Russ Field Safari-East Cape
I bought this hunt last year in August 2008 at Game Feast fundraiser for our SCI chapter here in Northeast Wisconsin. The package included a Kudu, bushbuck, blesbuck and impala. I bought the hunt for $1300. I was going to upgrade the hunt because...#1 It was the right thing to do. #2 I bought the hunt very low. #3 The East Cape has a lot of diversity of animals.
I got picked up at the airport by Denham Bowker of Bowker Safari in Port Elizabeth on May 8, 2009. Russ was busy with unloading cape buffalo at a ranch. No problem, I got to spend time with Denham. He is great guy!
I get to the ranch and meet Russ Field. He is very friendly, very knowledgable on hunting Africa, guns, ammunition, optics...etc. He has done a great job building his business. He recently sold his ranch to a photo safari company. Russ is building a new lodge and getting a new piece of property. It will need work and time to get as beautiful as his old place. We are hunting on different ranch properties north of Grahamstown. The first place we stay at is Bowker Safari. They are famous for the bontebok on their property. The food is great and lodging is old and rustic...I'm happy.
The first day was at Paul's ranch. It's a hour drive to the property. I'm looking for a nyala, bushbuck, and kudu. We get there and are glassing the hills and valleys. We saw some animals but nothing old enough to shoot on the first day of hunting. We do some game drives for Kudu, because the terrain is so thick. We are doing one and a bushbuck pops out at 100 yards. I can see him good and should have shot. But being the first day I wanted Russ's opinion, by the time he saw...the bushbuck was getting out of Dodge! I took a shot but wasn't steady and shot over the back. I was a little bummed but it wasn't a easy shot. The easy shot was at 100 yds., when he had no idea we were there. I'm hunting with 2 guys from Oregon who are hunting for kudu. They get some shots in that day...but nothing connects..some where close other very far away (500 yds). They didn't know that if you drew blood, you bought the animal.
The second day I was hunting with Doug. Russ went with the guys from Oregon. We went to glass a mountain on Paul's place. It was foggy out and cold. We were seeing kudu cows, and a few smaller bulls, and a nyala that would disappear in the green sweet brush. Suddenly the nyala bull is mixing with the kudu cows at 350 yds. I can see only his head and part of the neck with my Swarovski 10X42mm SLC binoculars. Doug says shoot, in a loud whisper. I say at what? His head or neck...at that distance your crazy. Don't worry the dogs will find, we have trackers. I'm thinking $2400..better be a better shot angle. He's says you shot two bulleye's at 100 yds. I said that's different..that was on a cement bench in a valley...anyone can do that. I don't have a good rest and we are shooting way up hill! Why can't we move a 100 yds. closer. The nyala breaks out the brush broadside! Doug is very excited..shoot! shoot! How far??? Hold for 350. I hold on the upper shoulder and pull the trigger of my 300 Win. Mag Browing A-Bolt. 190 grain boattail bullets and see the nyala jump like he's hit. I think great shot but why is he running so hard. I grab the rangefinder...410 yards. I'm sick! Very sick! My gun will drop another 8-9 inches at that range. Would not have taken the shot. If I had to take the shot I would have held at the back line of a little above. My gun with 200 yd. zero will drop over 2 feet at that range. We get up to the top of hill. There is blood..but no nyala. The ground is hard. The trackers can't follow it and dogs can't either :eek:. We look for 2 hours but is hopeless in the sweetbrush it is so thick and low to the ground. We give up. I'm mad and upset and the same time. $2400 is ton of money and 400 yds on flat ground is terrible enough shooting in the mountains...forget it! From here on in...my trust level is at zero :mad:. I say to myself rely on your hunting skills and hope for the best.
We go eat some lunch. Russ says a great kudu has jumped onto his piece of property by Grahamstown. We gotta go quick before it disappears. That property is not high fenced. We get there. Look at the trees and river system. Set-up for the wind and have John the tracker do a one man drive, hoping the kudu uses the wind to escape. It works and the kudu comes out of the river at 250 yds. I shoot 6 times through the brush and finally bring him down. Not my finest moment. But I had little choice. The kudu used the brush as cover and I had to get him out to get a shot. He's very nice 51-52 inches.
The next day we drive to Collieskraal ranch owned by Ron de Villiers. This is a great ranch. It has red lechwe, warthogs, common reedbuck, burchell zebra, eland, bushbuck, kudu, gemsbok, impala, white and common blesbok, white, black and common springbok, mountain reedbuck and waterbuck on 5000 hectares.
I went out for a red lechwe. We immediately see some great ones down by the pond. We see a massive one way out in the flats. But a very long one is right in front of us. We get out and make a stalk. I get within 200 yds. and the wind is really blowing 30-40 mph's. I take a good look...he's close to 30 inches, but I really want a look at that massive one and pass. The other red lechwe is older, more massive and has a lot of character. I decide I want him. It is really blowing wind now. We make dash in a ditch to set up the shot. The big male is bedded in the grass. We wait an hour in the sun for him to get up. Finally some females come by...and he gets up. I take a shot and shoot just over the back...I was really pumped by his massive horns and pretty colors. I cycle the gun quick and in this high wind he doesn't know where we are yet. I fire this time right by the curve of his leg. I shoot again and it's over, he's down. Red Lechwe are so beautiful...28 1/4 inch horns.
We drop the red lechwe at the skinning shed and go out for a waterbuck. Then Russ radios that he has a very good common reedbuck spotted. We race over there, to try and get him. And I do mean race. I get my gun really beat up and I take more than a few wacks myself. My plees to slow down are ignored. We get to the spot and I make a shot on a nice 12 in. common reedbuck. One shot to the lungs and it's over. My stock is cracked on my gun and the rest of the hunt I have problem. Bolt stuck, safety won't come off. It's a Ramline stock. But it is damaged.
The next morning the wind is really gust 40 mph +. The animals are wholed up in the valleys taking cover. We start looking for a waterbuck and we see some. We make a quick stalk and I miss the shot at 250 yards. A little low. My guide Doug is not too pleased. We hear on the radio they have eland spotted so we take a drive over. I wanted a eland bull because last year I searched for 11 day in Namibia and never found the herd bull. On the drive over I spot a nice impala. One quick shot at 200 yards and the impala flips over. The bullet drifted to the neck vertebrae and that's why it dropped so fast. He has horns about 21 1/2 inches long.
We drop the impala at the skinning shed and start looking for the eland. We find that because of the wind the eland are running up and down the fence line on one side of the ranch. We post on a hill top and Russ and his crew make a gentle drive and they run right past us at 101 yards. I take one shot and drop the old, gray bull in his tracks. He has 30 inch horns and is covered in ticks on the bottom. That was the easiest eland hunt ever. We bring him back to the skinning shed and have brunch at the ranch.
We go out that afternoon and look for a waterbuck. Russ finds a monster in a secluded valley. We head over there and it is very thick and I can't find the one he's looking at. I get to his vantage point a see a very nice one. I get the shooting sticks up and take a shot. The waterbuck is at high alert, quartering to us very strongly with brush on both sides. My shot hits, but he is running very hard. It is 4:30 pm and we can't find him:(.
The next morning we head out to the valley. Russ gets up high on a peak to look for the waterbuck. Johan, me and the trackers do a game drive in the thick valley...hoping to flush him out. Russ sees the waterbuck get up 25 yards below him. He takes a shot. The waterbuck runs down to me. I take a shot and run it back up to Russ. There is a lot of brush in the way. Russ fires two more shots and the water buck is down. It turns out the waterbuck only had his right leg damaged. My first bullet deflected off the rib cage. The lesson here is a strong quartering on shot is not easy to make...there is a lot of error...especially when they are in the brush. The Waterbuck is 29 1/2 inches long. Russ heads home...he has work to do.
Johan and me go out in search of a blesbuck. Late in the afternoon we spot a great one and I sneak to within 200 yards and hit him in the heart. Why do I make great shoots on the cheap ones :rolleyes:. Anyway, he was in the wide open.
The next morning we head back to the Bowker's and we go out in the afternoon looking for a bushbuck at Scott's place. Things don't look right for some reason at this ranch. Great terrain. But all we see is blesbok, zebra, springbok and a lot of baboon. No kudu, no bushbuck!:headscratch:
Day 7, The final day. We get up early and head over to Paul's ranch. The wind has died and it is sunny today. We start glassing the canyons and hillsides for bushbuck. Other hunting party's are on the ranch. We come to this secluded deep canyon and glass. All of a sudden we hear running in the bottom. The tracker says big bushbuck. Johan says lets throw a rock and flush him out. I say no way. He's spooked enough. I get my sticks set-up and see the bushbuck sneaking out. Johan is yelling shoot! SHOOT! I let the bushbuck go because I wasn't steady enough. I reposition the sticks, turn my scope up to 6 power, ignore the shooting advice...and I find the bushbuck in my scope. It's 154 yards...sharp angle down...I put the crosshairs on his back and pull the trigger, driving the bullet through the back into both lungs. The bushbuck is down. I feel like I won the lottery!!! That was a tough shot! We climb down. I'm overcome with emotion :). We take pictures and have something to eat. I decide...I'm going to half mount the bushbuck with his 12-13 in horns. He is so beautiful!
We drive back to the ranch. I meet the taxidermist I'm using. We discuss terms and then I go out with Frank Bowker and Johan and take a really nice bontebok at 200 yards. Two shots. I decide to do another 1/2 mount and have the backskin tanned. He is so pretty. A great day to a expensive hunt.
What did I take from this hunt besides a lot of nice trophy animals. That you can look up under "photos and video"...under individual member photo...under enysse. Well I saw burned out before the hunt started from my job and saving money for the hunt. The shooting angles and distances were different than what was discussed before the hunt. I would have brought my 7mm Rem Mag for the longer shot on the smaller antelope. I drank bad water...because we ran out of water. It would have been better to have not drank anything. I like Russ: Thought he was a great PH, excellent glasser, awesome organizer. But I didn't care for his guides. They tried to sell me every animal they could. I heard all the % they could make if I shot more and they pushed very hard...even though I told them I work at a wastewater treatment plant, my parents have no money. But they kept on trying. Doug even had the balls to try to sell be a cape buffalo for $14000 at the end even though I didn't have a penny in my pocket at the time. He tried to sell me a 3 yr. zebra :(. Johan was alright until it came time to shoot and then he lost his nerve everytime. He was very mean to the trackers. And their attitude got worse along the way. I mean he was mean. No more needs to be said..he was way out of line. In the end I got great animals but I can say now I didn't feel like I had a good time. Everything seemed like a business transaction. Russ is a great guy and he was under a terrible amount of pressure building a new lodge and property during the hunting season. I think the hunt would have been a lot better is he could have concentrated more on his clients than other business at the time. But that is life! Fair is what you end up with at the end of the day!
I got on a plane leaving Port Elizabeth to Johansburg at 12:30 pm and was at Tambo Internation Airport at 2:30 pm to go to my next hunt at Mhimbi Safari's. The day is May 16, 2009.