Location: Steyn Caracal Safaris, N/W Province, RSA (Near Brits) PH: Johan Du Preez Animals taken: Black Wildebeest, Eland, Kudu, Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Warthog, Steenbok Other Animals seen: Cape Buffalo, Waterbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Common daiker, Tortoise, Giraffe, White Rhino, Impala, Blesbok, Lion, & Cerval Cat Rifles: CZ 550 Safari Classic in .416 Rigby & Winchester 270 featherweight in .270 Ammo: 400 gr Rhino Bullets for the .416 & 150 gr Rhino Bullets for the .270 hand-loaded by my friend, Chris Melgard of Safari Bullets As some of you may remember, I broke my leg very badly two weeks after retirement, two days before we moved homes and two weeks before I was taking my son to Africa for his first safari on his 25th birthday. Well, after a long recovery when my doctor was tired of my question: "Doc, when can I fly?", every time I saw him, I finally got the clearance to make the long flight to Johannesburg. Unfortunately, my son had to go without me at the originally scheduled time or miss his safari all together. My lovely wife had procured bulkhead seats and wheelchair services in all the airports for me. For this I can not be grateful enough! We arrived in J'Burg an hour early (thankfully) due to a strong tailwind the whole way. My wife stopped in a bank to exchange some traveler's cheques into Rand. The woman that "helped" her was less than ethical and gave her a very unfair exchange. As Paula was re-doing the math in her head, she didn't realize that the woman had neglected to give her back her passport! I was then being wheeled through the lobby when an attractive woman approached me and asked if I was "Billy Hook". She was going to be our transportation to SCS. Her name is Adele Jansen van Rensberg and she handles transportation to and from safari locations as well as all the advance gun permits to lessen the time in the SAP's (South African Police) office. We went to the SAP's office to obtain my rifles and the only other person there, other than staff, was Jim Burnsworth of Adventures Abroad & Western Extreme. He was a "real" guy and we talked as we waited for our rifles to get there. I knew that he was originally from Tillamook and his father-in-law lives less than 8 miles from our new home. He showed me photos on his iPhone of a 62" kudu he had previously taken and when he learned I'd sold my Hot Rod to go on this safari he also showed me his 1931 Model "A" with 1500 HP engine. When we cleared the rifles, Adele and her husband, Anton took us to an "American place" complete with bison and wagon wheels. Anton was friends with the owners since he works at the airport. We had a scrumptious meal. They loaded us in their "combie" (van) and drove us the three hours to SCS where we were greeted by Johan, my PH from last year and "G" Watts, a PH and one of the owner's brothers who had come to Oregon on holiday last winter where I took him on an unsuccessful coyote hunt. It was wonderful to see them again! This being the end of their hunting season, we were the ONLY ones in camp at that point! How relaxing! They settled us in the biggest chalet and then was when we found that my wife's passport was missing and my can of international coffee had exploded on all our clothes! The next morning after coffee that I scooped from the luggage, we hit the "skeetbaan" (shooting range). My .416 Rigby came in after only a couple of shots but we had a heck of a time getting my wife's Winchester .270 on target and shot up almost 25 rounds. We'd adjust the scope... shoot.... no change, adjust the scope....shoot...no change... adjust the scope....shoot....jump clear across the paper. Finally we got it hitting to a satisfactory degree and started hunting. Just like last year, within 30 minutes, we were on our first animal. A big, old, Black Wildebeest. One down and "in the salt" as they say on that side of the world. Johan had texted me the week before, telling me that there was a MONSTER Kudu there and though he'd asked the previous client if he'd wanted it, he declined, fortunately for me. Johan said, "That's okay. My friend, Billy will be here next week and that Kudu's Visa is in order to go back to the states with him." You see, last year due to a problem I've always had; Mixing up right and left under pressure, I shot a rather small one. This time of year it's bloody hot there, well over 90 degrees F and it was the peak of the full moon, so the animals were not moving much during the heat of the day. We returned to camp for brunch and rested in the air conditioning. Around 3:00 PM we left camp again. As we came around a corner, there was a big Kudu....another a bit smaller....AND the "Mr. Big" that Johan had spoke of. He hissed to me, "That's Him! Shoot him!" I centered the crosshairs, set my trigger & squeezed. The world erupted. I saw stuff flying in the scope and they ran. We went over to where he was standing and NO BLOOD...just an 1&1/2" branch shot off! This lesson proved to me that there is NO SUCH THING as a "brush buster" caliber! Johan dropped the branch and in a sad voice said, "That was the branch I had him tied to Billy". I felt lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut. We returned to the lodge around dark and ate a wonderful meal prepared by the camp's new chef, Willem. Though it was wonderful, I had a pit in my stomach after missing this Kudu. The next morning, we were invited (remember that we were the only clients in camp) to assist in the dart and capture of 3 white rhino cows and 2 calves. They brought in a helicopter and a vet who would dart the rhinos, then hover over it until we all arrived in the "bakkies" (pick-up trucks) and the big lorry (semi) that was loaded with huge steel boxes and equipped with a crane. The crew would throw a towel over the eyes and a lasso over that to keep their eyes protected and to calm them. Then they would drill a hole in the horn and implant a microchip and fill it with putty. A small amount of "wake up" drug was injected after blood drawing from the ear and extensive paper work. I stayed well back from the next part due to my limited mobility from the broken leg. I knew if one drunkenly stumbled and fell on my leg, I'd be done. About 10-15 men would pull on the lead rope and push the rhinos up on their feet, then head them to the steel crates that were eventually loaded on the lorry. Not many people can say that they got to touch 5 wild rhinos in one day! Bunny, an apprentice PH, pulled a couple of tail hairs off one of the rhinos for my wife's scrapbooking. That evening, after eating lunch in the bush, we came upon a herd of Zebra. Now last year, my lovely wife said that the only animal she could NOT shoot was a zebra because she'd had horses. After seeing them in the wild, seeing their behavior and hearing their barking call, she realized that comparing them to a horse was about the same as comparing our Jack Russell terrier to a wolf. Looking through his binoculars, Johan selected one for Paula and told her to shoot. She made a perfect shot at about 130 meters. The zebra reared up and over, never to get up again. I was probably as ecstatic as she was with her first African animal and first kill with her .270. It was SO beautiful that Johan convinced Paula to do a flat skin rather than a pedestal mount saying that we'd waste so much of it's beautiful and unique markings. Two trophies "in the salt". The full moon and the heat were not helping us get on animals. We'd see them and they'd vaporize into the bush. We did see the Kudu bulls again but only from a distance. They call them the "gray ghost" for a reason. Eland was next on my list and though we'd seen some with bigger horns on one side of the concession, I'd told Johan I wanted one with a big ruff on his forehead and a large dulap. We located 3 Eland led by a big old bull with an outstanding ruff. Johan gave me the go ahead and I let one .416 400gr bullet moving at 2300fps dead center in his chest. He staggered, stumbled, and I asked, "Again?" Johan said "No", afraid that I'd mix up the milling three and end up with two down. We sat and Johan smoked a bit on his pipe as John, the tracker, smiled hugely with those ivory white teeth. We could see the others milling in the bush not having the leader to show them where to run. We walked around the corner and THERE HE STOOD!!! "AGAIN!" was my order from Johan so I hammered him with a second round right on the point of the shoulder. "That's good", I heard Johan say but the Eland swapped ends and I, being an old duck hunter with the motto, "If his head is up keep shooting", slammed another .416 in the opposite shoulder. This FINALLY knocked him down but his head was still up. After several minutes I asked if I could put one more in. Johan told me where to shoot and it was over. Johan and John loaded him in the bakkie with his winch equipped with pulleys that ran over the cab. We stripped out Johan's winch in the process as he guessed the weight of this largest of the African antelope at 1700 pounds! We were in a hurry as the African sun was setting to get him to a place to get photos. Johan called for back-up and another bakkie with 5 black skinner/trackers. Bunny arrived to pose for photos and to re-load the Eland for the skinning shed. Amazingly not one of the Rhino bullets had exited! They had expended all 5600 pounds of energy inside the animal. The skinners recovered two for me and they had great retention that mushroomed to the size of a nickel. We took a day off from hunting but I was nervous because I'd heard that some Kudu hunters were coming in from the Czech Republic and another couple was coming in next week for a Kudu too. That day we watched the Currie Cup of Rugby. It is as big to Afrikaans as our Super Bowl is here. Charl Watts, one of the owners had purchased three cerval cats that had been hand-raised. These are the equivalent of our bobcats only much lankier, with bigger ears. They primarily hunt birds and can jump! Bunny brought one into the bar/TV room on a harness and it decided that my belly looked big and soft, so it jumped up on me, made itself comfortable and started purring as we watched rugby. Johan asked if his brother, Benny could spend the day with us hunting and we agreed that would be fun. He arrived early the next morning. We joked and laughed all day in the bakkie. His favorite animal to hunt was the Blue Wildebeest because they are SO TOUGH. I mean, there is more than one reason they call them the "poor man's Cape Buffalo". So after that, I started calling them "Bennybeests". By the way, we saw a lot of HUGE Blues there, that would make Rowland Ward & SCI platinum medal. Paula's second trophy was to be a Red Hartebeest. We'd seen them as they disappeared in the brush. Now Paula is an excellent shot but not very quick on the trigger, so she told Johan to "find her one that would stand and smile at her". That evening with Benny, we saw two with big smiles. Johan told her to shoot the one on the left. She could not see the other. Fearing she'd shoot the wrong one she held saying that she only saw one. I told her "That's him!" because from my vantage point I knew that it was indeed the one on the left. The report of her rifle echoed back to us. I'd been watching but saw no sign of a hit. We crossed the ravine and found blood. I opted to stay in the truck as my leg was really hurting that day and Vicodin only helps so much. Benny, Johan, John and Paula started following up. It wasn't 10 minutes and I heard a whoop from Paula. She was done with her animals. Again, just as the African sun started to fall from the sky, we hurried for photos and then off to the skinning shed. Benny spent the night and hunted with us the next morning but nothing eventful happened so he decided to head for home after brunch. We went out around 4:OO PM that evening. A bit later because almost all the action we'd had was right at sundown. Well, Benny missed the boat on that one because we saw the herd of Kudus again. Two more, totaling five bulls were now together. Just as they started to run into the bush, Johan said, "The one in the back of the herd". I mounted the .416 and had less than a heartbeat to shoot. The recoil slammed my shoulder and the scope slammed my nose as I saw them disappear into the brush. We stood still and silent for a minute. Then John pointed, then cupped his ear and smiled, that "all-telling" smile. We went 40 meters and there he lay. Johan said, "Billy, that's him!!! That's the big one you missed!!!!" I hugged him, Paula, shook John's hand in the classic handshake then looked to the heavens and thanked the Good Lord for finally breaking my "Kudu Curse". I could not quit shaking and the blood running down my nose didn't seem to matter anymore. Johan was given permission to go spend a night with his wife and children because he'd been gone so long and was in the process of making another house attached to his parents home on their farm near Brits. When he returned early the next morning, we loaded up and drove to a nearby concession where only he has permission to hunt for warthogs. He hates sitting in a blind. He got a Snickers bar and a magazine for the tedium. We sat there quite awhile as Paula read her Reader's Digest watching small warthogs, ibis, & ducks come into the waterhole. Finally a HUGE warthog for this area showed up.....About 12" tusks on each side. They don't get big tusks in this region because of the granite in the soil. When they dig their holes, it wears down their tusks. I got on the shooting sticks and set the trigger, centered the crosshairs and the world erupted! Pigs squealed and ran kicking up dust in all directions. Johan looked at me and said, "Billy, you missed him". I still do not know how, since he was only about 20 meters from us! I'd have bet my next ten pay checks that I had him and was really kicking myself now. I asked Johan, "How long before he might come back...a day.....two?" Just then, guess what...he came back! This time I hit him. He squealed and ran head-long into a tree then got up and ran into the bush. Johan, Paula and John went to follow it up. Johan came back saying that my pig was gone for good....wounded too. I felt like throwing up as I noticed he had only the hint of a smile in one corner of his mouth. Then he said, "Billy. Lets go get your pig". What a relief! I punched him gently in the chest and called him all the bad Afrikaans names I'd learned. Again, we raced the sunset for photos and drove back to camp for another wonderful meal of Eland schnitzels which is similar to our chicken-fried steak. My new favorite meat: Eland. I had requested that we eat mostly game this time and Willem accommodated us. We NEVER had a meal that was anything but "tastes-like-more". We had the pleasure of trying red hartebeest, black wildebeest, kudu, & of course, eland. Thunderheads built up during several evenings. We were entertained by lightning and thunder showers several times. I now can see why all the chalets there have their own lightning rods! After one of these incredible displays, as we ate, the camp manager came in and spoke to the PHs in Afrikaans. They jumped up and flew out the door. Soon they returned and Bunny asked from outside the door if anyone wanted to see a dead, spitting Cobra. The snake had come in the office chasing a mouse and the PHs had dispatched it with a pellet rifle. These two events made me identify with a song by my musical hero, Jimmy Buffett called "Far Side of the World", where he says "Sunset ringed by lightning bolts leaves a lasting memory ......Cobras and battle flags are coiled and furled and that's the way it happens on the far side of the world." We were about done with our trophies and still had several days left. We'd seen Steenbok several times and I really wanted one of the "Tiny Ten" so I approached Charl on what the cost would be for one. He got out his price list and a calculator. After a calculation, he said, "I don't get many hunters that hunt them and we've had a really good year for these on the farm", then quoted me a price.... I limped as quickly as my bad leg would carry me to bounce it off my "financial department". She said, "That's why they make credit cards. You'll never get a better price." I sure lucked out with this wonderful woman! We saw a few Steenbok over the next days but all were running like a jackrabbits as they zig-zagged, throwing up dust as they disappeared in the brush. As we dropped tracker John off at his quarters one night he spoke to Johan in his native tongue. John said that there were a couple Steenbok that came through the yard at his quarters every morning. So, a plan was made to look there the next morning. We arrived early, picked up John and went a short distance. Johan spotted one. He looked at it through his binoculars and said it had a broken horn but before he put down the glasses, he spotted another and gave me the go-ahead. I was using my wife's .270. I completely missed the first shot. It ran 30 meters and stood. I shot again...miss! UGH....It ran about 50 meters and I finally hit it, further back than I would've liked but didn't want to mess it up for a full-body mount. Bunny, Johan, John, Paula and I all tracked it and lost the trail. We radioed for Leeu, G's blood dog. Leeu had saved my bacon last year also. He got on the scent and soon I saw the Steenbok running with Leeu in hot pursuit! I gave Bunny the .270 because there was no way I could catch up to them. Soon I heard a shot and then came Bunny holding my 20 pound antelope with happy Leeu trailing. That was it for my animals at SCS! We had an excellent time at Steyn Caracal Safaris on our second safari. My ONLY regret was that I could not be there with my son but all things happen for a reason. My wife was pampered to her satisfaction and I was treated as a friend....complete with jokes, sarcasm and insults which is EXACTLY how we both like it. I feel a friendship with all there; from the owners Charl and Paul, to the all the PH's and workers. I know I'll be counting the days until the piggy bank is full enough to go again. Stay tuned for Pt. II "The Best Present Ever Contest with Leeukop Safaris"!!!