Recap of My First Safari...

Discussion in 'Hunting Africa' started by VanderLaan, Sep 27, 2012.

  1. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    In August of 2011, I won a seven day hunt for two with Hercules Safaris, in the Mpumalanga province of South Africa. The hunt, which was donated to the local SCI chapter, was 2x1 and included Blesbok, Black Wildebeest, Impala, Duiker and Bush Pig. I shared the hunt with my friend and neighbor Steve, who would bow hunt. I brought my Savage 30.06 rifle and my girlfriend Jennifer. After a brutal 23 hour flight, we arrived at Johannesburg International airport. We were greeted by Hercules ("Herc")and quickly made our way east to his home in Carolina. Here is how things went...

    Day One
    Waking up on our first morning, we were greeted by overcast skies and temps hovering around the 50 degree mark. After checking the sights on the bow and rifle, we headed back home for breakfast. After breakfast was over, we helped Herc (PH) and David (Tracker) load everything into the Rang Rover and we headed out to the concession. It quickly became clear that much of Mpumalanga was covered in drizzling rain. Fortunately, I had packed a fleece jacket and a ski cap. It did not take long until we were stalking a herd of Blesbok and Black Wildebeest. After slowly crawling through some tree-covered rock outcroppings, we arrived on the other side to find that the BB and WBs had given us the slip. I then noticed a lone Ostrich shadowing us and pointed it out to Jennifer. We took some pics and the PH told me, "If that thing comes at us, put one in its chest." I chuckled and then quickly realized that he was serious. Apparently, the male was guarding a nest and had been acting squirrely the last few days. He ended up shadowing us for the next several stalks. Having an eight foot tall bird follow you around is kinda cool and at the same time, kinda strange.

    After the herd of Wildebeest ran off for the next county, we drove off "over the mountain" to see what we could find. The scenery in Mpumalanga is not what I expected of Africa. There were rolling hills, tall mountains and long deep valleys. The grass was sparse and barely made it to my knees. There were an endless amount of rocks and anthills scattered among the landscape as well. It was truly beautiful.

    We drove over a knoll and came upon an Oribi. Herc told us that they were quite uncommon and that it was several years since he had last seen one while out hunting. We took some pics of the little guy and went on our way. After about another 100 yards, we ran into another Oribi. Herc was stunned. We ended up seeing four more of them over the course of the day. Needless to say, there was much ribbing directed to Herc over these "supposedly rare" antelope.

    We eventually came up to a herd of Black Wildebeest and in BW-like fashion, they quickly ran around a rocky outcropping. Do these things ever sit still? We parked the Range Rover out of sight and started off to close the distance. Picking our way through the rocks and trees was surprisingly difficult, as the only place that cactus and thorn bushes would grow was on these long rock outcroppings. We eventually made it to the end of the outcropping and found the herd of wildebeest looking around the corner trying to catch a glimpse of us. The wind was perfect and they had no idea that we were sitting less than 100 yards away. Herc put up the sticks and I mounted the gun. He glassed the herd and whispered "lekker" under his breath. He pointed out a big bull and told me to take the shot when I was ready. I quickly found the bull in the scope and could not get the crosshairs to settle down! I lifted my head from the rifle and reset my breathing. After doing this three more times, I finally relaxed and squeezed the trigger. The Savage barked and the Wildebeest lunged forward and fell over dead. My first African animal was down. We made our way down the rocks and David went to retrieve the Range Rover. Herc kept saying, lekker, lekker, lekker. He eventually explained that it is an Afrikaans term meaning "sweet" or "very nice". We took some pics and loaded the bull into the back of the Range Rover.

    After a few unsuccessful attempts at putting the sneak on some zebra, we came upon a herd of Blesbok. Long story short, after a long stalk, I ended up shooting over the back of a nice ram. I could not believe that I missed a ram at 100 yards. While we walked back to the Range Rover I determined that I should have taken my time and established a better rest on a tree or a rock. Halfway to the truck, we crawled to the edge of some rocks and saw the same group of Blesbok standing in a flat portion of a long valley. Herc glassed the group and told me to shoot the lone ram on the left. I got in a prone position and rested my rifle on a rock. I could not shoot, as the ram was directly facing me. After a minute, the ram turned and started to walk towards the rest of the herd. It quickly became apparent that the ram had a wounded leg, as it walked with a significant limp. I asked Herc if I could have wounded that ram with my previous shot and he shrugged his shoulders and said that he did not think so. I told Herc that I was definitely going to shoot it and would do so as soon as it stopped.

    After 30 yards, the ram stopped broadside and I squeezed the trigger. The ram stumbled for ten yards and fell still. We took some pics and loaded the ram on to the back of the Range Rover. While loading the ram, I noticed that it was a ewe. Herc thought I was joking and was surprised when he lifted the leg and saw teats. The "ram's" horns had the deep white ridges that are typical of male Blesbok, but it was missing the requisite hardware on the other end. To say he was surprised was an understatement, as he took several pics of the ewe and its horns. It was quickly determined that I had shot a gimpy transsexual Blesbok.

    Back at the house, we ate dinner and I watched David skin the Black Wildebeest and the Blesbok. Both shots were through the heart. I intend to have a shoulder mount of the Wildebeest. The Blesbok will be a rug and European skull mount.

    Day two and pics tomorrow...
     
  2. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Good start...
    You have to wonder when a guy tells you in all seriousness to protect yourself from a long legged chicken. :)

    World record Ewe to boot.

    Look forward to the rest. Congratulations.
     
  3. Nyati

    Nyati AH Legend

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    Waiting for the rest, :popcorn:
     
  4. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Same here... looking forward to the rest... :popcorn:
     
  5. James.Grage

    James.Grage GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Good start on your safari.

    waiting on picture and the rest of the story.
     
  6. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    Day Two

    The next morning we woke up to the same drizzling rain and cold temperatures. It is funny how you can tell that the South Africans are not used to such "cold weather? Herc's Dad stopped by and the "brutal cold" was the topic of conversation at the breakfast table. He was wearing a winter parka and we were wearing light cotton pants and fleece jackets. I found it funny that while they were lighting a portable space heater to warm the lodge, they would also leave the front door open when they went outside to get the truck. My Mother would have spun my head around if I ever did such a thing during a cold Michigan winter.

    After breakfast, we loaded up the Rover and headed back to the same concession. I quickly realized that any concerns over a "canned hunt" were silly, as this concession was close to 20 miles square. Entering the gate, we drove past the ever-watchful ostrich and drove towards the center of the concession to see if we could find some zebra. After about 20 minutes of driving, we came up over a hill and Herc stopped the Rover. There on the opposite side of the draw stood two mature bull Eland. Both of the bulls were big, but one of them was absolutely massive. Herc quickly glassed the bulls, turned and looked at me and simply said, "You must shoot that Eland. He is F$%*&ing huge! My response was that I noticed that he was a monster and that I would love to shoot him, but my budget did not allow for an Eland. In simple terms, I told Herc that if I shot that Eland, I would not be able to shoot a Kudu and a Waterbuck. Herc's reply was simply, "You can shoot a F&%^*ing Kudu anywhere. This Eland is a beast!" He put the glasses back up for another look and then dropped them again. He looked straight at me and said, "If I knock the price down to the same as a Kudu, will you shoot him?" I hesitated and took a long hard look at the bull. He had it all big dewlap, thick neck, massive blue shoulders, worn down stubby horns and what appeared to be a toupee on his head. At that point, Jen spoke from the back seat and reminded me that for the last year I had told her that if my PH grabs my arm and says, "Holy Shit" I was going to shoot it. I turned to Hercules and said, "Let's go get him."

    As we got out of the Rover, the two Eland started walking along the edge of the draw. When we lost sight of them behind a hill that was nothing more than a massive rock pile with a few trees on top, we took the opportunity to quickly close the distance with the Eland. While crouching on one knee among the rocks, one of the bulls came into view. He was standing broadside, about 75 yards away and unaware of our presence. Herc put up the sticks and I mounted the gun. We sat and waited for the big bull to come into view. After what seemed to be an eternity, Herc started to duck-walk forward to see if he could find the second bull. After picking his way through the rocks for about twenty yards, he suddenly stood up and started back-peddling towards me. "Get your gun up. Here he comes!"

    I stood up and mounted my gun and much to my surprise, saw a set of antlers appear out of the rocks. The massive bull had crossed the creek and climbed the same rock pile we were on and was standing no more than 30 yards from me! I tried to put the gun on his shoulder for a shot, but all I could see was grey. He quickly spun around and went back down the draw. This whole event unfolded in less than 30 seconds. I was in total awe of how something so big could move so quickly and so quietly. We watched the two bulls cross the other ridge and run out of sight. Herc told me to head to the truck, but I was already on my way.

    We got to the top of the ridge and the bulls were gone. We looked for another 30 minutes and could not find them anywhere. Herc made the decision to leave the Eland alone and to come back for them later, after they had settled down.

    While our search for zebra resumed, the weather had become increasingly foul. The wind had picked up and fog was setting in. It got to the point where we could hardly see the tops of the ridges, let alone any animals that were sitting in the scrub that covered them. We drove around and took some pics of giraffe, buffalo and a rhino. We also saw a Klipspringer, which is supposed to be rare. "Rï½­are like an Oribi?" I quipped. Herc just rolled his eyes.

    After lunch, we drove around for several hours, stopping to glass the hillsides and ridges. I pointed to the top of a ridge and asked, "Aï½­re those Eland?" We got out of the truck and could not tell if they were bulls or cows. We started to close the distance, when the eland went down the backside of the ridge. We got up on top of the ridge and stumbled into a herd of about 40 Blesbok. We were 40 yards above them with the wind in our faces. They had no idea we were there. One of the ram's horns was ridiculously tall and I thought long and hard about shooting him. After about five minutes of contemplation, I decided against it, as it would spook the Eland.

    We backed out of the herd and made our way down the ridge. Herc suddenly dropped his binoculars and pointed down the draw and said, "There they are! Two cows and they are joining up with the two bulls from this morning." I put up my binoculars and saw a small herd of Eland making their way along a creek that was winding through the valley floor. I dropped my glasses, looked at Herc and said, "Let's go get 'em."

    We took off down the hill, running as fast we dared, trying to close the distance on the Eland while not slipping on the wet rocks or alerting them to our presence. We got to the bottom of the valley and the trees gave way to a vast expanse of scrub and rocks. There was nowhere to hide and the Eland kept walking away. Our stalk was over.

    We quickly made it back to the Rover and tried to get ahead of the Eland. Funny how it takes you at least three times as long to climb a big hill as it does to run down it. After about thirty minutes of crawling across rocks and crossing a creek, the Rover was rounding the corner of the mountain where had last seen the Eland. They were gone. We spent the next hour searching for them, but they were gone like ghosts in the fog.

    We decided to make for home and pack, as tomorrow we were heading to Limpopo to hunt a new concession that Herc had lined up. Apparently, the owner is opposed to hunting, but acknowledges that he needs to manage the animals that populate his farm. "You are gonna' like the farm, Herc said, "It is 23,000 acres and has not been hunted in years."

    "Lekker" I said. "Lekker."
     
  7. graybird

    graybird AH Veteran

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    Enjoying the hunt so far, but we gotta have pictures!! Pics, man, pics!!!
     
  8. Diamondhitch

    Diamondhitch AH Legend

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    X2!!!
     
  9. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    Trying to download the pics into a personal portfolio, but the computer keeps hanging up waiting for a response from AH. Is there an alternative way to do it?
     
  10. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    View attachment 13837

    Here is the Blesbok. For the record, I am 6'6" and 290 pounds.

    Not sure why I cannot get fingernails on here. Someone please gimme the scoop...
     
  11. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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  12. Bobpuckett

    Bobpuckett GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Great hunt so far really want to see the pics, try using the insert image button at the top of your reply if your not sure which one it is hold your mouse over it and it should tell you what the button is.
     
  13. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    Day Three

    Spent six hours in the Rover, driving north to Limpopo. The concession we were to hunt was about 50 miles from the border with Mozambique. Saw lots of beautiful scenery. Never realized that orange orchards smelled so sweet. Arrived at the farm after sundown and fell into bed. Was looking forward to looking around in the morning.
     
  14. Diamondhitch

    Diamondhitch AH Legend

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    I have had issues too. One fix seems to be clicking the "go advanced" button then inserting your photo as mentioned. For whatever reason the quick reply window seems glitchier when it comes to pics.
     
  15. Diamondhitch

    Diamondhitch AH Legend

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    nice start to your hunt BTW. Black Wildebeest are a favorite of mine.
     
  16. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    Blesbok Resized.jpg BW Resized.jpg

    Thanks Brick. Your suggestion worked.
     
  17. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    Day Four

    After breakfast, Herc, David, Jen and I left camp to take a look around. I really had no set list of animals. However, I really wanted a Zebra and a Waterbuck. Less than five minutes had passed when David was snapping his fingers for Herc to stop the Rover. Herc told me that we had just passed two Kudu bulls that were worth a closer look. I chambered a shell and took my place behind Herc and David. Ten minutes later, I was crouched behind a scrub bush with two Kudu less than 60 yards away. The bulls were busy trying to reach the last of the greenery in the tops of the bushes. Herc dropped his glasses and whispered that the bull on the left was a shooter. Of course, as soon as he said that, the wind swirled and the bulls turned and faced us. The smaller bull let out a bark and quickly walked off. The big bull stared at us for a few seconds and followed. Both bulls disappeared into the thick scrub.

    David stood up from his crouch and started tracking the bulls. In less than thirty seconds, he stopped and crouched behind another tree. Less than 50 yards away, stood both bulls. Herc put up the sticks and I mounted the gun. However, there was too much scrub for me to take a shot. Both bulls barked and then turned away. We quickly followed, crossing the road and dropping down into a shallow ditch. After another 40 yards, I saw the big bull walking towards a clearing less than 50 yards away. Herc and David were looking at the first bull. I started beating Herc on the back and whispered as loud as I could, "Put up the sticks! Put up the sticks!" Herc looked to his right and saw the big bull just before it cleared the scrub and entered the clearing. I mounted the gun, put the crosshairs on the Kudu's shoulder and squeezed the trigger. The Savage barked and the Kudu fell onto his nose.

    The first thing I noticed about the bull was the blaze on his face was scarred and his ears were clipped from fighting. His "beard" was worn off from age as well. Herc was excited because the bull's horns had "tips on the inside". He told me that he has only had three bulls with "tips in". I thought he was pulling my leg, but then he told me the names of the other two hunters and where they were from. I could care less about all of that. I thought the old warrior looked simply awesome. We took a few pics and loaded the bull into the Rover. Twenty minutes after breakfast and with one stalk, I had a nice kudu in the salt! Today was going to be a good day.

    Shortly after we dropped off the Kudu at the skinning shed, we were leaving the truck to chase a trio of Gemsbok. David stayed back to skin the Kudu, so we were joined by Ellson. Ellson was from Zimbabwe and the other trackers called him "Mugabe". The Gemsbok caught our scent and ran off into the brush. We went wide to the right, hoping that we could catch the Gemsbok sneaking out the side door. Ellson continued forward and we eventually saw the Gemsbok cross the road 500 yards ahead of us. We found Ellson and made our way back to the Rover.

    I was simply in awe of the animals, birds, trees and plants. The terrain was incredibly dry, with little to no greenery. I found myself quickly gaining respect for the animals that are able to make it living is such a harsh environment. I was also amazed at the number and variety of animals that we were seeing. I quickly found that riding on the tailgate of the Rover was the best seat in the house.

    We had driven around for a few miles and Herc stopped the Rover. There was a heard of Impala that had a nice ram in it and we were going to try and put the sneak on them. After a short stalk, the Impala had given us the slip and we were walking back to the Rover. I stopped Herc with a hand on the shoulder and pointed to a Gemsbok standing in a clearing about 150 yards away. Herc put up his glasses and whispered, "He is a big boy. Let's go get him." We quickly closed to 125 yards and Hervc put up the sticks, whispering, "Put it right on the shoulder above the front leg and squuueeeeeze the trigger."

    I mounted the gun, found my spot and squeezed the trigger. The Savage barked and the Gemsbok jumped, pulling his front legs up and dropping his head. "Nice shot!" Herc said, slapping my back. We quickly walked towards the Gemsbok, when I saw him standing 75 yards away and looking at us over his shoulder. Herc put up the sticks and I aimed for the back of his neck. I squeezed the trigger and the bull simply stared at me. I reloaded and took a third shot. He fell down. We quickly ran up to the bull and found that one of my shots had broken his back. He was trying to gain his feet, but could not. He was raking his long horns in our direction, but lucky for us, he was unable to stand. I took aim and put another round into his shoulder - with no effect. I put another one in the same spot and his head fell to the sand. We took some pics, loaded the bull into the Rover and went back to the house for lunch. It was not even noon and I had a Gemsbok and a Kudu in the salt!

    After lunch and a quick snooze, Herc suggested that we sit on a waterhole. I truly believe in not "guiding the guide", so I agreed. Thirty minutes later, we were sitting in a blind 50 yards from a small waterhole. There was a trail leading to the waterhole on our right and a large sistern to our left. After several hours, a bachelor herd of Impala entered the clearing. Herc told me that the Impala "in the middle" was the best one of the bunch and to shoot him in the shoulder where the tan and the light brown skin met. I had the gun on the Impala and was ready to squeeze the trigger, when Herc told me to wait, as several more Impala had entered the clearing. One of the new Impala was also a shooter and Herc told me to take my pic. I told him that I was going to take the first one and took the shot. As the shot rang out, the Impala scattered. "I think you missed," Herc said plainly. "He did not react at all." "No F$#@ng way", I responded. I think he is behind the sistern. We got out of the blind and made our way towards the watering hole. We were met by Mugabe and David in the Rover. They got out of the Rover and walked into the scrub next to my Impala. Herc looked at me and laughed, "You shot the wrong F$5@!ing Impala!". Regardless, I think he is beautiful.

    We decided to call it a day and head back to the house for supper. On our way back to the house, Herc stopped the Rover and pointed into the scrub at three Blue Wildebeest. David turned to me and said in perfect "Queen's English", "Very Very Big Wildebeest". I thought about it and told him that I wanted a Zebra first. Herc gave me that "Are you sure?" look and then drove back to the house. I do not find the Blue Wildebeest all that appealing and had other animals higher up on my wishlist. First day at the new farm and I had three animals in the salt. I could not wait to see what tomorrow would bring.

    Kudu Resized.jpg Gemsbok Resized.jpg Impala 1 Resized.jpg
     
  18. VanderLaan

    VanderLaan AH Senior Member

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    I should say, thanks Diamondhitch.
     
  19. Popo

    Popo AH Member

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    Great hunt story and nice pictures.
     
  20. Diamondhitch

    Diamondhitch AH Legend

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    No problem, glad it worked.

    Nice pics, especially the Kudu.
     

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