Traveling the world to hunt exposes you to new adventures, but it also enlightens you to new hunting skills. Study the hunting strategies and tactics of those who guide you through an unfamiliar environment. The new skills you experience abroad may come in handy when hunting at home.
Recently, I had the chance to visit Mozambique. There I picked up some tidbits of hunting information that will definitely bring a new approach to an old pursuit, regardless of GPS location.
The practicality of an ax or hatchet
Little used since pioneer times, the axe, hatchet, or even the tomahawk seem to be less common as everyday tools. That could change as Jack Carr’s Navy SEAL character James Reece will use a tomahawk for all orders of justice in the new Prime Video series “The Terminal List.” Hollywood aside, hash tools are still functional in the Third World and yours.
Halfway around the world in Mozambique, the panga, a sturdier version of a machete, is a stash that trackers carry, use and enjoy as an essential tool in the bush. Honed for sharpness, our trackers have used the axe-like tool to clear brush while stalking, to cut down trees during a forest fire and to cut off the head of a Cape buffalo killed by a lion before dragging it to a new location for the hyena bait. Since then, I’ve been reviewing axles online and making room in my truck’s gearbox for a new addition.
There’s always rope around
Stuffed behind the seat of my truck and in my backpack, you can always find paracord. In my truck box there is always a length of climbing rope to secure the cargo at all times. But what if you forget to pack a rope or need the extra length in the backcountry to attach a survival tarp?
No worries, as I discovered in Mozambique while helping build a cache one afternoon. Timothy, one of our trackers, started stripping bark from a nearby sapling in long, thin strips, creating a natural rope to tie up the branches to form the base of our skin. A grassland or desert environment may lack trees, but even twisting long strands of grassy vegetation may suffice. In almost any other habitat, a sharp tool can provide nature-resistant lashing lengths.
Keep cool without ice
No rural electricity service supplied our camp in Mozambique. We were hours by plane from any major city. A village of thatched huts was the only civilization nearby and there was no store, not even a 7-Eleven. Needless to say, the ice cream was a popular treat. A jam-packed propane refrigeration system in camp kept food supplies and our lunches for the day cool until they were stored in a cooler, without ice.
The trackers brought their own lunches and hydration. To help keep their water, stored in recycled soda bottles, at temperatures of 100 degrees, they improvised. Using old, worn, heavy socks and other tattered fabrics, they covered and wrapped the plastic bottles that were filled each morning from a deep well. The water came out cool and the shade, combined with the heavy layer of fabric, kept the water from reaching boiling point for refreshing refreshment any time of the day. It was a simple but effective solution to buying a stainless steel tumbler online, especially since FedEx did not support this bush zip code.
Shooting sticks galore
There are more shooting stick designs these days than, well, you can shake a stick. With two large sticks, thinly stripped lengths of inner tube, and a small bolt, you can make your own. I have yet to visit Africa and have not been given a pair of commercially made shooting sticks. All were built by hand from nature and from man-made remains. And it all worked as well as any Primos Trigger Stick.
Besides being basically free, the other great thing about handmade shooting sticks is that you can make them to any length. A shorter limb gives you the perfect height to sit on, and longer shaft sections provide you with patterns for standing shots like I encountered in Mozambique. They’re so simple that even a home repair disappointment like me can create a working set.
Smooth it, drag a road
You can’t have a trail camera covering every inch of a hunting property, but you can search for trails when trail camera budgets are tight and conditions permit. My Mozambican trackers routinely used leafy branches to dust areas around waterholes, along trails and near baits to ensure that any animal walking through the smooth ground would leave an identifiable footprint.
For larger areas, like dusty two-lane trails, guides would cut down a bush (too abundant in the area) and tie it to the back of a Land Cruiser. Like western mountain lion hunters driving down snowy roads looking for cat tracks, trackers sat atop the truck the next morning, scanning the two-track trails for a trace of our next stem.
It smells like shit
Finally, like North American game, African species also use their olfactory senses to detect danger. Constantly monitoring the wind direction to maintain our downwind advantage was helped by, well, crap. We didn’t cover ourselves in manure, but professional hunter Clayton Wallis set fire to a block of dried Cape buffalo dung to burn beside us as we watched the waterholes at midday.
The spiraling smoke from the smoldering excrement was twofold, he explained. It provided a visual of where our scent was drifting to determine if our position was worth it. He also thought it helped cover up the human scent. I did not discuss, because several times animals arrived from the tailwind. The Wildlife Research Center probably has a shitty new division based on that very revelation.
Hunting abroad opens your eyes to the bigger picture. Enjoy the hunt, but soak up some new information that might help you when you return to hunt the homeland again.