Let me begin this post by warning you that it may be my most controversial yet. I know some people don't like seeing dead animals and don't understand how we could go on "That Kind Of" safari. I get it. I just don't happen to agree...and that is okay. I was born and raised in a hunting and fishing kind of family. This is 'normal' to us. T-bone steaks covered in cellophane from a side of beef at the grocery store was the rarity for me growing up...but catfish that my dad caught in the river on a trotline or deer steak from the freezer was the 'norm'.
Yet, even my hunting and fishing family cannot all agree on how they feel about today's pictures.
Back in January, Jim and I met with Tino to discuss the final plans for our trip. I remember distinctly the words that came out of my mouth as we made plans for the animals that we wanted to hunt while in Africa. I said, "I could not shoot an elephant, a giraffe or a zebra." I also remember Tino's words..."Don't make up your mind before you get there. You might be surprised." And boy, was I ever!
Even on arrival and during our first few days of hunting, I felt the same.
But then...we went to the taxidermists to look at ideas for our trophies and I saw the most beautiful zebra rugs. Even then I kept my mouth shut. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I wanted one. So, that evening over dinner Jim asked Tino to find out how much the taxidermist would charge us to buy one of his rugs. And then the question came that I couldn't turn away..."Why not just take your own? Then it has history and meaning to you." Plus, it cost less!
I knew I wanted a zebra...but, I still hadn't gotten my Impala. And having missed twice, I just didn't think I could take the chance. So, I still kept quiet.
But the moment my Impala was on the ground, I KNEW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what I wanted to hunt next. A ZEBRA! But I also knew that we had only two days left and there was a high probability that I would not be able to track and get one. Sometimes it takes four or five days of hunting to get a zebra.
We were cutting it close, but Jim had all the animals that he wanted; so, after he got over the shock of my request (I had been so adamant about not shooting a zebra that I threw him for a loop), we decided we would spend our last two days trying!
Thursday morning I was up bright and early, ready for the hunt to begin. Today was all about me and my zebra, whatever it took. Jim took his rifle for the trip...but never took it out of the holster.
We began our day at Sand River Hills. We were actually watching some sable antelope when a few young male zebras stepped out of the treeline. Knowing that if the truck stopped to let us off the zebra would take off, Arno had Simon drive us about a half a mile away and drop us off. While walking back toward the zebra, we were able to hitch a ride with one of the farm trucks to get us closer.
Arno and I were on one side of a bush and our zebra and the three bachelor sables were on the other side just yards away. Unfortunately, a young impala ran up behind us and spooked...sending everything running back into the bush.
Arno and I had been following the hoof prints for a good ways when we looked up and saw the black and white stripes moving in the trees ahead of us. Of course, they saw us at the same time and off they ran again. Back to tracking, we were following the herd until they split...then we tried to follow the group that had the larger animals in it. Once again, they sensed us coming and took off. We never saw them that time...just heard the hoofs beating it full blast across the fields ahead of us. We were so quiet that we were able to walk right up on a couple of young warthogs and watch them tussling with one another. They would feed a little while and then charge one another and then feed a little more. We couldn't move for fear of spooking them and sending our zebra off running again.
After about ten minutes of watching the warthogs, one decided to feed toward us. It took him a long time to get within our 'scent zone'...but boy when he did, he was gone! I don't think he ever saw us...just smelled us.
Off again on the trail of zebra, we caught up with them but there was a thicket between us. We were able to discern the one to take but the shot never presented itself...and then they were gone.
By now the sun was overhead and it was time to go in for brunch and a little rest. Arno had walked my legs off!
That afternoon we went to a farm near Polokwane that had some zebra that needed to be thinned. Wouldn't you know that they had a herd standing right by the gate as we went in. So, what did they do? Ran, and ran, and ran some more; just for good measure.
This was a large open farm, so we never lost sight of them...but it was so open that it took some 'super stealth' to get within range. By the time we were able to make our way near enough, they had fed back to the gate and I couldn't get a shot due to the workers who were getting off work at the processing plant next door.
Thankfully, all that ruckus of vehicles sent them running back toward us...and finally, I was able to get it on his shoulder and pull the trigger. He ran with the herd for a little piece, but not far and we could see where he went down. For the first time since arriving in Africa, my personal hunting practices were put into play. Sit and wait at least 15 minutes before trying to approach the animal. Arno watched him and knew he was down...but we just wanted to make sure before we walked up on him and were charged by him or the herd.
While Arno and Simon were loading my zebra...I snapped this picture of the sunset. It had been a long day and many miles walked...but I was walking on air. I had a zebra! And he was beautiful! And though I shocked my husband and even myself; I loved every moment of the adventure!