SOUTH AFRICA: A Return To Huntershill Safaris - Even Better Than Last Year!

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by One Day..., Aug 10, 2019.

  1. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    As many of you know, I had gone to Huntershill in August 2018 for a plains game 12 days / 14 animals hunt. At the time I was just a client, and I had a fantastic time. I posted a report on the hunt on AH (https://www.africahunting.com/threa...faris-august-2018-plains-game-paradise.45017/).

    During my two weeks at Huntershill in 2018 I developed a friendship with Greg Harvey the owner, and Jason Olivier, the Head PH, as well as the entire crew. Maybe it is me - I do not show up in camp with preset expectations, I avoid like the plague “guiding the guide,” and I am happy to take it as it comes – so, these two weeks were pure happiness, and I collected 16 of the plains game species, several of which would certainly “make the book” if I cared to put a tape measure on them, which I do not…

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    My 2018 Huntershill free range Eastern Cape Kudu. How big is it? Big enough for me...

    My friendship with Greg and Jason evolved over the year, Greg asked me to come to SCI in Reno in January 2019 to help them on the Huntershill booth, and, one thing leading to the next, in May 2019, I became the Huntershill representative on AfricaHunting.com…

    In the meantime, I had already re-booked for 2019, sent my check, and I was looking for my second 2 week hunt at Huntershill. On the package this time was another dozen plains game species with some of the high prizes (Sable, Roan, Lechwe, Nyala, etc.), maybe the opportunity to better the Impala I collected last year, and a strong focus on Vaal Rhebok and Mountain Reedbuck in their pristine free range, high altitude habitat. After all, I grew up hunting Chamois in the French Alps, and mountain hunting remains the holy grail to me. I was not disappointed…

    Vaal Rhebok & Mountain Reedbok.jpg

    But I am getting ahead of myself here…

    Also on the agenda, was to test thoroughly the .257 Wby on plains game. Last year I had done it all, with complete satisfaction, with my .340 Wby, but there is no arguing that it is needlessly powerful for all but the largest plains game, and as I get softer in my advancing years, I guess, I was keen on shooting the sweet little, almost recoil-less .257 Wby. Would it measure up to the task? I had asked for the AH community input on the issue (https://www.africahunting.com/threa...0-to-500-lbs-antelopes-opinions-please.45286/) and was intent on reporting on my own experience. Just to be safe, I also brought along the .340, just in case…

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    Matched pair of .257 Wby and .340 Wby plains game rifles. My ideal, go anywhere, hunt anything, in any condition, non dangerous game battery...

    I was curious too to see if going back would remove some of the magic and if, as the newly minted representative on AH, I would look at things differently. Three friends were also coming with me, and I felt responsible for their experience. Definitely I would pay very close attention to everything…

    As it turns out from even before it began, to after it finished, it proved to be another trip of a lifetime, with a few twists..................
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2019
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  2. rosecitymike

    rosecitymike New Member

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    Looking forward to hear about the 257’s performance and your bullet choices. Such a great caliber!
     
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  3. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Day 1 - A first twist...

    It all started the way it was supposed to. On Friday evening July 5, my friends and I showed at the Phoenix AZ airport to board our first flight at 11 pm. We were booked on South African Airlines and their USA partner Jet Blue from Phoenix to New York to Johannesburg to East London. We would arrive in East London at 5 pm on Sunday afternoon July 7, and be in camp for late dinner after the three hour drive from the airport to Huntershill.

    Or would we?

    As it turns out the plane that was supposed to fly us to New York ... was not there. Thunderstorms on the East Coast had delayed it leaving from Savannah GA; it accumulated further delay in New York; and by the time it would arrive in Phoenix, then fly back to New York with us, we would miss the connection to Johannesburg... Two hours of frantic and increasingly tense search by the Jet Blue agents resulted in a somber verdict: no way! They could fly us to New York that night, but we would have to wait 24 hours at JFK for the next day's Johannesburg flight. They advised us to sleep comfortably in Phoenix and come back the next day. After some hesitations, we said OK.
    Mistake!

    Saturday night: round two. By now we had already lost one hunting day. We again showed at the Phoenix airport, well in advance, and ... you guessed it ... same story! New York flight delayed again! Same reason!
    By that time the Jet Blue crew knew they had a problem on their hands. Three different agents worked on the issue: one was trying to fly us to Boston then New York, but ... you guessed it again ... the Boston flight too was delayed! One agent tried to fly us through 'anywhere USA' to New York. No go! And the third agent was trying to fly us from New York to Johannesburg the next day because ... you guessed it right one more time ... the Joburg flight the next day ... was full!!! At the darkest moment that evening it looked like the solution could be to fly us to 'don't remember where USA,' then to Qatar, then back to South Africa, then to East London. ETA East London: Thursday afternoon. That would mean loosing four hunting days !?!?!?!
    No way!
    Dramatic phone calls later, to Boston Jet Blue and Corporate Jet Blue, a solution was found. The Boston to new York Jet Blue flight would be delayed and not take off until we would be on it, and we would have to post a new world record of checking the rifles off the Boston flight in JFK, checking the rifles on the flight to South Africa in JFK, and going through New York JFK TSA, all in less time than it takes me to type it (Yeeeeaah!).

    The Jet Blue Phoenix crew went above and beyond to make it work for us, and we boarded for Boston around midnight with heavy and weary hearts. Would the Boston to New York flight wait for us? Would we make the connection to New York? Would we make the connection to Johannesburg? Would the rifles follow us?

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    About 11:30 pm at Phoenix Airport, Saturday night. Jet Blue think they have a solution for us...

    Prayers were long and fervent on that flight to Boston, and, guess what, the Boston to New York flight waited for us; we made the connection to New York; we made it through TSA in JFK with mere minutes to spare; we made the connection to Johannesburg by the skin of the teeth; and the rifles even followed us! How about that !!!

    By Monday night, with "only" one hunting day lost, we were having dinner at Huntershill... We had left our homes 72 hours ago...
     
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  4. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    A quest for a better Impala...

    From there, days went by in a happy blur. I do not exactly remember the 4th, the 10th or the 7th, or even the 2nd day, but I remember well 'the day of the Sable', 'the day of Lechwe,' the two 'days of the Impala', so let go along these happy memories...

    Last year I had shot a nice Impala at Huntershill (https://www.africahunting.com/threa...-2018-plains-game-paradise.45017/#post-474345), but it was a bit on the young side. Spread and length could be bettered. So we were on a quest for a better Impala. Well, here is the trick, they do not grow on trees...

    After a couple days in Huntershill, up in the Mountain on the East side of the valley, we spotted a small group of females across a canyon. After a while on the binoculars, a single horn was spotted behind bushes. Jason, the PH, decided that it was worth investigating. We left the truck, grabbed the sticks and hiked back over our ridge, across the canyon out of sight, and stalked carefully the opposite ridge. Good plan and good execution. They were there. We approached to within 200 yards. Jason spread the sticks, I got on them...

    Many of you may remember that I was not overly happy with my shooting last year. Yes, everything dropped, generally to the first shot, but many animals were still alive when we reached them. "Putting one in the boiler room" works, especially with the big .340 Wby, but many shots landed a few inches right, left or high. The cross hair was hovering too much back then, and it was due to my lack of practice shooting off the sticks. So, before going this year, I shot 5,000 (yes, five thousands) rounds of .22 lr at 150 yd off the sticks on a 6" steel plate.

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    Winchester 52 in .22 lr. Full size .22 lr rifle practice will do wonders for your African shooting off the sticks.

    And it paid off!

    The rifle went on the sticks by its own accord, my feet spread in the right position without me thinking about it, the cross hair stabilized where it was supposed to, all by itself, and that mysterious force that fires the rifles operated. There was a bang; a whomp; and a dead-in-its-track Impala that did not move one step.

    How did the .257 Wby perform? Well, the Impala is a small animal, so I had little doubt, and it was no surprise when we got to him that I would not have a nice picture of the 100 gr TTSX to show you. In it went ... and dramatically out it is gone...

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    The shot was a tad high. I would need to remember better that at ~200 yd, sighted to be dead-on at 300 yd, the .257 Wby 100 gr TTSX still flies 2 1/2 " high...

    I had a nice Impala...

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    This 2019 nice Huntershill Impala was better than my 2018 Huntershill Impala. I was happy...

    Lo and behold, a few days later, while looking for a good Warthog at the Rockland property that Huntershill also own two hours South of Huntershill - one of my goals was to go hunt this property, because I did not last year - the Gods of Africa smiled upon me and we stumbled on an even better Impala. That was the second 'day of the Impala'.

    Jason was so excited that he stuttered and babbled nonsense about a "funken monsta" so, of course, we had to jump off the Toyota and run (physically) after him. The Gods continued to smile, he stopped as we crested the ridge not even 100 yd below, and the little .257 Wby came up my shoulder, the action worked itself by magic, the cross hair stopped on him, and the rifle went boom all by itself. The bang and the wonk merged, and the trackers started dancing...

    Impala 2.JPG
    When the Gods of the Hunt smile upon you, you do not kick them in the teeth. This second 2019 Huntershill Impala is all I could dream of. I will likely not shoot a better one in quite a while...

    How about the .257 Wby performance? By now it was becoming boring. I do not remember if it was the second Impala, or one of the Warthogs - see upcoming posts - but sometime along the way we stopped keeping score at 10 animals in the salt for 10 shots, all of them DRT (dead right there), and, dang it!, still no bullet to recover to shoot a nice picture of a beautifully petaled 100 gr TTSX... All in and out with enough expansion to leave a quarter sized exit hole...
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019

  5. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Enjoying the report so far! Look forward to more!
     

  6. BWH

    BWH AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Congratulations
     

  7. Lmcquin

    Lmcquin AH Member

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    Awesome report and DANG nice impala. Can’t wait to read the rest.
     

  8. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    The day of the Roan

    But of course, one would expect the .257 Wby 100 gr TTSX to wreck sudden death upon Impalas, right? After all, it is about exactly the kind of animals one would think of shooting with the .257 Wby...

    So what about a Roan?

    Before anyone jumps on the keyboard and start licking the stamps on the hate mail, let me hasten to say that by that time, we were chronologically at day 10 or 11, and over a dozen animals of increasing size and toughness had fallen to the little .257 Wby, including three warthogs - more to come on that - all one shot kills, so that our Khoisan tracker, Strahli, lamented that he did not have any work to do. By that time, whenever the little gun barked, he was philosophically observing "nyama" (meat), and was automatically and resignedly pulling his knife out of its sheath...

    Jason, the PH, and I had a serious talk about shooting a Roan with the .257 Wby. A Roan is big. Very big. A mature bull that is not watching his cholesterol will easily go 650 lbs, and there is a solid structure of massive bones to keep all that meat in place. We agreed that I would only take a "perfect" shot at it, and that if in doubt, the .340 Wby would come out of its dust gathering bag on the back seat of the bakkie (pick-up truck). I am a big fan of the behind the shoulder double lung shot anyway - I always shoot for the double lung - and by that time Jason and I trusted my shooting, so we agreed to try, under those clearly agreed upon parameters.

    The day of the Roan was another beautiful hunting day. Now, truth be told, Roan, like Sable, are not as skittish as Springbok or Impala. The Sable's nickname: "Prince of the Bush" also would apply to the Roan, and speak for itself. They 'own' the darn bush and do not take flight at the first hint. Of course, they do not grow old and big by being stupid, so one still needs to hunt them, but they are reasonably easy to approach to within 200 to 250 yards if one pays attention to the wind, breaking up the silhouette, not flailing the arms in every direction like a windmill, walking really slooooowly, etc. ...

    Roans are big, so they are easy to see from afar, and it gives options to use the terrain to develop the right stalk. We passed a few of them along the 2 weeks, and when we saw 'mine', it was pretty obvious he was the one. Now, not to get too excited! We left the truck a safe distance away behind the hill, used the wind and the bush to come closer, within 200 to 250 yd I would guess - by that time I was using a lot less the Leica range-finder because of the laser-flat shooting trajectory of the .257 Wby to about 350 yd - and I got on the sticks. It was not presenting itself truly broadside, just a little quartering away and a bit uphill, so I would have to shoot a bit back to angle forward and slightly up into the heart and lungs, but it felt good. Jason and I discussed it briefly in hushed voices, and we decided that it was OK.

    Up came the Mark V on the sticks, a few deep breaths went in, the last one was blocked automatically half way out, a little voice kept saying "don't screw this up" in the back of my mind, I chanted to myself "squeeze, squeeze, squeee..." and there was a bang, promptly followed by a resounding wonk. The Roan was visibly petrified. It froze in its track. The bolt worked itself by magic, a golden empty case flew from the rifle, glittering in the warm color of the falling sun, and fell on the ground with that unique hollow ding that anyone who ever shot a rifle would recognize among a million other sounds, a second boom resonated within a second or so of the first one, another whomp came back to us, and the Roan sank to its rear quarters and rolled over, not to move again.

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    Two .257 Wby 100 gr TTSX exit holes showing lung blood bubbles from a Roan shot at 200 to 250 yd.

    I had my long coveted, beautiful, massive, Roan...

    Roan.JPG

    The two tiny entry holes show where the two .257 Wby 100 gr TTSX slugs went in a few inches apart, where intended, a bit back on a slightly quartering away shot, so they could plow forward into the lungs, and exited after wrecking the vitals. Once again, they were not recovered, going in, then out from quarter sized exit holes, after plowing and obviously expanding through about three feet of Roan.

    Would I shoot a Roan through the shoulder with a .257 Wby and 100 gr TTSX slugs? No, I would not. It could work, but I am not sure, and this is a bet I will not take. But clearly if the big shoulder bones are not in the way, the cartridge will do the job, although the Roan was not pole-axed on the first shot, as was the Sable shot with the .340 Wby (see upcoming post).
     
    Last edited: Aug 10, 2019
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  9. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Dang you hunted some very nice animals. Congrats.
    Bruce
     

  10. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Huntershill Lodge

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  11. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    The three days of the Warthogs

    I had shot a nice warthog last year at Huntershill (https://www.africahunting.com/threa...-2018-plains-game-paradise.45017/#post-474345), and it was not on my list this year, but as we decided to go to Rocklands, another property owned by Huntershill two hours south, for a couple days, Jason spoke of Rocklands and the neighboring properties being overrun with Warthogs; the neighbors begging for the population to be controlled - which is easier said than done - and he asked me if I would not mind, in the course of our hunting, shooting a few Warthogs. Hmmm? Let me think... Would I mind shooting a few Warthogs? Actually, no, I would not mind! Beside, it would be a great way to test the .257 Wby with 100 gr TTSX after its promising debuts on Impala. We were still early in the hunt and keen on testing. I would be happy to oblige...

    It was a foggy morning that first day in Rocklands...

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    Soon after we left, as we crested a hill, a discrete tap tap resonated on the Toyota roof over our head. Henry, our driver/skinner had seen something. As usual, Jason immediately killed the engine, a few words of a curious mixture of Khoisan, Afrikaans and English were exchanged in hushed tone, and Jason and I jumped on our binocs to locate a group of Warthogs ... on the next hill, a solid mile away. Jason, Henry and Strahli were already engaged in their deeply meaningful conversation of "heeeeh," "haaaaah," and "hmmmm," the various intonations of which contained an entire dialog going from "let's see," to "not bad," to "I agree," to "shall we go check them?" to "I think so," by the time I finally saw them, but when the Warthog leader turned its head and we could see teeth from one hill away, we all went "haaah!" in unison. Not another word needed to be exchanged. Jason got off and strapped his binocular harness; I got off and took the rifle off the case; Strahi jumped down from the back, a set of sticks in his hands, and Henry took Jason's place behind the wheel and started backing the truck behind the hill crest, all in a silent and seamless ballet. Counting last year, the four of us have been hunting hard over 20 days together, and we had bonded.

    There was no helping progressing toward the pigs in full view for a while, but we were far, and we stayed close together in a single line, with a hand on the shoulder of the guy in front of us, hoping to look like a curious six-legged animal from a distance. That worked. By the time we inched our way to about 300 yd, we all felt that we were pushing our luck, so we stopped, took a long hard look: oh yeah, it will do nicely, and Jason carefully and silently spread the stick and urged me in a whisper to get on it "veeeery sloooowly." I took half a minute to ease a cartridge in the chamber "veeeery sloooowly," got on the sticks "veeeery sloooowly," Jason said "325," I settled the crosshair just a touch high, and the world stopped. The earth cooled, the dinosaurs came and went, cathedrals were built, wars started and ended ... and the rifle barked. Whonk! Explosion of pigs all over the place. Silence. "Did you kill it?" "I dunno, I think I was on it solid, and we heard the bullet hit." "I do not see it." "Me neither." "Let's go and see."

    Oh yes, I killed it. Her, actually. The loveliest Warthog sow Jason says he ever saw. I am happily willing to believe him...

    Warthog sow.JPG

    Ah, but this time we certainly would have a 100 gr TTSX to look at during the postmortem! Nope! Again, got in ... and came out on a high shoulder shot that absolutely flattened the pig. Her nose was still in the roots she was rooting out when I shot...

    The next day was sunny and warm, we looked, and looked, and looked for a proper Bushbuck all morning, but it was too late. The warmth had them out and back in early that morning, and by 10 am we knew we were not going to see them until maybe late that afternoon. Jason lit a cigarette, I started to indulge in a Romeo & Julietta 1875, and we were generally enjoying life and small chatter when we both saw it at the same time. Clear down on the valley floor, 500 yards or so away, a group of pigs appeared. Tiny little piglets swarming their mom. Cute. The truck was off, in the bush, we were silent and immobile. They had not detected us. The female was small, the piglets were small, we had no interest in them except for watching. That is until Papa appeared on the scene. The "heeeeh," "haaaaah," "hmmmm," dialog resumed, and soon again I was creeping behind Jason, Strahli on my heels, toward a shooting position. The bush stopped fairly high on the hillside, so we soon had to stop. The sticks and rifle dance unfolded smoothly, Jason said "375" with a trace of hesitation in his voice. I pulled my own Leica 2000 B, it too displayed '375,' then '7' as the ballistic computer was delivering the shooting solution. I held what looked like seven inches high, took a deep breath, anchored my feet in a wide stance to control side to side sway, leaned heavily onto the tripod sticks to control back & forth sway, and the rifle fired. Whonk! No question this time. He was in plain view, dropped where he stood. I quickly reloaded and we waited. Nothing. We waited some more. Still nothing. "I think he is dead" said Jason. "I think so too" I replied.

    Warthog boar 1.JPG

    And because the title of this post is The three days of the Warthogs, you guessed it ... the following day a similar scenario unfolded. After an unfruitful search for a good Common Reedbuck all morning, on the way back a bunch of pigs ran across the track a few hundred yards ahead of the truck. "This one is better" said Jason, jumping out. Off we went, at a trot to our left as there might be a chance that the pigs, running in what looked like a half circle to our left, could actually come to us. We saw them first, took a knee behind a bush while a cartridge found its way in the rifle chamber, and I sat on my left ankle, in my favorite kneeling position - many years of competing the 50 meter rifle three positions event built the muscle memory for life. Thirty seconds later they streamed by us, at 100 yard or so, at full speed. Hmmm! That would be a combination of three positions and running boar, after all. How appropriate, when laying the crosshair on a Warthog!

    I always tend to over lead with the rifle. This is my curse. And I generally forget about it until after the missed shots. But not this time. And it was so close at 100 yard or so that lead did not matter anyway with the 100 gr TTSX flying out the barrel at almost 3,600 fps. Boom! No whomp. Too close. Covered in the boom. But a nice cartwheeling pig in a cloud of dust...

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    And it would be boring to add that we did not recover a slug from these two boars either... That is pretty dang good performance for a .257 slug weighing 100 gr... Gotta love these TTSX... I was a Nosler Partition-only kind of guy for 40 years. The times, they are achangin...
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019

  12. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Rocklands Lodge

    I like Rocklands! Located about 2 hours south of Huntershill, near the small town of Fort Beaufort, it is a completely different habitat. Where Huntershill's mountain resembles a lot the high plateaus and mountains of northern Arizona, northern New Mexico, southern Utah, etc. and offers a generally lower bush density and more a hillside type of hunting, Rocklands sits at a lower altitude, 1,500 feet - compared to Huntershill 3,500 feet at the lodge, and over 7,000 at the top of the mountain I believe - and Rocklands features a denser vegetation, higher temperature, which is sometimes good in winter, and some species that are not well adapted to Huntershill higher and colder ecosystem.

    Rocklands has incredible charm. It is actually the original blockhouse constructed in 1822 by Colonel Maurice Scott of the Royal Warwickshire Regiment to protect the Fort Beaufort mission station established by the Reverend Joseph Williams of the London Missionary Society in 1816.

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    As a former military post, Rocklands has commanding view over the surrounding area, and the morning coffee or evening social time discussions are regularly interrupted by everyone grabbing their never far binoculars to observe Buffalo, Giraffe, Gemsbok, Warthog, Nyala, Bushbuck, Eastern Cape Kudu, Great Southern Kudu, etc. We even started a stalk straight from the breakfast table on the patio one morning toward yet another and bigger Warthog. Bumping into a group of Buffalo in the wet bottom changed the plans and the Warthog were gone by the time we carefully detoured the herd of buff. Tell you what, it gets really exciting when you are close enough in dense bush to actually smell the buff before you see them...

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    No, Rocklands will not compete with the 4 stars Huntershill accommodations, or the 5 stars Comre accommodations (another property Huntershill own not far away, in a remote valley of the Winterberg mountains), but Rocklands has this incredible charm, creaking wooden floors, and overall character of houses that have been there long before us, and in which each brick has a story to tell.

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    The few clients' rooms are located in the old officers' quarters, fully renovated inside to modern standard with flushing toilets and shower and each room, and there is even a WiFi connection at the lodge. Dang! I am one of those who could do nicely without the internet, emails, texts, etc. for a few days... But oh well, all I have to do is to turn the darn thing off, right?

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    I do not think that I will go back to Huntershill without managing to spend few days at Rocklands. Beside, Mama Lucie who runs the lodge with her eternal smile, is one of the finest venison cook I ever came across...
     
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  13. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Good report.
    Congrats on your success.
     

  14. Nyati

    Nyati AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats, seems like you had a great time, and I can see very good trophies !
     

  15. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    What a fine time! Very interesting how the little 257 Bee is working! As I recall, it was Roy Weathrby’s favorite cartridge. I am beginning to understand why.
     
    gesch likes this.

  16. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    The day of the Nyala

    Last year, in August 2018, mornings were cold at Huntershill. White frost was regularly shining in the emerging sun when I walked, shivering, from my chalet to the lodge for the usual 7 am breakfast, and it would take the full power of the sun to make it OK to start peeling the layers off, around 9 o'clock in the morning.

    This year, July 2019 was entirely different. Winter had not arrived yet, and everyone was worried that it might not arrive at all. The place was dry, dry, dry and a light fleece vest was all you needed in the morning.

    So, we were out before the sun that morning, because we had a rendez-vous with a Nyala, in a certain canyon high on the mountain, and we wanted to be there first.

    After 30 minutes of bone jarring climb up the mountain in the Toyota Land Cruiser, we were on top of the promontory we had elected to use as our observation post, before the sun reached it. It was not warm really, but it was not too cold either. Probably in the low 50's F or something like that.

    Way down by the pond, two black wildebeest came to drink...

    DSC01471.JPG

    We waited. This was day #2, we had plenty of time. And this was the first day this year that our full team was complete: Jason the Huntershill Head PH, Strahli our tracker, Henry our driver/skinner who was not with us the day before, and myself. We form an unusual team. Most PH are young, in the middle 20's or early 30's - some are very young, in their late 10's or early 20's - and most trackers are also generally young, in their 20's, 30's and sometimes 40's. Jason, 27 if memory serves, is the unquestioned boss in our team, but he is also our junior by a fair margin. Henry is 52, Strahli is 53, and I am 61. Strahli, Henry and I have been hunting longer than Jason has been alive, but Jason has hunted many, many more days in his short life than I have, and he is not your typical PH. In addition to his PH license, he completed a doctorate in game biology, thesis on Vaal Rhebok, and he lives to hunt. The folks at Huntershill call him KOM, with of course a touch of humor, but also with the deep realization that he is indeed the King Of the Mountain. When a Kudu hunt starts spanning 3 or 4 days unsuccessfully, they call Jason to the rescue...

    IMG_3057.JPG
    Jason Olivier, Huntershill Head PH, affectionately and a little enviously nicknamed KOM (King of the Mountain) by his friends...

    So Strahli, Henry, Jason and I had our eyes glued to our binoculars, scanning the hillside across the ravine. Strahli and Henry where alternating looking through their binocs and looking with their bare yes. I looked at Jason and smiled. He smiled back. We both knew something Strahli and Henry did not know...

    Suddenly, Strahli pointed, and grabbed his binoculars briefly, and dejectedly lowered them promptly. See, Strahli's binocular are a poor excuse of a pair of binocs. Some pocket Chinese junk, probably with plastic lenses, that some client royally gave him rather than trashing them some years back, or maybe these were the kids binocs, I don't know. I had noticed them last year. Henry's does not have any binoculars, but he uses an old pair of Swarovski with broken collimation, abandoned by a client as a 'tip' to Jason. He told me he said politely "thank you," hiding his contempt. It really pisses me off that some American clients (yes, they are generally American) dump on their PH and trackers broken equipment at the end of their safari, in lieu of tip, not realizing that they are actually insulting these men.

    So, Strahli lowered his binocs with a disgusted grunt and pointed to Jason a spot to look at with the brand new Leica Geovid 10x42 I had Leica replace for Jason when I turned into Leica, last fall, the broken pair I believe he had also inherited from a client (https://www.africahunting.com/threa...rom-leica-and-cameralandny.46261/#post-490357). We quickly identified a group of Nyala females, with a male in the bushes that we just could not judge, but that Jason decided was worth looking at. On we went, walking quickly through the bush downhill. By the time, we reached a clearing on the hillside, the range finder said 285, and the Nyala came in full view. "He is really good" said Jason, "how do you feel?" I sat down behind a small bush with a conveniently forked branch, carefully pushed out a few twigs, dropped the .257 Wby on the fork, and was able to answer: "rock solid."

    The mechanics long rehearsed on the 40 or so Sunday afternoon practice sessions off the sticks in Arizona started unfolding. Breathing control, rifle control, crosshair control, trigger control, all merged smoothly, and the Weatherby barked in the morning silence...


    It was still too early for the official photo session, so we all sat, waiting for the sun, chatting about the kids, the wives, life in general...

    DSC01478.JPG
    From left to right, Henry, Jason and Strahli.

    By the time the sun reached us, the Nyala took all its splendor...

    Nyala.JPG

    We did not have a bullet to recover from him. The little .257 Wby 100 gr TTSX is still flying through the canyons of Huntershill for all I know...
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019

  17. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Shedding a tear in Africa

    By the time the Nyala was loaded in the truck, and we were about to start downhill, I asked Jason to kill the engine, got out, and asked Henry and Strahli to get off the truck. Jason smiled. He knew. Henry and Strahli were a little perplexed.

    I reached out under the back seat for a bag I had placed there that morning, the first morning when the four of us would be together again since last year, on the second day of this 2019 hunt, away from the lodge and any other people. I opened the bag and produced two boxes wrapped in joyous gift paper. Strahli and Henry patiently indulged yet another incomprehensible quirk from TahTah (old man) the - respectful, Jason assures me - nickname they had given me last year after I huffed and puffed trying to follow them after my Kudu while they were running up the mountain.

    I wanted it to be clear, so I asked Jason to translate. Henry speaks very good English, but Strahli is only really fluent in his native Khoisan, and some Afrikaans. This went as follows: "This is for you. I want you to understand that this is not a tip. This is a gift. There will be a tip at the end of the hunt, just like last year. This is not your tip. This is my gift. As a friend, because I am so grateful for the time that we have spent together last year, and that we will spend together again this year." And I handed them the boxes. Jason translated. Henry and Strahli stood there, their box in hand, not knowing what to do. "You see," said Jason, "this is probably the first time in their life they receive a wrapped gift." "You must open them," Jason added to Henry and Strahli.

    Awkwardly, Strahli started to peel the wrapping paper. And it hit me like a ton of bricks. When he reached the shrink wrap film that covered the box, he furiously elbowed Henry, repeating endlessly "brand new," "brand new." He did not even know what it was yet, but Jason commented, "this is probably the first time in his life he receives a brand new gift." Dust started flying in my eyes. They accelerated opening the packages, now tearing through the paper, and there was a moment of shock and silence when they simultaneously discovered that they were now owning each a brand new pair of Vortex HD 10x42 binoculars... Henry went "oooooh." Strahli kissed the box. By that time I had a full storm of dust in my eyes and they were starting to water. Jason patted me on the shoulder. "This is great what you did," he said, "they will never forget."

    They could not say thank you enough, but in a sober way, the way grown up men do when they mean it. "These are the same ones I gave to each of my two sons" I said. Jason translated. Henry said "ooooh" again. Strahli smiled...

    IMG_3056.JPG
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 13, 2019

  18. accipiter

    accipiter AH Veteran

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    Excellent! I am really enjoying your report.
    You are a true gentleman for providing those gifts.
     

  19. BeeMaa

    BeeMaa AH Fanatic

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    What you did for those guys is amazing.
    Wife and I are planning on doing something similar for our tracker on our next trip.
     

  20. One Day...

    One Day... GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    The not so common, Common Reedbuck

    I do not know who, when or where decided to call the Common Reedbuck common, and common it may be, somewhat, but it has not been so common for me to see a good Common Reedbuck. By the end of the second week, we had seen a few, but not the one we were looking for.

    There was that morning when we sneaked up silently around that hill at the northern end of the valley that borders Huntershill's mountain to the West, but Baboons wrecked havoc on our stalk by barking furiously at us from the top of the cliffs. Last year, in exasperation, Jason had asked me to shoot one to scare them away, on top of the Morgeson mountain at the north end of the valley, and I did, and that really taught them to keep their distance, but this time we did not want to shoot, to not alert everything within hearing distance. We did not see any Common Reedbuck...

    There was that afternoon, when we decided to climb that same hill early in the afternoon, from the back, to be on top and stalk silently along the edge of its cliffs at sunset. That was a good strategy. We jumped a bunch of Kudu not even 20 yards away, some Springbok herd exploded in panic right underneath us, but no Common Reedbuck were to be seen...

    There was that morning, when Henry, Strahli and I saw of whole bunch of them in Quarelbrook, one of the areas at the south end of the valley, while Jason had to go sort out a situation with a reluctant buffalo bull, but we did not find one we really wanted...

    There were a few other times, when we saw some at Rocklands, and some others at Pachet, on the other side of the Huntershill mountain, in a secluded mountain valley that I will visit again, while we were playing hide and seek with a nice bachelor group of Sable, trying to keep a bunch of Kudu uninterested on the mountain side so that they would not empty the mountain for us, and trying to use mental persuasion to get a group of marvelously camouflaged Giraffes to move away.

    DSC01520.JPG
    Trying to use mental persuasion to get a group of marvelously camouflaged Giraffes to move away. Not very effective...

    Then there finally was that late afternoon, in the dying sun, the day before last, when we slowly cruised from one vantage point to the next in the low foothills, regularly leaving the truck to stalk the dense drainage heads one after the other in search of our elusive quarry, avoiding Blue or Black Wildebeest, patiently waiting out bunches of Springbok earning their names with wild leaps in the middle of their runs, and keeping an eye on some Blesbok too curious for their own good. We even approached a bedded Common Reedbuck to maybe 20 yard, but he was too young.

    We were resigning ourselves to give up when, from the last ridge, looking back at the hill that we had just slowly contoured, right there, at the top, half a mile or so away, becoming reddish in the falling sun, a small group of females grazed peacefully. Strahli, as usual, saw them first. We glassed them. And there, 20 yards on the side, there was another one, lying down behind a rock, with just the arch of the back showing. What was it? "Can't really leave without checking this one out?" I tentatively suggested. "Time is short" answered Jason. "Light gone in 15 minutes," he added. He ferociously gunned up the Toyota. It leaped in great bounds from rocks to ruts barreling down our hill, and we slowly inched our way up the next hill. We poked a tentative hood over an undulation. Still there. Stop! Binocs. "That's him" I said. "Yes" said Jason. We were 500 yards away, there was one bush between us and them. Not two, not a bunch, just a single solitary bush. And not a very big one at that. The sun was a fireball in the West above the mountain, wind started to pick up as the night thermals were starting to react to the cooling shadows in the valley bottoms...

    DSC01794.JPG
    The sun was a fireball in the West above the mountain...

    We used the bush to hide our progress, and there, 285 yards away, was nothing left but short grass. The females were still feeding, albeit a bit nervously, and the male was still bedded, his head and neck just showing over the rock, and looking insistently in our direction. The wind was picking up...

    "Can you shoot him?" asked Jason dubiously in a whisper. "I only see his head and neck" I whispered back. "If I hit him he is dead," I said. "Most likely I will miss him, but if I hit him he is dead" I added. I braced myself really tight, leaned onto the gun really heavily, put the crosshair just a touch low, a few inches to the right of his neck to allow for the wind, took a really deep breath, and asked the Lord for a little help. Boooom! roared the little Weatherby in the peacefulness of the gathering dusk. I nearly jumped out of my skin when Jason almost simultaneously roared "smoked him!" "Oooooh" was crooning Henry. "Heeeeeh!" was approving Strahli. "Thank you Lord" murmured I, still in disbelief. Out of sheer luck, I had drilled him dead center through the neck...

    Common Reedbok.JPG
    A wonderful last minute, almost last day, Huntershill Common Reedbuck.

    The moon was beautiful as we made our way back to Huntershill.

    DSC01619.JPG

    My chalet was waiting for me in the peaceful night...

    DSC01582.JPG

    You guessed it, no bullet was recovered...
     
    Last edited: Aug 11, 2019
    7x57Joe, cpr0312, Ridgewalker and 5 others like this.

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