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I mentioned last week that our African safari had been canceled due to the African strain of Covid. There are still hunters going to Africa, but they take a round about way to get there and who knows if they can get out once they are there. It was too great of gamble to attempt, so we are sitting this year out. To say I was disappointed would be a huge understatement, but something happened last week to ease my pain. Three weeks ago or so my Gemsbok came home and went on the wall. This trophy was why I went to Africa in the first place and the contrast in colors on the animal is stunning. It seemed like it had taken forever to make that trip to my wall. First, all our trophies had been kept in Africa for some time as one of the PHs (Professional Hunters) had let his license lapse and that had to be straightened out. Then the hides and horns had to be shipped over in a large crate and sent to Wildlife Gallery in Michigan. About this time, Covid hit the states and the governor of Michigan shut the state down completely for perhaps six months. It was nobody’s fault, and everyone was anxious to get our trophies prepared and sent home to our local taxidermist. When Doug Tuttle of Tuttle Taxidermy received my animals, he said that early in the year I could expect my completed trophies. True to his word, my Gemsbok came home first and the final three trophies in one trip. They are beautiful.
I knew that when the trophies came home, I didn’t want to just put them on a white wall. Among the things that impresses the traveler to Africa are the sunrises and sunsets as it appears that the world is on fire! There is no way to capture that, but I asked my daughter Amanda to try and she painted our west wall with a sponge in a series of different colors starting with the lightest being at the top of the wall and each descending color darker than the first. Is it an African sunset? Hardly, but you cannot compete with God’s handy work. Despite my daughter’s nervousness at painting her parents’ wall a series of yellows and then oranges it came out great and it even has an Acacia tree silhouetted on the skyline. When the trophies were placed on the wall, it made for a beautiful presentation and one that I still haven’t gotten used to yet. As a matter of fact, I have turned my chair around from watching the TV a couple times and just stared at the wall. I cannot see that view ever getting old.
Each animal had its own story about what makes them special and while most don’t know the stories each member of the family has their favorite trophy. As I stated the Gemsbok was my reason to go on safari, so she is my favorite. Mine is a female and either can be taken, most prefer the females as the horns are longer and that is solely how you base a trophy by the length of horn. I didn’t know it was a dry cow until my PH, Hans, pointed it out. Things worked out and after I took the animal Hans had to go back and get the truck some 400 yards from where we had taken the animal. It gave me the opportunity to be alone with the animal and give thanks to God for his world and the animals in that world, as well as thanking Him for delivering the animal that I had sought so desperately. I am not ashamed to admit the moment moved me and there were tears in my eyes. I didn’t know how special she was until the trackers and the driver came trotting in and quickly took their picture with her. But horn length wasn’t a big deal, I only knew she looked huge when compared to a whitetail back home. A female Gemsbok can weigh up to 460 pounds. I must also tell you that later in the week we had Gemsbok back strap prepared over a bed of coals and it was delicious. I was hunting with my PH when I took the Gemsbok and he knew just how special the animal was to me. In fact, the girls were supposed to go ziplining and go to the lion park that morning, but he called back and said, “Don’t leave until Kevin can share his Gemsbok with his daughter.” It was also a very special moment as she knew just how much the animal meant to me.
I said that each trophy was special and certainly my Blesbok fits into that category. While it doesn’t get the oohs and awes that the larger animals get, it is still a special creature. The name Blesbok comes from the Afrikaans word bles which means blaze such as what you might see on the forehead of a horse. This was the first animal I took on the hunt and it, too ranked fairly high on my bucket list. My daughter was with me when I took this first animal making it even more special. In fact, she hunted with me nearly every day and was quite a trooper.
We tried very hard to take a Wildebeest and made countless stalks only to be detected by some unseen animal that spooked and took everything with it. It was either that or they were inferior animals and calves that we didn’t want. The hunt was winding down when on Wednesday we ran across a large Waterbuck. While it had not been on my bucket list the creature was too big and beautiful to pass on. After taking him, we had to use the hoist in the truck to load him up. A male Waterbuck will weigh between 440 and 660 pounds. For whatever reason, it is my wife’s favorite trophy that I took and it’s hard to disagree with that choice. First of all, it’s the biggest trophy on our wall by far and sort of commands your attention when you walk into the room. Second the face colors are just cool and at the time I took him his hide was just soaked with some type oil, which I learned had to do with the rut being on, this was especially true of mine as he was with a cow when I took him. Like a great many African plains game, he has two white markings under his eyes that the Africans believe that is where God holds them with his fingers when he paints them.
My final trophy just happens to be my final animal of the hunt. I took a rather old Impala who was in his declining years. He had very little fat over the rump, and in fact Hans felt he probably would not have lasted much longer. Now some of this was due to the rut, as well as he had been chasing females, but the biggest contributing factor to his poor health was age. He was about the size of a doe whitetail back home. Their weight for a male is listed as between 88 to 170 pounds but trust me this Impala was a lot closer to 100 pounds.
So, there you have my wall, which I hope to add a Springbok and a Wildebeest to next year, but if it doesn’t work out, I still have plenty of memories to last.