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The trophy that was meant to be...

by Neels Nel

After a number of articles that I have read in the ManMagnum, I phoned Collin Saunderson (082 3755460). He sent me a fax, and the following words at the end of his letter excited me: "Vaal Rhebuck is only for hunters who really want to hunt!". This was a new challenge for me in an area where I have never hunted before. 

The hunt would take place close to Hermanus in the Overberg, Western Cape. I wanted to hunt a trophy Vaal Rhebuck only if it was a minimum horn length of 10"+, which would make the hunt that much more difficult. Collin knew of a specific ram with a horn length of between 10" and 11", but this ram have been hunted before by a number of hunters. However, no hunter has yet been able to take a shot at this magnificent trophy ram.    

I booked a flight down to the Cape immediately, but due to bad weather we had to postpone the hunt with two weeks.

Collin collected me at the Cape Town airport, from where we traveled to Hermanus. I was welcomed with great hospitality by Collin and Elda, and we enjoyed a good supper together. That evening the weather was far from ideal for hunting, it was rainy and the wind was blowing fairly hard. The following morning we rose with more rainy weather, and set off to search for the specific trophy ram. 

We located the small herd of Vaal Rhebuck easily, but had to wait patiently for the herd to lie down before we could proceed with the hunt. I will not forget Collins words: "Remember, a vaalie is very sharp - you have to see him first, else he is gone!". The rain came down in showers, coming and going, with the sun breaking through from time to time. We decided to start out. The vaalies (Vaal Rhebuck), the ram and two ewes, lied down on the front slope of the mountain, and they were quite calm. The distance to the herd was about 800m.

We stalked around the mountain, to approach the herd from behind over the top of the mountain, without being noticed. However, when we came over the ridge, they knew about us already and were heading away at full speed! I quickly fell down to shoot across a flat rock. It was far and the wind was blowing straight across the bullet path. It was now or never! If I missed this trophy ram, I would be counted among those who could only desire this trophy... and not hang it on their walls.

I squeezed the trigger of the 300 H&H, a custom built rifle by Steve Fourie (012 549 4098), and the 180 gr bullet hit the ram after a hissing sound. The ram stumbled, but was far from dead! I took another few shots, and hit the ram again. He was down and Collin suggested that he would walk towards the ram while I stayed in position to watch the ram. When Collin was halfway there, the ram suddenly rose again and started running.  Collin was closer than me, and I shouted to him to take the shot. And believe me, he can not only walk over any mountains, he can shoot straight as well! He hit the ram just before it disappeared over the summit of the mountain.

When Collin reached the ram he threw his arms in the air and I realised it was definitely the trophy ram we had been looking for! Even before I reached the ram Collin told me the horns measured 101/2". The beautiful ram had perfectly formed horns, completely straight with no deformations. It was such a great privilege for me, high up in the mountains, clean fresh air and the natural beauty of the creation all around us.

The following day we saw another few small herds of Vaal Rhebuck, and it was a pleasure just to watch them and to study their behaviour. The mountains and nature is Collins life, and he is as comfortable in those surroundings as any vaalie or klipspringer.



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