Special to the Tribune-Star
South Africa —
South Africa, a land that will never be tamed or civilized by man. It is a hard place to live for it is very unforgiving.
Africa is every hunters thought of paradise, even if the odds can turn on your, and you become the hunted! The beauty of the mountain tops in the clouds and the lire of the African bush can touch your soul, for you fall in love with her like a beautiful woman, although she is deadly treacherous. Everything there will either stick or bite you.
A young man of 11 years old started on an adventure that most men only dream of, going on a safari into Africa, where some never return.
After landing in Johannesburg, South Africa from flying from Indianapolis one hour to Chicago then to London, England 8 hours and another 11 hours to Africa, the well selected safari outfitter was waiting to greet this young hunter from America.
Cobus Van Vuren had high expectations for this young man. He had to have nerve to face dangerous big game, be able to shoot a large-caliber rifle at a very long distance and to make a split second decision on when to shoot, and place the shot in the perfect spot.
After spending a long day of sight seeing in London England and flying for 20 hours, Cobus suggested he get a good night sleep to shake off the jet lag as well as the 2 1/2 hours bumpy drive to the hunting camp that was located on the crocodile river in the Limpapo region.
The next morning brought good weather for hunting in the African bush because it was over cast with a promise of rain, the temperature held at about 80 degrees which is cold for that region, after all it was starting into their winter and everything was full bloom and green. Yes the animals all lay up when it is hot, but in cool temps they move and feed even more.
Before an outfitter lets you journey off into the bush you must prove you can shoot accurately after all that one shot may save your life. Cobus set up a shooting range of 100 yards to test this young man’s skills along with his fathers also. A 30-30 caliber rifle was chosen which is a hand full for such a young man. What Cobus did not know was the young man had practiced with his dad before leaving home becoming an excellent marksman, which he had professional counseling from a close friend “Bill Klass” also. A 308 caliber was given to dad to use and it would kick like a mule.
After many shots was taken by both, Cobus said with a big smile there is no doubt your son can shoot much better than you!
The big day was finally there and as they headed out Cobus said he had been scouting for some nice warthogs which was on top of the list. They traveled in a four wheel drive truck with seats set up in the back or bed of the truck to be able to look for game while driving through the grassy plains or the thick bush. One of Cobus’ bushmen or trackers was along to help recover any game that was shot.
The decision was made to set up “a blind” at a water hole where several warthogs had been visiting. Cobus and the tracker built the hunting blind with every detail in mind like direction of the wind. How to be the most concealed with natural grasses and trees and most of all the distance the warthogs may come into the water hole.
While arriving at the water hole, some warthogs went running off so we knew the right place had been chosen. The truck was parked far away and the tracker stayed with it knowing it a shot was heard to be ready if needed.
It takes a lot of patience for a young man to set in a hunting blind for hours totally different than school although his teacher Miss Athey does a wonderful job.
Cobus, dad, and son set up in the blind with checking guns to be loaded and the safety’s on as well as setting up the shooting sticks for the right height shooting sticks help you hold your rifle very still.
After setting for two hours, dad couldn’t take it any more and decided to take a little cat nap. Well you guessed it he was woke up from Cobuses firm hand on his shoulder and the young man setting the rifle on the shooting sticks with a very nice warthog at 55 yards away and being very cautious.
When the hammer dropped the warthog did not know what hit him with dropping in his tracks, not taking a step.
More than harvesting an animal happened at that moment for the dad’s heart burst with joy and his soul could not hold back the tears of pride, you see, it was the young man’s first day, first animal ever taken, and with the first shot! and of all places but Africa. That moment will be relived thousands times in the future, while setting around a campfire.
Cobus glowed with pride for his young client with many hand shakes and pats on the back going all around.
That night setting around the campfire, many stories were spun with none topping that day’s hunt for Jerrilynn the young hunter’s mother was glowing with pride as bright as the campfire.
The next morning was clear and promised to be a warm day so they needed to start the hunt early and today an impala was next on the list. There again Cobus done his homework and there they went to an area about five miles away with him saying there was a very large trophy impala in that area and he had a very good feeling about it. The wind direction was checked and this time they did not build a blind, but set on the ground behind some trees. That ground gets hard after a couple of hours.
After setting for a long time Cobus said he was going after the truck, so set still until he returns. About 30 minutes after he left a very nice impala was spotted coming out of the bush along with another behind him the same size. While waiting for them to get closer, to their surprise a very large record book type impala steps out and catches up with the other two. Dad was as nervous as a mouse in a lion’s den with the young man having to take a 100 yard shot.
The hammer was pulled back with the gun resting on shooting sticks and the young man waited for that perfect shot while being cool and calm and dad going into convulsions.
The hammer dropped and once again the animal did not know what hit him with not taking another step.
Father and son were hugging each other as Cobus came driving up and the tracker in the back yelling something in the African lango that meant huge or very big impala. Cobus walked up shaking his head while shaking hands saying he personally has never taken an impala that big, a major trophy.
While writing these words, we are at the south tip of Greenland at 36,000 feet going 600 miles an hour and 2,219 miles to go to Chicago.
My young man is setting next to me with his head on his mother’s shoulder asleep, while I hope dreaming of the hunt we just finished. With just a glance at him my heart warms with pride for he is my son Seth Bayless.