Hunting with Zirk's African Hunting Safaris - March 2013
This is a discussion on Hunting with Zirk's African Hunting Safaris - March 2013 within the South Africa Hunting Reports forums, part of the Hunting Reports & Questions About Outfitters/PHs category; A few months ago, my brother posted a thread stating that we'd be returning to South Africa to hunt, and ...
Hunting with Zirk's African Hunting Safaris - March 2013
A few months ago, my brother posted a thread stating that we'd be returning to South Africa to hunt, and said we'd have a good write up on AH upon our return. Well, it's taken a bit longer than it probably should, but we're finally getting to it. We have looked at the hundreds of pictures we've taken, hours of video, and finally started getting some things that we can work with and help tell the story as we experienced it.
We'll both be contributing to this report, as we feel that between the two of us we should be able to cover it better than just one, and since we split up many of the days, we'll be able to share more of the overall hunt with everyone.
I want to start out by saying that this was the first time hunting with "Zirk's African Hunting Safaris" but not everyone's first time hunting with Zirk. Our first trip, in 2011, was with another outfitter and Zirk was our head PH. Him, along with two other PH's that we had at that time (Pieter and Frans) made our trip what it was, and it was fantastic. We kept in touch with Zirk after the first hunt, and learned he branched out and started his own outfit. We knew that a return trip would have to include him (and the other two PH's if he would be able to recruit them for this hunt...which he was!), because we all got along so well the first time around. This time, the 4 hunters were my Dad, his friend Bob, my brother Jesse, and myself (Jason). Bob was the "first timer" this hunt, and loved every second if it.
Contact was made with Zirk through email, months before we planned on hunting. He was able to walk us through which areas would be best to have a chance at taking great trophies that we were interested in. We had numerous email exchanges, Skype calls, and phone calls throughout the planning process which made things feel very personal and not like we were just "customers". I definitely felt more connected with the outfitter during the planning stages, than I did last time but that could have just been that the first time we went, I had no idea of what to expect or what to ask in advance.
We got in to JNB from ATL on the Delta flight, and we had the Economy Comfort seats. These were a great investment and we got the first row in coach so our leg room was unmatched. I couldn't hit the wall in front of me with legs fully extended. The flight was uneventful, and the arrival in SA was pretty smooth. We met up with our PH's and with Henry from RifleImports.com and we were in and out of the SAPS office with rifle (and bow) cases in no time.
We left the airport and headed to El Cazador Guest House in Pretoria for the night, and it was great. Definitely a place I would suggest staying, as the food and company was great, and the house itself was beautiful. Definitely a great start to what would become a memorable hunt.
With our stomachs still full from the blesbok fillets and Castle beers the night before, we awoke and ate some breakfast before headed to Limpopo where Dad was going to kick off the hunt with a Cape Buffalo.
And so the hunt began...
Pictures from our first night in country:
IMG_0318.jpgIMG_0322.jpgIMG_0325.jpgIMG_0329.jpgIMG_0334.jpgAim small, miss small.
07-18-2013, 09:20 AM #2
- Member of Houston Safari Club, Gulf Coast SCI, SCI International. Rowland Ward, NRA
- Hunted Mozambique, South Africa, (Kwa-Zulu Natal & East Cape), Zimbabwe (Charisa & West Nicholson), U.S.(Texas, New Mexico, LA, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Wyoming & Montana), Canada (Alberta) & Argentina (Cordoba)
Good start halljr! Keep it coming!
07-18-2013, 09:39 AM #3
- Hunted USA, South Africa (trip # 2 3/18/2013)
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So day two started off with a hearty breakfast. The one thing we requested prior to this hunt was that breakfasts were hearty. When we were hunting in Limpopo in 2011, breakfasts were typically rusks, some fruit yogurt... maybe some toast. We were used to big breakfasts and bold coffee, and Zirk's team definitely delivered. We had a 2 hour ride to Limpopo where we met Pieter and arrived at the Buffalo concession. It started as most mornings do, greeting the land owner and sighting in the weapons. In this case, it was Dad's .500 S&W. We took our time and everyone took a turn firing the cannon, and we drove up the road to meet the rest of our crew. We were 5 strong hiking through the brush, trying to find the lone cape buffalo bull. Our entire day was set aside for Dad to take this buff, so we never felt rushed to take care of business before enjoying the stalk.
This bull was sought out ahead of time. He was a troublemaker, so to speak. He had broken free from the rest of the herd and was picking fights with other buffs on the other side of the fence. He had broken a few fence areas and the land owner warned us that he was aggressive. Jason and Zirk were armed with a .500 Jeffrey and I was armed with a Sony HandyCam and a cautious disposition. It was about 30 minutes before we walked our way to the fenceline and started hearing rustling in the bushes.
We walked in a single file line along the road, cautiously approaching the fence and keeping our eyes to the brush. Zirk was in the lead, with Dad and Jason close behind clasping their guns carefully with the sun high and warm directly above. There was a large group of buffalo 25 yards behind the fence line, watching us carefully. We stopped a moment to watch an oblivious ostrich trot around and provide a quick chuckle, as we awed at the buffalo herd and wondered what exactly they were waiting for. The aggressive buffalo wasn't yet keen to our advances but was keeping himself hidden quite well. This buffalo wasn't afraid of anyone, if he saw us closing in it would be a quick draw showdown and a test of nerve. At this point, I was recording every step. This was day 1, I was still taking in the scenery and grinning at the sight of red dust puffing up off each boot step. My inner dialogue rambled "We're in Africa man, finally back... can't wait to start taking down some game... eating more of that meat and tossing back some beers after a long day"... my mind was everywhere. That's when we were quickly shaken back to reality. Without warning, the sound of grinding metal fence precedes a playfully angry cape buffalo as he taunts his former herd across the fence. The sound can only be compared to running down the sidewalk with a stick in your hand, dragging the stick along a chainlink fence. BBRRRRRIINGGGGGGG!! STOMP STOMP BRRRRIIINGGGG!!! Zirk, in the lead, quickly tosses his arm back as if we're about to fly in to the dashboard as he slams on the brakes. We quickly fall back to the line of bushes at our left and watch the buff charge down the fenceline to our right, 20 yards in front of us, charging and crushing his way down the line. There's footage of his charge, and an unidentified "oh shit.." is heard among the rattling of the barbed wire fence.
At this point we're ready, the buffalo charges out of view and Dad is quickly up on the shooting sticks waiting for his thundering return. Minutes pass, the buffalo continues on out of sight. Crap.
The next several hours are spent cruising along the back of the truck, spotting bits and pieces of the bull here and there, never a solid shot presenting itself. Morale is fading but we set this day aside only for buffalo, so we're confident we'll have our chance again. We finally return to the fenceline, and after a few seconds of cautious idling as he's spotted and drawn upon, the bull rushes out of the bushes and several cannon shots are fired at the beast. He's hit and he's hurt, but he turns the corner and we slowly follow suit. We spot the beast up on all fours, hiding and waiting, it's unsettling. He's 40 yards in, maybe, I can only see a horn tip. Jason's on him, ready to fire, but naturally waits for Dad to fire the merciful blow. We hop off the truck and carefully push through the bush as Dad fires another round, He's down. We march through the brush and approach the fallen beast, two more shots for insurance. Day one is in the bag.
We call over the crew and they bring the bucketloader to clear out the dense brush. A few minutes of pictures and congratulations and we slowly make our exit, tipping a hat one last time as the big buff meets the skinners knives and we're off to Free State.
07-18-2013, 10:01 AM #4
- Member of CSSA, NFA
- Hunted Canada, USA, Afghanistan
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Good write up, I can't wait to read more about it.
07-18-2013, 05:58 PM #5
- Member of NAHC Life Member, NRA Life Member,SCI, Buckmasters
- Hunted USA(from Coast to Coast and Alaska), Germany, South Africa, Canada
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Congrats to your Dad nice Buff! Good read keep it coming.Enjoy life now -- it has an expiration date.
After a long drive down to the Free State the day before, we awoke ready to hunt! After a quick breakfast at the lodge, we were off to the hunting grounds.
Sighting everything in took a few minutes, but there weren't many adjustments that needed to be made and we were dialed in to where our PH's wanted us to be. Jesse, Bob, and I all had Tikka T3 Lite .300WSM's with us, and Dad had his .375 HH along with his .500SW this time. Jesse and I brought these .300WSM's the last trip and they were flawless in Limpopo. We hoped to get a chance to reach out and increase the bullet flight time this trip, if you know what I mean.
Jesse and I hopped in the truck with Pieter and Frans, Zirk took off with Dad and Bob. I don't think anyone was prepared for the amount of game that was going to be taken today. I know I wasn't. Jesse and I spent a couple of hours stalking herds of black wildebeest. When a couple good bulls would stand out from the rest, we tried to close the distance. Jesse was going to be taking the first shot here, so he and Pieter kept trying to gain a vantage point on these beasts, while Frans and I tried to herd the group closer to them. Attempt after attempt was thwarted by a wind change or the herd just not quite turning the way we wanted them too. Eventually, Jesse and Pieter got within shooting distance of a nice bull. Jesse was quick to get on the sticks and get a shot off. I'm pretty sure (and he'll correct me if I'm wrong here) the distance was a touch over 300yds. If there's one thing that got proven this trip, is that my brother and I are very accurate and can listen to exactly where the PH's tell us to aim. Trust is an amazing thing. As the shot rang out, the wildebeest dropped dead in his tracks. Frans' phone rang and alerted us that they had finally gotten a shot off, and we were quickly on our way to see what happened.
A happy hunter with his first trophy of the trip.
Jesse WB 1.jpg
After we got him loaded up, it was closing in on lunch time, so we headed back to the lodge. Talking and bouncing around in the bakkie about how the whole thing went down, suddenly a common blesbok pops into view as we came over a small hill. Frans stopped the truck instantly, and Pieter said, before even getting his binoculars up, "Shoot that blesbok!" He was standing broadside, looking over at the truck that had just slid to a stop, when I was able to squeeze of a round. The bullet covered the 150 yards between us in no time, and the blesbok turned and started hauling ass. I quickly had him in my sights again, when Pieter said "Don't shoot....don't shoot". I held off while keeping the quartering away, running blesbok in my sights. "I won't...tell me when", I said. Just then, he stopped, held his head up, and flopped to the ground. He was done. I was relieved!. 10 minutes after we got Jesse's first animal in the truck, my first hits the dirt. After a quick search, we found him. My first shot was well placed, it just took the guy a few seconds to run out of gas, I suppose.
NOW it was time for lunch...Aim small, miss small.
Day 3 Continued...
When we got back for lunch, we learned that Bob and our Dad were successful that morning as well. Dad got himself a nice black wildebeest, and Bob took down a nice gemsbuck as well. I'm not sure on the distances of those two, but what counts is they got their animals back to camp. We were impressed to each have something down before lunch!
All fueled up on wildebeest stew, we piled in the trucks and hit the road. It was Jesse's turn to get some trigger time, and we made our way to towards a few trees that provide some shade from the mid-day sun. Jesse, Pieter and I hopped out of the truck and made for the shade, to see if Frans could drive a herd of blesbok we saw on the way, in our general direction. Well, a couple of them did come in our direction. Two blesbok came trotting down the hill right towards us. Pieter told us to stay up against the trees, and stay very still. He wanted to see how close they would come. They weren't huge, so we didn't have any desire to shoot as they closed the distance, but they had no idea we were there. When I say that these two came close...I mean close. 8 paces away, close. If I had my knife out, I would have been tempted to wrangle one! It was unbelievable.
If you look closely at the picture here (screen shot from a video), the dark spot on the lower left of the picture was the base of a tree. After these boys came in and hung out for a couple minutes, they seemed like they felt something wasn't right. Maybe they could feel our eyes on them, who knows. Once they left, I walked to that tree, and it was 8 steps. Unbelievable. We'll be sure to put the video up in here shortly, because I just KNOW not everyone will believe that story!
So after waiting around for a while longer, we decided to start moving in search of a good blesbok for Jesse to take. We walked for about an hour longer, and managed to come up on a very large herd of them. Fortunately for us, they were drawn out in more of a line than a large circle, so it made it easier to get a good look at all of them. About 320 yards out, Pieter spots a good bull. Jesse is propped up on the sticks, waiting for a clear shot with the bull standing still, because he knows it's a long shot and doesn't want to risk anything. As any of you who have seen these creatures before already know, they randomly bob their heads, as if to say "Yes" all day long. Jesse was waiting for his to be motionless, and then he let the lead fly. BOOOOM goes the .300, and a cloud of dust kicks up as the bull starts running. He ran about 30 yards at a dead sprint before losing his back legs and taking his last roll in the dirt. Blesbok down, with another couple of hours left of shooting light. Today has been amazing.
After we got a hold of Frans and he rounded us all up, we tried moving to a different area of the property to see what we could see. Well, we eventually dismounted out of the truck in pursuit of a black wildebeest for myself. We spotted a herd with a few good bulls in it, about 500 yard away from us. In a single file line, crouching low as we quietly placed each step in the print of the guy before him's, we closed the gap. We stopped behind some grass about 400 yards away from them, to investigate. Pieter said there were, in fact, a couple of good ones but we were still pretty far away and behind some grass. I thought, if we could get low and make our way up to a large dirt pile made by the ants, I could use that as a solid rest and take a prone shot. The range was still about 300yds, but a flat and steady shot would easily do job.
I got into position, with Pieter to my right, and Jesse behind me with the camera. Looking through my scope, I spotted him. THE bull that I wanted to shoot. He wasn't going to cooperate as well as I would have hoped. First he was facing us, looking all over. Then he ran over to hang with his buddies and talk about the morons they'd seen earlier driving around in a white bakkie. Then he stood still, broadside, and was looking behind himself. As those around him cleared, and Pieter said "shoot", I cleared my head. I wanted him to be perfect. Stand there, look straight ahead, so I can get a clear picture of where I need to shoot...BANG! I let one go. Quickly chambered another round and got my eye back to my scope, ready to shoot again. All I saw were black wildebeest heads, and dust. They were going crazy. Then I hear Pieter chuckling, "Man, he's down". I couldn't believe it. "No sh*t? Really?!" And Jesse confirms, "Yeah man he's done." WOW! I couldn't believe it. I wasn't anticipating him dropping in his tracks. I thought he'd run for sure, I don't know why, just felt like that should have happened! So Jesse played the video back for me (and don't worry, we'll post up a nice video at the end of all this) and sure enough, bang-flop.
Very happy with this one.
Wow. First day of hunting, and my brother and I both got the same animals, in alternating order. It was hard to believe it, actually. Luckily, that night we had unloaded everything and given the skinning crew PLENTY of work for the evening, we enjoyed some delicious food and great company, and could all tell the stories we had of that day. It wasn't until I put my head on my pillow that night that it all really sunk in, just how fortunate we were. All of us. I couldn't imagine what would be in store for the rest of the trip.
Last edited by halljr; 07-19-2013 at 01:19 PM. Reason: Picture linking errorAim small, miss small.
07-19-2013, 01:58 PM #8
- Hunted USA, South Africa (trip # 2 3/18/2013)
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Sunrise. First I want to show a photo of the accommodations.
Throughout the trip we stayed in 4 different lodges. The second lodge was an old house filled with antique furniture and taxidermy. The wood floors creaked and echoed with boot steps, and the chandeliers looked like they should be coated with a century of candle wax.
We met up on the patio with our nescafes and discussed the what-ifs of today. We all had specific #1 must-have animals for this trip. Jason's was a monster eland. Mine was a gemsbok. I spent 3 days in Limpopo stalking gemsbok to no avail. Dad's was difficult to discuss as he ended up taking an Ark full of game, but argueably his white whale was a 55" Kudu. We loaded up, batteries charged and bellies full.
We started the morning driving up and down the hills of the land in search for horns. It was early, we didn't care what kind of horns they were. A few hours had passed, a lot of eland stalking had been done. Pieter likes to get us running through the grass to stalk a herd, in an effort to keep up with their pace. We continued to drive in search for a particular big blue bull when the truck stops abruptly.
Pieter hops up on the chair in back of the truck and spots a nice Gemsbok bull. He grabs the sticks and props them up, holding them to the back window as I climb atop the chair and quickly take aim. Jason readies the camera as I balance myself the best I can teetering on the top of the cushioned seat and let a bullet quickly fly. BOOM... THUD. Wow, the loudest impact THUD I'd ever heard. The bull took off and we slowly followed suit. Jason stayed back at the truck to stand guard and Pieter and I hiked through the grass. It took us about 30 minutes of sifting through the grass to finally catch a glimpse of the bull still standing 50 yards in front of us. We let another bullet fly and Pieter goes to get the truck. Jason and I slowly make our way to the bull where another shot is quickly placed in the gearbox. We load him up and make our way up the mountain to find those eland.
We're feeling pretty good, but all the running up and down mountains searching for eland is taking it's toll. Frans stops the truck as we meet the herd trampling uphill in front of us, 100 yards out. We hop off the truck and Pieter starts running up the mountain. I try to keep up, but need to catch my breath while Pieter flags us down to come quick. We finally catch up with him and the big lead bull breaks free of the herd. How far are they?? I regret not asking, they seem far but... could they really still look that big over 300 yards? I fire the first shot, aiming up the shoulder, and I watch the bullet hit the dust a foot beneath him. Damnit! They're not too spooked yet, lucky me. Another one flies and misses, behind. Pieter tells me to aim a foot infront of him as he's up to a trot now. Bang, miss! Come on! Bang.. HIT. He's hit, they crest at the top of the mountain and we follow suit. He's all alone, top of the summit, what a magnificent sight. He's hurt alright, I take aim and quickly put one in the neck as he turns to acknowledge us.
Sorry that took so long, friend. Let's take some pictures and figure out how to load this monster.
Jesse Eland.jpg Loading Eland.jpg
Tired and accomplished, we make our way back to camp to eat. Dad surprises us with taking his second career Sable and Zebra. What a couple of beauties! Bob connects again with a beautiful wildebeest and white blesbok. I think he's addicted to Africa now!
DSC01752.jpg DSC01728.jpg DSC01733.jpg DSC01741.jpg
We reconvene and Jason's on the hunt. He draws on a quick herd of springbok but they break free, and fire across the land in a big taunting circle. Forget them, let's press on. We hop off the truck and Pieter and Jason slowly stalk a busy herd of Hartebeest. The sun is getting dimmer and I'm struggling to find the bull he's drawn on as the herd is about 350 yards out when BOOM. First shot seemed like it dropped a little, let's walk up and finish him quickly. Jason's drawn up waiting for him to pop out of the grass when he quickly squeezes the trigger and shuts him down. Camera out, let's strike a pose and make a Kodak moment before we lose the sun.
Back to camp for steaks and brandy, what a day.
Last edited by JNHall; 07-19-2013 at 02:15 PM. Reason: Photo links
07-19-2013, 05:35 PM #9
- Member of Northeast Wisconsin SCI chapter, Lifetime member of NRA,RMEF
- Hunted Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
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I'm enjoying the report. Nice eland!!! Your dad took another beautiful sable!
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