Great first safari with Savanna Hunting Safaris - Johan Potgieter & Johan Jr.
Dates: 31 Aug 12 Sep 2012
Outfitter: Savanna Hunting Safaris Johan Potgieter
PH: Johan and Johan Jr.
Travel Agent: Travel Express Lori Ginn
Areas Hunted: Northwest Province and Free State in RSA
Firearms: Sabatti 470 NE double 500gn Hornady DGX, CZ 550 375 H&H 300gn Hornady DGX and Savage Mod 14 308 Win 185gn Winchester Silver Ballistic
Animals taken: Lion, Kudu, Gemsbok, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, two Blesboks, Impala, Duiker, Steenbok, meat warthog and porcupine.
This was our first safari. I was introduced to African hunting by a friend and truly inspired by a magnificent mount of a beautiful kudu in his living room. His grandfather is an accomplished hunter who has hunted many places around the world and holds numerous hunting records. When I visited his trophy room, it only fueled the want further. This was about three years ago.
I got in touch with Johan with Savanna Hunting Safaris through this website in 2010 and met him at the Houston Safari Club Convention in early 2011. My original plan was for a 10-day plains game safari in 2011, but due to some personal issues had to cancel and reschedule for 2012. Johan had been very helpful through the process and provided me with all the information I requested. Early in 2012, I noted that Johan does a number of Lion hunts in RSA and decided to add that to the prospect.
The trip over was not the smoothest. We were scheduled to fly out of New Orleans on the 30th of August 2012, but Hurricane Isaac had other plans for us. Incidentally Lori, our travel agent was on vacation to a remote area during that time also, however, in the end everything worked out and we rescheduled the flights out of Houston instead. It was stressful to a point as this was not confirmed till the day before and we were sitting in Houston with all bags and guns packed waiting for confirmation. Lori did good considering her remote location.
Johan had all the permit paperwork, etc. ready and helped us through the SAPS process when we arrived in Johannesburg. We brought copies of all necessary documents with us and this made the process a little easier also. This website has great information to get a first time hunter prepared, so I will not dwell on the details.
We started the hunt with about a 10 hour drive from Johannesburg to the area where we hunted the lion in the Northwest Province close to the Botswana South Africa border. The area we hunted was about 15,000 acres and had multiple lions in it. We also saw buffalo and plains game like kudu, steenboks, impala, etc. We were lodged in a private chalet and the camp was surrounded with an electric high fence with the hunting area immediately outside. The hunt was a typical spot and stalk hunt. The sandy terrain of the area doesn't make for easy walking. The lion knew about us well before we typically spotted him. We would catch glimpses of him as he cleared the area we were stalking. We were finally able to get on him while he was under a tree. Although he knew we were there and was watching our every move intently, we were able to get within 50 yds. I was told that these hunts typically can take a turn for the worse when the lion is pushed hard and finally takes a stand. We had pushed it pretty hard till this point and it was obvious that he was tiring out a bit. Without wanting to take any chances, I was able to make a headshot with my 470 NE double at this distance and nothing further was required. I know a lot of people have reservations about the Sabatti double, but it has performed very well for me both at the range and in the field. It is pretty accurate, especially with the Trijicon RMR I have mounted on it. I knew about some of the issues, so had examined it thoroughly prior to purchase. I also had some work done to it for fit and balance. For those interested in scoring, the skull measured 26 4/16 which puts him well into SCI Gold.
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We left the Lion camp and drove down to Free State where we would do the Plains Game portion of the hunt. This area had 4400 acres high fences and about 12000 acres total of unfenced and cattle fence. We hunted both the high fence and outside. The camp was very comfortable and very similar to the typical hunting camps I am used to rather than some of the fancier camps that I see in pictures from time to time. Power came from a generator which was run at scheduled intervals. In the interim there were solar panels that charged a bank of 12V batteries that supplied lights, etc. Very energy efficient. Hot water came from a "donkey" (essentially a furnace inside a water tank, all encased in brick) and I was surprised at how long it kept warm with just a few logs. The land owner Jakkie was there every day helping with the hunt as well. He had a water hole right in front of the camp, and it was great to see animals by it from the porch throughout the day.
I did all the Plains Game hunting with Johan Jr. as my PH. The first two days in the area were very difficult. I wanted all my shots to be within 100 yds and this was turning out to be impossible. The ground was very dry and the game would hear us from hundreds of yards away. We stalked from sun up to sun down, but just couldn't get close. We were finally able to get close on a zebra stallion; however, all six in the herd scattered and ran after my shot from the 375. It was a quartering to shot, but felt right to me and I even heard the resounding thump of the impact, but the zebra took off as if it was not even hit. We tracked him for a few miles before we lost him. This was the worst possible beginning for the hunt for me with a wounded animal suffering out there because of my poor shooting. Thankfully Johan Sr and Jakkie were able to find him within the hour and kind enough to put in a kill shot with a 308 at the base of the neck. Upon examining the body I was shocked to see how far the zebra had gone with the shot from my 375. I had it on the chest, but a couple of inches below the heart. Any North American game would be down for the count on the shot, but this was Africa. I was glad that we were able to recover the animal as well as learning a very valuable lesson - it wasn't good enough to be near the kill zone, a well-placed shot is a must, even if I was shooting a 300gn 375.
On the afternoon of the third day at this camp, the weather changed for the worse. It got much cooler and rain was in the forecast. But with the weather changed our luck. I don't know if it was the weather or the poor lighting, but suddenly we were having much better luck at getting close to the animals. That afternoon we were able to take a great black wildebeest out in the open at about 150 yds and ran into a great duiker just before sunset while we were stalking kudu. The black wildebeest measured 82 8/16 and the duiker 13 10/16.
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Then on the morning of the fourth day we managed to take a good gemsbok bull. They had been giving us the slip over the last couple of days. Although we saw some great gemsbok, we could not get close enough for me to take a shot. He measured 87 12/16. We had seen an impala with black marking on his face, and although we tried stalking it before, it gave us the slip before we could get close enough for an ethical shot. We finally got him on this day. The impala measured 54 2/16.
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We hunted for a few more days and were finally able to get the magnificent kudu (56 12/16 on the left and 133 8/16 total green score). The kudu was the one I was truly looking forward to and this bull met and exceeded my expectations for a good kudu. After the kudu, I switched to my wife's 308, as she decided she did not want to hunt this trip and was happy to be an observer. I took a great old blue wildebeest with a quartering to heart shot and steenbok with a broadside body shot. Neither made more than 15 yds. The blue wildebeest measured 81 2/16 while the steenbok measured 12 8/16. In the late afternoon I was also able to take a meat warthog for Johan.
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Then came the blesbok. This property has some massive blesbok. I was told that it produced the two largest recorded blesbok in the world. But getting close to them is another story. We started trying for them since we arrived at the camp and after days of failed attempts and miles of walking we were not getting any closer. Then finally after a day of stalking it was late afternoon and a group of them were in an open field. After a lot of repositioning and waiting on an ethical shot, I took a shot which in hind sight was not the best circumstance and I am glad it didn't turn out any worse. Being a little frustrated with the blesbok, I took a shot at a nice looking ram in the group while the herd was at full speed giving us the slip again after spotting us behind a bush. It did take the ram down, but the bullet also spined a female in the aft quarter that was running beyond the male. An inch higher and it would have missed her. Luckily, although there were some youngsters in the group, we did not see any that was young enough not to survive without the female even if she had a calf in there. Either way, it could have turned out a lot worse and it is not a shot I will take in the future no matter how much the frustration. The male blesbok measured 45, we didn't measure the female. This pretty much concluded our hunt, other than a porcupine I took later that evening.
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We concluded the hunt on the 9th of September and headed to Kruger. We spent 10th -12th at Kruger where we stayed at the Berg-en-dal camp. We were able to see the Big 5 along with some other great animals pretty close.
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All in all it was a great first safari in my eyes. It is difficult to compare, this being our first. However, it did meet and exceed our expectations. The particular area we hunted had some great animals. As you can tell 100% of the trophies taken would make the SCI record books even after curing. Besides the good times I also learnt some valuable lessons about African hunting that will make me wiser in my future endeavors in the Dark Continent. I can't speak enough about Johan, Johan Jr. and Jakkie the Land Owner in the Free State. Great bunch of guys along with all others we came across on this adventure. Although it started off a little rough in the Free State, Johan Jr was able to put me on some great animals and close to them as I wanted. But that is hunting. The trophies are that much more memorable with some blood and sweat behind them. The property obviously has some very good game. I am sure I will be hunting with these guys again in the future.