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A KLIPSRINGER HUNT ON FOOT

REAN STEENKAMP

The klipspringer (Oreotragus oreotragus) is a small species of African antelope, also known colloquially as an mvundla (from the Xhosa umvundla, meaning “rabbit”). It certainly is a beautiful animal and is well known for it agility on rocky hills. The antelope’s hooves are designed not to slip on the rocky surfaces as it jumps from rock to rock.

As I came down the mountain, I noticed a tree trunk with a shape that reminds one of a buck. I stopped in my tracks. Could it be an impala or a duiker? I slowly moved forward, trying to make as little movement as possible. Fortunately most of my body was hidden behind a bush a few meters in front of me and I was peaking over the top of the leaves. Step by slow step I went closer, making ever so sure where I place my feet. My soft-soled boots made no sound. Yes, it was an animal and not a tree trunk! I could just make out the eyes, the black nose and the darker colour of the glands beneath the eyes. Its ears were covered by the leaves and I could not see whether it had horns. The animal was standing quartering away towards me. It was looking over its shoulder – and the back seemed much higher than the front. It is a duiker, I thought to myself.

    I had to move slowly from behind the bush to get a clear shot. Will it run, I wondered? It did not! My arrow was already nocked, but I had to lift my bow to reach full draw. I focused on a spot on the shoulder of the duiker, just a little further back than I would normally shoot when it was standing square on. I knew a duiker was super fast and since it was looking in my direction I was probably wasting my time. It might see the arrow coming and will be gone long before the arrow is close. This has happened to me before. Nevertheless, I slowly brought the arrow to full-draw while focusing on the spot and then relaxed my fingers. The antelope stayed put. Then the arrow whisked out of my bow.

    I should not get ahead of myself though; let me start the story at the beginning. I received a phone call from my friend Martin Jacobson on the Monday. He said he had to accompany an American hunter to a game farm on the Friday and wanted to know whether I would like to join them. We would be hunting impala and warthog, he said, and we would return the Saturday afternoon. The game farm had no hides and we would have to stalk the game. That was good news to me since I decided I would only hunt on foot that year. I thanked him for inviting me and started practicing with my 50-pound Scythian recurve made by Lukas Navotny from Saluki Bows.

    I have taken quite a few animals with this bow in the past, but had not used it for quite a while. I had been hunting with a beautiful 55-pound takedown recurve made by Johan Smit. However, since I did not have a bow quiver that fitted the new bow, I decided to take the Scythian again, since I had a nifty little quiver for it that carries three arrows.

    We left the camp early on Saturday morning and took direction to the hills on the game farm. About 500 meters from camp I took the left road while my friend, the PH and the American hunter took the right road. There were two fair sized hills on the game farm and the roads we took each lead to one of the hills.

    It was a beautiful and clear morning, but it seemed as if all the game had disappeared. I slowly walked up the slope of the hill until I reached the plateau above. I would only find out later why this was so. I walked very slowly for quite a while, scanning ahead with my binoculars and constantly checking the wind direction. When I reached an area where the trees cast a fair sized shadow I decided to stop for a drink and a bite to eat. I had filter coffee in a small flask, so I poured a cup of coffee and ate a rusk and some biltong. I rounded the meal off with an apple.

    I then lay down under a bush for a while. I was surprised by the amount of birds that quickly perched in the branches around me. They were certainly not aware of my presence. I enjoyed watching them jump from branch to branch and, at times, make a quite a racket.

    It was so peaceful that I quickly slumbered in. About half an hour later I woke, got up, picked up my backpack and bow and slowly started walking through the bush again. All the time I kept an eye on the fluffy feather that was tied with a piece of floss to the top end of my bow. This way I made certain I was always walking upwind.

    Suddenly a heard a blue wildebeest snort and then saw the herd as they took off – running about thirty yards and then stopped. They had either seen me or the wind had changed direction for a few seconds and they got my scent. As I got closer to the animals again, I noticed there were two light brown wildebeest among them. These weren’t normal blue wildebeest; these were golden wildebeest. I walked past them as quietly as I could, not wanting to spook them again and thus alerting other game in the vicinity. It struck me again how difficult it is to hunt animals on foot. One has to be very careful and have lots of luck to be successful. 

After a few minutes walk I started walking downhill again, walking very slowly and carefully, since I did not want to nock rocks over or make loud sounds. I took my time, since my GPS showed the camp to be fairly close and I still had all the time in the world.

    It was then that I noticed it... the suspect tree trunk – the tree trunk that would turn out to be a duiker. And it was this duiker that I took a shot at.

    The duiker was about 17 yard from me when the arrow silently left my bow. The arrow nearly made no sound leaving the bow and neither did it when it zoomed in on the unsuspecting animal. I could see the animal startle as the arrow hit it – and then it took off at full speed.

    As the animal took off I lost sight of it, but could hear the arrow hitting branches as it ran. Then there was silence.

    I was fairly rattled myself. I just took a life, and that is never something to take lightly.  I sat down, feeling quite out of breath and then I waited, giving the animal time to die in peace.

    There was no blood at the spot where the arrow hit the animal and I could find no blood in the area around this spot. I, thus, walked in the direction I heard the duiker run. About twenty yards further I saw the yellow of my arrows feather showing above the rocks. When I got closer I saw the dead animal with the arrow still in him. I was quite surprised.

    I wasn’t surprised to find the dead antelope; I was surprised because it certainly was no duiker! It was a klipspringer ram and a fine one it was.

    My arrow had penetrated high on the shoulder and cut through to the lower part of the chest, penetrating the lungs and cutting of the arteries above the heart. 

     I felt both happy and sorrowful. I will never hunt a klipspringer again, though – except if my survival depends on it. One is enough. 

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The area where the klipspringer was hunted.
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A clear blood spoor was left by the klipspringer.
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How the klipspringer was found.
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The klipspringer up close
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A klipsringer's track.