Hunting at Thali Thali
By Harry Marx
I recently went on holiday to Langebaan, with the plan of visiting our dear friends who moved there last year: Christiaan, Nicolene and the children. Now Christiaan is a good friend. When we got there, he had a hunt planned for us. The last time we hunted together, I had debs on a blue wildebeest and he on an impala. Unlucky for him, the blue wildebeest came in first. We had a very difficult follow-up, and he lost out. So, naturally, he planned the hunt and the first shot was his. Fair, I accepted.
Of course the next surprise was when we started to discuss the venue. He told me of this enthusiastic and dedicated game farmer/archer/hunter, who had a lovely place just outside Langebaan. Oh, I said. Yes, he said, the farm is called Thali-Thali. Okay, new to me. But then he asked, do I know a Thys van Niekerk? Of course I know Thys! We also know his lovely wife, Amalia – remember “A Bowhunter’s Wife”? Almost house friends. He started the first SABA provincial hub in Western Cape. Now wasn’t that a coincidence? Anyway, Christiaan met Thys at the local bow shop (yes, Langebaan has a bow shop: Triggers and Bow), and made all the arrangements. We were going to try to shoot springbuck and maybe black wildebeest. Both would have been a first for me.
We arrived early, still dark, and Thys took us out to the hide. It was a pop-up, and with just enough room for me, Christiaan, two bows and a cooler bag. No, gents, the cooler bag was for lunch and goodies and biltong, not beer! Honestly. Typically in the Karoo, you sit in a hide and see tomorrow coming over the horizon. Okay, not really, but we had about a 600-metre open view, and could follow the springbuck the whole day. In fact the ostrich and black wildebeest also. And there were two camels also. I still don’t know the story about the camels, but hey, I’m not judging.
Anyway, eventually the springbuck, doing their walk-and-feed thing, approached the hide. The hide was under the only tree in the valley, and we had some lucerne and a salt lick for them. Now before you all get ethical on me, the whole valley was full of green grass. The purpose of the “packaged” feed was just to have them stand still for a while, in such a way that we could actually take a safe shot.
The first shot was Christiaan’s. He was shooting with his Hoyt Carbon Matrix, 70 pounds, and a two-inch mechanical – a Rage. I was taking a video of the shot, something that I can’t get right on my own, The shot flew, and the buck flew. It was an awful string jump. We knew the animal would not go down from the primary injury. In no time Thys was there, and in less time the animal was identified in the open field. A single rifle shot took it down. But with all the commotion, of course, nothing came in for the rest of the time. We had to call it a day.
But Thys does not take no for an answer – I had to come back the Friday and try again. Unfortunately Christiaan had to work and could not join me. Don’t misunderstand me, hunting is still hard work, just much nicer. And so it came that I sat from early in the morning until about 15:00 before any animal showed an interest in the grass around the hide. And as luck would have it, it was the black wildebeest. I was on the phone quickly. “Thys, they are attacking me – quick, prices, can I shoot?” etc. Now Thys is a good man. He saw no joy in picking me up in pieces, and gave the go-ahead.
I was shooting with my Elite Hunter, 80 pounds, and 650-grain arrows. After a lot of milling, eating and bumping, they started to move out again. That’s when they are the calmest. One adult cow, in good condition, was standing quartering to – a very unfavourable position. And I did what I preach you should not do – shoot a wildebeest quartering on. The plan and aim were good, but at 15 yards half an inch is everything. The tip was buried into the scapula, broke it, and then basically had about five inches left of penetration. Even with my “heavy” set-up, I knew we had another long wait. But as the saying goes, if you are chin deep in the uh… mud, keep your head up high. Again we identified the animal easily, and a single rifle shot took it down. No need to wait for the inevitable.
So, what can we learn from this? Never think you can beat the odds when hunting – it will bring you back to earth. Never assume you have enough power to take on the major bones – you don’t. Never think your years of experience mean anything if you ignore your own advice in the second of the hunt. But at the same time, hunting is never certain; even if you do everything right, a string jump cannot be controlled. This was not what I would call a good bowhunt: two wounds, but all in all, the fault was ours alone and not our equipment’s.
Thys, thank you for the wonderful hunt, the hospitality, catering and beers (only after the hunt!). We will look you guys up again next time we visit the Western Cape. Those spare ribs in the restaurant were delicious. The only pity about the whole hunt was that I had to sell my still-wet biltong to Christiaan… Oh well, we’ll hunt together again!