SOUTH AFRICA: Africa A Dream Realized With SS Pro Safaris

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Wallnutt, Feb 14, 2016.

  1. Wallnutt

    Wallnutt AH Member

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    Africa was always a dream that I thought would be beyond my reach. I had a close friend who traveled with his father to Africa when we were in late High School. I was instantly fascinated by their pictures and trophies from the trip. I swore that some day I would see Africa and experience it for myself. After graduation, college, a decade in Law Enforcement and spending several years working contract in the middle east, I was offered a job opportunity that would bring me back home for good. I had managed to squirrel away a chunk of money and decided that a little “to me from me” gift was in order……..it was time to realize a dream. I had spent a lot of time researching Outfitters and making plans in my head, but now it was time to decide and commit. I placed a deposit with Scott Van Zyl at S&S Pro Safaris to put the plan in motion. I explained my wishes to Scott and spent considerable time asking rookie questions. Scott was patient and accommodating to say the least. I expressed interest in a Croc and Scott was quick to make me a deal I could not refuse. So after 20 long years the dream was about to become reality.

    The months ticked by with painful agony as I waited for the appointed time to arrive. I had invited my Father to come along and participate in the adventure. Though not himself a hunter, Pop has always encouraged my love for the outdoors and managed to tag along once in a while over the years to experience a hunt for himself. I could not have imagined taking this trip without him. As a young boy I had pleaded with him to buy me a rifle to hunt deer, instead he bought me a shotgun. “Learn to be safe and efficient with this and we will see” was his answer to me. And so I did and then on my seventeenth birthday I unwrapped a shiny new Remington 700 in .270. Over the years my passion for precision rifles has grown immensely and I have managed to collect a safe full of many fine rifles. But for this hunt, this dream, I couldn’t imagine taking any other rifle besides that old banged up Remington. I built some Loads for it using Barnes Bullets that I was confident would handle anything on our menu. Finally the gear was packed and we were under way!

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    Upon arrival in Johannesburg, we were greeted by my PH Marcel Van Heerden. I must say I was a bit surprised to see him inside the airport with a 9mm strapped on his hip…we definitely weren’t in NC anymore. Processing through SA Police station to retrieve our guns was painless, as we had hired the Afton House to prearrange the rifle permits. We were in and out in 10 minutes! We quickly loaded our gear into the truck and headed off towards Ellisras. We arrived in the dark to a herd of Wildebeest grazing across the field next to camp! Over the course of a few Carling Black Labels and Brandy we met the staff and our other PH Abel Olivier, Scotts brother. I knew almost instantly we had come to the right place, these guys were down to earth and just like us except they wore very short pants and spoke in a strange accent. Lol. I could tell by the passion in their voices that hunting was not just a job to these guys, they truly loved it. The camp itself was warm and inviting, the accommodations more than ample.
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    The view from camp the next morning was majestic as the camp sits at the foot of the Waterburg Mountains. We also met Scotts wife Sure’, the camp Hostess and Manager. Miss Sure’ made us feel like old friends from the start and saw that we always had anything we needed. One night she and Scott even took us into town for drinks and dinner with some of their friends. Scott and Sure’ made us feel like family. But enough about camp….let’s go hunting!

    The man himself....Scott Van Zyl
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    View from camp the first morning....
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    Hey Marcel, I think I located the missing bag of Biltong. Lol. Someone put it in the tree.
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    After a quick range session to check zero on the rifles we headed out in search of game. It didn’t take long for Abel to stop the truck and Marcel to grab the sticks. We were off and in minutes I was staring through my NightForce at a fine Zebra Stallion. He fell at the shot and was down! Maybe I wasn’t under-gunned after all.

    Yep......Its a Stallion. Lol. How they could tell from in the herd in the thick is still beyond me.
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    As we admired the Stallion, Abel grabbed Brian and they were off to try and finish the double. We could hear the scattered herd calling, trying to reassemble. Some 20 minutes later we heard the shot and knew that Brian had collected his Stallion.
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    I never would have thought we'd get them both into the truck together. Ol Maude, Marcels dog, loved to pose for a photo.
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    We spent the rest of the day setting baits with quarters from a Hippo....Oh the Smell!!!
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    Clearing and brushing in a hide....
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    First African sunset. A beautiful place.......
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    With stripes off the list it was time to head out to the Croc concession. We spent the next three days chasing lizards on a concession two hours from the main camp, near the Botswana border.
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    In the middle of nowhere we were even able to locate a watering hole one evening....though we turned out to be the bulk of the crowd.
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    These two always in constant competition. That might be against the rules Abel.
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    I was operating under the assumption that this would be a fairly simple hunt….boy have I watched too much National Geographic!! These Crocs were some of the spookiest and wariest animals I had ever seen. We made several failed stalks and some successful ones as well, though not on the one we were after.
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    On one occasion Marcel and I belly crawled out onto a high bank overlooking the river between Botswana and SA. Marcel had spotted a good Croc and wanted me to take a look. Once in position on my bipod he asked “What do you think?” I replied “He’s good I think, but then what do I know.” Unbeknownst to me, this was Marcels way of testing my resolve and feeling out what I was looking for in a trophy. He instructed me to quietly clear my chamber. ????What??? Take aim at the horn on the head. ???? OK??? Steady. ???? Yes ??? Now Jeremy, shoot him. ??? Ok…..(Click). The Croc slides into the water. “ This was a School Lesson, that Croc was 3.5+ meters. Now you know what you are looking for.” I loved this guys patience.
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    The stalking, walking and waiting made for good naps for some of us as well....
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    Later on while sneaking the banks we spotted several Warthogs feeding on the slope of a dry section of river bed. We glassed them for some time and decided on an old male with one side worn down; I always like the worn down old warriors. At the shot he folded and slid down the slope. I was stunned at how tough and leathery the hide was. We headed back to camp and prepared to start new in the morning.
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    Next morning Brian made a bad shot on a big croc right out of the gate. He slid into the murky water never to be seen again. Now it began to set in just how tough this Croc hunting really was. We tried in vain to convince Brian to give it another shot; he had seen enough and wanted no part of it. Lol.
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    On the third morning Abel and Marcel snuck out to check a spot and shortly radioed back to the truck “ Send Jeremy with a rifle”! Time to stand and deliver. Abel and Marcel had located a nice Croc sunning in a wide bend in the river. He told me we would have to crawl a ways and probably shoot from 150+ yards. I assured him I could handle it and off we went. We were able to crawl to within 140 yards when I finally spotted the Croc on the bank behind a tree trunk, with only his head exposed. With no cover to crawl any closer, Marcel set up the sticks very low and I sat Indian style to line up the shot. Though not super steady I felt comfortable enough to try it. At the shot the Croc wheeled and turned down the bank towards the water. I quickly gave him another one and Marcel followed up with the .375, per my request after having seen Brians Croc already get away. As he slid into the water my heart sank…I had missed the sweet spot. We bolted down the bank to the spot where he had submerged…..Bubbles…”We are still in it bud” said Marcel. He quickly explained that the Croc would have made for the hills and been long gone had he been able, he figured my shot had been a bit low. The next minutes were a blur as I tracked bubbles and swirls in the water.
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    Much like hunting Submarines........a bit stressful never knowing where your target is going to pop up next. Definitely was not my best shining display of marksmanship. Had to laugh at myself when it was all over though....
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    The Croc surfaced and allowed a couple more shots to the body, as we did not want to shoot his skull to pieces. Finally the frenzied shoot was over….no more bubbles. With a few throws of a large treble hook, Marcel pulled the crocs tail from the dark water. I was immediately flooded with relief. I was the proud owner of my first, and probably last Crocodile. Marcel reached out and shook my hand….”Looks like you got your moneys worth of action”. Indeed my friend, Indeed.
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    That evening we packed and prepared to head back to the S&S main lodge. Once back at camp in Ellisras, I watched the skinners butcher the Croc. Interestingly enough it had 134 river rocks, a bushbuck hoof, and a large ball of fishing line in its stomach. I guess the pickings had been slim.
    The next evening we were able to get a fine Bushbuck and Impala in short order. Looked like my shooting was back on track. Marcel was quite mad with himself for some reason when we recovered the bushbok, as one of its horns was broken and worn. He began to apologize emphatically. I was quick to stop him and let him know that, in fact, I was very pleased and would have still chosen to take him had I originally known he carried a broken horn. Again, a war torn old fighter….always a trophy in my book. He was quick to tell me that many hunters would not be satisfied and he was more than happy to get me another. I retorted much to his surprise, “Im not most hunters, he is a trophy to me.”
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    We spent the next two days searching for a Wildebeest. Marcel explained that we could easily go find one but it would require some extensive hiking up the mountainside and through some thick valleys, he expressing concern whether Pop could physically keep up. We decided to take our chances in a blind on one of the neighboring concessions, there was no way Pop would be left behind. Marcel and I both had gotten the impression he was having the time of his life. Not to mention he was doing a top-notch job of immortalizing the whole exploit on film. To the blind we went.
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    The second morning in the blind we were covered up in Kudu and Eland.
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    I had expressed to Marcel that I thought the Nyala to be the most beautiful animal in Africa and would someday love to take one, though the budget wouldn’t allow this time. Unbeknownst to me, Pop and Marcel had spoken the night before and arranged to get me an early Christmas present. As we sat in the blind watching an old broken horned Kudu bull shove the other bulls around, an Nyala ewe came strolling into the waterhole.
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    Seconds later a bull followed.
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    Pop whispered “Merry Christmas….he’s yours if you want him.” I quickly developed the shakes and was overcome with nerves. Marcel coached me to get ready and prepare to shoot, as he was not going to hang around for long. As the bull finished his quick drink at the waters edge, I sealed the deal with a Barnes Triple Shock. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement! I have no idea what he would score, but to me it was the most noble and majestic animal I had ever taken….a moment in time that I will never forget.
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    After lunch back at the lodge, we decided to give the blind another sit in hopes of a Wildebeest. We had seen tons of game that morning and figured it was a safe bet that a good bull would show if we stuck with it. We passed the afternoon watching impala, kudu, Egyptian geese and a few Eland. As the sun began to set I cracked a cold drink and relaxed back into my chair, reflecting on the whole experience and feeling blessed. Suddenly Marcel raised his glasses and announced that he could see a Wildebeest approaching. At this point I could not see the bull yet and waited to see what was going to happen; as light was fading. Marcel continued to watch the Bull approach from our left, “He is very old and worn, probably out of the herd.” As the Bull came into water, I finally was able to see him and raised my rifle for a closer look. “He will not score so well…we can do much better” said Marcel. As I watched the bull in the scope I could see his face was battered and scarred, the once sharp tips of his horns had long since worn away. There was no doubt in my mind, this was the bull we would take! Marcel looked at me with a bit of surprise when I gave him my thoughts. Pop reinforced my thoughts, “Definitely the one we should take.” At the shot he fell in his place. I was filled with emotion as we posed him for pictures. A perfect ending to a perfect hunt! We spent the evening celebrating by the fire.
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    Abel.....or as I liked to cal him..."Cousin Eddie". Lol
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    The PH wasn't to bad over the coals either.....
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    The bar Mascot had a rough Ten days as well.....
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    Brian and Abel stayed busy as well.....
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    The next day, with wish lists complete, we loaded up to help Marcel drag the roads at a neighboring concession. A gentleman from Indiana had come in from Zim to hunt Leopards with Scott. For those who don’t know, Scott is well known in the area as the “go-to” man for BIG Leopards. He runs baits and cameras year round, and has a kennel full of fine Hounds for when a cat wont cooperate on bait. We spent a few hours brushing out the roads and helped hang a bait.
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    This tree had seen some action too.....it was scarred with claw marks. A Leopard or two had definitely had dinner in this tree.
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    On the way back to camp we stopped to check a ground bait set for Honey Badger and Bush Pig. The camera showed that the Badger was coming like clock work at 8:00 PM! Marcel asked if I might be interested in hunting a Badger, as a previous client had paid to have one sent to him. A FREE Badger hunt…..absolutely!! Game on.
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    A Genet on the bait as well....
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    After dinner at camp we loaded up and headed out to sit the bait in hopes of connecting on the Badger. We got in at 6:30 just to be safe and sure enough the Badger showed around 8:30. Unfortunately he approached quickly and fed at the back of the bait offering little chance for a shot. I was amazed at how quickly he had his fill and was on his way. Still, this was a fine experience and probably on my list for next time.
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    We spent our last day in camp photographing the area from one of the mountain tops behind camp. What a view!
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    I had also prepared a time capsule for my twin 6 year old sons, whom I hope to take to Africa someday. I had arranged with Scott and Marcel to bury it in a spot on the concession. I had filled it with photos, silver dollars, porcupine quills, a bullet recovered from my Wildebeest, a few stones from the old Crocs belly, and 4 airplane bottles of fine Whiskey. We dug it in deep and marked the location by GPS. My hope is that the father/son hunt legacy will one day come full circle. I look forward to the day I can watch them dig it up!
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    I can’t say enough good things about S&S Pro Safaris. From start to finish this was the experience of a lifetime. Though the hunting was fabulous, Scott and Sure’ and staff really made this hunt for me. I left feeling like an old friend and not at all like a customer.
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    The facilities are warm and inviting, the food was delicious, and Marcel and Abel knew how to tailor a hunt to the individual. These folks are top notch in my book and I would highly recommend them to anyone looking to experience Africa for the first time or for the fifth time. From Elephants to Duikers, I have no doubt Scott and his crew can make it happen for you too.
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    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2016
    ChrisPy, lcq, AB2506 and 6 others like this.

  2. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    You guys look like you were having fun on this trip.
    Congrats on a successful trip and thanks for sharing.
     

  3. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    WOW what a great hunt report! Thanks for sharing the whole adventure! Outstanding pictures.
     

  4. Scott Slough

    Scott Slough AH Fanatic

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    Great report ... hard to pass up that kudu!
     

  5. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Nice report, congrats!
     

  6. hunting4sanity

    hunting4sanity AH Enthusiast

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    Awesome report, fantastic photography, congratulations!
     

  7. Lee M

    Lee M AH Fanatic

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    Nice write up. Thanks for sharing on AH!
     

  8. Patrick R

    Patrick R AH Fanatic

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    mmmm..., inexperience & unexperienced and will cause problems in the near future in RSA...

    but a hell of a write-up and photos. congratulations!!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 15, 2016

  9. Patrick R

    Patrick R AH Fanatic

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    mmmm..., inexperience & unexperienced and will cause problems in the near future in RSA...

    but a hell of a write-up and photos. congratulations!!
     

  10. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    SS Pro Safari has a nice operation, I love their kudu hunting!
     

  11. Desperatezulu

    Desperatezulu AH Veteran

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    Fantastic hunt! And I couldn't agree more with your idea of what makes a trophy - an old warrior with worn or broken horns is the ultimate!
     

  12. 375 Ruger Fan

    375 Ruger Fan AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Great report. Love the idea of the time capsule.
     
    Scott Slough likes this.

  13. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for sharing your experience and all the pics, congrats on the hunt!
     

  14. LivingTheDream

    LivingTheDream AH Legend

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    I'm with you on the old warrior trophies!! Awesome trip!!! And great report!
     

  15. Royal27

    Royal27 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    That's good stuff.

    Nothing like a family trip.
     

  16. Wallnutt

    Wallnutt AH Member

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    Thanks guys.......I enjoyed putting it all down and reliving it in my head. I'm just sorry it took 6 months to get around to writing it all up. Since the trip I have been putting together a group to go back summer of 2017 and Marcel flew in for a weekend on his way out to meet Scott at SCI. Great friends I will have forever.
     

  17. silverado

    silverado AH Senior Member

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    I hunted with Scott 2007 my wife and i had a great hunt,i hope to back with Scott again.
     

  18. Nyati

    Nyati AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats for a great hunt, and thanks for sharing !
     

  19. dory

    dory AH Fanatic

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    Cool shit .
    Love your choice of trophies .
     

  20. Scott Slough

    Scott Slough AH Fanatic

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    You may have stumbled on a new marketing strategy for all of the PH/outfitters ... bury a time capsule and have an automatic repeat customer!
     

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