Weishuhn on Hunting # 5

18 July 2013

  As a youngster I often read articles and books about hunting Africa, specifically Hemingway’s “Green Hills of Africa” and occasionally when my childhood heros Jack O’Connor (with Outdoor Life) and Warren Page (Field & Stream) hunted the Dark Continent, come to think of it they still are my heros.  Through their articles and photos I was there with them.  During my “growing up” I dreamed of hunting Africa like they had done.  But I also truly doubted I ever would get the chance.  I finally did make my first trip to Africa the year I turned 50, and since that time I’ve been back many times, and the good Lord willing, I’ll be back many more times in the future. But as to the future, things and politics are changing daily in Africa, and most of those things are not good for hunting.  More and more countries are shutting down hunting and politics are changing as well that may make hunting unsafe in some country.  Both are extremely bad for Africa’s wildlife!  When hunting is no longer allowed, poachers take their toll and quickly kill everything.  With wildlife no longer being of benefit or financially being important to local native populations, all animals are quickly killed off.   So what does that mean to you and me?  We better go hunting now, before wildlife and hunting go by the wayside in Africa!  Not that I needed that excuse!   I was extremely fortunate this summer.  I got to spend a month in Africa, two weeks in South Africa with Frikkie du Toit Safaris and two weeks in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip with Omujeve Safaris.  I was there to film four shows for the 2014 season of my television series “DSC’s TRAILING THE HUNTER’S MOON”.   Prior to leaving I put Zeiss scopes, a 2-8x Duralyt and a Conquest HD5, on my two Ruger Guide Guns chambered in .375 Ruger.  I then spent whatever time I could shooting them at the FTW Ranch (www.ftwoufitters.com) on their various SAAM and Safari courses, shooting at close and distant ranges out to 500 yards.  Now I had no intention of shooting that far, but using Hornady’s 300 grain DGX and DGS, I knew I could accurately shoot that far if the occasion occurred.   My intention on the month long safari was to hunt hippo and Cape buffalo; then help “guide” three lion hunters, Blake Barnett (my cameraman/producer), Bobby and Hunter Evans who bought their safari at the 2013 Dallas Safari Club Convention and accompany them on a plains game hunt as well; then hunt Cape buffalo as well as accompany my hunting partner Mike Runnels on a Cape buffalo and elephant hunt in the Caprivi Strip.   As it worked out I only used my Ruger .375 Ruger Guide Gun topped with a Zeiss Conquest HD5 to take my hippo in the Limpopo region of South Africa. After that I switched to using my Guide Rifle in .375 Ruger topped with the Zeiss Duralyt scope.  Not only did I use that rifle on my Caprivi Cape buffalo, a wart hog and diminutive steinbok, Blake used it to shoot a hippo and lion, Bobby used it on a huge male lion as well as a 55 inch kudu (less than a mile from the Botswana border as well as huge impala.  Hunter used that same combination to take his monstrous lioness, a one shot kill, as well as blue wildebeest and 52 inch kudu, again close to the Botswana border.  As it worked out Mike Runnels too used one of my .375 Rugers, a Model 77 Hawkeye African, the one I had previously used on my African lion and plains game as well as the monstrous Alaskan brown bear I shot.  The rifle Mike hunted with too, was topped with a Zeiss Duralyt scope.  Throughout, those guns shot Hornady’s 300 grain DGX (expandable) and DGS (solids).   My hunt with Frikkie, actually Blake and me, started essentially the day after we flew into Johannesburg.  The drive to the Limpopo was a bit long, but during the drive Frikkie  regaled us with hunts he had done in the different areas along the way in the past.  Having grown up close to what is now Kruger Park he had started hunting lions at a very early age, both for sport and out of necessity to protect his family’s livestock.   During the 2013 Dallas Safari Club Convention (www.biggame.org) I set up a hippo hunt with Frikkie, after he told me there were some great opportunities to hunt problem hippos, particularly around Kruger.  Hippos leave the rivers and streams and get into ponds where they chase people, and often catch them!  Prior to our arrival a young man fishing in a big pond was attacked by a hippo.  He survived, but only after losing one of his legs.  A few days later the same hippo attacked a small boat, this time the people escaped, but not by much!  The hippo was described by both as an extremely large bull, that was missing one of his ears.  So... when I got to South Africa, Frikkie quickly suggested we look for one of about three problem hippos he knew about and that would be available to be hunted.  He particularly suggest the “one-eared bull”!   That afternoon, while I was still dressed in my “traveling clothes” before going to the lodge we were met by a friend of Frikkie’s and a fellow Professional Hunter.  He was the one who made arrangements for us to hunt the farm, a huge citrus orchard, where “my” hippo lived.   We looked at several ponds, found lots of hippo sign and trails, but did not see any hippos. About mid-afternoon we drove to a pond, many acres in size, most of the shoreline was covered in tall reeds, and it was less than a mile from a major river that was home to many hippos and crocs as well.   Hippos tend to “blow”, meaning exhale loudly when they surface from being submerged for any length of time.  The first time I heard such a “blow” it reminded me of the same sounds made by whales when surfacing to breathe.  Part of our hunting technique including driving and walking to ponds which showed sign of hippos using them and sitting and listening for fifteen to twenty minutes.  When we pulled up about 200 yards from the big lake, we approached as quietly and cautiously as possible, then listened. Somewhere toward the backside of the meandering watershed we could hear the blowing of a hippo.  Frikkie smiled back at me and pointed in the direction of the sound, then raised his fore-finger to his lips indicating us to be quiet, but then also pointed in te direction of the sound.   About a half hour later Frikkie spread the reeds with his .470 NE double rifle, and there were two hippos with merely nostrils, eyes and ears showing above the water’s surface.  Both had their ears. One had “bumps” on the muzzle, likely indicating a male.  The other lacked those, and likely she was a female.  Frikkie turned back toward me and mouthed, “Not the one we’re looking for!”   None the less we watched the sinking and later surfacing hippos.  I had before leaving spent what time I could on the FTW Ranch and their SAAM and Safari Courses (www.ftwoutfitters.com) as well as learning about hippo anatomy.  But even so I asked Frikkie once again exactly where to place my 300 grain DGS Hornady bullet.  “Between the eyes, just about where the forehead makes a “V” like dip.  Hit him there and you’ll put it through his brain. Hit one there and we’ve got a dead hippo!”   We were about to move to another lake when we spotted a third hippo a bit farther out in the deeper water.  A quick look through my Zeiss Conquest HD binos confirmed what I had thought, the new hippo had only one ear!  I glanced at Frikkie he was all smiles, “It’s him!  Let’s move a bit to the right.  If he keeps bobbing up and down where he is, you may have a chance at taking your first hippo!”  I liked the way Frikkie thought.   For the next hour we moved several times.  Finally we got on somewhat of a point. There the local tracker cleared some of the reeds where I could have a clear shot. More time passed as I waited for the perfect hippo shot.  Finally while waiting with my rifle rested on a Wide Body on top of my BOG Pod RLD tripod, the hippo surfaced giving me the ideal shot.  Actually it took considerably less time to happen than it just took to tell you about it.  I had about 2 seconds to get on target and shoot.   At the shot the hippo’s head rocked back and immediately sank, even quicker than I could bolt in a second round.  Sinking the hippo stirred up a lot of muddy water!  Almost immediately too, the remaining two hippos started thrashing the water, the disappeared beneath the surface,  Almost immediately I saw a “V” wake coming quickly in our direction.  Both Frikkie and I backed up fully expecting to be charged. Thankfully right before getting to us the wake turned to our right.  We continued backing up where if indeed the hippo came out of the water and charged we would be able to see it before it was upon us.  Thankfully once again, in spite of several very anxious moments, nothing extraordinary happened.   Now came the wait.  I was certain my shot had been true.  We occasionally saw the two other hippos, which by then we came to realize were a breeding pair.  “Usually it takes two hours for a dead hippo to float to the surface.”   He did just as the sun sank....   ______________________________________________________________________ Be certain to watch Larry’s “DSC’s Trailing the Hunter’s Moon” on Sportsman Channel Monday afternoon at 3:00 pm, Friday at 6:30 pm and Saturday at 9:30 am (eastern times)... to leave Larry a personal message go to his Larry Weishuhn Outdoors facebook page.