Small African Cats
by Richard Ziminski, Past President LM#44
September 2010 At our last year sheep convention, I was the fortunate high bidder on a five-day hunt in South Africa with Thaba Mmoyo Safaris and the Fanie Steyn family. At the convention I negotiated a change of species in as much as I wanted to hunt the smaller cats of Africa. I had already harvested two lions, a leopard and a caracal, and now hoped to obtain a civet, genet and an African wild cat. Fanie has beautiful five star accommodations, an oasis in the South African bushveld. Thaba Mmoyo has over 200,000 acres of prime hunting lands in the Limpopo area of northen South Africa. Fanie suggested that I consider early September for my trip as it is a good time for these smaller animals ... the grass is dying and not as high as it is at other times. So, I booked plane tickets for MaryAnn and myself. In preparation, I decided that a 221 Fireball rifle would be a good caliber for this hunt, so I got CZ527and proceeded to get ready. I bedded the receiver, installed a Swavorski 3x12 illuminated reticle scope on the rifle and to reloaded some ammo suitable for these animals. I found that the rifle was sensitive to some bullets and powder loads. Finally, I settled on Alliants Reloader7 with Sierra MatchKing 52 grain bullet, seated at the lands. The combination of cartridge design gave me a 3/8 inch group at 50 yards, the distance Fanie thought I would most likely be shooting from. Arriving at the lodge, we found it a lovely place. And our accommodations were just great, with hot showers and indoor plumbing!! Sometimes, you just don’t know ‘til you get there!! Loads of flowers. Geraniums that were actually shrubs ... two feet tall and two feet wide ... and some very exotic cactus. The first day out I luckily found and shot a baboon that had been wounded by another hunter. This baboon was hidden in the brush and I was able to dispatch it. I had arranged to extend the hunt from five to nine days. Each day I went out with a professional hunter (Willi) and trackers at 6 a.m., came back for lunch and a siesta, and went out again around 5 p.m., staying out until 1:30 a.m. or so. Our hunting methods included general stalking, spotlighting and “blind” sitting. One night I shot at a genet but missed, mainly due to the closeness of the shot, the speed of the animal and the fact that I had dropped my rifle, losing zero, immediately before seeing the cat. (Lots of bumps on those dirt roads!!)
Early one morning, the sun had just risen, we were traveling on the banks of the Sand River when I spied a beautiful bushbuck. I guessed the rack to be 17 inches or more ... a really nice trophy!! Twice, I had tried for a bushbuck while in Tanzania: once in Zambia and three times in Zimbabwe never being able to get a shot. So, although I was focused on hunting small African cats, I felt I needed to try again. This time I was successful!! One night while spotlighting in a farm (the farmer had been complaining about predators destroying his goats and sheep), I managed to get a huge African tom wild cat with a great shot “in the dark.” This cat is very rare and I felt fortunate to be able to harvest one of this size. We had honey badgers and civet cats coming to the bait, but they all out-foxed me. Onebnight I sat for six hours in a blind waiting for the civet which had visited the bait every night, but he must have known I was there because he would come in/out to snack on the bait many times after I left (a nighttime hunting camera providing the proof).
Richard Ziminski, Past President LM#44
Another trip highlight.
We saw an aardwolf,
another rare critter.