From the July/August 2015 issue of Sporting Classics.
The idea was grand, just as certainly as it was built on a rickety scaffold of logic. Earlier in the day I’d found myself absent gainful employment. With one job or another having been an unrelenting nuisance since high school, it seemed appropriate to mourn this passing and worry up a good lather over what was likely to be a dismal future.
After a few minutes I’d resolved that the better brands of dog food don’t taste all that bad and electricity is overrated. Worrying done, I keyed a message to Jamy Traut, a professional hunter who has dragged me across the length and breadth of Namibia several times and become a great friend in the process. Jamy phoned right away, asking for details without so much as a hello. I laid things out.
“Everything happens for a reason,” he responded with absolute predictability. “When are you coming over to hunt?”
I told him whenever he thought best, adding that I could now stick around for as long as he was willing to tolerate me.
“What’ll it be this time? You’re booked for another go at leopard and I already have two in mind. Either will do nicely, as both are cursed with big feet.”
“I’m thinking we should pull the stops and look for a shaggy-headed lion or a toothsome old elephant. That probably means late season. I won’t mind the heat and recall you mentioning that October and November are the best time for such things. There’s nothing pressing to keep me in Montana then, although I’ll surely miss the whitetail rut, and I can write just as poorly sitting under a camelthorn tree as I can at my desk.”
As arranged, I pitched up in Windhoek with the intention of spending the entirety of November hunting leopard while waiting for a lion to misbehave or the right elephant to turn up in the Caprivi. But Africa proved yet again that her hunters need a sense of humor.
“There’s a grumpy old lioness that’s been
causing all kinds of trouble. This one
could get exciting ’cause she’s almost
certain to charge on sight.”
Early rains had lured the elephants, or more pointedly the big bulls, away from the Chobe River and out of Jamy’s concessions. Not a leopard was coming to bait, either, and the block where my lion permit was valid was pretty much devoid of anything larger than a duiker. At least, that is what the scouts had to say. For my part, I was where I wanted to be and doing what I wanted to do. Beyond that, nothing mattered.
After spending a few wonderful days hunting plains game at Panorama, Jamy threw a brush-back fastball.
“How about we run down to the Kalahari? There’s a grumpy old lioness that has been causing all kinds of trouble. She’s scaring the hell out of everyone, and it seems increasingly likely that something bad is going to happen. I’ll trade you the chance even up for the leopard, and this one could get exciting. She’s almost certain to charge on sight.
Jamy’s 108,000-acre Kalahari hunting area borders South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok Park. Latticed by monstrous red dunes that are in turn covered with a mixture of disconcertingly thick brush, it is a place that has kept its wild feel in spite of man’s intrusion. Gemsbok and eland are the primary draw, as lion hunting is so very limited. In fact, the national record gemsbok bull was recently shot on the adjoining ranch. This time, sadly, we were limited to taking only what non-trophy game was needed for bait.
Once there, it was a matter of genuine importance to recheck rifles. We upended a box at 100 steps, taped on a target and had at it. The Kimber Caprivi .375 H&H Magnum I uncased first had proven itself on several occasions, accounting for a hippo and a huge Cape buffalo. With absolutely boring precision, it fired Federal Cape-Shok ammunition with 300-grain Swift A-Frame bullets into tiny clusters.
My other Kimber, a .30-06 topped with a Leupold VX-6 2-12X, frequently shot in the .5s if I kept the barrel cool and fed it Federal Vital-Shok with 180-grain Trophy Copper bullets. Jamy’s battered Model 70 .458 Winchester Magnum was there to back up everything,
500 grains at a time.