SOUTH AFRICA: Back To Limpopo With Cheetau Safaris In 2021

ufg8r93

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Africa 2021 Notes. Bear with me – I’m annoyingly long-winded. As in 8,500 words long-winded. Maybe not quite as long-winded (or as entertaining) as @Hank2211, but long none the less.

Outfitter, PH, and staff: Cheetau Safaris, Werner and Carmen van der Walt (both licensed PHs). Third time hunting with Cheetau and my third time in Africa. Tracker Philamon, tracker/skinner George. Chef Eddie. Farm manager and dog handler Dons. Farm mechanic/game retrieval and welder extraordinaire Stian.

Dates: Arrive JNB on 26 April 2021; depart 6 May 2021– ATL to DFW to DOH to JNB via AA and Qatar Airlines in business class. 10 days hunting, 10 nights. Travel due to COVID and an extra stop cost me a day’s hunting on each end of this year’s trip.

Country and area: Waterberg District, Limpopo, South Africa

Travel: Used Travel Express, which was smart in these COVID-impacted times. This was my third itinerary for this trip – was originally ATL to DOH to JNB but Qatar dropped the ATL to DOH flight. Then was on DL direct, but DL dropped the direct flight. Then this ATL-DFW-DOH-JNB route via AA and Qatar. 38 hours from first wheels up to final touch down in JNB, 32 hours home. Difference largely due to shorter layovers on the way home. I liked Qatar and Doha. Business class was very nice compared to Delta and Doha is a beautiful airport. The AA folks were terrible, especially the snarky ticket counter agent in Atlanta after he found out I was traveling with firearms. But the Qatar folks actually acted like they were happy I was there – service was really good. There was a bit of a hassle re-checking my rifles in DFW (from Atlanta) on to DOG and JNB but all ended well.

The business lounge in Doha was terrific – a reflecting pool, two full-service/sit down restaurants, a smoking room, and very nice showers. I’d definitely consider using Qatar again via Doha – just hope they reinstate the ATL to DOH route. There is a note on my challenges with the TSA and this new route under another AH thread titled “One of many reasons I loathe the TSA and consider it GWB’s single worst achievement as a politician.” Okay, the actual thread is titled “TSA Behavior, Destructiveness and Airline Difficulty”, but you get the idea.
Doha business lounge reflecting pool.jpg


Concession: Alpetra Nature Preserve (primary concession and lodging), a mountainous concession located adjacent to the Welgevonden Game Reserve and the Marakele National Park. 10,000 acres. Very thick bush with leaves just starting to turn. Several running streams in the valleys and a few waterholes. Very thick and abundant grass, head high in some areas. Lots and lots of rocks. A fun but very challenging place to hunt. The fifth different concession I’ve hunted in Limpopo province. One nice thing about this concession – I didn’t hear a single “go away” bird the whole time I was there!
Alpetra view.jpg

Alpetra rocks.jpg


Lodge: There really isn’t a “main” lodge, but a series of buildings in a lodge area overlooking a nice pond. Two, two-bedroom chalets, each with a small kitchenette and seating area, a central dining room/kitchen building, an outdoor bar/dining area/boma where we spent a lot of time, a 3 bd house, a skinning shed, etc. The guy that owns the place also has a large home in the lodge area. The main lodge area is across the street from the rest of the hunting concession. From the lodge to the hunting concession was a 10-minute drive through 2 gates (one out of the lodge area, and one into the main concession).

view from chalet on rainy morning.jpg

main boma.jpg

my chalet.jpg


There was also a decent sized fully furnished bush camp in the middle of the hunting concession – I’d like to stay there in the future. And a separate tented camp (only one tent, with a cozy covered outdoor dining/lounging area and boma) on a lovely pond. The outdoor showers and outhouse would make for an interesting stay at the little tent camp. We had a nice bush lunch there one afternoon.

tent camp.jpg


Equipment:
  • Kimber Caprivi 416 RM with a Leupold VX6 1-6x24 using factory Winchester Safari 400 grain Nosler Partitions (~2400 fps);
  • Sauer 100 Classic 6.5x55 with a Leupold VX5 3-15x44 using handloaded 140 grain Nosler Partitions at 2700 fps;
  • Meopta Meopro 10x32 binos; and
  • Viperflex shooting sticks.
kimber caprivi 416 RM.jpg

sauer 100 6.5x55.jpg

Had my rangefinder but never used it – Werner uses the Leica rangefinding binos, and Carmen has the Swaro rangefinding binos. Rocky Outback 6” boots (waterproof) were perfect – waterproofing was key for crossing multiple streams just about every day. The relatively aggressive soles were perfect for all the mountain hiking.

Weather: Generally great weather – lows in the upper 40s and highs in the low 80s. Did have one morning get rained out. Was full moon when I arrived which made for challenging hunting. I hunted in shorts each day but needed my Carhartt vest, warm gloves, and beanie each morning. Didn’t use my warm jacket but certainly could have one or two mornings.

Primary targets: My first buffalo, impala, warthog, bushpig, mountain reedbuck, and common duiker.

Animals taken: Buff, impala, warthog, bushpig, waterbuck.

Overall experience: I’m a big fan of the Cheetau folks and was the only hunter in camp for the 10 days I was there. Really enjoy the smaller outfitters with personalized service, and Cheetau definitely fits this bill. Werner and Carmen have become friends and I thoroughly enjoy my time with them. Fun but very challenging concession for hunting. Lots of up and down mountains, through the rocks, and across streams. Quite honestly, I wasn’t physically prepared for hiking the mountains every day. Should have done more stadiums to prepare. Cheetau’s older and less physically active clients are in for a huge challenge on this concession. You have to be willing to put in the miles and elevation to find the animals here. Very thick brush and not a lot of roads. Loads of places for animals to hide, even the ~160 buffalo on the property.

I like to hunt on foot and Cheetau is always accommodating. We did lots of tracking hunts on this trip – since the terrain didn’t lend itself to spot and stalk, we’d find fresh tracks and follow where those went. We could frequently hear the game long before we could see it. A short day was 4.5 miles on foot, and our longest was 10.5 miles. We averaged almost 7 miles a day in very rocky, rugged terrain.

As we left the airport on the drive to the concession I had this overwhelming sense of relief and calmness – up until the day I left I was convinced something would derail the trip. I had dreams about it and experienced anxiety for the first time in my life. I was thrilled to be back in Africa again.

Consistent with my report from 2019 (the last time I was in Africa), I’ll arrange this one around the animals rather than a day-by-day account. Settle in and bear with me – I warned you about my verbosity.

tent camp pond view.jpg
 
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gillettehunter

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Looking forward to the rest of this report.
Bruce
 

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All looks great so far. I'll look forward to reading your report, thanks for posting your start on your trip.
 

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As tough as the terrain is there is always a surprize and you never know what you can find.
Love that part of the country that is where you can bump into a monster of a trophy that no one has ever seen before.
 

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:A Popcorn: Looking forward to this!
 

ufg8r93

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Obviously completing these as work allows!

My first buffalo hunt.

Buff has always been a dream hunt for me, and I decided 2021 was the year to do it. After obsessing over countries, concessions, etc. for months I finally decided to go with what I know. I’d be hunting buffalo for the first time in SA with Cheetau. I didn’t want to hunt a concession with only shootable bulls – I wanted to hunt an area with breeding populations. There are several of those in SA, and this particular concession was one of them. Over 160 buff on the property, with cows and calves. Only one bull was off-limits, and I got to see him a couple times. He’s a 51” breeder bull, and he wasn’t difficult to identify. While this concession isn’t huge, the terrain and relatively few roads make it hunt like a much larger piece of property.

I’d tagged along on a couple buff hunts in 2017, and I made a note of how differently the bulls reacted to a 300 grain 375 vs a 400 grain 416. I decided to go the 416 route and purchased a lovely Kimber Caprivi 416 RM a little more than a year before my trip from @philipglass. I shot it about 100 times preparing for my buff – most of that off my Viperflex sticks. I really like this rifle.

We started hunting buff the day I arrived. I landed at JNB around 10a, and after ages convincing SAPS to go find my rifle case the good folks at riflepermits.com (Adel and Marius) got me checked in and on my way. I was the only hunter on the plane from Doha.

A late lunch at Alpetra, exactly 4 shots on the range (2 from each rifle to check zero), and we were off on a “scouting drive” around the concession. I immediately knew I was in for it. This place had much more elevation change than anticipated and was very thick, green, and rugged. We went up to a ridge to glass and the challenge became more apparent. Not only was this concession thick, green, and rugged, there was abundant water in the several creeks, dams, and waterholes. Spotting game from this mountaintop ridge was very challenging and portended the challenge from the roads below. We didn’t see buff the first afternoon.

Our first morning had us back up on the same ridge glassing for buffalo. We didn’t see much but our tracker thought he saw oxpeckers in a particular copse of trees off in the distance. We decided to hike down the ridge to check it out. No more than 10 minutes into the first stalk of the trip I stepped on a large rock that slid forward under my weight and launched me downhill. I stumbled downhill (arms and rifle flailing) trying to regain my balance, right past my startled PH. A tooth-shattering faceplant and splintered French walnut flashed through my head. Luckily, I managed to collect myself after about 20-30 feet with only a bruised and bloody left shin. I looked up at my PH. “Are you okay? Man, I thought you were going to bounce down the mountain on your face.”

Later that morning on our second stalk, we’re on a fairly large group of maybe 20 buffalo. They are in some very, very thick stuff down along one of the creek bottoms that runs down out of the mountains. We’re probably within 15 yards of buffalo before we recognize there’s no way we’ll be able to identify a good bull in this thick stuff, much less get a shot. The wind swirled, a cow with very wide horns busted us, and the whole lot is off to the next zip code. Later in the morning we crossed the tracks of a bachelor group of four bulls, but after following them for a couple miles realized they were young guys and still soft. Two of them are going to be huge – one very wide bull with a deep curl that’s already over 40” and another with big, wide bosses. Later that afternoon we crossed another track, but it was the same four bulls. The track led along a running creek and had us within 5 yards of the sleeping buffalo – they apparently couldn’t hear us over the babbling of the creek, and of course we were tracking into the wind. They were bedded in a little ditch, but soon were shoving out at full gallop when the wind swirled. The sound of the bulls’ horns banging into each other as they ran off remains a vivid memory.

Another thing I noticed on day one – there are leopard tracks all over this place. Big leopard. Apparently, you can get leopard tags here from time to time. But you only find out if they are available in October and you have to do the hunt in December in the summer heat. Less than ideal.

leopard track.jpg


The second day chasing buffalo was up and down the mountains. We crossed a track, followed it up into the mountains, got busted, then found the track again and followed it up into a different mountain. It’s shocking how quick and agile the buffalo are into and out of these rocky, low mountains. They can go up or down at full gallop in a landscape that had me constantly worried about a broken ankle or worse. The commotion generated when the buffalo run through the rocks also was a shock. There were several times when, standing atop another rock I knew I shouldn’t trust, the buffalo spooked and took flight – and I recognized that if they ran towards us rather than away, there was no place for me to hide.

up another slope.jpg


After chasing this group of buff all morning, we headed back to the lodge for some lunch and a much-needed nap. “Let’s give them some time to settle down.” Later that afternoon we simply repeated the morning’s shenanigans – closing in on the group in the mountains before they busted us and headed downhill, or the reverse in the valley. A really fun but exhausting and frustrating day. Nyala sausage and pork rashers on the braai under a full moon made for a terrific evening. Three-fingers of the Basil Hayden I purchased at DFW duty free was most welcome and a great compliment to a pipeful of Cornell & Diehl’s Solace.

nyala and rashers.jpg

pipes and tobacco.jpg


Day three chasing buff was eerily similar to the first two days. Drive until we cross spoor, chamber a round, judge the wind, and start tracking. Maybe we catch up to the herd, maybe we don’t. Today we decided to stay out and braai in the bush, in the lovely little tented camp overlooking one of several dammed ponds on the property. We spooked three mountain reedbuck ewes and one ram on the way to the tented camp – reedbuck is on my list, so we note that for later.

After a relatively short braai lunch of sausages, rashers, and grilled cheese sandwiches we’re back at it again. Only this time, it’s in the heat of the early afternoon. The afternoon of day three has us tracking along a different creek bottom. It’s thick, but I’m happy I’m not back on one of those mountains. The Philamon spots something, and the binos go up. There are buff in front of us, but the closest one is definitely a cow. There’s also a bull with deep curls laying away from us, sleeping in the sun. Is he that young bull we’ve seen three times already? Not sure… If it is he’s now with cows and we don’t see another bull. No, wait, there’s another bull.

on the sticks.jpg


We spend the next 2 hours trying to get a good look at this napping bull. I’m on and off the sticks many times. He’s shifting positions, including one with his head laid on the ground in front of him like he’s a dog. He never looks back and give us a good look at the front of his horns. We shift positions multiple times, trying to get a better look without spooking the others. Back on the sticks, back sneaking this way and that. Crawl on all fours up to that bush, wait, that’s a worse angle than we had before. Two hours of this, and when he finally does stand up, he does so with his head behind a bush. We still can’t tell if he’s the terrific young bull we’ve seen or a different animal. Finally, the wind swirls, the cow that’s closest to us gets our wind, and they are all off – running directly away from us. We never did get a good look at the front of the bull’s horns. After a few more miles that afternoon, day three of my first buff hunt is in the books.

Day four is again much of the same, but we’re tracking back up into the mountains. This Kimber is starting to get heavy. All the way to the top of the mountain, only to get busted yet again and have the herd run off into the valley. But today, we’re in a position to see where they run – and we watch them all head off into the distance and settle down. They aren’t laying down, but they have stopped walking. We note the area and head in for lunch.

After lunch and a nap, we head back out. They aren’t where we left them, but we follow the track for about a mile towards a water hole. Our only safe approach into the wind is also into very thick bush. So we slowly stalk in, crouching at first, and on all fours and butts for the final approach. This is a different group from this morning, but there appear to be a couple good bulls here. The buffalo, probably a dozen of them, are lounging around the waterhole. Most are laying down, but they are all spread out from our right to left. The closest animal is about 50 yards towards our right, the farthest maybe 80 yards in front of us.

We’re drawn to a bull on the right, laying broadside to us. He has a huge body and massive bosses. My PH and two trackers are doing most of the glassing, but I sneak a look through the binos from time to time. We’re on our butts and knees looking over the herd for over an hour, crouched in the low brush. Finally, Werner says we’re going to go after that one on the right with the big bosses. We need him to walk to our left a bit; he’s partially obscured by brush and he’s lying down. About 15 mins later he’s on his feet, but not moving forward. The sticks go up slowly and I get positioned on my knee behind them still crouching in the bush. After another ten minutes he starts ambling forward slowly, and I very slowly stand and get on the sticks. He’s now about 70 yards from us and quartering away as he walks. I aim for his off-side shoulder, and when he stops briefly, I slowly squeeze the trigger. He bucks wildly at the shot and blood from the entry wound is obvious as they all run away from us. I reload quickly but don’t have a great opportunity for a clear follow-up shot. After about 75 yards, they all stop and look back in our direction.

We’re all on our feet at this point watching the herd. “He’s hit hard”, Werner tells me. “Good shot.” “Did you see the blood from the entry wound?” he asks the trackers. They agree it was a good shot. “Listen for the death bellow… you don’t always hear it, but you may since they are close.” The buffalo are about 150 yards away from us at this point but standing and inching forward back towards us. George (the tracker/skinner) says he thinks he sees our bull down in the herd. “I suppose walking forward towards them is a bad idea at this point” I ask. “Yes” is the answer. “Did you hear about that PH from Zim that got killed fairly recently? That’s what got him killed.” Werner’s on the radio for the truck to be brought up.

standoff ending.jpg


The truck arrives after a few minutes while we watch the buffalo try to coax my bull into regaining his feet. They are hooking him fairly aggressively with their horns. We can all see him down now that we’ve crawled up on the bakkie. The buffalo encircle and refuse to leave their downed counterpart. We drive towards them. They inch towards us. A standoff ensues. Finally, after several horn blasts and a bit more tension over maybe 10 minutes, the herd gives up and starts to walk off. Then they walk back. We try the horn again. After it’s obvious they aren’t coming back, we’re off the bakkie to check out my bull.

first buffalo.jpg

bosses and kimber.jpg

thanks big boy.jpg

contemplation.jpg


I’m always a little overcome with emotion when I put my hands on an animal I’ve shot. Many different emotions – gratitude, relief, pride, and always a tinge of remorse. I’m especially proud of the fact that it was a single shot and he was down within eyesight. The skinner found my 400 grain Partition in his off-side shoulder, exactly where I’d aimed. It weighed 322 grains and looked exactly like you’d expect.

buff 416 partition.jpg


This wasn’t the 14 yr old dagga boy that I envisioned. My first thought after a thorough inspection of my buff was that he isn’t as old as I’d thought when I saw his bosses from the side. He’s a big-bodied bull and does have huge, gnarly (14”) bosses which is what I was after. Werner, Philamon, and George aged him at 10 years, which honestly is a couple years younger than the bull I was hoping to harvest. To be fair, I think he fooled my PH as well – I think we all thought he was older than he was. But I’m proud of him, it was a very challenging hunt, I shot him well, and he’ll always have a special place on my wall.

Consistent with my preference for European mounts, that’s what I decided on for my bull. I’m having his hide tanned as leather and am hoping to have some custom vellies, a belt, and perhaps a duffle made out of it by a local Limpopo guy my PH (Werner) introduced me to several days later.

Side-note: After my bull is down and I’ve laid my hands on him and looked at him from all angles, the trackers are cleaning up the area to take pictures. As one of the trackers is doing so he comes across a 4 foot puff adder that I and my second PH (Carmen, she’s Werner’s wife and also is a licensed PH) have walked right past. Practically stepped all over him. Luckily he was a bit stunned and appeared to have been trampled by the buffalo that wouldn’t leave my bull’s side. Phew. It wasn’t the only puff adder we saw on this trip.

puff adder.jpg


Also, pepper ticks. All the sitting on the ground and kneeling and crouching allowed pepper ticks to do a pretty good number on my legs. Everywhere I’d sprayed with permethrin was great – my gaiters, socks, shorts, shirts, and hats. But I hadn’t used bug spray on my legs and it shows.
 

ufg8r93

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Mountain reedbuck.

I’m not sure why I immediately loved the look of reedbuck in general and mountain reedbuck in particular, but the first time I saw one in 2017 I wanted to hunt them. In 2019 mountain reedbuck was on my hit list and despite a fairly concerted effort, I came home empty handed.

Sadly 2021 was a repeat of 2019. Only this time, we spent the better part of 3 full days climbing the mountains and stalking along the creeks for mountain reedbuck. We put in a *lot* of effort and many miles – and probably several hundred feet of elevation change each day – looking for mountain reedbuck. There were tracks everywhere. There was dung everywhere. Fresh tracks and fresh dung. But alas, the only sightings of reedbuck would be when they flashed across the road on our way to our bush lunch on day three of my buff hunt, and we saw a ewe on the drive out to track my wounded waterbuck the afternoon we found him.

To top it off, reedbuck made a liar out of our tracker (Philamon). This concession has klipspringers everywhere. We saw a couple nice ones, including one that I almost shot. He was a dandy. But we were hunting reedbuck and I already have a nice klippy from 2019. Anyway, Philamon had told us that while klippys were everywhere on this concession, the reedbuck were only to be found on this one mountainside and the two valleys below it. Well, that ewe we saw on the last afternoon I hunted was about 5 miles from that mountainside. Just goes to show these are wild animals and just because you’ve never *seen* one there, doesn’t mean they aren’t there!

tall & thick grass.jpg


Duiker

It was pretty obvious after a couple days stalking my buffalo that if I happened to shoot a duiker on this concession it would be an accident and a miracle. Way to thick, leafy, and too much grass. While we didn’t ignore duiker, we didn’t really put forth a concerted effort for duiker either. Common duiker will be on my list for 2023 when I’m hunting the East Cape for the first time. Along with lots of other small and smallish targets.
 

ufg8r93

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Bushpig.

You can take a boy out of a NE Florida trailer park, but you can’t quell his desire to hunt pigs. Gawd I love hunting pigs, and when I was catching up with Werner and Carmen a few weeks before my trip they mentioned how many bushpigs there are on this new (to them) concession. Did I want to hunt a bushpig? Yeah. Yeah, I definitely want to hunt a bushpig. They let me know that it would likely be over bait, in a blind, at night. Yep, I still want to hunt a bushpig. I wouldn’t get to lounge around the boma with a bourbon and a cigar/pipe if I was going to hunt bushpig. Yeah, I know. I still want to hunt bushpig.

They pre-baited a site for me before I arrived. We went by it on the way back to the lodge on my first evening to hang a game camera, and we’d come back in a few days to see when they were coming in to feed.

As we were driving around the concession and as we were stalking other animals I noticed several areas in the creek bottoms that were absolutely torn up – “Bushpig?” “You got it.”

bushpig damage.jpg


We were planning to hunt bushpig on my 6th, 7th, and maybe 8th nights of the trip. They were coming to the bait at about 2a. I’d brought a warm jacket and a set of warm base layers. On the drive back to the lodge one evening after a long day stalking the mountains for reedbuck, we see three bushpigs running in the brush. Hop off the truck and a stalk ensues. We have some light left, but this area is really thick. Consistent with several stalks on this trip, we hear the pigs before we see them. The big one is nose down in some really thick stuff feeding facing away from us. The wind is in our face, and we stalk up really close behind him.

We had to get close to identify that he’s the one we wanted to take. I’m on the sticks at maybe 20 yards but all I can see is his ass. “Shoot him” I hear. “All I can see is his ass” I respond. “You have a 416, shoot him in the ass!” is the quick retort. So, I quickly work out that he’s ever-so-slightly quartering right to left, aim just to the left of his tail (which is just to the right of his head) and pull the trigger. Bang flop. Bullet entered maybe an inch to the left of the tail and exited in front of his offside shoulder. Bushpig is down during daylight hours and Werner is excited. He *hates* sitting in blinds, especially at night in the cold.

bushpig.jpg


He’s a big pig and much more interesting looking than I’d expected. These are really interesting animals. Terrific colors and mane on this one. Nice teeth. And very tasty, I’m told. Much more so than warthog. Have a full skull European on the way.

A day later he’s on the rotisserie. The meat is red like venison, not pinkish like pork. The flavor is indeed really good and mild, not unlike pork. I enjoyed it. With pap and sauce. Fantastic!

bushpig bbg sa style.jpg

ready to eat.jpg

bushpig dinner.jpg
 

ufg8r93

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Warthog.

Prior to this trip I’ve spent 22 days hunting in South Africa. A good warthog was on my list from day one, but thus far a good pig has evaded me. And I love to hunt pigs, but I think I may have mentioned that.

While we were trekking over mountains and along creek bottoms we were noting warthog and impala sightings for future reference. Both animals were on my list again in 2021. As we were exiting the concession one evening, there was a big warthog roaming around the small waterhole/feeding station at the gate. That afternoon was Werner driving and Philamon, George, and me on the back. Philamon and George don’t speak great English, so somehow “I don’t want to shoot a big sow” and the correct identification of this specific large warthog got a bit confused. I thought it was a big sow, and the guys were telling me I could shoot this specific warthog. I tried clarifying “female” vs “male” to no avail. Werner didn’t see the pig and the conversation didn’t get clarified until we’re pulling into the lodge gate. Werner whips it around, we head back to the concession, but of course the warthog is long gone by this time.

One morning after a couple days in the mountains trying in vain to find the reedbuck, we decided to take a break and visit the areas we’d seen warthogs and impala. We decide to stalk up to several spots in search of warthogs and on our first stalk of the morning, there are three pigs at a waterhole. One is a good male – not an exceptional specimen by any stretch, but the best pig I’ve had in my crosshairs in over 27 days of hunting in SA to date. There isn’t much discussion – I confirm that it’s a good boar, get steady on the Viperflexes, aim for the point of his shoulder, and squeeze the trigger. It’s well over 100 yards but this rifle is zeroed at 150, so I’m relaxed. We hear the hit and the pig takes off. Then we hear him crash. Upon walking up to where he was standing, we find a blood trail a blind man could follow. He’s about 60 yards away, stone dead. The 6.5 caliber 140 grain Partition entered exactly where I’d aimed and exited just behind the off-side shoulder. It made a bit of a mess on the exit side, as Partitions do from time to time.

warthog.jpg

warthog 2.jpg


I’m very happy with this warthog – as I said, there are much larger pigs out there with much better teeth. But this guy was hard won. He won’t be my last. His full skull European will be proudly displayed in the gun room/reloading room right next to my bushpig.
 

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Impala.

I love hunting impala, and I think it’s because my preference for April/May hunts seems to coincide with the impala rut. It blew my mind when I heard an impala ram roaring at another ram the first time I heard it. Shocking an antelope that small can be that loud!

As I mentioned previously, we’d noted all the impala sightings as we were tracking buffalo. After I’d shot my warthog at the first place we stalked into we decided to try our luck with impala. We’d seen this ram with horns that swept way back – he didn’t have great tips but my PH was sure he’d score well thanks to that long sweep backwards. The only problem was this ram was with at least 25 ewes and another small ram. Lots and lots of eyes. We part and stalk about a half mile to the spot where we’d seen them a few days earlier. Fresh scat and tracks, but no impala. So we followed the track a bit further into the thick stuff. As had happened a lot on this trip, we herd them before we saw them. And a ewe busted us and the whole lot took to flight.

But our tracker was convinced they wouldn’t go too far, so we selected a route that would take us a wide arc around where he thought they would stop and would place us walking into the wind. As we’re approaching slowly we see fur. We spent about 30 mins tiptoeing this way and that trying to find the ram without spooking the ewes. Finally, we see him. He’s feeding facing towards us about 100 yards away in the thick stuff. You can only tell it’s him when he lifts his head to look around.

It takes me a while to spot him with my binos. My PH puts up the sticks. As I’m placing my 6.5x55 on the sticks I’m thinking “there is no way I’ll be able to find a spot in this thick stuff to squeeze a shot through.” It turns out I was wrong. As I turn up my scope’s magnification, I notice a very small window in the brush on his neck. When he puts his head down to eat, I notice that he’s not straight on but slightly quartering from my left to right. If I aim just behind his off side shoulder I think I can squeeze one in there and through his vitals. But his left horn keeps flashing through my window as he’s feeding. “I think I can squeeze one through there and into his vitals.” “Okay, let me get directly behind you so I can see the window and judge the shot.” “Ok, I just need to avoid hitting his horn as he’s feeding. Here goes.”

I squeeze the trigger and can hear the hit. He’s nowhere to be found in my sight picture, and the ewes are running all around us because they can’t seem to tell where that shot came from. I look back to my PH. “Ugh,” he says, “you hit him in the guts.” “What?!?!?! That felt like a perfect shot!” “I’m kidding” he says, “he dropped like a rock. That may be the best shot I’ve seen you pull off. Did you really think you hit him in the guts?” What a dick. Of course I didn’t think I hit him in the guts but this is hunting and anything can happen. So after a load of choice words for my buddy Werner we are off to see my impala. The shot entered his neck on his left side and exited right behind his off-side shoulder. There was a fairly small exit wound, which I didn’t expect from the 6.5 caliber 140 grain Partition.

impala.jpg


This is a neat impala. His tips aren’t great as we knew, but that long sweep back is cool. The pictures don’t really do him justice. And the outsides of his horns are worn almost flat – very different than the three other impala I’ve shot. I think he’ll score the second best of my (now) four impala, but I think he’s the oldest of the group.
 

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Congrats on a nice buff!!
 

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Waterbuck

Waterbuck, waterbuck, waterbuck. Waterbuck wasn’t on my list for 2021 but we saw a few dandies while hunting for buffalo and mountain reedbuck. I haven’t shot a waterbuck before, and after seeing the trophy quality here I couldn’t pass it up.

We had several unsuccessful stalks for waterbuck – one big bull gave us the slip twice, and there was a bachelor group of three that we ended up pursing at length. There was a very tall bull, a wide bull, and a young bull in this group of three. We first spotted them near the shooting range a couple days into my hunt. Oddly the shooting range was not on the edge of the property – but it did have steel targets out to 500 yards which is likely why it was positioned where it was on the concession.

We chased the group of three waterbuck bulls several times. While the tall one was a terrific bull, once I’d seen the wide one I was done – and that’s the bull on which we focused all our efforts. One afternoon we bumped them a couple times on a long stalk. We stayed on the track and finally got a good shot opportunity with the wide bull standing quartering away and the young bull nearby. The wide bull was 155 yards away – that’s a long shot with my 416 RM but I’d practiced off sticks out to 200 so I was comfortable with the shot. I turned my ballistic turret three clicks up and aimed for his off-side shoulder. As I squeezed the trigger you could hear the hit and he immediately bucked wildly and went down. He was down for maybe 15 seconds when he regained his feet and took off. I never saw him get up – I was on the sticks, reloaded, and looking through my scope. I didn’t realize that we had stalked close to one of the short fences on the property, and apparently the bull ran headlong into the fence (I heard it), got up and ran by us on our left. In the confusion, I couldn’t tell if that was my bull or the third bull. There was some confusion from my PH and the trackers also. Everyone agreed that I’d made a good shot, and I was fairly confident in the shot.

Well, this is Africa. We walked over to where he was standing when I shot. You could clearly see where he went down, but not a drop of blood. My heart dropped. The trackers followed his spoor towards the fence, and found some bright red, frothy blood. Okay, I’m feeling a little better. But then one small drop another 30 yards on and then nothing. Son of a…

The farm manager has tracking dogs, and since it was late in the afternoon the decision was made to bring in the tracking dogs. The dogs arrive with Dons and two farm hands, and now there are eight of us tromping all over the place with three dogs. We found one more spot with three drops of blood on a rock – it appeared to me from looking at the drops that the bull was running. I grew up a southeastern whitetail hunter, and my instinct was to let him lie and come back the next morning with the dogs. But this is my third trip to Africa and my PH is the expert – so I mostly kept my mouth shut. I was more than a little bewildered that the bull would react like he did to the shot from my 416, yet run off with very little blood trail. So I wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.

After 20-25 minutes, the dogs bark and they are on his trail – or at least the trail of *a* waterbuck anyway. We’re in the truck and off after them. Long story short, the dogs ran the waterbuck 7.2km according to the GPS collars on the dogs. We caught up to them, but as we’re closing in the waterbuck bolts (he almost ran us over) and it’s dark. So we head back to the lodge for a long, sleepless night – at least for me. Nothing I hate worse than wounding an animal. I’m not worried about the trophy fee at all – we found blood, so he’s mine. Or at least I’m paying for him. As I should. I just hate not shooting well and creating unnecessary suffering. And I’m still bewildered by the shot, the reaction, and how he ran 7.2+ kms. The only thing I can come up with is that the dogs chased the wrong waterbuck or the shot was non-fatal and the bull is going to be fine. Lots of conversation around the boma that evening about where I must have hit him – neck? Brisket? Somewhere high but missed his spine? Still can’t understand how a 400 grain Partition would have knocked him down but not killed him. Was that my bull or did the dogs chase another one of the three?

Next morning we are out early – back to the place where we left him the night before. We see a big waterbuck walking into the thick stuff on our drive in. He looks back at us long enough to get a pretty good look at him – he’s definitely wide. But we don’t see his left side, which is where I’d have hit him. He doesn’t appear to be hurt to me – the trackers and PH are off the truck to go have a look. One of the trackers sees him again several minutes later and swears its my bull and he’s limping.

So we’re off the truck and tracking. We start by going back to where we left him and following that track. There appear to be a few spots where he’s dragging a back leg a bit. “No way I hit him that far back” I’m thinking as I replay the shot over and over again. For those that have used Viperflex sticks, you’ll recognize that it’s (fairly) easy to miss high or low with them but somewhat difficult to miss significantly left or right.

This track we on leads somewhere different than where we saw the bull first thing this morning, so we go all the way back and start again. It leads exactly where we thought the first time. Not a drop of blood. So now we’ve gone 5 miles or so and its lunchtime. Back out after a quick lunch and decide to track him from where we last saw him that morning, heading into the mountains. The trackers think they find blood and his bed from the night before. I’ll buy the bedding spot, but it didn’t look like blood to me and I looked at that leaf pretty closely. Now I’m convinced that this is a different bull we are following and he isn’t hurt. I’m convinced my bull is dead somewhere and this is the second of the two mature bulls from the group of three. So after following this spoor a couple miles, which is generally headed back to the original shot location, the guys decide to throw me a bone and we head back to the original shot location. As we’re replaying everything and looking at where he was standing when I shot, I notice that there are lots of sliver cluster bushes around and I’m wondering if my shot was deflected. But a 400 grain bullet deflecting by 3-4”? Difficult to stomach. I think about all this when I’m back at the lodge and its too late to check, of course.

We spend the rest of the afternoon following the spoor from the shot, up the mountain, but not over – the trackers can’t find a single waterbuck track that goes over that mountain. At this point it’s getting dark, I’m more confused and bewildered than I was before, and I’m exhausted after 10.5 miles up and down these mountains. Back to the lodge. Werner and I had a long, detailed discussion about everything that had transpired. At this point I wasn’t as dejected as I was the night prior – Werner and the trackers were convinced this was my bull we’d been following all along and that we’d ultimately get him in the salt. I was convinced that if this was my bull we were on, he wasn’t hit very hard and would be fine if we didn’t get him. To be fair, I had a nagging suspicion that 3 dogs and eight people were wrong and we were on the wrong animal. But intellectually I knew that was very unlikely.

I’m now 2 days away from departure and my COVID test is the following morning. So we’re up early to head into Lephalale and Werner and the trackers are headed back to follow up the spoor. My COVID test was unpleasant but quick. We’re at the clinic at 730a, when they open. Carmen had pre-filled the form necessary with all my info, which was really thoughtful. I didn’t even go into the clinic – they meet you outside for the nasal swab. I was told I was “blocking” and to “relax” as the swab is tickling my medulla oblongata. My eyes watered for 10 minutes afterwards. Quite the tough guy. The test was 850 rand – about $60. My test in metro Atlanta was $155. I’d had a dream earlier in the week that my test came back positive and I had to quarantine in the bush camp. In my dream someone from the farm brought me food and firewood once a day. And I had to send my tablet back to the main lodge for someone to download a couple more books for me to read.

Back to the lodge after a few errands in town for an early lunch. Werner and George had followed the spoor almost all the way back to where I originally shot the bull. They were convinced we’d find him that afternoon. We were back on the bakkie by 1p, again in the heat of the day. We checked a few roads and found a track across one – again closer to where we originally shot my bull. Just before we start the stalk I look at Carmen – “I’d rather not buy two waterbucks if we can avoid it.”

We stalk slowly and deliberately and after a couple hours – spot a good waterbuck bull in the thick stuff. Is it him? We can’t really see his left side, the bush is very thick, and the wind isn’t in our favor. Carmen and George decide to do a wide arc around to the right to find a better angle to identify this bull. Werner, Philamon and I watch him from about 120 yards for at least 45 minutes.

Finally, George sneaks back around to us, with smoke from a dried piece of dung drifting up from his cradled hands. Werner says “clever boy” as he’s quietly walking up – he lit the dung as a cover scent. George and Carmen think they see a dark spot on this waterbuck’s left side and are convinced it’s my bull. So we start stalking back to where George left Carmen. It takes a while to find a little lane through the bush, and Werner gets the sticks set up. “We’re just going to take our time and get a good shot.” Well, no sooner had the words registered when the bull either sees movement or smells us. He turns looking directly at us – I’m now on the sticks looking directly at him, maybe 75 or 80 yards away. I notice a large bush covering his chest, as Werner says “do you have a shot?” I do, but it’s somewhere on his neck. The bull keeps doing that “head bob” thing animals do when they see something they don’t like. I’m worried I’m going to hit him in the face and worried he’s going to bolt at any second. I settle the German #4 reticle on his throat and slowly squeeze the trigger.

I hear the bullet hit. I see a leg kick up from the brush when I’m back on him after the recoil and a quick reload. He didn’t move. He’s down. Now I’m hoping I hit him where I was aimed and he’s my bull. As we approached I notice three things:

  • Waterbuck are much bigger animals than I appreciated;
  • This is a big bull - he looks pretty wide and his horns are lighter colored towards his bases than his tips; and
  • Either he’s lost a lot of blood through his nose or my shot may have hit him there.
After a closer look the shot hit him in the throat exactly where I’d aimed – he just bled profusely from his nose. The 400 grain Partition had travelled through his neck and into his body cavity and hadn’t exited. I’m thinking “well, his tenderloins are destroyed” and the bullet is somewhere approaching his kidneys. I also notice that the spot on his left side doesn’t look like a wound and I don’t see another one.

There’s a lot of chatter in Afrikaans. Werner tells me a waterbuck’s coat can soak up blood and they’re sure this is my bull. He is wide, tall, and very handsome. This is definitely the bull I saw walking into the brush the morning after my initial shot, there’s no doubt in my mind. Was he the same bull I initially shot at, though? Werner says they won’t know until they get him in the skinning shed.

waterbuck 2.jpg

waterbuck 1.jpg


We still have daylight left and Werner looks over to me. “End on a high note or go look for that mountain reedbuck one last time?” The way the question is phrased tells me all I need to know. Let’s head back to the lodge for an early sundowner and a cigar.

Later that evening George tells Werner that it is the same bull – that I’d hit him low in the brisket with my first shot. He could see the shot once he got the animal skinned. Almost 48 hours after my first shot, I have a big waterbuck bull in the salt.

And my COVID test came back negative.
 

ufg8r93

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Post-script:

morning view.jpg


My flight out wasn’t until fairly late in the evening on my last day, so we slept in and packed up. Off to Trappers and Safari Outdoor for some shopping and lunch in Irene. After living through the various ammunition and component shortages in the US recently, I was shocked to see stocked shelves at Safari Outdoor.

amm and primers.jpg


Trappers is fairly inexpensive and I went there to pick up some shorts that don’t fit me like culottes. When you are only 5’7”, shorts with a 9 inch inseam hang low. I got two pairs of shorts and a short-sleeved safari shirt for about $91. Not bad. And the shorts look like shorts on me!

Safari Outdoor is fancy but not outrageously priced. I thought the service was pretty good, but my PH isn’t a fan. Maybe they are nice to Americans.

Obviously when you are in camp by yourself you get to know your outfitter/PH pretty well. Werner/Carmen and I had lots of great conversations. One was a several evening affair regarding captive bred lion hunting (“CBL”). I’ll save that for a future note.

We also discussed boots. There is a local guy around the corner from Alpetra who is hand-making vellies in the southern African tradition. Not as fancy as Courtney’s, but much lighter. I got to see a pair and ended up ordering some while I was there. Really nice fellow. Young guy. They are really cool boots – sadly, this pair is too big for me and my oldest son is now enjoying them. But I’m having my buffalo hide tanned as leather and am hopeful he can use that to make me a new pair. Check it out. I think they are about 1000 rand ($71) which is an insanely inexpensive for these boots. www.vanheerdenleer.com

vellies.jpeg


The cook/chef (Eddie) has been with Cheetau since I first hunted with them in 2017. He’s a little absent minded but that man can cook. I tasted buff testicle while I was there (if you’ve had calf fries, it’s basically the same) as he was experimenting with a new recipe. He made this chicken liver dish as an appetizer that was one of the best things I’ve ever put in my mouth. Delicious doesn’t even begin to describe it. I made such a fuss we had it again several days later. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water.

After my first buff hunt, I’m positive I’ll do more. I really enjoyed it. But I have this nagging feeling that I may prefer hunting eland to buffalo? And eland certainly is more affordable. Maybe it’s just the trailer park talking, who knows. I’m a cheap bastard at heart.

Some “biltong hunters” arrived my last night at Alpetra. Two of em rolled up to our boma at about 9p, clearly hammered, with a huge wireless speaker blaring American country music. They were at the wrong boma. I can’t imagine all the fun the staff had that weekend. I think there were going to be a dozen of them total.

If you’ve read this far, you deserve a medal or a drink. Maybe both. Apologies again for the tome. Hope you enjoyed it.
 

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Congrats on the hunt and thanks for sharing!
 

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Obviously completing these as work allows!

My first buffalo hunt.

Buff has always been a dream hunt for me, and I decided 2021 was the year to do it. After obsessing over countries, concessions, etc. for months I finally decided to go with what I know. I’d be hunting buffalo for the first time in SA with Cheetau. I didn’t want to hunt a concession with only shootable bulls – I wanted to hunt an area with breeding populations. There are several of those in SA, and this particular concession was one of them. Over 160 buff on the property, with cows and calves. Only one bull was off-limits, and I got to see him a couple times. He’s a 51” breeder bull, and he wasn’t difficult to identify. While this concession isn’t huge, the terrain and relatively few roads make it hunt like a much larger piece of property.

I’d tagged along on a couple buff hunts in 2017, and I made a note of how differently the bulls reacted to a 300 grain 375 vs a 400 grain 416. I decided to go the 416 route and purchased a lovely Kimber Caprivi 416 RM a little more than a year before my trip from @philipglass. I shot it about 100 times preparing for my buff – most of that off my Viperflex sticks. I really like this rifle.

We started hunting buff the day I arrived. I landed at JNB around 10a, and after ages convincing SAPS to go find my rifle case the good folks at riflepermits.com (Adel and Marius) got me checked in and on my way. I was the only hunter on the plane from Doha.

A late lunch at Alpetra, exactly 4 shots on the range (2 from each rifle to check zero), and we were off on a “scouting drive” around the concession. I immediately knew I was in for it. This place had much more elevation change than anticipated and was very thick, green, and rugged. We went up to a ridge to glass and the challenge became more apparent. Not only was this concession thick, green, and rugged, there was abundant water in the several creeks, dams, and waterholes. Spotting game from this mountaintop ridge was very challenging and portended the challenge from the roads below. We didn’t see buff the first afternoon.

Our first morning had us back up on the same ridge glassing for buffalo. We didn’t see much but our tracker thought he saw oxpeckers in a particular copse of trees off in the distance. We decided to hike down the ridge to check it out. No more than 10 minutes into the first stalk of the trip I stepped on a large rock that slid forward under my weight and launched me downhill. I stumbled downhill (arms and rifle flailing) trying to regain my balance, right past my startled PH. A tooth-shattering faceplant and splintered French walnut flashed through my head. Luckily, I managed to collect myself after about 20-30 feet with only a bruised and bloody left shin. I looked up at my PH. “Are you okay? Man, I thought you were going to bounce down the mountain on your face.”

Later that morning on our second stalk, we’re on a fairly large group of maybe 20 buffalo. They are in some very, very thick stuff down along one of the creek bottoms that runs down out of the mountains. We’re probably within 15 yards of buffalo before we recognize there’s no way we’ll be able to identify a good bull in this thick stuff, much less get a shot. The wind swirled, a cow with very wide horns busted us, and the whole lot is off to the next zip code. Later in the morning we crossed the tracks of a bachelor group of four bulls, but after following them for a couple miles realized they were young guys and still soft. Two of them are going to be huge – one very wide bull with a deep curl that’s already over 40” and another with big, wide bosses. Later that afternoon we crossed another track, but it was the same four bulls. The track led along a running creek and had us within 5 yards of the sleeping buffalo – they apparently couldn’t hear us over the babbling of the creek, and of course we were tracking into the wind. They were bedded in a little ditch, but soon were shoving out at full gallop when the wind swirled. The sound of the bulls’ horns banging into each other as they ran off remains a vivid memory.

Another thing I noticed on day one – there are leopard tracks all over this place. Big leopard. Apparently, you can get leopard tags here from time to time. But you only find out if they are available in October and you have to do the hunt in December in the summer heat. Less than ideal.

View attachment 402683

The second day chasing buffalo was up and down the mountains. We crossed a track, followed it up into the mountains, got busted, then found the track again and followed it up into a different mountain. It’s shocking how quick and agile the buffalo are into and out of these rocky, low mountains. They can go up or down at full gallop in a landscape that had me constantly worried about a broken ankle or worse. The commotion generated when the buffalo run through the rocks also was a shock. There were several times when, standing atop another rock I knew I shouldn’t trust, the buffalo spooked and took flight – and I recognized that if they ran towards us rather than away, there was no place for me to hide.

View attachment 402684

After chasing this group of buff all morning, we headed back to the lodge for some lunch and a much-needed nap. “Let’s give them some time to settle down.” Later that afternoon we simply repeated the morning’s shenanigans – closing in on the group in the mountains before they busted us and headed downhill, or the reverse in the valley. A really fun but exhausting and frustrating day. Nyala sausage and pork rashers on the braai under a full moon made for a terrific evening. Three-fingers of the Basil Hayden I purchased at DFW duty free was most welcome and a great compliment to a pipeful of Cornell & Diehl’s Solace.

View attachment 402685
View attachment 402686

Day three chasing buff was eerily similar to the first two days. Drive until we cross spoor, chamber a round, judge the wind, and start tracking. Maybe we catch up to the herd, maybe we don’t. Today we decided to stay out and braai in the bush, in the lovely little tented camp overlooking one of several dammed ponds on the property. We spooked three mountain reedbuck ewes and one ram on the way to the tented camp – reedbuck is on my list, so we note that for later.

After a relatively short braai lunch of sausages, rashers, and grilled cheese sandwiches we’re back at it again. Only this time, it’s in the heat of the early afternoon. The afternoon of day three has us tracking along a different creek bottom. It’s thick, but I’m happy I’m not back on one of those mountains. The Philamon spots something, and the binos go up. There are buff in front of us, but the closest one is definitely a cow. There’s also a bull with deep curls laying away from us, sleeping in the sun. Is he that young bull we’ve seen three times already? Not sure… If it is he’s now with cows and we don’t see another bull. No, wait, there’s another bull.

View attachment 402687

We spend the next 2 hours trying to get a good look at this napping bull. I’m on and off the sticks many times. He’s shifting positions, including one with his head laid on the ground in front of him like he’s a dog. He never looks back and give us a good look at the front of his horns. We shift positions multiple times, trying to get a better look without spooking the others. Back on the sticks, back sneaking this way and that. Crawl on all fours up to that bush, wait, that’s a worse angle than we had before. Two hours of this, and when he finally does stand up, he does so with his head behind a bush. We still can’t tell if he’s the terrific young bull we’ve seen or a different animal. Finally, the wind swirls, the cow that’s closest to us gets our wind, and they are all off – running directly away from us. We never did get a good look at the front of the bull’s horns. After a few more miles that afternoon, day three of my first buff hunt is in the books.

Day four is again much of the same, but we’re tracking back up into the mountains. This Kimber is starting to get heavy. All the way to the top of the mountain, only to get busted yet again and have the herd run off into the valley. But today, we’re in a position to see where they run – and we watch them all head off into the distance and settle down. They aren’t laying down, but they have stopped walking. We note the area and head in for lunch.

After lunch and a nap, we head back out. They aren’t where we left them, but we follow the track for about a mile towards a water hole. Our only safe approach into the wind is also into very thick bush. So we slowly stalk in, crouching at first, and on all fours and butts for the final approach. This is a different group from this morning, but there appear to be a couple good bulls here. The buffalo, probably a dozen of them, are lounging around the waterhole. Most are laying down, but they are all spread out from our right to left. The closest animal is about 50 yards towards our right, the farthest maybe 80 yards in front of us.

We’re drawn to a bull on the right, laying broadside to us. He has a huge body and massive bosses. My PH and two trackers are doing most of the glassing, but I sneak a look through the binos from time to time. We’re on our butts and knees looking over the herd for over an hour, crouched in the low brush. Finally, Werner says we’re going to go after that one on the right with the big bosses. We need him to walk to our left a bit; he’s partially obscured by brush and he’s lying down. About 15 mins later he’s on his feet, but not moving forward. The sticks go up slowly and I get positioned on my knee behind them still crouching in the bush. After another ten minutes he starts ambling forward slowly, and I very slowly stand and get on the sticks. He’s now about 70 yards from us and quartering away as he walks. I aim for his off-side shoulder, and when he stops briefly, I slowly squeeze the trigger. He bucks wildly at the shot and blood from the entry wound is obvious as they all run away from us. I reload quickly but don’t have a great opportunity for a clear follow-up shot. After about 75 yards, they all stop and look back in our direction.

We’re all on our feet at this point watching the herd. “He’s hit hard”, Werner tells me. “Good shot.” “Did you see the blood from the entry wound?” he asks the trackers. They agree it was a good shot. “Listen for the death bellow… you don’t always hear it, but you may since they are close.” The buffalo are about 150 yards away from us at this point but standing and inching forward back towards us. George (the tracker/skinner) says he thinks he sees our bull down in the herd. “I suppose walking forward towards them is a bad idea at this point” I ask. “Yes” is the answer. “Did you hear about that PH from Zim that got killed fairly recently? That’s what got him killed.” Werner’s on the radio for the truck to be brought up.

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The truck arrives after a few minutes while we watch the buffalo try to coax my bull into regaining his feet. They are hooking him fairly aggressively with their horns. We can all see him down now that we’ve crawled up on the bakkie. The buffalo encircle and refuse to leave their downed counterpart. We drive towards them. They inch towards us. A standoff ensues. Finally, after several horn blasts and a bit more tension over maybe 10 minutes, the herd gives up and starts to walk off. Then they walk back. We try the horn again. After it’s obvious they aren’t coming back, we’re off the bakkie to check out my bull.

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I’m always a little overcome with emotion when I put my hands on an animal I’ve shot. Many different emotions – gratitude, relief, pride, and always a tinge of remorse. I’m especially proud of the fact that it was a single shot and he was down within eyesight. The skinner found my 400 grain Partition in his off-side shoulder, exactly where I’d aimed. It weighed 322 grains and looked exactly like you’d expect.

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This wasn’t the 14 yr old dagga boy that I envisioned. My first thought after a thorough inspection of my buff was that he isn’t as old as I’d thought when I saw his bosses from the side. He’s a big-bodied bull and does have huge, gnarly (14”) bosses which is what I was after. Werner, Philamon, and George aged him at 10 years, which honestly is a couple years younger than the bull I was hoping to harvest. To be fair, I think he fooled my PH as well – I think we all thought he was older than he was. But I’m proud of him, it was a very challenging hunt, I shot him well, and he’ll always have a special place on my wall.

Consistent with my preference for European mounts, that’s what I decided on for my bull. I’m having his hide tanned as leather and am hoping to have some custom vellies, a belt, and perhaps a duffle made out of it by a local Limpopo guy my PH (Werner) introduced me to several days later.

Side-note: After my bull is down and I’ve laid my hands on him and looked at him from all angles, the trackers are cleaning up the area to take pictures. As one of the trackers is doing so he comes across a 4 foot puff adder that I and my second PH (Carmen, she’s Werner’s wife and also is a licensed PH) have walked right past. Practically stepped all over him. Luckily he was a bit stunned and appeared to have been trampled by the buffalo that wouldn’t leave my bull’s side. Phew. It wasn’t the only puff adder we saw on this trip.

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Also, pepper ticks. All the sitting on the ground and kneeling and crouching allowed pepper ticks to do a pretty good number on my legs. Everywhere I’d sprayed with permethrin was great – my gaiters, socks, shorts, shirts, and hats. But I hadn’t used bug spray on my legs and it shows.
You saw a very rare thing when the herd returned and began to hook your bull. My old friend Boet van Aarve in Mozambique has seen them do it exactly twice (Zambezi Delta), and my PH Phillip Bronkhorst had only witnessed it once before a herd performed the exact same ritual on my last bull in the Limpopo.

Congrats on a hard earned, great bull.
 

Red Leg

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Bushpig.

You can take a boy out of a NE Florida trailer park, but you can’t quell his desire to hunt pigs. Gawd I love hunting pigs, and when I was catching up with Werner and Carmen a few weeks before my trip they mentioned how many bushpigs there are on this new (to them) concession. Did I want to hunt a bushpig? Yeah. Yeah, I definitely want to hunt a bushpig. They let me know that it would likely be over bait, in a blind, at night. Yep, I still want to hunt a bushpig. I wouldn’t get to lounge around the boma with a bourbon and a cigar/pipe if I was going to hunt bushpig. Yeah, I know. I still want to hunt bushpig.

They pre-baited a site for me before I arrived. We went by it on the way back to the lodge on my first evening to hang a game camera, and we’d come back in a few days to see when they were coming in to feed.

As we were driving around the concession and as we were stalking other animals I noticed several areas in the creek bottoms that were absolutely torn up – “Bushpig?” “You got it.”

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We were planning to hunt bushpig on my 6th, 7th, and maybe 8th nights of the trip. They were coming to the bait at about 2a. I’d brought a warm jacket and a set of warm base layers. On the drive back to the lodge one evening after a long day stalking the mountains for reedbuck, we see three bushpigs running in the brush. Hop off the truck and a stalk ensues. We have some light left, but this area is really thick. Consistent with several stalks on this trip, we hear the pigs before we see them. The big one is nose down in some really thick stuff feeding facing away from us. The wind is in our face, and we stalk up really close behind him.

We had to get close to identify that he’s the one we wanted to take. I’m on the sticks at maybe 20 yards but all I can see is his ass. “Shoot him” I hear. “All I can see is his ass” I respond. “You have a 416, shoot him in the ass!” is the quick retort. So, I quickly work out that he’s ever-so-slightly quartering right to left, aim just to the left of his tail (which is just to the right of his head) and pull the trigger. Bang flop. Bullet entered maybe an inch to the left of the tail and exited in front of his offside shoulder. Bushpig is down during daylight hours and Werner is excited. He *hates* sitting in blinds, especially at night in the cold.

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He’s a big pig and much more interesting looking than I’d expected. These are really interesting animals. Terrific colors and mane on this one. Nice teeth. And very tasty, I’m told. Much more so than warthog. Have a full skull European on the way.

A day later he’s on the rotisserie. The meat is red like venison, not pinkish like pork. The flavor is indeed really good and mild, not unlike pork. I enjoyed it. With pap and sauce. Fantastic!

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Another very rare thing as you well know. Many folks go to Africa multiple times without ever seeing one, much less bringing one home.
 

Trogon

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I really enjoyed reading your trip report, Buffalo and Waterbuck were outstanding. Very scenic where you hunted. Congrats on a excellent hunt!
 

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