The Start of the 2021 McNab Season
I had the privilege to guide the De Villiers and Schmulan families on their 1st McNab experience on Opening Day on the 1st of May 2021.
If you would like to read more about what the McNab is all about please read the article below.
The weather predictions looked like the 1st of May 2021 will be cold, misty, and wet on the Mpumalanga Escarpment, which is exactly what it turned out to be.
I met the two families at 06:00 and we drove to our first venue where our first leg of the challenge would kick-off. Our first challenge would be to find either guineafowl or red wing francolin in the fog and wet conditions.
Lourens was first up and with both my GSP’s (German Shorthair Pointers) Ryker (3 years old) and Dusty (4 months old) keen as mustard to get stuck into finding birds.
We found a covey of Redwings but unfortunately, Lourens could not get a shot opportunity as the birds flew from left to right. These Redwings are known as pocket rockets and a wing shooter must be on top of his game to connect with these speedsters.
What really made this a fun experience for me is that both the hunter’s families were keen to join in the challenge, with the wet conditions it did not take more than 100 yards for everyone’s shoes to be soaking wet. And that is how it stayed for the duration of the day, except for changing into some dry socks and I never heard a complaint from the children that it’s too wet or cold or the walk too far.
Ryker did his best in the terrible conditions to pick up more bird scents but was unsuccessful. We did see a beautiful reedbuck ram in a wetland and later had a reedbuck female and youngster jump up right next to us as we were circling back to the vehicles that added to the experience.
Around 08;25 we were back at the vehicles and we packed up to head to the 2nd concession where we would do the rifle hunt and flyfishing legs. (Quick couple of shots with the 3006 and 6,5 Creedmore to confirm rifles are still zeroed)
First I needed to stop at home (dry boots and socks) dry the dogs quickly and feed them before heading out to Greystone Lodge.
The families used this time to quickly get some well-deserved coffee and rusks.
At Greystone lodge, we met up with the ever-friendly Ildiko and Terence who run the lodge. The families quickly settled in and I gave the hunters the briefing on shot placement on blesbuck and where I want the bullet to be placed on the animal to hit the middle of the vital triangle.
Once the hunters were ready to a briefing to the families needed to be done as they wanted to come along to share the hunt I also needed them to understand that they can result in making things difficult for the hunters if they made nice or moved at the wrong time. But like I mentioned earlier they are all keen and they listened and asked questions (I like that fact) and off we went.
Morne was first up and the 6,5 Creedmore did the number on a very nice blesbuck ram at 150m, Lourens then luckily also managed to get a shot at another ram as the herd was moving around after the first shot and with another 150m shot into the vital triangle we had both blesbuck rams on the ground and the 1st leg of the McNab completed.
We walked up to the blesbuck and I called the families over. Here I took the opportunity to show them more about the blesbuck and how beautiful these antelopes are. I also had the privilege to teach the hunters about the german hunting tradition of Waidmannsheil and showing the last respect for the animal the hunter has hunted and congratulating them on a successful hunt.
While I took the blesbuck to be skinned and gutted Lourens and Morne as well as the kids got their flyfishing rods ready and started casting for a hungry trout despite the misty and rainy conditions. Luckily the easterly wind did not bother us.
Lourens was the first to connect to a lovely male rainbow trout of around 750g around 12:30 and came to the conference room with a big smile. Morne took a quick break for some much-needed warm coffee and food and was very keen to get back out onto the water.
I went with him and changed a couple of flies and then the much loved and one of my confidence flies (Mrs. Simpson) enticed a lovely female rainbow trout around 13:30.
We have now completed two of the three challenges that make the McNab Challenge and we have a 30 min drive to get back to our first concession where we hunted for birds earlier in the morning.
As we left the beautiful Greystone Lodge we headed back towards Dullstroom I could see the rain is falling a lot harder around town and when we arrived at the concession around 15:00 after picking up Ryker and Dusty at home weather has deteriorated even more.
With the dogs rested and keen to have a run we started working the black wattle trees to see if can bump guineafowl heading for cover early, unsuccessfully we head back into the rocky ridges looking for Redwing francolin. Despite our best efforts, we were unable to get any shot opportunities at gamebirds on the 1st of May 2021.
But that is one of the things that makes the McNab challenge here on the Escarpment so challenging, you never know what Mother Nature is going to give you on the day of the challenge, and whatever the weather conditions we need to make the best of it.
Ultimately the Escarpment McNab challenge is about the experience on the day and we go all out to get the challenge completed. If we fail to complete one of the legs it is definitely not for the lack of trying.
I am looking forward to having the De Villiers and Schulman families come back and attempt another Challenge with me.
Ultimately it is not if you have completed or not completed the challenge, it’s about experiencing the challenge.
(More photos coming soon)
Are you up for the challenge?
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