Monday, 16 September 2013

A Ladies insight into Bushpig Hunting

A ladies insight into Bushpig hunting by Debbie Comins
Debbie with her pig
Working in an office all week can get quite tiresome, but when Friday comes, so does the excitement!!! Saturdays in my household are reserved for Bushpig hunting. Even our dog Moya who comes with us starts to get excited. Saturday Bushpig hunting is my reward for sitting in the office all week seeing to hunting emails.

My husband Clayton (owner of our company Umdende Clayton Comins Hunting Safaris in South Africa ), our son Liam and I, all get so excited for Saturdays. Friday nights are early nights for us, but we first sort out our guns, hunting clothes, charge radios and of course pack a lunch box, so we have something to snack on whilst hunting.

Saturday mornings are early, before the cows even come home. Coffee is first on the list before anything happens. Camilla our little girl also knows what is happening when she sees Mommy put on her orange shirt and Aigle gumboots, and often cries when it’s time for us to go. Our nanny then comes in to look after her, and calms her down and waves ‘bye-bye’.

It’s a mad rush in the morning, we all make sure that we have something orange to wear; otherwise we have bright orange bibs we pull over our camo shirts. Safety first when Bushpig hunting! We leave home and drive in the dark, sipping on our camo-coffee mugs on route to the hunting area. We hunt in various locations around our area and todays location has been scouted during the week because a farmer called complaining of the damage he has seen in his crops. Our regular group of guys meet up just before the sun starts to rise. In the dark a discussion starts on where to go or where to stand in this specific area we are hunting. 
Talking strategy before the hunt

Once we know the plan, we all go get into position and wait. I stand on the outside hoping that a pig may run out of the maize and I may get a chance to shoot it. Running through green maize can be extremely difficult as you cannot see too far into it. I am fully aware of the dangers of these Bushpigs when cornered in a tight spot so I know my limits and let the brave, experienced men run in the thick maize. Every now and then my husband ‘stays’ close to me and takes me into the maize, but he usually ends up running ahead leaving me on my own and this makes me nervous, but the adrenalin rush is incredible. Having 2-way radios between all hunters definitely makes communication that much easier and we all know where each hunter is located during the hunts. I much prefer hunting in dry maize or forest-bush. In this type of terrain I find a spot on a path-way that the Bushpigs regularly walk and wait there, or move up and down the pathway waiting in anticipation for a pig to come my way. This is only usually at the end of winter /early summer when the crops have all been harvested and the Bushpigs move into the forests and bush to sleep. 
Listening for the hounds

I have learnt over the years of hunting Bushpigs that, it is also important to check that the Bushpigs don’t suddenly run out of the maize. However they often run in circles and are shot in the maize by one of the guys that are brave enough to go into the maize. But on occasion a pig will break out and if you are in the right place and can aim and shoot quick enough, then you may be lucky and get the Bushpig.

At the end of a hunt, photos are taken of the hunters with their pigs and then the traditions start. Our main tradition is that if you shoot and miss the pig, then you get a lash. The guy who has shot the most pigs, gets to choose a stick and gets to do the lashing. It is all good fun and everyone has a good laugh! It’s a long morning hunting pigs and often there are a few beers shared after all the formalities, I prefer juice to be honest! 

Garth getting a lash for missing a pig 
Being the only lady hunter that joins the guys should be a rather daunting task for any lady-hunter but the ‘guys’ are all top notch gentlemen and look after me so well. (I even go with when my husband Clayton is off somewhere else hunting with his international clients.) The guys always ask me on the radio if I am Ok and although they all love to get their own pig, if I’m around they stand back and let me shoot first, getting so excited when I get a pig! I thoroughly enjoy my weekly Bushpig hunting. The areas we hunt are truly beautiful, especially in the early mornings as the sun rises over the valleys and we often find ourselves on mountain-tops with 360⁰ views. The thrill and the adrenaline-rush of running after the Bushpigs, as well as seeing friends, having good laughs and of course spending quality time hunting with my family, makes this the highlight of my week! 
Clayton. Liam and Debbie with Liam's pig that he got with moms (Debbie) 30-30
But when everything is done, I can’t wait to come home and spend time with my precious little girl Camilla….. I can’t wait for the day when she is old enough to join us on our hunts!
Debbie and Clayton with Debbie's pig

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Umdende Clayton Comins Hunting Safaris trip to Botswana


                                                           Elephant Hunting in Botswana
Elephant hunting in Botswana, what can I say, your heart is beating the adrenaline is pumping and you are surrounded by beauty in the African sun. This is true hunting and a real old Safari like back in the good old days.
The first morning we were out of camp bright and early and off to go pick up our game scout Carlos. Once all the paperwork was done, it was time to start our epic ten day Safari. 10 km’s out of the scout camp, we passed out first locals who say they have been seeing Elephants at the dam. So 40km’s and 5 hours later, we find our first signs of Elephants, tracks crossing the road, but they are a couple of days old, so we keep searching hoping to run into fresher tracks. By 15:30, we still have not found any fresh tracks. Carlos our game scout suggests we go speak to the local army, they patrol the fences between Zimbabwe and Botswana, and according to them there is a lot of activity 150km away.
Day two, we set off at 4am to see if our information is true? After 2 hours of driving we come to a T -junction in the road, right on the border between Zimbabwe and Botswana. We decide to turn right and not even 200meters down the road, the fence is flat and tracks of 3 big bulls have entered. Hearts racing in anticipation, we ask ourselves “do we go or not go?” We are excited so we decide to go, only to find that they have crossed back into Zimbabwe. We now know we are in the right area. We drive the fence for another 40km and we see fresh tracks every two to three kms.

Hunters, PH'S and trackers walking after spoor

By 12am we decide that this is the place to be! So we travel 200kms back to the lodge, and start to pack up and make the move into bush, from luxury bush style to staying in one of the veterinary camps where the locals kindly offered us three small houses.

Veterinary camp

Day three, after moving our camp, we set out in the dark, the cold and the unknown. Not even 5minutes later we run into the same 3 big bull’s tracks. We are excited and off we start on the hunt, 2 clients, 2 trackers, 1 game scout and 3 PH’s. We start by following the biggest of bulls, as they kept splitting up. After 2 hours of no talking and brisk walking, we stop for a water break in the heat. Our trackers tell us that we are not moving quick enough and we need to speed up if we are going to catch up with Elephants. After our short water break we start again, but this time we speed up to try catch up to the heard, but with the heat rising this makes for difficult times for one of our clients, who is in his late sixties. He starts to slow down and increases his water intake. After 25km’s and 5 hours of walking our client is too tired to carry on, and asked if he may return to vehicle.
Carlos our game scout offers to take our client back to the vehicle and insures us he will be completely safe with him. Congrats to our client on walking so far and keeping up for as long as he could.

Rudolph (PH) scouting the landscape

We start again, tracking the bulls. We knew the bulls would slow down soon, due to the heat of the day. So 1 hour and 5km’s later, we heard the first branches break, hearts beating we press on. Now we can hear that there are more than 3 elephants, a whole herd. Our trackers decide to climb up a tree and see if they can see the elephants and see how far they are. They come down with much excitement, with two puffs of powder to check wind direction; we start to stalk towards them.
After a few minutes of walking quietly we see the first cow, she is 40 yards away from us, now our hearts are really beating, we manage to back away and move past her without her seeing or hearing us, but with doing this we are now in the middle of the herd, which we think is 10 or 15 Elephants. As we come around a small hill, or kopie as we South Africans call it, we are amongst the herd, and they are all around us.
View of the area where where we hunted

A cow is standing 10 yards from us, but she is between us and the bull, so we quietly pull back and we go in from a different angle. We luckily find a small path going up the side of the hill, which gave us a height advantage. We are now in position 15yards from the bull that we have been tracking for 6 hours. Greg, our client, picks up his 375 rifle and aims, but he unfortunately cannot see the animal through his scope, so we quickly hand him our 458 rifle. This all happened within 10 seconds! Now that the right gun was in hand and he could see the animal in his scope, he aimed and pulled the trigger. A perfect shot brain shot and the elephant dropped. Then the land erupted with what we thought was 15 elephants turned out to be over 40 elephants in the herd.
Once the dust and the heart beats had settled, there was great excitement within the party. All our hard work and long walking had paid off; it was a great stalk and a great achievement to manage to catch up to these magnificent animals. After 6 hours and 30km’s of tracking this bull we managed to shoot him. We decided to leave the elephant as it was getting dark and we needed more help. The next morning on our way back to the elephant with some help to skin the animal, we told the locals that we had shot one, and they must come collect some meat. Bush- telegraph is amazing and within an hour we had locals from many areas helping us and collecting meat so they may feed their families.

Locals collecting meat

The next few days were spent looking for a second Elephant for our other client, but the Elephants had disappeared. So our time was up in Botswana, but we are looking forward to going back later this year to get one more Elephant before the season is closed.
Thank-you Botswana for an amazing Safari that will live in our hearts forever.
Written by:
Clayton Comins - Owner and Outfitter and PH
Garth Lee- Outfitter and PH
Rudolph Terblance- PH