BOTSWANA: Hunting With NKWE SAFARIS - The Adventure Begins 2024

MontanaPat

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Thought I would go ahead and get started on a report for my upcoming hunt with NKWE, since I’m sitting in Doha at the Qatar Business Class lounge and it’s 12:30 AM but I’m wide awake after sleeping on the flight over.

Flights: American/Qatar vis Doha to Johannesburg, Airlink to Maun - flights were booked via Travel Express (first time to use them versus doing all of my own travel arrangements on previous trips but since I was not familiar with Qatar procedures with guns thought I would use their expertise).

Outfitter: @NKWE SAFARIS, Ghanzi Botswana

Species targeted: Eland (to complete my SA spiral slam), kudu, blue wildebeest and whatever other opportunities may arise

Rifles: Winchester M70 Safari Express in .375 HH (eland, kudu) with a Leupold VX3 1.5-5 X 20 Firedot and Winchester M70 Featherweight .308 Win with a Leupold VX3 3.5-10 X 40 Firedot

A friend and I booked this hunt a couple of years ago after hearing many good reports of people hunting in Botswana with NKWE. He hunted with them in July 2023 to check them out while I was doing a Cape buffalo hunt in South Africa. Well he came home totally blown away with the hunting at NKWE, taking a beautiful 62” kudu on that trip along with another right at 60” and a really nice waterbuck as well.

I left Bozeman MT yesterday 5/23 headed to DFW on American and then Qatar via Doha to Johannesburg. Wouldn’t you know good old Montana decided to throw one more snow storm out there before letting us have summer! Got up Thursday morning to snow on the yard and wet slushy roads and the valley socked in with clouds. Got to the airport plenty early to get all checked in with no problems. The American flight was showing a few minutes late coming in from Dallas and a half hour delay on departure but thought I should be fine as I have a 5 hour layover in DFW, so plenty of time to get my bag and rifle case rechecked onto Qatar. Well the plane is 10 minutes out of Bozeman about to land according to FlightAware map when they announce that the plane is being diverted to Boise due to low visibility in Bozeman. WTF, I just saw 2 United flights take off and 2 minutes later a United flight lands, seems they aren’t having any issues!

Well to get to the point, the American flight finally lands, we board and depart for Dallas 3.5 hours late so there goes my big layover cushion. We make good time to DFW and luckily my plane has a gate change so we now come in on concourse D instead of A, and the Qatar flight is leaving out of concourse D since that is the international concourse. Hurray, I’m able to grab my bags at baggage claim and head straight upstairs to the Qatar check in with no need to find the shuttle to change terminals and waste a bunch of time. I still had just over 2 hours to departure for Doha so I’m in good shape thank goodness.

I have to say the Qatar business class check in desk is right on top of things and made the process very smooth. Darren at Travel Express had already notified Qatar of my firearms declaration and they had all of the paperwork completed and waiting at check in for me when I got there. Took a short amount of time to complete the process and the check in people were very polite and helpful unlike what seems many airlines are these days. Got to my gate with time to relax and then board. Qatar Q Suite accommodations onboard are comfortable and I get settled in for the long flight. Had a small meal and some wine, then took a Benadryl to get some sleep and I’m out. Got a good 8 hours of sleep, flights go very smooth and land in Doha on time, this is a beautiful airport as others have said many times. My flight for JNB leaves at 8:40 in the morning and it’s now 1 AM. So I may read a bit and try to catch a little nap, use their shower facilities to freshen up and have some breakfast then head to my gate around 7.

More to come as the hunt unfolds……
 
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Great(y) Looking forward to following along
 
Can't wait to see the pics from this hunt. Bound and determined to go to Botswana with NKWE for Buff and plains game, but the boss voted for Romania first.
 
The hunt was a great trip with some super trophies taken. I’m just finishing an add on hunt in South Africa. Internet access has been slow and spotty but I leave for the US tomorrow and will write up a full report as soon as I can
 
OK, finally back home in Montana with decent internet and time to get a report out since several folks have asked how the hunt went.

Flights made it into JNB fine from Doha and I spent the first night at Afton Lodge since our flight to Maun didn't leave until the next day at noon. Hunting buddy made it in later that evening on Delta as he connected thru Amsterdam since the flights were much cheaper and he wasn't bringing a rifle along. Caught our flights into Maun on Sunday 5/26, I went thru the gun permits and paid my duty fees on my ammo and we were off to Ghanzi. Quentin, one of Jaco's PHs, picked us up for the 3 hour drive to camp and we arrived just at sunset. NKWE has a nice tented safari camp that has a nice "old Africa" feel to it, got settled in, had dinner and called it a night after sitting around the fire for a while. We were there for 8 days of hunting in total.

Hunting Day 1:

My main target animal was to go after a big eland bull followed by kudu. Since I had not shot an eland previously and new they had some big old blue eland bulls on their properties, that was to be my first target animal. I also wanted the experience of a tracking eland hunt. Quentin was to be my PH for the week and my buddy Kevin was hunting with Jaco, although we did a few hunts with all of us together during the trip.

Quentin and I started out that morning shooting both rifles to make sure the scopes were still on target and then headed out with Kenny our tracker and Tuma driving. We were hunting NKWE's main property where the camp is located, not sure of the size but it is quite large and has a perimeter fence only, we never reached the backside of the property all week.

We stopped by a waterhole right away to look for tracks and they said lots of fresh tracks but all cows and young bulls. Down the road we went to soon saw some more tracks but Kenny indicated that it was a single old bull and Quentin wanted to try and find a group of bulls to get on. Soon we found tracks crossing the road, got off to examine them and Kenny said it was a group of bulls that had crossed the road the previous evening and then back across during the night/morning. So we set off following the tracks. I was using my .375HH for the eland hunt and set off following Quentin and Kenny on the tracks. We followed the tracks for about 45 minutes and quite a distance when Quentin said we had come upon a group of Zebra and needed to circle around them and pick up the eland tracks again to keep from spooking the Zebra. We started to move around them in the thick brush when suddenly we saw the Eland. It was a group of 8 Eland bulls hanging with the Zebra. The zebra kind of spooked and set off at a trot and the eland followed along. Kenny and Quentin tracked the group for another 15 minutes and we caught up with them all milling around feeding in the thorn scrub. We were watching the eland in our binos to see what size bulls they were and any good shooters when a couple of Zebra caught our scent and spooked the whole group to take off again. Back onto the tracks we went and soon the Eland bulls split away from the Zebra onto their own. This is what we wanted to get them away from the spooky Zebra. We trailed the eland for another 1.5 - 2 hours getting close and then they would move out agian. I was amazed at the tracking ability of our bushman tracker Kenny to stay on the right tracks. With tracks of numerous animals crossing our path I had no idea if we were on the right trail until every once in a while we would come across fresh dung or urine in the sandy soil indicating to me at least that we were still on the right track. The eland would move for a while and then stop to feed and watch their back trail and either see or hear us moving closer then off they would trot again. Finally after several miles of this we got into a position to see the eland feeding. I was watching one eland we saw in an opening when Quentin set up the sticks and said to get on them for a shot. He indicated which bull and all I could see was the one I had watched which had now moved away. I kept saying I can't see which one you are indicating and strained to pick out the biggest bull in the group. They were only about 60 meters away in the thick thorn brush but it was a struggle to pick them up in the scope. After several seconds of Quentin and I going back and forth on where to look, I finally saw the back of the eland and as I moved left could make out the face of the bull with his big mop staring right at me. Quentin whispered to estimate where his shoulder was in the brush and punch a .375 round thru the brush. I fired and the bull jumped up in the air kicking and eland erupted everywhere! We waited a few minutes, both feeling the shot was a good one. We eased forward and found the bull dead only about 15 meters from where he was standing when I shot. The 300 gr A Frame punched right thru the brush and smacked him right in the shoulder for a perfect shot. I was elated to have a beautiful big eland bull down. We had spent about 3 hours tracking them and according to my iPhone fitness app in my pocket, we had walked about 7 miles, so I was getting pretty tired by the time we got the shot. Quentin called Tuma on the radio to come find us. We took some pictures and loaded him up to head back to camp around noon.

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He measured right at 35" with big heavy bases and mop on his face. He looked like he was starting to lose some weight and was a good older bull.
 
Very nice eland bull. Good job.
Bruce
 
Day 1 continued:

After a rest following lunch we decided to drive over to a big cattle ranch about an hour away to hunt kudu for the evening. The area around Ghanzi is flat, and continuous very large acreage cattle ranches. Jaco has permission to hunt on numerous of these ranches and while they are fenced with 4 foot high cattle fencing the kudu and other animals move free ranging from one ranch to the next. We decided to sit up on a couple of corral / water hole areas for the evening, Quentin and I sat on one and Kevin and Jaco went to another a couple of miles away from us. We no more than got sat down against a big water tank with a screen of brush in front of us around 4PM when we started having kudu and warthogs coming in to get a drink from the water troughs. We could see about 80-100 yards in all directions. Just before last shooting light we had one big wide kudu bull come to drink and contemplated taking a shot. My goal was to try and hold out for a 60"+ kudu bull and this one was a beauty but Quentin and I estimated him to be 56-58". Since it was the first day of an 8 day hunt I didn't want to get both an eland and kudu the first day, so I decided to let the kudu walk away and hope to find a bigger one during the week, would I regret my decision?? Time will tell.

Day 2:

I also had some other game on my want list for the hunt including a blue wildebeest which I had yet to take on three previous trips to Africa as well as a warthog and steenbok. Quentin decide that we should hunt the main camp property again on day 2 to see if we could get a blue wildebeest. Around the campfire the evening before we were talking with Jaco about his new property he is developing further north bordering the Greater Kalahari Game Reserve. Jaco had not taken any clients there yet to hunt, only doing some hunting himself and with his son and a friend to take some animals for meat for the workers. Jaco decided that we should go up there and rough camp for one night and hunt an evening and morning as he wanted to show us the property. Kevin had hunted with Jaco in 2023 taking a couple of big kudu and he knew about the new property and really wanted to go see it. So we decided that we would go up there around noon on day 2.

Quentin and I hunted for blue wildebeest that morning until about 10 and then headed back for an early lunch so we could drive north to the other property which was a couple of hours away. We found a group of blue wildebeest right away and set off from the truck tracking them. We caught up to them after about a mile of walking and soon spotted them. We spent the next hour following them and searching for a good bull in the group for a shot. After them spooking a couple of times and getting on the sticks we never got a good bull in the scope for a shot and let them move on as we headed back to camp.

That afternoon we drove north to the new property which Jaco said was about 25,000 hectares in size. He has been developing this property for the past 12-18 months and hopes to have it ready for hunting in 2025. He has the shell of a nice lodge building constructed and a few guest chalets started and plans to build some more as well as add some tented camp accommodations for guests. He has also been building a home on the property for his family to live in and while unfinished that is where we stayed the night since he had a few beds / futons there to sleep on. On the drive in we saw some elephants and giraffe that came out of the Greater Kalahari Game Reserve. These animals seem to move freely back and forth with little regard to game fencing. The GKGR is something like 2 million + acres or more and he borders the reserve fence but in most places the fence had been knocked down by elephants. Jaco said there are a lot of lions and leopard that cross back and forth as well as plains game. Jaco had just done a helicopter game capture on his main camp property the week before we arrived. Due to needing to thin his herd size at the main camp they had moved about 125 zebra along with a couple hundred eland and a couple hundred blue wildebeest up to this new property. Jaco drove the land cruiser that evening with Kevin, Quentin and I standing in the back along with 2 trackers while we went out for a game drive. Right away we saw a big kudu bull in the thick thorn bush but Kevin was unable to get a shot off before he took off with some kudu cows into the brush. We drove around and watched game but didn't take any shots and at dark went back and cooked some steaks on an open fire for a bush dinner. Jaco had been having problems with several lions who had already killed about a dozen animals in the past couple of weeks according to his workers on the property. We decided to go out for a night game drive and see if we could call in any lions that night. We drove around for a couple of hours and saw a ton of duikers and steenbok but couldn't get any shots. Jaco had a new thermal scope he wanted to try out on jackals as well, but my shooting wasn't very good on the one jackal we tried for and I kept shooting over him. We stopped at a couple of spots and played a recorded lion roaring and waited to see if could get a response but saw or heard nothing. So around midnight we headed back to get some sleep.

Day 3:

This morning we headed out doing a game drive as the evening before and right away the trackers spotted some blue wildebeest way out in the brush. Quentin, myself and one of the trackers set off on a stalk to see if we could find a good bull. We followed the wildebeest for about 30 minutes as they fed along and soon got within a 100 yards to glass them over. They seemed to pay us no attention as we had good wind. Quentin spotted a good bull and got me on the sticks for a quartering to shot. I hit the bull on the front shoulder using my .308 shooting 180 gr A Frames that I got from Raven Rocks when they had them on sale recently. I hit the bull hard and they all wheeled around running off. We waited a few minutes and then started to follow the bulls tracks, he went about 75 yards and was piled up dead. The bullet went into his vitals and never exited doing lots of internal damage. We called in Jaco who had heard us shoot and they came to see the bull while we grabbed some pics. We marked the bull's location and went back by where his workers were at and one of the trackers joined them to lead them back to pick up the bull while we went on hunting.
 
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Having trouble all of a sudden getting images to drop into the post so had to try a different method.

Day 3 continued:

After getting the blue wildebeest, we drove around and spotted lots of kudu with some younger bulls, zebra, eland and other game that seemed to be bunched up in one area. We kept driving and soon saw fresh lion tracks in the road and then came across vultures circling close to a waterhole where we had stopped to call lion the evening before. Jaco followed to where the vultures looked to be and soon we had a bunch of vultures coming off the ground. We parked and walked in to find a big eland bull that had been killed during the night by lions. They had fed on him a while and then left the carcass to the vultures. Needless to say Jaco was pissed that the lions had gotten a big eland bull, you could see claw marks all over the eland's hind quarters and neck where they brought him down.

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Seems the lions had the game somewhat spooked after the eland leading them to be bunched up in that general area. We kept driving to look for steenbok as Jaco and Quentin said there were some big ones on this property. After a while of driving around looking at game Jaco stopped suddenly and called Quentin down off the back of the truck. They were looking into the brush with their binos when Quentin motioned to me to jump down with my rifle. He sat the sticks up in front of the truck and said there is a nice steenbok ram laying down under the thorn scrub. I picked the ram up in the scope of the .308 (we didn't take the .375 with us on the trip to the new property) and could see he was laying broadside to us facing the other direction about 30 yards into the brush. Not wanting to damage the cape I placed a shot about midway back, he jumped up and went about 5 feet and dropped. Quentin and the tracker rushed in to grab him and immediately started shouting with excitement. As they brought the ram out we could see he was a big one with needle sharp horns about 5.5" in length, a really nice steenbok ram that I was excited to have a chance to get.

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Later on Day 3 we headed back down to Jaco's main tented camp property but on the way back we decided to stop off and hunt kudu again on the cattle ranch we had tried on Day 1. We set up on some different water troughs / corrals from the first day, Quentin and I on one and Kevin/Jaco at another a couple of miles away. We immediately started seeing kudu come in for water. We had them coming from all sides of us and saw about a dozen bulls that evening, similar to the first night. We had one big kudu bull that only had one horn as the other was broken off about a foot up from his base, would have been an interesting trophy. No shooters though came in close to get a good look at, just before last light we saw one big bull come in behind us and we thought he was working his way around to the trough but just kept moving off in another direction.

Right at last light Kevin shot a nice 58" kudu bull with Jaco so we went and helped load him up into the truck and all headed back for the 1 hour drive to camp and dinner. The main camp is very comfortable with a big dining tent and a large deck with fire pit that overlooks a waterhole. While sitting around the fire at night you hear impala, kudu, wildebeest, zebra and eland coming in for water while the jackals are howling all around. Fun to shine a light out and see what is drinking.

Day 4: Today is kudu day, we decided to go over to a neighboring cattle ranch that borders Jaco's property, not sure of the size but well over 100,000 acres of free ranging kudu thorn bush hindered only slightly by three strand barbed wire cross fencing for cattle, the kudu move around with ease thru all of the very thick thorn scrub. We immediately saw a big kudu bull and several cows as we drove up to the first corral area. The kudu rut is essentially over by now but there were still a few kudu hanging with the ladies. This bull took off before we could even get our binos up to get a good look at him but he was a huge bull. We drove around all morning and easily saw over 60 kudu by 11AM with about 10 of those being bulls of various sizes, lots of younger bulls in the 30-40" range but no shooters. We went back for lunch and a rest then decided to go back that evening where we saw the first big bull that morning and set up a blind to wait until dark. We cut some thorn brush to build a blind area to conceal us as Quentin and I sat for the evening while Kenny and Tuma went down the road a mile to sit and wait for us to call them. Tons of birds coming in to water and a few warthogs. About 45 minutes before dark we had seen no kudu yet at all which surprised us but we had a nice warthog come in to drink and Quentin put me on the sticks for a shot. However the warthog was wary and every time he would stop for a shot he would have his vital area behind a fence post of the corral or a wire strand was in the way so I never got a shot at him. After another 20 minutes or so with light quickly fading Quentin decided to call the truck so we could go back and check out a large agricultural field along the way that he sees warthogs in some times. We rushed down the road to the field and stopped to glass. Quentin saw a couple of big warthogs way out in the field and tells me to grab the .308 and come quickly. We set out across this big pivot field towards them as light is fading. We went about 400 to 500 yards and Quentin throws up the shooting sticks. One of the warthogs is moving off and the other bigger one is watching him but hasn't seen us yet. Quentin asks if I can make the shot, I can barely see the warthog thru the scope at 10X and ask Quentin how far out is he? Quentin says he has no idea just hold for the top of his back. I have the .308 sighted dead on at 150 yards with the 180 gr A frames and know it drops about 1.5 inches at 200 yards. I'm guessing this thing is at least 300 yards away so I put the illuminated firedot at the top of his back above the shoulder and fire and see the warthog take off running. I pull the rifle down to work another round in and we hear the kerwhop of the bullet slap a full second or more after the shot. I get the hog back in the scope and see him stop, start bucking like a rodeo bull and down he goes. Quentin is jumping in the air yelling great shot and we walk in to find him shot perfectly right through the shoulders and out the other side. Only time for a few quick pictures before the light is gone and we load him up to head to camp, he is a big fat warthog with nice heavy bases and unbroken tusks since I guess he lived his life rooting around in the soft dirt and sand of the ag fields. Again, my first warthog after three trips, just never saw a good one on previous hunts.

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