Given an open invitation to go hunting which animal
would be your first choice? One of the Big Five? An animal that is
particularly rare or difficult to hunt or a species that you have
never hunted before? Or would you, like me, rather hunt one of your
old favourites? An animal that is close to your heart because of
certain characteristics or because you know the animal’s habitat and
habits and because that particular species stirs your emotions in
one way or another whenever you see it in the veld.
you hunt, what about the animal or the whole setup is important to
you? It seems to me that some trophy hunters are only interested in
those all important inches - to get their names in "The Book". Some
people favour rare species that dwell in remote corners of the
earth. To others the beauty of the surroundings might be important
and, beauty being in the eyes of the beholder, their favourites may
be found in the Alps or Alaska, northern Canada or the scorching
dunes of the Namib.
A good number of hunters enjoy the element of danger
- they prefer their prey to be capable of fighting back. Their
favourites are Africa’s Big Five or the big bears of the northern
hemisphere. I suppose many would jump at the chance to hunt any of
the Big Five, but they do not particularly appeal to me. Having
taken only two dangerous game animals, a leopard and a buffalo, I am
not actually qualified to judge dangerous game hunting. I was alone
though, when I shot these animals, there was no PH to hold my hand
and protect me. I am afraid that modern-day dangerous game hunting
would not suit me at all. I am fiercely independent when I hunt. I
prefer to do my own thing - on my own. Being forced to hunt under
the protection of a PH, whose job it is to ensure your safety at all
times, a government game scout and several ‘trackers’ seem to turn
the so-called ‘dangerous game’ hunt into a rather bland affair.
Because of my job, I am lucky enough to have had
several opportunities where I could stalk buffalo all on my own.
Once I spent a whole week among buffalo during which I stalked and
"killed" several animals by dry-firing. I had two scary moments and
was lucky to escape unscathed but even that did not light a yearning
in my soul to hunt buffalo. Maybe I would change my mind after
having hunted buffalo or elephant with a PH, but until then these
‘safe’ hunts where you share the veld with a large number of people
do not appeal to me.
The animals that give me the greatest pleasure to
hunt might bore you to death - they are not particularly tough or
rare and normally do not pose a danger to the hunter when wounded.
They are the strikingly beautiful and nimble springbuck and the
majestic southern greater kudu.
The springbuck get its common name from its habit of
pronking when alarmed or especially when in a playful mood. When a
springbuck pronks, it lowers its head, arches its back and bounces
stiff-kneed off the ground in a series of high leaps. While doing
that a marsupial-like pouch on its rump (in Afrikaans known as the
pronk) opens like a fan to display the long snow-white hair it
contains. The springbuck’s Zulu name, Insephe, which means "shining
tassel" refers to the pronk’s white hair.
black tribes in South Africa tell a beautiful story on how the
springbuck got its Zulu name. Many years ago the sun god came down
to earth but he was murdered by humans and when he died, both the
sun and the moon died and the earth became a cold, dark and desolate
place. The springbuck somehow survived and hiding in a cave the
animal prayed to the gods not to destroy the earth because of the
sinful ways of the humans. After many months the goddess Mother
Earth decided to answer the springbuck’s prayers and once again gave
birth to the sun god who immediately restored the warmth and life on
earth. Mother Earth then rewarded the springbuck by giving it the
name Insephe. She also told springbuck that he will be known as the
animal of light, faith and reliability. Apparently some black tribes
still believe that when the last springbuck dies, the sun and the
moon will die in the land of the shadows and the world will end.
A free spirit, the springbuck once trekked across
southern Africa at will. They thrived on the great plains of the
Karoo, Free State and Bushmanland. When the Europeans arrived,
hundreds of thousands were shot because they competed for grazing
with livestock. Despite the unrestricted shooting, rinderpest and
severe droughts that decimated their numbers the springbuck
prevailed and today it is a valued game animal.
Springbuck don’t do well in wet climes and their
preference for the sun-drenched plains is perhaps the reason why
they are my favourites. I too, am not happy in rainy places. Deny me
sunlight for a day or two and I am down in the dumps. Another reason
why I love the "springbuck plains" is because they are home to birds
that are close to my heart. Where the springbuck dwells, you will
invariably find the Namaqua sandgrouse, the Karoo and black korhaans,
the magnificent kori bustard and the beautiful little Namaqua dove.
Due to their preferred habitat springbuck have
always been difficult to hunt on foot and subsequently many are
culled rather than hunted - from vehicles or during driven shoots
where the hunters wait in ambush for the buck to be driven towards
them. I enjoy the challenge of pitting my skills against the
springbuck on a one-on-one basis on foot and always try to get
within 200 yards before pulling the trigger. To approach springbuck
on foot in open terrain is extremely difficult, because they have
phenomenal eyesight and usually run off at the first sign of danger.
To get close enough for a shot you have to resort to
trickery or be prepared to leopard crawl for long distances. If he
has the right calibre/load combination, an accurate rifle and a
rangefinder to determine the distance to the animal, a hunter can
obviously shoot them from long range but that is far less
challenging than stalking close and in my eyes long range sniping is
not true hunting. Getting as close as possible is the challenge.
Crawling openly on all fours as if to pass them has worked for me on
many occasions, enabling me to get within 200 yards.
even if you get relatively close, accurate shooting is still
required because a springbuck’s vital area is only about six inches
in diameter and when you have crawled a long way and must shoot
quickly it is not that easy. Brain or neck shots are options but not
advisable when hunting alone and on foot. The brain and neck bones
are small targets and animals rarely keep their heads still enough
for long enough to ensure accurate shot placement. If you wound a
springbuck (they are very tough for their size) you will not be able
to follow up that animal that say, had its jaw shot off.
The first antelope I ever shot was a huge springbuck
ram that I took on an open plain in Namibia, the country where I
grew up. It was a huge ram and we (my late father and I) were able
to close the distance to about 75 yards before running out of cover.
I used my father’s open-sighted .303 Lee Enfield loaded with 174gr
PMP factory ammunition and shot it squarely through the shoulder.
That was in the early 1970s and since then I have taken quite a
number of springbuck with open-sighted rifles.
One of the toughest hunts for springbuck with open
sights took place in the Moordenaars Karoo two years ago. The
country is very rugged, dry and open and after hunting for three
days I finally managed to shoot a female from 74 paces. The day I
shot her my final stalk took several hours due to the openness of
the terrain. I had to hang back and finally use a low rise and a
shallow dry river to get close enough. When the small herd
disappeared behind the rise I actually had to run at a crouch for
about 150 yards to get into position for the shot. A 140gr Nosler
Ballistic Tip out of my 7x57 Mauser decked the animal on the spot.
Because of the amount of crawling I had done during that three-day
hunt, I was stiff and sore for days afterwards. I have also used my
.375 Mauser with open sights to take a number of springbuck, the
last of which was killed at about 60 paces.
The springbuck does not only appeal to me because of
its beauty, preferred habitat and the challenging hunting it offers,
but also because it is the tastiest buck (for me at least) in
Africa. Its meat is tender, has a wonderful flavour and does not
require marinating or dressing up. Springbuck also makes the best
biltong and dried wors (sausage), two South African delicacies.
Barnard is an ex-professional hunter and a full time gun
writer, having published hundreds of articles. He was
born in Namibia and has been a keen hunter since his
Finally; whenever a springbuck’s live is taken the
hunter is reminded that this is indeed the animal of light. At the
moment of death the pronk opens to display that beautiful,
snow-white hair. So next time you kneel beside insephe be thankful
for the sun’s warmth and its life-giving light.
In the next issue I will discuss the majestic kudu
and the reasons why it is a favourite.