I was part of the lynch mob that went after American hunter Melissa Bachman. After unleashing a volley of flaming barbs in her general direction, I thought I should perhaps give this hunting lark a bash before condemning it out of hand.
My problem is that I am not a big fan of wide-open spaces. The bushveld is all very well if you’re a farmer called Wouter or a dog called Jock. I see it as a vast expanse of things hiding beneath rocks and behind trees waiting to impale, sting, bite or eat me.
Melissa is way braver than I am. I wouldn’t want to go on a canned lion hunt because those lions are drugged and you don’t know what a lion on drugs is capable of doing. It might well launch itself out of a tree, thinking it can fly, and land on your head before you have time to pull the trigger. What if it has taken a bucket load of methylenedioxymethamphetamine and tries to give you a hug? Or lick you to death? Ecstasy has that effect on people, so why not lions?
I am not interested in hunting anything that can hurt me. Right away that rules out the Big Five. When it comes to the infliction of grievous bodily harm, I shall do the inflicting, thank you very much.
So you can imagine my unbridled joy when I came across John X Safaris in the Eastern Cape and discovered that they cater for gutless wimps like me. My attention was snared by this line on their blog: “In a world where everything is changing and high standards become the norm, so does the urge of our hunters.” I couldn’t understand it, but it sounded wild and esoteric.
It went on. “Hunters from around the world are looking for new opportunities to test their skill and wit against the often forgotten small species of Africa.” Having run out of people to test my wit against, I was delighted to find that animals were up for the challenge.
Bring on the Tiny Ten!
The Eastern Cape, according to John X Safaris, gives one the chance to hunt seven of the Tiny Ten. The other three presumably moved to the Western Cape in the hope of securing a better quality of life.
Top of the log is bagging an oribi, though I am advised to use “solids” to minimise damage to these “fragile trophies”. Does this mean I have to capture one and feed it solids until it quietly expires from over-eating? I don’t really have the time for that. Besides, I am told that oribi “succumb to predators very easily”. I don’t want to stalk an oribi for days on end only to find the damn thing down on its knees in front of a sleeping leopard, one hoof to its forehead, saying breathlessly, “Take me if you must, you predator, you!”
I couldn’t tell from the picture how big an oribi is because it was lying down. The man who ended its life was lying behind it. They seemed to be spooning, which I found romantic.
However, its long horns threaten an unwanted vasectomy, so I looked for something on the Tiny Ten that wasn’t quite so fierce.
The grey duiker is apparently “an opportunistic species”. The Julius Malema of the antelope world is usually hunted in the early morning, later afternoon or at night. That’s no good for me. There is a brief window period around midday when I am fully alert, otherwise I am asleep or drunk.
The Cape grysbuck is a “personal favourite” of whoever runs John X Safaris. And I can see why. It’s small enough to fit on the braai. They are also very shy animals. I guess when Charles Darwin said the meek shall inherit the earth, he wasn’t talking about the Cape grysbuck. Apparently it will require “many nights of hard hunting”. I have tried that, mainly with women in bars, and there is a serious imbalance between effort and outcome. Not for me.
The blue duiker is preyed on by caracal and eagles in the coastal forests. Now we’re talking. Any animal that can be carried off by a bird is the kind of animal I want to hunt. Hang on. John X Safaris suggests flushing out the buck with Jack Russell terriers. Now I must get dogs? Jack Russells are roughly the same size as the Blue Duiker. The carnage would be unimaginable and I’d have the SPCA on my case in no time at all. There is also this: “A 12-gauge shotgun is best suited for these fleet-footed masters of the forest.” Masters of the forest, eh? We’ll see about that. BLAM! BLAM! Blue Duiker, red mist.
On to the klipspringer, which means heading into the mountains. This displeases me. I am afraid of heights and clean mountain air makes my head spin. Besides, they are easily spooked. With my stalking skills, klipspringer in Zambia would hear me coming.
Vaal rhebuck are out of the question because they live half way to the moon and unless I can shoot one from a helicopter, I’m not interested.
“The steenbuck is one of the most beautiful of the ten.” Hmm. I like it already. And the hunter in the photo holding up its dead head looks about nine years old. If he can do it, so can I.
So that’s the Eastern Cape’s seven. For the other three in the Tiny Ten, we must visit neighbouring countries. First, to Namibia, to hunt for the dangerous Damara dik dik. Well, dangerous in the sense that you could trip over him and do yourself a mischief.
Standing 30cm high and weighing in at three kilograms, we are told that he is the “ballerina of the bush”. Any animal that thinks it can get on my good side by performing pirouettes and the pas de chat deserves to die. On the other hand, two mouthfuls and it’s gone. If I am going to have a braai, I can’t expect everyone to bring their own dik dik. Besides, theirs horns are so small that my jacket would keep slipping off.
So to Mozambique for a clear shot at the red duiker. “Often spotted as a glowing ember in the forest”, or as the red-hot rifle barrel of a Renamo bandit, we are told to “look for an oversized scrotum hanging between the back legs”. Should we then point and laugh? It’s not made clear.
Number ten on the Tiny Ten list is something called Livingstone’s suni. The one in the photo looks as if it weighs little more than a hamburger. The hunter, on the other hand, looks like a hamburger. Suni make weak barking and whistling sounds. “I’m over here,” they seem to be saying. Idiots.
The blog ends with a heartwarming story of Spanish clients Jose Recio and his sultry wife Filo, who came to the Eastern Cape earlier this year. Their mission? To hunt fifteen species and shoot two of each. Like a homicidal version of Noah.
They killed 28 animals in eight days. Jose got not one, but two Vaal rhebuck. “Two great Vaalies in a morning!” If only.
The last photo of the great white hunters from Spain was of Filo posing with three dead dassies. That’s one brave senora. A snaggle-toothed dassie will tear your throat out if you don’t give it a ham sandwich. That’s when I got the idea.
I want to hunt the Tiniest Ten. Here’s my hit list. Chihuahua. Hamster. Gecko. Tortoise. Etruscan shrew. Pygmy possum. Jerboa. Tree frog. Mole. Mouse.
I will be looking for a taxidermist with very small hands.