A Tropical Igloo
The first blinds I hunted from back in my childhood days at Fazenda Taboa were nothing more than a bunch of branches piled up under a likely tree that would disguise the “hunter’s” outline from the always sharp vision of the big white winged pigeons (Patagioenas picazuro, formerly known as Columba picazuro), and allow us to shoot them at close enough range so the tiny load of No. 12 shot from the .310 rimfire “Mini-Skeet” shotgun would bring them down from the branches they were perched and into our fry pan.
Later on I hunted capybaras (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris) in the farm swamps from giraus or elevated shooting platforms, some of which were nothing more than a fork in a branch where we perched from, while we called the capybaras with whistles made from bottle caps.
A couple decades later when I started hunting whitetail deer in Michigan I started using different pop-up blinds, and most deer that I bagged over the last ten years where shot from one of these practical and relatively inexpensive blinds.
The one down side of most pop-up blinds is that they are not ideal to bow hunt from, most of them lacking the space and height for a proper draw.
Last April my friend (and at that time, co-worker) Fanie Venter invited me for a weekend bow hunting in South Africa’s Limpopo. My adventure in the bushveld was both unforgettable and bitter-sweet, and this is the first time that I write about it.
Fanie’s brother-in-law Pieter and his friend and business partner Louis have a game farm in the heart of Limpopo’s bushveld and they are developing it to be a bow hunter’s paradise, since both are fanatic bow hunters.
Falmouth is simple and rustic, yet it is welcoming and idyllic. It shows the results of Pieter and Louis hard work and ideals, as well their love of hunting and of wilderness and respects for all its facets and idiosyncrasies. Because there are Black Mamba and Puff Adder in the bushveld both Pieter and Louis wear high boots made of strong but soft Kudu leather, and since Pieter’s wife met the resident leopard on her way to the outhouse, he is now building an inside bathroom so he does not need to escort her out during nights.
But back to hunting blinds…
Like most of South Africa, Limpopo’s bushveld is dry, and there is no surface water at Falmouth, so Pieter and Louis drilled a borehole and pump water with the help of solar panels which they provide to the resident wildlife in a “waterhole”, and in front of it they build a blind from where they can bow hunt.
The construction starts by digging a hole about three feet deep and at least seven feet in diameter. Then small gauge construction rebar was placed around the circle as the structure for this tropical igloo. The structure was wrapped with chicken wire and wet newspaper placed over it. The final touch is to cover everything with cement so it resembles a rock or boulder.
But the devil is in the details, and there are many nice features to this blind. The spotting windows are covered with “see-through” mirror, so the hunters inside can see outside, but animals cannot see any movement inside. There are three shooting windows, and because the floor is lower than the water hole, the bow hunter would have a flat shot at the intended animal, without having to worry about which would be the trajectory from a steep angle, like if shooting from a tree stand.
The floor of the blind was covered by rugs and blankets that would muff the hunter’s footsteps, there are sitting benches and you can keep all your gear in the ample area. Finally, there is a four inch PVC pipe that stands at least twelve or fifteen feet above the blind roof that serves both as ventilation as well to send the hunter’s sent away from the area.
Needless to mention that when not in use the blind is kept well closed in order to prevent some of the local reptile to take residence in its cooler interior or the many blue monkeys to havoc the place.
From this fantastic set-up I spent several hours watching the African wildlife cornucopia, including the most beautiful Impala ram I ever saw and that I was able to completely miss at around twenty yards, killing a tree with the broad head arrow instead, sand grouse which came picking their own image in the mirrors, a magnificent but somewhat young Kudu bull that I was “mature” enough not to shoot, guinea fowl, a large troop of the aforementioned blue monkeys, more impala, a very long eared rabbit, and warthog, one of which broke my heart.
Falmouth also holds blue wildebeest and Pieter and Louis were planning on releasing Gemsbok later on the year. As most, if not all, South African game ranches Falmouth has twelve foot high fences around it, but that fence cannot contain either the warthogs that go under it, or Kudu that just fly over the highest wire without much concern.
But back to warthog and a broken heart. Towards the end of the afternoon traffic really picked up around the waterhole, and both the large impala ram that I had missed earlier and a couple of great warthogs were around.
When opportunity came I shot the largest warthog and it immediately dived into the surrounding bush. Pieter called Louis and Fannie back at the lodge, and then we started tracking the wounded animal. And I received a lesson in tracking and disappointment.
We came back well after dark without locating the animal, and next morning we tracked it for several hours, until the spoor and blood were gone. Mea culpa, mea unica culpa.
A week later I got an e-mail from Pieter telling me that they had found the dead warthog, but it was already all rotten. I just hope that the resident leopard had a nice meal out of my mistake.