I just got back from a month in South Africa (the country of my birth). We took my 5 month old daughter to meet her grandparents and the rest of the family. We almost cancelled the trip as i'm in the process of being made redundant. However, as the trip was practically paid for and my leave approved, we went anyway.
Several months ago we booked the : "Ultimate Sporting Challenge", a Macnab in the Eastern Cape mountains. We could choose between mountain reedbuck or a vaal rhebuck as our choice of antelope species. I've hunted mountain reedbuck before, and although not easy, they're nowhere near as hard as the vaal rhebuck, which is reputed to be the hardest antelope to hunt in South Africa.
We were hunting in the Rhodes area of the Eastern Cape. Rhodes is a small village and it's one which time appears to have forgotten. We entered Rhodes via Naude's Nek, which at 9000ft (2500m) is the highest public road/mountain pass in the country. The scenery was breathtaking but the road a bit scary in places. Our PH said we would get a good view of our hunting area, but we had no idea we would be hunting all the way up here!
On top of Naude's Nek - yes it was cold and windy!
We checked into a lovely cottage and then hit the range to check our rifles. As there was the possiblity of shooting some long shots, i sighted in my rifle 3" @ 100m. After a nice dinner and a glass of red wine, we went to bed early anticipating the next day.
We awoke to find an almost gale force wind blowing and a storm front making it's way towards us. We drove back to the top of Naude's Nek before turning off onto private land. Nothing can prepare you for the scenery (unless you live in highlands of course) and i was nervous about hunting in those conditions.
On our way up to the hunting grounds
We drove along the frozen road and soon saw a young ram in the distance. We passed him up though as he was a bit too small. We drove to a favourite spot of our PH and went for walk around the mountain to hopefuly find the vaalies on the leeward side of the mountain warming themselves out of the wind. The walk on the windward side was quite scary as the mountain drops off quite steeply and the gale winds almost blow you over into the mountainside. We eventually got round the ridge and only found a few mountain reedbuck sunning themselves. After walking back to the car we drove to another area and soon spotted 2 different herds of vaalies on 2 different ridges. They had already spotted us (their eyesight is incredible) and were already nervous. We left the truck where they could see it and crept out of the truck and out of view of both herds. The plan was to stalk down into the valley out of view of both and then stalk in on whichever was the easiest. As we were on our way down we spotted another herd on a ridge in front of us. The PH ranged them at 400m and we decided to get a bit closer to take a look. We leopard crawled along the side of the mountain and stopped at 300m and watched them for a few minutes. There was a nice ram in the herd but he had one broken horn. Vaalies are known for their fighting and broken horns are common. In this terrain and conditions, any ram is a trophy so we decided to have a go.
We continued leopard crawling along the mountain but soon got to the ridge and ran out of mountain and therefore cover. The PH ranged it at 270m and said we had to have a go. Now i'm not comfortable shooting at this range, especially with a gale force wind blowing through the valley. He said you've got to take the chances that presents itself and so i setup the bipod on the rocks and got ready for the shot. I was rock steady and led the ram a bit to compensate for the wind. Once the sound of the shot cleared, you heard the bullet hit home and the ram reacted to the shot. The wind had caused the bullet to drift a bit more than expected so it hit him a bit further back than expected. He stumbled about and after a minute or so, collapsed dead.
Taken right after the shot. The ram can be seen below the line and to the right of the rocks.
A bit blurry as taken at full zoom
After walking down the valley, crossing the river and walking up to the ram, we realised how strong the wind really was. He was a nice ram and bigger than expected. After measuring him we found his one horn qualified for Rowland ward! However, after the stalk and shot in this terrain and conditions, any ram would be a special trophy. We took photos, gutted him and then carried him up back to the car. Luckily the PH and tracker carried him as it was quite walk! You need to be fit to hunt here!
Me and my ram
close up of the Ram
Carrying the ram back up the mountain
After the long walk back to the car we drove down to the river to continue with the Macnab Challenge. The next challenge was to catch a wild river trout on fly that was bigger than 12". I caught a few small fish but eventually got a larger fish that qualified for the challenge
Playing a fish
We had a quick lunch and then grabbed a 16 bore hammer shotgun and Wilbur, the English pointer. The next challenge was to shoot a brace of Greywing Francolin, a bird known for the speed and ability to use the wind on flight. Soon Wilbur was on point and i had my first bird in the bag.
Wilbur on point
We worked a bit harder for the second bird but soon it was down and the challenge was over - i had had completed my Macnab!
The challenge was complete!
We had a whiskey to celebrate and hoped to spend the rest of the day fishing. however, the weather really turned nasty and shortly started snowing so we decided to get out before we got snowed in! I was happy though and had a few whiskeys to celebrate that night and help me forget the bruises from all the leopard crawling on the rocks.
The next morning it was my mates turn but heavy snow overnight made conditions very tough. He was also a bit unfit and really struggled in the conditions and terrain. he missed a shot on a vaalie and then also 2 shots on the greywing. in the end he got a nice trout and the only consolation was that it was caught in the highest fishing lake in the country.
highest fishing lake in the country
I had a fantastic time on my Macnab and it certainly lives up as the "Ultimate Sporting Challenge"! Our PH was excellent and as he is also one of the top flyfisherman, wingshooter and dog breeder in the country - he had a lot of knowledge to share. I can highly recommend this challenge and apart from flights, it's actually a bargain. PM me if you'd like details.
I've sent the certificate off for framing but will post a picture when it's back.