KMG Hunting Safaris Scouting Trip – A must see Operation in the Eastern Cape of South Africa
The activity details of this report are the results of a last minute decision to stop in and see an Outfitter by the Name of Marius Goosen and his Operation in the Eastern Cape, just 1.5 hours drive from the Port Elisabeth Airport. To start off I had booked a Plains Game hunt in the Southern Limpopo area just after Christmas and was settled in for 7 days of hunting and relaxation in South Africa’s great outdoors. As things can and do happen, a couple of weeks before my departure for the hunt a business necessity required that I make a side trip to Port Elizabeth and I thought what better opportunity would I have to do a little Outfitter “scouting” with my found time and trip extension. As with most of us, I hit the internet and started to contact a few Outfitters that operated in the surrounding area including KMG Safaris. Marius and I had communicated before regarding my 2011 Safari; however business commitments in Johannesburg at the time of booking my hunt limited me to the Limpopo area. Since I’ve hunted that area many times and knew several Outfitters it just made sense to stay in the Northern area and kill two birds with one stone as the saying goes.
Perhaps to get the AH Team a bit grounded on me and for the purpose of the value of this “scouting” report it’s likely important to the folks looking for a recommendation for future trips that I include some of my experience – so here goes. In the past 10 years I’ve hunted in Africa 8 times and have booked back-to-back Safaris in the years that time and money allowed. The key here is money allowed as I am the proud father of three college aged kids that have a remarkable ability to siphon money like you’ve never seen, although, I wouldn’t have it any other way as they and my wife are the light in my life. I’m equally proud of each of them, as well as my nearly 30 years of marriage to the most wonderful women in the world. I’ve hunted all the normal Plains game and some of the not so normal over the years and many of them more than once, when lady luck smiled upon me with a trophy that just had to be stalked.
Additionally, I’ve had the great fortune to have hunted Elephant, Lion, Hippo and Croc in recent years that I’ve mentioned in an earlier report to the AH Team. I have some experience so to speak and certainly carry it with a balding head, sagging gut, and lousy left knee of a middle aged American trying to live out some adventure on the African continent. I’m also the knucklehead that fell out of the tripod last year and wrote about it in the forum. Hopefully, the above doesn’t sound conceited and the intent is to suggest some credibility to the value of this report and the gem of an operation I found in the Cape.
My hunt in the Limpopo was a success and I intend to write a report on that trip as well and will not confuse the two to ensure credit is given where deserved. The highlight of the Limpopo hunt was a trophy Nyala bull of 28” my first ever – report to follow.
After concluding my business obligation in the Cape I was received by Marius at the PE airport and we quickly made our way to his base of operations. What I found upon my evening arrival was a stunning base lodge and a hot meal waiting for us at 11:30pm that night. Truth be told a beer or two did pass my way, but I was back in the “bush” and loving it. Marius and I shared some great discussions on the carrying capacity of his properties, and the Cape concessions in general. While I’ve hunted in that general area before, I was certainly impressed with the diversity and hunting opportunities on his concessions. We hit the sack that night with the intent of “touring” some of the areas the next morning – but with rifle at the ready…
The next morning we arouse to hot coffee, toast, cereal, yogurt, and just about everything else I would have needed to fuel me for the morning. There was a mist in the air and the fog was a bit thick on the onset, however it quickly cleared and the tour began. We explored a concession that contained some very nice Kudu, Blesbok, Impala, Warthog, Nyala, Blue Wildebeest and many others, again very game rich with plenty of space for them to roam. Marius had a box lunch packed and on one end of a really bumpy rock road we ditched the Toyota truck and struck out to explore an ancient cave that was carved out over time. We found numerous paintings on the ceilings and walls that were remarkably detailed and clearly visible. We found drawings of Kudu, Impala, Bushmen with bow and arrow and even a painting of a pregnant woman who appeared to be in labor. Absolutely, way cool stuff. There were also numerous hand prints of varying sizes and you could clearly see the story of a family living on that rock outcropping that over looked a huge area. You could even make out where they had built a fire and the smoke and flame marking still resided on the ceiling today.
After sharing sandwiches, chips, fresh baked cookies and cold drinks we headed out to look for a group of Warthogs that had been using a green grass clearing in the early afternoon for grazing. We rolled the Toyota to a stop about a half mile away, got the wind right and started the stalk. Rumor had it there was an 11” boar that had been seen and it was certainly something we needed to check out. Through the cactus and thorn we went and with the wind in our face we slipped to within 50 yards of the group. There we found a sow, a few youngsters, and a 7 incher going about their business. Further scanning revealed a huge Pig fast asleep on his side with his back to us, sporting a very nice tusk sticking straight up in the air. We waited and waited and then the smaller boar also decided it was nap time and laid down at the heels of the larger boar. Minutes seem like the flight over from the states to Joburg, but it was really more like 15-20 minutes and we decide to force the play. Marius gave a Jackal call and the big guy came to his feet. He turned, looked our way and while he wasn’t the 11 incher, he was a respectable 9 inches plus. I elected to hold off and leave the big guy for another day or perhaps the next client.
We spent a few minutes enjoying the groups antics as they tried to sort out what a Jackal was doing singing aloud in the mid day heat – no regrets at all, he was a wonderful pig and we had properly made a stalk and could of finished it with a shot but I was on a “scouting” trip – Ugh you say, not really it was just nice to have made a successful stalk and leave them as we found them.
That afternoon we headed over to another concession for some exploring and found on this property there were Zebra, Impala, Nyala, Blesbok, Springbok, Kudu, Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest, Red Lechwe, Common and Mountain Reedbok and a zillion Ostriches. In speaking with the local guides they mentioned that they’ve seen a few very large Impalas and that quickly got my attention. Truth be told, I’ve been looking for that elusive 25 incher for a few trips and while several have been close and are certainly wonderful trophies, there is just something that triggers me about a big majestic Impala.
At the start we saw some very impressive trophies and a few that needed further review via some stalking and glassing. However, it wasn’t until we moved to the far corner of the property that we got a glimpse of what looked to be a huge Ram. It was pretty late in the afternoon, but we got the wind right and started working towards the general area that we last saw the brute. What seemed strange is that this guy was not with any of the other Impala groups and it appeared that he was hanging with a small group of Kudu cows and calves instead. That afternoon we got busted by the Kudu and as soon they became alert the Ram blew, snorted and barked his way out of town for the day. However, we did see enough of him to decide that at first light tomorrow we would be back in the bush looking for him, and hopefully the night would allow him to settle down. That evening back at the lodge we walked into a roaring fire, cold beer and a great dinner that was anchored with roasted Wildebeest back-strap stuffed with garlic, mushrooms and cheese. Holy cow was it good! Side dishes included salad, rice, potatoes, and veggies, and as if that wasn’t enough there was also sliced cheese, crackers and spicy ham. All that served with your choice of wine, beer or spirits and then topped off with hot coffee, custard and cake to ensure you went into an over-eating coma before heading to bed.
The next morning we were back at the concession early having coffee and cookies as we waited for the first morning mist to clear. The mission was to find the whopper of a Ram somewhere on this 2000 acre property, do some quick trophy judging, make a perfect stalk and perhaps be lucky enough to close the deal. We were basically looking for a single ram on this big piece of ground and the first few hours proved to be a challenge. The brute we were looking for had a very distinctive horn trait where both tips leaned out at about the last four inches or so. Pretty easy to identify if we could ever find him again. We talked to the ranch guide once more and he just chuckled and said that nobody has been able to get within several hundred yards of that guy for a very long time and he stays in the thick stuff. Late that morning we headed to a section to investigate some kudu cows we got a glimpse of with the hope that perhaps the Ram was close by. We slipped down the side of a large hill and moved parallel to the opposite side to see if the cows pushed out. Well the cows blew out the other side and as fast as we saw them, we heard the deep loud roar of what was certainly a mature Impala and it appeared to be close. We had the wind right, but the kudu cows gave us away and the bush exploded about 50 yards in front of us and off the brute went around the bowl end of the cut we were working down. The good news was we found him...the bad news was he knew we found him. We took a knee to catch our wits and perhaps allow him to settle down a bit. After about 15 minutes we pushed ahead and with the wind still in our favor, we closed the gap to about where we thought he was. Unfortunately, it was pretty thick going for a while and we would get a few quick glances of his legs slipping through the bush. Fortunately, the bush was starting to clear a bit and with some luck he would move out of the thick stuff and into a clearer area and possible give us a chance vs doubling back and disappearing again. Well for some reason the big guy moved into the clearing and stopped at about 400 paces and turned and faced us. He roared and chuckled and then would walk straight away. Marius and I started to sprint from one bush to the next to close the gap and in the middle of the third dash he swapped ends and busted us in mid stride. He knew we were there and we could do nothing about it. We elected to slowing walk at an angle to appear we were walking away but in fact we were closing the gap. We would move slowly and very close together and each time we stopped he would roll into new chorus of barks and belches. Marius said he was a cheeky fellow; he just seemed a bit arrogant to me as he kept up the noisy protesting of our effort. At one point, we elected to take a sit in the long grass and put the sticks up from a sitting position.
He naturally continued his protest and would move towards and away from us carrying on like he was mad at the world and each and every time he would swap end for end. He was either walking dead away or facing us straight on. This went on for 20 minutes and at first it was frustrating, but Marius just started to laugh a bit and I joined in as we joked about who was outsmarting who. That damn Ram was smart and he never gave us the slightest chance to take a responsible broad side shot even though the distance was cut to about 175 yards. We briefly discussed it and the Ram deserved nothing less than an ethical site picture – we were in complete agreement. It was a great stalk and a lot of fun and that Ram is still out there today and yes guys, he very likely is close to 25” inches – in the Cape no less.
Top quality game and if I had more time, I would of loved to try him again. We returned to the main lodge for a brunch of eggs, kudu patties, sausage and a lot more. That afternoon I toured all the guest cottages and they are top notch with quality beds, tubs and large showers. Each had a porch with a great view of the landscape for some afternoon reading. I asked Marius about taxidermy and we quickly made a trip to visit Karl Human of Wild Africa Taxidermy and man-oh-man does this guy do great work. We saw the Dangerous seven in various stages of completion and got to watch some of the artistry in the fine detail and painting work that his craftsman did as we stood by.
After a quick coffee we headed back to the bush to explore the last area that Marius wanted me to see. Marius said “it’s rather big” and we won’t be able to see much of it but I should get an eye full. Well the property is more than just big; try 15,000 plus acres with huge herds of Zebra, Impala, Wildebeest and more. We saw a few whopper Kudu and some Bushbok as well along the way. We leisurely rolled the Toyota around one of the mountains and found a small group of Impala in the middle of a huge grass pasture. Amongst them was a beautiful Ram that continuously kept his girls moving about as they fed. We were well over a half mile away but we could clearly hear his roaring. We back-tracked on foot to a lower part of the pasture and duck walked for about 300 yards. Fortunately, there were several levels of earth grade in the pasture that kept us hidden for much of the first part of the stalk.
The next 200 yards was on hand and knees as we worked into the wind to close the gap. Marius would slide on his belly up to the rim of the little earth shelf and take a peek every 30-40 yards or so to try and pin-point the group. At last he got a view of one of the ewe’s ears and the distance was now down to about 150 yards. Now it was decision time, do we slip up top to gain some elevation and likely get busted but hope to have enough time to judge him and take a shot, or do we keep slipping along and run the risk of bumping into them as the earth rim tapered off. We sat and discussed the options and with the wind still in our favor we decide to leopard crawl as low as possible and for as far as possible and perhaps inch our way into shooting position. We went about 30 yards and the cactus thorns we giving us a real hiding from head to toe. We ditched our caps and the shooting sticks and inched along. It was painful, nerve racking and just a friggin blast. I was a kid again and loving it! Marius was in front with me right on his heels; we would go about 10 yards take a rest; smile a bit and move again. After 100 yards or so we came up to a small cactus on the earth rim edge and Marius crawled up to the edge and froze. I thought we were busted, but he back tracked and said that they were now only 30 yards in front of us. Apparently, as we crawled toward them they had moved in our direction and we were almost on top of them. I started to crawl up the edge and just then a secretary stork landed off to our left and now the Impala were looking over our position and the giant bird for some reason had them none to happy about the intrusion. So there we were two grown men covered in dirt, thorns and grass stains (and soon to be discovered pepper ticks) trying not to giggle over our wonderful predicament. After about 10 minutes the Impala settled down and I slipped the gun up and inched my way into a shooting position, naturally the Ram was facing dead away from me and I had no shot – here we go again…The group seemed pretty relaxed and it gave me time to settle down myself after the long crawl and the excitement of a great stalk. I could see that the Ram was very deep in the horn and had good length, but what really caught my eye was just how heavy he was. His horns were well and deep ridged and he just looked striking and majestic. In the mean time Marius had slipped in beside me and was whispering to just relax and let him get broad side and in a few minutes he did just about that. He was at a very slight quartering toward me position and Marius said there’s your shot if you’re comfortable. I settled the cross-hairs on the Rams shoulder, took a breath, let it half out, locked them in place and started to squeeze. The shoot rang out and the Ram was hit hard. At the impact he was jarred back and leaped forward as he started a brief sprint behind a broken row of cactus’ I saw him pass the first and cycled the bolt as he went behind the second, however he never came out. We circled around the huge cactus patch and found him expired just a few feet away. We checked him to ensure he was done and I quickly unloaded my rifle and the high-fives and hugs started. As with the killing of any animal there is that moment of bittersweet where a touch of remorse sneaks in and we all must deal with that in our own way. For me it’s a few minutes alone with the animal and some quite reflection on how fortunate I truly am to have shared the earth with such a wonderful creature. Frankly, I never measured the horns of that wonderful Ram. The hunt, the stalk, the thorns and the giggles in the bush with Marius are far more meaningful then the length of his horns – we settled into the late afternoon to take a few pictures and headed back to the lodge for a fire side BBQ with all the fixings and a glass or two of wonderful South African Wine – It was a great day.
The next morning after breakfast Marius returned me to the PE airport. Prior to boarding my flight back to Joburg Marius and I had a cup of coffee and chatted about the fast pace “scouting” trip turned Impala hunt and the enjoyment of it all. Based on what I found with respect to how the operations is run, the quality of the accommodations, the outstanding food and great PH work I’m really glad I took the long way back to the states.
Like most of the folks who hunt in Africa the planning of your next rip usually starts before you get home. This time I got a jump on it via the “scouting” trip. I will be returning to Africa’s Cape and will be hunting with Marius and KMG Safaris yearly next year for Red Lechwe, Black Wildebeest, Common Reedbok, Impala and a few more goodies - I can’t wait!
Check out a few pictures on what I saw and the great Impala that Marius and I hunted together.
Marius can be reached at http://www.huntsafaris.co.za