Day 1 Wintershoek Johnny Vivier Safaris
We arrived at Thuru Lodge around 1 PM and after a warm greeting by the staff,we where shown to our suite to get settled. We had lunch and went to the range to check zero of my rifle(Cooper.338-06 shooting 185 gr TTSX)Debbie shot my Ph Jacques' 7 mm REM mag that had a suppresor.She originally had thought about taking a wart hog.
From there Jacques asked if we would like to get started and he was met by a "hell ya"
We got our gear together anded headed out on the cruiser. We saw a very nice white Blesbuck but I declined and then found a group of Red Hartebeest. I still wasn't ready to shoot one just yet, which proved a mistake because when I did want to hunt them I only saw a single one not worth shooting.
On we went and we then saw Kudu so we started a stalk,along the stalk we lost sight of Kudu but found a heard of Blue Wildebeest. After stalking to with in range 3 times I finally had an opportunity. Jacques set the sticks and gave me the range 269 yd's(so I thought) I shot and the heard bolted. Jacques watched and said he thought he saw the animal go down. Great! Not so fast we got to the spot to find no wildebeest. My tracker Yannie arrived and we searched for blood but found none. Jannie found the spot in the red sand where one had stumbled. We searched further and followed the tracked and I found some blood on some grass. I was not happy right about now but they assured me we would find it if it was hit well. Jacques told me it wouldn't keep up with the heard and would be by itself. I scanned out into the veld and said "hey there's one about 300 yd's under that tree all alone.They both got excited and said "that's him !" We stalked up to 200 yd's and he was facing me laying down with his head up. Jacques put up the sticks and said put it right on his chest. I squeezed and he jumped up I worked the bolt and hit him again and he went down for the count! By now it was getting dark but we were able to get some photo's any way.The 1st shot was just low hitting high on the upper leg .Latter that night as I lay in bed replaying the events of the hunt I had an epiphany. The next morning at breakfast I asked Jacques are you giving me range in yards or meters? He said meter.Well that explained everything .I said I brought my own range finder that measures in yards and we should use it, he said no need his could read in yards or meters so it flipped the switch and now we were both on the same page.The skinner recovered a perfectly mushroomed bullet from my frontal shot(I would go on to catch 2 more )
Day 2 Wintershoek Johnny Vivier Safaris
After a semi good nights sleep and a few cups of coffee,me my PH Jacques and driver/tracker Jannie headed out on the cruiser looking for Zebra. The zebra here were very elusive and never stayed in one spot. We cut some fresh tracks and got off the cruiser and began tracking the zebras.Jannie was amazing to watch as we trailed the herd. He followed over ground I couldn't see any sign on.We followed the tracks for close to 3 hours but never could catch up to the herd.It was getting late in the morning so we headed back to the cruiser to head to camp for brunch.Along the way we spotted a group of impala 3 rams in the group and 1 was very nice so we planned a stalk around a kopee. we slowly reached the top and crawled into position.Jacques lowered the sticks and I got comfortable in a sitting position.we watched until the females cleared and the large ram presented a shot.Jacques said "he's at 244" I confirmed"yards right?" and he said "yes yards not meters"
I steadied the crosshairs and squeezed. They took off on a full run but the ram was on his last run he dropped after 75 yds it was a perfect heart shot!The ram measured a hair under 23"
After getting the Impala we headed back to camp for brunch and a little rest. Debbie,Jacques, Jannie and myself headed back out in the cruiser for the afternoon still having zebra on our minds. We were heading to the far back of the concession to search but along the way we spotted a group of kudu on a
kopje so we started a stalk up the far side to get a closer look. This day was quite hot 94 degrees and it was very windy and gusting over 30 mph.
The higher up the kopje we got the windier it got. we crawled towards the top of the rise and we were right on top of the Kudu,actually too close,we were pinned down. Jacques said he thought there was a good one so we waited to make a move. A young bull got curious and came with in 30 yd's and started barking at us but never really made us out and finally he and the others moved back up the kopje and started away from us. We then headed down and around the steep face to put a flanker move on them. Debbie and Jannie stayed back and Jacques and I went alone along the rock faced kopje.
After about 15 minutes the sticks quickly went up and Jacques said that's a good one take him. I hurried to the sticks and took aim up hill at 269 yd's I held forward for the wind and squeezed the trigger.The kudu reared up on its hind legs and ran a few steps and started to stumble and then went down for the count, shot thru the heart.We waited a few minutes for Debbie and Jannie to arrive and climbed the face of the kopje.It was so steep we really had a difficult time not having the kudu and ourselves roll off while taking photo's.
The kudu was nice but only measured 44 1/2" Jacques felt bad and was apologizing as he knew I was looking for 48" or better.The kudu here in the northern cape just don't get as large as in Limpopo province. I told him to stop apologizing as it was still a great animal and I was happy with him as well as the stalk and shot. I'd rather have a good hard and challenging hunt than take a 60" from the cruiser standing by the road.
After the photo's the recovery team came to the far base of the kopje and we headed back down the other side to get to the cruiser. Debbie almost blew off that kopje it was so windy, she also felt the wrath of the black thorn bush .The recovery team had to cut the kudu in half to get it off the side off the mountain(that's what I'd call it rather than a "hill") without damaging the cape.
Of course I see this guy on the 2nd to last day thought about 2 kudu but restrained myself
Day 3 Wintershoek Johnny Vivier Safaris
So far things have been beyond expectations, today would take that further.Same routine, I awake early beat everyone to the dining lodge and start the coffee. Debbie has had enough of hunting and sleeps in so it's just me, Jacques and Jannie. We head out and begin looking for zebra sign.We travel quite awhile seeing different game along the way. 3 wart hog running across the veldt but far away and tails high, but at least I saw some. Finally after 1 1/2 hours we find a fresh track in the red sandy road. We debark and start tracking. Again Yannie is masterful head down arms held behind him blazing forward over stone and rock where no track is evident to my untrained eye. The tracks seem to wander and split a bit so Jannie follows one set and Jacques and I follow another. After 20 more minutes Jacques and I head back around and find Jannie motioning us he's hot on super fresh track and spore. After slowly and quietly moving forward the heard is spotted! We jockey forward but still no shot as they are spattered in the black thorns and brush. We sneak ahead and the sticks go up, "take the one in the opening" Jacques whispers. I get the rifle to the sticks no time for ranging as they are moving away, I get the cross hairs on the zebras shoulder as it's quartering from me. At the shot all hell breaks loose and the herd bolts. Jacques says you hit it hard but not sure maybe a bit low. We get to the spot where they zebra was standing as I look back to where I fired from, seems far so we range back 315 yd's. I didn't hold high enough for the 7" of drop. Forward on the track Jannie goes with me and the PH following. Blood, lots of blood, more and larger shards of bone. Ray Charles could have followed this blood trail, It's hit good they both concur low shoulder, arteries and at least a lung. As we go a bit further the remainder of the heard is spotted off in the distance through the valley and standing on the next kopje. They are calling loudly and Jacques instructs me they are calling to the zebra I shot that didn't keep up with them. Ok sounding good and this blood trail is just a red highway visible even in the red sands. We move slowly forward and there is the zebra standing 200 yd's away near a camel thorn tree. Sticks up Jacques instructs wait till it's broad side, I am on it like glue as it quarters away from me I see an angle and shoot. Great shot! I rack the bolt and fire insurance and hit it again and down goes the Zebra! We wait the few minutes and then approach to claim my zebra and assess the shots. 1st was just as we suspected a bit low but did heavy damage crushing bone and taking 1 lung. 2nd was right behind the shoulder and exited out the center of the chest, 3rd shot was a raking shot into the ham and we recovered that bullet on sight from the exit hole just enough to punch thru the skin but not fall out. We celebrate and take our photo's and the 3 of us load the zebra into the back of the cruiser...Holy crap was it heavy!!
After lunch and relaxing Debbie and I as well as Jacques went out on a quad bike ride in the red Kalahari dunes. Along the way we spotted a large heard of Eland and it appeared to have a very large bull in the group. After our ride and a snack Jacques asked if I'd like to see if we could find the eland.
I said "yes" and we headed out for the afternoon to search. We found their tracks and started off on the trail. After an hour or so we spotted them but they were still quite far from us but we were able to use a line of thorn bush and vegetation to get closer. We glassed and found 2 good blue bulls in the heard. We stalked as close as the cover allowed and could now determine that there was one outstanding bull in the group. Jacques ranged them at a 510 yd's. I told him it was just to far and can't we get closer? He said" we can sure try, but it will be very difficult, we will have to crab crawl and belly crawl"
And so it began crawling thru thorns and rocks slowly and cautiously. We got to a point and ranged again but still to far. After crawling for close to 300 yards we could get no further with out being spotted. Jacques ranged and said "359 yards he's behind the branches of that small tree covered by 2 females" I thought to myself what the hell we crawl 300 yards and only knock 150 yards off the distance. But the eland have been moving as we have so this is as close as it's going to get for this big blue bull. The sticks are set low and I'm sitting with my rifle ready. I have just over 12" of drop at this range and will have a few inches of wind drift. I wait and wait for what seems like an eternity and the females move away but he's still covered by branches. Finally he takes a few more steps forward and I have a clear shot at him. I exhale and hold high and forward and gently squeeze the trigger.
Jacques is watching thru his binoculars and says " you hit him he's hurt" The herds starts thundering off on a tear but the big blue bull is sick he goes a short 50 yd's and lies down.
I'm stoked and after a few high fives we start our walk towards the monster. We approach and find him still alive but sick so I add some insurance and give him another shot to end things quicker for the beast.
A minute latter all life has been extinguished and now the real awe sets in. These animals are amazing and big but until you stand right over one you really just can't imagine their size! My 1st shot was perfect double lung just above the heart fully penetrating the off shoulder the 2nd shot was quartering towards me as he lay and we recovered another perfectly mushroomed 185 gr TTSX just under the hide. Now the pictures and trying to get this guy back to camp!
Day 4 Wintershork Johnny Vivier Safaris
Morning came on day 4 and a cup of coffee and we were off in the cruiser again to search for Gemsbok. We had seen some really nice ones in our travels, some super long females but I decided I would rather try and take a good mature male. We searched for quite a bit with no luck and then we spotted a couple near the crest of a high kopje. We glassed from a far but decided we needed to get closer to really evaluate them. We button hooked around to an adjacent kopje with the wind in our favor we began the stalk up the back side of the rocky hill.As we neared the crest we crawled and the group was in sight across the valley near the summit of the other kopje. We looked them over and saw a great male. I handed my binoculars to Jannie and he and Jacques confirmed that it was a big mature male. I told Jacques I would crawl ahead another 20 yards to a raised rock pile and shoot from there. Jacques gave me the range 279 yards. I had a brisk cross wind so I would aim a half foot high and 5" forward on the shoulder. I layed my jacket carefully over the rocks and slowly rested my rifle onto it. I held steady and fired and the gemsbok reared up and staggered he went about 30 yards up to the very top of the kopje and fell dead. It was a perfect heart shot.We celebrated my success and climbed down the kopje through they valley and up the other kopje to claim the trophy.It was a very heavy horned male that measured 36". Braam the camp manager was near by and came to meet us and offer congratulations. The same ritual of picture taking took place as we waited for the recovery team. I must say Jacques is a master of photography and if he ever decides to stop PHing he has another livelihood waiting
The shot was from the far kopje in this picture
Day 5 Wintershoek/Johnny Vivier Safaris
On day 5 I decided to sleep in with my honey and spend a little time with her as she had been a good sport letting me hunt my azz off. We had a nice breakfast and just lounged by the Jacuzzi and soaked up some sun. For lunch we joined Jacques, Braam,Mardoret and 2 other couples for a traditional South African picnic in the bush.Of course it was a bit fancier than most picnics I go to with a full bar set up and William bartending. We had a dish cooked in a black pot over opened fire called Poike. Jacques prepared it with chicken, onions, pasta and other vegetables. It was fabulous ! Braam marinated the tenderloins from my eland and grilled it over a wood fire.Talk about good!!! That had to be the best game meat I ever ate.
After eating and drinking we headed back to camp for a rest.
Braam had spoke to a neighbor and got me permission to hunt his property to try for a big tusker of a wart hog. The owner occasionally bow hunted a couple blinds and had trail cam pics of a really big warty.
Jacques,Jannie and I headed over around 3 PM to get in and set up.The blind was a large plastic water tank with a door and one shooting hole cut out facing a water trough. We stuck it out till dark one wart hog passed thru some thick brush but no shot was presented and we never did see if it was a tusker or not.Let me tell you it was hot sitting all closed up in that tank. Jacques said we can try again the next day, but I told him we'd skip it as I didn't come to Africa to sit and stare out of a plastic tank,besides the next day was going to be even hotter.
We returned and got ready to leave for a special dinner in the red dunes by fire light. The whole staff at Thuru Lodge is so nice and accommodating, they don't forget a single details.
Gourmet food and drink on the red sands of the Kalahari under the stars is an experience to savor!
Day 6 morning Wintershoek/ Johnny Vivier Safaris
I woke early again, made the coffee and waited for Jacques to arrive. I looked over the mounts on the wall admiring them and trying to figure out what I'd like to hunt.
Jacques arrived and joined me in a cup of coffee and said "so what will we hunt this morning" I hadn't intended on this but after seeing them running the veldt and being in a great location for them I said "springbok"
Jacques said great that there were a couple really nice ones running around if we could find them.
Jannie arrived and the 3 of us headed out in the cruiser to look for springbok. Along the way we saw eland, a great kudu,black wildebeest and 3 wart hogs far away and tails high heading over a kopje.
Finally we spotted some springbok, we stopped and glassed and Jacques said "wyfie" which translates from Afrikaans to "female" We continue on and find another group but nothing worth trying for. Finally we see a large group high on a distant kopje and Jacques suggests we circle around and walk the ridges looking for a big ram.
As we get to the back side of the chain of kopjes we see another small group of springbok 1/3 of the way up the kopje. We glass the group and see a great ram. Jacques says he's very big and we should target him.
We get off the cruiser, Yannie remains behind and we start our stalk. We have a lot of ground to cover but have some scattered bush and a drainage to help us close the distance. As we are starting to get with in range part of the group heads parallel to us heading our direction. We have to freeze and stay low as they meander past at 200 yards. After 20 minutes they are far enough up the kopje for Jacques and I to start crawling towards the group with the big ram. We got to 300 yards and the ram beds down behind a small black thorn bush with only the white of his face showing. We have to lay flat and wait it out. After 30 minutes and he still not getting up We decide to crawl back into the drainage to get ahead of the ram and see if we could get an opened shot.
We managed to pull this off without being detected.The sticks went up and Jacques tells me where he's laying. I feel blind I just can't pick him up now as he's blended so well with the veldt. After 30 seconds of explaining to me again I see him laying. I get my rifle on the sticks and try to settle the scope on a spot and just then he stands and starts walking quartering away angling up the kopje. I follow him but he's moving faster now and getting farther away. I decide to take the walking shot roughly 270 yards. At the bang of the round he's off on a tear. Jacques says "you missed" I follow and fire. Again Jacques yells miss you are just behind him, 3rd shot same thing miss behind. These things flat out fly and bounce when they are getting out of Dodge! I watch as the ram makes its way towards the top of the kopje. I think to myself "well it happens some times" 1st shot I could have made the second 2 shots would have be something to accomplish.
Some times after a bad break the good Lord decides to even the score.That ram gets to the top of the kopje and stops broad side and stands looking back. Jacques says" he's at exactly 400 yards now." I glance at my rifle stock 19.4" of drop at 400 yards. I hold over the top and slightly forwards to compensate for the wind and take the shot. Jacques becomes elated like a little kid yelling " you got him, you got him he dropped" I ask are you sure I don't want to climb the 400 yards to the top of this rocky kopje and not find him. He said he just disappeared at the shot like he was hit by a building.Ok up we climb higher and higher till we reach the summit and I'll be damned! the big old ram is stone dead right where he stood! Jannie watched the whole thing from the cruiser thru his binoculars. I said "it must have been funny watching the dirt flying behind that springbok as he ran up that mountain". Jannie was polite and said "no sir" but I laugh at me trying to hit a springbok on the full tilt at long range.We now took the photo's of this ram springbok that measured 14"