By Professional Hunter, Ross Hoole
Mid winter in John X Safaris’ Great Karoo northern areas are characterized by frosty mornings, windless days, and dry rugged conditions. The crisp mornings and dry vegetation are synonymous with exciting days high above the world at 6000 feet, where the cold forces even the shy to venture out catching the first morning rays, making the early morning climb well worth the effort getting into a high position to view game basking below.
On this particular hunt was, Bo Tripp, a seasoned North American Sheep Hunter who shared the same passion as I, always looking to hunt the higher undisturbed areas in search of that exceptional trophy that may be hiding up there. We were on our last hunting day of the safari and had taken many exceptional trophies, including a brute of a 55″ East Cape Kudu, but both decided on taking one last hike to look for a Klipspringer in the mountains.
We left camp at dawn and by first light we were more than half way up Spitzkop, a mountain which had gained an infamous reputation during the Anglo Boer War. In the early 19th century it was used by the Boers as a lookout in spotting the platoons of English soldiers in their red coats as they crossed the Karoo plains in search of these “guerilla fighters” who had made a living as farmers in the region prior to the English and the arrival of their taxes.
There was local talk of a big Klipspringer up there, however, it had not been seen in at least a year…
We got to the top of the sharp peak and immediately saw reasonably fresh tracks. Bo and I left the trackers Rudi and Thanduxolo on one side to spot, while Bo and I walked over to the other side. There was continued alarm barking from distant baboons with a few fairly close by. I had joked with Bo about them being potentially aggressive and that a big male was fairly close above us on the cliff, no sooner were my words out of my mouth when a baboon hopped up on a boulder right behind us! A few more were not even 10 feet below too!
To our benefit they flushed a female Klipspringer which came hopping below us and stood at 150 yards. Klipspringer are almost always in pairs so I was very optimistic about a ram coming along the same path. We ranged a few distances to be prepared, and continued waiting motionless. Bo was shooting a .300 ultra mag, the ultra mag is too much gun for this little antelope, but it was his sheep gun so he was confident shooting it out at longer ranges.
On the other side, one of the trackers was changing position, moving further around the peak to a blind spot we couldn’t quite see. He hadn’t even had a chance to sit down and spot when that unmistakable Klipspringer alarm call sounded. Within minutes the ram came hopping rock to rock below us.
Now at 250 yards, a target not much bigger than a jack rabbit, standing just briefly after being spooked is for one, impossible to judge horn size, and two, impossible to get into your scope quick enough for a shot. Luckily the hunting gods smiled on us that day, for by chance my spotting scope just landed on the ram the first time at 60x zoom and Bo was on it at the same time without assistance. It took 3 seconds from the moment it hopped up on a rock to judge it and for Bo to make a seriously tough shot from the top of the cliff!
Physically one of the biggest I’d ever seen which measured deep into the tail end of 4 3/4 inches. A lucky man indeed!
As we look towards the start of the new season with excitement, envisaging the many days out in the field, we are reminded all to often of the beauty and wonders around us and how we at times take it all for granted. Be it a noisy baboon at 10 feet, or watching the sunrise at 6000 ft on a frosty morning, or taking that exceptional trophy after working hard for it. It’s a privilege to be a part of the safari life – and one I can’t wait to experience for yet another season.
Cheers – Hunting season has begun, I’ll see you on safari…