By Dave Stueve
Fourth in a Series
Editor’s Note: Dave Stueve, owner and operator of La Porte City’s archery pro shop, Double Lung Archery, is a booking agent for Infinito Sarafis, located in South Africa. His partnership with Charl van Rooyen, Infinito Safaris’ owner, outfitter, as well as a professional hunter, has paved the way for dozens of area hunters to pursue the hunt of a lifetime on the other side of the globe. Last month, Stueve was joined by four clients for the hunt of a lifetime. Last week: Working well together as a team, Dave helps client Ben claim a second impala.
I am up early even though I am not hunting today. I spend a little time out by the fire before everyone else is up. No wake up rounds for me today, as Ben and Becky are headed to Kruger National Park with Erika and the two rifle hunters. I have breakfast with David, Girard, Tanner, Isaak and Gawie and see them off for their day of hunting. Soon, Erika, Becky and Ben are ready to head out as well. I wave goodbye to them and head back in to my computer to find the wi-fi is out! Arrrrggggg! Charl left hours ago for Petoria, Chef Seeba tries to figure it out to no avail. Well, back to the old fashioned way, pen and paper, I get caught up with my writing, practice with my bow some more and take another nap (that’s two days in a row!)
About 3:30 the rifle hunters roll back into camp. Great day! Girard got his Black Wildebeest and Springbuck; David got his Blesbuck. Had a late lunch with them, Cape Buffalo burgers and chips (fries). Yummmmm! We went to the skinning shed to check out their animals as they told me about their hunt.
As darkness fell, Charl returned from his long day, seven hours drive time wrapped around a 3-4 hour meeting. Being a professional hunter and outfitter isn’t ALL fun and games. He and I get together to talk some “business.” It’s funny, sort of, that we have so much fun doing what we do and get along so well, sometimes we have to remind ourselves this is a business! We make some decisions about an additional vehicle for Charl and Erika to use while they are traveling in the USA doing the big Safari Club International shows and, of course, making their annual visit to La Porte City. They are tired of all the flights and prefer to drive. It will be cheaper in the long run as well. So I am tasked with finding the right FORD for them to drive over here. Charl already has conceded that it will have to be a FORD, not a Toyota.
Everyone turns in early, again. Girard is going home tomorrow. David is done with his hunt and can take it easy tomorrow, as he got all the animals he came for. Charl, Gawie and I are going hunting a Giraffe.
Okay, so this is the most controversial part of the hunt and the hardest chapter for me to write. I am going after a giraffe bull today. They are a big game animal, just like any other, but for some reason, there are people who take issue with hunting them. Personally, I do not get it, but it is what it is. To me, hunting a giraffe is no different than hunting an Elk, a Deer, a Kudu etc.; all of which, in my opinion, are much more beautiful than a giraffe. Like all game animals, they need to be managed to keep their populations in proper proportions. Giraffe are not endangered. They are quite plentiful and are excellent to eat. Yes, you can eat a giraffe and we do.
The property we will be hunting has 25-30,000 acres and it has too many bull giraffes to maintain a healthy herd environment. Of the nearly 70 giraffe on the property, there are only three bulls we are allowed to hunt, two of which need to be taken to maintain a healthy ecosystem.
FAIR WARNING: If you do not want to know about a giraffe hunt, please read no further.
Not only is the property we are hunting big, it is beautiful land, complete with a mountain range running through it. There are wide open grassy areas, narrow, rugged ravines, lots of strange short trees and TONS of animals! We arrive and pick up Ann, who is one of the Game Scouts for this property. She is going along to make positive identification of the bulls we are allowed to hunt. One of the three has already been shot, so we are trying to locate the two remaining bulls and then get close enough for a bow shot. No easy task, as I am about to find out!
We drive through the property and the second group of animals we see contains one of the bulls. He is about 80 yards from the truck, but of course, they decide to make a run for it! Giraffe, when they run, hardly look like they are trying at all but, boy, do they cover the ground quickly! We decide drive around and try to get within stalking range. About a mile away, we see them, bunched up in some trees. Charl, Gawie and I leave the truck and head out into the thick, thorny bush. We slip and slide our way through a couple deep ravines and close the distance to about 1/8 of a mile when, suddenly, a herd of Blue Wildebeest take off out of the tall grass, running right at the giraffe, spooking them. Foiled! We make the walk back to the truck to devise a new plan.
We drive to other end of the property and locate the other Bull. He is in the tall grass, about knee to waist high, among small patches of short trees we plan to use for cover. The ground is littered with big rocks, about the size of a person’s head, hiding in the grass just waiting to cause a trip and fall. Fortunately, none of us fell, but we did have to move slowly and carefully. The rocks don’t appear to hamper the giraffes any, as another stalk attempt ends when they walk away from our hiding spot under a thorny tree.
Throughout the day, we see plenty of other game animals, including Cape Buffalo. Weighing in at up to 1,800 pounds, we are definitely hoping NOT to run into any of them. Fortunately, none crossed our path, though we did see some fantastic Sable, Kudu, Tsessebe, Black Impala, Blue Wildebeest. This is a land rich with game, for sure.
We make another attempt to stalk the second bull. Through the trees we go, closing the distance yard by yard. I want to get within 30-35 yards or less. With their heads like periscopes, looking in all directions, yep, they bust us! I’m thinking I need a tree stand, about 40 feet up, to get the height advantage on these critters!
Time to take a break and head back to camp for some lunch. Chef Seeba has cheesy Kudu sausages ready for us and after we eat, we head back down the road to try to find the first bull we went after this morning.
It is hot out now. Probably about 75 degrees. Charl has a new plan! We are going to try to trick the bull into thinking another bull is invading his space. Perhaps you’ve seen people do this when hunting moose by using a canoe paddle to simulate moose horns. They waddle, holding the paddle out to the side of their head like moose antlers while making moose calls. So, we are going to use a pair of shooting sticks turned upside down and walk along, close rank, single file, while Charl makes giraffe sounds! Absolutely, the funniest thing I have ever seen in Africa! I was dying laughing inside, I think, as we got closer to the bull. I think I even heard him laugh a little! It did almost work! The bull stood there, watching us close the distance, little by little. We used the ravines to our advantage, slipping in and out of view of the bull as we worked our way toward him, all the while Charl holding the sticks above his head, pointing up like antennas. We zigged, we zagged, down a ravine, up a ravine, all while staying within inches of each other. With us walking as one, the slippery dusty soil, the rocks and me laughing inside so hard I am amazed we didn’t all end up in a pile at the bottom of each ravine we went thru! Gawie got plenty of footage of our backsides! Well, we got to about 60 yards and the jig was up. The bull just turned a little and disappeared off into the trees.
Our next plan was to try to get the truck between the bull and his cows. Several attempts later, yeah, that’s not working either. Back to stalking. We get a couple more stalks in, all with the same result, before calling it a day at about 5 PM. We drop Ann off at the main gate and head back to our camp. Chef Seeba has another great meal for us. Camp seems a little empty tonight, as Girard has gone home and Ben, Becky and Erika are at Kruger National Park. David (Grandpa) is the only client in camp! After dinner, we spend some time at the fire. Our hunt is almost done. Tomorrow is the final hunting day. Dang! It’s always over too soon. I do a little computer work and try to sleep. I check and recheck my gear, make sure my camera batteries are charged, check available space on my camera card, sleep a little. Next thing I know my alarm is going off, time to get up! Our final day in South Africa is here.
Next Week: In the final installment, will Dave and Charl be successful in their efforts to take a giraffe?