It was time for something new and different. I normally hunt for meat only, and with friends, but I had decided that, for once, I wanted to do a one-on-one ‘trophy hunt’ guided by a professional, and for a species I would not ordinarily hunt. I wanted to experience something akin to what Ruark and Capstick described. I did not want to sleep in an air-conditioned room with the option of late night DSTV.
So, a few days before my 38th birthday, I found myself awaking wet with perspiration in our fly camp in the Valley of the Elephants, with the temperatures already in the high thirties. And, so far, it was looking good; the open-air shower I could use at the foot of a rock ledge just behind our tent certainly made me feel closer to nature and enhanced the experience (though conventional ablution facilities were available). Fanie Malan of Thembeka Safaris guided my hunts, while my wife mostly relaxed in camp.
My primary goal was a trophy nyala, and this 8 000 acres of pristine Lowveld savannah had plenty of these. I also wanted a Burchell’s zebra and impala with ‘rugby-pale’ horns. I wanted to hunt on foot, but being in March, the thick bush and the vastness of the hunting area forced us to drive quite a bit. Had we set off on foot from camp each day, we’d have had little chance of bagging all my trophies in four days. However, no shots would be taken from the vehicle.
During our first afternoon out we saw a majestic sable with excellent horns, which turned our talk to trophies. What is a trophy? Must it rank high in Rowland Ward’s Records of Big Game? Must it qualify for entry? For me, a trophy is any worthy represent-
ative of the species, provided I hunted it ethically and had to work hard for it, applying all my skills to succeed, and felt thrilled by the experience. This is more important than measurements and rankings. Of course, as a professional, Fanie strives to locate the best possible trophies, but otherwise we agreed that to hunt only for the tape-measure is to miss the point of hunting.
We came to a more open area of woodland with fewer shrubs; visibility was much-improved. Fanie and Esu, his tracker, spotted a tiny movement some 400m away – a grazing herd of zebra, partly concealed by bush. While Esu drove the vehicle off into the distance, Fanie and I began our stalk. Telling male zebra from female is fairly difficult, especially when they’re partially obscured. The males have a narrow black stripe running vertically between the back legs and under the tail; on the females this is a broader black wedge.
No foals were visible, so either gender would do. When your trophy is a beautiful skin, remember that the mares don’t fight as the stallions do, hence have fewer ‘war-scars’.
Read the full article in the June 2020 issue of Magnum.