27 April 2021

Expensive Blesbuck (an ode to Muddy)

There are challenges being a Game Rancher, and everything doesn't always go according to plan...

Here is an account of some recent events on Sabrisa Ranch...

It all started at an African Wildlife Services' game auction, when bids on three separate lots were closed on me.. .

4 X Zebra Mares

1 X 18" Blesbuck Ram

7 X Blesbuck Ewes

It was with great anticipation that we awaited the new breeding stock here on Sabrisa. My aim right from the start (14 years ago) was breeding specimens of African game with exceptional genes to make Sabrisa Ranch a trophy hunter's haven, and the latest addition to the family was all part of the effort to accomplish just that!

That was until I got that phone call from the auctioneers... One Zebra mare had aborted a foul and died in the process of doing so, prior to being loaded on the game truck - so there were now only 3 mares en-route to Sabrisa Ranch in addition to the 8 Blesbuck. Well, at least we would still have a new breeding herd of Blesbuck - I thought, and three new Zebra mares were better than none...

The animals were offloaded without incident. Zebras headed right up the mountain where I hoped they would join one of the other herds and the Blesbuck were released in the vlei - where the other breeding herd lives. At this stage everything was (sort-of) going according to plan...

Until I got the call from Sammy on the radio later in the day that the Blesbuck had decided to look for greener pastures - so to speak (not as if our pastures were not green enough). They had made their way through the game fence and were now on the neighboring property...

We made every plan we could to try and convince them to come back to Sabrisa but to no avail. This exercise lasted the whole day and all we managed to do was to tire ourselves tracking them up and down the riverbed. That evening I got word that my new breeding ram was on a property across the river from us so off we went - initially with the sole intention of shooting him and at least having use of the meat. But upon our arrival I figured out that the ram had made its way into a small camp where it was being chased around by the resident Blesbuck ram so instead of killing it, we tried one last time to rather catch it.

Well we did manage to catch the animal, battered and bruised by the resident ram, and load it onto my pickup.

One out of eight is better than none out of eight and so we returned to Sabrisa with our new breeding ram tied on the back of the truck.

Now, with the knowledge that there was a weak spot in our game fence, it would hardly make sense to offload the animal where I had offloaded it before, so I opted to drive to another part of the ranch and offload it in a breeding camp instead. Knowing this Blesbuck's tendency to break through fences, I decided to first check every gate and every section of the fence first. A great plan it was - until I managed to get stuck myself stuck in the mud in the process of doing so...

Sammy immediately had a plan... He would run to the main house and get Brandy the Land Rover to come tow us out of our predicament. "Remember the slings..." I shouted, as he disappeared into the night...

It would have been a short run - maybe 800 yards or so - and I expected him to be back within 10 minutes at the most. But the minutes ticked by and when I checked my watch again more than 20 minutes had passed.

In Sammy's haste, he had forgotten to take a two-way radio with him, so I waited... and waited some more...

Finally I heard him shouting from the dark... "Mr Chris, Brandy won't start! I will go and get help from the neighbor!" Before I could reply, he was off again... I knew exactly why Brandy wouldn't start. She's an old girl and needs some loving attention so any attempt to start her in a hurry doesn't work. There was therefore just one option - get my butt out of my vehicle and make my way to Brandy myself...

This involved climbing over a game fence and walking through the muddy vlei (swamp) to the main house - which was not exactly how I had planned spending my Monday evening - but what had to get done, had to get done...

As I scaled the fence my one leg got stuck between two strands of wire and I found myself dangling from the fence like wet clothes on a washing line. Some uncomfortable moments later I managed to get myself untangled and I was now in the mud on the other side of the fence. Of course Sammy had taken my flashlight with him so with my cellphone as light source, I made my way towards the house.

Arriving there and after a quick prayer, I turned Brandy's ignition and voila - she started at the first turn. Her headlights weren't working but at least her engine was running, so I drove back to the Cruiser in the vlei - using my cellphone's flashlight to find my way.

We finally managed to pull the Cruiser out of the muddy mess she was in - just in time - because by now the Blesbuck was no longer a willing passenger. When we finally stopped at the gate to the camp he was to be released in, we figured out that the other Blesbuck breeding group had decided that's where they actually wanted to be. Sammy again had a plan. He would chase the Blesbuck out of the camp and close the gate before we would release the new addition to the Blesbok family in the same camp - so as to avoid another altercation between the new ram and the resident breeding ram.

By now I was running low on patience and energy, as was the Blesbuck on the back of the truck. He wanted to get off in a hurry and I needed to get into bed. It was way past midnight and we had started with this "recovery" project some 18 hours earlier!

Sammy, I said,

Enough is enough!

This Blesbuck gets off here

No matter how tough!

He's had all the chances,

He could be given by man,

But he chose to ignore us

And I don't give a damn!

Without further ado, the Blesbok was untied, his blindfold was taken off and he was released right there and then.

'Muddy', as the Blesbuck has since been named is no longer a breeding ram. He is, quite frankly the most expensive Blesbuck I've ever bought as I paid for eight and am left with one.

I hope he's happy, wherever he is right now. I know I am not.