Hunting with HUNT the SUN of South Africa
In 2012 My wife and I were lucky enough to take our first Bowhunt to South Africa. It was a fantastic trip and our Outfitter, Mike Birch of HUNT THE SUN has a great operation. We flew from Sacramento to New York and on to JoBurg and to Kimberly, SA where we were met by Mike.
We arrived in early afternoon and were transported to the IMBASA lodge where we were to spend Part of our 10 day stay. When we reached Imbasa we were greeted to a hot towel and champagne welcome and tour of the Lodge. The first thing my wife said, "We'er in Paradise". I could have not agreed with her more. We were the last guests of the hunting season so we had the place to our selves. The accommodations were impeccable. The staff treated my wife and I as though we were royalty. They were at our beck and call during our entire stay. We had a luxurious room with hot running water, air conditioning, private bath and toilet and next to our room was the Sauna and outside swimming pool. Next to the pool is an outdoor bar and Baari (BBQ). The main Lodge has a pool table, Satellite TV, Breakfast area, dinning room, and library.
Each day we were treated to three scrumptious meals, laundry service and housekeeping, snacks and unlimited access to the kitchen (24 Hrs). Mike sent us a survey months b4 we arrived to get an idea of what we liked to eat/drink and did his best to have them for us.
My wife does not hunt so Mike arranged to have Leon, one of his trackers, take her out each day to some of the nearby game Preserves for site seeing and nature walks. She was also able to visit local museums in Kimberley and take pictures of petroglyphs in the surrounding area.
At Imbasa Lodge and surrounding area roam various plains game such as SpringBuck, Impala, Red Hartebeest, Sable antelope that can be seen at various times of the day. One evening, Mike set up a special Sunset Dinner for just my wife and I out on the veldt overlooking a magnificent valley. We ate , drank and watched the sun set under a red sky. It was a real romantic experience.
My PH Evert and tracker Paul were my trusty guides for the entire stay. Each day was tailored around my list of plains game I wanted to hunt.
The first day of bowhunting found me sitting in a blind about 1 or 2 miles from the lodge with my PH, Evert. I was shooting a Fred Bear TD recurve at 65# that I short draw to about 59#. I make my own arrows with Easton 2212 aluminum shafts, 100 grain Magnus 2 blade BHs, and 3 Goose feather 5" fletching with Easton uni nocks. The arrows weight 480-500 grains.
Evert and I sat in that blind from about 10am to some time before dusk and saw many different game come to water throughout the day. At one point a monkey (what species I do not know) came in to drink and just about made it to the water hole when it suddenly stopped and started screaming its head off. Must have sensed something was wrong but couldn't pinpoint our presence. It scrambled back to a tree branch and screamed its bloody head off for quite a while and scared off game after game that was attempting to come in. At one point I wanted to quiet it myself, but finally he scampered off leaving our blind in peace and tranquility.
I really thought that would end our hunt for the day. But since there was still quite a bit of daylight left and Evert had not seemed a bit disturbed about what had transpired, we sat it out.
Just around 4 or 5 pm game started to trickle back in as it had been a very hot day. Soon Evert noticed a herd of Kudu we had seen earlier coming to water. I readied my bow, knocked an arrow and waited. One by one the kudu came in cautiously and deliberately as most game does at waterholes. First were the female and young bulls. Then I saw a bull that had a wide set of horns but not quite the full three curls of a mature adult. To my untrained eyes I thought this was a good enough trophy for this little trad bowhunter. But to my chagrin Evert said "don't shoot !!!" He then sat down at the back of the blind. I turned at that moment and asked, "why can't I shoot him". "He's too young" is all Evert said. Then he told me there was another more mature bull yet to appear. As I turned back to peer thru the slit cut in the camouflage netting the bull stepped into view and peered right into the blind.
Well I can tell you what a thrill it was to see his magnificent spiraling horns as he slowly started to approach the water broadside. Just behind him though, was a cow Kudu. Evert said "wait till she moves out of the way before you shoot in case of a pass thru". As soon as he ended that statement the cow stepped out from behind the bull. That left me a clear shot with plenty of room behind.
I waited till the bull turned his head away from the blind then drew, anchored, and loosed a perfect arrow into the center pocket of the kill zone. All hell broke loose as the herd scattered back from whence they came, my bull in hot pursuit. I could see the arrow embedded deep into his vitals as he ran out of sight. Evert watched thru his binoculars as they ran out onto the savanna. He watched them for a while longer as I tried to compose myself and contain my emotions. "He's down" Evert said, bringing me back to some sort of normalcy .
We exited the blind and headed in the direction of the downed Kudu. He was magnificent, a dream come true for me as he was one of the main reasons for my trip. We found the back half of my arrow some 100 yds from the blind, broken in half and covered with blood. The bull had a mark on his shoulder were the hair was recently missing. Evert said that was because the bull ran into a tree shortly before he fell, at about 200 yds. We just smiled and admired this magnificent trophy.
Evert called back to camp for the trackers and skinners. My wife was back in camp and she came in too. After dressing out the bull and taking pictures we loaded my trophy onto Everts pickup and drove back to the Lodge.
What an experience, and on the very first day. Well, my nerves were still reeling as Peter, our server, poured me a nice ice cold MGD with ice and a lemon. ( I am kind of funny that way, ice and a lemon with my beer)
We all sat around the campfire relishing in the experience and enjoying what had transpired. The fire was lit and the grill prepared for our first African BBQ of kudu steak as the sun set on our day. WOW this is bowhunting Heaven.
A Dream Fulfilled
The story of the Wildebeest happened a little different than the Kudu? Buy the third day we had moved around to other blinds as Evert does not like to use the same one twice in a row, to let things settle down. (Though, that did not seem to matter as the weather conditions were perfect for sitting at waterholes. The days were very hot.)
I had not had any opportunity for game I wanted to shoot, though we saw animals at every blind. Zebra (would not come in), Ostrich, Warthog (small), Sable, Roan antelope, Tortoise (they are funny to watch), Red Hartebeest, Tsessebe, etc.
On day four we got in our blind in late morning and by mid afternoon game started to arrive. A herd of Wildebeest came to drink. First there were many young and pregnant females. We watched them for a long time as they milled around grazing and butting each other. Every once in a while one would spook for seemingly no good reason as the wind was in our favor and we were very quiet. I had some cover scent (skunk) that was in my backpack from previous hunts, so we were using it at each blind. It did seem to help. But these Wildebeest are just goofy animals.
Eventually the heard would meander back and bring in some more stragglers. This time Evert noticed a really nice bull at the edge of the herd. His face lit up as he motioned to me that this was a really nice old bull with great horns. That indicated he wanted me to shoot that one. ( At Imbasa they like to manage the game species by only taking out mature animals, thus insuring quality trophies are available to harvest. This practice also translates to perpetuating a good gene pool.)
I was ready, or so I thought, when the bull came in for a drink and Evert gave me the nod. Unfortunately to my utter dismay the arrow struck High and forward of the vitals. I was really upset at myself as the shot on the Kudu was placed perfectly. Now, I am not making any excuses but perhaps the excitement and adrenalin just got to me and I did not make a clean release. ( S**t happens when your hunting!!!) Now that I look back on that day, I was lucky to have a great PH like Evert and a great tracker like Paul. When the herd peeled out after the shot, my heart sunk as I watched the bull take off with the others. We exited the blind as Evert called in Paul. We found my broken arrow near the edge of the clearing outside the blind. About six to eight inches was missing from the front end of the arrow and there was much red blood on the shaft which indicated that I might have hit an artery. I sure was hoping so.
When Paul arrived Evert spoke to him in Afrikaans, which is a local language that to me sounds a little like Pig Latin (very little) and (maybe Dutch/German). Anyway, I knew this was going to be a really difficult tracking job as these wildebeest I am told, are strong and hard to put down even with a good shot placement.
Well, with the truck secured we were off. I was pretty much silent during the tracking but Paul was on the tracks of the herd right away. He found blood immediately on the dry dusty red savanna ground. We followed the herd for quite a while when Evert spotted them out ahead of us. They were off and running to our left as Evert intently glassed for my wounded bull. He was still not sure it was with the herd, so we continued to follow the tracks in the dirt looking for any blood trail. At one point Evert turned to me a said things were not looking too good as the blood trail was lessening. We continued on, moving as fast as we could to keep the pressure up. ( Evert told me later that under the circumstances that was his best option.) He turned out to be 100% correct. You see, as we pushed on, Paul started to see more and more blood with many pools at various distances. Then, again Evert spotted the herd ahead, this time he got a good look but did not see my bull. Now to find where the bull left the herd. ( I was told that when a Wildebeest or any game for that matter leave the safety of the herd they are most likely hit pretty hard.) Just a little further and Paul picked up a tiny spot of blood on some thin grass and we found tracks going off in the opposite direction of the rest of the herd. That's what Evert was hoping for. He turned to me and smiled as we headed off at a quick pace toward our goal.
We followed his spoor for about a mile seeing glimpses of him on occasion, stopped under a tree or glancing back at us then taking off again. We came to a dirt road where we stopped to rest and Evert had Paul take a shortcut back to get the truck and some water to quench our thirst as the day was heating up. While we waited for Paul to return we moved under a tree to get out of the beating sun. I could see Evert was excited and he told me how much he enjoyed hunting and the pursuit of game. We were standing next to a tree limb and he saw that at the very tip was a well camouflaged locust looking insect hanging on. We both noticed how his surface matched the limb bark pattern exactly which made him just about invisible. He was huge compared to any grasshopper/locust I ever saw here in the states. It must have been 5 to 6" long. I would hate to see a swarm of them coming across the veldt.
As we talked some more I saw that Evert was more confident that we would retrieve this bull. ( Not so, earlier?. )
When Paul got back we quenched our thirst and slowed our pace a little as Evert and Paul thought this was the time to let off on the pressure and give him some time to bed down as the blood we were now following was pouring out in a line of about two or three feet at a time, so it was quite easy to follow. (Evidently, as I hoped, he was hit in an artery [subclavian artery/vein near the arch of the aorta] that runs from the heart to follow a line just above his shoulder blade and under the Oesophagus.) As we slowly moved on leaving the truck at the road, the blood trail showed more patches of red blood as he traveled thru some steep draws on his way thru the savanna.
We hadn't gone very fare from the road, perhaps a half mile or so when Evert stopped suddenly. Paul then pointed to a tree ahead and to our right about 50 to 100 yds away. There bedded down under a Acacia tree was my bull. At that point I did not want to chance him bolting off again if I tried a stalk to get into bow range. I felt it was our obligation to hasten his demise as quickly as possible. So, when Evert asked if i wanted to use his 300 Win Mag to put him down for good, I took the offer. His gun was sighted in for 200 yds point blank. He was closer than that quartering away so I held a little low and just back of his last rib. I squeezed the trigger and he fell over in a heap. I can say I was disappointed not to have a clean bow kill but I know I did the right thing that day.
When we got to the bull it was obvious he was old and mature, with a fine set of horns and thick bosses. His teeth were warn down to the gums. We examined the arrow wound to see that he did not have long to go before he expired, even without the gunshot. I was very very happy with this trophy Wildebeest. We took pictures and Paul went to work on the dressing and bringing the truck close enough so we could (the 3 of us) lift him into the bed for the trip back to Imbasa.
I have heard many stories about the superior tracking ability of the PH and Trackers in Africa. This day I saw first had how true that is. It was amazing to be part of the experience first hand.
A nice mature bull
View from blind
If anyone would like more info contact me.