All I can say about my first safari in South Africa is WOW. I know know what they mean that once you go you have to go again and again. It was a fantastic trip and a great time was had by all the hunters.
I'll forgo the flight experience (very long), firearm transfers, and the firearm permits. Since if you have been there you understand and if you don't plan on going it won't matter. But I will say that if you do go and stay on top of the regulations you should have no problems what so ever.
So now for the stories, enjoy.
My outfitter from Zungah Safaris pick us up at our hotel in Port Elizabeth and off we went headed to his lodge less than 2 hours away. Once there we got settled and then off to the rifle range to check our rifles. My .340 Weatherby shooting 225 grain Barnes TTSX bullets was right where it should be. The other hunter took his turn and had no problems, then a new bee to the hunting world tried one of the PH's rifles. A 308 and she put both of her shots right into the dark at 100 yards. We were ready to go hunting.
The first day started out as they usually do. I met my PH Donny at the lodge and soon was loaded up in his truck and on our way with my tracker. The first animals that we spotted was a small herd of cow kudu standing on the hillside but no bulls. We then headed down a road to see a duiker at the top of the hill but too far to shoot so on we went. Once on top we took a short hike and spotted more kudu with one small bull in the herd but too small to shoot. Then over to the other side of the hill. Once there I spotted 4 gemsbuck in the valley below. Too far for a shot or to even start a stalk so we continued to glass. Soon on of the other hunters in our group came through the valley and headed up the hill. We found out later that they had spotted a herd of gemsbok on the top of the hill and were after them. He did manage to stalk within shooting distance and drop one but that is his story and not mine. We hiked down the hill and over to another small hill and started to glass. We spotted 2 gemsbok that had split off of the herd and came down our way but they were females and today I was after a male. It was nice to see animals that were within range even if I didn't take a shot. We also spotted some redhartebeest but they were not on my mind for a trophy at this time. By now it was time for lunch so we sat down in some shade and had a sandwich and a drink before a quick nap until the afternoon hunt. That afternoon our tracker spotted a small herd of gemsbok in a thicket on the top of a hill. We worked around them and stated to stalk them from downwind but then the wind changed and off they went. We followed them to the other side of the hill where we spotted them just off of the top. They were still moving so there was no shot. They didn't stop until they were 400+ yards away and the bull was standing in a tree. I had my scope on him but then he bolted and was gone. We watched as they headed to the east and up another hill, another score for the animals. We followed them for a ways and then spotted some more working their way down a ridge so quickly the stalk was on. We started at better than 1000 yards away and worked towards them as they came down the ridge. We got within 200 yards of them before they just disappeared. All we could figure was that they were on the other side of the hill or had turned around and headed back up but since is was now close to dark we headed back to the lodge for a drink and a great dinner.
Day two was Sunday and we were told that traditionally they didn't hunt on Sundays so off to Adolf Elephant Park for a tour. There we saw a lot of animals and did enjoy it but we were there to hunt.
Day three found me after a impala. We drove to another farm and checked in and then we were off. Once on the top of the hill we took a hike to a clearing only to see a hunters dream. Animals everywhere. There were more impala than a person could count with a lot of good trophies within range but my PH shook his head and said that we could do better. We hiked about a mile in and all this time I was wondering when the PH was going to say to load and shoot but he never did. We then crossed the fields and were quickly overlooking a small valley with a very nice impala at 400 yards with no way to get closer. Donny set up the shooting sticks and I crawled over to them, sat down and got steadied on his front shoulder aiming a little high due to the range. He turned broadside and I touched the trigger. The rifle went off and so did the impala, I had shot over him. Down into the valley he went and then up to a large herd of females where he slowed down and started to sniff. I guess that he like them more than he was worried about me and my rifle. We backed out and got out of sight and worked our way over and up towards him and his girlfriends. We came around a small bunch of brush and there he was. We were still in a lot of brush so we were able to get set up to get a shot off. I couldn't do it sitting down since there was too much brush between him and me so I had to stand up. Donny got the sticks ready and up I came without being seen and I quickly had the cross hairs on him waiting for him to turn. Shortly after he started to quarter away from me so I figured that now was the time. I touched the trigger and this time I was spot on, he dropped at the shot and was down for good.
First animal down in South Africa and it wasn't even noon yet.
We took the impala down to the farm headquarters for them to process it and then were off to another farm for hopefully a warthog.
We reached the farm and picked up the manager who would go with us. We headed down the road to a piece of property with a lot of grass and meadows in it. The first thing that we saw when we arrived were some kudu standing next to a old farm building and then some blue wildebeest. We parked the truck and took off after them since I had mentioned that I wanted either a blue or black one. We hit the brush and after about a mile we came out on the far side of them and downwind. Donny and the manager crawled into a small depression where they could check them out only to see that there were no real good shooters in the herd, just then a large herd of impala almost ran us over but stayed far enough away that we didn't have to move. This was a great experience just to see this many animals in a retaliative small area. On the way back to the truck we also spotted some zebra along with the herd of blue wildebeest on the far side of the meadow and some blesbuck, and since I was allowed a blesbuck the stalk was on again. We walked around some brush and got onto their far side and worked our way through the brush to within 170 yards where Donny set up the sticks for me to sit down and take the shot. He told me which one to shoot and I took the shot only to have him to take off on a dead run, he stopped 50 yards later so I put another round into him and down he went. Just as I was standing up and shaking Donny's hand the blesbuck stood back up but his nose was on the ground. I started to wonder what I had to do to drop this guy. Since I was now standing Donny put the sticks back up and I was on him and took the third shot. This time the blestbuck was down for the count without needing another shot. Two animals down and most of the afternoon left to hunt. Did I say that I loved this country?
I was still after a warthog or a wildebeest so off we went again. We drove to the top of the hill to the east and then took a hike to where we could watch a large meadow. There were animals all over the place. We had a single blue wildebeest, impala, water bucks, red hartebeest, and quite a few warthogs running around in it. We crawled through the brush to a point were we could watch what was going on and get a shot off but never say any animal worth shooting except for the blue wildebeest but I had by then decided that I wanted a black one instead, I just thought that they looked neat. We sat there until dark and made our way back to the headquarters only to find out that they were in the middle of a blackout so the trackers and skinners took care of the animals while wearing headlamps.
What a day.
Tuesday day four found me after my black wildebeest. We kind of knew where they hung out at so we got into a location where we could glass for them from a long distance, they were there. Donny drove his truck up the hill where they were located on and parked 1000 yards off of them, the stalk was on. We worked one way and found that it wasn't going to work so we backtracked and came in from a different direction. We finally came to a point that there was very little cover so we had my tracker stay behind and we worked our way in on our hands and knees to a location close to 400 yards away and slightly above them. We crawled into a small bush and set up the sticks and started to wait to see if they would come any closer, they did but not much. They then laid down. This lasted for a hour or more before a few of them stood back up and Donny spotted a very good bull in the herd. He ranged it and it was 389 yards and wasn't going to get any closer, but now we had one problem. Bittie our tracker had the shooting sticks and he was over 200 yards to the rear of us. Donny crawled in front of me and pointed to his shoulder. I really didn't want to shoot this way but there was no other way to get it done. I told him that I would tell him when I was going to shoot and then count to three before I pulled the trigger to give him time to put his fingers into his ears and brace himself. My bull was now standing with a slight quarter angle towards us and was feeding. It didn't appear that he was going to turn so I held on the top of his shoulder and just in front of it, told Donny that I was now going to shoot and counted to three and squeezed the trigger. The wildebeest were off and running, Donny put his binoculars on them but couldn't tell just which one was my bull, I worked the action and was back on them but by then they were down the hill. I told Donny that it felt like a good shot and that I was confident that I had hit him. Just then a herd of gemsbuck came down the hill. If I had been ready I may of been able to double up, later I wished that we had. We got up and hiked over to where they had been standing but there was no blood. By now Bitte had caught up with us and he started to look also. Donny went over to the edge of the hill and started to circle down and back towards the crest. Bittie was on the tracks when Donny hollered that he had found him. He had ran about 50 yards before he dropped. We went up to him and made sure that he was dead before Donny headed back to bring the truck back up. I took a look at the blood trail back and it only ran about 30 yards before I couldn't see anymore. I asked Bittie about it and he just shrugged his shoulders since he didn't speak any English and my Dutch/German language course was a very long time ago but between the both of us we could usually figure each other out.
The rest of the day we tried to get onto some gemsbok but the stalks were difficult and when we finally arrived at where they should of been they were gone. Then we spotted the herd of black wildebeest again. Now they were down in the valley in a small meadow and Donny asked me if I wanted to take one of them as a management animal, he didn't have to ask twice. We got into position and using the sticks I dropped and young bull. Donny then told me that Chris the owner of the farm didn't want them on it since they were not breeding like he wanted them to so to shoot all that I wanted. This came too late and the rest of the herd wasn't planning on sticking around and off they went.
Wednesday day 5 found me still looking for quite a few animals but our safari operator had another thing in mind. We were going to go hunting with cheetah's. So it was into the trucks and off to a farm that had two male cheetah's that were going to go out hunting that day. We arrived and were given the instructions on what to expect and what to do. We then drove a short ways to the enclosure where the cheetah's were waiting for us. They let them out and the hunt was on. Now this area was wide open and the cats went where ever they wanted to go. They walked down the road for a ways with 8 of us following. They wandered into the brush and out, up hills to have a look around and then down. At one spot there was a small rodent of some kind about the size of a marrmet her in the US where the rodent was watching us until he realized that there was a cat very close behind him, he quickly left the area. The cheetah's headed up a draw and all of a sudden they were crouched and really hunting. There was a small herd of kudu at the head of the draw that they had seen. They worked their way towards the kudu and then they were off only to be out ran by the kudu in the hilly terrain. They were now on the top of the hill where they laid down in some shade to rest a bit while us humans caught up with them. Once we were all on top and rested a while they were off again. This time down the next draw over and across the road that we had come up on then up another hill. Once on the top of this hill they sat down and began to look things over as we caught up with them. They then started to work their way around a small saddle when we spotted a herd of springbuck on the far hillside. All of us humans sat down in the trees to sit there and watch what was about to happen. After about 20 minutes the chase was on with both cheetah's after a different springbuck. They were quickly around the hill and onto the other side and out of sight. Just then a duiker came over the hill from the opposite direction on a dead run, a eagle was close to getting dinner but missed but what a show. But now back to the cheetah's. We headed the direction that they went and as we got around the hill we spotted them. They both had a springbuck down and were resting after the chase. One was lower on the hill so the handler went up to the cheetah that was up the hill and had a tug a war with the cheetah to get the springbuck away from him, dragging it down to where the other cheetah was beginning to feed where he joined in. He then told us that one springbuck was more than enough for both of the cheetah's and that he would save the second one for later along with what was left over from the first one. We then began to take some pictures while sitting next to them as they fed
What a day? Or have I already said this?
It was now lunchtime for us humans also so they brought the trucks up for us to put on the feed bag. Then it was off for us to hunt springbuck ourselves.
We dove down the road a ways and took a short hike up a hill to sit under a tree as we watched springbuck feed past us. Then Donny spotted a very nice one getting closer but parallel to us. Once he was straight away from us he ranged him and asked me if I could do a 300 yard shot on one of them, I said no problem. We set up the sticks and I followed him in the scope until he stopped, touched the trigger and down he went. It was a little bit over kill using a 225 grain bullet on such a small animal but you use what is in your hands at the time.
Thursday came and I was still 3 animals short of my goal with 3 days to go, this is going to get interesting.
We headed off to another farm for a chance at kudu and a warthog. We picked up a local tracker and headed up into the brush. At the first location we saw quite few warthogs but nothing worth shooting and a few kudu but nothing the impressed Donny so it was off to another location after lunch.
We got the the new location and right off we spotted some kudu on the far far hillside so the stalk/hike was on. We had to travel through the brush since there were also impala, blue wildebeest, and small warthogs in the meadows. We hit the fence line and down it we went and then cut back towards the hill where the kudu were on. Once there all we saw were small bulls and cows......no shooters again. As we headed back to the truck we had a real trophy impala at 10 yards that had no idea that we were there and then the blue wildebeest were right on top of us also as we worked our way to the truck. All kinds of animal but all the wrong ones. When we were about a quarter of a mile away from the truck we took a break to glass the animals, as we did this the local tracker took a hike and spotted a nice kudu across a draw. He came back to us and off we went again. Once up to where we could see him and get a shot the wind changed and the was off, we only say him about 1/2 mile away when he went through a small clearing not offering a shot, so we headed back to the truck. On our way there the trackers spotted a good warthog and I got set up but he never came back out where I could see him so it was back to the truck and home for dinner.
Two days left three animals to go.
Friday we woke up to a fine mist and fog down to the ground, this could be a hard day hunting. Donny truck wasn't running right so we took the bush pig from the safari headquarters. A old diesel Toyota that you had to have special instruction on it to drive it, not to mention how to shut it off. But off we went. We quickly spotted a gemsbuck bull on a hillside. Donny and the tracker got out to check him out but he was very small so off we went again. We headed up onto a hillside where we could glass but didn't see anything but the fog was lifting so we thought about going up onto a bench where some of the gemsbuck like to hang out on but we wanted to glass it first before driving over. We got up high and started to glass and then we spotted them or at least a couple of them so it was off to the truck and up the next hill over. On our way up the hill we couldn't keep the truck in 4low to get up the hill so we parked it and started to hike. It was a good thing because if we had gone any further we may of spooked them since they had moved. We tried to come in from below them only to run out of cover so we had to backtrack down the hill and over a ways. We tried this route only to see that it wasn't any good either so back down the hill and try another route. This one worked, well for a ways it did. We ran into a problem in that we could only get within 600 or 700 yards of them on this route so we went around the side of the hill. Now this normally wouldn't be a problem but this side of the hill was covered with large boulders and other rocks that made going rough. We soon topped out onto a small saddle and began the crawl to some brush 100 yards away. Once there we got set up but the gemsbuck had laid down, all but one of them. We knew that they would get up sooner or later so we waited them out at just over 218 yards away. The one that we could see was making her way to the rest of the herd and then once she got there the rest of them stood up. There was one bull but all I could see of him was his horns and the top of his back. The large female that we had been watching was the only other one that we could take a shot at, then another one stood up and came between us and both the bull and cow. This one was another cow with only one horn, the other one was broken off about 1/4 of the way up so she wasn't a shooter. Finally after about another 30 minutes I decided to take the one cow that we could see all the time as soon as she cleared some brush. She finally stepped into the clear and I took the shot. You guessed it they were off to the races. I got back onto her as quickly as I could only to loose her as she went over a small ridge, so off we went after her.
We got to where she went over and saw her laying down about 150 yards away with her head up. We started to walk closer and when we were about 75 yards away I told Donny that I wanted to finish her but he said that we needed to get a little bit closer for the shot, the next step she was up and running and lead was starting to fly. As she ran broadside to us I managed to get 2 more shots into here but she was going strong until she got to a tree about 150 yards away where she stopped and stood under it. We now got the sticks set up and I took another shot which dropped her where she was standing. When all was done I had taken 9 shots with 4 of them hitting her before she dropped. We walked up to her and found that I wasn't going to have to go back to the truck for more ammo, I had two bullets left if they were needed.
We were now about a mile away from the truck which we couldn't get to come up the hill so Donny radioed the lodge for some help. We then sat down and tried to figure out what had happened as we dried our soaked socks on some brush as the sun came out. A hour or so later we spotted the rest of the skinners headed our way in a Landcrusier. They stopped and hopped in the truck and drove it up the hill the rest of the ways to us, then after pictures and dragging her over to the truck they showed Donny how to keep the truck in low range. They used a piece of bailing twine to tie it in so that it wouldn't pop out. So down the hill and to the lodge for lunch and to try and figure out what to do about my kudu and warthog.
That afternoon we headed to a new location where others had spotted some bulls the previous day. We parked the truck and took a hike but all we saw were small bulls and a dozen or more giraffs feeding in the trees and a few impala along with some blue wildebeest.
I was up against it for my final day.
Saturday was here and all resources were with me. I had Donny my PH, Chris the owner of the safari operation, two different trackers and Rob who was finished hunting but wanted some management animals. We headed down to a new farm and talked to the owner who told us where we might find some animals. So down the road we went to a small draw were we got out and took a hike. Shortly after we started we spotted some kudu, and yes you guess it small bulls, I was starting to wonder. We went back to the truck were we met up with Chris and Rob and headed to another location. At this location we all took a hike together. It must of looks like a safari of old, two hunters, two PH's, and two trackers with one dog, Chester. Once on top of a small hill we again spotted some kudu with a small shooter in it which we passed on. We hiked further down this ridge where we spotted a better bull. Chris wanted for me to shoot this one but Donny said NO and that we could do better. They argued a bit but Donny won out. We hiked further down the ridge where Donny motioned for all of us to get down. We dropped down and waited for his instructions for me to come up which he quickly did with Rob and the trackers left behind. We glassed this bull for a few minutes and Donny told me to load the rifle and to get ready, but then the bull started to walk down the ridge that he was on and further away. The three of us started to follow him on our ridge. About 75 yards later Donny and Chris dropped down on all fours and crawled into a bush, Chris came out and motioned for me to come in which I did. They said that there was a good bull just across the way in the brush. We then made our way up under a tree in the shade and behind a bush where we sat down and got set up. I found the bull but all I could see were his legs and body but not his head. They said that he was a good one but I told them that I wasn't going to shoot until I could see the horns just to make sure. I now had the cross hairs on this bulls shoulder but I waited, and waited, and waited. About 45 minutes later he turned around and lowered his head to where I could see his horns, but now his body was covered by a tree. What am I going to have to do to shoot a kudu???????? Just then he laid down. Now all I could see was his horns, nose, and the top of his back, another 90 minutes of waiting was going to happen. I couldn't tell you how many pretend shots that I took on this animal but it was a lot. Then Donny spotted a cow coming up from below him and some cows moving above him, we figured that it wasn't going to take long now. Then Donny and Chris both said not to shoot him but there was a better one following the cows. Now I didn't want to take the rifle off of this one but I had to in order to see the other one. Then I say him or should I say his horns, they were above the brush as he made his way after that cow. He went up the hill and then down the hill all the time in the brush with only his horns showing. Then the cow broke into the open and then there he was but there wasn't a shot yet, they he turned broadside. I still don't remember pulling the trigger but I remember the boom and then a long wait until we heard the whoomp. I worked the bolt as fast as I could and tried to get back onto him, by then Chris was saying that he was wobbly and then that he was down. My kudu was down.
Donny and I headed over to him with Rob following behind. He had no idea of what was going on but figured that he had better stay put until he heard a shot or we came back. Lionel another tracker had came up from the bottom and found the kudu first before Donny, Rob and I got there. Once there all they did was whistle and say very nice kudu. Now we waited for Chris to bring the truck around and bring the cameras. When he got there he was also impressed and asked me if the wait was worth it and my grin told him the answer.
After this I forgot about my warthog, there was no place close to hunt them and I really didn't want to travel a couple of hours to hunt a hour before dark so we loaded up my kudu and headed back to the farms headquarters. The owner came out and said that it was one of the best kudus that he has see come off of it.
I think that the wait was worth it.
This hunt was with Zungah Safari's with Chris Bolton being the owner. All the hunts were fair chase. No waterholes were sat on or feeders placed to draw in the animals. The gemsbok and wildebeest were shot on the top of the hills, you couldn't get much higher. I didn't know if I was hunting elk or mountain goats at times. The food was fantastic and if you went away hungry it was your problem. I would have to give this operation a 10 out of a 10 on a rating scale and when I go back it will be back with Chris.
To end up I would like to thank Mr. hunt4duck for seeing my conversation that I was having with another member and inviting me on this hunt. It was fairly short notice (last July) but we got it taken care of and the group that I was with was fantastic. Also Arrowflipper, while he may not frequent this forum as much as he used to he gave me some great suggestions on what had to be done before and after the hunt.
But for now the wait begins for my trophies. They are suppose to be shipped from South Africa this coming July so they should be in the states by August or early September and at the tannery before going to the taxidermist. So hopefully next year sometime I should see some finished mounts in my hunting room.