SOUTH AFRICA: 2019 South Africa Hunt With JKO Safaris – First Time In SA

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by AZ KJ, Aug 26, 2019.

  1. AZ KJ

    AZ KJ New Member

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    Well, this is long overdue but here is the report on my first-time hunt to South Africa. Over the last 8-10 years, I have been able to enjoy a few hunts thru listening to the experiences of my good friend PHOENIX PHIL. Thanks to him for not letting the embers die out in my dreams and for his personal connection to Jacques Spamer at JKO Safaris, I was finally able to pull the trigger on one of the most incredible hunting experiences in my life (at least so far). And was able to experience it with my long-time hunting buddy, PHOENIX PHIL. Having known Jacques for the last 8+ years myself, there was no doubt as to who I would book with for my adventure. More importantly, after spending 10+ days with JKO Safaris I can confidently recommend them to anyone looking for a great experience with lots of opportunity for quality animals. These guys work hard to make it real for their clients.

    We started out our hunt at Sandymount Park in the Free State province near Fauresmith. This concession allowed for access to 55,000+ acres of hunting opportunity and we would hunt it for the first 6 days of our trip. The country reminded me a lot of areas I have hunted in New Mexico and visited in Wyoming. The lodge and amenities were very comfortable with most of the private bedrooms having en suite bathrooms. The lodge hosts, Rykie Fourie/Vella Brink, were absolutely awesome and none of us went without anything we needed. All the food was top notch and we were able to enjoy wild game for most of our meals; springbok, eland, impala, black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, zebra, etc.
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    After a restful night to close out a couple of long travel days, we were up early and off to sight in the rifles at their range. For this trip, I brought my Winchester M70 .375 H&H (300 gr. North Fork bonded softs) and my Browning A-Bolt 7mm Mag (160 gr. Swift A-Frame); all good at the range and we were off with a new friend, PH Vella. We started working our way thru a series of small canyons and immediately saw several animals; impala, kudu, waterbuck, etc. We eventually worked our way on top of the ridges to find a vast savannah. Of all of the experiences for my first trip to Africa, this was definitely an “aha” moment. For as far as you could see, there were plains game everywhere; herds of cape buffalo, red hartebeest, springbok, blue wildebeest, blesbok, sable, zebra and eland. We locked in on a very nice red hartebeest bull and the chase began. After working the wind several ways and then putting on a reasonably long stalk in mostly open ground, “Mr. Excited” here missed his first shot in Africa at ~300 yards, game over. I am sure that never happens to anyone…. The crazy thing is we came back thru the edge of that area about 2 hours later and found the same bull feeding on a ridge. After a short stalk, we were able to get a 200 yard shot with the 7mm and my first ever African animal was in the books.
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    Little did I know, but this was just the start of a truly amazing hunting experience. Day to day we saw so many animals that just seeing them and trying to spot them became very special. I had many people ask me what it was like in SA, I simply state that it was like waking up in a zoo each and every day. How can you not like that? Day 2 we did a quick check of some of the grass savannahs for anything “special” and then took to the ridges for waterbuck. This was probably one of my favorite days as we spotted a good waterbuck bull and then put on a good stalk to the point that Vella was worried that we were too close. However, that was the only opportunity we were going to get due to the thick brush on the ridge we were on. Finally, we were able to get him to stand up at 20 yards and put a good shot on him with the .375 (well actually my buddies, a funny story for another time; but that’s what happens when you are shooting the same model I guess). What a blessing it was to be so engaged and in tune with nature that we were able to make it work without him winding us; Vella was spot on with his plan and we were able to pull it off.
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    Day 3 and the experiences and blessings continued to come my way as I was able to double up for the first time ever. My good friend Jacques Spamer was now in camp and joined us in our hunt. In the morning we were able to find a small herd of impala with a nice, mature ram. Short stalk and was able to enjoy success. That afternoon we worked the savannahs again and found a lone springbok ram working back towards a herd. Jacques’ instincts were spot on in putting us in a perfect place to get a 240 yard shot. On the sticks, short “bleet” from Jacques to stop the ram and made the shot.
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    Over the course of the next 3 days, we were able to add to the harvest list a black wildebeest, red lechwe and gemsbok. My pal, Phil, was also able to get a very nice sable as well (but he can tell that story). The red lechwe was not on my list until I was able to see one in person, then it became an “added splurge” to the budget. At first it was just a passing comment to Jacques that if we saw a nice one, I would be interested. After a couple of missed opportunities for blesbok (all my bad), we agreed to focus on the red lechwe. They knew of an older ram and we spent the better part of one afternoon working him in and around a hillside a couple of times with the help of a couple trackers that kept “eyes on” the ram when it slipped by us. Eventually, we were able to get him down and a dream, that I did not even know I had before being there in person, was fulfilled.

    One of the “top 3” on my list was gemsbok. Jacques was determined that we would make that happen on my last morning at Sandymount. After working 3 gemsboks for most of a morning and some not so good “KJ shots”, we were able to close the deal.
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    Jacques knew that kudu was very high on my list (isn’t it for most of us?) and wanted me to have a chance at a mature bull. There are a lot of kudu at Sandymount and some decent bulls, but Jacques wanted us to experience more of South Africa so we changed venues. So, on day seven we transitioned to the NW Province to the Koedoeberg Game Farm. Unfortunately, it became quite obvious in a few hours that the place had been over hunted and not well maintained. Jacques immediately started working his connections and moved us to Tala Manzi Wildsplaas near Groot Marico for the rest of the hunt. It became obvious in working with Jacques these few days, that everything is about providing a quality hunt to his clients and he works hard to manage the unexpected circumstances to meet the clients’ interests as best he can.

    Tala Manzi was also an extremely nice venue, with two bedroom chalets for the clients that were among the best I have experienced in my travels; ~16 000 acres of mostly mountain terrain to hunt on. Jacques (Tala Manzi’s owner) and his staff were outstanding and the meals were all exceptional.

    We spent the last four days of my hunt looking for a quality kudu and nyala bull. We saw many animals including kudu, nyala, blue wildebeest, black wildebeest, mountain reedbuck, giraffe, blesbok, etc. Even had hippo and crocs at the local watering hole below the chalet we bunked in. Okert Olivier (JKO Safaris) joined us for these last 4 days as well.

    Long story short, we played hide and seek with some nice nyala bulls for a couple of days. Not being able to harvest one was not on the PH’s, they got me on a couple of shots but I was just not comfortable with pulling the trigger. Oh well, now I have a reason to go back for sure.

    With one day left Jacques, Jacques and Okert put together a plan to give me my opportunity at a good kudu bull. Early that morning Okert and I went to try to locate some nyala; everyone else went and set up on ridges glassing for kudu. Within an hour we got a call that they had a good kudu bull sighted and we headed their way. We tried a couple of times to work towards the “grey ghost” only to have him get nervous and start to move out. Eventually, we circled a few miles around to try to come in at a different angle while Jacques S. stayed on the ridge to keep him in sight. We were able to stalk in on him to about 115 yards and was able to close the deal. The teamwork, determination and focus from everyone to give me the opportunity will always resonate with me and something I will never forget. These guys knocked it out of the park to make it happen.
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    As a closing opportunity to my 10 days in SA, we were able to get on a nice blue. Also, my buddy Phil was able to get a very nice zebra and blue.
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    In summary, the experiences that I had with JKO Safaris at Sandymount and Tala Manzi were beyond anything that I could have dreamed of or planned for. Part of me knew what I was getting into from people I know that have hunted with Jacques, but to live it was something I will always remember. I know that there are many outfitters in Africa and that some “budget” ones will be less expensive than JKO Safaris. However, I am confident that the quality of the hunt, the focus and dedication of everyone involved in providing an amazing adventure and the quality of the animals speak highly of what they will provide. All of the animals that were harvested were very mature, older animals. One thing that I remember was how many times I was told “No” on what I thought was a good animal. Funny, I never got tired of hearing that because I knew there was something bigger and more special coming. In fact, the kudu and blue wildebeest may have been on their last winter. I left my home convinced that this was a once in a life time hunt and experience (at least that was what I convinced my wife). Without a doubt it was an experience of a life time, but rest assured I will be back Africa and it will be with JKO Safaris. Shout out to PHOENIX PHIL and Jacques Spamer for keeping the interest peaked all those years.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 27, 2019
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  2. BnC 04

    BnC 04 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Great write up and big congrats on some mighty fine animals!
     
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  3. cls

    cls AH Elite

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    Well done, thanks for the report.
     
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  4. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Well you certainly got quality trophies and nothing but the effort I expect from Jacques. Glad Phil dragged your butt to Africa and you guys got to hunt together.
    Congratulations.

    Thanks for sharing your hunt with us.
     
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  5. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats on the hunt and thanks for sharing!!

    You took some great trophies!!!
     
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  6. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    WOW! Some fine trophies especially on one’s first trip to Africa! JKO obviously does a top quality hunt! Congratulations!
     
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  7. Brent in Az

    Brent in Az AH ENABLER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Oustanding! Some very fine trophies.
     
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  8. cagkt3

    cagkt3 AH ENABLER PLATINUM SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Congrats!!
     
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  9. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    From what I can see you took some very nice trophies. Congrats. More than that the memories will live on for many years. I'd say you had a fantastic hunt. Thanks for sharing.
    Bruce
     
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  10. huntermn15

    huntermn15 AH Fanatic

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    Congratulations on a great first safari. Thank you for the report and photos, it looks like you took some fine animals!
     
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  11. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    A few ballistic details. Regarding the waterbuck, KJ bought a M70 .375HH a year or so ago.....have no idea who would've encouraged him to do that, especially since I'd bring mine..... ;)

    But as fate would have it, I was riding in the front of the truck with KJ's rifle while mine was on the rack in the back where KJ was riding. With the bull being in fairly close proximity to the truck, I stayed while Vella and KJ quickly jumped off and the tracker and I pulled away. We hadn't gone 50 yards when I realized Kevin had my rifle......oh well, he'll be good, no sense in blowing this on a rifle exchange was my thought.

    Sure enough he killed the bull and it was quite enjoyable as even after the tracker and I made it back to the bull, it was only after I told Kevin that he'd shot it with my rifle and the 250gr North Forks.

    The Gemsbok......sometimes bigger and heavier makes a difference. This time KJ used his .375 with the 300gr North Forks I had loaded for him. Shot placement wasn't exactly perfect, I'd call it somewhat marginal. The shot hit the back end of the onside lung and exited out the offside hind quarter. If you look at the pic you can see the exit wound. Despite the marginal placement, the animal dropped in it's tracks. I can only attribute this to the caliber, heavy bullet and the performance I've become accustomed to with the North Forks.....damn shame they won't be around anymore.

    As much as I'll miss hunting with my North Forks, I know there is a very suitable replacement in the Swift A-Frames. Kevin's other rifle was his Browning A-bolt in 7mm Rem Mag. A rifle I've seen him use on deer and elk here in Arizona. If not mistaken he went with the 160gr variety in factory loaded ammo. I say factory because the bugger off and moved to Austin about a year ago and I had not developed a load for him in this rifle.

    KJ shot his impala, red lechwe, springbok and the black WB with that rifle. The springbok was roughly 200 yards if I remember correctly and frontal shot. The ram was dead on bullet impact, just a bloody mess, I'm sure it was a heart shot.

    But easily as impressive and I think more was the obvious negative impact on the black WB. Any of us who have hunt them know they can take some serious amount of lead. I know mine took two very solid shots from my .300WM some years ago and still required a finishing shot. On impact with the boiler from, KJ's bull just collapsed. Those A-Frames definitely get the job done.
     
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  12. Smitty

    Smitty AH Senior Member

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    Thank you for your report. I especially liked your observation that every day was like walking in a zoo. I have tried to come up with the words to describe what it was like to see such iconic animals just walking around. Best memories ever.
     
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  13. TheoR8

    TheoR8 AH Senior Member

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    Great stuff, thanks for sharing. I've got JKO on my shortlist for an RSA hunt in 2021. (y)
     
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  14. Shootist43

    Shootist43 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    A great hunt all the way around. It is always better when you have a buddy along.
     
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  15. whitetail

    whitetail AH Veteran

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    It looks (and sounds) like you and Phil had an amazing safari!!
     
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  16. crudeoildude

    crudeoildude AH Veteran

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    awesome absolutely awesome nice job
     
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  17. kevin masters

    kevin masters BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    great report and awesome trophies. That kudu is a stud!!
    Congratulations!
     
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  18. Fastrig

    Fastrig AH Enthusiast

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    Sounds like you had a great time and obviously got some stellar trophies....hope I can get a Kudu like that!!!
     
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  19. AZ KJ

    AZ KJ New Member

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    Thanks BRICKBURN! 100% agree on your comments about Jacques; one of the good ones for sure! I am kind of glad Phil dragged my butt to Africa as well...... ;0)
     

  20. AZ KJ

    AZ KJ New Member

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    Thanks Ridgewalker! JKO does do a top quality hunt and wants nothing less for their clients. I would recommend JKO to anyone for sure.
     
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