A number of years ago, well, maybe more than that, a close group of friends went on a hunting safari to Tanzania for Cape buffalo. Some of these individuals, who were quite young then, ended up on a dramatic long walk reminding them of the Death Marchers from World War II. Henceforth the Death Marchers became a merry band of brothers, hunting the world and telling African hunting stories by the campfire for generations to come.
And so, it happened that the Death Marchers hunted in South Africa for nyala in KwaZulu Natal with us. At the end of the hunt their beloved better halves joined the merry band on a photo safari to Kruger National Park.
Beyond those years, Death Marcher Bill and his merry better half, Maggie, joined by their family, did a photo safari of Cape Town, hunted in the eastern Cape and saw Kruger Park celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary with us.
Once Bill learned I liked to fly fish he offered to construct a split cane fly rod for my limited abilities to launch a fly to the deep water. He shipped the rod to great friends in Texas and there it was looking for an opportunity to find its way to South Africa. When Bill and Allen decided to join forces on this hunt, Bill remembered the rod and promptly had it shipped to his address. What a work of art it is, thank you indeed Bill. Secondly, Bill cannot sit still so hand made me a smoking pipe! Having quit smoking a few years ago the pipe was of such quality that it was stoked with some of the finest tobacco you could shove down it’s throat. Promptly I lit it and puffed a cloud of smoke so large the land owner was about to call the fire brigade to put out the raging brush fire on his property.
Five years later, Bill was joined by Death Marcher Allen for a cull hunt with us that was to last for seven days.
Typical in the Death Marcher tradition, the two gentlemen had a flight to remember. First there was a five-hour layover in Boston before connecting to Germany where they had a 12-hour layover. The trip to the SAPS office at the Johannesburg Airport was without incident until we had to wait more than an hour for the rifle cases to appear. With all paperwork in order we headed to the truck for the start of our hunt. As we left the parking lot my phone rang with an irritated policeman on the other side. We left without collecting the temporary rifle import permits! Needless to say, we added speed and returned to the police station to have the mandatory permits in hand.
Upon arrival in base camp we had time enough to sight the rifles before settling in at the fire awaiting a scrumptious dinner.
It was a chilly morning when we left and about half an hour in to the hunt we came across the first zebra. Zebra was on Bill’s list so we took the time to make a perfect shot happen. The bang-flop saw the zebra drop between the last set of tracks he made in South Africa. Halfway up the hill saw us all panting heavily for the customary picture taking ceremony.
After lunch, we snoozed for a while before heading out on the afternoon hunt. Slightly before sunset we happened to come across two zebra who decided to stay slightly too long in one position. The 7 mm Rem Mag, hand loaded with 190 gr Barnes projectiles bought some years ago, had the second zebra of the day buy a one-way ticket to Mo.
Picture taking taken care of and we headed back to camp while the recovery team collected our second trophy for the day.
Above: Zebra # 1
Above: Long-time friends, Bill and Allen
Above: The three of us
Above: Bill with zebra # 2
Above: Zebra # 2 slightly before sunset.
By now Allen was thrown to the wolves (jackal?) and left in a hide to take some warthog. Only male warthog were on the menu and by close of business there were two warthog on the menu.
Bill and I had a long day looking for zebra who seemingly disappeared from the face of the earth.
Above: The colorful lilac breasted roller.
Above: Some seed pods Bill found interesting.
Above: A flowering Aloe vera in camp.
After some deliberation, it was concluded the zebra were hiding on a flat area about halfway up a hefty mountain slope. When we drove the final few hundred yards to the base of the mountain, two zebra were staring at us from about 400 yards away.
As we were out in the open, trying to hide ourselves was silly to say the least. So we boldly walked to the available tree cover and disappeared from their view. Thus the ascent started and huffing and puffing we approached the area where our capable guide, Kallie, knew these striped donkeys were hiding out.
Of course, upon our belated arrival, the zebra had moved off to somewhere else. By that time Bill and I were so high up the mountain we decided not to tackle the descent via the shortest route, but instead took a detour along an old disused road. It was almost like walking from Texas to Michigan via Colombia. Good grief the old timer almost walked me to death.
Finally, we found the truck by accident and headed out for brunch.
We quit looking for zebra a few minutes before sunset and enjoyed some good Scotch by the fire before calling it an early night.
Above: On the ascent looking for zebra.
Above: This is a picture with a panorama view taken by Bill. Double click the image to go full size.
Above: The view from my office window.
What a frustration. We spent a lot of time sitting on the mountain glassing everywhere and not seeing anything move. Specifically, we saw zero zebra. No amount of walking, driving or speculating had the zebra show themselves.
Our trail cameras were out and confirmed our sightings of leopard tracks that there was indeed leopard on the property.
Above: It was rather chilly when we were on our way hunting. -3 deg C translates to almost 27 deg F.
Above: Bill and Allen in the lobby of my office.
Above: How do you like this for a good size blue wildebeest?
Above: Bill made good use of his camera. The full moon was not really assisting with good hunting, but we still stopped to look at the wonders of Creation.
Battle stations and all aboard were ready for Plan B. A final morning session revealed zero zebra so Plan B was set in motion. Bill and I left for another property I knew had zebra. Armed with the 7 mm and a lunch packet we were full of confidence about getting lucky after some good planning. While on this property we saw camels, giraffe, impala, blesbok, waterbuck, blue wildebeest, springbok, red hartebeest and kudu within the first 30 minutes being there. By then it was worrying that we had not seen any zebra. Just at about the stage you start feeling sorry for yourself we finally located a herd of zebra.
A single shot rang out and we had another zebra on the way to the USA. Between four of us we were unable to load the dead weight so Peter, the skinner, removed the intestines which made loading much easier.
An hour later we approached another herd cautiously before being confronted with the dilemma of identifying a stallion over a mare. A few minutes later an uncertain call led to the fourth zebra stallion heading for the USA.
By this time, it was getting late and an executive decision to head home was graciously accepted.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Allen decided to turn himself into a one-man military force, notching up two warthogs before the close of business.
What a day and what a hunt. Thank you kindly, gentlemen, for your super friendship.
Above: Allen with two super warthogs who will soon be in the USA.
Above: Allen showing off a set of hog dentures.
Above: A curious giraffe on another hunting property.
Above: Aha, this is what we were looking for.
Above: And this is one of two we managed to hunt for the day.
We were supposed to leave by 11 am so Allen and I went to collect the trail cams. Riding shotgun, Allen was armed to the teeth to teach any roaming warthog how to travel to the USA. Almost back at camp we came across a sow, piglet and a boar. If that boar knew how close he was to buying a freight class ticket overseas he would have perhaps stayed around for another second to accept the invitation.
Above: Now where did those zebra disappear to?
Above: Allen and Bill
Above: Bill lighting his cigar.
Above: This is where African hunting stories are told best.
Thank you to two old friends: Allen and Bill, Death Marchers par-excellance!