MOZAMBIQUE – Hunting: birth of a bunny-hugger.

Most bunny-huggers have never hunted. They have never taken the life of any animal for whatever reason, be it mercy, survival, commercial or sport. Maybe imagination or film documentaries are enough to trigger an abhorrence of taking a life.

Some bunny-huggers evolve from youthful thoughtlessness to mature consideration.

Not all hunters are forever careless of their killing. Some thank their prey for the use of their bodies and wish their spirits well in the next life, even as the trigger is pulled or the arrow released. Most hunters, for whatever reason, pray for an accurate, merciful shot. A swift and painless death. And they make sure of it with skill and an accurate assessment of the conditions in place at the time, not risking any possibility of anything but a sure, swift kill.

In 1971 I worked as a natural resources technician in the Zambezi Valley. Behind the seat of my Land Rover, were a .410 shotgun, and an 1917 FN Belgium-built rifle with a Mannlicher 7.9x57J action. Either could enable an escape from tinned bully beef or scrawny local chicken.  

Sable bull.

Sable bull.

It was the middle of September; already hot as hades in the Valley. I had sited half the pits to be dug for soil-sampling in fairly broken mophane country off the Doa-Ancuaze road when I saw the lone sable antelope bull cross my track at quite a pace, his long curved horns flicking up and down, just sixty metres ahead near a depressed clearing. What a beauty!

Stopping, I grabbed the rifle, worked the spooned bolt to chamber a round, led him by a metre and fired. It was half a metre too far; the shot took him in the right shoulder, not the heart-shot I had planned. He faltered, recovered and took off into the mophane woodland. I was sick at the sight of his pain and angry with myself, sure that I was a better shot that this!

There was only one more cartridge with me and I hoped it would be enough, but took my Colt revolver along, in case. Leaving the Landy, I followed him on foot. My Sena bossman, and a digger who claimed to be able to track, came along. There was a sparse blood trail here and there on the carpet of russet mophane leaves. It soon became evident that I was proving to be a better tracker than my two companions as, when his hoof-prints joined a multitude of other prints, it was I who found where the bull had taken his own route. I got to know his prints, even after the blood-trail stopped. It was a full hour before we caught sight of him again.

He turned abruptly as I fired my last bullet, plunging once more into the dense woodland and out of sight. Crying for him, I asked for Devine help to enable me put him out of his misery, and took up the trail again. Half an hour later, I found him lying behind a fallen tree. Shaking with adrenaline, I pulled the Colt out and lined it up. As I fired, he ducked his head. He took the shot in one of his magnificent horns, lunging up and away.

But he did not go far. Semi-stunned, he stood twenty metres away, swaying on his feet. Another shot from the Colt finished him off, thankfully. I felt sick.

No comment.

No comment.

It took another couple of hours to find my way back to the Landy, then find a route to return and load the bull. At camp, I used the remaining pit-diggers to skin him. A month later, I murdered a zebra, too, solely for its hide, and had the skins tanned back in South Africa when we returned at the close of the year. Over the years, folded and unfolded, walked on, pissed on by puppies, they slowly lost their hair, got tatty and were tossed out.

So sad.

Bruce Barichievy’s survey area was next-door to mine to the west. His camp was situated on beautiful Lake Lifumba, which historically had got refilled from the annual Zambezi floods before Lake Kariba had been built. (Cabora Bassa Dam was still under construction at this time) By the 70s the flooding had reduce considerably, although there were still two small fishing operations at work, using pirogues to take out the nets and a tractor to drag them in to the shore again. Bruce was a keen hunter who kept his larder stocked with his .270 Winchester.

Lago Lifumba, Mozambique.

Lago Lifumba, Mozambique.

Whereas I had only impala and rare sable, warthog and zebra in my area, he additionally had waterbuck and letswe. In November, a group of us gathered to overnight at his camp there and we went hunting at night with a spotlight. The total bag was a young waterbuck ram, shot neatly between the eyes by Bruce, an impala and two grysbuck. Fortunately I was driving and had nothing to do with several woundings that also occurred. Senhor Borges, a shop and restaurant owner from Mutarara, shot several times and missed a letswe caught in the lights. I was at his shoulder at the time; he begged me to shoot, but I refused, afraid I would wound it, as, by this time, I was no longer confident in my shooting ability, or my sights.

But I didn’t tell him that, and he thought I had not fired so as to save him from embarrassment at his failure. He was especially friendly to me, thereafter!

I shall save the story of the murder and grievous bodily harm to buffalo, the following year, to a later date. That’s enough regret for now.

About peterjearle

Writer of thriller novels. 4 Published: 'Purgatory Road', 'The Barros Pawns', and the Detective Dice Modise Series:'Hunter's Venom' and 'Medicinal Purposed Only', all from Southern Africa.
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