SOUTH AFRICA: African Cape Safaris April 2017

Vanguard2279

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Oh, where to begin? I suppose that I should acknowledge a few things before I start. I'm impulsive, hence why I returned from my first hunt with Cruiser Safaris in September 2016 and immediately booked a return engagement for April 2017. Considering I had booked a Moose hunt in Newfoundland in September 2017, I have to admit that I "over-hunted" this a bit. I'm going to have to develop a little chill or I'm not going to have a place to hang my trophies except under an overpass. I'm kidding about that, but you get the idea. Secondly, I shot like absolute crap on this journey. I did not lose any animals, but you'll understand as we progress.

I booked with African Cape Safaris (www.africancapesafaris.com) through their booking agent, Brian Clark. Brian is the son of Cruiser's booking agent, Bob. I had found the website when I was researching my first hunt. Brian was incredibly helpful and to him I am thankful. I booked six months out with Delta Airlines LAS-ATL-JNB and South African Airlines from JNB to Port Elizabeth.

RIFLE: Forbes 24B .30-06 with 180-grain Hornady GMX monometal bullets with 57 grains of RL-22. This load was phenomenally accurate while being consistently above 2800 fps (chono verified). I checked chambering of all rounds before I left, but I did forego utilizing new brass, a mistake I won't make again.

I departed Las Vegas on 04/13 and arrived the evening of the 14th at OR Tambo. I was met by Xolile "Mr. X" (Afton Guest House's concierge) who went with me to the SAPS office to get my rifle. I had gotten a pre-approved firearms permit prior to leaving and yes, I got a new 4457 upon learning that this was going to be an issue. No issues at the SAPS office and I was on the way to Afton with three other hunters. I even got a picture with two of the SAPS Officers.
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Two of the guys were travelling to Windhoek the next morning to hunt with Namibia Safari Corporation. I told them that the outfitter, Jaco Van der Merwe, had donated a 2x1 hunt to the SCI Las Vegas chapter banquet which I won for April 2018. They had both hunted with Jaco several times in the past and it was great to hear what a great time my doctor and I will have next year.

The other hunter had already had a difficult trip. His rifle case and ammo box locks had all been cut somewhere between San Diego and Johannesburg. I gave him the two extra locks that I had brought in case the same happened to me. He was catching a flight in the morning into the Limpopo to hunt with SS Pro Safaris. I advised him on the van ride about the disappearance of Scott Van Zyl ( Rest well, sir).

The next day, Xolile took me to the airport and made sure I got checked in securely. The ticket counter lady did not ask me to take my ammo box out of my luggage for the flight. Mr. X related to me that he had advised her of my ammo and it was not of concern. I was a little tense going into the office to drop off my rifle, but there were no issues there either.

The flight to Port Elisabeth was fine. SAA is a nice airline. I was met by my PH for the trip, Braun "Proppie" Olckers, by the firearms desk. Proppie is a short, stocky, extremely well read and knowledgeable guy. I told him that we should get lunch at Hooters. For a guy who professes to have only been there once, he knew the shortest route. I live in Vegas. We have the Hooters Casino and one separate restaurant. I could go any day that I wanted; however, when will I get to go in the southern tip of Africa? It was good, if a little different than one would have in the States and much cheaper.

We arrived at the lodge and I met my hosts, Kevin and Natalie Bowker. Absolutely wonderful people. I was made to immediately feel at home. I was the only hunter in camp that week so I was given the deluxe chalet. It was large and clean and my bed was comfortable. I have experienced two South African hunts so far and it is difficult not to compare them. Neither was better, but they were distinctly different. African Cape is much more rustic. It feels like a hunting lodge. Kevin would come up to cook breakfast every morning for Proppie and I in my chalet. Natalie would prepare lunch and dinner in the middle building/Dining Facility. That woman can cook! Dinner the first night was Wildebeest lasagna. I still had a gaping hole in my gum from a wisdom tooth extraction which diminished my ability to eat everything. Eventually, I decided to just suffer.

This is going to be a long story so I'm going to do it in installments. It's going to be a long evening,....
 

Erny

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I love this kind of write up. Looking foward to the rest.
 

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good job thus far.....
 

Vanguard2279

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04/16/2017 Easter Sunday
Woke at 0530, had breakfast and rolled out. The hunting party consisted of Proppie, NuNu (skinner/tracker) and myself.
The first thing that I really noticed about the Bowker farm was just how much more open that it was than what I had seen of the Limpopo. I knew immediately that this was going to be harder and for that I was grateful. We started stalking Black Wildebeest and eventually started pursuing Red Hartebeest. I was presented with one really good opportunity, but a female Hartebeest consistently blocked the male from me being able to take the shot.

We returned to the lodge for lunch which was Gemsbok Pot Pie. It was then that Kevin suggested that we target a very cagey territorial Black Wildebeest bull who was living on a mountain. Off we went,....

In the later afternoon, we caught up to the Bull who was considerate enough to stop on a hillside across from us. I don't remember the range, but I sent one round out. The Bull bucked and took off. Further investigation failed to reveal any blood or hair. Not a good start. I was concerned that I had severely wounded the bull and I wanted it down. Proppie urged me to let it go for the evening and that we would return in the morning to sort this out. There is a twist to this story so be patient.

Dinner was Lamb chops and Blue Wildebeest sausage. I also realized that I would return to the Eastern Cape and the Bowker farm to hunt again.

04/17/2017 Monday

We rose at 0530, had breakfast and headed out to where we had last seen the bull. We stealthily ascended the mountain and located the bull standing still looking at us at approximately 100 yards. He did not show signs of having been hit. I was relieved by that. I lined up and then the bull turned to the left. I sent one round and the bull bucked and took off. I would later learn that my shot had struck high and back from the shoulder. We tracked the blood for a distance before observing an irritated Black Wildebeest staring at us from across a ravine. Proppie and I stalked with NuNu observing from our original location. We closed to about 100 yards and I sent one into the Wildebeest's heart. Fortunately, it was down and dead when we walked up to it.

I was absolutely impressed with this animal. Bosses that rose above the head and horn tips that rose above the bosses. It was then that I looked down and saw UDDERS. I asked Proppie, "Is this a bull?" Somewhat aghast, Proppie exclained that it was a COW! That's right, ya'all. A cow living like a territorial bull on a mountain. I'm not a zoologist, but I understand that this is not normal. And because of the behavior, everyone was convinced she was a bull. And to be clear, I wouldn't have hunted a cow if I had known. A few days later, Kevin told me not to worry about it as he wanted me to have a chance at a bull. I was grateful, but felt a responsibility to her as I was the one to shoot her. She will live on my wall for as long as I inhabit this Earth. Kevin was cool with that and charged me a very gracious non-trophy fee.
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Vanguard2279

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Still Monday and this is where things get frustrating.

Emboldened by our success, Proppie suggests that we pursue Blesbok on an adjacent property. It is now that I should mention that the Bowker family were significantly instrumental in saving the Bontebok in the Eastern Cape. Kevin's cousin Meyrick (www.bowkersafaris.co.za) has an impressive number of these beautiful animals on his farm. I hope to hunt one someday. It will be when I have a house where a full body mount in the corner won't seem odd.

We locate a herd of Blesbok and then find a group of four bachelors hanging out on the periphery. We get within 100 yards of this group where they stare at us. I mount the sticks, sight on the largest and fire. I miss. The Blesbok turn their heads and look towards where the bullet struck as if to say, "Hey, the ground just blew up!". Then, they would stare at us. I fired three rounds total, missing each time with the exact same reaction from the Blesbok rams. Eventually, they sauntered off. Proppie told me that he thought I may have been too far forward on the sticks and teetering. Regardless, it was not a proud moment for me.

We continued to stalk the group and eventually got within about 150 yards. I shot from a sitting position at what we felt was the herd ram,...and missed! Fortunately, I got back on target and finally hit him. Down he went where he stood. I don't remember ever shooting this badly. I miffed a shot on a Blue Wildebeest in September (documented in my previous hunt report), but put all other animals down quickly. I would like to say that it's because I haven't practiced shooting off of sticks, but I have no real excuse. I have purchased a shooting tripod and will not leave the country again without extensive practice. I must say that they are a pretty animal when they are alive, but I have never seen a shoulder mount where this shows. I'm having the backskin tanned on this one.
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Vanguard2279

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By the way, the Black Wildebeest cow had a burn mark on her back where my bullet grazed her the first day. We never heard the thump of the bullet strike.

04/18/2017 Tuesday

I arose at 0400 and the three of us headed for a farm outside of Bedford owned by PH Augie Pringle to hunt Fallow Deer. We arrived at 0630 and made contact with Augie. He was gracious enough to send one of his trackers (Rocky) with us to locate a Buck. To start, I want to say how awesome it was to hear Fallow Deer grunting for females in that valley. We climbed up a mountain and down into the valley below before we heard a Buck beating up a tree. We stalked approximately 60 yards of where the Buck was taking a break from his rut activities behind a large bush. Eventually, he stood up. I advised Proppie that I could see his head/antlers and his rear end and any shot would have to make it through the bush to be effective. This was a fairly thick cover area. Proppie told me that the shot was doable. I estimated where his vitals would be and I fired. Keep in mind, my shooting confidence is not high at this moment. The bullet made it through the bush, struck the Buck on the left side angling forward and exited by his right shoulder. We heard the bullet thump, followed by crashing as the Buck ran about 20 yards before collapsing dead. He was fabulous Buck in my eyes. NuNu examined his teeth and advised me that he was an old deer. Exactly what I was hoping for. I will characterize this as my luckiest shot of the trip.

NuNu and Rocky worked on skinning the Buck while Proppie and I took a drive up into the surrounding mountains looking for a Warthog. We were unsuccessful in getting close to one. No matter. We headed back to the Bowker farm with our salted cape.
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Vanguard2279

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Still Tuesday

On our various expeditions after Red Hartebeest, I observed an interesting trio of Zebra. Two with large heads and thick necks and shadow striping that shined as brownish gold in the sun and a somewhat smaller one with little to no shadow stripes. I was fascinated by these Zebra, but could not positively verify that any of them was a stallion. I suggested to Proppie that we go see if we could as we were scheduled to visit a farm with larger numbers of Zebra the next day. To be clear, these were the only three Zebra on this property and they were in an area with hundreds of yards of open space. Stalking anything here had been difficult. We knew that we were going to have to get gangster on this one.

I just took a break to grab a Red Stripe. Now, alcohol is involved in telling the rest of this story.

We had NuNu drop us off away from the Zebra and continue driving. Proppie and I stealthily made our way to a group of four or five trees growing close together. The Zebra slowly started making their way towards us and Proppie was able to identify one of the larger Zebra as a stallion. They were moving with a group of Springbok and the stallion stopped about 175 yards from and facing me. From a sitting position, I discharged one round into his chest. I lost the stallion in recoil, but observed the racing Zebra and Springbok run by us to our right. It was then that my first rifle problem occurred. I could easily lift the bolt, but not retract it. I had to whack the bolt handle to get the case out of the chamber. Keep in mind, all unfired rounds still easily cycled through the action. If I fired a round during the day, I at least knocked the major fouling out of the barrel and relubed. I definitely made it a point to remove what fouling I found in the chamber. The extraction problem would poke it's head up randomly in the future. I necksize all of my ammo and had never had this happen before. After returning home, I fired some factory Nosler .30-06 through my weapon with no reoccurrence.

Proppie was yelling that he was down, but I didn't know where he was. After being struck, he had run across our front to our left about 50 yards before piling up dead. NuNu was able to recover the bullet for me later and he indicated that it had taken out the heart and lungs. This was my best shot of the trip.
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NuNu took the truck and returned to the farm to get additional gentlemen to assist us with loading the stallion. He brought back three. Proppie told me that everybody liked Zebra as there were certain delicacies that they particularly enjoyed. I think it was from this that my bullet was recovered the next day. I'm saving the backskin of this Stallion and having a wall pedestal mount made. Sadly, I don't think the lighting in my home will bring out the gold reflection that I saw from the sun.
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Vanguard2279

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04/19/2017 Wednesday

We chased Hartebeest all day, but were not able to get within 250 yards of them. And to be honest, I wasn't feeling confident enough to try to pull off a shot longer than that.

Dinner: Gemsbok steaks which were fabulous.

04/20/2017 Thursday

We chased Red Hartebeest in the morning and Black Wildebeest in the afternoon. We were able to conduct a lengthy stalk in thicker cover and get within 100 yards of a nice Black Wildebeest bull, but he remained safely surrounded by cows as he stood there growling at us. I know they don't growl. It sounded like that, though.

Kevin Bowker had left to hunt Caracal along the coast with a client who wasn't staying at the lodge. We were joined for dinner by his cousin Meyrick, Meyrick's wife Alexis and their daughter Lily. It was a great evening and I was delighted to find out how closely South Africans watch our political scene even if it's because it provides them levity from their own politics. Meyrick told us about three Black Wildebeest bulls that he had on his farm (Thorn Kloof) that neighbored Kevin's. He also said that he would hunt with us the next day after he got some things done.

Dinner: Lamb which was also great.

04/21/2017 Friday

On the morning of my last hunting day, I woke with three tags open. We hit the field at 0600 and made our way into the mountains after the herd of Wildebeest that we had seen the night before. Fog had set in which was beautiful, but prevented us from seeing the Wildebeest. Eventually, we located them and attempted a stalk. Unfortunately, we were blown and they took off. We then headed to Meyrick's. We picked him up and eventually located the trio of Black Wildebeest bulls. Proppie and I set up on a hill and waited for them to get near. Two of them broke through the low cattle fence and took off. The third came our way. I lined up, but he turned as I fired, taking a non-stopping hit. I threw another round at him as he ran away, striking him, but essentially only pissing him off. We caught up to him shortly after this where I was able to finish him. First of three down.
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Vanguard2279

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By the way, I want to share this photo of a cactus segment that I didn't have to deal with in the Limpopo. Early in the hunt, I got stuck a few times in the legs. I eventually became adept at avoiding them in my skin.
 

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Vanguard2279

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Still Friday

We dropped Meyrick off at his farm and left NuNu to skin the bull. Proppie and I returned to Kevin's property to chase Red Hartebeest. We wee not able to get close to them, but did formulate a plan for the afternoon. After lunch, we picked up NuNu and Meyrick and returned to chase Hartebeest. Proppie and I stalked with several hundred yards undetected while the Hartebeest where watching Meyrick and NuNu. As a good bull approached, I fired and made a hit, but it was low and non-stopping. The bull ran down the slope into a thicket of trees by a waterhole. Meyrick went in from one direction and the Hartebeest exited from the other and stopped on a hill above us. I fired and dropped him. This was a surprisingly good hit, but he was still moving. I ran up to him. On the way, I noticed an odd metallic reflection from his left shoulder. I would soon discover that the GMX had stuck, swapped ends and that the bullet shank was sticking out of his shoulder and being held in the skin by the mushroom. I ran up and put an additional round in his heart.

To be clear, we had seen Warthogs during our hunt, but always significant distances away. I will never forget the enormous male Warthog that we had seen chasing his girlfriend, but sensed our presence and turned into a Ninja. And it came to be, at 1700 hours on the last day of my hunt that Proppie and I attempted a stalk on a beast that we had seen from a distance. Sadly, he eluded us. I have come to the conclusion that this is my quest. Some people dream of a 30" Nyala or a 50" hard-bossed Cape Buffalo or a 40" Mule Deer. My quest is a Warthog. And it is one I will enjoy.
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Vanguard2279

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04/22/2017 Saturday

Natalie made a rockstar breakfast of eggs, links and bacon. I told her that I was coming back, but it may not be until 2020 (unless I spaz out and book sooner than that). I am not an agent for nor do I benefit from African Cape Safaris. Having said that, I highly recommend them to anybody that is looking for a challenging hunt in the Eastern Cape. The terrain is varied and beautiful. The people are friendly. The food was great. Kevin and Natalie are amazing people. Proppie is a great and patient Professional Hunter. The hunting is not easy buy any stretch of the imagination. The lodge is comfortable and you truthfully are in the middle of your hunting area.

I bear full responsibility for my horrendous shooting on this trip. I've kind of figured out the root cause and know what I need to do to correct it. It was an unpleasant surprise as I've never shot that badly before. Definitely humbling,....

I tipped NuNu with rand and a AfricaHunting hat that I got at the get-together at SCI this year. Thanks, Jerome! I figure we can fly the flag wherever we can.

Proppie took me to the Port Elizabeth airport and checked in. The flight back to JNB was uneventful. However, the lady working the firearms desk in the domestic terminal acted as I have heard she would from various posts on AH. After signing for my rifle, she asked, "Do you have anything for me?" I gave her three US dollars. She looked disappointed. I enjoyed that.

I hit Out of Africa and picked up small gifts for my co-workers and two more stuffed animals for my granddaughter, Penelope.

The flights home were exhausting, but uneventful. I discovered that I was sitting next to the same older couple that I had flown over with. A strange coincidence, but a happy one. I returned home and thanked the friend who house and dog sat for me.

And that, my friends, is my story. On 04/25/2017, I celebrated my anniversary with my wife Caeli who is no longer with us. Just me and her picture in Marche Bacchus. It's just something that I do. I dedicate this safari and this story to her. Her short and beautiful life and the courage that she faced cancer give me the drive to do as much as I can, to live as much as I can Yes, I know that these last two aren't hunting pictures, but please indulge me. Thank you for reading.
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Vanguard2279

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I forgot to mention: Before we left Port Elisabeth, we stopped at Splitting Image Taxidermy and got a wonderful tour. Ashley and I discussed what mounts I would get and I was impressed by their helpfulness. I went to work Monday morning and I will say that jet lag is much worse coming back them going over. Thanks again, everyone.
 

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Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 

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Awesome stuff, it was a good read
 

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Great report. I enjoyed reading about your hunt. It sounds like you had a great time. Some good trophies. Congrats. Bruce
 

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Congrats, seems like you had a great time.

And thanks for sharing !
 

MMAL

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Awesome hunt and story. Thank you for sharing it with us.
 

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