SOUTH AFRICA: 2021 South Africa (Northern & Eastern Cape) Hunt Report

Hank2211

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Two things right off the bat. First, this is another one of my long form hunt reports. In instalments. If you’re easily bored, I suggest you either move on or save this for late nights when you have trouble sleeping. As well, this first instalment is all about background and planning, so if you want hunting, skip this bit.

Secondly, this is called a hunt report because that’s what Jerome calls these. But it should really be called a shoot report, because I’m going to South Africa more for shooting than for hunting. But there will be some hunting in the mix, so it’s not a complete misrepresentation.

Those health warnings out of the way, on to the report.

Like many of us, I had plans to hunt in 2020 which never came to pass. When the COVID first hit, I was planning on a leopard hunt in Zimbabwe in June, 2020. When that got cancelled, I (over-optimistically as it turned out) changed my plans and decided to visit Zambia in September. I was sure that the COVID would either be under control by then, or we’d all have decided to return to life-as-usual anyway. Wrong again. That trip was cancelled. I wanted to re-book right away, but by now I was collecting credits on airlines I wouldn’t normally fly on.

Anyway, by December, 2020 the itch was strong and I decided to give it one last try. I decided to book for April, 2021. If this thing wasn’t under control by then . . . well, I’d go anyway! But instead of booking a “real” hunt, I decided to return to the scene of past crimes and just spend a few weeks with old friends I hadn’t seen in some years, culling and shooting anything past its best-by date. In other words, just going to Africa to relax, without any pressure to get anything in particular (finishing the spiral horns took a lot of pressure off the hunting).

Animals

I did have some animals in mind for this hunt, apart from the shooting/culling. I really wanted a suni, but I couldn’t get a permit. That might have to wait for a trip to Mozambique. Since I started a thread on the “secret seven” and came under a fair bit of pressure to include the unassuming aardwolf on the list, I decided to try for one of those. And I have all of the large cats of Africa and many of the small cats (such as serval, civet, genet and caracal) as well. But I don’t have an African wildcat (though not for want of trying in the past), so that was added to the list. A bonus of hunting an African wildcat is that it looks just like a house cat, and I’m more than happy to annoy cat people.

I also added a barbary sheep to the exercise. I’m not a big fan of hunting animals outside of their normal range, but since I’m unlikely to be hunting North Africa any time soon, and I do enjoy hunting in the mountains, I thought this could be an interesting add. Speaking of mountains, I’m also looking for a vaal rehbok. I already have one, but as I said, I do enjoy hunting in the mountains of South Africa and since I’d be there anyway, if we came across a nice vaalie . . .

Lastly, I was (a few days before I left) convinced to try a vita-dart hunt for rhino, to ‘complete’ the Big 5, if darting a rhino could be said to complete that. I’m going to say that it should qualify, if only because you have to get a heck of a lot closer to the rhino with the dart gun than you would with a rifle. The clincher for me was that without hunts like these, those who take on the expense of keeping and securing rhino don’t get a lot out of the deal. A darted hunt seems a small price to pay to make the keeping and protecting of rhinos worthwhile . . . but candidly, it’s still (and unfortunately) a lot more than most so-called “rhino lovers” ever spend to ensure the sustainability of the species.

Oh – one last thing. I have made it very clear to my PH that if any ostrich interferes in any way with a hunt or stalk – even just by distracting me – or even enters my field of view - that ostrich must go! John, my PH, who was with me when we took on the mad ostrich of Fort D’Acre (see earlier hunt reports), understands.

Location

I’ve hunted a few times at the “old” Wintershoek Safaris camp Wag-‘n-Bietjie Lodge (otherwise known as the main camp), just outside of Kimberley, in the Northern Cape. A couple of years ago, I think, they moved away from the old camp to a new camp, known as Karreekloof. I believe they have a little over 112,000 acres of land here, and I wanted to see what the new operation looked like. So that would be my first stop.

I should point out that Strauss Jordaan, who is a PH himself and now the logistics manager for Wintershoek I think, is the only person I know who has been attacked by an ostrich. As the story goes, Strauss was guiding a family and they spotted an ostrich, which came towards them to see what they were. The family expressed some concern, but Strauss told them not to worry, the ostrich would stay away. Well, this may have been the cousin of the notorious ostrich of Fort D’Acre mentioned above, because it didn’t stop, but rather it ran up to Strauss and knocked him down, and began to kick him! Unfortunately for Strauss, I wasn’t even in Africa on that day, or I don’t think the ostrich would have dared. Bloody bliksem. Strauss survived, of course, his ego only mildly more bruised than he was, but he did swear me to secrecy about the story. So please don’t repeat it.

After some days at Karreekloof, we’re going to drive to the Karoo in the Eastern Cape for some hunting and more culling. I’ve previously hunted a game ranch called Grootdam Farm near Somerset East, and that would be our home for the balance of the trip. Niel, the (fifth-generation) owner, is a wonderful host and accommodation is in his family home which is very comfortable. I expect we’ll have a very relaxing time here.

Oh, and somewhere along the way we may camp out, sleeping under the stars (weather permitting). Some of my fondest memories of Africa are of sleeping in the open with nothing but the stars and the Southern Cross above me.

Flights

In trying to book flights to South Africa in April (about the only time I could go, for various reasons), I found that things were no longer as easy as they once were. It was looking like it would be impossible to escape COVID.

I live in Calgary, Canada, and not so very long ago we had direct flights to London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and various places in Asia, as well as the US. No longer. All international flights, other than some to the US, have been cancelled, with no set dates for their re-opening. And even if I could get to Europe to connect to JNB, it wasn’t clear they’d let me land, or if they did, that they’d let me depart again without some form of quarantine. The rules changed weekly, if not more often. Fortunately, Qatar Airways was still flying every few days non-stop from Montreal to Doha, and then on to JNB. So the itinerary which I decided on as being both the shortest and the most reliable, was Calgary – Montreal – Doha – Johannesburg – Kimberley. Note that there is no way that this is “short” by any definition, but it did seem to be more reliable than flights via Europe, so I went with it. I left Calgary at 11 am on Sunday, April 11, 2021* and arrived in Kimberley at noon on Tuesday, April 13. Thank you, Ambien.

I should add that as I write this, Qatar has cancelled my return flights and re-booked me other flights, none of which really work for me. Something for the travel agent to worry about. As an aside, I tend to make my own travel reservations but I never travel to Africa without using a travel agent. Flights change or other problems arise, and fixing them yourself from Africa is a nightmare. I’ve seen others miss hunting because they’ve been sitting on hold or dealing with African airlines or African representatives of other airlines trying to fix flights.

I have never flown Qatar before, nor through Doha with a firearm, so that needed to be attended to. It turns out that Qatar is pretty reasonable – both the airline and the country. You need to tell them in advance that you’re travelling with a firearm, fill out a paper attesting to the fact that it’s unloaded, and give them a copy of something which allows you to move the firearm. In Canada, that seems to be the Temporary Export Permit (more on that below) issued by the Government of Canada.

Firearm

Since I’m not undertaking any dangerous game on this trip, I pretty easily concluded I needed only one rifle. My .300 Win Mag, which was ruined on a trip to Benin, is still in the repair shop (the COVID hasn’t helped there either). But even that apart, the decision was actually pretty easy. My .275 Rigby Highland Stalker has only ever been to the range, so – no time like the present – I decided that this would be its maiden voyage. It’s wearing a Swarovski 1.7 – 10 x 42 Z6i scope and I’ll be shooting Rigby branded bullets (140 grain) which are really Hornady Interlocks. No abuse allowed over the choice of ammo – I don’t load my own and that’s the only .275 Rigby I can get. I’m going to try to pick up some 7x57 Mauser in Africa once I get there, but I’m not sure those will be any better, even if I can find some. I will just have to shoot straight. For a change.

Permits

The permits for the firearms were a bit more complicated than usual.

First, the easy one. I hired AfricaSky Guesthouse as I have done in the past for the South Africa permit, and as they have always done in the past, they secured the permit (even though I sent in the forms much later than the required time). As I’ve said many times in the past, I try my best to minimize my interaction with authority in Africa for a whole bunch of reason ranging from my wallet to my temper. I have no doubt I could get the permit from the Firearms Office in JNB, but why put myself through that?

The second permit, and this will only be of interest to Canadians, is the Temporary Export Permit from the Government of Canada. In mid-January I filled out the forms, applying for permits for the firearm, the ammunition and the scope, all as required by law. When you submit all of the required paperwork, along with things like cover letters explaining what you’re doing, a letter of invitation, a copy of the itinerary, etc., normally a permit is emailed to you within a month or so. It’s a pain, but a manageable one.

So the forms went in, and I waited. Finally, in early March, not having heard a thing, I sent a note to the fellow who handles these things – a very practical and helpful man – and asked him if he’d seen my application and if everything was ok. He emailed me back within 10 minutes asking when I sent it. I said mid-January. He then told me that they had had a COVID issue in their mailroom, and it had been closed since about then. Mail went into the mailroom, but nothing was leaving the mailroom. Unbelievable. Only a government can get away with this. I can imagine what the Government would say if a tax demand had sat in a closed mailroom for months . . .

He asked me to email him the package, so I did that. Two more weeks go by and I send him a note – he says he’s approved it and it’s on the desk of his “permit officer.” He gives me her email address and I send her a note. Crickets.

Ten days before I’m supposed to go, the permit shows up. In theory, Air Canada should ask to see the permit when I check the rifle, but that’s never happened, and I’m certain they wouldn’t know what a temporary export permit looks like. But I need it to get the firearm back into the country, so best to just comply. Thanks to Serge for his help in getting this done, even without the benefit of a mailroom.

My travel agent sent the permit off to Qatar and I think I’m good to go on the firearm.

Now, I just have to wait for departure day and hope flights don’t get cancelled . . .

IMG_0717.jpeg
 
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gillettehunter

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Like always well written and interesting. Looking forward to the rest of the story.
Bruce
 

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Oh boy! I’m looking forward to this!
 

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Looking forward to your report!
 

375 Ruger Fan

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@Hank2211 , just in case you give us a test at the end, I'd like to clarify your trip date. In the "Flights" section, you wrote "April 11, 2020" but I am thinking you meant 2021.

Looking forward to reading your entire report, regardless of the year.
 

Hank2211

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@Hank2211 , just in case you give us a test at the end, I'd like to clarify your trip date. In the "Flights" section, you wrote "April 11, 2020" but I am thinking you meant 2021.

Looking forward to reading your entire report, regardless of the year.
Right. That was a test, and you passed. (I failed, but that's another story!).
 

Hank2211

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Still no hunting yet . . .

Departure Day

Departure day having finally arrived, I set out for the airport, all my paperwork in hand. I’d downloaded the South African COVID app, I’d filled in my arrival details on the South African COVID website, I had my receipt with the required registration number and I had plenty of copies of all of my COVID test results from the local lab. As it turned out, no one cared about COVID.

I checked in with Air Canada and they were very good about the firearm. Filled in the form stating it was unloaded, confirmed the ammo was in my checked bag, all the bags were checked through to Kimberley (though I’d have to pick them up in JNB) and I was good to go.

Unfortunately, things began to go awry almost immediately.

Once I arrived in Montreal, I headed to the international departures to wait for my Qatar Airways flight to Doha. All the lounges were closed in Montreal, so I sat in the waiting area. About an hour before the flight, I heard my name on the PA, asking me to go to a Qatar counter. Once there, they asked me if I had checked my bags in with Qatar. I told them no, Air Canada had told me they were checked all the way through to South Africa. Not possible, the Qatar rep told me, the bags were probably waiting for me at the domestic baggage claim. I showed him my luggage claims, and he said hmm, there might be a problem.

First, he told me I had to check to make sure the bags hadn’t in fact been sent to baggage claim. That wasn’t so easy, because once on the international side, you couldn’t get back to the domestic side without going through customs and “re-entering” Canada. I won’t go into the details of how this was finessed, but it was. My Qatar helper took me to the domestic baggage claim, but no bags – as I had told him. He then had to find someone to go into the bowels of the airport and find my bags, and have them sent out. Once I had them – which took a while - I had to take them to the Qatar counter and re-check them.

Apparently, Qatar had told Air Canada this, but Air Canada chose to ignore the instructions. Qatar had to do something – I never found out what – to make sure that the firearms and ammo could transit Qatar without issue. It took some time, but that was taken care of. Qatar did put a seal on my wheeled duffle bag – the only checked bag I had apart from the gun case.

I then had trouble at the special handling desk because I no longer had the Air Canada paperwork for the firearm (I had given it to Qatar) and the useless idiot there wouldn’t let me check the firearm without the paper (“I’m in charge here, not you!” Right.). We had to get the man in charge of Qatar at the airport to tell him it was OK, and that Qatar had no need for the Air Canada paperwork (which I would have thought was obvious).

Finally, onwards to Doha. I had a brief layover in Doha – enough time for a shower in the lounge – and then made my way to the gate. At the gate, they asked me if I had checked a weapon. I confirmed that I had and asked if there was a problem. “No, but could you just wait here.” So there I sat, until some nice lady asked me if I was getting on the plane or not. “I sure hope so” I said . . . and some minutes later, my passport and boarding pass came back, and off I went.

Now comes the fun part. South Africa. I arrived at 4 am. The airport was dead. I quickly cleared immigration, and went to get my luggage. It wasn’t that no one asked me for any of the COVID information, or anything else for that matter – it was just that no one was there at all! So off I went, meeting both Dean Stobbs of Touch Africa Safaris, my booking agent and PH when I hunt in Zimbabwe (who will be cameraman on this trip), and Gilbert from AfricaSky Guest House, outside the baggage claim, who had my firearms permit (they run a very efficient operation). A quick visit to the SAPS office and we were good to go. Or so I thought.

Now to get this next part, you need to know that Air Canada strongly recommends that ammo be in its original containers and be in checked luggage. Qatar is happy with that arrangement as well. In fact, in Montreal, Qatar taped all of my ammo together with Qatar Airways tape and tucked it in the checked bag. Before I left Canada, I had checked the rules for AirLink (the carrier from JNB to Kimberley) and they required that ammo be in a separate locked hard-sided container. I was aware of that rule in South Africa, but had never had an issue with it before in connecting after an international flight. But while AirLink did have this rule, their baggage rules also say that they abide by the IATA "Most Significant Carrier" rule, which states that when you cross international boundaries on multiple carriers, the baggage rules of the Most Significant Carrier apply to the entire journey (unless you start in the US). There are a bunch of rules to determine which carrier that is, but in my case, there was no need to go to those rules – it was clearly Qatar. So if it was good with Qatar, it should be good for every airline along the way.

The woman at the AirLink check-in desk asked me if I had ammo. I said yes and she asked where it was. I pointed to the checked bag, and she said no, that wouldn’t work – she gave me the hard-sided rule. I pointed out that Air Canada and Qatar wanted it packed the way it was. She said they may well have wanted that, but it wasn’t going to work for her. So I suggested moving the ammo to Dean Stobbs’ bag, which was both hard-sided and locked. She said no, it had to be a Pelican type case. I asked where that particular rule was, and she said it was just a rule.

She then suggested if the handling agents were OK with using Dean’s bag, she might be as well, so we sent for them. They said they would be fine with the ammo in Dean’s case, but by this time, she said she wouldn’t and longer. She then said take it to the police and see what they thought. I asked her if she would be OK with it if the police said it could stay in my bag or go into Dean’s bag. She said no, so I asked what the point was of going to see the police? No answer. I then took the ammo out, put it on the counter and told her she could have it, since I couldn't take it, which sent her into a complete panic. You would have thought the ammo was radioactive. At this point the firearms handling agent – who had been watching this since he arrived – said he would take us to the police anyway. I asked again what the point was, and he simply said let’s just see. So off we went.

Once we’d walked a ways from the check-in desk, he told me to hide the ammo under a carry-on as we were going to his office to drop off the firearm and we had to pass by the ticket agent. I will admit to being a bit dense at times, but I can go along with almost anything if I see no reason not to, so that’s what we did. Once we got to his office, he told me to open the gun case so he could check the serial number and complete the register, as usual.

Again, a bit of discretion is called for here, but I will say that the ammo ended up on the plane in a locked, hard-sided bag that looked an awful lot like a Pelican gun case.

An hour and a half later, we arrived in Kimberley. I was a bit worried what the firearms man there would think when he opened the gun case . . . but he seemed to have run into the same situation before. He saw nothing, and I said nothing. All was well with the world. Finally.

We were met at the airport by Strauss Jordaan and our driver who would take us to Kareekloofm about a 2 hour drive from Kimberley.

And now I was hoping we could get into some hunting.

One last comment about all of this though. The rules around travelling with guns and ammo vary from airline to airline and one part of the world to another, but if you do your homework, you can generally comply with all of them. The unknown factor though, is the staff you meet along the way and their interpretation of their own and others' rules. You can try asking to speak to supervisors, but even they tend to have little experience with firearms and frankly are just scared of them. This can quickly turn a nice trip into an exercise in frustration. And fortunately, at least in Africa, many problems can still be solved in a way which would not be possible here at home. While I'm not a fan of doing business that way, if you're doing nothing wrong or illegal, it may be the only way to get something done.
 

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What are ridiculous amount of gyrations to have to go through. My patience would have been sorely tested. Glad to hear you were able to make it happen.
 

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Airlines and Airline travel is bad enough. Now add Covid rules that differ with every single country along the way. Best of luck to you on the hunt. I really want to hear about your entrance into Canada on your way home. That is the one thing still keeping me from being 100% confident in going this June.
 

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gillettehunter

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Great read so far. What a bunch of idiots at airline check in counters.....
Bruce
 

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Hank2211

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Airlines and Airline travel is bad enough. Now add Covid rules that differ with every single country along the way. Best of luck to you on the hunt. I really want to hear about your entrance into Canada on your way home. That is the one thing still keeping me from being 100% confident in going this June.
You will have to wait a bit, but it's coming!
 

Vanguard2279

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Thanks for all of this information. I'm leaving Las Vegas on the 10th and taking Qatar from Houston to JNB. We're taking Airlink to Port Elizabeth. I'm glad that Mr. X is meeting me prior to Customs as he has smoothed the way for us in the past.
I'm looking forward to the rest of your adventure.
 

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Enjoying your report Hank!

I had stopped carrying my own firearms due to the issues you have just described. This fall I will carry them again as a one off, but next year will use the PH's rifles. Will see how it goes from there.

Glad you made it to the veld. Looking forward to more.
 

Hank2211

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Day Minus 1

We arrived at Karreekloof a little past 1 pm. We were met by Gideon, the manager and his staff, including Marie, the head chef (I wouldn’t call her a cook - she really is a chef). While we were only staying there four nights, we came to appreciate both Marie’s cooking and her sense of humour. Introductions all around, and a nice cold towel and welcome shooter!

Gideon showed us around the main part of the camp, including an interesting museum chronicling the original ownership of the property. We were then shown to our rooms which, as you would expect from an operation like Wintershoek, were of the highest calibre. Ample, well equipped, with a large and equally well-equipped bathroom and first-rate linens. This could easily pass for a room in a top-class hotel in North America or Europe. I’m a bit particular about sleeping in cool conditions – and it was very hot outside (over 30 deg. C), so it was nice that everything was well air conditioned, with individual controls in each room. I’ve also gotten past the desire to sleep in thatched roof huts over the years – you can’t keep those roofs clean and things live in them. Things which tend to visit you in the nighttime – like bats, spiders, mice and others which I tend to mind less during the day or at least while I’m awake. None of that here.

We then sat down for a well-prepared and (more than) ample lunch. The food here is to a very high standard and I can’t imagine anyone finding cause for complaint – maybe that portions are too big, but not for any other reason!

My PH, John Tinley, had just finished a hunt and would be joining us for dinner, so in the meantime, Gideon took me to the range to sight in the rifle. That done – three or four shots confirmed I was good to go – we drove around the property seeing the game and being amazed by the sheer size of the operation.

The property is enormous – around 112,000 acres I think, although not all of it is hunted. There are a large number of rhinos on the property, as well as the usual assortment of plains game and buffalo (including some impressive bulls). I think the drought hit this area particularly hard, so plains game isn’t as common as I recall from the “old” place. Having said that, it wasn’t scarce, and within minutes of driving we saw roan, buffalo, sable, springbok, and others. We weren’t here to hunt plains game though.

DSC00657.jpeg


After a few hours we returned to camp to clean up, find John and have a great dinner. Our first order of business was wildcat and aardwolf. As faithful readers of these (long) hunt reports will no doubt recall (!), John and I had hunted for night critters a few years ago in the Limpopo. John is a bit of an expert in spotlighting these elusive creatures and we’d had pretty good luck, although the wildcat had eluded us. We were looking to remedy that here.

We rested up for an hour or two and by 8 pm we headed out in search of the wildcat and aardwolf. We hadn’t been driving for 10 minutes when we saw an aardwolf not 20 feet from the vehicle. Only the second I’ve ever seen in Africa. We watched it move slowly in the spotlight until we lost sight of it. I asked John why we hadn’t shot it . . . and he said there were plenty, so no rush. Big responsibility I told him.

A good night-hunting PH has to be able to assess eyes almost instantly, and John is, as I said, an expert at this. We saw lots of eyes, all of which he dismissed – not the animal we were looking for. Until . . . he shone the light on a pair of eyes some 80 yards or so away and immediately moved the spotlight. “Quick” he said “wildcat”. I got ready, but I really hadn’t seen much at first. He shone the light on the eyes again and while I could see them, I couldn’t make out a body. “I can’t make it out” . . . “just shoot for the eyes then.” Which I did, quickly, and just as quickly, John said “missed.” We couldn’t see the eyes anymore so I asked – “are you sure I missed” only to be told that John wasn’t blind (though I might be?!). My first shot on an animal on this trip, one I’ve tried for on previous trips, and I missed!

No time to dwell on that. John said “get off the bakkie.” “Why” I whispered, “if I missed it?” And this is where a good PH shows that he’s a great PH. John said “they usually don’t go far – it’s not a jackal – we should still be able to find it!” Who knew?!

John quickly gave me his shotgun (a double-barreled CZ 12 gauge) and a couple of shells, and grabbed a flashlight. We began walking slowly towards where the cat had been, flashlight on and off. John said it was moving to our left. I was glad he’d seen it, because I hadn’t seen a thing. We changed direction and John kept whispering “can you see it?” At one point I actually did see it, but I told him we were too far for a shotgun. I lost sight of the cat but John whispered it was still there, a bit farther to our left, and we kept moving closer, very slowly. Suddenly I saw the cat, looking at us, and not thirty yards away. I whispered “ready” (we were standing pretty close together and I didn’t want to surprise anyone with a shotgun blast) and I took the shot. One barrel and John said it was down!

We moved a bit faster now, and got up to it – my first close up look at a real African wildcat! I have to say, it looks an awful lot like a housecat, at least in terms of size and head. It was a mature specimen, and if I’d missed it on the first shot, I’d gotten it on the second (I admit a 12 gauge allows for a greater margin of error at 30 yards than a rifle!). Anyway, pleased as can be to have this little guy down.

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We loaded (!) him onto the truck, and resumed our search, now just for an Aardwolf . . . I reminded John we might be heading back to a warm lodge if we’d taken the first one we’d seen. He seemed unperturbed. Or maybe he was just ignoring me. Wouldn’t be the first time.

We spotlighted for another couple of hours. We found a bat-eared fox family – about 6 or 7 of them – playing in a field. They didn’t seem to mind the spotlight and we watched them frolic for some time. They were likely aware that we had no permit for bat eared fox (and I already had one anyway) but only for cape fox.

We finally decided to start working our way back to the lodge and not long after, John whispered “Aardwolf”. I had seen the eyes and quickly put the scope in the general area. He slowly lowered the spotlight back onto the animal and I quickly took the shot. Down on the spot! John was redeemed . . .

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Once we had the aardwolf John showed me its mouth. Interestingly, the aardwolf has four canine teeth, but no other teeth at all. On the other hand, its tongue is very rough and has small raised discs on it, the better to lick up ants and termites. Apparently, the canines are for fighting, but not anything else.

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A good night’s work and I was really quite pleased as we headed back to the lodge.

And as an aside, no one can now argue about the secret seven!
 
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Hank2211

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Day 1

Got up early this morning. I mentioned I’d decided to hunt barbary sheep (aoudad) and today was the day. We left camp early to drive towards a property near Douglas, a farming community in the Northern Cape. The area had clearly had a lot of rain recently, since the grass was both green and high.

We found our property and picked up our tracker for the day. He said there were at least three groups of barbary sheep on the property so I had high hopes of connecting on my first daylight animal in a timely fashion. Two hours of driving later, having covered most of the property, we’d seen nothing and I was beginning to wonder if there were in fact any sheep there. Our guide said that at this point – likely around 10 am – the sheep were probably lying down and it would be difficult to see them in the grass. That wasn’t good news.

John told the tracker that if the sheep were lying down, he’d better look down and find them . . .

And not a half hour later, the tracker stopped the truck. None of us could see anything, but he said he’d seen a horn in the grass. We glassed in the general direction he pointed to, with increasing scepticism as time went by . . . but sure enough, all of us saw a movement at the same time a few hundred yards away and it was in fact a horn. We drove forward a bit and then backtracked slowly and quietly on foot until a point where we felt we were within a hundred yards of the sheep. By this time we’d found two others which were also resting with the one which we’d originally found. At this point it became a waiting game, and I’m not good at waiting games.

John finally whispered that it looked like they might be there a while, so we’d have to do something to try to get them up and decide if any were worth shooting. This is always a risky decision, given that the animals could just jump up and run rather than get up and look around, but since they might be there for hours, we had little choice. If they ran and one was a likely target, we’d just have to find them again. Fortunately, that didn’t happen. We broke a branch and the three got up in a fairly leisurely fashion. One was a female and another a youngster. The third, the one the horns of which we’d seen, was a nice male – the horns were quite long – but he was young. No beard to speak of and the chaps were equally sparse. I couldn’t shoot him, regardless of the horns.

So back to the truck and back to trying to glass in the grass.

After a fruitless hour of this, John asked the tracker if he had any idea where they usually rested up. He said sure he did. Really? Why didn’t he say so before . . . No point in actually asking though (the answer would have been "because you didn't ask me.").

So we drove over to an area of long grass and trees. John and the tracker would get out and walk through the area to see if they could scare up anything, while Dean and I would drive a half mile away, and wait for John and the tracker to meet up with us. Not ten minutes passed before John came over the radio saying “Come back. We’ve found them.” Back we went and met John and the tracker by the road. They said they’d found a small number not three hundred yards from the road. I got my rifle, John got the sticks, and off we went.

We slowly stalked forward, stopping behind trees while John surveyed the landscape ahead. I still hadn’t seen any sign of life yet, but was happy to crouch from cover to cover. At one point we ran out of cover and John set up the sticks, telling me to slowly get the gun up. I began to scan the area ahead with the scope and finally saw some movement in the grass, about 80 to 100 yards ahead. John was glassing, trying to find a likely target. After a time, he felt he’d found at least one male which might measure up, so to speak, but we had the same issue we’d had before. We needed them to get up – the grass effectively covered everything below the tops of their horns. The additional challenge was that we’d counted so many by now that if even one ran, they’d all run. But again, we had no choice.

So we broke a stick. Nothing. We broke a bigger stick. A head moved in our direction, but then went back to sleep. John whistled. A few heads turned – mostly youngsters – but again, no movement. John then began to make a range of sounds which was actually quite impressive. Grunts, hoots, groans and finally whoops. I was trying so hard to stifle laughter that I could barely look through the scope. But I forced myself to stay on what we thought was the biggest head.

Finally, led by the younger sheep which just seemed curious about all the noise, they began to get up and look around. When the male we’d identified got up, we saw that his horns, while good, weren’t great, but he had a good beard and chaps, so was the age we were looking for. I whispered to John that I was good and he said shoot when you’re ready. Not a millisecond later, I fired, and more aoudad suddenly jumped up from the grass (a lot more than we’d seen!) and all ran. Including the one I’d shot. But it felt (and sounded) like a good shot.

We found our trophy about 10 yards from where I’d shot him, piled up under a tree. A wonderful hunt and a successful conclusion.

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After that successful hunt we had a nice lunch (and a brief nap) on some very comfortable grass under a shady tree. All was right with the world. At least briefly.

On our drive back to Karreekloof, we came across the following:

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At first, I thought they were armies of ants crossing the road, but John stopped the truck, and in fact they were armies of locust nymphs, with other armies busy eating everything green as far as we could see. And the nymphs extended for what appeared to be hundreds of yards, if not more. In fact, we couldn’t see where they ended. And as we drove, we crushed them by the thousands . . . the tires were not a pretty picture when we finished.

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We told Gideon what we’d seen at dinner and he confirmed that swarms of locusts had been spotted heading in their direction. They were planning on going out that night to begin spraying.

I went to bed wondering what would happen once all these nymphs developed wings . . .
 

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Do you know if this is part of the locust swarms that were hitting the horn of Africa last year?
 

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Hey Jim, I read that you’re from Dequincey and just returned from Africa. I’m from Lake Charles and went there in April. What outfitter did you use and would you share your experience and pics? I won our trip to Kuche through DU.
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Hello! Nice rifle! I have IDENTICAL rifle in 375 H&H so i was wondering what gunsmith did the work on it? Appreciate it and if you decide there is anything you are willing to take in partial trade, let me know. I have quite a few pistols, long guns and sxs & o/u shotguns as well.

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Nice “meeting” you Rick. I made my first trip to S. Africa this year through Kuche Safaris. We had an incredible time. What outfitter do you use? Neal
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