When you hike through South African big 5 game reserves, there is a good chance that you will come face to face with a cape buffalo. Lone bulls are also referred to as the “dagga” boys. “Dagga” is pronounced like the Gaga in Lady Gaga. Dagga is a colloquial word that refers to the mud that these bulls cover themselves with to deter or kill ectoparasites. The mud also acts as a sunblock. These dagga boys are not known to be the friendliest characters of the bush but are notorious to be short fused and bad tempered. They always look at you as if you owe them money. Just like a debt collector.
If a dagga boy decides that he has waited long enough for his money he will come charging in towards the guilty one. It can charge at up to 15 meters per second and once committed it will not stop for anything. This is when the leader of a trails group will need to be able to stop this animal from killing someone with a shot to the bull’s brain. The trails guide will need to do this very- very quickly. To be able to shoot accurately at a moving target requires special training and skill.
This week our students started this specialised training to prepare them for the Advanced Rifle Handling assessment. This skill is required for any guide that wants to conduct foot trails within dangerous game areas. The students first had to learn about the mechanics of rifles and the ballistics of big bore rifles. Internal ballistics and terminal ballistics were some of the terms that resulted in a few interesting arguments on what is the best calibres for guides. For many of them it was the first time that they actually touched any kind of firearm and it was quite an experience to them. They covered the basics about effective rifle handling, aiming and accurate shooting under extreme time limits. These were practiced over and over again. This was done by using the so called “dummy” rounds. This is a very effective way of mastering all the drills needed for this qualification and it instils muscle memory without having to fire live ammunition. After this preparation students were given the opportunity to actually fire live rounds at the targets. First they used a .22 calibre just to get comfortable with and practice the techniques and drills required for the assessment. After they all completed this they got introduced to the .375 H & H calibre and they all got to practice all the drills with live ammunition. For some of the exercises the paper target represents the diameter of a male lion’s brain. This is only 7cm.This is a very small target given that when a lion charges it does so at up to 20 meters per second! This leaves very little time to chamber a round, get the brain in the rifle’s sights and fire. This situation is simulated in the final test. A target of a lioness charging towards you on a sled moving at 10 meters per second from only 30 meters away. This gives the student only about 3 seconds to get 1 shot in the brain. This exercise is not easy but those who pass it will experience an incredible sense of achievement.
This week was also the time for the students to start preparing for their practical game drive assessments. They got the opportunity to demonstrate to the trainers that they are able to conduct an enjoyable three hour game drive safely and effectively. This is exactly what the students came to Bushwise for and the tension could be felt with every game viewer going out on these practice assessments. During these practice game drives some students were blessed by the appearance of some interesting birds. A Kori Bustard -the heaviest flying bird in South Africa- made an appearance a Black bellied bustard and comb ducks also surprised many a student and trainer.
The end of the course is now in the sights of all the learners. For those who put in the hard work and stayed focused, the end will be a bulls -eye.
We wish all of them good luck and accurate shooting!
Gerhard & The Bushwise Team