The Pickering Chronicles #8 – A Slow Start
“. . . reminds me of my safari in Africa. Somebody forgot the corkscrew and for several days we had to live on nothing but food and water.”
– W.C. Fields
Let me get some housekeeping out of the way. Everyone seems to be adding disclaimers to their videos and comments, and so shall I.
DISCLAIMER: I have been known to be loose with the truth. Don’t believe much of what I say. My intro to these Chronicles was a bunch of hooey. I don’t really have any dogs; I don’t toke; I don’t smoke cigarettes; all of the names included in my posts (including my own) are “[sick] name da plums”; and I don’t do “doxxing”.
WHAT THE HECK IS “DOXXING”? I just learned this term recently. Doxxing involves perusing a video or any kind of publication to get enough info to publish details of an individual so that other people who disagree with the subject person can bother and harass him/her online or even directly. My friend Chen Wei was a victim of this. Someone in a group he hosted to hunt elephant posted a trophy picture of the client together with the harvested animal and Chen Wei on Facebook. Shortly thereafter he started getting urgent phone calls and messages from friends wanting to know what the devil he had been doing that was illegal or evil. It turns out that someone who thinks all elephants are named Dumbo and are cute re-posted my friend’s picture with a target placed on HIM, along with a great deal of invective.
THEREFORE, I will not post any pictures or details that allow some misguided reader to identify and target the name(s) of the safari license holders, me, Chen Wei, or anyone else connected with my hunting trip.
AND ANOTHER THING: If you readers haven’t figured it out by now, this was my first venture hunting. I’ve snared rabbits, but have never gone rabbit hunting. Shooting gophers isn’t hunting — it’s plinking. My father was a hunter of deer and bear, but my mother left him (partly because he went hunting on opening day of deer season the day after I was born) and I was raised by a short string of non-hunter stepfathers. Why hunt elephant on my first venture? Why not? A long time ago two other partners and I bought an operating trading company in Hong Kong when none of us knew the first thing about trading. Andy’s advice was, “If you’re going to learn to swim, you’ve got to get your hair wet.” In other words, if you’re gonna try something new, might as well dive into the deep end of the pool. To heck with squirrels and rabbits, I thought — let’s go for the big one!
In an earlier post I said the trip to Zim would be 20-some hours. Boy, was I wrong. Without going into unnecessary details, suffice it to say that I managed to read 642 pages of the novel Hawaii, by James A. Mitchener from the time we left Calgary until I landed at the airport in Harare. After that it was a day’s drive south and west across Zimbabwe to our camp destination in Sikumi.
We got to the camp in late afternoon and the first thing I had to do was shoot. I borrowed my friend’s CZ550 with a barrel shorter than mine and different balance. I was pulled out into a grassy area full of thorns and burrs, and someone taped a target to a tree. Lucky me! I was invited to perform in front of the Professional Hunter, all the trackers, and the Parks Ranger — all of whom were total strangers to me. The Head Tracker set up shooting sticks for me to use. I’ve never used them before. Resting on them didn’t feel comfortable. I took two shots from about 45 meters and managed to hit the tree (the two shots were about a foot and a half apart!), but well outside the target. Embarrassed, I asked if I could please just shoot freehand, standing. They let me, and luckily I made three kill shots from the same distance in quick time. The PH was surprised at how quickly I can aim and shoot with reasonable accuracy.
I still wasn’t off the hook with the PH, though, because he noticed I had a brand new pair of boots. That made him nervous. Upon my arrival in Harare Chen Wei had given me a tailor made pair of Courtney boots made of elephant hide — plus leggings also made of elephant hide, to protect against snake bite. The boots fit like gloves so after a day of tracking the PH stopped worrying about my abilities to keep up.
The camp sat on a slight slope of about two acres of groomed but unfenced property. Besides the cookhouse and staff quarters there were five single-room huts for sleeping and a larger open hut with a fireplace, lounge chairs, and a dining table. It also had a cooler with beer in it. The camp was managed by a man and his wife. The food did not vary much, but was adequate. The fire was kept alive throughout our stay and was very welcome, indeed, when we returned to camp at night. When we returned to camp we swung by the generator and started it up so that we had lights and water until about 10:00 p.m.
A typical day began at 5:30 when the generator went on for an hour. Breakfast was finished and we were in the Land Cruiser and on our way to our concession by 6:30 every day. I’m not going to show you a picture of our vehicle because it has company logo and information on the sides. No doxxing. It was a typical built-up Land Cruiser pickup with a bench and metal tubular framing forming enough room for six people in the truck bed, the driver and another in the cab and roof storage space/racks for rifles and extra clothing.
A WORD ABOUT MY PREPARATION: I shot as much as I possibly could, freehand only, and did my best to learn to acquire a target and shoot as fast as possible while retaining accuracy. For the rest of training I had a 10-lb, 4 foot steel bar that I used inside the house to practice target acquisition and holding for 30 seconds. I did this every evening for a few months while watching TV or listening to music. Otherwise, for about six months I got to the gym every day or every other day and used the track to walk 5 kilometers as fast as possible, carrying a 12-lb bar as if it was my rifle. I was eventually able to do 5K in 50 minutes.
The first morning of hunting we took the Land Cruiser over Jeep trails and elephant trails to the waterhole at the center of our concession, where we discovered that a herd of Cape Buffalo had visited the night before. . .
Find the entire series here: The Pickering Chronicles
If Uncle Jim were a few years younger, he’d be old enough to be Thomas’s son! Nevertheless, Thomas enjoys hunting, freehand shooting, and reloading. He’s looked for challenges all his life and continues to seek them out. He agrees that everything goes better with Loads of Bacon!