However, back to Poen’s “garden”. I was puzzled as to why he referred to this magic piece of land as a “garden”. He explained that the local villagers would select a forested area and the entire village would then start to cut out all the vegetation. Big and small trees would be cut down and all the grass cleared. Once all the vegetation had been cleared the villagers could then plant a variety of crops, ranging from corn and sorghum to tobacco. These “gardens” would range in size, from half a hectare to a few hectares, depending on the number of villages working together.
After everyone had worked together during the planting time, only the older children would stay behind to look after the crops. They would chase away animals using only pots and drums. For harvest time the others would return to assist. Because of the poor soil quality, a “garden” can be used once only before the villagers would move on to another area to start this process again.
These areas would eventually revert to their natural state. However, professional hunters still refer to them as “gardens”. Because the visibility is a little better in the “gardens”, your chances of seeing game there are much better. Red duiker, bushbuck and nyala prefer these “gardens” as they offer a bit of a sanctuary within a forested area.
We headed to a “garden” hoping to be successful in our quest for red duiker. It was about a twenty-minute walk from the road and was well hidden – a perfect spot for red duiker. In these “gardens” there are massive termite mounds, some of them 3 to 4 m high, and they give a hunter a fantastic vantage point. We entered the “garden” from a downwind position and slowly moved in. Our plan was to move very slowly from one termite mound to the next, climbing them and then scanning the thick undergrowth and the surrounding area for red duiker and Chobe bushbuck.
We saw a lot of nyala, but no red duiker or bushbuck, so we decided to head back to the vehicle before dark. As we entered the edge of the forest I caught a glimpse of red about 10 m from us. I froze and signalled Poen, who was about two metres in front of me, to stop. He slowly stepped back and using our binoculars, we watched the spot where I had seen the red patch. It was a red duiker feeding slowly towards us. Poen whistled and the duiker stopped, and looked in our direction. By this time, I was ready and in position, with the 4A-I reticle of my Steiner Ranger riflescope focused on the chest area of the duiker. I just needed Poen to give me the go-ahead. The seconds ticked past and Poen finally turned to me and, to my disappointment, said: “This is not the one!” The red duiker was an ancient ram with his horn worn down to stumps. We headed back to the truck and reached camp just after dark.
Calibre selection in general is always a good topic for debate. However, when it comes to calibre selection for small antelopes it gets really interesting. In this case, bigger is better. You need something that will kill the animal fast but will not destroy the cape. My hardware for this hunt was my CZ .375 H&H, using hand loads of 270 gr Peregrine at 2 575 fps. My rifle is fitted with a Steiner Ranger 2-8X42 mm that allows me to hunt in the open, as well as in the dark undergrowth of thick forest.
The .375 H&H has great knock-down power, as we know, and is ideal because – believe me – it is no fun crawling into the thick undergrowth looking for a small animal that has bolted after the shot. Don’t get me wrong, shot placement is still the most important aspect here, as a bad shot is still a bad shot. However, it is unbelievable how tough these small guys can be. The .375 with a solid performs well on these small antelopes