The roar of a deer in the valley below us seems strange.  We are inSouth Africa, and there are not supposed to be deer in Africa.  Our tracker, Phinaile, tapped on the roof of the truck, and Professional Hunter Edward Wilson shuts off the motor. 

All eyes were on a small, brown spot on the side of a ridge two canyons over from our position.  The early morning sun glistened on his palmated antlers.  The Fallow Deer was just what we were seeking.

 My enjoyment of “The Roar,” known to North American hunters as the rut, in March is made possible by the introduction of Fallow Deer to South Africa in the late 1800’s.  Cecil John Rhodes, founder of DeBeers Mining, brought them from Europe.  In 1937, 15 animals were transported from Cape Town to Coldhouse in the Eastern Cape Province.  From there they were loaded on ox wagons and brought to BaviaansValley and the Brakfontein Ranch. 

Released into the wild, the deer have flourished and now roam freely in the mountainous areas of the province. 

We have been hunting big game elsewhere in South Africa when Edward mentioned the possibility of hunting deer.  The idea was intriguing.  We moved to the foothills of the Gona Gona Mountain on the William Prigles Farm.  The hunt reminds me of hunting mule deer in our western states.  The glass- spot-and-stalk techniques work well for both types of deer. 

Fallow Deer of South Africa, although descendants of European stock, do not attain the huge racks found in the record books.  They are respectable but not massive. 

Biologists tell us that the three factors essential to good antler growth are genetics, age and nutrition.  The South African herd has the genetics and age in their favor.  The larger racks must come from the nutrition found inEurope. 

In spite of this shortcoming, the hunting of these deer will match any other such hunts anywhere in the world. 

Gona Gona means Yawn Yawn.  It was so named because climbing it causes one to gasp for breath as we have found.  The steep mountain sides are a good match for many parts of out western states.  The area is sheep and goat country.  They are the only domestic animals that can survive in such harsh conditions.

 From where we are standing, the stag was about 800 yards away.  We closed to within 350 yards without incident.  Preparing to take the shot we decide to attempt a closer stalk.  Sneaking along a line of trees and brush, we are able to close to about 220 yards. 

Crouching in the brush, I rest the rifle against a tree and wait for the stag to present a shot.  It seems a long time before I am able to squeeze off a single shot.

 The stag does not move for a few seconds.  He turns and crumples to the ground.  We watch for a few minutes until convinced he is down for good.  I have my African deer.

 We admire the deer and take photos.  He is in full rut despite it is  March.  Here on the other side of the world, it is fall and the deer are acting accordingly. 

I admire the beautiful valley below us.  It is early morning and the sun casts a golden glow over the mountains in the distance.  Far off in the valley a stag roars as if to establish his dominance not that my stag is down.


Posted 01/14/2012 by Donald Gasaway in African Hunting Journal

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