Night of the Jackal
April 13, 2016
"Here's one!" our PH Cabose shouted as he piloted the speeding Land Cruiser off the soft red-sand road.
He charged our vehicle directly into a thicket of shrub brush and a dust trail began to cloud inches from our bumper as we closed the distance. Cabose ignored obstacles and showed little concern for off-road hazards like deep ditches and rock crops.
He had to shake me from my fixation on this new route and finally caught my attention. Looking over his left shoulder, Cabose was wide-eyed, pointing out the left window. "Get your rifle ready!" he said. "I'm going to bank us hard right. Get your gun up out the window. You're only going to get one shot."
The rifle sat muzzle up between my feet, the buttstock firmly planted to the floor as I used it partially for stability while bouncing around Namibia's gorgeous back country. On this ride, my "oh crap" handle was a Savage Model 16 Weather Warrior chambered in .338 Federal.
It was just as new as my PH's fresh-off-the-showroom Toyota. He hadn't even taken the plastic off of the headrests or doorsills. Oh how that new-car smell clashed with the scent of burning diesel in the African dust.
I had a full magazine inserted, and the bolt closed on an empty chamber. Still, I was ready for this occasion. I angled the tip of my barrel out the left-side rear window and further braced myself against the bench seat in preparation for a shot.
"Hold on!" Cabose bellowed.
I felt the rear end of the truck loosen and start to come around. He had yanked the front wheels hard to the right and stood on the brakes. I brought the rifle up, worked the bolt quickly and chambered a round. I managed to scoot low in my seat just as we came to a stop.
With the forend sling swivel jammed into the windowsill for stability, I peered through my scope, a Bushnell 3500 2.5-10x42. I took hasty aim on the quartering jackal and pulled the slack out of the AccuTrigger. Time slowed and I remember feeling the distinct pressure on my trigger finger before the shot rang out. My firing position allowed me to soak up the rifle's recoil and time sped up as the desert dog tumbled off its feet and spun around on its side.
"Nice shot!" Cabose exclaimed. He gave me a pat on the shoulder and added, "I knew you'd get him." As the smile began to stretch across my face, Cabose's approving demeanor changed.
"Oh no, he's up!"
Almost immediately, he slammed the gearshift into first and dumped the clutch. The pursuit began again. Welcome to African jackal hunting.
I had arrived in Windhoek, Namibia, several days earlier and knew this night would be dedicated to jackals. Spotting one without calling happens by chance, just as opportunities on this continent tend to. After a long day of stalking plains game, we were on our way back to Panorama, a fitting name for our camp positioned high on a hill.
From this camp, we had a 360-degree unobstructed view of the fenceless landscape deep within Namibia. Dusk was approaching and we were in a hurry to fill up on gemsbok steaks and do some chatting with our camp mates before heading back out to hunt the jackal.
Cabose, being the motivated young PH he was, eagerly looked for targets of opportunity, such as jackals and baboons, as we hauled back toward camp with purpose. In a truck, he knew two speeds: fast to get somewhere and stop to watch.
That particular jackal was the first we had seen since I arrived in country. It was a little smaller than a typical well-fed coyote back home. My plan was to shoot jackals with the Savage B.Mag in .17 WSM.
Unfortunately it was inaccessible, securely packed in the bed of the Land Cruiser. The shot struck the jackal in his midsection, and you would think a large, 200-grain Uni-Cor bullet would have been plenty, but the little critter had some fight in him. The energy of the .338 bullet rolled him over, but he had enough steam to get up and zig-zag sprint another 500 yards. Ultimately, he slipped into a hole, because we never saw him again.
Back at camp the sun was setting, and it was nice to take a breather and settle into an open-air room wrapped in a low-sloping thatched roof. It felt civilized, yet distinctly wild. As darkness fell, we relaxed on leather couches, each hunter retelling parts of the day's adventures until stuffing ourselves on a five-course dinner worthy of any gourmet restaurant. The steak from a freshly-killed gemsbok was cooked to perfection on a wood-fire grill.
A little before 10 p.m., I began organizing the gear for that night's hunt. It was time to put the B.Mag, equipped with a Bushnell Banner 3.5-10x36mm scope, to the test. A FoxPro ShockWave game call and a Bushnell T500R rechargeable flashlight proved to be invaluable.
The .17 WSM cartridges that fed the B.Mag possessed grenade-like effects on coyotes in the past, so I figured it would be perfect medicine for Africa's jackal. Had semi-automatic rifles been legal to hunt with in Namibia, I probably would have packed Savage's A17, in .17 HMR. That's a fun little wonder, too.
However, the B.Mag is a handy bolt-action that weighs a feathery 4½ pounds. It's a bargain when we consider that it starts at less than $375.
The rifle comes with an easy-to-load eight-round detachable rotary magazine, and utilizes Savage's famed AccuTrigger. This one provided a nice light break with virtually no take up.
The 22-inch barrel helps rocket the 20-grain bullet downrange at a blistering 3,000 fps. The Target model also features an attractive wood thumbhole stock and matte gray finish applied to the barreled action.
Once the PH chose a location (in the middle of nowhere), a few hunters and I unpacked quickly and quietly, setting up the FoxPro near a small bush. Cabose positioned its hinged speakers in the direction he felt was ideal for calling in the predators, and then he cranked the volume before hastening back 35 yards to the Cruiser. There, another hunter, Jacob Edson was waiting with a rangefinder and additional flashlight.
Flipping past the FoxPro remote's laundry list of features back-lit by a clear LCD screen, I scrolled to African sounds and selected the Black Back Jackal call.
It wasn't 30 seconds before the first jackal responded with a howl. While I imagined the African plains were certainly crawling with predators after dark, it was surprising how fast they answered the ShockWave.
We continued to call in 30-second increments and painted the area with white light, searching for the next approaching jackal. I asked Cabose if white light would scare them off, but he told me they'd be more curious than anything. "A good call, like this FoxPro," he said, "would be too enticing for them to resist. They'd keep coming."
A nice feature of the ShockWave is its ability to play two different sounds at once. So, we tried that here and introduced a Crying Jack sound. After another 30-second string, a second jackal answered from the opposite direction. Within five minutes, both jacks sounded like they were almost on top of us.
The PH stopped the call and I clutched the B.Mag as Cabose whispered to get ready. He had caught a glimpse of a jackal's eyes to the right, so I placed my right knee on a spare tire resting in the bed of the truck and got low. Moments later I saw the pair of eyes in the distance.
Jake whispered that the jackal was at 121 yards. "Aim for the jackal's eyes," Cabose instructed.
A shot like that would likely hit him in the lower neck and upper chest or shoulder area, depending on how he was coming into our position. I took careful aim and squeezed the trigger.
The shot broke and the eyes disappeared. We heard the jackal scream. Briefly, his eyes reappeared, and then disappeared again.
"Fire another round," Cabose said.
Once I caught another glimpse of the jackal's eyes, I let a second round go. Cabose vaulted from the Land Cruiser and walked swiftly toward where we had last seen him. I quickly followed. We could hear the animal yelping. He laid on his side with a large wound on his right shoulder and another behind his right rear leg. The .17 WSM had certainly done its job, preventing this one from making a run for it.
Back at the truck, we attempted to call the second jackal in, but he never got close enough. Though he answered the FoxPro several more times, his bark became more and more distant. Knowing that the area was likely burned, Cabose suggested we pack up and drive to a new location.
THE SECOND SET
Our workers and PH set the stand up just as they had before, and another jackal answered the e-caller. It was obvious that this jackal was coming in from our left, but it was still quite a ways out. This time, each of us utilized our hand-held lights to paint the area. It was getting colder, which made the wait seem lengthy. Eventually, Cabose saw a set of eyes.
It took me another five minutes to see the furry target Cabose was trying to point out. The jackal was keeping its distance, slowly circling our location and then pacing left to right. Once I finally figured out where he was, the tree where we had parked under was between us. I expected the jackal to move on, but patience paid off. Just beyond the tree, about 35 yards away, the jackal came into view, trotting in toward the call.
Curiosity and hunger overcame the jackal's sense of survival. He ventured too close, and made it easy to place the shot and put him down. It should have been a quick kill, but the first round only disabled his front legs. He was still trying desperately to get away when we approached. Cabose managed to pin him down, and I used a Winkler belt knife to finish the deed. Cold was really setting in, so we called it a night around 1 a.m. The morning's 4:30 reveille was rapidly approaching.
ONE LAST CALL
At dinner the following night a third PH, Reese, joined us. Reese was a gentleman, but very skeptical of our accounts from the night before, using a FoxPro to quickly call the jackals in.
To settle this debate, I retrieved the ShockWave and handed Reese the remote while sitting at the dinner table, placing the e-caller 20 feet away with the speakers facing the opposite direction. Then Reese turned it on. We set it to simultaneously activate both the Black Back Jackal and Crying Jack sounds and, sure enough, just two minutes later, a jackal answered loud and clear. We all laughed as Cabose pointed and said, "I told you!"
Reese shook his head and exclaimed, "I've never seen anything like that. It's incredible."
Hunting jackal in Namibia was quite the experience, one like no other I've had before or since. Being in the middle of nowhere under the darkness of the southern hemisphere, having no light, was an eerie feeling.
Especially when you look up at the night's sky and can't recognize a single constellation. Such amazement caused me to reflect and give gratitude for the time and expertise that our host Jamy Traut provided on this trip. What a unique way to spend the night on the Dark Continent.
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