Behind the Scenes
In this episode of I Am Hunter, Rod, Jess and Tash set out to hunt a kudu in South Africa with professional hunter, Sakkie Botha. As they soon discovered, there’s a reason kudu have been nicknamed The Grey Ghost.
After two days of trekking through the hills of the Free State, seeing only kudu cows and younger bulls, Rod was faced with the very real prospect of walking away empty handed from the hunt. While he would have been okay with that – it is hunting, after all, not shopping – there was another option.
Switch to another species.
One of the benefits of hunting in South Africa is the vast number of game species that can be hunted – from antelope and plains game animals to the Big 5 and Tiny Ten.
They’d seen a few herds of blue wildebeest on the property but sheer numbers don’t make it easier to hunt. In fact, hunting herd animals can be downright painful. Used to fleeing from their lives from large predators, large herds can have hundreds of eyes watching and waiting, ready to flee at the slightest sign of danger!
Sure, we could have sat in a blind, but we prefer to get out on foot – spot and stalk hunting.
Wildebeest also have some unique peculiarities that make hunting more challenging.
For starters, both the males and females have horns, so unless you can clearly see a big old set of testicles or some genitalia, it isn’t always clear which animal to target amongst the herd.
Wildebeest also have a large hump on their back, which can be tricky in knowing where to place your shot. If you’re not careful, it’s really easy to hit them too high and not get a kill shot.
This is why having a good professional hunter along can make all the difference between a successful hunt and complete failure.
Professional hunters have an in-depth knowledge of all of the game species in South Africa. After all, the certification process to get accredited as a professional hunter involves attending an intensive training program for 10 days and then apprenticing under an experienced professional hunter for another 60 days.
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The hunt took place in Smithfield, a rural farming district in the Free State of South Africa. Located 530km south west of Johannesburg, and 290kms west of Lesotho, Smithfield is the third oldest town in the Free State.
The hunting concession itself was enormous, and had been set up as a conservation program for the endangered white rhinoceros. The owner uses income he generates from trophy hunting plains game and antelope species to pay for a breeding programs for the rhinos. This is such a great example of the symbiotic relationship that exists between hunting and conservation that few anti-hunters truly understand.
In this episode, you’ll also see that we stumbled across some old rock paintings on the property.
Sakkie took a guess at how old these were, guessing 150 years. But we did some research afterwards and discovered these were painted by the San Bushmen and they were a lot older than Sakkie thought!
Scattered throughout South Africa, the rock paintings range from 3,000 years old to more than 73,000 years old, which makes it the oldest known artwork in the world.
The San were the first people to live in Southern Africa, and were indigenous hunter-gatherers whose territory ranged from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Lesotho right up to Zimbabwe, Zambia and Angola.
They were semi-nomadic, moving seasonally to follow the wild game, edible plants and to find water.
The San used crushed red rock mixed with fat to paint symbols and metaphors that have not only lasted thousands of years, they give us insight into how the San people lived.
The artwork depicts hunters, animals, and half-human/half-animal hybrids taking part in ceremonies and dances.
Some archeologists believe the San artwork had spiritual connotations and was used to bring good fortune to the hunt, with the hunters using the head of an animal to stalk in close to the herd (the earliest form of camo clothing!).
The San people hunted and ate antelope, giraffe, lion, zebra, porcupine, fish, insects, tortoise, hyena, snakes and flying ants. They also gathered eggs, wild honey and plants.
Their hunting methods were particularly interesting. While they did a fair amount of trapping, they also hunted with bow and arrows, dipping the tip of the arrow in a deadly poison that killed the animals.
As a society, they were quite resourceful, using every part of the animal’s that they hunted (which still happens in Africa, despite what people may think).
The San people still exist in small numbers today, with around 100,000 San bushmen scattered throughout Southern Africa.
Want to learn more about the San people and their customs? Check out http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_bushmen.html
In this episode, Rod hunted blue wildebeest, one of Africa’s largest antelope species.
The name wildebeest literally translates to wild beast in Afrikaans, and was given to them for their menacing appearance. But while they may appear mean, their looks are definitely deceiving. You only have to watch them racing and leaping across the plains to see why they have earned themselves the comedic reputation as the clowns of the Savannah.
Click the photo below for a more in-depth look at the wildebeest.
Game Saver Tips
There is a common misconception among Westerners that a successful trophy hunt in Africa means the meat must be wasted, but nothing could be further from the truth.
Like the San Bushmen who came before them, modern Africans are very resourceful and use every single part of the animals that are hunted: meat, bones, hooves, inner organs and all. In fact, many Western hunters could learn a thing or two from them in how to utilise the whole animal.
If the hunter is local, they can have the meat butchered and processed locally and take it all home. If the hunter is international, the meat is either sold or donated, depending on the outfitter themselves. Or at the very least, used to feed any predators on the property.
We were able to harvest the backstraps from our wildebeest, which we took back to our friends’ house in Johannesburg for a traditional South African braii (BBQ). The rest was donated to a local village.
While we tend to turn our noses up at unfamiliar meats, the locals are not so fussy.
We noticed one of our trackers eating something that looked tasty, and so we asked him what he was eating.
His response: meat!
When we pressed him for more information, he simply shrugged his shoulders and said ‘just meat’.
There was no delineation between livestock, wild animal, rodent, poultry or fish. Meat is meat. It feeds the body and that is all that matters.
We weren’t quite that adventurous, but while we were in South Africa, we had the opportunity to try a wide range of game meats: from the ubiquitous venison to warthog, zebra, crocodile, and ostrich. The girls even insisted on cooking up the ground squirrels they hunted with their bows.
Below is a couple of our favourite South African dishes, as well as an article that takes a deeper look at what happens to the meat after a trophy hunt.
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Burris wide range of optics are built tough to provide a lifetime of reliable performance in the field. The company has so much faith in their products that they provide a lifetime guarantee on all of their optics.
FoodSaver is a leading producer of vacuum sealer systems that help you preserve food freshness and flavor, and limit waste. We use their GameSaver as its built tough for use in the field, and even comes with a 12V adaptor.
Situated in Victoria's High Country, Mansfield Hunting & Fishing stocks a huge array of hunting, fishing and outdoor gear. I Am Hunter members enjoy a 10% discount on any purchases made in-store or online.
Highveld Taxidermists are true artists, providing you with a unique work of art to remember your African hunting experience. They provide all of the traditional taxidermy options as well as some custom options like their hand-carved Zulu shield mounts.
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If you would like to know more about hunting in South Africa, check out these related articles and podcasts.