Friday, October 1, 2010

Sporting Classics Presents: Hounded! Leopard Hunting in Namibia

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles, in association with Bernard and Associates and High Adventure Company, proudly presents Sporting Classics. Widely recognized as the premier outdoor magazine, with award-winning graphics and the country's top writers, Sporting Classics focuses on the best hunting and fishing throughout the world and finest outdoor fiction. Whether it is wingshooting grouse on the Scottish Highlands, stopping Cape Buffalo on the plains of Tanzania, or landing delicate Rainbow Trout on a 2 weight bamboo fly rod, Sporting Classics and its stable of renowned authors covers it with class and finesse.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles has been chosen as one of the few Outdoor Bloggers to share content from the most respected and best known magazine in the outdoor community!

Please enjoy the following advance publication. I would like to thank the Bernard and Associates team, High Adventure Company, and Sporting Classics for choosing The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles  as a partner in their endeavours!
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Leopard hunting in Namibia with Hounds

The hound music swelled to a yelping intensity as the pack gained on the leopard. Then, from deep in the Namibian brush came a loud, snarling cough. The moment of truth was finally at hand. The next few minutes would end the affair one way or the other.

My African adventure began to take shape when I asked Frank Cole of Cabela’s Outdoor Adventures to arrange a leopard hunt with dogs. I have never really enjoyed still-hunting the big cats from a blind. To me, hunting a leopard with hounds seemed much more exhilarating and exciting.

Cole contacted Barry Burchell of Frontier Safaris who proposed a 15-day leopard hunt at Trudia Game Ranch in northern Namibia, just south of Etosha National Park. They had never hunted leopard before on the ranch, but judging by the number of tracks, the big predators seemed abundant.

After a long but uneventful flight, I arrived at Windhoek where Barry then drove us 300 miles north through rocky, semi-arid hill country covered with low brush and stunted trees. It was late September and while the nights were cool, each day the temperature would climb to 90 degrees or higher by mid-afternoon, forcing us to do most of our hunting in the morning. To avoid dealing with the problems of transporting a firearm, I used Barry’s Remington Model 700 in 7mm Mag.

At the ranch I met Roy Sparks who had brought his pack of bluetick and treeing Walker hounds. An experienced hunter, Roy devotes most of his time to training his hounds and pursuing predominately livestock-killing leopards. Two other members of our entourage were Moshile, a Zhosa tribesman who is an extraordinary tracker and dog handler, and Alex, a tracker.

The first afternoon we drove along woodland roads looking for leopard spoor. Constantly harassed by ranchers, the area’s cats are wary and seldom come to bait, though we decided to hang two gemsbok baits just in case.

At 4:30 the next morning we began hunting in earnest. Our approach consisted of Moshile and Alex riding on the hood of the Land Cruiser using a spotlight and the vehicle’s headlights to search for leopard tracks as we slowly drove along the sand roads. They found a number of prints several days old as well as where a leopard had marked his territory with scent and scat. After driving about six miles, Moshile and Roy seemed quite satisfied that a large tom was in the area.

We quit at 11 a.m., then returned five hours later without the dogs. After hanging several more baits, we spent a couple hours scouting for leopard sign in a different area.

The next morning was a repeat performance of the previous days’ events. We found the remains of a gemsbok killed by a large leopard about two weeks earlier, but we failed to find any fresh tracks and none of the baits had been touched.

Early in the morning on our fourth day, after we’d passed all of the uneaten baits and moved toward one end of the area the big male had been using, the situation changed abruptly. Moshile raised his hand, and smiling broadly, signaled to stop the truck. Fresh tracks! – at least that’s what Moshile and Roy decided. I had a hard time making out the tracks even when they were pointed out to me.

Moshile and Alex began following the leopard’s trail along with three hounds outfitted with tracking collars. Moshile carried a radio to keep in contact with us. He called no more than ten minutes later, indicating that he’d found a fresh track in a dry streambed. About that time one of the dogs opened up from a brushy ravine on the opposite side of the riverbed.

Over the next hour the trackers walked up the depression for nearly a mile, with the hounds sounding off more and more frequently. At this juncture, Roy released another hound that opened up almost immediately. Roy smiled and explained that the dog would bark only when on a fairly hot track.

All the hounds were giving tongue as they unraveled the leopard’s trail. After moving the vehicle twice to keep ahead of the pack, we heard Moshile’s excited voice on the radio. He’d seen the leopard! Roy stopped the truck and dropped the tailgate so the remaining six hounds could join the chase. (A sign on the truck – “When the tailgate drops, the B.S. stops” – was prophetic.)

Rather than going up the hill behind us, the leopard turned in our direction. For the next ten minutes the air was filled with hound music. Then, some 200 yards to our left, the hounds finally bayed. The rasping snarl of the leopard, which had taken his stand on the ground rather than in a tree, was quite audible.

As we hustled over to the hounds, I began to experience a rapid heartbeat. It’s a problem that occurs infrequently, but when it happens, my heart rate zooms to more than 160 beats-per-minute. For a few seconds my condition left me feeling quite woozy. Then I thought, The hell with it, and taking a deep breath I hurried toward the fracas.

We moved closer to the dogs, but we couldn’t lay eyes on the leopard. The big cat moved off another hundred yards and stopped again, mad as hell and growling constantly at his tormentors. When we had slipped to within 30 yards of the leopard, I could just make out a patch of yellow just beyond a black-and-white hound named Charlie. In the thick brush, all I could see was the leopard’s body; the head and tail were not visible. I eased the rifle onto the shooting sticks and waited.

After a minute or so Charlie moved so I had a clear view of the cat’s chest. My shot was greeted with a loud growl. The leopard lurched to his left and disappeared in the dense brush, though the continued baying of the hounds convinced us he was still close.

We walked over to the dogs; Barry in the middle, Roy to his left and myself about two yards to their right and slightly to the rear. Barry, who is quite tall, saw the cat lying on his left side, barely breathing, no more than eight yards away. From my position I was unable to see the leopard.

“He’s dying,” Barry exclaimed. “No need for us to shoot again.” The leopard disagreed.

Without uttering a sound, the leopard suddenly stood up – silent as death – and charged hell-bent in Roy’s direction. Instantly the air was filled with a hail of gunfire. I saw the charging leopard just as he piled up less than two yards in front of Roy. The hunt was over!

It wasn’t until then that I noticed my rapid heartbeat was gone, replaced by a thrilling sense of achievement.

Interestingly, unlike the hounds used to hunt raccoon and hogs in the U.S., Roy’s dogs only sniffed at the carcass and showed no interest in chewing on it. Maybe they’d learned that mixing it up with even a supposedly dead leopard could be hazardous to their health.

While reliving the final, dramatic moments, Barry confided to me that he’d made a big mistake, dictated primarily by his desire not to puncture the leopard’s skin with too many holes. I’m sure he won’t refrain from shooting a “dying” leopard in the future.

Moshile picked up the heavy leopard, draped him around his shoulders and walked back to the truck where he laid the majestic animal over an uprooted tree. The leopard measured seven feet, five inches from nose to tail, and Roy estimated his weight at 165 pounds – a very large male. Later, while skinning the cat, we found where my bullet had penetrated through one edge of his heart, filling his chest with blood. How he managed to stay alive long enough to charge his pursuers remains a mystery.

The hounds came through the fracas generally unscathed. Several had fairly deep scratches and one had been either bitten or clawed on his leg. However, the bleeding had stopped and he seemed oblivious to the wound.

All in all, it’s certainly possible to have a more exciting leopard hunt, but our adventure was enough to last me a lifetime.

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Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club

The Hunt Continues...

Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Thoughts on Afghanistan, Permaculture, and Beekeeping

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Afghanistan, Permaculture, and a Lone Bee

I haven't had time to consider beekeeping lately. I've been relatively busy keeping my own hide intact. But today was a remarkably clear day. It was quiet but for the regular launching of the magnificently terrible fighter bombers and the occasional rotor slap of heavy-lift Russian made Hinds from the heli-pad. You could actually see the striations on three mile mountain from where I stood.

Walking down the road adjacent to the air field, imagine my delighted surprise when I saw a little striped creature buzzing along the dirty drainage ditch that leaves the base to dissipate in the mine strewn fields. I'm certain that it was a honey bee.

The pea soupy water that sustains activity is a noxious amalgamated brew of run off, partially treated black and grey waste water, trash, and algae, that never the less harbors a significant variety of life. As wretched and poor as it is, it nurtures plants and animals, even supplying much needed hydration to the herds of road worn goats and cantankerous camels that often cross the rocky, barren terrain with their herders; the hard, leather skinned, AK47 carrying, treacherous men that follow them on their way from one dust ridden, God forsaken place to another. Even the sly jackals that follow the herds, picking off the weakest kids from their nannys, take respite in the shade of the over-grown reeds and shrubs that line the polluted canal outside the wire. They come out at night to do their murderous work, yipping and howling like wild drunken dervishes, setting the fresh young and unknowing men that we are sent, to nervously fingering their triggers, their eyes wide with adrenalin.

The honey bee, happily unaware that good, honest men have fought, bled, and died over nothing more than poor, disease ridden dirt and the stupid and ignorant remarks of old charlatans, liars, and fools, crossed over to the other side of the ditch losing itself in the dried stalks of some long dead weed.

I wondered for quite some time where its hive might be.

The funny thing is that I was worried that maybe its hive was near a landmine. I gave serious and deliberate consideration to the possibility that the hive was no doubt near a long forgotten anti personnel landmine. After I worried that idea over in my mind, I wondered if a random, unguided, Iranian rocket might hit the hive and blow it up. So I gave that a lot of troubled thought for the longest time.

Meanwhile, as I hunt-and-peck type this up for you, my Mozambican comrades are busy wrapping detonation cord around corroded, long buried and leftover landmines not 100 hundred yards from where I sit.



The occasional hot rock shard hits the tent, rolling off like sharp volcanic hail.

You get used to it...

I got to thinking about my European honey bee hives at home. Out of the dozen I had two years ago, I still have six or seven that are active and producing. Last spring several of them swarmed, as planned, helping to restock the wild population with new blood. But honey bees do need some care and a little help if you want to collect some of their sweet bounty. Otherwise they figure you just don't care, and they move on to better accommodations elsewhere. Maybe when I get back I will have time to reacquaint myself with my charges and see to their well being.

Being a beekeeper takes a certain type of personality. You need to be calm and quiet, you have to be aware of the weather, the sun and wind direction, and it helps if you know what is going on around you in nature too. What plants are blooming, what bugs are around, the sort of thing that's usually under the radar and beneath notice.

Out here, in the unforgiving, dust ridden plains of Afghanistan, we enjoy our very own twisted and perverted version of Purgatory, with unguided rockets thrown at you by the illiterate followers of conmen and warlords, and our own computer controlled robotic counter-batteries spewing out maelstroms of death and destruction, cleaving the earth like angry bolts, violently rending and destroying acres at a time.

It makes you contemplate many things, some good, some bad.

But it's the small, little things, like that bee, that shows you the futility of man's insane quarrels. Unlike the humble honey bee, what we do, the blood soaked effort we put in, doesn't amount to hill of beans. The bee on the other hand, makes honey from almost nothing but hard work and perseverance.

I wouldn't mind teaching the locals about beekeeping. Except I don't think there's enough of anything here for even one managed hive. Nor do the natives have a desire to do anything but take. Not that it comes from an evil or mean streak in them, though they have that too, but it is the way they have lived for millenniums. We are just another foreign group of violent tourists passing through their Shangri-La. Sooner or later we will be gone, and they can get back to their customary business of slitting each others throats over the abandoned, rusted and broken left-overs, stoning the mothers of their children, and killing each other over real or imagined insults.

But for my civilized friends back at home, beekeeping might be an activity that can fit into your plans of self sufficiency. Really, it does take some work, but it's not too much, nor is it difficult, and it is scheduled. But the delicious, sweet rewards more than offset the occasional sting.

Though I have Langstroth hives, I will ultimately replace them with Top Bar hives. There are a number of reasons for doing so. First, Top Bar hives are easy to make. I've seen them made out of everything from scrap pallet wood to thirty gallon drums. The wooden hives themselves are shaped like half of a hexagon, the angles just like those of the cells in the hive! The bars themselves have only one critical dimension, and that is the width at 1 and 3/8 inch. Other than that there is not much to it.

There are many resources on beekeeping on the internet, and I would suggest that if you are interested in beekeeping, you do your research. Start with PJ Chandler at Barefoot Beekeeper. He has done quite a bit of work on Top Bar hives and organic, chemical free beekeeping. He also has a free PDF guide available on building Top Bar hives, available here: How to Build a Top Bar Hive.

If I could offer a little advise, try to find an organic beekeeper that will take you under his wing and show you the ropes. It's not difficult to do, but it is nerve wracking at first. You will definitely need a smoker to placate your bees. Learn to handle your bees sans body suit and gloves. You do not need that stuff unless you come upon a hive of nasty bees! In which case you need to get rid of the foul mooded queen, and see what the hive is like a month later, after the worker bees have raised a new monarch. You do need to understand your girls and their temperament. Use a veil when necessary, and safety glasses all the time.

This brings me to the idea of permaculture. I first learned about "Permaculture" when I found the dust covered book, Permaculture - A Designer’s Manual’ by Bill Mollison for a measly dollar ($1.00!) at the local thrift store. It was a little water damaged, but after paging through it, I knew I had found a great reference book. Turns out a lot of other people think it's so great that they are willing to pay quite a bit of money for a copy!

Permaculture is defined as a system of ecological design that allows for sustainability in all activities, whether they be manufacturing, leisure, agricultural or any other endeavor. Permaculture takes into consideration how we interact with the environment. It is a methodology that allows you to build a home that is in tune with your environment, then plan on how you can use your resources to grow food, conserve water, nurture and steward your land. It is a method of land management, but it works within the natural order of things. What I especially like about it is the recognition that we can manipulate some aspects of the environment to improve it. Damaged properties and environments can be fixed if you are willing to look, listen, and put in the work necessary to repair the damage.

I look at the scorched and damaged land that I am surrounded by and creative ideas constantly pop in my head. If for instance, we took this fouled waste water, channeled it through some man made serpentine wetlands, the water on the other end would be clean. It would make sense then to create a reservoir to hold the now clean water. Pipe a line to a watering tank, and he goats and camels can get their fill of clean water making them healthier and happier. So while we are at it, why not plant a grove of filberts or pecan trees? We can run some micro drip irrigation through the wire and down to the trees from the reservoir, and...

Oh wait a minute, that's right I forgot, the herders will allow the goats to eat it all to the ground, the locals will steal the pipes and tubing or will cut the trees down on orders from the Taliban. Maybe they'll just burn it for warmth one night.  There's the possibility that it might create cover and concealment for the insurgents; therefore it becomes a impediment to military operations. Never mind that it might be the beginning of the resuscitation of an environment in its death throes; short term human desires and conflicts make any attempt at progress stillborn.

Afghanistan Wins Again...

Well, most of you aren't in Afghanistan. The question is, what can you do to lessen your impact on your personal environment. Maybe you recycle or pick up trash you come upon. I plant mangrove seedlings that I find in spots that I know will help hold the shore or banks. You might put up a bat box or bluebird nests. I crush the barbs on my fish hooks to prevent damaging a fish's jaw when I release it. Holly bands doves in her neighborhood and Mike reclaims lands damaged by years of neglect. BioBob creates corridors to sustain wildlife and prevent erosion. Rick supplements deer through the leanest parts of the winter. You can do all sorts of things that help sustain and nurture the environment we all depend upon. With the world in the precarious position it is in, self-sufficiency will also require us to mind the environment if we are to survive and prosper.

To learn more about permaculture go to the Permaculture Institute website.

Related Posts:
The Coincidental Beekeeper
What Are You Doing to Help the Environment?

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

Though he spends most of his time writing and keeping the world safe for democracy, Albert Rasch was actually a student of biology. Really. But after a stint as a lab tech performing repetitious and mind-numbing processes that a trained capuchin monkey could do better, he never returned to the field. Rather he became a bartender. As he once said, "Hell, I was feeding mice all sorts of concoctions. At the club I did the same thing; except I got paid a lot better, and the rats where bigger." He has followed the science of QDM for many years, and fancies himself an aficionado. If you have any questions, or just want to get more information, reach him via TheRaschOutdoorChronicles(at)MSN(dot)com.

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Keyword:s Afghanistan, permaculture in Afghanistan, beekeeping in Afghanistan, Afghan beekeeping, Afghan permaculture, permaculture practices in Afghanistan

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bubby and the Big Ass Bass

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
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I just got this a little while ago from home. Sorry about the title, but that's what I got, and I'm just reporting here!

Dearest Dad,

Bubby did not want me to tell you. He does not want you to feel bad or disappointed. But OMG you are going to freak out.

Bubby and I decided we would go fishing in the lake that we walk Charlie around. So we got some things together and went. I fished for a while, then I sat down in the chair with Charlie. Matt was on his way to fish with Blake. (BTW your fishing rod, the new one you bought when you came home on R&R, it stinks. So I threw it away. You can get a new one when you come home again...)

It was very quiet; the lake was like a sheet of glass and it was beautiful. I think it was about 3 or 4 pm, it had just stopped raining maybe 30 min before. I saw Matt walking to us in the distance, and then I heard the sound of Blake's rattle trap rattling.

I looked at the calm lake and I saw a fish dancing on his tail on top of the water. It was a big fish. Just like on TV!

Blake fought and fought, reeling the monster in, rod held high, the best he could. I don't think Blake has ever had to fight a fish like that. I was so excited and I was trying to get to my camera on my phone. (Matt got to see the whole thing.)

Blake said "Mom get the net!" Of course it was all folded up. Phone in one hand, net in the other, I managed to get the net together. Meanwhile Blake is still fighting the fish.

Blake gets the fish right up to the shore. OMG it was a big bass. It was so big that Blake could not pull it up on the shore. I got down to the waters edge OMG this is a big one. No kidding it looked like a ten pounder, but it was probable 7 or 8 pounds, it was huge.

I had the net in the water but now Charlie thought he would help, so he jumped in to the water after the fish. Needless to say, that did not help.

We got Charlie back. Blake could not control the fish, and now the water was all mucky so I could not see the fish. Blake was trying as hard as he could, his rod was bent all the way. I wish you could have been there. The fish kept fighting. Every time Blake would get it close we could see how big it really was.

I was trying to get it in the net, but every time Blake would get it close it would vanish in the murky water. The fish had plenty of fight left in him.

With one more show of his dancing skills on water, he shook the rattle trap free. The fish was so close to us he splashed us and said, "See you suckers!"

I screamed; I could not believe we lost him.

Blake had a smile a mile wide. I could not love him any more than I do. We vowed to fish that lake until we catch that monster.

Well what do you think of that?


What do I think of that?

I'll tell you what I think of that!


What better experience for a young man than to hook into a lunker Largemouth Bass! And to fight him to shore several times, only to lose him to some weak hooks, and still think it's the greatest thing ever, well what does that tell you about that young man? I am pleased as punch and very proud of the sportsman he has become, that's what I think of that.

When Bubby spoke to me he told me that the hooks had straightened out from the weight and strength of the largemouth. As soon as they send me the pictures of the Rattletrap I'll post them.

Now about my new fishing rod...

Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles

Monday, September 27, 2010

Paralyzed Veterans of America: Let's Give a Hand!

© 2010 Albert A Rasch and
The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles
$g&m f9bd 45kd q!?5.

An Easy Way to Help Paralyzed Veterans

Image Credit PVA

I received this via E-mail today and stopped for a moment to let everyone know. Here is a simple way to start your day, right after you check your emails and you will be helping veterans! Had I known sooner I would have had this up when it started!

You can have the opportunity to vote for the Paralyzed Veterans of America in the Pepsi Refresh Project and help them secure funds for the organization.

You can vote once each day, right after you read all the other stuff that is in your inbox!

The offer by Pepsi runs through the end of September for the Paralyzed Veterans of America at

Go ahead and click over there right now, and add it to your favorites for the next week

When the Paralyzed Veterans of America wins, Pepsi's Good Idea organization will donate $250,000 to  Paralyzed Veterans of America that they can use to fund outreach programs for paralyzed vets. The PVA WebSite says "it will use the grants funds to sponsor 50 newly injured or wounded veterans to participate in adaptive sports and recreation programs (including travel, attendant-care and registration expenses); support 33 adaptive sports tournaments around the country; and support 5 adaptive sports instructional clinics."

It's a great and easy opportunity to help those that have given their all. Take a moment and help them out.
Best Regards,
Albert A Rasch
Member:Kandahar Tent Club
Member: Hunting Sportsmen of the United States HSUS (Let 'em sue me.)
The Hunt Continues...

The Rasch Outdoor Chronicles