Going Small: East Texan targets unusual small antelope on African safari | Chroniclers
For many hunters, an African safari remains the top of the to-do list. On a recent trip back to South Africa, Mark Parsons not only succeeded in his quest, but also remembered that the hunt is more than just pulling the trigger that leads to the death of an animal.
“On previous trips I have been fortunate enough to harvest a lot of plains game as well as a Cape buffalo. On this trip, we decided to focus on the Tiny 10, a group of pygmy antelopes. They can be difficult to hunt because they are very elusive, sometimes require long shots and present very small targets, ”said Parsons, who, along with his wife, Sharon, was on his third safari.
While he took 12 heads in all, Whitehouse’s hunter’s diminutive antelope list included the blue duiker, a 14-inch tall antelope hunted in thick brush on a beaten hunt, a Cape grysbuck, a species hunted at night, an oribi, a 24-inch antelope hunted by spot and stalk, and a klipspringer, also about 20-24 inches which is found in the mountains and often requires a shot over 200 yards. Parsons had previously taken a common duiker and steenbuck, giving him six of 10.
“The hunt lasted eight days. I wish we had planned a few more days as we had to work really hard to get a few of the animals on our list. The first four days of the hunt were in the Eastern Cape, ”Parsons said.
While hunting with Somerby Safaris in August it was winter in South Africa and Parsons had to contend with temperatures in the 1940s with rain. Snow-capped peaks loomed in the distance.
Although the smallest game, the blue duiker was the most difficult to hunt.
“He lives in very thick undergrowth and rarely comes out. When we hunted them we looked for a long and relatively thin area of brush along a small stream or ditch. We set up in a particularly thin area or choke point where we could see 20-25 feet ahead, ”Parsons said.
While the traditional image of Africa is that of large caliber rifles, Parsons carried a 12 gauge shotgun with a No. 4 shot for the duiker. The technique is usually training using dogs to push the antelope towards the hunter, but it was so rainy that the trackers were leading the push.
“Usually the hunter only has a few seconds to react when he comes out of the thicket. If you are spotted, it will start to go back and forth. In my case, it took me 13 records before I finally released one. I was also somewhat lucky because my duiker was in a creek bed about 6 feet deep and never really reacted like he saw me. I had a relatively easy shooting opportunity and hit it from about 8-10 yards, ”Parsons recalls.
The hunter took a Cape grysbuck and a Cape bushbuck and other game with a .30-06 before moving to mountainous terrain where he hunted with a .243 equipped with a suppressor and scope aiming.
“The ranch manager was increasing the distance and directing me where to aim. I had my first real lesson in very long range shooting on small targets. After having me shoot at a paper target 150 yards away, he had me shoot at a rock higher up the hill. They mounted the scope and I quickly hit it at 400 yards. It made me much less apprehensive about taking much longer photos than I was used to, ”Parsons said.
With his newfound confidence, Parsons took his klipspringer at 330 yards and a rhebok Vaal, another small antelope that measures 24 inches at the shoulder, at 485, a record length for him.
Among other things, his list on this trip also included a Cape kudu, a lechwe and a mountain reed.
“I have had easier hunts in South Africa on previous trips. Most of these hunts weren’t necessarily very strenuous, but they took a lot of time and focus, ”Parsons said.
Realizing that his trophies are only personal keepsakes for him, Parsons left Africa with a renewed appreciation for the importance of hunting there, especially a year after it was almost completely curtailed by COVID- 19.
“Hunting in South Africa represents a large part of its economy and also helps to preserve species that are on the verge of being threatened. I spent a lot of time talking about the impact of hunting on South Africa and listening to opinions on how things could be improved, ”he said.
At its simplest level, all meat is used either in the camp, by employees, or shared among local villages, reducing the urge of locals to poach. More importantly, it creates jobs in the field, but also in hotels, airlines, taxidermists, landowners, the food industry and more. Unlike the United States, there was no unemployment for these people in 2020.
“Having an economic reason to care for and save these animals helps preserve these animals. We learned from the lion import ban six years ago that once animals were no longer worth keeping, ranchers would kill them simply to save the animals the lions ate. Since lions were of no value to hunters, they were of no value to landowners, ”Parsons said.
In comparison, black wildebeest have gone from almost extinct to abundant due to interest from hunters and money leading to breeding programs. Outfitters believe the same would happen with other species like mountain zebra and bontebok if the paperwork for transporting trophies to the United States were eased.
Using a model based on income from hunting, he said outfitters and landowners have ideas to protect and increase a number of species, including rhinos, without international intervention.