Absolutely fantastic hunt with Andrew Renton and Kei River Hunting Safaris
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04-26-2011, 11:56 AM #1
Absolutely fantastic hunt with Andrew Renton and Kei River Hunting Safaris
Outfitter: Kei River Hunting Safaris and Andrew Renton
Booking Agent: Wade Derby, Cross Hair Consulting www.crosshairconsulting.com
PH: Andrew Renton
Dates Hunted: August 5th thru 11th, 2010
Flights: First and Business Class to/from Colorado to Joburg on Delta using air miles and a Roundtrip flight on South African Airways to/from East London, RSA.
Rifles: Ruger MK77 300 Win. Mag. using hand-loaded 180gr Barnes TSX bullets being pushed by IMR7828. Ruger MK77 7mm-08 using hand-loaded 140gr Nosler Partition bullets being pushed by RL15.
Only the 300 Win. Mag. was used during the hunt.
Species Hunted: Eastern Cape Kudu, Mountain Reedbuck, Blesbok, Common Duiker, Black Wildebeest, Cape Bushbuck, Common Springbok, and Zebra
Species Taken: 2 Eastern Cape Kudu, Mountain Reedbuck, Blesbok, Common Duiker and Black Wildebeest
Species Not Taken: Cape Bushbuck, Common Springbok (only 1 stalk) and Zebra (only 1 stalk)
Targets of Opportunity Missed: Caracal
Species Seen: Eastern Cape Kudu, Cape Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Blesbok, Impala, Common Duiker, Zebra, Black Wildebeest, Warthog, Baboon, Vervet Monkey, Jackal, Caracal, Giraffe, Ostrich, Common Springbok, Black Springbok, Eland, Gemsbok, Red Hartebeest, and Steenbuck.
This trip all started with a 100% bribe from my wife. She came to me over a year ago saying she thought it was about time I headed back to Africa to get the kudu I didn’t get on my first trip to the Dark Continent in 2004. My response was she was exactly right and I had been thinking of the same thing. Then, it dawned on me … what does she want in return? I was thinking she wanted wood flooring in the kitchen, a new car, or something along that line, but it turned out she wanted something much better. Her request was another child. Oh heck yeah, that was easy enough.
Negotiations complete, I started looking around for something that peaked my interest. I was really looking at going to Namibia and hunting the typical Kalahari species. However, I ran across a special package posted on AR by Wade Derby. After looking into the package offered, discussing things on the phone with Wade, calling on references, etc., myself and a good friend decided to book the trip. A few months after our booking, the nephew of my friend decided to join us on the trip; therefore, it would be the three of us heading across the pond for my second trip and their first trip to hunt in Africa.
We were greeted in Joburg by Afton Guest House and once the rifles arrived in the SA Police Office, we were quickly whisked away to grab a bite to eat, a few beers and it was time to hit the pillow.
The following morning we greeted in East London by Andrew and another PH Dave, who would serve as Carlton’s PH during the week. Upon running a couple errands in East London, we stopped by the taxidermist who would be completing the dip and pack on our trophies. It was nice to see the shop and be able to discuss the steps and mechanics of the operation.
That afternoon we headed to the shooting range to check the zero of the rifles.
Once the zeros were confirmed, we took a short drive to overlook some cliffs. Three kudu bulls were spotted along with a herd of about 60 impala, blesbok, duiker and some warthogs.
We primarily focused on the 3 kudu bulls we had seen the evening before. We searched the mountain side where we thought they might be hiding out but never located them again that morning.
While sitting on the mountain side early that morning, I quickly realized this was HUGE country!!! The landscape consisted of very large, steep, deep canyons filled with valleys of very thick, choked thorn brush. Hunting would consist of glassing likely locations from an elevated location, making a plan once quarry was spotted and stalking to within a comfortable shooting position.
Looking for Mountain Reedbuck above the Kei River:
Sometimes pictures just don’t do things justice!
After not being able to locate the kudu bulls, Andrew knew of a nice mountain reedbuck that had given him and a Finnish client the slip a few times in the proceeding hunt. Since we were in the neighborhood, we decided to see if he was back in his old haunts. Just as expected, he was in the basin on the backside of the mountain we were hunting. As we slipped over the top of the mountain cliff, we were spotted and the mountain reedbuck and the female that was with him did just as they had done before. They ran out of the basin to the top side about 300 yards away. He stood broadside at 318 yards, but I was a bit reluctant to take the shot at such a range off the sticks on the first morning of the hunt. Therefore, we decided to try and circle the reedbuck and come in from a different angle and the shot would be within about 150 yards. Things were working perfectly. The reedbuck was still in position and we were making our way to tree with a few rocks under it to get a prone shot. Just as I was slipping up to the last rock and starting to slide the gun barrel over the top of the rock, a very sharp whistle came from about 60 yards away and I saw reedbuck explode from the cover like a covey of quail. Needless to say, we never saw the females laying in the shade of some brush and they busted us. This time the reedbuck ram ran off the edge of the mountain and down the slope. We gave chase again in the attempt to locate him, but the last I saw him that morning, he saw us before we saw him and he headed for safer country at very determined pace.
We bumped into a nice duiker ram while continuing after the reedbuck, but decided to pass on the duiker and continue the chase after the reedbuck. Alas, we never saw him again that morning but Andrew spotted some kudu about 3-4 km away and we headed in their direction. The kudu were never relocated and we headed back to the lodge for brunch.
The afternoon hunt was again spent looking for kudu, bushbuck and mountain reedbuck. We saw several groups of mountain reedbuck but no shootable trophy rams were in the groups we located. Towards the latter part of the afternoon, we headed back around to the location of the 3 kudu bulls. As we were headed their way, the tracker, Sutu, spotted the mountain reedbuck ram we chased all morning long heading back to his basin and his ewes. Therefore, we quickly shifted gears and focus back on him. We continued around the backside of the mountain to the opposite side to get the wind in our favor. We snuck along the mountain side expecting to pick him up before he made it to his ewes. Finally, I spotted a group of his ewes. We looked around them expecting to find the ram, but couldn’t spot him. We back up thinking maybe he was further below us still making his way in our direction. After glassing for several minutes we decided to make our way back to the ewes. Once we had made our way back around to the ewes, they we no longer in the position we left them in. Andrew spotted them higher up the mountain and said there he is. He had busted us again, and out the top of the basin. He must have been with his ewes the entire time we were looking at them, but we never spotted him. Andrew said he was likely there the whole time laying down a short distance from the ewes. When we left them to back track, he likely made his move higher up the mountain. We moved on him again only to bust a small group of blesbok containing a nice ram sending the cattle acting crazy as well, but chose not to go after him as we knew they wouldn’t be far in the subsequent days. We made our way around the edge of the mountain side again only to have mountain reedbuck ewe blow out from under our feet taking the ram with them once again.
The day ended with us being educated by the mountain reedbuck ram on several occasions. However, we did learn how to get the drop on him, once he returned back to his basin in a couple days.
Day 2 found us moving to another farm containing pure strains of Eastern Cape Kudu. There have been no introductions of greater kudu to this farm, which contained roughly 4800 ha of thorn bush. We met the property owner before proceeding and onto the property. He mentioned to Andrew that his father was looking for a kudu bull for biltong and steaks. Therefore, if we could assist, it would be greatly appreciated.
Andrew spotted a young bull quickly while he was feeding on the bush. We moved a bit to a small hill to glass the valley floor. Andrew spotted more kudu about a mile away in a slightly open area containing aloe and thorn bush. While continuing to look for a trophy bull, we almost got bowled over by a duiker ewe running from last year’s offspring. We were standing glassing, when suddenly we heard this “nit nit nit” sound coming from our front right. Around a thorn tree came the duiker ewe with the younger ewe in hot pursuit. The pair made it to within about 7-8 yards when they finally realized we were standing there. They separated and banked like a set of fighter jets to exit to our left with the little one still in the tracks of mother. Andrew said he had seen ewes running from rams on multiple occasions during mating season, but had never seen a mother duiker in an attempt to wean a young one.
Andrew finally spotted a mature kudu bull in the aloe opening and off we were. We made our way to within about 400 yards of the feeding bulls but never located the big guy Andrew spotted from the opposite hillside. We could see several bulls feeding within the thorns with just necks and horns moving from bush to bush. However, if we went any lower on the hillside we would lose sight of the kudu and the bush along the dry creek bed was extremely dense. We moved again thinking the kudu might move further up the creek floor towards some thicker bush for their mid day snooze. We chose a spot that had a clearing about 300 yards away that we guessed the kudu would need to move thru while heading to the thinker bush. After the move, we noticed the bulls had begun to lie down in the last location we had left them. While trying to think of our next move, we spotted a monster steenbuck that was approximately 5 inches in horn length, but chose the kudu over the steenbuck.
After discussing things for another 15 minutes, or so, Andrew said, “Come on. I can’t just let kudu bulls sit out in the open like this without trying to get closer.”
We moved back to where we had just come from and noticed the kudu had begun to start feeding away from us towards a cattle fence. Therefore, our plan of attack was to get in front of them and beat them to the cattle fence. We made it to within about 100 yards of the fence and decide to start making our way thru the thick bush along the creek bed. We had dropped off the side of the hill and knew we had to get to the other side of the creek to because we had lost our elevated advantage.
We slipped our way along a few game trails often coming to dead ends and needing to back our way out and find another way thru the bush. After several attempts, we succeeded in finding a way thru the thorns to the other side. Once on the other side, we started slipping back towards the kudu. We passed several bulls as they feed past us. While continuing towards the last known location of a bull we wanted to get closer to, I noticed a pair of kudu bulls fighting on the opposite side of silver tree. Andrew pressed on knowing the fighting kudu would help hide our movements and allow us to make a few more moves to put ourselves in a better position.
As we were getting ready to set up the sticks, what always happens? The wind that had continued to be steady from our front left quickly swirled and came from behind us. I cringed and Andrew quickly looked back at me with that grimace and look of “Oh Shit!” Just as quickly as I waited for the alarm bark of a kudu, a strong wind came from the direction of the kudu to quickly push our scent from them and back over the top of us.
Andrew found me a shooting lane where the kudu were filing through. I got on the sticks and a cow and calf moved thru the lane. Along came another kudu bull that Andrew targeted. We moved the sticks just a little more to my right while keeping my eyes glued on the bull. As I was getting re-set, a few kudu cows and calves started moving into the shooting lane lower than the targeted bull. The bull finally made his way into the lane and Andrew instructed me to take the shot. At the shot, I noticed the bull was starting to quarter slightly toward me, he bucked and the audible slap of the bullet came back. The slap of the bullet was like nothing I’d ever heard. It wasn’t the usual “thud” like someone thumping a watermelon. It was more like a ‘SMACK” from an M80 firecracker going off. After the shot, kudu erupted from the bush. In total there were about 40 cows and 7-8 mature bulls. As we stood listening, I thought I heard the crash of the bull further to our left, which was the direction he had run.
I told Andrew, “He was quartering as I shot.”
Andrew responded, “Yeah, he was turning to face another bull that came up from behind him.”
“How far was he, 100-125 yards?” I asked.
“He was 168 yards when he entered the clearing.” was the answer.
We waited about 5-10 minutes to allow the remaining kudu to leave the aloe opening they had run to after the shot. The kudu was extremely alarmed as I saw a bull walk over to a cow and begin to smell her. Eventually, they all made their way out of the clearing and we walked up towards where the kudu received the bullet. We didn’t immediately find any blood, so we started to where we thought we heard the fall of the bull. As we rounded a corner, Andrew stopped, snapped his fingers and stuck his hand out for a handshake with a huge smile on his face.
As we walked up the bull, Andrew said this is your management bull, and he is on me.
I looked at the bull thinking he is the biggest kudu I’ve ever shot, as he was my first. Andrew went on to explain what made this guy a management bull and not a trophy bull. The kudu’s left horn (right in the picture) was flattened at the top; therefore, not meeting the trophy criteria level.
Since it was almost high noon, we quickly moved to another location in the hopes of finding a bushbuck making his way to the only water in valley we were hunting, before making our way back to the original location to look for a trophy kudu bull during the afternoon hunt.
The afternoon hunt was very uneventful as he hunted the same general location where we shot the kudu bull that morning, hoping to get another look at some of the other bulls we saw that morning. The only thing we saw was a male duiker.
At first light, we headed back to our vantage point to locate the kudu bulls from the day after sighting in our rifles. The bulls were quickly spotted but they were in absolute no-man’s land with no way to get to them for a shot. Therefore, we decided to keep our eye on them throughout the day, hoping they would make their way down the mountain side towards water, which would give me a shot across the canyon between 300-400 yards. Additionally, Andrew spotted a herd of mountain reedbuck from the direction we had just come from. We decided to try for the reedbuck on the top of the mountain and leave the ram in this herd as our afternoon backup plan. Andrew knew this herd and knew they wouldn’t be far from the location they were currently in during the afternoon hunt.
On the way back to the lodge the night before, Andrew and I made a plan to ambush our old friend the mountain reedbuck from Day 1. Andrew mentioned the ram had done the same thing and came out of the basin at the exact same place every time. Therefore, we decided to go around and get set up on the ram and have our tracker walk around to the other side of the basin and make a bit of noise to send him in our direction.
He got set up about 100 yards from where we expected the ram to come out of the basin. First a mountain reedbuck ewe and kid came out of the basin, followed by another ewe, which did exactly as we expected. Once they reached the top of the mountain just out of the basin, she stopped broadside to us and looked back at what had disturbed them. I looked at the ewe thru the scope and put the crosshairs were they needed to be, but as much as I tried, no horns grew from her head. Shortly thereafter, another ewe and small ram made their way out of the basin with about 40-50 yards. Had the trophy ram been with them, it might have been his last day. The plan worked to perfection, only the ram wasn’t in the correct basin.
We began to work our way around the mountain top trying to locate our desired target. Sutu the tracker then radioed us that he had located the mountain reedbuck with some ewes and a bushbuck ram on the opposite side of the mountain. Therefore, we double timed it over to where Sutu was watching the reedbuck and bushbuck rams.
Once we arrived, Andrew determined the reedbuck was not our guy; therefore, our attention shifted to the bushbuck. I never saw the ram from my advantage point but Andrew could see he was standing in some of the thicker bush. Andrew moved location to about 100 yards from us and could see more of the bushbuck. So, we all quickly moved locations and got set up. I was lying across the rim rock of the mountain face almost shooting at about a 50-55 degree angle. The distance from our location was probably about 150 yards, but the horizontal distance was likely only about 60-70 yards away. I hope that illustrates how steep the shot angle was from our elevated position.
Andrew could just see a leg of the bushbuck. All I could make out was a darker spot within the thick bush. After probably 20 minutes, Andrew decided to make something happen. We discussed our options and decided to move locations further from the bushbuck to an area that was a bit more open. Andrew would then send his tracker upwind of the bushbuck and let his scent drift towards the ram likely causing him to try to slip out of the backside of the dense bush.
I got set up and Sutu went off the side of the mountain. Just as expected the ram did exactly as Andrew had suspected. He came thru a small clearing we had picked. I waited the green light to shoot, which was initially no. Then, as the ram continued along the path, I got the green light to shoot only if the ram stopped. I moved and continued to swivel on the flat rim rock almost willing the ram to make his fatal mistake. However, he kept slowly walking along a game trail until he had moved into the next stretch of dense bush.
We moved again trying to get in front of the ram. As we moved into position at the end of the cliff face, we bumped another bushbuck ram that barked and fled into the next stretch of dense thorn trees. Suddenly a third smaller bushbuck ram barked directly below us and ran towards the targeted bushbuck. We waited a few minutes hoping to see the bushbuck emerge again from the dense cover. Finally, realizing nothing was likely to happen, we decided to throw a few rocks down into the trees to stir things up a bit. We never saw the bushbuck again though.
After regrouping again, we decided to give the blesbok a look on the flat grassy top of the mountain. We headed in their direction and suddenly the horns of a feeding blesbok appeared over the grass. We hit our knees and began the stalk. As we snaked thru the grass, we could see more and more of the blesbok appearing. Once we got close enough, we could only move when all of the blesbok had their head down and were feeding. The stop and start stalk continued until enough of the blesbok was visible to get a shot. The ram was on the left side of the herd and was also the closest to us.
Andrew set up the sticks and said to me, “You’re going to need to shoot thru the top of the grass. Don’t worry about it.”
I slowly moved up onto the sticks and was in the process of finding the front leg in the reticle, slowly moving up to about 1/3rd of the body, when suddenly the blesbok whirled to run. I was already in the process of squeezing the trigger and had just enough time to move the reticle to the center of mass when it trigger tripped. At the shot, the running blesbok dropped.
I looked at Andrew and said, “What the hell was that all about?” I knew he didn’t see me because his head was covered by the grass he was feeding on.
Andrew replied, “A female saw you. Did you hear me say, ‘Shoot now’?”
I responded, “No, I never heard you say a word.”
I guess I was so focused on the shot at hand I never hear Andrew telling me to shoot and I never saw the females either until they were running from us.
“How far do you think he was?” I asked.
“He was exactly 70 yards when I told you to shoot,” was the reply.
Suddenly the blesbok tried to get to his feet, but you could tell his spine was broken. So, a small amount of maneuvering was required to execute the finishing shot.
Upon walking up to the blesbok, the proverbial “Texas Heart Shot” was almost perfectly executed. I’d say I was almost within a half inch of perfection.
A very old, well appreciated trophy.
After lunch, we found ourselves making our back over to our look out points trying to locate the kudu bulls again. We stopped one of our normal look out locations which we always stopped, which would give us a look across the canyon for the kudu bulls, as well as a look back up the mountain towards where the mountain reedbuck herd was feeding earlier in the morning. We couldn’t locate the bulls because there was a bluish, smoky haze in the valley canyon from inland fires obstructing our view across the canyon.
As we were making our way back to the Land Cruiser, I noticed a duiker ram run across the road behind the vehicle.
Andrew responded, “Too small.”
As I was beginning to get into the truck, I and noticed a second duiker coming across the road.
“How about that one?” I asked as I began to put my gun into the truck.
“He’s old and big.” Andrew replied while looking thru the Cruiser at me.
I kind of nodded in the general direction of the duiker in a sort of question like should we follow? Andrew’s response was a simple nodding of the head saying yes.
We followed the slope of the land trying to skirt around the patch of trees and brush the duikers had disappeared into. After not being able to locate them, we went back around towards the road and slowly started picking the brush apart. Eventually, Andrew located the second, old duiker feeding under the cover of a thorn bush. We slowly stepped to our right and sort of snuggled into the thorn bush we were standing next to. I got set up on the sticks and watch the little guy nibbling on the leaves of the thorn bush. Then, he realized we were there and turned head on towards us, staring in our direction. Everything was perfect, the duiker was only about 30-40 yards away, the power of the scope was turned down to 5 and I was rock steady on the sticks.
After several minutes, the duiker moved our from under the bush and turned more to what appeared to be a broadside position.
Andrew whispered into my ear, “Get ready he’s about to move into the open.”
At that moment, my right leg suddenly disconnected from the rest of my body. It started to shake uncontrollably. It was like it was trying to do the “River Dance” all by its self. I took a few deep breaths and tried to sturdy my jig dancing right leg.
Andrew asked, “Can you see his shoulder? I think he is about to run.”
“I can see just behind his shoulder like a lung shot on a whitetail” was the response.
“Is the brush in the way?”
“No, I think I can thread it thru there.”
“If you think you can make the shot, take it.”
It was then I noticed my right leg had deciding dancing was not the correct thing to be doing. I steadied the crosshairs in the center of the roughly 2 inch by 2 inch hole I was shooting thru and squeezed the trigger. At the report, I could only see the duiker flipping and flopping like a fish out of water. We walked around the backside of the thorn bush and collected the tiny trophy.
The duiker was standing more quartering towards me than I had initially realized. Upon examining the shot entrance and exit wounds, it appeared as though I must have clipped a portion of the bush and the bullet had begun to tumble as the entrance hole wasn’t a perfectly round hole. But as expected, the bullet entered just behind the shoulder exiting behind the last rib and hardly had an effect on the delicate skin. In addition, this was a very old duiker. He had already lost a front tooth, and the little ridges on his horns were worn smooth from years of use. A final characteristic mark was what appeared to be a horn poke from fighting just above the dark streak that runs from the nose to between the eyes.
As we were taking pictures and collecting our tiny prize, Gotcha the little Jack Russell decided to go on a wild goose chase likely after the other duiker. He ran in the direction of the mountain reedbuck herd we had left alone earlier in the morning. We weren’t but a few hundred yards from where they were feeding earlier and little Gotcha ran right in that direction. Sutu went to fetch Gotcha and we decided that the reedbuck herd was likely blown out of the area.
After pictures of the duiker, we proceeded to another location to look for mountain reedbuck on the backside of the mountain. Andrew spotted a lone ram making his way our direction, feeding as we moved along. The spotting scope was brought out and it was determined he was a worthy individual to get a closer look at.
A recent road had been opened up switch backing its way down the mountain side that would make a great path to follow to close the distance. The thought was, if we could make it to the first switch back corner, the reedbuck should continue on to an open shooting range within 100 yards of our location.
We belly crawled up to the corner. Slid my daypack up to make a rest and inched into position. Andrew located the reedbuck behind an aloe bush. As we watched him, it was quite apparent he was lying there chewing his cud. He was 116 yards away just as content as ever.
After several minutes of waiting for him to stand, Andrew decided it was time to make things happen.
Andrew whispered, “I’m going to give a male fighting call to get him to stand.”
The reedbuck looked around briefly and returned to chewing his cud.
A few minutes later, Andrew whistled again.
This time the reedbuck looked in our direction, but within about 15-30 seconds, he went back to chewing his cud.
Andrew whistled a third time, which caused the reedbuck to look in our direction intently. Finally after about a minute, he went back to chewing his cud again.
A couple of minutes later, Andre whistled a forth time. This time the reedbuck stood. I could only see his should as his head and a portion of his neck was behind an aloe. Andrew and I discussed taking the shot; however, there was a branch that traversed the reedbuck at about the middle of his body. There was a secondary smaller branch that was about just under the larger branch and was across a small portion of the lower third of the ram. Andrew and I talked about taking the shot and trying to shoot thru the smaller grayish branch. We determined the branch was roughly 12 yards in front of the reedbuck and decided it was too far from the ram to risk the shot. Finally, Andrew decided he was going to whistle again.
The only thing this did was cause the reedbuck to lift his head higher behind the aloe. Now, I could see his horns and ears above the aloe top.
After a few more minutes Andrew whistled again, and the ram decided he wasn’t going to get his tail beaten by the reedbuck who was challenging him, so he started to make his way from the direction he had come. As he continued to make his way around the rock rim, Andrew said when he gets to the steep rim; I’m going to stop him. “It’s 250 yards to the rim,” said Andrew.
As the ram reached the designated point, Andrew stopped him with another whistle. I settled the crosshairs on the lower portion of the leg. I pressed the trigger and a huge cloud of smoke rose from just in front of the ram. I had missed and shot just underneath him. For some reason, it didn’t register in my little pea brain that I needed to hold center of mass at 250 yards as the bullet would likely drop about 4 inches at that range. Luckily though, it was a clean miss and the ram was no worse for wear.
I was kind of beating myself up for missing the shot, as it was my first missed animal in Africa.
Andrew looked at me and smiled saying, “Don’t worry. If it were the only one we would see this week, I’d be upset. But, there’s plenty more in these mountains. We’ll get another one.”
We decided to make our way back to the other side of the mountain to look for our kudu bulls again. The bulls had definitely moved in the right direction, but they weren’t quite in the right location to put on a stalk and we were loosing light fast. Andrew looked back up on the side of the mountain where I had shot the duiker and where Gotcha had made his little ruckus and lo and behold, the reedbuck were back out feeding in the open.
I looked at Andrew and said, “We stand a better chance of getting on the reedbuck than we do getting on the kudu because we’re gonna lose light.”
Andrew said, “Yep, let’s go!”
We made a hasty retreat to the truck and high tailed it around the mountain.
We made it to the other side of the mountain and began our stalk on the herd of mountain reedbuck. As we snuck thru the same set of thorn bush and shrubs where I had shot the duiker earlier, we came upon the ram. What were the chances he was the only one I could see. We slowly made our way thru from bush to bush until we gained the needed shot angle. The reedbuck was sky lined on the hillside about 125 yards away.
At the shot, he dropped and began to roll and slide down the mountain side in his finally seconds. A grand old mountain reedbuck ram.
The above picture is using the flash on the camera. The bottom picture is not using the flash. Keep this in mind when taking pictures during twilight hours.
Day 4 greeted us with gale force winds of an approaching frontal system. We found us making our way back to the farm we hunted on the second day looking for our trophy kudu bull. When we first arrived we spotted three bulls, two were young bulls and the third was a one horned older bull. We made our way around the farm to get the wind in a favor, but there was absolutely nothing moving. The only other animal we spotted was a gemsbok that was determined to not be a shootable specimen. We moved out onto an open flat to look into the mountain crevasses to the northeast of our current location. Andrew and I had a short conversation and we both agreed that the animals were likely to be in the crevasses in the thick stuff out of the wind. It was determined then that we would make the 3-4 km march to the thick stuff in the attempt to find kudu.
We were quickly making our way thru the thick thorn bush using the many game trails. We bumped into a herd of kudu cows and calves, which we sent running. We continued on our march heading to the mountain crevasses.
Suddenly, Andrew looked to his left and stopped dead in his tracks and motioned for me to come up while starting to crouch to his knees. When I reached Andrew, about 30 yards from us was a kudu bull quartering away from us with his head stuck in a bush feeding away. Andrew whispered for me to cover the kudu bull and not take my eyes off of him or the crosshairs. As I stood awaiting instruction, I noticed out of the corner of my eye Andrew was completely horizontal trying to get a good look at the feeding bull’s horns amongst the tangle of thorn limbs. Eventually, the bull bolted as the wind swirled ever so slightly allowing him to catch our scent.
We continued on bumping another kudu bull without getting a very good look at him. Once we finally made it to the bottom of the mountains, we started slipping along looking up into the sheltered areas where the kudu might be held up out of the wind. As we were walking thru a thick ravine, we came across a Cape Mountain Tortoise, which is supposed to be in a critical state. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture.
Alas, we only saw a few kudu cows and calves and decided to move locations to a low fence cattle operation. Andrew had seen a few kudu bulls in a particular ravine/canyon and knowing it should be sheltered from the wind thought it would be holding kudu.
We drove up to about half way on the backside of the mountain and decided to slip up over the top and look for kudu. Immediately, Andrew spotted a monster warthog that was in the 13 and half inch range. We both agreed that if we didn’t locate any kudu, we would put a move on the warthog.
A few minutes later, Andrew with excitement in his voice, directed me to look directly above the warthog about 50 yards at a kudu. There he was basically the only hole in the thick thorn choked bush. The bull was standing broadside, scratching his back with his horns. I didn’t even have my gun with me. I had to go back and get my rifle and the sticks. Andrew obviously didn’t like my shirt either as he instructed me to take my shirt off and put my fleece back on. I did as I was told and shed the short quickly wearing only my olive colored fleece jacket. Once I was ready to head back over the mountain side, Andrew radioed to Sutu for me not to come back over until the kudu was in a better location, because he would see me if I came back. After about a 10 minute wait, Andrew himself came back up on top saying we needed to make another plan as the kudu was moving to our right. He also stated the kudu had a bad limp.
We discussed our options and decided to head back down the right side of the mountain and slowly make our way into a shootable position. Where Andrew left the bull, he was 378 yards and with the wind swirling and blowing as hard as it was, we needed to get as close to 200 yards as possible.
As we began rounding the mountain side, we noticed the terrain we needed to cross was fairly open. Additionally, the bull had picked up another young bull and a cow. It was obvious that the bull was limping on his right front leg. The younger bull and cow fed past the bull as his leg kept him from moving at a quicker pace. Now we had a further situation to deal with. We could only move when both the target bull and the younger bull and cow were both shielded from our movements. It took us likely 30-40 minutes to move about 125 yards to a potential position.
As we got to the designated big green tree, we quickly learned the limbs of the tree hung too low and might interfere with the shot. Therefore, we decided to our left to a smaller tree that appeared to have clearer view of the opposing hillside. By this time, the young bull and cow had made their way to a patch of dense thorn bush leaving our bull behind. Andrew set up the sticks and I made sure the rifle was steady enough to make the shot.
I was following the bull thru the scope waiting for him to stop in the open. Then, either the young bull or the cow caught our scent and gave a warning “bark”. This got our bull’s attention which we went quickly from a relaxed feeding stage to an alert stage, but looking only in the direction of the other two kudu. Suddenly, there was another “bark” and the bull took a few more steps forward into a clearing.
Andrew said, “There’s your shot.”
In the recoil of the scope, I saw the bull buck and noticed his white tail raised above his back.
There was a patch of thorn bush directly in front of the bull which he ran behind. The sound of breaking branches and site of the bush being blown apart by a tornado within a couple of seconds after shot confirmed the shot was true as the grand bull fell.
All I could say was, “He just dumped! He just dumped! He just dumped!” as I gave Andrew a few left elbows.
Here is a picture of the set up.
And, a view back across the canyon from where the shot was taken. If you look at center of the picture, you’ll see the ‘big green’ we wanted to get to initially, which is the cluster of three large trees. This is the location with the low branches, so we moved to the light green umbrella shaped tree just below the small dark green tree and to the right of the ‘big green’ tree. If you look in the upper left of the picture, you’ll notice a single circular shaped dark green tree, which was the beginning of our slow, meticulous stalk across the open hillside to get in position and shorten the distance needed. Andrew later ranged the distance at 225 yards where the kudu was standing at the shot.
My trophy Eastern Cape Kudu bull.
A little assistance from Sutu was greatly appreciated when taking pictures. Sutu would wrap himself around me to help get the perfect horn angle.
A picture of the injured foot. Obviously, the kudu had some sort of thorn that got in between the two hooves causing the infection or had a case of foot rot.
Luckily, we were able to get the land Cruiser to within about 100 yards from the kudu. The drag was 90% downhill, which could have been much worse than we originally expected. When we were walking to the truck, Andrew found an old abandoned road that Sutu cut back open allowing us to get the truck so close.
The rest of the afternoon was spent looking for kudu for my buddies. If the safari would have ended that day, I would have been happy for I had my trophy kudu.
We hunted a different location in the search of a kudu for Carlton and possibly a bushbuck ram for me. Both of our parties were at the same location and the wind was blowing horribly!!! Dave and Carlton moved around to the eastern portion of the rock rim and spotted two bushbuck rams feeding out of the wind. We went around joining them and getting our own look at the two rams. Andrew explained how one of the rams was longer but thinner in mass and the other was shorter but had more mass. The best of the rams looked to be about 14 inches and Andrew finally made the decision that we could do better, so we elected to pass.
Andrew and I moved back around to the windy side of the mountain top and Andrew quickly spotted an extremely nice mountain reedbuck ram. Carlton had yet to take a mountain reedbuck, so Dave and Carlton made a plan and started their stalk. They would need to slip about half way down the mountain side and move along the side to get within about 200 yards from the group.
It took them about 30 minutes to get into position. I was watching Dave pick up rocks and throw them in the canyon bottom to get the ram to move into a better position. Eventually, a shot rang out and the mountain reedbuck moved up the mountain side. I was watching the ram thru the binoculars when the second shot kicked up dirt, which looked to be either in front of the ram or underneath him. The ram moved to his left and a bit down the mountain side when the third shot rang out. The ram ran straight down hill and I expected him to tumble at any moment as I thought Carlton might have hit him on the last shot, because injured animals typically run downhill after being hit. Then, he made a right turn at that had to of had about 4 G’s and once lined out, he hit the nitrous oxide. I’ve never seen an animal make such a tight turn at such a high rate of speed, it was like he was a fighter jet making a move on an enemy jet. Simply unbelievable!!!
The afternoon hunt consisted of a moving to a cattle operation that had been planted with desmodium for the cattle, which bushbuck love to graze on. At about 3:00, bushbuck ewes and younger rams started moving. About 30 minutes before last light, a potential candidate moved into the far edge of a field planted with oats and desmodium.
We moved quickly but not quick enough. The potential ram had already moved out of the field as the wind was still blowing strongly, making the bushbuck extremely uncomfortable.
We made another quick hike to another portion of the property to look over an open grassy area. We did see a smaller ram in 12 inch range, but elected to pass.graybird
"Make no mistake, it's not revenge he's after ... it's the reckoning."
04-26-2011, 11:58 AM #2
We moved to another location which held our intended targets of black wildebeest and common springbok. If things went well, we might even add a zebra or a baboon at the end of the day.
The plan was to get a black wildebeest on the ground as quickly as possible. The landowner told us about a particular bull he thought we should target and the approximate location of where the herd was hanging out. We were driving around an old homestead and literally drove right into them. They stormed out of the area and we baled out of the truck to begin a stalk. We swung down by the riverbed to get the wind in our favor. Plus, the wildebeest knew where the truck was so we were attempting to get behind them.
Andrew saw the wildebeest doing what wildebeest do, which is run around like the clowns of the veldt as their nickname indicates. We made an almost complete circle around the herd working our way upon a small hillside in the attempt to gain as much elevation to use as an advantage. While making the stalk, the bull was the closest to us. Evidently, he heard us as some point because he started looking in our direction trying to locate us and making the undeniable grunt of a black wildebeest. Once again, we started the start and stop game of making our stalk. Andrew would say stop and I’d freeze in position regardless the shape I was in. At one point, I stood like a flamingo on one leg for about 3 minutes while one of the females was looking in our direction. Finally, we made it to an area that had an open shooting lane. The only problem was that the bull had lain down.
Then as if on queue, they began acting crazy again running around in circles bucking and kicking and chasing each other around the acacia thorn trees. They bolted in a cloud of dust towards the opposite side of the acacia flat on the backside of the old homestead. We gave chase finally making it to the old stone buildings.
As we ducked and dodged moving thru the old building, we kept a visual of the herd. We were trying to find a wind that was short enough I could shoot out of , but the only one that would allow me to get a shot had a small acacia tree growing next to it, obstructing the majority of the view I needed.
Then, the landowner came bumping down the road headed to a portion of the farm where his workers were working on a project. As expected, this sent the herd into the dizzying tizzy with them suddenly taking off in another cloud of dust.
We spoke to one of the farm hands we had with us, and he thought they might have moved to another flat above us a couple hundred yards. Andrew and I moved into position and slowly crept up to the have a look on top of the flat only to find it empty. We were waiting for the truck to come and pick us up when I spotted the wildebeest herd. They had already made it about 3 km to the top of the highest mountain on the property in about 10-15 minutes!!!
On to Plan B, common springbok. We moved around the backside of the mountain the wildebeest had just run up in the hopes of finding a common springbok ram. At this time of year, if you find a solitary springbok, he will usually be a shootable, territorial male. We spotted two black springbok with a common springbok several kilometers away. Andrew decided to have a look lower down in the valley to locate a male.
We came across four springbok that consisted of a potential male but not quite along with two younger males and a female. After a careful assessment of the one male, Andrew decided we could do better and decided to move on.
Andrew spoke to the farm hand that was riding with us, and he explained that there were some black wildebeest that commonly hung out around the backside of the currently mountain we were on, in a shallow basin.
We slowly slipped around the basin top and spotted the small group of black wildebeest as the farm hand had explained. We slowly slipped up to a rock and got my backpack in position for a rest. I slipped up to the top of the rock and steadied myself for the shot.
Andrew assessed the bull and thought this bull was actually better than the bull we were previously chasing. He ranged the bull at 271 yards. The bull had three cows with him and was standing between the cows and a younger bull protecting the cows from the younger guy. We waited several minutes allowing the bull to get in the perfect shooting position. I aimed for the off-side should and Andrew coached me thru the shot.
At the shot, the bull lunged forward and we could tell the off-side leg was broken and he wouldn’t be travelling far. The bull made it about 15 yards before he piled up into the rocks below. The shot was absolutely perfect, but the wind did drift the bullet about 4 inches to the left of where I was aiming.
While the guys were fetching the black wildebeest out of the bottom of the basin, we went down to the land owner’s house to tell him of our success and discuss where the springbok might be. He said the area where we had seen the two black springbok and the common springbok was the right area that we needed to be looking in.
After a cup of English style afternoon tea, headed in the direction of the springbok sighting. There was a small ridge of hills we were headed to, to gain more elevation. As we were reaching the top, which was flat, Andrew stopped and raised his binoculars and said, “Get your gun ready there is a lynx headed in our direction.”
Instantly my nerves were shot to hell!!! We slipped up on the caracal and moved in behind a dead tree top. There was a small half moon opening that I was going to have to shoot thru that was about 5 inches in diameter.
Andrew set up the sticks and I got on top of them. Then, we realized there wasn’t one cat but there were two of them. The second cat was rolling around on its back like a house kitten playing. The second cat realized we were there and locked in on us. He was sitting on his butt staring in our direction.
I asked Andrew which was the larger of the two and he said the one rolling around on the ground. I tried to make him out but he look like a rock lying there. Then, suddenly he stood up and headed towards our right. I had a chance to try to take both cats if I would have shot thru the guts on the closest cat and could have possible hit the guy looking straight at us. I chose not to do so and aimed at the cat that was broadside. I had to move slightly to my left and when I did the sticks became unstable. I tried to move the left stick to make it more stable, but when I put a bit of pressure on the sticks, the right stick stated to collapse. So, now I was basically left with a monopod, and not wanting to make many more moves as the once cat had us pegged, I decided to take the shot.
At the shot, neither cat took off immediately. They both just kind of stood around thinking what the hell was that? I quickly chambered another round. Andrew was hollering, “free-hand, free-hand”; however, I couldn’t locate them in my scope before they made off. I sailed the shot over the cat’s back.
I was absolutely disgusted with myself. Andrew later told me he didn’t need to say a word as he could read it on my face.
We quickly regrouped and got our mind back on common springbok. We made our way down the top of the ridgeline spotting red hartebeest, gemsbok and eland. We made a move to the next mountain range where Andrew knew of a basin on the backside that contained water and hopefully our quarry. When we reached our intended location, we spotted a herd of about a dozen common and black springbok, but a mature ram was not with the group.
We circled back around the hillside and tried again to locate a solitary springbok ram. After several minutes of glassing, Andrew spotted a ram about 2-3 km away. We quickly discussed our plan of attack. We needed to go down along the dry riverbed, which would hopefully send a herd of about 40 red hartebeest away from the direction of the springbok to about where there were four giraffe hanging out. Once we got past the giraffe, we should in a position to start looking for the springbok.
We slipped along the edge looking over the various steppes of the dry riverbed. Once we determined we couldn’t see him from our current vantage point, we would move down another steppe and start the process all over again. We made it to the very last steppe spotting only a handful of impala and a nyala ewe. We moved back up the steppes to the top steppe but were unsuccessful in relocating the ram.
Our day was completed with this beautiful sunset.
The last day of the hunt. I spoke with Andrew and we decided to focus on bushbuck. If we succeeded, we would then try our luck on a zebra.
We decided to go back to the area we hunted two days prior where Carlton had missed the mountain reedbuck and we passed the two bushbuck rams.
A panoramic view of the morning we were greeted with.
Andrew quickly spotted the same mountain reedbuck group with the ram Carlton had missed two days prior. He was in a stalkable position but they were hot on the trails of the kudu bulls we had pursued earlier in my hunt.
We spotted one bushbuck ewe out sunning herself but not much for some time. As seen from the photo above, the fog in the canyon valleys kept visibility limited to only the upper portion of the mountains.
After a couple of hours glassing, Andrew and I kept hearing something below us to our right, when suddenly 5 bushbuck ewes exploded from the cover crossing directly below us. Andrew thought there might be a ram with them. We kept a sharp eye out but saw nothing more than the ewes. We thought maybe a lynx had disturbed the group but didn’t see anything further.
On our way over to the desmodium fields, Andrew spotted a couple zebra in a stalkable location. We quickly switched gears and headed after them. We approached from down wind and closed the gap. I had my eyes set on a large zebra stallion to make a shoulder mount. Andrew assessed the herd and determined a shootable stallion was in the group. We began maneuvering around the herd to get the stallion in a position for a shot.
As we moved around the outskirts of the open plain, we lost sight of the zebras. We thought they moved off straight away from us. We moved along the edge of the plain, when from our left there was a snort followed by nothing but the sound of hooves beating the baked earth.
Andrew turned around and said, “Don’t ever think zebra are a dumb animal.”
That was our only stalk on the zebra. We came across them again as we drove down into the bottom of the canyon hoping to spot a bushbuck. It was amazing to see how much grow the zebra had covered in such a short amount of time!
The afternoon found us looking over the desmodium fields again. We saw several ewes and young rams again, but nothing fit the bill. Sure I could have shot an 11-12 inch ram, but I decided it was either going to be a trophy ram or nothing at all. The sun finally set on the final day of my safari and I couldn’t have asked for more, two respectable Eastern Cape kudu, a monster black wildebeest, a toothless old common duiker, and better than average blesbok and mountain reedbuck.
A couple pictures of the loot minus a couple that didn’t have horns.
The Eastern Cape
Many people have the misunderstanding that if you hunt the Eastern Cape of South Africa, you be doing nothing more than shooting fish in a barrel. I can certainly state with 100 percent certainty, that you are sadly mistaken and mislead. The Eastern Cape is HUGE country that has a very unique changing terrain.
Where do I begin here? If looking for a place that makes you feel as though you are long lost family members, then Andrew and Sharyn will certainly make you feel at home! The accommodations are comfortable, the food excellent and the story telling exceptional. My group also enjoyed the other PHs in camp including Dave, Mike, Greg, Gary and Martin. You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys to spend a week with.
Would I ever hunt with Kei River Safaris again? In a heartbeat!!! Besides, I need to settle the score with a cape bushbuck and I’d like to chase a few of the other hard to get little guys like vaal rhebok and blue duiker found in the Eastern Cape.
Oh yeah, in case your wondering, our second little boy arrived in October, so we both got what we negotiated for over a year ago!graybird
"Make no mistake, it's not revenge he's after ... it's the reckoning."
04-26-2011, 01:37 PM #3
- Member of RFEC, RFETO
- Hunted Finland, RSA ( KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, North West ), Spain
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Great story, thanks for sharing, and congratulations.
04-27-2011, 11:08 AM #4
- Member of Northeast Wisconsin SCI chapter, Lifetime member of NRA,RMEF
- Hunted Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
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Thanks for the great write-up! Great pictures, I felt I was with you on the hunt! I bet those bushbucks are still chasing around in your dreams (lol). I know that big warthog would too and that 5" steenbok!
04-27-2011, 03:01 PM #5
Thanks for sharing these great moments and pictures.
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04-27-2011, 04:32 PM #6
- Member of SCI, SHAC, RW Guild
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Great story! Congratulations with nice trophies. I can see that you too has fallen in love with East Cape..The best hunt are the one in your dreams, the next best are the one in your memories.
04-30-2011, 12:36 PM #7
We really enjoyed ourselves on this hunt. Everything was first rate and very relaxed, just as we desired.
One thing I quickly learned about the Eastern Cape and the areas we were hunting, is the absolute enormous size of the country. Many people have thoughts that hunting in South Africa is just like shooting fish in a barrel. I'd challenge these same people to come and hunt the same areas we hunted in the Eastern Cape and prove me different.
Bushbuck - my nemesis!!! I didn't get a bushbuck on my first hunt in KZN either; therefore, a bushbuck will be at the top of the list on my next hunt. Along with the bushbuck, I'm thinking a zebra, bushpig, bontebok, vaal rhebok and blue duiker should make for a nice wish list on the next trip!!!
Who says this stuff is addicting?!!!
"Make no mistake, it's not revenge he's after ... it's the reckoning."
04-30-2011, 01:14 PM #8
- Member of NRA, ATA, PITA, NAHC, NAFC, DU, TU, DSC, SCI, RMEF
- Hunted USA - Canada -Tanzania, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Africa
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Sounds like you had a great time and good hunt.
nice picturesJames 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
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