SOUTH AFRICA: My first African hunt
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05-25-2012, 05:00 PM #1
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SOUTH AFRICA: My first African hunt
At the age 36 I decided that when I rounded the sharp corner of 40, the gift from me to me would be a hunting trip to Africa. I have hunted moderately in Europe and wanted to try something different. So I started to scan the internet for options, and almost backed off. The possibilities were almost unlimited so were to start. But for a fair amount of money, one could get a decent hunt. So I started to save, and made a plan for what I would shoot and could afford. And I started to read books. First Peter Capstick's, Death in the Dark Continent, Death in the Long Grass & Death in the Silent Places. Then came Robert Ruark's Africa, Horn of the Hunter & Use Enough Gun. New legendary names came. J. A. Hunter. Frederick C Selous. I must have read all the classics. Some, more than once.
So when 2012 came and my 40 years of living was going to be celebrated In Africa, I was more than ready. So was my family. The gift from my wife she said, was that her and my boys (4 & 9) would join me. Therefore I off course had to make plans, so they also would feel that the trip would be an adventure and holiday. We started the first week on a lodge next to Kruger National Park. Fantastic place with a view over Crocodile river, and its hippos and crocs. We had a daytrip to Kruger were we had a close encounter with a very angry young bull elephant. I imagined me standing with a powerful double rifle, 8 yards from that angry beast, aiming just a nip above that invincible line between the eyes. Wow?now I was here? where the legends once played.
And we took a trip to Drakensberg mountain and å µods window? Lamping Lion and leopard at night and swimming in the pool in the daytime. Now that was vacation for the family. Me? I enjoyed to be with them but was looking forward to week two, the hunting week.
So after the first wonderful week we drove 8 hours in a north western direction and ended approximately 70 km from the Botswana border, in an area named Marken. Nearest town was Lephalale, 75 km away. That was bush country. Lowveld as they called it. Thorny acacia trees of different sorts. Some of them with thick fat thorns, others with thin needle like ones.
Others again with hooks, sharp as a razorblade. (So that's why my PH was wearing a shirt with holes in it) Because of the holiday in Kruger and that we were supposed to continue our vacation in Cape Town, I did not bring my own weapon. It's a 6.5 mm x 55 so a little small for kudu anyway. I borrowed a 30.06 from my PH and checked it at the range. Good to go.
So the first time in Africa package was a blesbuck, an Impala and the warthog. Beyond that I wanted to shoot the greater kudu, a zebra and a gemsbuck. And if we stumbled across other smaller species, I would take them as well as long as the trophies were ok. We went out on a game farm with 2500 Ha of playground to hunt the package first. That was already paid for so he wanted them first. We drove around and saw some good Impalas. Parked the car and the tracker went to work. I was a little skeptical in the beginning, hunting in a fenced area. But after driving around for one hour and tracking for another and seeing no fence, I forgot all about that. It was wild enough for me. He tracked and I wondered what he was looking for. There were tracks all over the place so how could he tell one from another? Well?he found the Impala, but at more than 100 yards they saw us and æegged it. More tracking and more running away. Ok?his is not easy èut & take shooting. Good. That eased me even more. I was hunting in Hungary a year ago and shot 4 trophy animals in 2 days. And that was in éhe wild? But quite easy. This here was more sport than expected, tracking the animals. The tracker did a good job, but the impalas were very shy so we abandoned them and went back to the car. We drove a little till we saw another one and disembarked again to do some more tracking. They stayed near some wildebeest and with all the ears and eyes, there was no chance to get close. Near lunchtime we stopped the hunting and went back to the car. We drove maybe 20 minutes and as we rounded a 90 degree bend in the bush track, the driver slammed the brakes and said something to my PH. I had already seen an animal standing in the shadow of a low acacia tree, close to 100 yards away. He had a short look at the animal and said it was a good blesbuck. The blesbuck had also seen us. The PH started to disembark with the shooting stick and the animal moved. I stopped him and said I would shoot from the car. We were placed in the back of a pickup, and I could rest the weapon on the roof of the car. Now normally I don't fancy shooting from a car. I don't even like to drive around and spot animals from a car. But I could already see that if we had to walk around to first find the animals, and THEN start to track, my 6 hunting days would not be enough. So I took the shot and hit the animal just behind the shoulder. Down he was, and I was happy the weapon could hit were I aimed. The PH was happy too. He wanted to finish the package so we could go real hunting. In the afternoon we were out again, and now I brought with me my 9 year old son. We were again after Impala, and it would be good for him to see how it worked, walking and stalking the animals. We drove only for a short time, and disembarked the car and started to walk. Boys are boys, so in the beginning he was falling behind because he should explore the new world. The 2 needles on the acacia trees fascinated him. Why does the trees have needles, dad? They don't want to get eaten my son. What is in that big hole in the ground? Warthog? We came by a huge bull giraffe at 40 yards. Easy to shoot, but my house is too small. The Impalas are frightened and we cannot get near them. After little more than an hour in that area we abandon the hunt and drove to another location. And exactly the same happens again. We round a corner in the dust road, and drove 100 yards, and the driver slam the brakes. Knock his finger on the roof and point to the left of the car. I could not see anything. He back up 5 yards, and there, little more than 100 yards out, under a low thee, stand a fine impala. I take aim but because the engine is still going, I can't hold it still. And there is a bush in the way. He moves the car 2 yards forward and stop the engine. Now the Impala has moved behind the tree. Aim? steps forward and his neck is free. Boom?.he is down and the driver starts the car. I had already reloaded, because a shot in the neck is quite risky. But the animal did not run 5 yards. A happy PH, a happy son who saw everything in the bino, and a quite happy client. 2 shots from the car were enough for me and I told the PH. Me and the rifle worked well together. It is proved now, so let's do the real thing. The PH was happy, because now the pressure was off and we could go hunting.
Next day we started to work on the kudu. We drove half an hour away from the lodge and into a cattle farm of about 2500 ha. We drove for hours on the lookout for kudu or maybe a good warthog, but saw no kudu and only female warthogs.
The cattle were apparently grassing in between the bushes, because we didn't see any cattle either. Is was so dense, that the PH could not understand that it was a cattle farm. (it was his first time there) What do they eat??? Leaves??? As we sat in the back of the pickup truck, we talked about hunting dreams. What we would like to shoot and the idea of a safari with no economic restrictions. Actually one thing my son said to me when we yesterday drove home from the Impala hunt was; ç§ad?.if we had a billion $ we should do this every day? I could not agree more.
In the afternoon the PH changed strategy. Still working inside the cattle farm the driver set us off at the soft end of a low mountain, and then the plan was to sneak along the top of the mountain to the other end, were the cliff was quite steep. From here we could see down in an open spot in the lowveld were a saltlick was placed. But sneaked we did not. The low mountain was covered with round rocks in sizes from two to fifteen centimeters in diameter. So we made a lot of noise, and I did not think that this guy was sane. But he was told by his boss to go there, that that is where the big bulls were. So we sneaked as good as we could and after half an hour of sneaking had a chance to an Impale at 60 yards. No? already got one, and we are hunting the çµray mountain ghost now. Twenty more minutes and we scared a kudu. We could hear it was a male the way the horn banged against the trees. I never saw it. At last we came to the cliff which marked the end of our walk. We found ourselves a nice place in the afternoon sun, and after only five minutes, the first kudu emerged from the forest. It was very exciting for me to be so close (140 yards) to a kudu with a loaded rifle in my hands. And the kudus kept coming. Six we saw that evening, but all of them too small. Maximum 50 and that was not good enough for the PH. We also saw some cattle, but compared to the kudus, one could hear them in the lose rocks. When the sun went down we dismounted the mountain in the steep place, to cut some time. We didn't want to walk in the dark in the rolling stones. Home the boss told us to be early out the next morning same place. I could see on the face of my PH that he was not into the idea of crawling up a mountain between thorn bushes and loose rocks in the dark. But he said ok.
Next morning up early, and after the first cup of tea I had another. And then another. And when the sky was orange, the PH was also finish telling the story of a close call with a huge wounded male lion he had to shoot 3 yards from the client. The driver dropped us off at the steep part of the mountain, and we started to climb up. As the sun rose above the horizon we entered the top and sat down, already sweaty, in the chill morning. PH did not want to be there, and all the kudus in the world knew it. After 5 minutes he took out his cigarettes and started to smoke. Another 5 minutes and he stretched his legs and lay down. He was bored?.and we have been there fifteen minutes. Nothing happened. After 45 minutes he had enough and told me the new plan. å ¨ee that gray bush down there? That's thorn bush and we cannot go there. But just in front of that area it is more open. We go in there and see what we can find Good plan?I was also bored and time was not to be wasted on top of a mountain. So down we went again and got contact with the sleeping driver over the radio. We drove into the dense part of the cattle farm again, and before we came to the planned starting place for our walk, a nice kudu jumped over the track, 50 yards in front of the car. I saw the gray body, but the PH had seen the head, and said that it was a good mature bull kudu, and the one we were going for. Now that show me how professional this guy was. A blink of an eye and the animal was gone, and he saw it was good. Hmmm?Now the tracker went to work. The kudu had followed a sandy path, so even I could see a spoor once in a while. We tracked for maybe 500 yards, and then went off the path. Now it was grassy and I thought it was a joke. Just a walk in the wood to satisfy the client. Him looking down and up again, hands on his back, then walk for 20 meters, bends down to look below the bush and trees, up again and look down at the tracks that I could not see. Impressive?.we walked for another 20 minutes and I was daydreaming about a kudu coming at a low pace, a short distance from me, and shoot it behind the shoulder. Suddenly the tracker stopped in his tracks and pulled me forward and pointed his finger in the bush. I saw leaves and branches. I moved my head slightly to the right and saw a gray spot with a light stripe only 20 yards away. I could not believe it was it. I never saw the head. So turning my head around I asked the PH if that was our animal. He nodded. It was so dense. I was behind a bush and a tree, and then there was some grass and then another dense bush. And behind that, was the kudu. But there was a little gap in my bush, the size of the palm of a hand. And in the bush in front of the kudu was an even bigger hole, the size of a large dinner plate. In a second I had the rifle to my shoulder and shot in between branches and leaves. The animal went straight down. I reloaded and went out in the open to get a clear shot, should the animal try to run. He never vent up again. A high lung shot ended his life. Ohh was I happy when I saw him. So fantastic hunting had I never done before. The tracking, the dense bush and then an animal like this. So after photoes and a little work getting the kudu on the pickup, we went home and breakfasted. The family was also impressed by the sheer size of the animal. But I could not have been as proud as my nine year old son. He had been hunting with the boss PH and shot himself a fine Impala. He was more in heaven than I.
In the afternoon it was zebra time. But my lovely wife had a surprise for me. My real gift from her was an animal, free of choice, to shoot. I joked with my PH to find me a huge buffalo at once?r a leopard, but we ended going after the zebra. Driving only 10 min from the lodge, the driver saw what nobody else would have seen, the shoulder of a Nyala in dense bush, a whole 80 yards from the car. I jumped out of the car and put the shooting stick up?.no?oo many branches. I walked 5 meters to one side and found a small hole through the bush. But it was difficult to see clear in the dark shadow of the trees and bush, if there were any small branches in the way. I took a good look, and saw nothing. Only the shoulder with the light stripes. This is it. That is the gift. I took the shot and the animal jumped. PH slapped his hand hard on my shoulder. Good shooting?. It ran less than 15 yards. So? That was to be the gift from my wife. A fine Nyala. I did not expect that two hours ago, so it was a wonderful trophy to collect.
Next morning we worked hard on the zebra. We tracked for 3 hours on one track and at that time there were more zebras entering our flock. They joined the wildebeest and kept walking. We were within a hundred yards several times, but before I could find a hole in the bush, they were gone again. We took a short break at midday and continued in the afternoon. At about the same place I shot the Nyala, the tracker saw a zebra, but it ran when the car stopped. The PH wanted to drive on, but the driver/ tracker had had enough of this, and sensed that the zebra did not like cars. He wanted to track. And so he did. For maybe 45 minutes he followed 4 zebras. Again he looked down and walked for a while. Then stopped and dropped down on one knee to see what he could see, and then on again. It was like he was following a red line on the ground. He suddenly changed direction, 90 degree to the left or right, and then kept going. At one point I asked the PH if we were on the way back to the car. He just smiled at me. I could not see one track that looked fresh. 10 meters ahead he pointed at a fresh horse bulb. We were still on the track. Amazing. At one point the tracker stopped and sat down, had a good look and then pointed in between the trees. I and the PH sat us down as well. A long way away stood a zebra and looked at us, hardly visible through the bushveld at 180 yards distance. Hmm?he PH took a good look in his binos and said that the neck was quite heavy or thick, but it was 50/50 if it was a male or a female. He could not see it from here, and the tracker would not go any closer.
I lay the rifle on his shoulder and used him as a rest and put the magnification on the scope to x 10, the maximum on that scope and had a look. Again there was a hole through the bush, but at 180 yards, it was very difficult to see if any small branches were sticking out in the line of fire. The zebra stood perfect, showing the neck and the shoulder. The restriction was a hole in a bush in between us the size of a dinner plate. å¡ou want me to take the shot? I asked him. ç¦ ry he said. So with the rifle resting on his shoulder, I found the hole in the bush and lined it up all the way out to the zebra. I saw only black and white stripes and the little triangle that indicated the shoulder. èover your ear I told him, but he was ok he said. Kaboom?and the zebra moved, I did not see where. The PH jumped up and slapped me even harder than yesterday and said æ£ou got it? Weå¤l see!!! Was my thought?you never got it until you have found it. The tracker took a direction in the bush and started to walk. And 15 meters from the place it stood when I fired, he lay dead on the side. I say he because it was a stallion. Now the PH went ecstatic. è·µoly shit he screamed and laughed. And then said é¸f I was a client and a PH asked me to take that shot, I would have said no. Are you crazy??? Iå¤l go buffalo hunting with you anytime? Now that made me proud. This was what I have come to Africa to do. Not sitting in a high seat or by a waterhole and waiting for the animal to come to you, but really HUNT them in their own place. What a good team we were. I loved it.
And when we came home with the zebra my boy had shot a warthog from shooting stick at 70 yards, also with a perfect shot. That evening we went to a mountain cliff to watch the sun go down. And while the baboons were barking in the distance we had a couple of gin & tonics, a real sun downer, and it tasted marvelous.
The last day my PH unfortunately had to leave and the boss PH was busy with some other hunting. So I sat in a damn blind the whole day waiting for a monster warthog that never came. I already missed my PH. He would have taken me with him out in the dense bush and found me the biggest monster warthog there was to find. But that was not to be.
We had a couple of good days in Cape Town, seeing table mountain and Cape of good hope and eating huge steaks downed with delicious red wine. But most of the time, as now, I was thinking of the kudu and the zebra hunt we did.
This was then the story of my first hunting trip to Africa. But guess what?.it will not be the last. I am as hooked as one can be. Ok?this was not elephant, buffalo or lion. No close encounters with the big five with a gun in my hand. But this was the best I could afford, and it was worth every penny.
Peter B Christensen
The place i hunted: www.marulasafaris.com Chris van den bergh
#1 my blesbuck, #2 Me & my son with Impala, #3 wiew from the cliff over cattle farm, #4 kudu in dense bush, #5 kudu & me, #6 My proud son w Impala, #7 Me, the smallest boy and my lovely wife with nyala, #8 perfect zebra shot, #9 nice sable seen from blind
05-25-2012, 05:35 PM #2
- Member of Northeast Wisconsin SCI chapter, Lifetime member of NRA,RMEF
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Thanks for the hunting report. It's nice to have a supportive wife! Nice pictures.
05-25-2012, 06:01 PM #3
- Member of NRA, ATA, PITA, NAHC, NAFC, DU, TU, DSC, SCI, RMEF
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Nice safari and a family outing to bootJames Grage - New Mexico
Hold a steady Eye & Rifle...
"Very few of the so-called liberals are open-minded...they shout you down and won't let you speak if you disagree with them." John Wayne
05-25-2012, 07:55 PM #4
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Thanks for the Great Report and pics of fine trophies, your son did well its in his blood now he will follow in your footsteps and always make you proud. Congrats!Enjoy life now -- it has an expiration date.
05-25-2012, 09:54 PM #5
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Thanks for sharing. Got to love when the kids get to tag along!"Ignorance is curable, stupid is forever."
05-26-2012, 01:34 AM #6
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05-26-2012, 10:39 AM #7
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Seems like you had a great time, Peter, Congratulations !
05-26-2012, 11:23 AM #8
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Congrats on a nice trip and very good trophies. You gotta love it when the kids seems to follow your footsteps in the bush.The best hunt are the one in your dreams, the next best are the one in your memories.
05-26-2012, 07:42 PM #9
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Peter, I opened the thread and started to peruse the story and I stopped because I wanted to give the story its due.
That was days ago and I finally got the time to relax and read your story. Thanks for the effort in details and pictures.
It shows the entire gambit of hunting that can take place. From the worse, PH's taking care of "bigger" clients and the best, trackers persisting beyond our belief to come up with excellent trophies and additionally having your son hunting and pulling off great shots on his trophies.
Congratulations on your first hunt.Practice whispering before you leave for Africa!
A Legend in my own mind!
05-27-2012, 03:44 AM #10
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MrBuck001 - having made some grand plans for safaris as part of a retirement plan, I was struggling to wait having spent a decade reading - so at 30 I had the same realization that you had at 40!
Plenty of opportunities for a hunter with adventure in his blood - so now having hunted at 30, 33, about to head over again having just turned 36 and the ultimate safari booked for 39, it's in my blood and my retirement will be spent reminiscing on all of the great hunts I've had throughout my life and hopefully find myself with a few dollars to get out there some more!
06-01-2012, 10:25 AM #11
Thanks for the hunting report, story and pictures Peter! Africa keeps on giving!
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