The terrain constantly changed from sandy river bed to huge rock formations. Loose rocks made it very difficult to walk quietly, and we would often hear a fleeing animal, followed by the dog-like bark of a bushbuck, knowing he had heard us long before we spotted him.
Alex stopped at a crocodile nest where about 30 to 40 young had hatched a week prior to our hunt. The light was fading and we desperately hoped for an old bushbuck to make a mistake, but it was not meant to be. We called it a day an hour after sunset, and when we finally reached our vehicle, it was still 36 °C. Even without a bushbuck in the salt, I had one of the most memorable hunting days – out in the bush with a good mate, experiencing Africa like it was decades or even centuries ago. Walking among giants, seeing centuries-old trees and crocodiles, one is humbled in such a big way that it is difficult to describe. Huddled around a small leadwood fire, we sipped some of Ireland’s finest on the rocks, reliving the day. We also planned the next day, trying to bag a mature bushbuck ram.
The next morning, we set off at 4.30 am, reaching the hunting area well before sunrise. I immediately put on my face paint as I was pleasantly surprised at how well it camouflages one’s face in the bush. I realised this when watching the footage of our first day around the campfire that evening. Apart from hunting, Alex and I were also making a movie. As the stalk made it too difficult to bring along an extra cameraman, Alex did the filming. When we started hunting, my back and legs were aching from all the climbing, balancing, and jumping over streams, rocks and mud puddles the previous day. But with the Limpopo bushveld coming alive with the sounds of animals, birds and insects all around, the aches and pains were soon forgotten. We saw our first bushbuck before sunrise – a beautiful ewe at less than 20 m. We stood motionless and our camouflage obviously worked because she stared at us for about a minute and then continued feeding. We watched her for about five minutes before she disappeared into the thickets.
We stalked through the dry drainage pipes of the Limpopo River as slowly and quietly as possible, the bark of a bushbuck reminding us every now and then that we were not being careful enough. There’s nothing like being reminded you are hunting in Africa when stepping on an elephant track. To step on a leopard track imprinted inside an elephant track, however, is a rare occurrence! We found the spot where the leopard had drunk during the night. That whole morning I couldn’t help scouting all the big rock formations and leadwood trees, hoping to see it, probably just lying there and watching us move through its territory.