SOUTH AFRICA: BOWHUNT: Buffalo & Plains Game Rifle/Bowhunting With Limpopo Big Game Safaris In January 2021 RSA

Ryan

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This hunt was originally planned for March-April 2020, then postponed u to September-October 2020 for all the reasons we all know.
So when travel finally opened this winter I figured out what hoops I had to hop through and took the plunge one more time.

First things first- Travel days.

With all the complications of rapidly changing flight options, firearms permits, and Covid requirements I went with a travel agent to help me keep on top of things. Lori from Travel Express was tops on the list and she kept on top of things amazingly. I'm out of Anchorage Alaska and my first itinerary was down to Seattle and then Atlanta for the flight straight down to JoBurg. Rifle permits and overnight lodging upon arrival were lined up through Afton Safari Lodge. Within days of that initial reservation Delta pulled the straight Atlanta flight option. We rebooked through Amsterdam, Netherlandswith KLM and proceeded. The Netherlands added some wrinkles. First we got a Netherlands firearm transit permit lined up within days instead of weeks since the police have ample time on their hands right now. The Netherlands does have an issue with bowhunting, they won't even allow broadheads to transit. Feel free to argue and test whether they'll check this or be smart and do what I did and don't fly with them. A quick Whatsapp message to my host and we lined up a couple packages of my favorite Slick Trick magnums in 125 grain from a shop in RSA. Issue solved.

8 January 0200: I showed up two hours prior to my initial flight. Aside from a negative Covid test incthe past 72 hours, which I had, my first hiccup was the Delta desk agent informing me South Africa now required a health survey to be filled out. Then her supervisor took over and said it needed to have been filled out two days in advance. She proceeded to inform me I was out of luck and just reschedule. Yes, I was stunned. After A couple minutes I got my composure back and asked for the info she had. I looked up the South African site and found out the supervisor was very wrong. I needed to fill out the survey within the last two days. I sat down and had it filled out in a few minutes. Basic contact info, trip info, and Covid questions. Done, showed them my approval code, situation solved and supervisor sulked away while the desk agent proceeded to check me in no problems. The flight was maybe 20% full.

Seattle layover was easy, but I started hearing about health survey requirements of other countries so I wisely went to the counter early and sure enough the Netherlands wanted one filled out just like RSA along with a negative Covid test. Easy enough then instead of when most did it minutes before boarding. Again, maybe 20% capacity, tops so lots of room to spread out. Ten or so fun-filled hours later I was in Amsterdam a few hours before my next flight. Easy airport to navigate and no one asked about either firearms or the bow.

Final flight was probably not even 20% full. The only interesting note was that an hour before landing we all got to fill out that RSA survey AGAIN in paper form. When I got off, the first health station wanted the paper version and had no clue of the online one, figures. Second station checked my Covid test and my temperature. I was good with both, no quarentine. We can argue about Covid all day long, in the end getting an extra 14 days in quarentine is not something I wanted to deal with. We found my firearms and bow quickly for an airport employee to get them to the police office and Mr. X from Afton Safari Lodge helped expidite permitting. I was out the door to an awaiting van to Afton Safari Lodge in short order while the other hunter on the flight was still waiting for his gun to show up to the police office. VIP service well worth it.

Walked out the doors of the airport around 2300 on 9 January for a grand total of 31 hour of travel. Yeah, I laugh a lot when people grumble about that little hop from Atlanta.

I arrive at Afton Safari Lodge as the only guest there. Thankfully they had some whiskey in the bar for a night cap and a very comfortable room for the night.

Next day I awoke and had a fine breakfast, chatting with Elize until Bossie arrived to drive up to his new lodge near Louis Trichard in the Limpopo.
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AZDAVE

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Looking forward to your report. I am due to take the Amsterdam route in a couple months.
 

Ryan

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First things first. Everyone asks about equipment so here it is.

It's summer in South Africa. I travelled in a pair of cargo pants but I was in shorts and a T-shirt hunting. Some mornings I had a canvas cover shirt on but not for too long. I didn't even bother with a coat when I looked and saw lows in the 60s F/ upper teens C. And up into the 80s F/ upper 20s C during the day. Russel Thula Thula shoes with canvas gaiters for footwear. I grew up in Arizona, thorns don't bother me much.

Firearms-
I'm left handed so I went with a left-handed Ruger M77 African in 375 Ruger for buffalo. I restocked it in a Accurate Innovations laminated stock I found a few years back and topped it with a Leupold VX 2 1-4X scope. I hand loaded 300 grain Peregrine VRG3 Bushmaster bullets over H414 as suggested by the Peregrine retailer in the states who has reolading software. It shot great in Alaska and it shot great when we checked in South Africa and had no issues when hunting.
Second rifle for plains game was a Ruger #1 in 30-06. Again I hand loaded, this time 150 grain Barnes TTSX over H414. Over the past two years it has shot great in Alaska, keeping a hair under MOA. But my temps never go over mid 60s. But upon checking it in the South African warmth and sun it shot poorly. Heck, I let Bossie shoot a few in case I gained a flinch and his group was sub par too. So I guess H414 with Barnes can have some issues in heat sensitivity. I'll work that out another day.

So I used my 375 Ruger for all plains game I hunted with rifle. It worked great.

My bow is a PSE Expedite drawing 70.5 pounds at 29 inches. I use Easton FMJs and Slick Trick 125 Magnum broadheads. It's shooting a 510 grain arrow at 286 fps for nearly 94 ft/lbs of energy. I have zero concern about penetration with a four blade broadhead.
My rangefinder is a Leupold. I love it and Bossie seemed to approve when he used it.

I didn't bother with a sheath knife, they're overkill. I had a model #7 Opinel in my pocket and a Case Slimline Trapper (because I lose pocket knives) along with my trusty Leathermen Wave in my pack, which came in handy more than once.

For those who are curious, the skinner used a utility knife with replaceable razors for most of his work. Bossie said it's the best tool he's seen used so far. It gets dull and they switch the blade around and keep going.


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sierraone

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So far so good! Wishing that your luck continues until you finish the hunt and make it back home.
 

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Man would I have been frustrated with Delta! I have yet to have them understand what is up to date even before Covid! Congratulations on your tenacity!

I’m really looking forward to your hunt report!
 

BRICKBURN

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Glad you did not take the Delta staff's pronouncement as gospel. With the ongoing changes in rules and regulations in every country there is no way the traveller should not be double checking everything from an independent and reliable source.

Thanks for sharing the adventure and PIA.
 

Ryan

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Day 1: Buffalo

Up early, 0530 coffee and rusks. Checked the rifle quick, spot on, and on the road to Peiters concession by 7. Morning was overcast and cool. Within a half hour we spotted a couple bulls crossing the road and worked up to them. The one we though was hard bossed disappeared and we played cat and mouse with the others at close quarters of as little as 15 yards. I had crosshairs on one, but when his head came up it was soft bossed. They spooked and disappeared. This went on throughout the morning with soft bulls and a small herds. We could find them but getting close for a good look and staying close was a whole different matter. The summer green brush is amazingly thick and although it hid us, they used it to their advantage too.

Noon break allowed us a moment to relax. But the clouds were clearing and it was getting hotter too so we were going to be sweating more.

The afternoon was more intense than morning. We WALKED. Spotting, tracking, wrong group, young bulls, disappearing acts and plain getting busted. I don't care if it's day one or five, if we were seeing them I wasn't giving up. We did finally see two hard bossed bulls so we had hopes. But they were tight in a herd and getting a good shot was proving tough with all those eyes. Around 3-330 I got a solid look at them and then they spotted us and were gone. The big bull was all covered in mud. We had a target to focus on and keep us going. Circling and planning we worked them.

Finally, we saw the herd before they saw us. They were passing in front of us at 100-120 yards. Bossie had me on the sticks and looking them over. The first two were the bulls, second was the muddy one. Take it when I had the shot.

Safety off, crosshairs on the shoulder I followed him. He stopped a moment and I squeezed. The bull bucked and the herd turned back around running. Bossie and his son DJ both said it looked good but until it's down I've got my doubts. Racked a round quickly and started following the herd. The bulls broke off and we slowed. One circled and fell! The others stared our way. Wait.... The bellow. Not long, but definitely a bellow. The others break away and we walk up. Taking no chances I prepare for an insurance shot. Bossie tells me to aim at a top of some grass as a target. I do and the bull doesn't even twitch. Fresh round in the chamber we circle to the rear and walk up slowly. Bossie checks, he's dead. First shot was perfect in the shoulder, but you never know. Second was too, through the spine. It turns out that second shot clipped the horn tip. Some may not be happy with that but to me it added character. It reminds me I followed through and that shot was perfect too.

Woo.....

I have my buff. A hard, wide bossed bull with lots of character.

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Ridgewalker

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WOW! One fine looking buff! Congratulations!
 

Ryan

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Day 2: Relaxation and steenbok

I'm in decent shape for 50, but our first day took it's toll. Both Bossie and I were sore from day one. And I had the added bonus of a sunburn for unwisely forgetting sunscreen. So we woke up late (0600! I'm a morning person) from our tented rooms and took it easy in the morning, getting some target practice in and such. By noon we had made plans to head back to Peiters place for steenbok with my bow. We had seen plenty of them the day before including one or two nice ones. The seasonal high grass has the advantage of providing good cover for them, keeping them from bolting and allowing a bow shot. It sounded good.

I would love to report we got a steenbok with my bow, but we didn't. We found plenty, we stalked plenty, and we even got to see our soft bossed bulls again, quite close while in the truck. I had one broadside shot at around 35 yards, but the ram was staring holes through us in heavy grass. He didn't wait long to bolt. The rest didn't even give us that. It was a great day, with great stalks, I won't complain.

The sun went down and we went home to dinner and drinks.
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yhc

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@Ryan that's one fine specimen!! Congrats on your buffalo!
 

Trophyhunter01

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nice work! I hunted that area last year about this time. Hot temps and tall grass make those steenbok tough to find. Following.
 

cls

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Well done, congrats on a fine Buffalo
 

gillettehunter

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Very nice looking buffalo and some good shooting. Congrats
Bruce
 

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Glad you did not take the Delta staff's pronouncement as gospel. With the ongoing changes in rules and regulations in every country there is no way the traveller should not be double checking everything from an independent and reliable source.

Thanks for sharing the adventure and PIA.
Beautiful bull! Congratulations!!!
 

Ryan

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Day 3: Blesbok and Black Wildebeest
With a few more days on my trip for plains game than anticipated I had a few choices. Warthog, blesbok, and black wildebeest were tops on the list. Bossie has access to black wildebeest on another concession also known for its blesbok and good warthog. I opted for rifle today and the 375 got loaded up for the trip.

We woke up to a beautiful sunrise at the lodge. Arriving at the concession we gained a local guide who directed us to a wide open area known for black wildebeest. We quickly spotted some. A large herd of blesbok were also spread out in the area with bushes in a thin patchwork. We started working up to them, bush to bush. Unfortunately the blesbok suspected something and began leaving. This was all it took for the black wildebeest. Waiting for them to do their notorious circling didn't pay off so we hopped in the truck to move on. A couple warthog showed themselves, but nothing noteworthy.
Heading into another open are we spotted some nice blesbok and worked in on them. We had one ram in mind and of course he kept giving us fits. Others would be broadside while he'd walk directly away from us or we'd set up sticks and he'd walk behind a bush. Eventually he gave me a shot and I didn't compensate for drop enough. Off they all went. Back into the truck and several minutes later a group of blesbok run across the road. It looked a lot like the last herd we'd tried hunting. They slowed a couple hundred yards from us so we hopped out and started a stalk. Bush by bush we got closer. The common blesbok I wanted played hard to get again. He came out into my view heading away and I waited. He turned slightly, still waited. Finally he gave me a lightly quartering shot and I squeezed the trigger. Down he went!
I have my blesbok!

After loading it up we started heading back. It was coming to lunch time and we all started opening lunch boxes on the back of the truck while riding when one of the trackers called out he'd seen wildebeest in the bush! This explained where they went earlier. Forget lunch, grab rifle and hop off the truck as it slows. Truck keeps going and Bossie, the local guide and I head into the bush on their tracks. Some animals may have stopped to look back, these black wildebeest didn't. 10 minutes of walking turned into a half hour and more of walking in a winding, looping, crazy pattern. Tracks thinned out and came back together, we sweated.

Suddenly to our right, the herd came walking behind the brush not 60 yards away. They hadn't seen us due to the brush, but as Bossie put the sticks up I couldn't get a clear shot either. Move the sticks and they'd move, still no shot. Finally Bossie dropped the sticks and I had a clear shot. He called the bull, I lined it up and didn't hesitate. Perfect shot! I saw blood on the shot, no usual, but it was a good sign. They all took off. Walking up we quickly spotted bright lung blood and even some tissue, no doubt the shot was solid. A blind man could follow this blood trail, and yet it didn't end in a few yards with an animal solidly hit with a flat nosed 375. A hundred yards, still going, still bleeding. I won't lie, I was concerned. Maybe a tad back, who knew? Finally at probably 200 yards the wildebeest is piled up in a big pool of blood. Two perfect holes in the shoulders show I did everything right. That was one tough beast! That's a stalk I'll never forget.

He's a brute with wide bosses and an incredible mane. I couldn't ask for better.

While we did some more looking around to get a feel for the place and maybe see a warthog I decided two in a day was plenty. We headed back to our lodge to enjoy the evening with drinks around the fire and buffalo fillet in an amazing sauce. Phenomenal food by the cooks. I have to say eating something you take on the hunt adds a lot to the trip.
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Ryan

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Day four: Blesbok bowhunting

We decided to pick up the bow again. Bossie has a concession he'd walked quite close to animals on while walking along a river bottom so we headed the other direction over the Soutpansburg mountains into the mopane woodlands.

After meeting and greeting the owners we suited up in our ghillie suits and walked along the sides of the water course. We crossed over it on the road and saw a few crocodiles hiding in the reeds, some of impressive size. We walked along looking for impala and such heading to the water. Unfortunately this wasn't the morning for it.

Our luck changed on the way back to the lodge when we spotted a group of blesbok moving across the road. Even though I had taken one with my rifle I was game to stalk one with my bow. The truck dropped us off and we worked into the bush quietly stalking up to them. As we got closer we went to our knees and finally leopard crawled several yards to a position behind some trees and bushes. I had to put my bow forward and lift myself on my hands and pointed toes. Not an easy task. Slowly but surely I got my knees under me and worked my way to a seated position. Then we had to wait to see what the four in front of us did. We ranged spots hoping they'd head closer to us and a shade tree but they seemed to like the wide open area in front of us. Not much happened for probably 45 minutes as my lower legs went numb.

Then two more rams came down the road slowly but surely. The brush camoflaged us but also blocked current shots. Finally one started moving to my left, toward the opening I had. I drew and Bossie started ranging it whispering 24, 23, 22 before stopping. I was shaking a bit from being in an awkward position but I settled the 20 yard pin on it and released. The shot was perfect and the arrow passed through with ease. The ram jumped and ran maybe 40 yards, stopping, wobbling and falling. To say we were ecstatic was an understatement. We waited a couple minutes to make sure and then got up and walked to it.

After calling the truck over we went back to the lodge and had lunch on the patio. After lunch we spent some time in a blind that had warthog activity lately at mid day. No luck today for a couple hours so we scoped out the watercourse below the lodge again and spotted a bushbuck. We decided to attempt a stalk on it. Back into the ghillie suits and sneaking down the slope to the last postion we saw the it. Perhaps 50 or 60 yards from the bushbuck we spotted it along with a marabou stork. Unfortunately the stork spotted us and spooked, flying. Now the bushbuck was on alert. As we got closer it got spookier. At maybe 30 yards we had to freeze for a couple minutes in an awkward crouch as it looked our way. We moved into position, preparing to shoot when it caught us and bolted. That is how things go. So we eased along the watercourse again hoping for an impala or maybe warthog. Aside from seeing the crocs, including a couple small ones in pools, no luck.

Afterwards we relaxed with the concession owners, chatting and enjoying a beer in the afternoon shade for a while. No complaints for an amazing day.
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