Spiral Horn Safaris Hunt Report 2011 - Picture Heavy
Spiral Horn Safaris Hunt Report
July 27-August 8 2011
Spiral Horn Safaris Limpopo Region, South Africa near Rooibokrall and Thabazimbi
Tom Addleman Hunter
Louis Van Bergen PH and Outfitter
To have another great bowhunting safari with a top notch outfit
Hunting for Adventure Hunting for Adventure
Compound bow - Mathews Switchback 68lb draw
Gold Tip Pro Hunter 5575 arrows
Muzzy 125 grain three blade broadhead
GrizzlyStik Safari Arrows
Nanook 315 grain broadhead
Recurve Bow - Black Widow PSAX 60lb draw
Gold Tip Traditional 5575 arrows
Muzzy 200/220 grain broadhead
At the conclusion of my successful 2009 hunt with Louis Van Bergen at Spiral Horn Safaris, I immediately booked for the 2010 calendar. Well, as things in life change, my wife and I became the proud parents of twin boys during the late summer of 2010. As she was extremely pregnant and unable to fly and these being our first children, I of course asked Louis if I could reschedule my hunt for 2011. The gentleman and business man that he is, he responded to problem? We set new dates and the anticipation started all over again!
Spiral Horn Safaris/Louis Van Bergen own the land that they hunt. Louis also has sole outfitting rights to a number of the adjoining properties. I like this. It seems too many outfitters these days just jump from ranch to ranch shooting with no real thought to herd management or conservation practices. Not so with Louis. The main ranch has been in the family for a number of years with particular attention given to proper management. The main ranch is a bit over 5,000 acres and is home to a variety of plains game animals. The health, growth and trophy potential of the property is evident at every turn. We saw animals that would blow your mind. For instance, we saw a kudu bull that must have gone at least 60 (several in the mid to high 50s), a waterbuck that must be 31-33, numerous big wildebeest and everything in between. I get ahead of myself though? I had told Louis that I wanted to hunt mature, past breeding age animals prior to the trip. I don't mean to sound like a martyr or some wackadoo guy, but scores don't mean anything to me and I wanted to focus on really old and mature animals, no matter the species. Some might find this weird but it is the hunt that I seek, not the resulting trophy room piece.
With that in mind, I (and my baggage) arrived in the evening hours of July 27, 2011. Louis and his better half, Carien, were at the airport waiting for me as usual. We immediately left the airport and swung by his home to pickup Hammer the wonderdog, drop off his fianc and transfer my gear from the car to his hunting truck. We left late that night headed straight for the hunting area. We arrived in camp after a short 3.5 hour drive that allowed us to catch up on things and talk. A cold beer and warming fire awaited us. After 30 minutes of winding it was off to bed.
Louis woke me up that next morning and introduced me to his trackers/skinners (Gerry, Patrick and Franz) as well as the cook who goes by her nickname Mootsie? After coffee and rusks I shot my bow a few times to make sure the idiots at the airport hadn't done anything to it. To my surprise, everything was in order and the bow was shooting great.
The first thing I noticed about camp was the significant improvements, renovations and progress since my last visit. When I hunted with Louis in 2009, everything was clean and very well organized but basic. In my absence, he has built two more chalets, renovated the swimming pool, changed the kitchen/dining area and built a nice little water hole with lights that can be seen from the fire ring (Lappa) area.
We saw Kudu, Nyala and Waterbuck at that waterhole almost every evening while enjoying dinner and a drink or two. The waterhole was literally 15 yards behind my room and hardly 50 yards from the dining area. It definitely added to the overall experience. Needless to say, camp had come a long way and was perfect. It is luxurious enough to have you feeling spoiled and pampered, but not so ostentatious as to make you feel uncomfortable. Bringing the wife and children is no problem at Spiral Horn. Swimming pool, game drives, satellite television and internet are just a few of the possibilities.
After feeling confident that the bow hadn't been molested in transit, we headed to the blind. Boy had the blinds had been upgraded! Each blind is constructed with block foundation, stucco like walls, glass viewing windows on a hinge and carpeting on the floor. These windows are drawn back quietly when game is at the waterhole. Simple but genius design. The entire blind was scent free and dark. I loved it and had a great feeling.
Within the first few minutes animals started appearing at the waterhole. Specifically, a huge troop of baboons made their way in. I had told Louis prior to the trip that if a big old baboon male made an appearance I would be shooting! I had shot one a few years prior in Botswana but the hide and skull never made it out of the country (different outfitter). Baboons can scare everything out of the waterhole area and they make it extremely difficult for animals to approach comfortably. Needless to say, when the chief baboon offered me a shot at 22 yards I took it. The lumenok lighted gold tip arrow with a Rage 125 grain broadhead zipped right through. The animal ran 25 yards and lay down?tone dead. That is the only animal I will ever shoot with a Rage broadhead. Read further for my aggravating story of the cheap build and design of the Rage broadheads. (DO NOT USE THEM IN AFRICA) At any rate, the big baboon was done and we posed for some great pictures. He was skinned for a full body mount and his skull will adorn the desk in my law office as a reminder to my criminal defense clients to pay their bill.
After the baboon was taken care of, we climbed back into the blind. As luck would have it, after a few short minutes a mob of impala showed up. There must have been 40-60 animals in the group with 4 very nice males. Per my goals, we waited and waited for the old alpha male to finally make his appearance. He was towards the end of the herd and finally presented a 15 yard chip shot, quartering away. The muzzy three blade blew through him so fast that he only ran 20 yards and stood there? wondering what had happened. I could see him standing there, blood coming down each side as he started to falter and eventually fell over dead. He had no idea what had hit him.
We took several great trophy photos and sent him back to the skinning facility to be taken care of. Notice I say skinning facility? I don't claim to be the end all, be all of safari guys. But, I have yet to see a skinning area as well thought out and clean. Louis has taken the extra time to make sure each and every detail of trophy prep is handled properly. The skinners utilize razor blades to skin the animals. No sharpening the knives on a rock here. Salt is changed after each hunt and each animal is inspected daily to ensure that the trophies are prepared properly.
After a nice evening meal and drinks, I went off to bed a happy camper.
The next morning was dedicated to Waterbuck. Louis has several nice Waterbuck and my hopes were high that we would come across a truly outstanding animal. Sure enough, soon after arriving in the blind we were already covered up with waterbuck, nyala (a shot I shouldn't have passed) and kudu. After some whispered discussion, a bull was selected. He had very thick horns and substantial length with the white fronts indicative of a fully mature animal. As I was in Africa field testing some products for Sporting Supply (Sporting Supply) I decided to shoot this Waterbuck with a Rage 125 grain broadhead. Needless to say, the shot was 22 yards and quartering away. The arrow struck perfectly in the pocket behind the front leg, headed directly for the offside leg. Everything looked great. We waited thirty minutes and headed out of the blind fully expecting to find a dead Waterbuck within 50-100 yards. We didn't. In fact, we found a majority of the arrow with very little blood. Long story short, the Rage broadhead didn't penetrate but maybe an inch at most. We followed blood for the better part of the day until it finally ran out.
That was an expensive lesson about Rage broadheads. I will see if I can insert a still photo from the video to show you shot placement on that hit. It looked great but the broadhead failed miserably. I was sick to my stomach. Not only had incurred an expensive trophy fee for the animal, I had wounded a beautiful creature that we were unable to locate.
We decided to climb back into the blind the next day in hopes of finding another Waterbuck. Another monster came in and I shot him quartering away with a Muzzy 125 grain three blade. This time he only went 40 yards and was down. The muzzy had done it's job well. This animal was a beast as well. Very stocky build, thick horns with worn tips and an aggressive overall demeanor. I can still see him in my mind? Rushing everyone around and exhibiting his authority. He was truly a majestic bull.
The funny and absurd part is that the original Waterbuck came back to the blind the next day, sporting a small scab where the original Rage had hit him. I was able to put a Muzzy into him this time and he was ours. Two Waterbuck are not exactly cheap but the lesson learned will not be forgotten. From my experience, do not use Rage broadheads on any animal larger than deer size. You are just asking for trouble. I hope to write a follow up article in the bowhunting section about my issues with Rage, citing evidence. I've learned that I am not alone in the poor performance of Rage broadheads on African game.
I had brought my Black Widow Recurve along for the adventure as well. I decided to bring it out and hunt a couple days with it. As luck would have it, a group of Kudu bulls were the first animals presenting a good shot.
In 2009 I had already taken a 56.5 kudu bull with my bow with Louis. So, I really wasn't looking to take another unless it was a true monster or fit into my extremely old and mature category. Wouldn't you know it, a fantastic group of kudu bulls came in. Several up and coming bulls with one that must have been in the high 50c already. And then? there he was. A badass bull that was running the show and mandating what and where the other kudus could stand, drink and eat. He had one long, twisted horn and one broken about a foot up from the skull. He was mean and in charge. There was no doubt in my mind that he broke his horn fighting or bullying. I knew I wanted him. I asked Louis if I could take him with the recurve and he obliged. Louis was concerned that this bull had shown great aggression towards the other bulls and with only one horn he could truly be a danger to the others in a fight.
The recurve came back and I sent the arrow on it's way. The kudu ran approximately 120 yards and was done. In a weird way I am as much or more proud of this Kudu than any animal I have taken in Africa. His mentality and attitude made him a true trophy to me. The fact that he was taken with traditional gear is even more special.
The next day we headed out to the blinds with nothing really in mind. I love hunting impala so I knew that if the opportunity arose I would shoot another one. There is just something about those Impala that I like. They are always jumpy and wired like a teenager on an energy drink but more cautious and wary than thought imaginable. If something isn't right they will literally stand a 100 yards away and just stare at the waterhole for as long as it takes for them to feel comfortable. I've seen them stand out there for over 40 minutes? Patiently waiting for the first one of their tribe to walk into the water.
With my significant problems with the Rage behind me, I had decided the rest of the hunt would be with the Muzzy three blade or my special heavy Nanook heads. As the morning wore on another giant group of Impala descended upon us. The wind was a bit more active today and the animals never got comfortable. I took the shot at a broadside ram standing at 26 yards. The shot looked good and I truly anticipated seeing the animal drop within sight of the blind. He didn't. Needless to say Louis and the trackers took up the spoor. While Louis and one tracker followed the probable route, another tracker (Gerry), Louis fianc Carien and I took the slow blood trail. Within an hour Gerry, Carien and I had tracked the Impala deep into the bush. He had chosen a tangled dark bush to hide under, thinking he was completely concealed. There was little showing of the Impala but a portion of his head and neck, the rest of his body swallowed by brush. He was not going to stand up so in broken English the tracker (Gerry) said heck? shoot? I drew back and sent the arrow right into the neck. The animal jumped up and slowly hobbled and then fell back down. Gerry ran up and grabbed the impala by the horns (like a steer wrestling champion) to hold it still until it expired. He then hoisted the Impala over his back to carry it out the long journey to the nearest road. It was an amazing experience.
As it turned out, the initial shot was just a little forward. The muzzy had broken the front shoulder completely and passed through the animal. That is a tough broadhead. I don't think the Impala would have made it another 30 minutes but it was nice to find him and dispatch him. It made a very special memory.
Zebra - We were always hunting Zebra. As the days stretched from 6, 7, 8 I was starting to wonder if and when our opportunity to get a stallion in bow range would happen. I have bowhunted zebra before and respect them as some of the most spooky and intelligent animals to bowhunt. It wasn't a matter of not seeing them or hearing them, it was a matter of getting them into bow range in daylight hours. On day 8 it finally happened. A stallion came in with two mares and stood slightly quartering to at 24 yards. The shot was good and he only ran another 30 yards before piling up. A great old stallion with teeth worn down to almost nubs. He will make a great rug for my trophy room and yes?e did taste good. The cook and I were the only two to eat any of the fillet but they were fantastic.
Giraffe - Giraffe was to be the highlight of my hunt. I had practiced all summer long with the heaviest arrow/broadhead combination I have ever used. I shot GrizzlyStik Safari arrows fletched with 4, 5 inch feathers, tipped with an Alaska bowhunting supply Nanook 315 grain broadhead. These are without doubt, the sharpest, nastiest broadheads I have ever used. The total arrow weight was just over 1,000 grains. With this heavy setup I was literally shooting through almost all of my broadhead targets.
I was confident in my setup out to 45 yards. As you can imagine, with an arrow that heavy there is a rather large arch in trajectory. I was confident and ready to take on the Giraffe.
Louis and I were hoping that one of the Giraffes that we were targeting would appear at one of the waterholes, making for a close shot. However, every other giraffe but the few we were after showed up! Louis must have 50 Giraffe on his place if he has 1. They are all over the place but when you have it narrowed down to 2-3 specific animals? it's a whole other game. Towards the end of my hunt we started doing a lot more spot and stalk. On the ninth day we found one of the Giraffe we were after. Louis and I were able to sneak up to within 34 yards (no small feat on a giraffe). I pulled back, settled the pin and let the arrow fly. As most of you know, the vital organs on a Giraffe are considerably higher and more forward than on almost any other animal. Your prime area to shoot is slightly above the shoulder and behind the breast bone humps in a broadside presentation. That was the shot offered and the first arrow sunk deep. The broadhead smashed through a rib with an audible crack? The giraffe immediately kicked hard and snapped the little bit of arrow left hanging. The effects of the heart shot were immediate as within 40 yards it has slowed and was already starting to sway. I shot again from 43 yards and watched the flight of the arrow into the sweet spot. The animal fell over with a loud thud? Thanks to the heavy equipment and Louis getting me in good position, the whole sequence from first shot to giraffe down wasn't more than 30 seconds.
I can't say enough about being prepared for the animal you are going to hunt. There is no way I would have attempted a giraffe with a normal bowhunting setup. As the skinning procedure went into the night (over 5 hours of skinning and butchering) I was able to really see how thick the hide on a Giraffe can be. In the shoulder areas it was an inch or more thick. No standard broadhead would have done a sufficient job in my opinion.
I found it very interesting that after we completed the full Giraffe process, vultures descended upon the area. I didn't know that vultures were protected and such a treat to see. Here are a couple pictures.
The rest of the time with Spiral Horn was spent loafing around, hunting predators one night with my FoxPro caller (no success and I can't believe it), and generally having a great time with friends.
Louis Van Bergen and Spiral Horn Safaris run a top notch outfit. This is not my first go round in Africa so I do speak from some experience when I say that it would be very difficult to find anyone better. His bow blinds are well thought out, animals abundant and carefully managed, and his camps are comfortable with outstanding food. He communicates with his clients regularly over email, Skype and cell phone. There are no surprises with Louis. He provides a great service at a reasonable price. If you are ever thinking of a safari to South Africa (particularly a bow safari), check with Spiral Horn Safaris first. You won't be disappointed.
I want to thank Sporting Supply (Sporting Supply) for providing me with the gear for this hunt. They have literally anything and everything you need and special ordered me what they didn't have in stock. Thanks guys.