When Things Go Wrong… by Gregor Woods

  • Friday, 07 September 2018 10:07
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When Things Go Wrong… by Gregor Woods: Some problems are aviodable; some just aren’t

In my article “Of Vital Importance” (July 2018 edition) I mentioned a weird experience involving a buffalo cow that I’d head-shot. My point was simply that by getting the angle of the shot wrong, I had missed the brain, and so I ended the anecdote there, saying, “… what followed is too long a story to tell here”. A reader has suggested I tell the whole story. I did, in fact, relate part of it in Magnum many years ago, but there was a lot more to it. Moreover, the full story contains some important advice for hunters. This is a “Murphy’s Law” combined with “Lessons Learned” story. However, for readers to fully appreciate how it all went wrong, I must go back to the months preceding the hunt. 

A most important requirement for any hunt is appropriate physical fitness. The mere ability to walk long distances is not enough; you need reserves of fitness to cope with the unexpected, and for when things go badly wrong. I had learned this the hard way while living in South West Africa, hunting some of the most remote, rugged mountains and canyons in the Namib Desert. When I went back there in 1996 to do a three-day backpack hunt in a completely waterless 50 000ha canyon in the Gamsberg Mountains (Magnum, Sept ’96) I trained for it by hiking up and down Cowie’s Hill near my home every day for weeks, carrying a 15kg backpack, and that wasn’t enough. So it’s not as if I didn’t know the importance of being fit when I undertook to hunt three buffalo in the Zambezi Valley in the year 2000. But there are times when setbacks occur, over which you have no control. When I hear people say, “You can make time to exercise,” I just smile. Please indulge me some digression to explain why…

Firstly, even at the best of times, magazine publishing is a stressful and highly pressured job. My Zimbabwe hunt was booked for mid-April, 2000. Editor Ron Anger decided to give Magnum’s readers a bumper 164-page Special Millennium Edition for January 2000, for which I had to write three feature articles in addition to my usual workload. Sadly, Ron’s wife, Di, was battling cancer, and towards the end of 1999, her condition worsened, requiring Ron’s almost continuous presence at her bedside. So the task of putting together the Millennium edition fell almost entirely on me and our layout artiste, Lindsay Fulton. 

Thereafter, Di Anger’s condition continued to require Ron’s full attention. Coincidentally, my wife underwent spinal neurosurgery on 25 February, 2000, which in those days involved six weeks recuperation flat on her back, bringing us to 6 April. During this period, I became ‘chief cook and bottle-washer’, housekeeper and nurse – in addition to doing my job and most of Ron Anger’s. Di Anger passed away on 30 March 2000. About a week after the funeral, I flew to Zimbabwe, exhausted and with nerves frazzled from the preceding months. Believe me: there are times when you can’t make time for fitness training. 

Another concern: a week before leaving, I discovered that the 450gr Barnes-X bullets I usually loaded for my .458 Lott were unavailable locally, and had to settle for 400-grainers, which I consider low on sectional density for use on buffalo. I also loaded 500gr solids and a few experimental (for me) 550gr Woodleigh soft-points.  

Read the full article in the October 2018 issue of Magnum.

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