SOUTH AFRICA: Hunting Kwalata - first time in Africa
Well I never thought I would go to Africa, I just started hunting 3 years ago. My wife just finished her Masters and we decided to go to Africa. I told her I would go If I can hunt (She also likes to hunt). I was not sure we could afford the hunt but then got in the mail a coupon to visit Africa from CostCo of all places. The price was half as much as I thought.
As fate would have it, that same day I saw Colorado Buck's show about hunting in Africa at a place called Kwalata. So I contacted them. Jaco Strauss, my PH, got back to me with pricing on a plains game hunt. I then realized that I could hunt 5 plains game for the same price as 1 ELK out west and I didn't have to do the drawl. It was a no brainer for me - minus the thought of that very long flight.
Jaco gave us the best time of year to come and that is September. As it turns out, we were the only one's there in camp that week. I do use the term "camp" loosely because it was more like a hotel and it seemed like we had a private staff of 12 or more just for us. It was a great experience over all and after 2 weeks it was more like leaving family then leaving a hunting camp or hotel.
One thing I learned from my first hunting outfitter was to get references and I did. I also joined SCI and went to a few meeting which was great because many of them knew and hunted with Jaco both at Kwalata and other places in Africa. It was also great because I learned so much about the trip and what to be prepared for - as much as you can.
I can't say enough about this and will probably write more about each hunt but. But our first night was amazing because we saw kudu and Wart Hogs eating about 20 yards outside our room.
The first full day we were exhausted but we went to the range sighted in our gun and went out to get a kudu - the first thing on my list. This was not included in my package but I really wanted one. Of course if we saw something else, we would go for it. We spotted lots of animals but not a kudu in the morning. We came back for lunch, took a much needed nap and went out again. The second half of the day was awesome. If you want the type of hunt where you just shoot of the back of a truck then you don't want to hunt with Jaco. It is a physical hunt. We drove to the top of some hills, got out, left our packs and started walking the mountains (so much for flat plains game). The tracker, Willie - best eyes ever, stayed in the jeep. We hiked for a few hours and saw a kudu on top of the next mountain. He had his head back and we didn't think he was a shooter. We walk down that hill and around to the other side and back. We were total exhausted (some from jet lad but mostly as we learned later the altitude), dripping with sweat and you can see that in the picture. Jaco turned to me and said, we should get off this mountain because it is going to get dark really fast.
Just as he said that we turned and saw the kudu who had been watching us for the last few hours. Only now he was looking down at us from 350 yards away and we all noticed he was a shooter. As I said, I had only been hunting for 3 year and my longest shot was probably 75 yards (no long shots in VA). So we made a plan to get down this mountain and go into the ravine between the two mountains and behind a big pile of rocks. Now we are shooting up the hill, 250 plus yards and a straight on shot. The picture is still seared into my brain of the sun setting and this very old kudu looking down on us. I started to over think, since this was going to be my longest shot to date - I have take longer later in the trip. Jaco put me at easy very quickly and said, take the shot; it's your first day and if you hit it great if not we go home and try again tomorrow. I said ok and pulled the trigger. Perfect shot and it went straight up in the air. Less than 24 hours in Africa and I shot my first kudu - Now to find it.
Since it was starting to get dark, we split up and found it very quickly, the only issue is now it's getting really dark and all 3 of us left our flash lights in the truck. We radioed for Willie and had to keep using the flash of the camera so he could find us. Did he bring flash lights - no he brought toilet paper???? More on that later.
We left Willie and the kudu there and started walking in pitch black dark for about a mile to the road - not bad for the first 24 hours in country. Can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.