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by Dwight Van Brunt | Jul 10, 2020 | BIG GAME, HUNTING, Slider
A Soul-Searching Hunter Must Be Prepared For Surprises


In reflecting on the hunts of my past, I surprised even myself with hopes for the hunts still to come.

It wasn’t long ago that my personal odometer turned 60. Other than a passing mention at an unrelated family gathering, no one seemed to care. That suited me just fine, for I was doing all the caring that needed to be done. Approaching one of life’s significant mileposts led me to prioritize, among other things, what hunting I wanted to do while my knees, general predisposition and the geopolitical whims cooperate to a degree that make it possible. Some of what emerged is predictable, while other aspects are surprising. As this process concluded with unexpected results, it seemed worthwhile to share amongst friends.

I’ll never get enough of Africa on any of her terms, but taking up the elephant trail has my heart. Coming upon a great track at first light, one with the deep cracks and smooth edges that betray age, then swinging a double rifle onto my shoulder with a drum major’s flourish and setting out for who-knows-where makes for the grandest adventure this life will ever let me live.

I already know where it will happen and which PH will be leading the line of march, and also that it will likely take several extended safaris before the bull standing at the end of those tracks matches me nearly year-for-year.

I imagine we’ll stop to admire the mass and sweep of his tusks from a distance, plan a careful approach and finally get so close that when the shot comes, the muzzles will be pointed nearly as much up as out. It will be my son who takes that shot, for gifting him the opportunity is the only way to improve upon its perfection.

I want to hunt wild sheep at least one more time. It doesn’t matter where or what species, as long as there will be enough time to enjoy the experience. If my legs are too tired to climb, we’ll spot from somewhere near camp for a day. We’ll wish the younger rams well and wait for an old warrior to skyline, then go for broke. I hope we catch up to him, for as a boy I promised myself that I would spend a night with a ram where he fell and roast his ribs over an open fire. I’m not much of a cook but do try pretty hard to keep my word. If my companions don’t understand, they can head for camp and trust that I’ll find my own way down the mountain the next morning.
whitetail deer

Over the last few years, the desire to take a really big whitetail has grown to obsession. This is ironic for multiple reasons, but mostly because I’ve been trying to make it happen since my teens. I’ve seen him twice.

The first time was some 30 years ago in the Bull Mountains near Troy, Montana. My father and I were climbing to an overlook well before shooting light, and a monster walked across the trail at slingshot range. Years later, another great buck kept showing himself near my hunting area. I saw that 6×9 over the course of three months, but never on my side of the fence. Both of those bucks frequently reappear in my dreams. I hope to find their equal one day, maybe here in Montana or somewhere on the plains of Colorado.

The north country is calling once again, and while I’ll admit to being less tolerant of cold weather than even a few years ago, Alaska or the Yukon is virtually certain to receive another visit. I’m thinking moose during the rut, with something else on the menu for my son. Of course, this one could easily turn into a muskox hunt, simply because that would be an all-new experience.

At the end of it all, it will probably morph into a spring brown bear hunt on the Peninsula, for I’ve come to believe a brown is North America’s finest trophy. As it is with the elephant, the shooting opportunity will belong to my son. I’m fortunate to have my bear already, and would just be along to spot, pack and take pictures.

Other things cropped up along the way. I want to hunt the New Zealand roar again, chase a Canada lynx and witness the chaos of a southern deer hunt with hounds. My daughter wants a moose in the worst way, and I need to be there when it happens. My much better half recently took up archery hunting, and I’m looking forward to her successes. The list is long.
hunters in swamp

The author wades a crocodile-infested swamp in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip while approaching a bull elephant just beyond the line of trees. He elected to pass on the shot, a decision that he now regrets.

Where all of this ended up was more than a little surprising. I didn’t realize a big whitetail had become so important, certainly not to the point of equaling anything else in North America. Neither would I have guessed that it would be my preference to simply tag along while others do the hunting, or that pulling the trigger myself would be regulated to a secondary importance.

Maybe there really is something to the suggestion that wisdom comes with age. More likely, I’ve reached the point of understanding that the sweetest success is one shared.

I now find myself wondering how much fun it will be to hunt with my grandchildren. In five years or so, I’ll let you know, and promise to keep you posted on that quest for a big whitetail.
 

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If you love true stories of hunting in Africa, read Peter Hathaway Capstick.

The stories of the black powder hunters of yesteryear are also riveting.

Find Frederick Courntey Selous books, fantastic stuff.

Or Harry Selby.

You won't be disappointed.

Sadly, I regret giving all my books regarding these great hunters.
 

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I need to proofread better: I meant to say "I regret giving away all my books regarding these great hunters".

Capstick was famous for saying and I'll be close, but it's a paraphrase: "The most dangerous animal in the world is a 90 lb. woman driving a 4000 lb Suburban."

This particular quote tickles me on a personal level as I once met his Mother's chauffeur in Houston after she gave up driving.

He said Mr. Capstick was a tremendously good guy who treated him with amazing kindness and generosity.

Mr. Capstick is no longer with us I'm sad to say.

He was not only a great PH, but was something of a character.

On a couple of occasions, one of his clients wounded a male leopard. Said leopard repaired to a very thorny thicket, bleeding and very p.o.'d. Mr. Capstick then put on a football hemet and pads as it was his responsibility (if he wanted to keep his PH license) to dispatch this supremely dangerous when wounded cat. Many have been torn to pieces by wounded/angry leopards

Into the thicket he went. Very frightened, but very determined. After slowly and carefully searching for Mr. Leopard he noticed blood dripping from above onto himself. He looked up to see that the leopard, ready to pounce, had died about 6' above his head.

His favorite rifle was a Holland and Holland .375 saying it was a good all around Africa hunting rifle and that he was a good 'utility' shot with it, though his feats, like shooting a charging lion in the head before it reached him, seems to say he was better a shot than 'utility'...
 

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I need to proofread better: I meant to say "I regret giving away all my books regarding these great hunters".

Capstick was famous for saying and I'll be close, but it's a paraphrase: "The most dangerous animal in the world is a 90 lb. woman driving a 4000 lb Suburban."

This particular quote tickles me on a personal level as I once met his Mother's chauffeur in Houston after she gave up driving.

He said Mr. Capstick was a tremendously good guy who treated him with amazing kindness and generosity.

Mr. Capstick is no longer with us I'm sad to say.

He was not only a great PH, but was something of a character.

On a couple of occasions, one of his clients wounded a male leopard. Said leopard repaired to a very thorny thicket, bleeding and very p.o.'d. Mr. Capstick then put on a football hemet and pads as it was his responsibility (if he wanted to keep his PH license) to dispatch this supremely dangerous when wounded cat. Many have been torn to pieces by wounded/angry leopards

Into the thicket he went. Very frightened, but very determined. After slowly and carefully searching for Mr. Leopard he noticed blood dripping from above onto himself. He looked up to see that the leopard, ready to pounce, had died about 6' above his head.

His favorite rifle was a Holland and Holland .375 saying it was a good all around Africa hunting rifle and that he was a good 'utility' shot with it, though his feats, like shooting a charging lion in the head before it reached him, seems to say he was better a shot than 'utility'...
+1
 
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