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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Gotta Do Whatcha Gotta Do...

Photo By Todd J. Rathner Click photo to enlarge

Photo By Todd J. Rathner Click photo to enlarge

Venison to Go!
On a recent whitetail deer hunting trip to Oklahoma my friend Jon and I came across this rental car with 2 bucks strapped on the roof. Although Jon got a nice buck on this trip I struck out. But just seeing this car was worth the trip to Oklahoma!


Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Shannon and The Women in the Wild!

By Shannon Irving

This year, we decided to team up with the NRA's Women on Target Program and host an all women's hunt in South Africa . We had 10 ladies (including me) participate. It was extremely successful! So successful in fact, that we have 2 more all women's hunts scheduled for next year. Awesome, Awesome!

First off, this was my first hunt... ever. I was a little apprehensive to hunt because I was still trying to perfect my shooting skills. Earlier in the year, I graduated from GunSite after 5 days and 400 rounds of shooting.

The flight to Africa wasn't too bad. Well, there was the fact that we missed our plane in Dulles because of weather delays and were re-routed through London. THANKFULLY, I had open seats next to me to London and then a whole row from London to Joburg open. All in all, it was pretty smooth.

We didn't really have any problems in Joburg. Gathering up 9 other ladies and their belongings was a sort of controlled chaos to deal with, but we got everyone through with no problems thanks to Riflepermits.com and we were on our way. We overnighted at Afton Guest House with Louie and Annelise who were great, as usual. The next morning, we got on our flight to Port Elizabeth. Our outfitter picked us up at the PE airport and off to camp we went.

DAY 1:
We started the morning off with sighting in our rifles. I had the privilege of borrowing a custom made .300 Winchester from NRA past President Sandra Froman. Since the rifle range was full with the other ladies, my PH Jaco, took me off to do our own sighting in. He set up a blank piece of paper with a black circle in the middle about 200 yards away. I loaded up my .300 with 180 grain Federal Triple Shocks. I let one round go and Jaco said, "You're good... let's go."

This was the day that we were going to try for Springbuck. We drove for about an hour when we were stopped by some neighboring farmers. A Blue Wildebeest was mingling with their cows and was being a nuisance. They gave us permission to take the Wildebeest because it was a cull animal. So, instead of Springbuck we were going to go for Wildebeest.

We got out to the area where the Wildebeest was roaming. They were right, it WAS mingling with the cows. I had to be extra careful not to take one of those instead of it! We stalked the Wildebeest all day. Everytime we got close enough, it ran. We finally got in a position to where I could get it in the scope. Mind you, this was my FIRST animal ever. I thought I was going to be so nervous, but after stalking this thing for hours on end, I was as calm and collected as ever, a definite surprise! I let one round go at the Wildebeest. DAMN! The shot was a little too far back and it took off! We circled around into a ravine area. We saw the beest standing up on a hill about 150 yards away. Jaco, me and the tracker leopard crawled up the litle ravine to get another shot off. I took 3 deep breaths and squeezed the trigger. DOWN!

My Blue Wildebeest.

That night was an interesting experience however! Because it was my first kill ever. I was the center of attention for about 10 minutes so I could partake in the custom of eating the raw liver of the first kill. A couple of Brandy's and Coke's help me swallow it down, but it was a fun experience.

Some of the ladies gathered outside during the braai.

Day 2:
Today we decided to try for Springbuck again. We set out bright and early to start another full day of hunting. We drove out to a grassy hill about 30-45 minutes from where our lodge was. There wasn't much to hide behind except one little bush, so we got set up to wait for a herd of springbuck to come by. We waited and waited.

Jaco even sent the tracker out to scout the area. For some reason, they just weren't around. However, a lonley Black Wildebeest was hanging out in a herd of Zebra. So we decided that today was going to be a Wildebeest day as well. I got set up on the sticks (sitting) and put my scope on the Wildebeest. I was just waiting for that perfect angle, facing broad side (about 125 yards away). I didn't take my eye off of him. He finally turned and I let one bullet go. DOWN! I was so happy it only took one shot.

My Black Wildebeest

Day 3:
It was really rainy and cold. We stayed in the lodge until late in the morning. I was getting restless so I told Jaco I wanted to hunt something, anything. We were going to try for Springbuck AGAIN. We drove quite a ways to get to an area Jaco thought some Springbuck were. We spotted a herd and started our stalk. We got about 200 yards away from them when Jaco said to me, "I don't think this is going to be our day for Springbuck either. They are all too young." Man, not our luck! All of a sudden we heard this noise, a strange little noise coming from behind us. "Reedbuck!," Jaco said to me. Change of plans, we were going for Mountain Reedbuck today. We stalking up and down this hill after this herd of Reedbuck. We got about 125 yards away from them. Jaco said, "This is not our luck! The male looks too young as well, but let's get a little closer." We got about 25 more yards closer. Jaco looked through his binos again and said, "Oh man! you BETTER shoot that guy!" His horns we curled so it made them look short and him young from a distance.

I sat down and put my rifle on the sticks. The wind was blowing me all over the place and I couldn't get comfortable. "Lay down, Lay down," Jaco said to me. So that's what I did. I layed downwards on a incline and aimed upwards towards the reedbuck. He was directly facing us. Jaco said to me, "Okay, he is facing us. You have to shoot him that way. See that bush that is right in front of him? (it came right under his chest) You have to shoot right above it." I aimed right above that bush and let one bullet go. DOWN! I couldn't believe it! One bullet again!

Breaker and I with my Mountain Reedbuck.

Day 4:
Today instead of Springbuck, we were going to go for Blesbuck. I was so pumped by now. I was doing absolutely fantastic. I now had this great confidence about myself. (I wasn't being cocky though!) We set out early as usual to get to our area. It was pretty cold and windy this day as well. We hiked up this mountain for Blesbuck. Just as we got to were we 'thought' they were going to be, they ran down the mountain; so down the mountain we went as well. We started after them again when Jaco said, "Wait, wait. There they are." The herd came around and ran right in front of us about 250 yards away. Our tracker was up the mountain still trying to scout the herd out. Jaco was on the radio with him to lay down because they were looking in his direction. We got set up on the sticks behind a bush/tree thing. We were a bit far away so Jaco told me to adjust my aim a little to the right. I let one bullet go. DOWN! "OH MAN! I cannot believe it!" Jaco said to me. The radio lit up and our tracker told Jaco the same thing. He thought I wouldn't hit it because I was laying down at a slight incline and the Blesbuck was far away. Both of them surely thought I was going to wound him and we were going to be out all day looking for him. Well they were wrong!

My Blesbuck

This same day, I had to experience was it was like to field dress an animal. My boss, Todd Rathner, had a discussion with Jaco the night before telling him I had to field dress at least one animal sometime during my hunt.

Since the shot was a great heart shot, the Blesbuck bled out. Jaco said to me, "This is the perfect day for it. The Blesbuck will be clean on the inside. Your shot was good enough to bleed him out."

After many, "I can't, I can't, I can'ts," here I am cutting my Blesbuck. Thankfully I had a handy little knife with me. Tim Wegner From BladeTech Knives donated field knives too each lady on the hunt. I used that sucker for EVERYTHING!

Day 5:
I only had two more animals left on my list, a Springbuck, which was part of the hunt package, and an Impala that I wanted to add. Today Jaco, me, fellow hunter Cyndi and her PH Andre took the day to explore the area. We went into the mountains where the outfitter has converted Oxwagons that they use as one night accomodations for clients. We played with spotting scopes, rifles, etc. etc. Andre showed us his amazing skills with the rifle. He can take any rifle, throw a rock into the air and hit it! It was amazing!!

Day 6:
Today was finally the day that we were going to try for Springbuck. This time, I had help. Since the majority of the ladies were done hunting, a couple of them and their PHs came along for "moral" support. Jaco and I hiked up this hill in the same area we had visited a few days prior when we tried for Springbuck. We got outselves set up behind a bush/tree. Cyndi and her PH, Andre went in one direction and Sue and her PH, Roebol went in the other direction. They were trying to keep the Springbuck herd in a certain area. If they went over the hill, we wouldn't have a shot at them. Jaco and I sat quietly and waited and watched as the herd ran back and and forth in front of us. We were just waiting for them to get in the clear area about 70 yards in front of us. I was sitting, with the my rifle on the sticks and my eye through the scope. Jaco said to me, "Okay, get ready, here they come." The Springbuck herd came running through the open area just as we wanted, but they were going too fast. "Oh no, I don't think they going to stop," Jaco said to me. "Wait, the male in the very back. He's nice, take him. He will stop." Just as Jaco predicted, the Springbuck stopped, broad side. I followed the brown strip to his shoulder and let one go. DOWN!

As usual, we had an amazing 4... er, 5... er, 6 (maybe??) course meal.

Day 7:
Today the entire group went to Addo Elephant Park. It was really nice to take a small break from hunting and spend time with the whole group. We looked at lots of elephants, saw lots of warthogs and other animals like zebra and ostrich.

I had a discusson with my PH about hunting an Impala. That was what we were going to try for on the last two days of my hunt. After dinner, Todd pulled me off to the side and asked what I still had to hunt. I told him that I was adding an Impala to my list. He said, "You can't hunt an Impala." "What?! Why not?," I said to him. "Because, you're going to hunt a Kudu. You have done so well this week, I think you earned it." I could NOT believe it. A Kudu?!? A Kudu?!? Holy Crap! A Kudu! I ran to Jaco immediately. He had already began calling around to see where we could go to get a nice Kudu. Todd had already told him!

Day 8:
We got up real early and went to the neighboring farm to hunt Kudu. The area was some-what new to Jaco so another PH, Roebol, came along to help out because he knew the area quite well.

We saw a couple of males, but nothing really worth going after. This day we basically spent the entire day getting to know the area and glassing. I wouldn't say it was a complete waste of a hunting day, but I wish I would have at least been able to see a Kudu that was worth looking at through my scope.
Day 9: (The last and BEST day)
We set out for the neighboring farm again at about six in the morning. We needed to get an early start, because this was my last day and if I wanted a Kudu, I had to work for him. Within 20 minutes of getting to the hunting area, our trackers spotted a herd of Kudu with a nice bull. Our stalk had begun however, we didn't just hike... we climbed up and down rocky mountains for over five hours. I did my best to keep up with Jaco, but I was dying. My knees were buckling and my thighs were burning. This was the toughest day I had the entire hunt!

At about 11, Jaco and I had a discussion about my Kudu. We only had another hour or so until it was too hot to hunt. We agreed that if we didn't get my Kudu by one in the afternoon, I would put it on my list for next year. We continued to climb up and down rocky hills. I could barely see the ground; the grass was up to my knees and thick. Every time we thought the Kudu were coming, we narrowly missed them! They would run right in front of us; we were 20 seconds too late every time. Finally, 1 o'clock came around and I said to my PH, "Well, that's it, he's on the list for next year!"

We both went back to our lodges to relax for the rest of the day. At about 4:30 in the afternoon Jaco comes to my lodge and says, "We have to go to these fields near here. Sometimes Kudu come down there." "How long are we going to be out there?" I asked him."Only for two hours," he replied to me. "All right," I said, "Let's go." We drove about 15 minutes to get to these fields that were near our lodge. "You have to be very quite," Jaco said to me. We set up shop behind these small, old cement walls and just waited and watched. After about an hour, a bunch of Kudu cows came out with their young so we got ready for the bull to show but, he never did! Then, something spooked the Kudu cows and they ran off.

"Let's go to the next field," Jaco said to me, "Maybe there will be some Kudu over there." By now the sun was starting to set, but it didn't matter, we kept going on. We were practically leopard crawling over to the next field when all of a sudden Jaco stopped ... there he was! I don't know if it was from lack of time and being exhausted or just seeing the Kudu bull that close to us, but for the first time the entire trip I got excited and nervous. I got BUCK FEVER!

The two fields were separated by a fence so I had to use the fence as my "sticks." I put my rifle through an opening, but I just couldn't get comfortable. The whole time I'm telling myself, "I have to shoot him! I have to shoot him!" But, I didn't! I couldn't! Jaco said to me, "We don't have a lot of time! You HAVE to calm down! They usually only stand once." Then the bull started to walk away!!! I pulled my rifle out of the fence hole, moved a little to the left and stuck it in another hole. Just then the Kudu stopped broad side and looked right at us! I took 3 deep breaths and squeezed the trigger...BAM...a perfect heart shot. He ran about 10 yards and DROPPED!!!!! Jaco and I both were jumping up and down yelling and screaming "We got him!!! We got him!!" He was a beauty, 43" and some-what wide. I just loved him.

So on the last day, at last light, I got -

Jaco and I were the last to arrive to dinner that night. Everyone knew we had been trying for Kudu for two days. Jaco and I got to the braai area and had blank looks on our faces. Everyone started asking me, "Did you get him? Did you get him." I looked at Jaco, Jaco looked at me and I said, "I don't know ask him." And I pointed to him. Then everyone started asking Jaco. "I don't know, ask her," he told them. I got a BIG smile on my face and said, "Of course I did ... and with only one shot!"

Each lady gave a little 'thank you' speech to their PH and we were given one back from the outfitter and our PHs. I was told that I did surprisingly better than anyone thought and everyone was truly proud of me. I was nicknamed "African Assassin" on this trip. Jaco told me that he would hunt next to me any day. I really felt honored.

I had such an amazing time and am absolutely hooked on hunting and Africa. I cannot wait to go on next year's hunts with new groups of ladies.

Thanks to SheSafari for donating outfits to the ladies (who will also be doing the same for next years hunts,) BladeTech for doanting knives, NRA's Women on Target program, RiflePermits.com and our outfitter in South Africa. You all truly made this hunt an amazing one.

P.S If you are interested in sending your spouse or you want to go (if you are a lady) please, please contact me for the details. Or, you can visit out website at http://www.tjsafari.com/ and click on the Women in the Wild Hunt in the packages section.

-Shannon Irving
The T. Jeffrey Safari Co.


Friday, December 7, 2007

Todd J Rathner

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