Oppi Plaas – Marius Roothman Boerdery
By Harry Marx (SABA)
Nico Groen introduced us to Marius Roothman and his wife, Brenda. Half an hour to the west of Rustenburg, Oppi Plaas is only two and a half hours from Pretoria. Just before you reach Sun City, you turn left and follow the road. It is another jewel in the hunter’s treasure chest. Fred Fourie, Nico, my son, Stefan, and I were in for a treat.
Marius is a breeder of exotic species. His black impala, golden wildebeest and sables frequently fetch record prices at auctions. He says he does hunts to socialise, and hunting is after all something in our blood. I must tell you about their dogs: there are too many to count, all small bundles of joy. But Brenda has an unusual “pet” – although it never really gets to be petted – it’s a serval. She saved it when it was only a few days old and nursed it into a majestic royal feline. You can look, but do not approach …
The farm, although 1 200 ha, has a hunting camp of about 400 ha. There are four hides, all pit blinds. I like pit blinds for one reason: the arrow reaches the apex of the trajectory very close to the animal when you shoot from so close to the ground. This means the shot is most tolerant of ranging errors.
There are a fair amount and variety of animals. Most of the hides are not situated at water sources, and there are five dams in the hunting camp. We saw giraffe, nyala, kudu, blue wildebeest and impala. The giraffe were a bit of a problem, but nothing that a bit of noise or a well-aimed clod could not handle. The animals appeared to be in a very good condition. The grass was of course still extra green and thick, and the animals were not too willing to come close to the hides for a bit of lucerne.
The tents are almost too much in terms of luxury. If you want to take the better half along, they will find the accommodation suitable. There are a bed and bathroom in the tents, and a shared kitchen tent. We stayed in the wood log cabins, and these were absolutely fantastic. There are a bar and wide-screen TV if you need to follow the rugby. And if you want to swim, there’s a nice pool – very cold but still wet.
It was an absolute joy to sit at the fire at night and watch the blue wildebeest and impala visiting the salt lick next to the camp. We would like to thank Marius and Brenda for their hospitality, their company and sharing their paradise for a few days.
Of course, an evaluation of a hunting farm is nothing without a hunt. And we had a long and impressive order list.
But alas …
The veld still had lots of food and plenty of water, and the animal numbers are well managed. So unfortunately we did not get too many chances. Of course, if you believe in the full moon you could blame that as well.
I still had to plug a few holes at work, and only got there at around midday on Friday. Nico and Fred were already in the hides, and I was anxious to join them. Marius had a 3D impala for us to take a few shots at. Everything checked out fine. At 2 p.m. I was relaxed, settled in and waiting. Hunting with a bow may not involve much tracking before the shot, but… no, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Friday was quiet. The giraffe came in and of course nothing else would approach the hide then. I did see some impala, but they were way beyond range. Friday night we all had a huge welcome party around the fire. Hunting is hard work, but we’d do it. Saturday was a promise, and then things would happen. If you asked a farmer what his best year was, he would answer, “The next.” Likewise for hunters, tomorrow beckons.
Fred said he wanted to sit with me and do some filming. We made plans for the cameras and videos and smartphones. It felt like we were planning a scene from Wild en Wragtig. I had two bows in the hide, a Bowtech Experience set up with 525-grain arrows and 100-grain Viper Tricks, and an Elite Hunter set up with 650-grain arrows and a broadhead that was new on the market. More about that one later.
The plan was to use the quicker Experience for impala and the Hunter if a blue wildebeest presented a shot. We were targeting these and warthog, but warthog were a bit scarce. At 9.30 am two impala rams drifted past the hide. They were young, but at least 18 inches, and were standing at 23 yards. Fred set up the camera and I drew the Experience. Funnily named bow – because it’s funny how with lots of experience, things still go wrong.
I was calm, the ram was calm, Fred was rolling and the shot flew. Now, I’d seen an impala string jump me at 35 yards so completely that it watched the arrow pass in front of it. This one was not quite so fast, but still too fast.
The arrow was well placed, flying straight; we could verify this on the video. But the impala sank and jumped forward, from standing on three legs … The arrow hit it about halfway between the front and hind legs, and just above the midline of the body. I could not help my immediate reaction: O shucks, this was a wound, and it was going to be a very long search. I was expecting no blood, no vitals – if we found it at all this weekend. The only chance I was hoping now for was kidneys.
We waited for an hour, and then Marius, the tracker and the dog arrived. We got out of the hide and went to the impact site. Nothing. Not a single spot. Not even stomach contents. We would have to take the spoor, like “real” hunters do. I had no hope. Leaving the tracker to do what he was best at, Marius, Fred and I scouted ahead. I followed one spoor, and the tracker and Fred the other. I went about 150 metres and turned back to follow another angle. Suddenly the tracker voiced, Hier’s hy. I could not believe my luck. The arrow had severed the aorta running below the spine. The ram fell within 50 yards from the hide – it must have been over in seconds. I think all of us were very glad at that point.
The rest of the day was quiet. The commotion must have scared off everything in the bushes.
Sunday morning, having shot only one impala, we decided to take the chance and sit until midday again. This time we all sat separately, and I was sitting in a wooden log hide with not too much moving space. I had brought only the Elite Hunter, and was going to test the brand-new, shiny Toxic broadhead. It looked extremely nasty, promising to cut a tunnel…
Again at 9.30, two impala rams teased me at 30 yards. With the slower arrows I was not going to repeat the previous day’s error. I was waiting for at most 20 yards. Then suddenly they left – a lone and mature blue wildebeest bull had chased them off. I estimated it at about 28 to 29 inches. It stood at 14 yards, straight on. This is a very tough animal, and a full frontal is a very risky and difficult shot.
I pulled the bow and allowed the cross hairs to drift to the spot. The bull was slightly at an angle; the cross hairs settled just to the left of the breast. I knew it was at the sweet spot, and the arrow flew. The moment it hit, I also knew it was good. The Toxic punched an incredible hole, and the blood was gushing before the bull started moving. I called Marius and we waited 30 minutes. Although the shot was good, a frontal on a wildebeest must be given time.
He arrived with two trackers, a dog and the rifle – perhaps he was also a bit apprehensive (wink-wink). We followed a sprayed path for about 50 yards, and then the bleeding became hard to follow. At about 200 yards we found him.
The Toxic had performed incredibly, but of course all things have limitations. I only got about 12 inches penetration; good enough, but I won’t use it on a light bow or arrow. The reason the blood had stopped was that pieces of cut flesh were clogging the wound. It is well known that the more cellular damage, the more clotting factor is released and the quicker a hole plugs. But in all honesty – a full frontal on a blue wildebeest is perhaps the ultimate test for a broadhead – at least for plains game.
Well, that was that. Unfortunately neither Fred nor Nico got anything, and after 3 pm we had to turn back and head home. I do not measure a hunt by how many animals are shot, but by how many we did not wound. With luck, it was a perfect hunt. Even no shot was better than mowing the lawn…
So, Marius and Brenda, we’ll visit you again. Indeed, this was a most pleasant weekend.