he wasn’t a keeper.
Morning turns to noon. We’ve seen a lot of animals. Even though it’s winter, our tin-roofed treehouse is a bit warm in the sun. We are starting to sweat. Food is in the form of fresh apples, oranges and biltong. Blue wildebeest biltong. Basically sun-dried jerkey. But it is delicious! And water. Iced down water. By the quart. Dang, this country is dry. If you set a sandwich down for 10 minutes, you return to a toasted sandwich.
About 4:00 p.m., it’s Sean’s turn to glass while I get re-absorbed in my book. He taps knees. Oh! A nice one!
I’m manning the glass as he takes aim with his Ruger M77 in .300 Win Mag. His hand loads are topped with 180 grain Swift Sciroccos.
It’s a nice male. The shot isn’t as loud as expected. The boar tips over and kicks for a minute. We walk out and drag the hog back under the “tree stand” and begin to sit again. Dang it, I was into that book, now I have to pay attention. What book? A book about shot placement on African game, of course. Hearts are in slightly different places than deer and elk at home.
Forty-five minutes later, another nice wartie comes in. I’m on it. We already lasered various parts of the water hole for distance. He’s at about 60 yards. I put the crosshairs slightly low on his chest and start the slow pull of the trigger. The .375 H&H Remington speaks to me like an over zealous punch to the shoulder. Before I can relocate the vlakvark in my scope, I’m hearing “great shot!” from Eli and Sean.
I find it, and it’s down. It didn’t move an inch. We walk to the hog and it’s tipped over at the edge of the water hole. Nice tusks. About a 200-pounder. There is a spray of blood, bone and lung in a vee shaped pattern opposite of our stand. It measures almost six feet from the hog. The 2,400 fps, 270 grain A-frame sleeping pill, certainly is potent. The hammer of Thor indeed.
While we put out the lights on our custom incense, we take a moment to enjoy another sunset. The vast land of cooking fires, wild fires, and maybe pollution delivers us the most spectacular sunsets I have ever been allowed to witness.
We have succeeded in our quest. We both wanted a nice warthog. Eli delivered. Here are our ‘handsome’ hogs.
We return to the lodge to have our evening meal. Eland ribs with a nice gravy. Yum. Dinner is served in a mix of buffet and family style. The chef, Lisa, is beyond her years in the kitchen.
The next morning, it’s off to hang the hogs in a tree that has been getting some good activity from a nice male leopard. The blind is nicely concealed and looks like just another large bush. Here is the view from inside the blind to the bait tree.
The branch above the truck has one of the hogs strapped to it. Branches with lots of leaves are woven and tied above it to keep it concealed from the vultures.
We learned a few weeks later that the hunter did get his leopard.
I’m super excited to get back. We are confirming dates now for June of 2015. First stop, back to the Limpopo river valley in South Africa for a week of plains game. I’m after Kudu and Gemsbok this time. Then it’s off to a 900,000 acre concession in Mozambique where the tiger fish grow really big. I’m after Cape Buffalo, my nemesis. It won’t be water hole sniping for a lone “dugga boy.” It’ll be spot and stalk, on the ground. Face to face.