When we think of Africa, it is the big game animals that come to mind.  But there are a number of small game animals, mostly varmints, which present challenging hunting. 

On the last day of my first African safari, I shot a great bushbuck in a cedar choked canyon.  While waiting for the tracker to get the truck down to us, the subject of small game hunting came up.   Africa has a number of small cats, dogs and other varmints. 

Edward Wilson’s (my PH on this hunt) cell phone went off.  It was a local predator hunter calling to see if Edward had a hunter interested in a nice caracal that his dogs were pursuing right now. 

 Taking a caracal was not on my wish list but the idea was intriguing.  My safari was almost over and I had a bum knee that I thought might make keeping up with the dogs impossible.  I was willing to give it a try. 

Earlier in the week we had met a jackal hunter who used red lights and a rifle equipped with a silencer to take his quarry.  These hunters are important to the ranchers of this area.  They are an effective control on an out-of-control jackal population. 

Jackals, caracals and other small predators take a heavy tool on the sheep, goats and cattle of the area.  Their predation of the young and new born is legendary.  They do not return to a kill for a second meal and thus must make a kill every day.  Since wild game ranching involves the raising of young antelope, the jackals are also a problem for those ranches.

 The most popular way to hunt small predators is with hounds.  The large packs of dogs consist of a variety of pure breeds and mixed breeds.  Most popular are the English foxhounds and the American Walker.  Greyhounds are used for speed and the little Jack Russell terriers for tracking and to get into tight places.  Just about any kind of dog will be used if it will run with a pack.

 Driving toward the hunt, Edward explained the dogs were in pursuit of the caracal that had been evading them for an hour.  It seems the dogs jumped the cat while jackal hunting.  It had been seen several times but managed to out run the dogs.  If we were to get a shot at the cat, it would be with a shotgun due to the need for a quick kill in the heavy cedar choked canyons of the area. 

As Edward drove, I poked through the vehicle in search of two shotgun shells he believed were somewhere under the seats.  I found one shell and we agreed that would have to make due. 

Turning on to a road that crossed a mountain ridge over looking Grahamstown we approached the pineapple ranch where the dogs were last seen.  The rancher stopped us to say that the cat had moved onto his neighbor’s ranch.  He jumped in the truck and we were off again. 

A brief stop at the ranch house to get hunting permission and then we drove off past wagons of freshly picked pineapples.  The ranch road was better than many we had been on this week.  In the distance we could hear the baying of the dogs.  After a wrong turn and a little back tracking we arrived near where the hounds appeared to have the cat treed.

 A houndsman came out of the brush to guide us to the tree where the cat was hissing and growling at his pursuers.  He handed me a double-barrel shotgun that had seen better days.  The action was loose and I was not sure it was safe to shoot.  Beggars can not be choosers.  I chambered my one shell and followed the others into the brush. 

The damp ground was slippery clay and intertwined tree limbs made passage a bit difficult.  About 20 yards into the brush Edward signaled me to be very quiet and to follow him.  He pointed into the tree top at a patch of chestnut fur.  “That’s his chest,” said Edward “Aim for it.”

 The shotgun roared and belched smoke that obscured my vision of the cat.  Edward shouted that the gun had done the job.  I had gotten my caracal.  It was then I saw the cat spin out of the tree and hit the ground.  A mad scramble of man and dogs followed.  Each was trying to get to the cat first.  Man won! 

The caracal turned out to be a rather large one and a fine trophy.  Luck and my knee had been with me and I had an excellent trophy.


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