Rodger Raglin ran a video-making outfit called BKS productions. Or at least he did until I killed him. He and I were the best of buddies once, No more. Now he’s dead and I’m counting time.
It all started when David Gumucio, who was then head of White Shooting Systems, a corporation named after me that made the muzzleloading guns that I designed, came up with the bright idea of going to Africa. I dunno, maybe it was Raglin’s idea. anyway, between the two of them, I found myself esconced in a big jet airplane winging over the Atlantic towards Africa.
Roger Raglin with White Whitetail rifle and Zebra
Somehow, Raglin had wangled us into business class, real comfortable, except that Raglin couldn’t keep a cigarette out of his mouth. and me halfway allergic to the damned things. I won’t let anybody smoke in my house, let alone my medical office.
I was assigned a seat right next to him, but halfway through the night, I shifted to another seat on the far side of the plane. I woke up once in the night and there he was, cigarette glowing in the dark, puffing in the middle of the night. Count one.
About a day later we arrived in Jo’Berg, South Africa. Then took a commuter flight in something that resembled an antique DC-3, except it had jet engines, to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Used to be Rhodesia, named after Cecil Rhodes, until the blacks chased the whites mostly out and renamed it.
We were picked up there by our outfitter, a guy who Raglin had hunted with before, and drove half a day to a beautiful thatch roofed camp near the Zambezi river, which runs into Lake Kariba, which was full of crocodiles.
Beautiful thatched roof African shacks. Left: Outside. Right My PH, Mark, inside in the cool.
We dudes were quartered in thick walled tents, nice beds with mosquito netting, although we didn’t need it at that time of the year. The camp lay just above the river on a cliff, with hippo country down below. All night you could hear them down there- clomp, clomp, clomp, steadily chunking down grass as they fed. Once in a while some animal would scream, sometimes ending in a in a dying gurgle. Yup, this was Africa.
Next day, right out of the box, we were hunting. I went after buffalo. While I was after buffalo, Raglin killed a crocodile, a hippo, and some small stuff. He always took the cameraman with him. As if he were the hero. Don’t know where it came from, but somehow I had the idea that since White Systems was paying the tab, that the story would feature not only the White rifles, but also the White hunters. Nope, wasn’t to be. The cameraman stayed with Raglin the whole time. Count two
I will admit that the camera followed me after buffalo once. The blacks had located a herd pretty close. We stalked into the herd, a small one of only 10-12 animals, and found a respectable bull. Snuck up on him to within 30 yards, camera right behind. I and white hunter, he armed with 450 Watts, me armed with Super-91, 140 grains Pyrodex and 600 grain bullet. With camera rolling, being a smart ass, I tried offhand for behind the bull’s ear. Figured I’d make it look really good on camera. The bullet hit the bull in the horn and he ran off unhurt. Back off half a count for Raglin. The count is now only 1 2 out of three.
A few days later, white hunter and I lucked into a herd of 300. Hard to hunt in that big a herd. walked right into a wounded cow with calf. That even scared the black tracker, who usually wasn’t afraid of anything. Later, after circling the herd about twice, we found ourselves smack in the middle of it. We let them graze past, picked the biggest bull and I popped him head on in the chest. The bull ‘s front legs came off the ground about 6 inches, he whirled around two or three times then fell over and never got up. After he bellowed, they always bellow as they die, we went up and I spined him just to make sure he wouldn’t get up on us
|Doc and Cape Buffalo, just middle sized but touph and mean.|
Went back to camp, expecting adulation and congratulations and ended up in the middle of a fight between Gumby and Raglin over who was having too much fun.
Gumby had killed a hippo with a 45 caliber Whitetail, and Raglin was mad because he was wasting money on hunting instead of on camera work. I wanted to know why the camera hadn’t been on Gumby. This is where I finally learned that Raglin intended to star in the video, come hell or high water. Another count. Now it’s two and a half.
Gumby and his Hippo. Gumby weighs in at near 400 lbs, the Hippo was easy ten times bigger, damn near as big as a Volkswagon.
Gumby killed a buffalo next day, and I got a middle sized Impala with a 120 yard shot, then we left for a camp in the southern end of the country. Took all day driving on the wrong side over horrible Zimbabwean roads to get there. I rode with my white hunter. He had fought in the war between the whites and blacks and had a story of ambush and destruction for every turn in the road and every hill we passed.
A pretty good Impala. Impala chops are the best meat in the world, even better than wild sheep. Leopards love them. Me, too.
|A pretty good Impala. Impala chops are the best meat in the world, even better than wild sheep. Leopards love them. Me, too.|
The southern country was rich with plains game. I had always wanted a Kudu and they were here in abundance. Lots of near 60 inchers. I had given up on the camera by this time and was determined to hunt without. At least I could hunt. The camera was a pain anyway. The monster took two minutes to warm up. I’d already had the experience of walking up to within 50 yards, excellent muzzleloader range, of a big Kudu, only to lose it waiting for the camera. It just got tired of waiting around and took off.
This time we had found a good sized herd of bulls. There was one in it that would easily go 60 inches. He was gorgeous. Just as we were in the final stages of the hunt, planning our stalk, up comes Raglin with cameraman and horns in on the action.
Next thing I know, I’m kneeling in the grass, which is hard for me because of my left knee, ruined in a football game years ago, waiting for Director and Cameraman to finish pre-roll. The Kudu are out there about 200 yards, still a good shot for the scoped Super-91 muzzleloader that I’m carrying. I’m confident I can kill the bull. Done it before, even further.
I wait for the signal, and wait some more. I glance up and around at Raglin but all I get is a hiss. The sweat is running down my face and the bugs are swimming around in the sweat. The rifle now weighs 400 lbs.
|A pretty good Impala. Impala chops are the best meat in the world, even better than wild sheep. Leopards love them. Me, too.|
More pre-roll, Raglin so fascinated with the beauty of the day and the animal that he can’t remember that we came here to kill it.
I look around and mutter. My knee is killing me. The gun weighs 1550 lbs and is getting heavier every minute. Now the bugs are biting.
Suddenly the Kudu looks around, decides he’s had enough, after all there is a hunter, a director, a cameraman, a tracker and a handful of kibitzers watching the action. He says, “Hey, that white guy has a gun. I’m getting out of here”, and away he goes. Kudu move like elk. He was gone in a flash.
Raglin screams,”why didn’t you shoot? I was on him and you didn’t shoot”
That was enough. The count was already up to 2 2 and that made about 4 minimum. All the rage and anger over this whole mucked up affair came rushing to the fore. I grabbed Raglin by the neck and shook him like big dog shakes a puppy. His eyes bugged out. Hands were grabbing at me, trying to get me to let go. I used my elbows to bat them away. This time I had him and had him good. his face was turning purple….
Suddenly I was awake, the coolness of the African night bringing me into startling awareness of where I was. The moon was out, and occasional screams and cries pierced the African night.
I wiped the sweat off my face and rolled over. Somehow I was going to have to conquer this thing about Rodger Raglin. Hunting with a video camera certainly wasn’t fun. It was more like frustration, personified. After a bit. I cooled off and finally went back to sleep.
The southern camp was very pleasant, actually the home (read that plantation) of the outfitter. There were blacks all over the place, some in the fields were they worked in scenes reminiscent of “Gone with the Wind”, some as house servants. They appeared to be poorly paid and poorly motivated. The hunting hands, however, were an enthusiastic bunch and worked hard for us.
The ‘black gang’ as they called themselves (in Portuguese). They were excellent woodsmen, terrific trackers, and were right proud of their skill.
|Doc and a Zebra stallion, collected with a 200 plus yard shot using 140 grains Pyrodex and a 600 grain SuperSlug, with a hold about 4 inches over his back.|
The next few days we spent hunting Zebra and Wildebeest. Everyone got one. Raglin got his on camera, of course. My zebra was a big male that we couldn’t get any closer to than 200 yards. He was out in the grasslands, nothing to hide behind. The herd he was in could see everything we were doing and they were used to being hunted. When we got close enough to be what they figured was a risk, they would flick their tails and dash off a few hundred yards. This went on all day. Finally, I took a shot from 250 yards, holding a foot over the stallion’s back, putting a big bullet through his lungs. He went down after about 50 yards.
The wildebeest were even crazier. They would dash this way and that, grab a few bites and dash away again. They didn’t stay long in any one place. The white hunter said this was a defense tactic. Wouldn’t you stay on the move if every cat and dog in the country wanted to eat you?
|Doc and PH Mark with Wildebeest. These animals act crazy, dashing this way and that, tails in the air, never still. They graze on the run. Mark says its a defense machanism. Everything eats them.|
We finally got in head of them and waited in ambush until they came by. The PH picked a good bull from the herd and I busted him at about 150 yards. He wasn’t huge, just good and ugly. There isn’t an ungulate alive uglier than a wildebeest.
One of the highlights of the trip was hunting giraffe. It was like hunting dinosaurs. They are so tall they can see forever. We had to wait until they got into some trees then sneak up on them. I got mine from about 50 yards. I used the heavy 54 cal double rifle that I’d built for the trip, hitting the bull in the heart with the 750 grain SuperSlug in front of 200 grains of Pyrodex. Despite the good hit, the bull went 800 yards up a hill, then all the way back down. I put another shot in the same place and he went down for good, a big black bull. Neither bullet went all the way through, This animals hide was an inch thick over the shoulders, with big heavy bones underneath.
It’s like hunting dinasours. Thay are so tall they can see for miles and they run like the wind. Looks ungainly but is fast enough to escape a lion if they have a bit of head start. Their hide is an inch thick over the shoulders. I used my 54 caliber side by side double rifle.
I also lucked into a bushpig, a relatively rare critter that most hunters never get to see. The black tracker was scared to death of him. The PH said that this is one pig that won’t just charge past, but will turn and go at you again and again until he has you down and gutted. Fortunately, a single shot did the job.
We had been hunting Eland at the time. These moose size antelope run in herds in the thick bush. Despite their size, they are hard to see and hard to find. ‘Sneaky’ describes them real well. We were driving in the Land Rover down a rutty road on the way to hunt them when we ran into a herd. There was a big bull with them. I bailed out, came to a kneel and tried a hurried shot. They were already moving, getting out of there. The bullet hit high on the bulls chest with a solid ‘WOP’. The bull peeled off from the herd as they ran past, and disappeared in some light brush and high grass. He didn=t come out the other side.
We gave him a half hour to settle down then went in after him. No luck, wasn’t there. We went through the brush again. Again no luck. We did it a third time, this time with the tracker following the track and us coming along slowly, waiting for him to jump. The tracker lost the track and that ended that.
|This the Livingston’s variety of Eland. The Greater Eland is bigger and the Cape Eland smaller. All act like whitetail in the woods and can jump an eight foot fence.|
Finally we gave up. We spent half the day trying to find the bull. We turned back towards the Land Rover, now not in a widespread line but a gaggle of hunters moseying along. Half way there, the bull burst out of a patch of grass that wouldn’t hide a jackrabbit. I lucked in a good shot, as did the PH with his 450 Watts. (I was still using the super 91, 504 cal with 600 grain bullet.) That consarned critter, big as he was, had snuck around us, must have been on his belly, and was about to get away. If we hadn’t turned back to the truck, he would have been shortly gone.
The next several days saw Rodger Raglin hunting buffalo. He wanted to get a big one with my 54 double rifle. After shooting my buffalo, I had experimented with the load, trying it against ribs alone and then against shoulder joint, shoulder blade and ribs, The purely rib shot did well, penetrating all the way across the chest and into the ribs on the other side. The shoulder joint-shoulder blade-rib shot did not do near as well. The joint proved to be a huge hard bone, and it slowed the soft lead bullet down enough that penetration was limited to the heart and barely into the opposite lung.
I recommended to Rodger that he avoid putting a bullet into that hard bone. Since the buffalo’s heart lies forward and low, smack behind the ball joint and short humerus, which is also thick and hard, he would have to shoot carefully to get the bullet into the vitals effectively.
The trackers found a big bull in the middle of a herd of 60-70 animals not far from camp. The whole gang went to see this affair. Two cameras went along, one with Rodger and one for an independent view.
Big Cape buffalo grazing in the deep grass. Raglin and cameraman crept up to within 15 yards of this beast for the shot.
We found the herd eating head down in the hip high yellow buffalo grass. This made the stalk easy. The wind was blowing a little, rustling the grass. Between the wind, grass, and chewing, the bulls couldn’t hear a thing. And they didn’t look up often either.
We approached from downwind. The two cameramen separated so they would have 90 degree angle shots. The bull turned just right for a heart shot at 15 yards. Rodger eared back the hammer and shot the bull right in the ball joint of the shoulder. The heavy bullet shattered the heavy bones of the shoulder all right, but it didn’t down the bull. Instead, he threw up his head, saw the other camera crew and charged. The big bullet had centered his heart, he was going down, but he didn’t know it yet.
Here he came, bucking and jumping with his right front leg flapping with the effort. He was still making fast time on three legs.
I was standing with my PH off to the left side of the camera crew. Gumby was acting as grip. I had my 416 Taylor up and on the bull in a trice, just in time to see a black head in the scope. But it wasn’t the bull, it was a tracker running from left to right across my field of view. My finger had been on the trigger and I was pulling for the shot when he flashed into view. I don’t know what he was thinking, he couldn’t explain his actions after it was all over, whether it was panic taking him into the field of fire or whether he was trying to distract the bull and pull him off of us, rodeo bullfighter style.
By the time I let up on the trigger stroke and was again pulling, the bull was going down. Rodger had put in another shot from the other barrel. The PH’s gun had boomed, the air was full of crashing shots.
Roger Raglin and cameraman Andy Schlostus with 40 inch buffalo. Rager is carrying the double 54 caliber percussion rifle that I made for the hunt. It throws a 750 grain SuperSlug over 200 grains Pyrodex.
The bull rolled to within a few feet of the camera. Andy kept the camera right on him, the final cuts showing the bull’s head tumbling into view as he fell into the dust. Then, and only then, Andy looked around the camera to get the whole picture. When he saw how close the bull was, he turned a sickly green and Gumby led him over to a nearby tree to sit down. He looked a little shaky. I didn’t blame him. Nor could I not admire his professionalism, holding that charging bull in the camera until it fell at his feet.
The unsung hero of the buffalo hunt. He kept the lens on the buffalo as it rolled to his feet. It staggered him a little to find it so close once he took his eye away from the camera. Still, his professionalism was superb. We should all be so dedicated.
I was later to be awfully glad that I hadn’t accidentally plugged that black tracker. A few days later, most of the shooting over, we were chasing some Kudu bulls. They were running in a huge field while we were driving along a fence line.
I was standing high in the back of the Land Rover, trying to get a good look, when there was a tremendous tug on the back of my pants, nearly putting me on my back. Something hit my cap and it went flying. I recovered to see the black tracker grinning foolishly, as if he had committed some big faux-paux, only to see a tall gate with a tightly strung wire between the uprights rapidly receding in the distance. He had jerked me down just in time to miss the wire but get my hat. I thanked him solemnly. I could have left my head in the dust back there but for him.
Another day later and we were on our way back to civilization, if you can call Wash. DC civilized. The flight was uneventful, the entry process a boor and the flight and drive back to SLC and then home decidedly anticlimactic.
Well, I didn’t kill Rodger Raglin after all. Wanted to. Still, didn’t do it. In spite of all the problems, his as well as mine, we still get along like old long lost friends. He’s still the hero of his own videos. I still design guns for him to use on occasion. He does pretty well on his end. I hope I do as good on mine. Maybe that’s the way it should be. That old African video is still around, it was on the Outdoor Channel just the other day, again.
One thing for sure. Video making isn’t hunting. It’s one or the other. It’s damned hard to do both. Either endure the work to make the video or go hunting and enjoy it. But both at the same time doesn’t work, although at times it can be decidedly exciting.
Doc and the three of the four rifles he took to Africa, a Sporting Rifle, Super 91 and Super Safari, from left to right. The other was the double rifle Roger used on the Cape Buffalo.