Recap of My First Safari...
In August of 2011, I won a seven day hunt for two with Hercules Safaris, in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. The hunt, which was donated to the local SCI chapter, was 2x1 and included Blesbok, Black Wildebeest, Impala, Duiker and Bush Pig. I shared the hunt with my friend and neighbor Steve, who would bow hunt. I brought my Savage 30.06 rifle and my girlfriend Jennifer. After a brutal 23 hour flight, we arrived at Johannesburg International airport. We were greeted by Hercules ("Herc")and quickly made our way east to his home in Carolina. Here is how things went...
Waking up on our first morning, we were greeted by overcast skies and temps hovering around the 50 degree mark. After checking the sights on the bow and rifle, we headed back home for breakfast. After breakfast was over, we helped Herc (PH) and David (Tracker) load everything into the Rang Rover and we headed out to the concession. It quickly became clear that much of Mpumalanga was covered in drizzling rain. Fortunately, I had packed a fleece jacket and a ski cap. It did not take long until we were stalking a herd of Blesbok and Black Wildebeest. After slowly crawling through some tree-covered rock outcroppings, we arrived on the other side to find that the BB and WBs had given us the slip. I then noticed a lone Ostrich shadowing us and pointed it out to Jennifer. We took some pics and the PH told me, "If that thing comes at us, put one in its chest." I chuckled and then quickly realized that he was serious. Apparently, the male was guarding a nest and had been acting squirrely the last few days. He ended up shadowing us for the next several stalks. Having an eight foot tall bird follow you around is kinda cool and at the same time, kinda strange.
After the herd of Wildebeest ran off for the next county, we drove off "over the mountain" to see what we could find. The scenery in Mpumalanga is not what I expected of Africa. There were rolling hills, tall mountains and long deep valleys. The grass was sparse and barely made it to my knees. There were an endless amount of rocks and anthills scattered among the landscape as well. It was truly beautiful.
We drove over a knoll and came upon an Oribi. Herc told us that they were quite uncommon and that it was several years since he had last seen one while out hunting. We took some pics of the little guy and went on our way. After about another 100 yards, we ran into another Oribi. Herc was stunned. We ended up seeing four more of them over the course of the day. Needless to say, there was much ribbing directed to Herc over these "supposedly rare" antelope.
We eventually came up to a herd of Black Wildebeest and in BW-like fashion, they quickly ran around a rocky outcropping. Do these things ever sit still? We parked the Range Rover out of sight and started off to close the distance. Picking our way through the rocks and trees was surprisingly difficult, as the only place that cactus and thorn bushes would grow was on these long rock outcroppings. We eventually made it to the end of the outcropping and found the herd of wildebeest looking around the corner trying to catch a glimpse of us. The wind was perfect and they had no idea that we were sitting less than 100 yards away. Herc put up the sticks and I mounted the gun. He glassed the herd and whispered "lekker" under his breath. He pointed out a big bull and told me to take the shot when I was ready. I quickly found the bull in the scope and could not get the crosshairs to settle down! I lifted my head from the rifle and reset my breathing. After doing this three more times, I finally relaxed and squeezed the trigger. The Savage barked and the Wildebeest lunged forward and fell over dead. My first African animal was down. We made our way down the rocks and David went to retrieve the Range Rover. Herc kept saying, lekker, lekker, lekker. He eventually explained that it is an Afrikaans term meaning "sweet" or "very nice". We took some pics and loaded the bull into the back of the Range Rover.
After a few unsuccessful attempts at putting the sneak on some zebra, we came upon a herd of Blesbok. Long story short, after a long stalk, I ended up shooting over the back of a nice ram. I could not believe that I missed a ram at 100 yards. While we walked back to the Range Rover I determined that I should have taken my time and established a better rest on a tree or a rock. Halfway to the truck, we crawled to the edge of some rocks and saw the same group of Blesbok standing in a flat portion of a long valley. Herc glassed the group and told me to shoot the lone ram on the left. I got in a prone position and rested my rifle on a rock. I could not shoot, as the ram was directly facing me. After a minute, the ram turned and started to walk towards the rest of the herd. It quickly became apparent that the ram had a wounded leg, as it walked with a significant limp. I asked Herc if I could have wounded that ram with my previous shot and he shrugged his shoulders and said that he did not think so. I told Herc that I was definitely going to shoot it and would do so as soon as it stopped.
After 30 yards, the ram stopped broadside and I squeezed the trigger. The ram stumbled for ten yards and fell still. We took some pics and loaded the ram on to the back of the Range Rover. While loading the ram, I noticed that it was a ewe. Herc thought I was joking and was surprised when he lifted the leg and saw teats. The "ram's" horns had the deep white ridges that are typical of male Blesbok, but it was missing the requisite hardware on the other end. To say he was surprised was an understatement, as he took several pics of the ewe and its horns. It was quickly determined that I had shot a gimpy transsexual Blesbok.
Back at the house, we ate dinner and I watched David skin the Black Wildebeest and the Blesbok. Both shots were through the heart. I intend to have a shoulder mount of the Wildebeest. The Blesbok will be a rug and European skull mount.
Day two and pics tomorrow...