KMG Safaris 7 Day Plains Game = OUTSTANDING
Well, we just got back from my second hunt in Africa. First trip was to Namibia in 2000 where I shot Mountain Zebra, Kudu, Eland, Gemsbok, Hartebeest, Impala, Springbok & Steenbok.
This trip my target species were Nyala, Bushbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Blesbok and Mountain Reedbuck. I was open to taking an monster Impala, Warthog and Duiker time and opportunity permitting.
At first the trip started off on a sour note, none of which was in control of Marius at KMG. We flew from Grand Rapids MI to Atlanta, had a long layover where we took a day room near the airport for a nap and lunch before the 16 hour evening flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg. We were to spend the night at the Afton Guest House, then depart early for Port Elizabeth to meet Marius.
Because I knew we would be trashed from all the flying to get to Johannesburg and because I had not dealt with the SAPS process before, I decided to pay someone to do the pre-processed temporary rifle permits. I figured it was worth the $150 just to have it all taken care of so that when we landed we could breeze through the process and quickly be off to the Afton House for dinner and sleep. At Lori's (Travel Express, great help) suggestion I worked with Bianca at Safari Concierge to do all the paperwork in advance. A few weeks and several emails/documents later I was told we were all set and my pre-approved temporary permit would be waiting for me. Lori made the RSVPs with the Afton House.
The night before we left for R.S.A. I contacted the Afton House and Bianca at Safari Concierge to confirm the arrangements and my flight schedules were set as I always do just to make sure everything was in order. Afton House confirmed they would be waiting to take me from the airport to the Guest House. Bianca confirmed that "all I had to do was arrive" to quote her and that the rifle permit would be waiting for me. We were all set for the JoBurg portion of our travels...or so I thought.
When we got off the plane in JoBurg, there was a nice young man waiting for me with our name and he breezed us through the VIP lane at Customs bypassing the hordes in line to be processed. He helped us collect our luggage, got it on a cart and took us to the SAPS office to process the rifle. Great stuff to that point...then everything fell apart. There was no pre-approved rifle permit for me. Somebody forgot to give it to somebody or Bianca never had it in the first place. I don't know which because nobody at Safari Express has ever returned a phone call or email to give me an explanation or even an apology, much less a refund for the service I had paid for in advance (the pre-approved rifle permit). It is now 12 days later and I have not yet gotten a response from Safari Concierge. So basically I paid $150 to have somebody get me through customs quicker, collect my luggage and show me where the SAPS office was. A complete rip-off.
After wasting a lot of time trying to get in contact with Bianca to find out where my rifle permit was I finally gave up and decided to just do one myself. This is where Adel of Hunters Permits Africa saw we were having a problem and stepped up and helped me get the permit filled out and approved even though I was a CUSTOMER OF ONE OF HER COMPETITORS!!! She actually meets her customers herself to make sure everything was in order and they were satisfied and when she saw our situation offered to help. Well I tipped her and all I can say is that if somebody wants help they should go to Hunterspermits Africa - Welcome to Hunters Permits Africa, your map to all your needs to hunt in South Africa! and contact Adel and avoid Safari Concierge like the plague.
To make a bad night worse, the Afton House had not sent anybody to pick us up and after a couple calls to them we were finally told that their guy had screwed up and was expecting on a later KLM flight coming in 3 hours later. They quickly sent someone to collect us but we never got any kind of apology for the mix up and generally felt like we were an imposition on them even though the room was nice and the food was good at dinner ($25 p/p extra charge) and breakfast (included). When they dropped us to the airport, their porter apologized for the mix up and showed me the paperwork that the people at the office had printed out showing us arriving with the others on the KLM flight. So basically the people at the Afton House blamed the porter while in fact they had given him the wrong instructions despite my having confirmed our arrival flight and time the day before with them! So we won't be using the Afton House again....
So at this point we were less than thrilled with JoBurg and hoped that things would get better once we got the he11 out of there and got to P.E. and with Marius. Well, that was certainly the case because we could not possibly have been happier with everything on our trip from the point we met Marius in P.E. at noon.
We spent the night in a beautiful room at Sir Roy's Guest House in P.E that was 1/2 the price we paid the night before in JoBurg and was way nicer. Our plan was to relax, meet Marius and his lovely wife Kim for dinner in P.E, then get up in the morning and spend the morning at the Addo Elephant Reserve on a game drive before heading to the lodge in the afternoon to check the sights on the rifles and begin hunting the following day.
Marius being the hunting machine he is was so excited to hunt he asked if we were up do doing the game drive yet that afternoon before dinner then we could start of first thing to the lodge and get an extra 1/2 day of hunting in. We were feeling pretty good so we agreed and had a great time seeing and photographing Elephant, Kudu, Warthog, Zebra etc. We then had dinner with Marius and Kim and went to bed.
Next day we were off to the lodge at the crack of dawn and arrived there at about 8am. We dropped our stuff in a stunning room at the most incredible lodge I have ever seen and buzzed over to the shooting range which happened to be at a ranch that held lots of Blesbok. First thing I noticed was that I had forgot the detachable magazine for my custom Rem 700 7mm-08...so I had a single shot rifle. DOH!!! So I would half to make my shots count. We quickly confirmed the rifles were ok and started stalking Blesbok. After a couple stalks and not seeing what we wanted we spotted a ram that looked good and started stalking through the grasslands moving bush to bush to cut down the range. We managed to get it to about 100 and I put the 140 grain Nosler Accubond through the lungs of the ram. He ran through some bushes and was out of sight. We put Marius' Jack Russel on the trail and he quickly led us to my first trophy in R.S.A. It was not even noon of what was technically my non hunting arrival day and we had one in the salt LOL That was how my hunt was to progress.
We got him on the truck and then went back to the lodge and looked at several Kudu (not on my list) and Nyala bulls but did not see what I was looking for that first evening. So we retired to the lodge...and what a lodge it is.
My wife thinks "roughing it" means staying in a Marriott Courtyard instead of a full level Marriott Resort..and she LOVED THE PLACE. Incredible views and very nice rooms. To give you and idea of how good the food was, I carry a step counter all day every day and we averaged between 16,000 and 18,000 steps a day which is 7-9 miles every day up and down steep hills....and I gained 3 pounds!!:confused:
The next day we set off to a nearby ranch to look for Blue WB. We hunted hard and at last light finally got a crack at a good bull as they were milling around but I rushed the shot with my other rifle the .300 Wby...and I missed clean. We looked long after dark and all the next morning with several trackers and the dog and finally gave in that I had missed clean. Better than wounding one but still I was mad at myself. We decided to give the BWB time to settle down so we went back to the main ranch and once more looked over several Nyala bulls but did not find what I was looking for...something 27" with Ivory Tips and outward flare. You know you are in "Nyala Heaven" when there are so many bulls they are literally dying of old age and you have set a high standard but you can pass up bull after bull and your PH is saying "We will find your shooter...be paitient".
Still wanting to rest the BWB we started the next morning on the ranch once again glassing Nyala and Kudu bulls and seeing a Bushbuck ewe. After about our 3rd place of stopping to glass we spotted what was definitely a good Nyala bull and set off after him to get a closer look. We were on a cliff about 140 yards above him and Marius set up the sticks and I got the bull in the scope while deciding if he was "the one". He was very tall but did not have the outward flare I hoped to be looking at for the rest of my life on my wall so we were discussing taking him or not when suddenly we spotted a real good Bushbuck ram in a gap in the thick cover 30 yards to the right of the Nyala we had been looking at. Once glance and Marius said "Take that Bushbuck!" so I readjusted the rifle in the sticks and BAM, drilled him through the top of the shoulder down through the lungs and out the front of his chest from 125 yards with the 7mm-08. He bounced off the hillside and tumble down the hill a little ways before stopping stone dead.
We had little time to celebrate because we still had the Nyala bull we were considering taking in front of us but he had moved off about 100 yards at the shot. We quietly slipped around the cliff we were on and repositioned the shooting sticks and I got on the bull again in my scope. I was excited at the possiblity of taking a "twofer" of Bushbuck Ram and Nyala Bull off the same cliff but Marius still wasn't sold on the bull. Evenutally he headed over the hillside and the decision was made for us. So we went down in the valley with the trackers and retrieved the Bushbuck. We got him out of the valley and into the truck and dropped him at the skinning shed. As we were driving on the rugged road back to the lodge I saw another Nyala bull in the valley near the lodge. We stopped and got out for a closer look. He wasn't a shooter but when Marius looked at one feeding near him he immediately uttered the words I had been waiting for..."THAT is your bull!". We worked down the hillside to about 140 yards and could get no closer. I got on the sticks and after settling my breathing sent the 140 grain 7mm bullet though his near shoulder and lungs where it stopped on his far side next to his leg. That was the only bullet I fired out of my 7mm-08 we recoverd. The bull stumbled away bleeding into some thick cover but we knew he was hit. When he appeared in an opening in the valley I put a 2nd shell into him for insurance. It turned out to be a wasted shot but we did not know that for sure at the time. The bull went a few more yards into the thick cover at the bottom of the valley and disappeared. It took us a long time to get down into that thickly covered valley and we we did Marius' Jack Russel name Flecks took off on a blood trail and quickly found the bull stone dead against a bush. The bull hardly had any teeth left and would not have lived another 6 months so I got him just in time!
Not a bad morning when you can bang a 14" Bushbuck and a 27"+ Nyala in the same morning! :eek:
The next day found us on a ranch about an hour away that was on higher ground filled rolling hills. We glassed a couple of groups of Reedbuck and saw a group with a ram in it but they had seen us and were headed over the far mountain so we went to look for more. On another stalk I blew what should have been an easy shot on a good ram about 140yards away and we were wondering if my scope hadn't been jarred the morning before when I took a tumble as we went down the mountain to find the Nyala. So I took Marius' .308 with it's suppressor for the remaining stalks that day. After a couple more stalks were we were busted by the sharp eyes of the Mtn Reedbuck we laid yet another stalk on a group with a real good ram in it. They took spotted us as we tried to get closer on the relatively open hillside and ran over a hill. We took after them and when we got to the top of the hill I finally got a lucky break with the Reedbuck...the Ram had stopped to check his back trail. Quickly I was on the sticks and drilled him as he stood quartering towards us just inside the front shoulder and through the lungs. A fine end to a fun day stalking the Mtn Reedbuck. It was quite different than the thick cover we hunted in most of the day and a fun challenge. I highly recommend people give them a go.
This ram also was very old and was almost without teeth. Marius said he would score very high in SCI record book. I don't care much about those things but it is good to know we got a real good Mtn Reedbuck ram.
So now I had 4 "in the salt" as they say and it was only my 3rd "official" day of hunting!
More to come...
KMG Safaris Plainsgame Smackdown Continued
After 2 travel days getting up at 4:30am to get to the East Cape and 5 days of hard hunting chasing a much younger and fitter PH up and down the mountains...I needed a break.
We had already collected my main targets plus an Impala so I told Marius I needed to sleep in a little the next day. I felt a little bad because keeping Marius out of the bush is a lot like trying to hold back a thoroughbred race horse on the track. But like all good guides and PH's he knew he had to pace himself to his old client.
So I went to bed right after dinner and slept in until 8am. At 9am we went out to look for Duiker and Warthog.
We had seen a couple good Duiker rams but always only a fleeting glace and always when we were stalking a Nyala that we had interest in evaluating further so I had held my fire. And we had seen lots of Warthog but no shooters so far. So this day we glassed the hillsides for Duiker and checked various Warthog spots looking for a target.
Late in the day we were slipping quietly down a road toward a favored Warthog spot and suddenly a Black Backed Jackel stepped out of the bush and into the road 70 yards in front of us. We had the sun at our backs and the Jackel took about 5 seconds too star at us trying to figure out what we were. That was one second two long because in about 2 seconds Marius had hissed "Jackal' and slapped the sticks into position and 2 seconds later I had been on the sticks, found the Jackal and centered my crosshairs on his body.
The .300 Wby roared and the Jackal somersaulted down the road. We high-fived and went down the road and picked up the Jackal which was missing a large chunk of it's back area in front of the rear legs. We were happy to take out a predator that preyed on the young of the antelope we love to hunt...just as I would be to pop a Coyote back in the states.
The Jackal was to be the only thing killed that day but it was a rare, random chance kill of a Jackal.
The next day we planned a game drive at a ranch about 90 minutes away that was owned by the same group that owned our lodge. It held Rhino and Cape Buffalo and we wanted pics of them. I brought the rifle in case a Warthog showed up.
We were in awe of the "Tank on Legs" Rhino and "Black Death" Buffalo.
We also saw lots of Bontebok and I couldn't resist trying for one. Our first stalk hunt me on the sticks but we were not able to be sure that the animal we were looking at was really a ram (both rams and ewes have horns) so we let it go.
Later we had a Mexican stand off with a ram when we had the sun at our back and favorable wind. The ram had seen us but could not identify us. He was standing straight on with only his head showing above the grass and I wanted some chest to aim at. The ram sat there snorting at us but would not move.
We hoped he would take a couple steps closer for a better look which would expose some of his chest in the tall grass and Marius even tried his best Bontebok grunts to entice him...no luck.
Finally we decided to slowly move to the side and try for a better angle on him. The ram was still confused as to what we were and we were able to get behind a tree and move to a quartering side angle on him. This gave me some chest and I drilled him with my 7mm-08 in the neck in front of his near shoulder and out through the off shoulder. The ram dropped at the shot. He was paralyzed but still alive so we gave him a finishing shot to end his suffering.
Bontebok are just a beautiful animal and I was glad to be able to add him to my collection even though I hadn't planned on it. Oh well...the taxidermy bill just got bigger :)
We loaded him up and left for the lodge.
We spent the last day and 1/2 looking for a shooter warthog or Duiker ram with no luck. I took my last afternoon off just to relax and enjoy the lodge in preparation for our long day of travel home.
Marius told me on the drive to the airport that the Bontebok will make the R.W. Record Book. I don't know if it will get registered or not but I know it was such a good looking animal I had to get one when I had the chance.
I have hunted with many guides and PH's in my years in North America and Africa and I can truly say this was the best hunt I have ever been on and that Marius is as good as it gets to hunt with.
I hope some of you all get to see that for yourself someday, especially if you want to hunt "Nyala Nirvana" where Nyala are literally dying of old age.
I ended my hunt with 8 animals, memories to last what's left of my lifetime and several new friends. It doesn't get much better than that.