Part II -- The Daily Drill
The main camp is set along the river on the edge of the Kafue National Park, with the Outfitters owning a lease on approximately 1,250 square miles of hunting ground. The camp consists of a central dining area, four double tents on concrete foundations and a compound in the back for the thirty trackers, cooks, skinners and game scouts. Electricity is provided for two hours each morning and evening by a generator. Upon arrival it was decided that I would bunk with Screaming Chicken as he was heading off to college and, according to his mother Kitty, needed some pre-adjustment for having a roomie in college. We can only hope that he's so lucky to have a 34-year-old pro hack for a dorm mate when he gets to campus.
Since it gets dark around 6pm, we had a few drinks by the bonfire and kicked off for the night. In the tent, Chicken unpacked his guns and a collection of books by Hemingway and Hunter S. Thompson. He put on his headphones and started in on "Fear & Loathing" with a flashlight. I put my head under the covers and tried to sleep, but sleep came hard with all the strange noises emanating from the African night: Screams, grunts, coughing and Chicken talking in his sleep.
"Shit, mom, it's only five of us," he said around midnight without further subconscious elaboration.
I got maybe two hours of shut-eye before the camp steward rattled the zipper on our tent at 5am with a "Good morning, Bwana." It was stone cold and pure dark and I thought perhaps I was hearing voices in the night.
"You first," Chicken mumbled from under his comforter.
I staggered into the bathroom behind the tent and checked for spiders and snakes before taking an amazingly hot shower. The camp was not without its amenities, but that made sense. The previous evening I had cadged a brochure with price lists for various hunts. I ain't saying these Texans are rich, but for what they were paying for their two week outing a fellow could buy a nice mid-sized sedan. Around the bonfire the previous evening, the PHs (Pro Hunters) had been talking about the previous client who had flown out on his Gulfstream and brought along free weights. You've got to have dough to travel anywhere--let alone Africa--with a gymnasium set.
The Texans were waiting for me by the fire with their coffees when I made it out of the tent.
"Did you hear that racket last night?" Ginger asked Kitty. "What the hell was that?"
Boonie, one of the PHs, said that an elephant had chewed its way through the perimiter fence during the night. Boonie is 37-years-old and looks like Rod Steward with a broken nose. A native of Zimbabwe, he's been hunting professionally since his teens.
I laughed at his comment about the elephant.
"You think I'm kidding, mate?" Boonie asked. He led me behind my tent to show me the pile of volleyball-sized elephant droppings and the smashed fence. The pachyderm must've been five feet away from my pillow.
Are the elephants, uh, dangerous?
"Don't worry about them," he said. "It's the bloody lions that'll get you. You hear that coughing sound?"
I had. It had sounded like a lowrider cruising past with blown Radio Shack bass speakers turned too loud.
"Lions," he said and lit a Stuyvesant Extra Mild Cigarette.
After a quick breakfast, we saddled up for the day. Each Land Cruiser had a driver, the hunter (aka "The Client"), one or two PHs, an "Observer" (in this case, Ginger or Kitty), three or four Zambian trackers and one AK-47-wielding government game scout. I was assigned to Banyan's truck and the trackers grudgingly made room for me in the back amid the axes, ice chests and spare ammo. They could tell I was second class by the simple fact that I was the only Caucasian in the truck without a weapon or camo garb. I had been advised to keep low in the back lest my white shirt and blue jeans spook the animals.
We left camp as the sun rose over the bush, a lovely sight if I hadn't been freezing my ass off. It was, after all, the dead of winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
There was some small talk between Banyan and Boonie about ballistics and such, but otherwise it was stone quiet for the first couple hours as we rattled over the rutted dirt track. When I noticed the trackers rolling tobacco in newspaper, I broke out my last pack of Marlboros and offered them around. They accepted my smokes without comment.
I was completely unprepared for the tedium that ensued. I guess I had expected a lot of shooting, some serious spilled blood, but there wasn't a single shot fired that first day. Banyan was, as I would later find out, a serious big game hunter and had pretty much "collected" everything worth shooting around the world. We stopped a couple times when the trackers or Boonie spotted something they thought worthwhile, but Banyan would simply mutter that the animal was "Okay" and that we should carry on. Meanwhile, my brain was bouncing off the sides of my skull with each elephant track pothole the truck hit.
And then the Tetses hit. Event though we were driving at 20kmh, the flies were able to easily keep pace with the Cruiser.
Ginger looked over the back of the elevated middle bench seat where she was sitting with Banyan and Boonie and told me that I'd better light the smudge pot of dried elephant shit.
"It'll keep the Tetses away," she said. "I can't get back there to swat them away with the racket, so your best bet is to keep that pot right between your legs." So add shitty smoke to the dust and the rough ride.
When we stopped for lunch after noon, I couldn't decide whether to pass out or puke. The trackers unloaded the ice chest for the "Bwanas" and then took their lunch bucket into a slice of shade a few meters away. Boonie dealt sandwiches and Mosi beer to the Banyans and then gave me what was left over along with a bottle of water.
How about a beer? I croaked.
Boonie looked to the Banyans, who appeared amazingly fresh despite the heat and rough ride.
"Shit," Banyan said, "let Hemingway have a brew. What'll we say his ration is, seeing that he's recording all this for posterity?"
Boonie did some figuring and decided that my allotment would be four beers a day. I could have them anytime I wanted, but once I was through, that was it. I took three Mosis in quick succession and was about to pass out in the dirt under the Cruiser when Boonie kicked me in the ribs and told me it was time to get on it.
Are we heading back to camp, I asked?
"Six more hours, mate."
I wish I could remember what transpired the rest of that first day, but all I can see now is dust and Tetses and elephant shit smoke. Added to all that dirty blowback was the soot from the multiple brush fires we set. We must've torched a thousand acres of brush during the course of our ride, the trackers and Boonie going through box after box of Lucifer matches like a gang of insane pyromaniacs. The idea was to burn all the grass in the open zones so that it would lure the game out of the trees to eat the green grass shoots beneath, thus making them easier kills for Banyan. So those brushfires I'd seen on the flight out had all been intentionally set. It was Smokey Bear's worst nightmare.
I think the only moment of true clarity I got that first day was due of the fires. At one point, the apprentice PH, Crosby, a 24-year-old hockey player from Pittsburgh, got a little too enthusiastic with his "Shokas" (the natives' word for brushfire) and the wind switched on us. I looked behind the truck as a wall of flames came after us. Boonie started whistling for all the trackers to get back on the Cruiser so we could get out of the way.
"This is not good," Banyan said of the encroaching fire.
I asked what the procedure was if we couldn't out-run the flames.
"You fucking die," Banyan explained.
Luckily the wind shifted again and we were able to get out without any injuries save for the tongue lashing young Crosby got from Boonie. But other than those few minutes of fear, the day ran on like a C-SPAN program.
I know we stopped to look at baboons and hippos along the river, that we sized up some Sable and Hartabeast through binoculars, but the overwhelming memory is of complete and utter fatigue. When we finally got back to camp in the dark, my hands were shaking so badly that I could barely hold onto my final Mosi or take legible notes. As we sat at the long dinner table with the St. Diamonds and Bradshaw--the owner of the camp and head hunter, who ate with a toothpick wedged in the corner of his mouth--all I was able to get down was soup and a piece of bread. It was the most exhausting day I'd ever experienced, like being out on a small boat in the sun and heavy seas for 12 hours while drinking Everclear.
I staggered off to the tent as soon as I could gather my legs under me and collapsed into bed. Chicken came in a few minutes later.
"That was serious fun, wasn't it?"
I groaned and drifted off for another night of half-sleep.
The steward was back at the tent flap at the same time the next morning. I don't know how I got out of bed, but as soon as I could form words, I asked when the next supply truck was heading back to Lusaka.
The next ride would be at camp in three days. Three days, I thought. Through sheer force of will I might be able to make it that long.
Part III: The Guys Who Keep You From Getting Killed
I'd like to emphasize at this point that this Banyan safari hunt was nothing like the "Game Parks" I've seen in the States where you drive your minivan in with the kids and the camcorder and a nice cheetah jumps up on your hood and takes a nap. In Zambia the first reaction Boonie had (our PH had taken over the driving duties after the incident with the lions) was to throw the Cruiser into reverse and get the fuck out of there. From my spot in the trunk with the trackers, I'd ask why we hadn't been able to stick around for a moment so I could take a picture. This request always got a laugh from the Bwanas and looks of utter puzzlement from the trackers. I would learn--if not from direct injury and death, but by anecdote--that that cuddly hippo wobbling back to the river after grazing will chomp you in half and use your REI socks as floss without breaking stride. If you're going after any of these animals--Elephant, Cape Buffalo, Lion, Hippo--you better make sure you're actively looking for them, not just running into them by accident.
Boonie took over driving duties after the incident with the lions. He was so busy with that and getting shocked by Ginger's Tetse racket (I was out of forehand range in the back of the Cruiser, thank God) and laughing at Banyan's jokes, all of which revolved around a guy with a harelip, that the trackers had to do most of the game spotting as well as make sure I didn't wander off too far to take a leak and get lost. The lead tracker was Andrew, a former poacher who had been working at the Kafue camp for several years. With his cap pulled low over his brow and speaking in barely a whisper, Andrew was in charge of making sure we didn't get lost. Because Banyan had aggravated an ankle injury in the commotion surrounding the lion ambush--or more accurately, because I'd stomped on his leg in my haste to climb onto the roof of the vehicle--we couldn't do a lot of tracking on foot. But the Cruiser in its African format is a tank-like ride, and we were able to go off road whenever we wanted. As we swerved through the trees, over warthog holes and around the large outcropping of granite, Andrew would stand on the observation deck and relay instructions to Boonie down in the cab as if we were on a small boat negotiating a iceberg field.
"Right a bit," Andrew would mutter.
"You bloody well better know what you're doing," Boonie would shoot back.
"Straight a bit," Andrew said.
"You see that fucking rock right there?"
"Relax, Bwana. Left a bit."
Andrew also had the best set of eyes on the truck. We could be hurtling down what passed for a good road at 50km/h when Andrew would lean forward to tap on the side of the Cruiser.
Boonie would slam on the brakes and reverse us backward in a cloud of dust to locate the cat-sized, midget deer staring round-eyed at us from the underbrush. If it had horns, and was thus a male, Banyan would take a poke at it with the .12 gauge. All the ones we saw were females.
In additional to Andrew, Boonie had brought along two of his own guys. PHs work like freelancers in that they show up to camp with their own vehicles and a couple trackers they're familiar with. Boonies guys were Chalub and Blue. Chalub was about 5'5" with a bad smoking habit and a couple of missing teeth, which, along with his gruff voice, gave him the aspect of Old Dirty Bastard from the Wu-Tang Clan, minus the dreadlocks. Blue was a little younger, happy go lucky, and constantly getting bitched out by Boonie for letting his 50-Cent hat get blown off when we were driving fast and spending more time trying to cadge cigarettes from Chalub than looking for critters.
Although the trackers spoke passable English, they communicated with Boonie mainly in Chinayja, a central Zambian dialect that all the tribes had settled on as a common language; kind of like Esperanto, except for the fact that more than 10 people speak it. Although I was a little put off by the colonial Step n' Fetchit banter between Boonie and the trackers, I soon realized that while Boonie chewed them out in English for our benefit, the trackers were giving it back to him equally in the native tongue.
The fourth member of the tracking team was the government game scout. With his AK-47 cradled between his legs at all times, he was essentially an armed accountant. His job was to make sure we didn't shoot anything we didn't have a permit for, but also that we paid for everything we did. The rule in Zambia is that if you blast it, you bought it, and Banks was there to keep the books. For the first few days, the game scout didn't so much as crack a smile, and he hardly even spoke to other trackers, let alone me or the Banyans. I asked Boonie what his name was on the third day out.
"No idea," Boonie said. "With these government 'okes, you only start talking to them when something gets buggered up."
In the end, it was Ginger who found out that the game scout's name was Banks. One afternoon when the Tetses were especially depraved, she turned around and asked me if I would use the racket to keep them off her back. I apologized, but I was too busy hanging onto the rollbar to avoid falling out of the bouncing Cruiser to help her. She looked to the game scout, who looked around quickly to see if anyone from the home office was watching from the bushes, and then grabbed the racket. From that point on, Banks was the designated Tetse shocker, and the AK-47 went onto the gun rack, only to be retrieved when we needed to head into the bush on foot or when Banks would pop the 30-round clip in order to pry the bottlecaps off Ginger's beers.
It wasn't just Banks who took a couple days to relax, I could tell that Boonie was also working to get a read on the client, figure out how he hunted, what kind of hours he could manage, what type of language he could get away with in front of Ginger. Once he'd determined that the Banyans were pretty laid back, Boonie let himself kick back a little bit.
Having been a PH all his adult life save for a brief, and unprofitable, stint as a aquamarine miner in his teens ("If only I'd had dynamite back then..." he said of his failed enterprise in the precious stone market), Boonie was a true creature of the bush. What little information he did come by regarding the outside world came to him via the clients who he spent 10 months of the year guiding. One day when we stopped for his 10am "cuppa" tea break, I asked him what he thought of Bono, who'd just been ranting and raving about Africa a few days before at the G8 Summit.
"Boner?" he asked. "Never heard of the 'oke. He some kind of politician?"
U-2? Sunday Bloody Sunday? Sunglasses?
What about "Sir" Bob Geldof?
"Haven't heard of that 'oke either. Are these those poncers who set up the black babies for that Andrea Jolie and Madonna?"
While he might have been out of the loop as far as pop star ambassadors to Africa went, Boonie certainly knew what he was doing in the field and never seemed to get the least bit tired of driving around all day in the heat and dust. In fact, it was a lot safer to keep Boonie in the bush than back at camp. One day Ginger insisted upon heading back to camp early. This was no mean feat, since there seemed to be no location on the territory that was less than "two hours" away from base and no matter how much the Banyan's had hinted previously, we'd never made it back before at least dusk. But in this instance Ginger was adamant and we rolled back into camp around 3 in the afternoon. Boonie did maintenance on his Cruiser, huddled with the trackers and Big Man Bradshaw about the next day's schedule, and then, with nothing else to do, he started drinking Mosi. Two hours later he was singing Simon and Garfunkel hits and and repeating "Y'all come back now, here?" in a very poor Texas accent.
"That's why you gotta keep me out hunting," he said with a bit of chagrin the next morning. "I stay around in camp and get loony. And seeing that lekker girl yesterday didn't help none."
The "lekker" (pronounced "Lakka" and meaning "good") girl Boonie was referring to was a baboon researcher we'd crossed paths with the previous day. The woman, probably a grad student of about 25, was sitting in the back of a pick-up truck with what looked to be a professor and a local guide. Since you see so few other people in the bush, Boonie stopped to chat for a moment with the guide. Although he never said a word to the girl, it was obvious that this rare creature had rattled him.
"Did you see her, mate?" he asked as he sucked down another Mosi at camp that afternoon. "Oh, she was lekker. Plain, that's how I likes 'em. Give me a plain Jane every time and Boonie won't have no complaints. My last wife, she was too good looking. That one in the truck, she was perfect."
How could you tell, I asked. She was sitting down the whole time and never said anything.
"What does 'PH' stand for, Hemingway?" Boonie scowled as he opened another beer with the edge of his knife. "Profession fucking hunter, that's what. I know a good one when I see it." He took on a thoughtful expression as he sucked down half his Mosi in one long swallow. "You think we should go back over to that camp? Maybe bring her a couple of those baboons to study?"
You mean trap them?
"No, no. We shoot a couple of 'em and she can dissect 'em or whatever it is she and that geezer professor are doing out here. You reckon she's screwing that old goat? What do you say? You an' me, go get us a couple baboons and then head over to their camp? Thump that professor on his noggin to get him outta the way and then we grab the girl?"
I told Boonie that perhaps he should sleep on it.
"Oh, but she was lekker, wasn't she?"
Part IV: The Kill
The supply truck that I was going to take back to Luska did not arrive on the third day due to fuel rationing in the capitol. I was not too dissapointed by this development as I had started to find my legs and my brain was no longer sloshing around in my skull like Jello. And as far as payment for my room and board went, the Banyans had decided that they'd pick up my end in exchange for me promising to help Cutter ghostwrite his autobiography (tentatively titled: "Cutter Banyan: Man, Myth, African Legend") when I got back to the States in the Fall. The other concession I made for my upkeep was to entertain Ginger and Kitty St. Diamond with stories in the evening. Out of the 40 or so bags the group had brought along with them to camp, the one bag that had gotten lost was the one with their romance novels in it. As a result, the ladies were short on entertainment and, since I was the only stranger there not on staff, they had taken to pressing me for tales of my misspent sexual youth. So one night it was "Your First Sexual Experience", the next "Your Worst Sexual Experience", etc, etc until it became something akin to that dude trying to save his neck in "1001 Arabian Nights." At any rate, it was decided that I would stay on for the full ride, 14 days.
Besides, no one had shot anything and I'd be damned if I was going to go on a big game hunt and not see some blood spilled.
As I have mentioned previously, there were remarkably few shots fired during this hunt, which I thought was going to be a total free-fire zone when I first saw the arsenal Banyan and St. Diamond had brought along. The only thing that got shot that first week were a few guinnea fowl, which Banyan bullseyed for the trackers' dinner, and a couple "bait animals" that would be used to lure Screaming Chicken's leopard. It was, in fact, Screaming Chicken who collected the first big kill of the hunt.
While Banyan was primarily after a sable and St. Diamond was hunting hippo, the high ticket item on the hunt was the leopard. As a result, Bradshaw, the proprietor of the camp, had done everything in his power to ensure that Chicken got his cat. To this end, they had not only hung bait (in this case, an impala and a puku) from a tree in a clearing, but had also set up motion-ativated cameras to help identify the leopard they wanted to take. After reviewing the first few night's photos, Bradshaw and Chicken had decided upon a 150-pound cat that had been "on the bait." Just before sunset, the PH and Chicken set up a blind about 75 yards away from the bait and waited for the leopard to present itself. Two hours later, Chicken took his shot.
We heard the trackers singing and honking the Cruiser horn when they were still five minutes outside of camp. All the staff--Boonie's trackers, the camp stewards, the back of the house kitchen and laundry guys--rushed out in the darkness to join in the singing as the truck pulled in. The singing and dancing seemed a little Disney Cruiseship for me, until I realized that this leopard represented what a American businessman might refer to as "the close." Now every one -- from the PH down to the skinner out back in the abbatoir--would get his percentage.
The only one who didn't seem too psyched was Screaming Chicken. As Ginger and Kitty popped the corks on the Cristal they had brought over to celebrate this moment, the kid looked rather sheepish about the whole thing.
"I dunno," he said as the ladies questioned him about the kill, "the leopard showed up, Bradshaw told me to smoke him, and I smoked him. Pretty simple."
"Goddamn right," Boonie said over by the fire as he sipped a celebratory Mosi. "Simple is the only way to do a big cat like that."
And the cat was big. I went to take a look at it in the back of the Cruiser and it was not something I'd like to have hopping down on my head as I walked through the brush. And it smelled like old socks, to boot, which may have had something to do with why Chicken was so subdued. After the kill, he'd posed for what seemed like a hundred pictures with the animal, the last round of them as he held the cat up in a bear hug. A thing like that could dampen anyone's spirits and then to have your mom and Ginger hopping around like you'd just lost your virginity...well, a teenaged kid's got a right to be a little withdrawn under such circumstances.
Later that night in our tent, I asked Chicken how it felt.
"Like a relief," he said. "It's a lot of pressure. I mean it was totally fun, but you sure as hell don't want to miss, you know?"
I did not. But Banyan and Boonie would change that by the end of the trip.
With Chicken's leopard out of the way, the focus turned to Banyan's sable and St. Diamond's hippo. There were a couple Hartabeasts and Bushbucks shot to keep the guns warm, and I was amazed by how quickly the trackers could gut and skin one of these huge, elk-like animals. Nothing was left to waste, either. The skins and heads would go with the clients and everything else--with the sole exception of the grass in the animal's stomach--would go back to the camp butcher, where it would be cut into portions. Some of the meat ended up on our table, more of it for the staff and a good lot to the nearby village, where it was handed over to what you might call a foodbank. The only animals that were wasted were the ones that had been hung up for leopard bait. Those chewed up carcasses were tossed into the river along the camp, where a flotilla of 40 or so resident crocodiles appeared to tear them to shreds in what was a rather frightening display of a feeding frenzy. Standing in the dark on the sloping dirt bank after a couple Mosis, one could not help but think that an accidental nudge by one of your companions could result in a very unpleasant swim.
Banyan turned out to be frighteningly accurate shot and of the five or six animals he took, all were shot at ranges that I would have needed a bazooka to pull off. He only wounded one animal, and although that was frustrating to him, it provided an opportunity to watch the trackers in action.
First of all, tracking a wounded animal is nothing like that Lord Baltimore (see "Butch Cassidy & the Sundace Kid") shit you see in the movies. It's a time-consuming and methodical process. It starts by finding the spot of the initial hit, usually marked by a decent sized splotch of blood. From there the trackers fan out to search for the next blood splatter. In this case, when they found it, they'd call me over to stand at that spot as a pivot, and then they'd fan out again. While they were doing this, Boonie made a sort of wide sweep downrange, in hopes of catching the animal on the hoof. Three hours after Banyan had shot the animal, the trackers were still following the most minute blood drops when we heard Boonie shoot. He had "bounced" the wounded animal, and being too far out to wait for Banyan to get there, had finished it off himself. By the time the animal had been skinned out and gutted, four and a half hours had passed. I could understand why Chicken had felt so much pressure taking that shot at the leopard: not only do you not want to make the animal suffer, but you don't want to be dicking around in the bushes for half a day.
I could tell Boonie was anxious to find Banyan his sable. It's considered very bad form to not get the client his trophy, and although we had seen a few good-sized animals, none of them qualified for Banyan's trophy room. With only a few days left on the safari, Bonnie decided we'd do a little asphalt hunting. The paved road from Lusaka marks the boundary between the Kafue hunting lease and the national park. Since we'd set "shoka" to a good bit of field on the hunting side of the road during the first couple days, Boonie was thinking that some of the big sable from the park might have migrated across to get at the green grass that had sprouted up after the fires. His instinct on this was correct, and about a mile down the road we saw a monster sable that even Banyan got excited about. The only problem was that it was still on the park side of the road. We pulled to the shoulder and Boonie and Banyan checked it out with their binoculars.
"Fuck, that's a big one Bwana," Boonie said. "47 inches, I reckon."
"48," Banyan said.
I asked if perhaps I should sneak around behind the herd and scare them across the road.
"Yeah, that'd be lekker," Boonie said without taking the binos from his eyes, "but then Banks would have to shoot you."
I looked over at Banks with his Tetse racket and he just raised his eyebrows.
We stayed there drooling over the big sable for an hour before we decided to come back the following day in hopes that the herd had crossed. But when we returned the next day, we saw that a brush cutting crew had set up their tents just a few hundred yards down from where we'd seen the sable. Andrew, the lead tracker, jumped off the truck to ask the road crew if they'd seen the sable cross.
"Man say no sable, Bwana," Andrew reported back in his soft voice. "He say he doesn't know what a sable are."
"Oh sure," Boonie exclaimed. "I bet that bugger has got our 48 in that bloody tent of his right now."
We turned around and started back for camp, doing about 85kmh when Boonie slammed on the brakes and swerved off the road. A big sable, not the 48-incher we'd seen the previous day, but a big one, was on our side of the road across a wide open field. Banyan, Boonie and Andrew jumped down and I figured they'd try to get closer to the animal, which must've been nearly 400 yards away. Banyan called for the shooting sticks to rest his .300 Ultra Mag rifle on and smoked it from the full distance.
So much for the sable.
Getting St. Diamond's hippo proved to be a little more difficult and it wasn't until the last day of the hunt that he he shot one. The problem wasn't the lack of hippos; there were so many in the river making their Jabba the Hut noises all night that you could barely sleep. The issue was finding one close enough to the riverbank so that it could be pulled ashore. The drill with the hippo is that you have to shoot it right in the brain and then it'll sink to the bottom of the river for a couple hours until the gasses in its stomach expand and floats it back to the surface. Bradshaw, who was leading the hippo hunt and pressed for time, finally decided to have St. Diamond shoot one that was not close to the bank to start with and was even farther out by the time it floated. If you ever want to see a major operation, you need look no further that six trackers, two PHs and two clients trying to haul a two-ton hippo across a river in a strong current. And I don't think they appreciated Ginger, Kitty and myself sitting on the bank drinking Mosi and shouting suggestions. In the end they got the beast to the river's edge and hauled it ashore with a winch. From that point I was treated to the ghastly sight of the hippo being drawn and quartered with axes by the gang of trackers. It redefines the word "gore." But, like every other animal, there was no trace of the hippo left for the circling vultures after the trackers had finished with it save for a very large spot of blood.
And now that everyone else had gotten theirs, Banyan and Boonie decided I needed to get mine.
The prospect of me shooting a warthog had been bandied about for the previous couple days and we'd actually stopped a few times to scope out some worthy prospects. I'd even had Banyan's rifle in my hands twice as I tried to get the scope on a pig. I was thankful that they'd always run off before I'd had a chance to get the gun off safety. I've never shot anything larger than a gopher, and these warthogs are big enough to have a personality, if you know what I mean. But now that we were at the end of the hunt and the guys all were actively looking for one to shoot, I felt that I had to make an attempt to wrap the whole thing up. Besdies, Banyan was paying for the trophy fee.
We came across one that Andrew deemed worthy of my first kill and Boonie turned off the cruiser engine. Chalub set a sandbag on the rollbar for me to shoot off of, but as soon as I got the gun rested, the warthog trotted out of sight. I figured that was it, but Boonie told me to get down off the truck. With Andrew in the lead, we moved about fifty yards into the bush and I saw the warthog standing there, looking at us. Andrew set up the shooting sticks and faded back.I got the gun up, but had a hard time scoping it in.
"C'mon," Boonie hissed in my ear. "I coulda had a cuppa by now."
I knew I was supposed to shoot for the shoulder, but I figured I'd go for the biggest part of the hog. I could feel Ginger and Banyan and the rest of the trackers watching from the Cruiser. It felt like hitting off the first tee in a golf tournamnet in front of a gallery.
"Smoke him," Boonie urged.
I flicked the safety off, closed my eyes and pulled the trigger. The report from the shot was very loud.
"Did I hit him?" I asked.
"Warthog very sick," Andrew said.
When we got up to the animal it was still kicking, so Boonie put a .22 into its skull.
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"You shot him in the fucking mouth!" Boonie laughed. "Look at this! Not a exit wound or anything. The 'oke turned toward you just as you shot and ate the bloody bullet!"
The trackers and Banks came up to shake hands. Ginger gave me a hug, Banyan landed a slap on my shoulder. We posed for a few pictures.
"Just think about it," Banyan said. "You're probably the only guy in Africa who's got a 100% kill ratio."
We ate the warthog's ribs for dinner that night. It was tough, but tasty. The meat, that is. --Tony Perez-Giese