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- Prostaff Member Dan Braman
I think it is a safe assumption that most hunters would like to go to Africa at some point in their lives. I cannot remember a time in my young life that the mystique of Africa didn't grace my mind at least once a day. My father and mother knew this and bought me countless books on African hunting. I read them all and bought more as I grew up. Little did I know as a child that my love of hunting would provide me an opportunity to live my dreams of Africa.
In 2006 I left for Africa, courtesy of a man that I hunted with for years. I would be there 45 days while hunting two countries. This would prove to be one of my favorite hunts while there.
We had been in South Africa for eight days when the time came for me to hunt caracal. This hunt was especially anticipated because it was done with dogs and I run cats with hounds at home. We arrived at a ranch not too much unlike the ranches at home. After meeting that landowner and talking for a while I couldn't help but be curious what the walkie-talkie radio he carried was for. After a few minutes a voice came across the radio speaking in a language I didn't understand. The landowner said a few words and then asked me if I was ready. He stated that one of his employees had found a very fresh bushbuck kill with caracal tracks all around it. My adrenaline raged in my body as the excitement was almost overwhelming.
We went down to his kennels, loaded his dogs, and headed toward this kill. I was interested (and worried) to see that not all of his dogs were hounds. He had a couple border collies, a pointer, and two dogs about 12 inches tall that didn't really look like any specific breed. We arrived after about a twenty-minute drive and turned the hounds loose. Like my hounds it took a few minutes for them to make certain that there wasn't a single bush within 50 yards unmarked. Then, a big red dog put his nose on the ground and barked. The rest ran to where he was and four or five of them barked as well. Down the mountain they went trailing the cat into a valley. To my amazement this employee ran with them armed with a broomstick and a radio.
We listened as the hounds ran completely out of hearing at which point the landowner suggested we get in the truck and try to get to where we could hear them. We circled around to a plateau and stopped. I was happy to hear the all too familiar sound of hounds treeing. They’ve got him. Down the valley we walked towards the tree. As we quietly walked up to the tree I noticed that it was a small dead tree with no cat in it. Great, I thought to myself, I’ve come nearly 9000 miles to hunts cats with hounds that false tree. It's one thing to false tree in a very tall tree at night with the wind blowing. It's a whole different story when it is daylight in a small tree with no leaves. Add 9000-mile plane ride to that and you have something very near disaster.
We walked back to the truck listening to the landowner tell us how that rarely happens. It was hard to remain optimistic but I tried my best. We had dinner that evening in a beautiful setting in this man's patio. The weather was gorgeous at 70 degrees and clear skies. I felt bad for silently cursing my host, after all, I was in Africa.
The next morning at daylight we were eating breakfast when the same call came through the radio. It seemed the cat had returned to his kill during the night. I couldn't help but think negative things. Be that as it may, we were gone in five minutes. Twenty minutes later the hounds were once again trailing the cat. This time however, they were headed in the exact opposite way. They ran for over an hour when they got quiet for a minute. I had my fingers crossed hoping they were looking to locate the tree. My hopes were true as soon they began to bark treed.
By now I had forgotten about yesterday's mishap and found myself wishing my host would walk faster. As we neared the tree my anticipation ran high. This tree was of medium height and covered with thick leaves. Scanning the branches looking for signs of the cat I saw nothing. Then the native tracker pointed with his fingers and said,”paka”. This gave my eyes a direction to look and slowly cat materialized. I walked slowly around the tree and aimed the 12ga at the cats shoulder. The shot was about 25 yards and pretty close to straight up. As the gun went off the cat crumpled into a fork in the limb.
I was ecstatic to say the least as our tracker began climbing the tree to retrieve the cat. Once he was down examined this cat in great detail; his facial marking were gorgeous along with everything else about him. He was built much like our bobcats at home only a bit longer, and somewhat taller. The caracal's claws are just a little bigger and this one's claws seemed to contract all the way. I have sense learned that most caracals claws do contract all the way. I spent a little time petting the hounds and way too much time taking pictures.
The following day, my friend got a very nice cat as well. The week I got home from Africa I had my caracal tattooed on my right shoulder. Africa is nothing like what I expected, it is far more then my wildest dreams.