Game Ranger

Extracts from a Game Ranger's Notebook
  • Also available as: Casebound Hardcover
  • Published: August 2013
  • Format: Perfect Bound Softcover(B/W)
  • Pages: 342
  • Size: 6x9
  • ISBN: 9781491875698

This book should appeal to a wide range of readers, from those that have spent time working in the bush and can relate to these stories, to those still contemplating a career with wildlife. It should also appeal to the weekend and average armchair conservationist who has probably often dreamt of what it would have been like had he chosen to become a dedicated full time field officer. The book will also help give an insight into what goes on behind the scenes for those visiting a game park for their very first time. It has been written in an easy to read format, divided into individual wildlife adventures based from the author’s early beginnings as a Game Ranger at a remote outpost in Northern Zululand to finally becoming Warden of Game Capture. Some of these adventures are funny and some more serious but never routine or mundane however they were always rewarding and gratifying. Enjoy the read!

On another occasion a solitary lion was spotted some 30 km outside the reserve on the road to Charters Creek and was seen entering a small patch of bush in the middle of a recently planted sugar cane field. I was alerted by radio and immediately loaded several game guards armed with rifles and headed off with great haste to the place where I was told the animal was lying up. The speed limit in South Africa in those days was a maximum of 80 km/h and I was probably doing nearer 130km/h down the N2 tarred road with about 6 armed game guards sitting on the back of my open bakkie. I whistled past a Traffic Officer on the side of the road, doing his duty stopping and checking cars. I heard later that he had just stopped a vehicle and was in the process of writing out a ticket for some or other paltry offence when I whizzed past at great speed. I later found out that his name was Gary Tracey and we became close friends with him and his family, as his children were the same ages as ours and went to the same school. A few kilometers down the road and out of site of Gary Tracey, I turned off onto a district dirt road towards the fishing resort of Charters Creek and unbeknown to me he had radioed ahead to the Hluhluwe police station about 30 km down the road, in an attempt to set up a roadblock and to stop the speeding vehicle. He himself, with his siren and blue light on, was also speeding down the road, hoping to catch up with me at the roadblock. After turning off the N2 and several kilometers further on we found the man that had reported seeing the lion as he had continued to wait and watch the patch of bush at my request. He reported to me that he had not seen any sign of the lion exiting in the bush and as far as he was concerned the animal was still inside. The bush where the lion was lying up was only about 25 meters in diameter, in the centre of the field and so I placed the game guards in safe firing positions pointing out their field of fire. As this patch of bush was very dense Sgt. Nqabanefa Ncobo and I decided to crawl into the bush side by side and on our stomachs with our .458 rifles loaded with 410 grain soft nosed bullets that would cause maximum damage to the lion. These bullets have tremendous stopping power if they hit their target in a vulnerable place and can stop a charging lion in its tracks. We crept in very slowly with all our senses on high alert and with our rifles loaded and the safety catches in the off position. The visibility appeared to be slightly better at ground level than at head height as we were able to see under the green leafy undergrowth and by crawling in on our stomachs we posed a much smaller target for the lion to see or attack. The ring of game guards I had placed on the outside were also a concern of ours as we were sure that they would not remember their firing positions and would probably fire at any movement thinking it was a charging lion. On entering the bush we found that it was a lot more open inside the large copse and the visibility was much better although there were still one or two dense patches. By lying dead still we eventually spotted a small flicker of a movement in one of the thicker spots. After watching for a short while, our eyes became accustomed to the low mottled light level filtering through the upper canopy and we were able to see that the lion was facing us however it was slightly obscured by some rocks. The lion appeared to be in a low crouching position as we could not see its body but its lip was curled back and it was making a low growling noise much like an angered cat. The lion was lying only about 10 or 12 meters directly ahead of us. I sighted down my rifle but held back on pulling the trigger as I was not sure of my first shot being a killing shot. The lion had his head up pointing his nose at us and I had read in various books that shooting a lion in the head when it has his nose pointing directly at you can result in only wounding it as the bullet often glances off the heavy skull. The lion never took his eyes off us and was watching our slightest movements and so we waited hoping that he would turn his head or present us with a better shot. We could not see below his chin because of the low shrubbery and rock and so a heart shot was out of the question. If we tried to fire below the lions chin which would have then been a neck shot, which would have been a good killing shot however there was the possibility of getting a ricochet off the edge of the rock and that would have only served to annoy the lion, and to wound him. The last thing we wanted was an annoyed and wounded lion running amok amongst us. With flies crawling on our faces, we lay absolutely motionless for what felt like an eternity which in reality was probably no more than probably two minutes, just waiting for the perfect shot which would kill it outright. I was just deciding that it might be worth taking a chance and firing at the point of the nose when one of the nervous game guards, I had positioned outside coughed quietly and the lion turned his head in that direction presenting us with a side head shot. I felt a slight tap on my foot from Nqabanefa and sensed rather saw him take up the first pressure on his trigger. I did the same holding the front sight of the rifle on the target at the side head between the ear and the eye. I felt my .458 magnum rifle jump in my hands without consciously thinking of pulling the trigger and for a second thought that Nqabanefa had not yet fired but he had as the two rifles had fired simultaneously. We had both fired aimed at the same target, hitting the lion on the side of the head just below a line between the ear and the eye, with the two bullet holes no more than about three fingers apart. To my relief the lion just flopped over and did not make another sound or movement. We carried him out of the bush and lay him down for all to see and admire as the claws and teeth were always a subject of discussion with everyone pulling up the lip to see the teeth. It was such a pity having to shoot these beautiful animals but it was a complete waste of time attempting to capture them and take them back into the reserve, as past experience had shown us that these animals would again be out of the reserve within a few days. We loaded the lion onto the back of my 4 x 4 bakkie and drove back along the road to a small general dealer at the Nyalazi River Halt to buy the team and myself a soft drink to quench our thirsts. There is nothing that makes your mouth drier than spending a few minutes of adrenaline pumping excitement.

This book should appeal to a wide range of readers, from those that have spent time working in the bush and can relate to these stories, to those still contemplating a career with wildlife. It should also appeal to the weekend and average armchair conservationist who has probably often dreamt of what it would have been like had he chosen to become a dedicated full time field officer. The book will also help give an insight into what goes on behind the scenes for those visiting a game park for their very first time. It has been written in an easy to read format, divided into individual wildlife adventures based from the author’s early beginnings as a Game Ranger at a remote outpost in Northern Zululand to finally becoming Warden of Game Capture. Some of these adventures are funny and some more serious but never routine or mundane however they were always rewarding and gratifying. Enjoy the read!

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