SOUTH AFRICA: AAA Serapa Goes Buck Wild 2018 Pt 1

buck wild

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After lunch we head back toward the lodge, although I can’t seem to remember why. See that memory thing already. What I did jot down in my notes was that there were animals everywhere- zebra, kudu, impala. I already know it’s a three quarters moon, soon to be full; therefore, mid-day animal movement is no surprise. Somewhere along the way today, maybe at lunch, we pick up Theuni’s son Theuns. He is a 30 year old PH residing in a 13 year old’s body. What a delight to meet a mature, young man with such a zest for hunting. This story will include so much more character revealed by this Lil’ PH as the week progresses. I can only assume we went back to the lodge to rest a bit and regroup. Before leaving for the afternoon hunt Theuni approached me about Theuns accompanying us this afternoon. It appears the local children are on a 3 week school break and being a Monday, Theuns had nothing better to do. ABSOLUTELY, I would love the extra company and deeply inside I was thinking of my own two children back at home and longed for the ability to be able to travel back in time to them at this age and being in Africa to enjoy it with me. That has passed, but this would turn out to be the next best thing. The afternoon hunt slowed considerably over the morning session.

As the day heated up, I switched over to my AH visor. I could see Theuns eyeing it when he finally gave in and advised he loved my “hat” as he giggled. I laughed and stated it was one of a kind. His dad quickly quipped under no circumstances was Lil’ PH to cut up his father’s SCI or DSC hat that had never been returned. Everyone got a good laugh out of that. It was about the same time, Lil’ PH began to refer to me as Uncle Joe.

The afternoon quickly turned stale with the exception of a “sick” blue wildebeest bull and his group of cronies. They are unwilling to leave him behind and despite us approaching; the sick bull could never muster much more than a quick walk. We scour long and hard trying to find the source of his poor condition, but nothing could be detected. It was decided to let him to his own devices and hopefully pull through or succumb to a natural end. Such is the life in the wild Kalahari.

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We did spot two young eland bulls plus the normal animals. I estimated each day we saw between 300-500 animals- that’s no exaggeration. Side note- we never locate Theuni’s jacket today J

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Dinner: Sirloin steak (seasoned with a local favorite- Jimmy’s seasonings), salad, macaroni and cheese. Dessert: salted caramel sauce and ice cream

After dinner, we had a few drinks around the bar and helped celebrate the Georgia’s family last evening. More and more I conversed with Lil’ PH. He was quite knowledgeable about hunting and displayed a genuine thirst for more. After a few liquid lubrications, I kept telling him I was looking for “an ole, ole bull.” For months leading up to this trip, every Sunday I spent the afternoon watching African hunting videos on Youtube. My form of training for the trip J And every Sunday my wife would come in and ask what I was doing. During one such checkup, the PH was describing a kudu bull that they had just killed by saying it was “an ole, ole bull”. I started saying it over and over again in my best South African accent, but I’m sure it sounded more a cross of British, South African and Texan all mixed in one. Theuns laughed when I kept saying it and soon he had adopted it as our catch phrase. This kid is starting to grow on me!

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buck wild

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Day 2 Death in the Yellow Grass

Last night while hanging around the bar, I mentioned to Theuni that it might be time to bring some ammo along tomorrow :LOL: 1 ½ days into it with 4 left, we haven’t made much progress. I woke up at 3:30 am- lions started up at 4 am. It’s De Ja Vu all over again. A sleeping aid is in order tonight.

It’s not as cool this morning as a few predawn clouds linger. After the usual eggs/bacon/fruit for breakfast we say our goodbyes to the Georgia crew as they are scheduled to fly out from the ranch airstrip on a charter at 2 pm . Depending on our hunting status, there’s a chance we’ll miss their departure.

The morning is starting off better than it ended yesterday evening. We are seeing increased game movement. Theuns actually fills in as our driver while Herman picks up our tracks from yesterday to locate the missing jacket. Theuni makes a boot sole mark in the sand for Herman so he knows which track to follow. I calmly make my boot mark right next to his and tell Herman to look for mine not Theuni’s as I stepped into every one of Theuni’s track while stalking :p Theuns doesn’t miss a beat at the wheel. Kid drives this stick shift better than most adults I know in the States. We get a radio call in an hour that Herman has the jacket in his possession. We arrange to pick him up.

Honestly, between the 5 set of eyes on the bakkie now, the only way anything could avoid our detection would be if the animal lay flat on its belly, all four hooves splayed out! We are a well-oiled hunting machine for the moment. It’s our tribe. Our success will come as a collective. Mrs. Buckwild and Lil’ PH are making some terrific spots along with Theuni, Herman and my eagle eyes, I’m confident things will turn in our favor. Shortly into our foray, Theuni spots a very good springbok ram with several ewes. We bail off the bakkie in hot pursuit. Again the wind is not great. It doesn’t matter as we never catch up to group again. Herman and crew pick us up down the road and we hit the next block. They have disappeared into thin air.

We move along through several blocks when we spot a black wildebeest bull in the road. We stop 200 yds out and both myself and Theuni are looking at him through our binos when a springbok crosses 500 yds further down, immediately followed by a huge caracal between the wildebeest and springbok. Without looking up from my binos I ask Theuni did he see the caracal? Yep! This is the first caracal I have seen in my four trips. Too bad it wasn’t several hundred yards closer. We pull up in the area he crossed but we don’t locate him again.

Finally giving in, Theuni takes us to the springbok honey hole. The area is much more open with taller, yellow grass.

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We see a few red hartebeest, look over a medium size bachelor springbok ram before finally stumbling into a springbok herd. We begin glassing 300 yds out and the group is a little nervous. Theuni comments there is a very good ram in the group that we should consider looking at closer. We slip off the bakkie as Herman drives off. The groups’ attention is on the departing bakkie and not us as we take cover behind the few clumps of bush available. Over the next 15 minutes we improve our position to within 150 yds but again the wind is blowing straight to the herd. Later Theuni comments he can’t believe the group stood tight with the bad wind. After more glassing and a brief whispered conversation, it’s decided I’d try to take the biggest common springbok ram. He is taller than the rest but there is also a traditional, heart shaped ram in the group worthy of a second look. The rest of the herd consists of a copper, a few whites and lots of females. Again I’m up on the sticks. Waiting, waiting, waiting. The ram is on the back side playing peek-a-boo with the lone tree they are standing around. He is in and out chasing the other rams. I’m more thoroughly convinced he is the mature, boss of the group. As a repeat to yesterday, I’m easily on the sticks for over 15 minutes before a shot opportunity arises. Theuni provides some good advice about not shooting too high as the grass often covers the lower third of the animal causing higher than intended shots. Finally clear-exhale-squeeze- followed by the crack and thump. I see the ram spin 180 degrees and stumble. We have our common springbok ram. A celebratory handshake and we are off to see him. The crew has been watching from the bakkie 500 yds out and they now join us asking what took so long. Herman and Lil’ PH go into action to get the scene ready for pics.

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Enjoying the read! The Kalahari is a really cool place to visit and hunt!!
 

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Congrats on a nice springbok! Also pretty neat you got to see Rhino! I was not able to see one when I was there a few years back.
 

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With the sweet smell of success lingering, yes I made my wife stick her nose in the cotton candy gland, we keep moving along the springbok corridor. We come across a unicorn duiker ram. We get a good look and it appears the other horn is not broken but just plain missing.

We also run across a Goldenbeast.

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After 30 minutes we spot another very large group of springbok feeding. We pull onto a small ridge overlooking the group from 400 yards. We are now in search of a black springbok. We only see one, a female running with 20-25 common, copper and whites.

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Just as we began to move on, Theuni spots a satellite, black ram shadowing the group down in the basin of the valley. He is moving away from the herd and we boogie down over the ledge.

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We have lost sight of him once we disembark the hunting rig. Suddenly to our left we see a black ram looking toward us. We are unsure if it’s the same ram as it would have had to move 300 yds in the 2 minutes it took us to get into position. After a brief examination we decide same one or not, he is a shooter. Back on the sticks but it’s much windier here on the ledge and the ram is well over 150 yds out. I ask Lil’ PH to stand next to me and I rest my right elbow on his shoulder. He’s the perfect height. Much better- crosshairs are stable but ram is now quartered to us trying to figure out what the movement on the hill is all about. I settle off and let one fly. He doesn’t move an inch, dropping right there. The three of us are honestly a little shocked I think. It happened fast and the shot was no gimme. We proceed down to inspect. I pull out the range finder which reads 186 yds. Not bad shooting at all as I pat myself on the back. Later my wife confirmed it was the same black ram. She had been trying to whistle to alert us all along.


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gillettehunter

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I am enjoying the story. Sorry to hear your moving. That is a PITA. I moved last month. Maybe I'll finish unpacking sometime next year......
The Kalahari is great. In 2016 I hunted just up the road from AAA Serapa. Its a great area and I'd like to go back.
Great shooting on the Springbok. Congrats
Bruce
 

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By the time we got photos and the animals cared for, it’s a little later into the afternoon before we head back to the lodge for lunch: club sandwich and smiley fries. Right before getting to the lodge, the charter plane makes a circle overhead testing the wind for its landing; right on time for the 2 pm Georgia departure. During lunch, a small rain shower passes by. Looks like Toto was right, it does rain down in Africa.:sneaky: We decide to wait a little longer to ensure it clears. It’s 3 pm before we head out and although not a heavy rain, it’s just enough to reset the tracks.

The slow afternoon pattern continues. Lil’ PH Theuns is a spotting machine. I reach into my wife’s backpack and hand him our extra set of binos. I can tell he is proud to be a part of this adventure and his amazing eye sight is a welcomed addition. Other than the usual blesbok, blue wildebeest, immature gemsbok and impala, we don’t see many target species this afternoon. Close to sunset we spot a bat eared fox followed suddenly by the excited utterance from Lil’ PH. I’m not exactly sure what has him so excited as he is conversing with Theuni is Afrikaans before he shouts, “Go Hermanie, go Hermanie”. Herman responds and sends the bakkie into a forward thrust. It’s an ARDVARK! We are trying to catch up to grab a few photos. We are all laughing as Theuns continues to prod Herman to speed up, “Go Hermanie, go Hermanie, go!”. The joy and excitement in young Theuns’ voice reflects the pride he has in showing these two Americans his Africa! The aardvark ducks into his hole unscathed by our encounter. We continue to laugh and mimic Theuns’s plea for speed all the way back to the lodge.

Dinner: Pork ribs with BBQ sauce, salad, mashed potatoes and malva pudding (I think)

We are now the only hunters left in camp. The bar is all ours and we make good use of it tonight. Adolph, Yolande’s son, has joined us along with Francois. I prepare a specialty drink- a Texas Campfire. It’s a whiskey cocktail (I prefer a rye), with a cinnamon simple syrup, orange zest and SMOKE. I originally saw it prepared in a South Texas bar and grill and have been trying to perfect it since. You use a small, cigar blowtorch to singe a cinnamon stick and piece of hardwood, in this instance camel wood. Holding a rocks glass upside down over the flame, you capture the smoke from both with the glass. Invert glass to the upright position, quickly pour in premixed whiskey/syrup/orange zest/bitters( which we didn’t have)/ice and serve while the smoke is still bellowing from the mixture. It appeared to be a hit! There is a story that goes along while making the drink that adds to the intrigue but in my haste to prepare them, I forgot to tell it L

I continue to implore Lil’ PH to find us an “ole, ole blu bull!” He gladly reciprocates my pleas- “Yeah, an ooole, ooole buuull!”

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buck wild

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Day 3 Back in Black

After taking the sleeping aid last night, I finally make it to 6 am before rising. The lions have beaten me to the punch this morning and are already engaged in their pre-dawn preparations. Breakfast today is French toast, little smoky sausages and cereal.

After getting the springboks marked off yesterday, today we’ll concentrate more on eland. We are headed to the “thickets” to push them out. It’s another oddly cloudy but cool morning. The crew gets loaded in the bakkie and as a special treat the famous Bullet and Roxy tracking dogs jump in with us. With no other hunters in camp, we have exclusive use of all the Separa assets at our disposal. Both dogs quickly take up sheltered places in the back of the bakkie with blankets to lie on. I have no such luxury, pulling my neck gaiter higher up my head, we pull out into the crisp African morning.

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I quickly notice we are heading a different direction. Over the past 2.5 days we have hunted vast blocks, rarely seeing the same territory. Here we are on hunting day 3 going into yet additional blocks new to us. This place is as large as advertised. We’ve barely cleared the lodge when Lil’ PH Theuns alerts us to black wildebeest on the far ridge. After a short glassing session, we spot 2 bulls together as they are feeding down into the valley.

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Black wildebeest is on the list you know. Again the trio of me, Theuni and Theuns quietly slip from the bakkie in hot pursuit. We are weaving in and out of the short brush heading up the ridge. I’m slightly surprised when we round the next corner and a black wildebeest bull is staring directly at us 125 yds ahead. I thought they were still further up. Binos confirm he is a mature, better than average bull. I take up position on the sticks, call for Theuns’ assistance for my right elbow and acquire the sight picture. The bull continues to maintain his position looking straight on at the motley crew that has surprised him as much as he surprised us. I whisper to Theuni that I have him but it’s a frontal shot. He gives the thumbs up. I flip the safety. Not my favorite shot placement but it was the same angle on my blue wildebeest in 2009, which worked back then. Let’er rip. Next thing I see is the bull heading at a gallop to my left. I am unable to get another shot and have personally seen no evidence the bull is hit. However, Theuni and Theuns both feel the shot was dead on. As we start in the direction of the departing bull, Theuni gets a call on his radio from Herman who is back at the bakkie. Herman relays that the bull is indeed hit hard and is standing 100 yds in front of us. By now Roxy has joined us after hearing the shot. We sneak around the next bush and I spot the unique black wildebeest tail swishing behind a clump of brush. Again we take up the sticks and Roxy begins to charge but is held back. The bull starts to break and I pay the insurance as he crumples to the ground. No holding Roxy back now as she darts to the downed bull. As we approach, both Theuns and I comment that it’s an “ole, ole bull”. J Theuni remarks the bull has exceptional bosses and asks to see a tape measure. He measures one horn Rowland Ward style and hits the 24 ¼” mark. An ole bull indeed. I’m not sure if this is a real thing or an advertising gimmick, but if there is such a thing, this should finish off my South African beast slam.

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Bullet never left his blanket in the back of the truck. Apparently after all these years of hunting, Bullet’s hearing isn’t what it used to be, kinda like us old, smelly hunters. He normally ques off Roxy or is set intentionally onto a trail where he works his magic, but Roxy must have slipped from the bakkie while Bullet was dreaming of chasing cape buffaloes, not these poor man’s buffalos. He was better served finishing his nap as there wasn’t much excitement for him on this hunt. As we stand around taking in the morning, Bullet decides he wants to play fetch with a stick he finds nearby. We call another tracker to bring a second bakkie to load him up so that we can continue with our initial quest for eland. The lions serenade us from the next hill over as we load up the bull.

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buck wild

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As we progress into the thick stuff looking for eland, the flora takes a change also. We are now in the silver oak motts and acacia thickets. This really reminds of some of the thick stuff we have back home. The acacia here resemble our dreaded huiscahe trees. We spot a herd of cape buffalo bedded with one bull standing up as we go by as if to say, “move along, nothing to see here buster”. Several hours into our foray in this new territory we spot a herd of 8-9 gemsbok crossing the road 400 yds up. There appears to be at least one good bull and one good cow in the group. We reverse the bakkie and head up another road in anticipation they will cross here. We get out as we begin to head their way, when the lead cow pops out of the brush 80 yds in front of us. She doesn’t see us as we take position on the sticks. The group is filtering through; it couldn’t be a better set up. I’m thinking this is going to be perfect. I should have known better. Just as the 3rd gemsbok hits the clearing, they lock up. Dang, the bakkie is parked 100 yds behind us and they can obviously see it. They reverse course and head back the way they came. We attempted to follow but it became clear they have departed the area in haste. Man, this was a good opportunity that just didn’t pan out. The gemsboks are defeating us soundly.

It’s about time for lunch so we head back to the lodge. Lunch today: chicken pot pie, strawberry/cheese/spinach salad with a balsamic glaze.

After lunch we return to the new area. Eland and gemsbok are still in play. We are seeing lots of fresh eland tracks in the thick stuff. The rain two days ago confirmed these are fresh. We bump another herd of gemsbok, but no shooters in this group. Figures, they actually stand still for longer than 5 seconds and I get a little video of the group before they depart in a cloud of Kalahari dust.

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Theuni spots a lone eland cow peering through the thick stuff. We cannot see others but know there must be more. We circle the block and try to enter the thicket on foot. We are seeing lots of fresh eland beds in the sand. We are in their bedroom for sure. Then crashing, hooves pounding and a cloud of dust reveals we have found them. It sounded like a stampede. Ok, at least we have pushed them from their sanctuary. We head back to the bakkie and follow the dust trail. For at least half a mile we are able to follow the dust. It looks like a fighter jet contrail. The sun is falling rapidly and we are losing light. The herd finally slows and we confirm there are 8-10 cows and 2 smaller bulls, but they are off and running again. We try to head them off, the dust trail betraying their location and direction. We stop at an intersection and see that 3 other bigger bulls have joined this circus, but we are still 500 yds out and we have run out of light. Only an eland will determine where an eland will go. We mark the spot and shall return in the morning. As we head back to the lodge, we spot another bachelor herd of 7 eland bulls. It’s too dark to make a move, but we have found the eland.

Somewhere between the all the action, my journal notes reflect we also encountered a herd of 20 giraffes. We are able to get a little closer and get some pics. My wife loves the giraffes!

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As we head back in the twilight, we come across a large herd of 20ish eland, several miles from our last encounter. They are leaving a waterhole in a valley and even in the dim light; we can pick out at least 3 ole, blue bulls. Theuns yells to Herman, “Every eland on the farm is down there!” This is the area we hunted the first two days and I could tell it was causing a dilemma for Theuni on where to start tomorrow. There are lots of things we can buy to aid us in our adventures, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to purchase 3 more hours of twilight! The animals here in the desert really calm down at sunset, which greatly improves our chances, but we are so limited by the short period before darkness.

Dinner: chicken fried kudu filet, twice baked stuffed potatoes and salad.

At the bar tonight, Francois nonchalantly comments he has seen three “ole, ole blue bulls” watering every evening around 5 pm near the old lodge. Hummm! Even Francois has joined in on the catch phrase.
 

buck wild

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Day 4 Full South African Rabbit Moon

The news last night was predicting an unusual cold spell coming from the Antarctic. They’re forecasting snow in Cape Town and more rain, which is sorely needed there. For once, the weather guys get it right. It’s a very chilly 35 degrees F/ 2.5 degrees C this morning. As I step onto the villa porch, I holler back to the wife that she better add a few more layers to her costume today.

Can you see the rabbit?
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I did sleep better again last night, waking up at 6:15 am. I decide to put on my lucky Texas hunting shirt today. I’ve always considered it lucky but after some pondering several years ago I realized my success is likely attributed to the cold weather I wear it during more than the luck it possesses. It’s a cold weather garment for sure. I also know from experience that the African game do not enjoy the cold weather their American counterparts do, therefore, my luck is not likely to transcend continents, but anything’s worth a try.

I didn’t note what was for breakfast today except for this one item. I finally get a description of Bovril, a beefy kinda jelly sauce. What the heck, I’ll try it. I spread a generous glob across my toast. It’s definitely “beefy” I think. It might be good at a lunch with a bowl of Texas Red Chili during a cool, wet December Texas day, but not so much with breakfast. I make a decent attempt and eat half my Bovril toast. Thueni notices that I have tried it and inquiries into my impression. I give the “not too bad” rating. He then comments I didn’t make it right and that tomorrow morning he’ll prepare a special toast for me.

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According to Wikipedi, Bovril is the trademarked name of a thick and salty meat extract paste similar to a yeast extract, developed in the 1870s. Bovril can be made into a drink by diluting with hot water or, less commonly, with milk. It can be used as a flavoring for soups, broth, stews or porridge, or as a spread, especially on toast in a similar fashion to Marmite and Vegemite. Interesting enough there is also a jar of vegemite (Marmite), to which my only exposure before was in the song about the Land Down Under!

We load into the bakkie with the usual suspects but it must be too cold for Bullet and Roxy this morning as they are a no show at departure. Everyone is really hunkered down for the ride out and I’m seriously thinking about curling up in Bullet’s blanket in the truck bed myself. It’s 32 degrees F, 0 degree C.

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buck wild

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We are back in the silver oak and acacia thickets where we first jumped the eland yesterday. It seems a reasonable place to be to seek warmth and shelter in this weather. Time continues ticking and it’s mid-morning before we spot 6 eland bulls headed down a road straight away 500 yards. I don’t get a good look, but see at least one dewlap swinging as they gait away.

Same drill, third round. Me, Theuni andTheuns head into the bush, rifle and sticks in hand. We are paralleling the road they are walking and trying to make up ground. 300 yds in, Theuni sneaks to the road and confirms they are still ahead but we have closed the distance to 200 yds. A little further up we can now see the back bull through the bush but somehow he has sensed our presence. We wait 10 minutes for the group to settle down but as Theuni sneaks another peek down the road, they are absent. We continue another 50 yds forward when a bull dashes across 150 yds in front of us. The familiar sound of hooves stampeding through the bush greets us yet again. Dang we bumped them. We get on the running tracks and soon realize they have doubled back and likely slipped through our flank. As we head back to the truck, we stumble across this waterbuck skull cap and horns.

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Tick tock, tick tock. The days and opportunities are slipping by. It’s warmed up and the stalk through the Kalahari sand is collecting it’s debt from us. Water from the cooler box is much appreciated. Let’s grab lunch and reset: springrolls with minced meat, saffron rice and salsa. There was a special sauce prepared by Yolande herself in a bottle on the table. It’s been here all along, but only now I am giving it a whirl. It’s best described by me as a spicy Thousand Island of some type. Theuni remarks the level of spice is different for each batch depending on Yolande’s mood the day she makes it :LOL:

The wife is leaving us for an afternoon at the in-house spa with a message and facial on order.

The temps have climbed into the high 60’s and the clouds have dissipated leaving blue bird skies. We ease into an area we hunted the first day. It’s 2 pm with a full moon. At home, the animals would be up if they were going to move in daylight at all. Almost immediately we spot 5-6 gemsbok standing in the shade of a camel thorn tree. They stick tight for a change. There are two bulls in the group that look promising. The herd mills around but never far from the shade. We need a little sunlight to help judge the horn length. After 10 minutes Theuni comments the biggest bull is probably 35-36 and other is 35. I already have a 35” bull from a previous trip and am holding out for an upper 30 bull or low 40 cow. A decision is made to pass- we still have time and we have seen bigger gemsbok.

23.5 gemsbok herd.jpg


The pattern continues with afternoons slower, than mornings. Everything is laid up or holding tight in the shade. As mentioned, this afternoon we are back in an area we hunted the first two days and very close to the failed stalk where we lost the jacket. We spot a herd of gemsbok going away and based on a quick assessment, quite possibly the same group. We begin slowly walking in their direction. Several hundred yards in I see a gemsbok cut through an opening at 3 o’clock to our position. We shift gears trying to get the wind in our favor. We are able to work within 150 yds of the gemsbok but it appears to be a lone bull of medium length. We are now pinned down by black wildebeest and blesbok. We finally surmise that the initial group has made another Houdini disappearing act while we followed the lone bull.

This stalk has set us back as we had hoped to be at the eland waterhole by 4pm based to the intel provided by Francois last night. We get back to the bakkie and step on it to the waterhole but alas it is already 5 pm before we settle in. With nothing to lose, we carve out a spot downwind in the shade and sit on the sand. Theuns succumbs to boredom of any 13 yr old and begins building a stick tepee. He later tops it off with a bird feather nearby. At last light we have 3 waterbuck cows slip in and I see a lone gemsbok slide through at 100 yds, but it never made it to water before we gave up our ambush spot.

24.1 stick tipee.jpg


24.2 Lil PH.jpg


Dinner: grilled lamb chops, grits, salad- dessert peppermint pudding

As we are sitting around the bar tonight, a small group of eland water behind the lodge under the outside lights. They are rubbing it in.
 
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buck wild

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Day 5 - The Agony of De-feet (see what I did there:LOL:)

It’s our last hunting day at Serapa. Last night was my wife’s turn to be awake at 3 am. During her tossing and turning, I too lose my ability to keep my eyes closed. Ugh- I resort to another long, hot 5 am shower as we wait for the first rays on sunlight.

Breakfast: bacon and eggs. True to his word, Theuni has ordered his special Bovril toast ingredient from the kitchen this morning, grated cheese. He slathered a healthy dose of butter, a lighter coating of Bovril with a heaping of grated cheese to finish off his creation. I must say it improved the overall experience, as I was able to finish the whole piece, but still better suited for lunch chili in my opinion.

24.5 bovril toast.png


Lots on the plate today, other than Bovril toast. We have gemsbok, eland, still in the market for another common springbok if big and the perfect sable if we cross one. The full bunny moon is just sitting as I walk outside. It’s surely no help. We are headed back to the eland bedding area. Through a narrow opening in the silver oaks we spot zebra and a few impala. I do a double take as I swear I just glimpsed an eland in the group. I mentioned to Theuni I might have seen an eland when we round the corner and confirm, yes there is a bull standing in the thicket. He is with a buddy and they give us just enough time to know we are in the ballpark. Theuni decides there are too many eyes in the group to go straight in so we move on into a next block where they appear headed, but we don’t pick them up.:(

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Theuni radioed in for reinforcements. Another tracker, I believe maybe Jacques’ guy, meets us in the area. Theuns will drive for the second tracker as he rides perch in the bakkie looking for fresh eland sign.

It’s now been at least on hour since the early morning sighting. It always appears to be 10 am to me here. The sun doesn’t rise as high in the sky as it does back home as we are closer to the equator. It goes from dawn to 10am to 4 pm to sunset for me. I totally lose track of the mid-day hours with no overhead sun for reference.

I’m not very optimistic at the moment. These eland have beat us very good so far. We spot a lone springbok ram which is tempting but still young. We move on. I’m beginning to day dream although what else would one be daydreaming of other than hunting Africa and I was living it at the moment. Suddenly my wife exclaims, “there is something”. “A what something?” I question- she says “a big something.” Now she has a proven record of spotting game, despite not remembering their names, she knows what we are looking for. About that same time, I spot the huge figure of an obviously mature eland bull at a surprising 40 yds. It’s about to get real, real fast. The group is now just as aware of us as we are of them. They made a break for it across some open scrub brush. For the first time, we get a good look and can tell there are two shooters in this group of five bulls. The dust is bellowing at the clatter of their hooves. “Go Herman go!” We cut the next block and the next block and the next. They haven’t slowed down.

We finally catch a break and end up ahead of them. I spot the bulls trotting along as only mature eland bulls can. They resemble the huge Clydesdale horses gait. It doesn’t look like they are moving fast, but they are covering ground. We have the advantage as we see them but they haven’t seen us…yet. I’m on the gun, when the first bull hits the brakes mid-road at 150 yds. We are on even ground now- both aware of each other. The 3rd bull is mature but the 5th bull is the ONE. The dust is filtering by, the bulls stare intently in our direction, the pressure is throbbing in my ears. I have a clear shoulder on the 3rd bull and the crosshairs on the chin of the 5th as he stands behind brush. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush they say. A hunting god on my right shoulder is telling me to wait, be patience, do the responsible thing. The devil on my left is tempting me to take the neck shot on the bigger bull. Movement breaks the tug-a-war. The rear bull has now moved forward toward the road but is screened by the 4th bull. I’m mentally breaking down, losing focus. Like cranking the Jack-In-The-Box toy as a kid, I know with each rotation of the handle, it will soon spring from the box. The group begins moving in unison and I’m seeing my window of opportunity closing through my tunnel vision. Here is where things get foggy. Honestly, I can’t remember my sight picture but I squeeze off. My experience says I must have had an opening. My memory tells me nothing. Now it’s an explosion of dust! I ask what happened and Theuni says I think you missed. We count 5 bulls trotting unscathed into the distance. :eek:

As an eager, impatient teenage boy with his first girlfriend, I get a slap of reality across the face for rushing the next step. I feel the same sting for making the same mistake. I wasn't patient. My 40+ yrs of hunting and 25 yrs experience of guiding other hunters have failed me! I have come to this desert to have my resolve tested, and tested it shall be.:cry:
 

buck wild

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Better Times Ahead

The 5 stages of grief are setting in- denial (how could I have missed a sheet of plywood at 150 yds ?), anger (crap I blew my one shot halfway around the world for gosh sake!), bargaining (I’d do anything for another chance, take my wife), depression (I couldn’t even look up) and finally acceptance (it happened, we are still in the game). I’ve given the same advice to other hunters that I give myself. Let’s move on. We have to get passed this so as to be ready if we are presented another opportunity. It takes me approximately one hour to get through the stages of grief as I hang up on anger the longest, but I come through it on the other side in a better place. We never discuss the miss after the initial realization that it happened, not even at the lodge later this evening. My telling it now is almost cathartic.

We try to pick up the tracks again, but the dust trail goes cold. Herman sets out on the track with a radio. Their trail intersects with other fresh tracks in a tangled web of eland. Herman is focused on sorting out the jigsaw puzzle as we leave him to his work. We continue on into several other blocks and approximately 30 minutes later as we are crossing blocks looking at fresh eland tracks, out pops Herman. He has steadily been on the trail since we dropped him off. That’s persistence!

25.2 Theuni Herman walking.png


He rejoins as our driver and up ahead we see another dust cloud. We catch up only to see it’s the large herd of eland cows from days before. The lead cow has them on the move and we hope the group of bulls might join in at some point. We stay try to stay in contact with them but lose the battle.

An excited radio call in Afrikaans cracks across the air. The other tracker and Theuns have cut the fresh tracks of the bulls. We speed ahead cutting blocks looking for the telltale signs they have been through. The other bakkie has eyes on them. The group apparently has enough dust in their throats that they take refuge near the waterhole we staked out days earlier. As we approach, they bolt again. Again we employ the same tactic, trying to cut blocks in front of them. Theuns and the second tracker double back. They have them located again. We slip is as quietly as possible and we find them standing in the shade. Although the whole group isn’t visible, we can see a mop head, blue bull. His vitals are partially screened again but I can see his nostrils flaring through the scope as the heat waves bubbling up partially hypnotize me. Dang it son, stay focused. There will be no more chances. Your lucky rabbit’s foot has dried up like last year’s biltong already. I’m steady, focused, ready. The ole bull takes one step forward as I squeeze. I know the shot is good. The group bolts left then I see them pause 100 yds out through an opening. Something in the back of my mind confirms they must be looking back at the downed monarch.

Everyone confirms the sight and sounds of a solid hit. We find the location which is surprisingly closer than I thought. I was estimating 200 yds as we were peering through a hole in the bush. It was more like 100-125 yds. Theuni finds the first blood ten yards into the track. It’s a good clump of lung blood. Herman is up ahead and spots another, and another, and another. We are on the spoor but I can’t relax just yet. 50 yds into the track Theuni points and exclaims there he is. I’m startled by the exclamation and begin to take aim. No need, he is down and larger in body than even I could have imagined. It’s my first visible signs of excitement. HOLY COW or is it HOLY BULL? As we admire him, Herman retrieves the bakkie along with my wife followed by the second bakkie with Theuns driving and the other tracker. As they turn the corner, I can see my wife visibly react to the size of the bull with her eyes as big as saucers.

Herman, the second tracker, Theuni and Theuns go to work getting the ole, ole bull into position for suitable pics. It’s quite a show. I employ Herman to dance with me in celebration and he obligates. I can see the pride in Theuns’ face as he knows he had a part in our success. We first saw eland at 8:30, missed around 10:45 and here at 1:30, I’m popping open a celebratory beer. It serves two purposes, in recognition of a job well done and secondly to quench my parched mouth. This completes the South African Spiral Horn Slam for me.

25.15 eland group LDP.png

26.2 eland.jpg

26.2 eland loading3.jpg


Everyone always guesses live weights too heavy. I’m not sure but he seemed big. PH guessed 1K kgs. Internet says up to 2,200 pounds for mature bull eland. I suspect he is closer to 1,800 pounds.
 
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buck wild

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We head back to the lodge for a late lunch: Empanadas (fried meat pies) stuffed with impala and fruit salad.



27.1 lunch smily fries.JPG


27.2 AAA lodge deck.png


27.3 AAA lodge.png


It’s been a long morning but this is our last hunting day. We still have gemsbok and springbok to chase. The afternoons are very slow- the trend all trip. We are back in blocks where the large gemsbok have slipped us several times. We do spot a small group mixed in with blesbok and wildebeest. We check the wind and work parallel to their position. We bounce from bush to bush working the general direction we think they are headed. After working through another block, we never find them. The blesbok and wildebeest are still there. We finally admit defeat at the hooves of the mighty Kalahari gemsbok. As we tread back to the bakkie, I reflect back on the whirlwind of events. It’s been a ride for sure. The sun is setting as we make our way back. I’m capturing the last sunset photos. As we pass some zebra, I comment to my wife, look there is BLACK and white one; oh wow look there’s a WHITE and black one. Theuns is curiously staring at me trying to decide if I’m dumb or really on to something. I crack a smile in his direction and he laughs. :cool:


Whoa there, not so fast Herman, first time he heard slow down all trip- there’s a gemsbok in the fading light. Finally standing still- where’s that’s extra twilight I’m willing to buy?? Just not my trip for gemsbok and it turns out to be a 32-33” bull. It’s not his time.

28.0 run zebra.jpg


28.3 sunset.png


28.5 AAA sunset.png


Dinner: steak, white potatoes, salad and ice cream. My last evening toast to Serapa, “Please raise your glasses. It took us 50 years to get here, here’s to it not taking us so long to get back. To Yolande and Adolph, thanks for inviting us into your home and for all the hospitality you have shown us; to Francois- you’re as genuine and sincere a gentlemen as I have ever met and you have laughed at all my jokes; to Theuni, thanks for keeping us safe, we’ve had an enjoyable trip and lasting memories; and lastly to Theuns, you have made me laugh, made me smile and you will only be able to appreciate what you have meant to this safari in another 30 yrs. Cheers!”

The evening at the bar is more festive tonight. Things start to get lively with talk of the “PH Journey song”. Adolph has been conducting DJ duties all week. The Serepa lodge sound system is second to none. The DJ is able to que up the requested PH song and we all sing along to the Journey classic “Don’t Stop Believing”. There’s an extra spark in the air. The next hour is filled with 80’s sing along classics and more cocktails. As alcohol often does, the inhibitions are reduced and next thing we know PH Theuni is doing some sort of chicken dance based on a South Africa song about someone having their bucket of KFC chicken stolen. We are crying laughing and young Theuns appears stunned at his father’s dancing ability, which truth be told isn’t half bad. I’m inspired and request Silver Wings by Merle Haggard as that was the first song my wife and I danced to at our wedding. Given this is also our 10 yr wedding anniversary trip, I grab her and we twirl around the Serapa great room dance floor. In wrapping up the evening I call over Lil’ PH Theuns and give him my trailcam in appreciation of all his hard work over the week. I hope it provides him with hours of entertainment on his own home farm.
 
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cpr0312

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Congrats on the eland!! Man they are fun to hunt and surprisingly elusive for as massive as they are!
 

BWH

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Excellent bull. Congratulations! Send my best to Jacques, Yolanda & staff
 

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Better Times Ahead

The 5 stages of grief are setting in- denial (how could I have missed a sheet of plywood at 150 yds ?), anger (crap I blew my one shot halfway around the world for gosh sake!), bargaining (I’d do anything for another chance, take my wife), depression (I couldn’t even look up) and finally acceptance (it happened, we are still in the game). I’ve given the same advice to other hunters that I give myself. Let’s move on. We have to get passed this so as to be ready if we are presented another opportunity. It takes me approximately one hour to get through the stages of grief as I hang up on anger the longest, but I come through it on the other side in a better place. We never discuss the miss after the initial realization that it happened, not even at the lodge later this evening. My telling it now is almost cathartic.

We try to pick up the tracks again, but the dust trail goes cold. Herman sets out on the track with a radio. Their trail intersects with other fresh tracks in a tangled web of eland. Herman is focused on sorting out the jigsaw puzzle as we leave him to his work. We continue on into several other blocks and approximately 30 minutes later as we are crossing blocks looking at fresh eland tracks, out pops Herman. He has steadily been on the trail since we dropped him off. That’s persistence!

View attachment 242132

He rejoins as our driver and up ahead we see another dust cloud. We catch up only to see it’s the large herd of eland cows from days before. The lead cow has them on the move and we hope the group of bulls might join in at some point. We stay try to stay in contact with them but lose the battle.

An excited radio call in Afrikaans cracks across the air. The other tracker and Theuns have cut the fresh tracks of the bulls. We speed ahead cutting blocks looking for the telltale signs they have been through. The other bakkie has eyes on them. The group apparently has enough dust in their throats that they take refuge near the waterhole we staked out days earlier. As we approach, they bolt again. Again we employ the same tactic, trying to cut blocks in front of them. Theuns and the second tracker double back. They have them located again. We slip is as quietly as possible and we find them standing in the shade. Although the whole group isn’t visible, we can see a mop head, blue bull. His vitals are partially screened again but I can see his nostrils flaring through the scope as the heat waves bubbling up partially hypnotize me. Dang it son, stay focused. There will be no more chances. Your lucky rabbit’s foot has dried up like last year’s biltong already. I’m steady, focused, ready. The ole bull takes one step forward as I squeeze. I know the shot is good. The group bolts left then I see them pause 100 yds out through an opening. Something in the back of my mind confirms they must be looking back at the downed monarch.

Everyone confirms the sight and sounds of a solid hit. We find the location which is surprisingly closer than I thought. I was estimating 200 yds as we were peering through a hole in the bush. It was more like 100-125 yds. Theuni finds the first blood ten yards into the track. It’s a good clump of lung blood. Herman is up ahead and spots another, and another, and another. We are on the spoor but I can’t relax just yet. 50 yds into the track Theuni points and exclaims there he is. I’m startled by the exclamation and begin to take aim. No need, he is down and larger in body than even I could have imagined. It’s my first visible signs of excitement. HOLY COW or is it HOLY BULL? As we admire him, Herman retrieves the bakkie along with my wife followed by the second bakkie with Theuns driving and the other tracker. As they turn the corner, I can see my wife visibly react to the size of the bull with her eyes as big as saucers.

Herman, the second tracker, Theuni and Theuns go to work getting the ole, ole bull into position for suitable pics. It’s quite a show. I employ Herman to dance with me in celebration and he obligates. I can see the pride in Theuns’ face as he knows he had a part in our success. We first saw eland at 8:30, missed around 10:45 and here at 1:30, I’m popping open a celebratory beer. It serves two purposes, in recognition of a job well done and secondly to quench my parched mouth. This completes the South African Spiral Horn Slam for me.

View attachment 242129
View attachment 242131
View attachment 242130

Everyone always guesses live weights too heavy. I’m not sure but he seemed big. PH guessed 1K kgs. Internet says up to 2,200 pounds for mature bull eland. I suspect he is closer to 1,800 pounds.

Awesome bull!
 

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