SOUTH AFRICA: BOWHUNT: Hunting With Greatland Safaris & John Henry Keyser

mrpoindexter

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I just got back from my first ever hunting trip and would like to post a transcript of my journal that I kept while I was there and post some photos.

I know that people here have been on far more hunts than I have and probably on much more exciting ones, but we all only get one "first time" and I would like to share mine with you.

I am also putting together a small book of my trip to give out as a gift for those who made this possible and I guess it wouldn't be too bad to let some people read it before it goes to print. I hope you enjoy reading it even a fraction as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.

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mrpoindexter

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Africa – Day 1 Friday, August 12, 2016


After a grueling trip with delayed flights, a business meeting in Chicago, a cancelled flight and a reroute through Istanbul with a 5-hour layover, I am finally in South Africa. I arrive on a Friday morning, but left Fresno on Tuesday afternoon. I meet my outfitter and professional hunter (PH), John Henry Keyser, at the airport as soon as I get through customs. We drive another 3 hours to arrive at the Greenland Safaris gaming concession – 800 hectares (about 2,000 acres) dedicated exclusively to bow hunting just outside the town of Thabazimbi in the Limpopo Province of South Africa. John mentions that I must be tired and might want to shower and take a nap. I tell him that aside from the 2 hours of sleep I was able to get on the plane, I have been up for 42 hours, but all I want to do is take a shower, put on some camo and go hunting.


The Greatland Safari lodge is nice. There is no Internet, so I am cut off from the world. I hope that does not cause grief at home, but I can feel the peace and solitude recharging my spirit already. I must be on my third wind because I am feeling very awake and alert.

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John Henry is very accommodating. As I unpack and get my bows out to shoot and make sure nothing was damaged in transit, issues creep up. Prior to leaving, I had my dangerous game bow, the Mathews monster safari, tuned at The Spot Archery in Fresno and my plains game bow, the Mathews No-Cam was dialed in like a laser, twice shooting a 58/60, 3x at 50 yards on six arrows. (For those that don’t understand how good that score is, the gold medal for the Mixed Team W1 for archery in Rio had an average arrow score of 8.69 at 50 meters. I scored a 9.67 average at 50 yards). After installing my hunting arrowheads, they are not even close to accurate.


We take a trip to town and the local archery shop does a spin test on the arrows and finds the inserts were out of spec on my plains game arrows – something that would not be noticed with field tips that are used for target shooting. They replace the inserts and find the Muzzy Phantom broadheads I picked up in Fresno were not good either – they would not spin true. I buy some Montec arrowheads and my arrows started grouping tight again and my shots are right where I wanted them. I also pick up some new Grizzly Stick 150 grain Silver Flame broad heads for the Monster Safari bow and have nine arrows reflecthed to handle the newer, heavier broad heads.
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Originally, my dangerous game arrows weighed 755 grains but with the heavier hunting arrowheads and larger vanes to add more spin and flight stabilization, they now weight substantially more, which slows down the arrows and causes them to drop more than they were. This requires me to re-sight my bow in. Unfortunately, I already have the slowest sight tape that my sight comes with and for it to work I am going to have to increase the draw weight. This will be a real chore for a multitude of reasons – the largest of which is that I struggled to handle the constant draw weight increases as I tried to up my strength to get enough power to take down a Cape buffalo. Now I have to increase it even more but without a scale to see how much I was increasing it or chronograph to see the change in my arrow speed. That means a lot of shooting with bow that was at the extreme edge of what I have the strength to draw and fire.


But back to hunting; John and I head out looking for some plains game. Honesty being the best policy, on the drive in from the archery shop in Thabazimbi, I let John know that I had never been hunting before and have been shooting a bow for less than five months.


I suspect he wants to work up to the Cape buffalo, which makes sense. If the buffalo was a more docile animal we were after, you can see what you have to work with but with dangerous game, it is best to minimize the surprises. I also would guess he wants to assess my skills and abilities.


While Impala, Zebra and Kudu are on the list of other animals I am looking for, we do not encounter any. We do see lots of warthogs, or actually I suspect the same three warthogs over and over again. They are ugly in a cute sort of way but could be better looking with some more hair.

We do see a group of five nyala, a nice animal but they were all young bulls. John knows there were some older bulls nearby and we eventually see them. It is time to see what I can do with a bow and get my first hunting kill under my belt. One of the two older bulls comes into shooting range and eventually gives a good quartering away shot and I let an arrow fly, hitting him from 18 yards away. The arrow completely passes through him, hitting both lungs along the way. They nyala runs off but doesn’t make it 50 yards and is dead within a minute.

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I don’t get a measurement but John estimates his horns at 26 inches long. I suppose I can get a firm measurement in the morning, but the size of the horns isn’t really the point. Aside from killing stray, nuisance dogs out on our ranch in the country back home, this is my first hunting kill. It was a single arrow, completely passed through, clean and quick. I know some people get squeamish about killing animals, but I suspected that would not be a problem for me. I not only understand the circle of life and the nature of man as the top of the food chain, but I accept and am comfortable with my role in it. I don’t have any regrets or remorse, but I am also not jumping for joy either. I do notice now how incredibly tired I am though and that is most of what I feel now. I am looking forward to having some nyala steak tomorrow.


We head back to the lodge, have some dinner and I meet John’s wife, Trish and Tannie Pikkie, the cook (and I later learn, the mother of one of John’s best friends, KP). I retire to my room and start my journal. It is so relaxing just sitting without the stress and/or distractions that come with TV, Internet, email and a phone. I have none of those modern amenities in my room, which I like. I don’t know what to call it - perhaps a chalet? It isn’t part of the main lodge and to say it is a room just doesn’t do it justice. It is brick with a thatch roof - yes, you read that right - THATCH!!! It is rustic but very nice.

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Tomorrow, we will be looking for kudu, zebra and/or impala. It is half past 8pm and I have been up for about 52 hours now, aside from 2 hours of sleep on the plane. I expect to sleep very well tonight.
 

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Very nice, congrats on the nyala. Thanks for sharing and look forward to more!
 

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Congratulations on a nice nyala! Can't wait to hear the rest!
 

CAustin

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Nice Nyala sir! Your account so far is very interesting so keep it coming!
 

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Congratulations. You have a good story going there. Thanks for sharing it.
 

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I'm anxious to read the next episode! Thanks for sharing!
 

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very nice start to your report. I am glad everything worked out after having such a rough start. You handled the arrow problems well for not having hunted that much. great job all around and that is a very nice nyala
 

buck wild

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Yes Sir- been waiting for this one !!! :) That room looks very familiar!!

KP is quite a character for sure :D
 

buck wild

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Here I dropped a pin on the farm for you ;)

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dtarin09

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Awesome read I am living your experience through your eyes. Will be posting my report with John Henry soon. Keep it coming!

dt
 

mrpoindexter

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Thanks Buck. I actually have it mapped out on my Google Earth but I cannot figure out where the blinds are in relation to the rest of the ranch.
 

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Like the tale thus far.
 

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Wish I could help you more, but I only hunted the main lodge area twice and never sat in a blind; although, I do know one of his best was in the creek drainage up from the lodge.

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mrpoindexter

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Thanks for confirming what I had as the property lines. I have looked at satellite and aerial photography many times and I am always amazed at how hard it is to find things you know are there. While not massive lakes, the water holes are not trivial in size and at least one of them was not overgrown with trees yet I cannot find it. Perhaps because it was green with algea and it is blending in? I will locate it eventually and then I can submit the photos I took from it to Google to have them pinned on the map (but no dead animals being submitted - I don't want that on the google maps link).
 

mrpoindexter

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I think I got them worked out. I checked the ranges to see if they matched what I scored on the ground for distances from blind to water and they look like a match and seem like water from the overhead. Too bad the aerial map resolution isn't so great.

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@mrpoindexter great report so far. Looking forward to hearing how the rest of your hunt goes- especially that buff! Glad to hear you decided to go after DG on your first hunt- I did the same on our first safari and am really glad we did.
 

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Africa – Day 2 Sat, Aug 13, 2016


Q. What is black and white and red all over?

Today starts off with the quest to get some animals from my “list” I came to Africa to hunt and that means zebra, kudu or impala (for my daughter Laci).


We encounter the same group of nyala from yesterday, sans their largest bull. Also, we see many warthogs – this time different from yesterday’s. There is even a family of five with three little warthogs. After a couple hours, we finally see some impala. It took what seemed like an eternity to get close, but eventually we see the alpha of the herd. He has very impressive horns for a southern/cape impala. (The eastern African impala horns are nearly 4” longer that the southern ones.) This male likely has 27-28” horns – long enough to make the SCI record book as a gold medal and possibly a top 10 record for bow hunting.

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Unfortunately, impala are very skittish and they did not stick around long enough for me to get a good shot on the alpha. Given their incredible speed and smaller vitals area, I need to get a clean kill shot – a point soon to be driven home.


After the impalas take off in a fashion that their automotive namesake can only dream of, we see some kudu. There are a couple bulls in the herd, but they only have about 48” horns and John said there are some larger ones around so we opt to skip these.

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We eat some lunch and then continue the hunt. Soon, some zebra are in sight. There are four, one young colt or philly and 3 adults. I can tell one is a mare because it is keeping very close to her young. The others are a mare and a stallion – from my vantage point I cannot tell which one is which. Once John identifies the stallion for me, I ready an arrow and wait for the mare to get out of the way so I can take my shot.


It looks like a perfect placement, just over the shoulder on a broadside hit that should drive the arrow deep into the lungs and heart. The zebra takes off like it is tryouts for Preakness. My arrow breaks off and I see a large amount of blood coming from the idea spot location according to my guide books (The Perfect Shot II, both the full size limited edition and the smaller mini edition to carry with me for field reference). We both think he is about to go down 75 yards from where I hit him, but then he limps off out of sight.


John suggests we wait about thirty minutes for him to die before we go get him. I decide to take a bathroom break and John goes looking for my arrow.
 

mrpoindexter

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Bad news – while the arrow broke and the broadhead is gone, presumably still inside my target, there are only about five inches of shaft with blood on it. Comparing its overall length to my other arrows, it looks like only about six or seven inches of penetration. I think my placement was right but I likely hit a rib and didn’t punch through because I am using a three blade broadhead that gives a lot more cutting area but has much poorer penetration than a two blade broadhead that I will be using with my heavy monster safari bow for the dangerous game.


We start tracking and see a huge blood trail – very easy to follow, but it slowly gets less and less bloody and we have to keep track of him by hoof prints. That sounds easy, but they are taking paths zebra have walked before, so we have to follow a path where one hoof drags slightly.

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To some people, a two-thousand acre gaming concession does not sound huge. Maybe it isn’t, but growing up on a farm, I know that two-thousand acres is a LOT of ground, especially following a smart animal with friends acting as lookouts through camel thorn trees with only forty yards or so of visibility.



We track across the ranch from 2:30pm until around 5:15pm when I notice the zebra double back. By this time, we had already brought in help tracking with a couple Bushmen named Johannes and France. I am color blind and so the blood trails do not jump out when I am looking for red blood on brown dirt or green leaves. France can spot them fast and I am impressed but Johannes just takes it to another level. While on the trail, I keep looking out to see if they came back across the road while John and France head out on the far side trying to get ahead of them.

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Suddenly, I see them cross the dirt road and one just stares at me for a solid five seconds while the others cross. I can’t get a good view of his side while he is staring me down, but eventually, the zebra steps off the road and into the bush and I see the blood on his shoulder. I know I cannot run down even a wounded zebra so I wait for the others to come and pick up the trail. Within ten minutes, Johannes steps out of the thick bushveld right where the zebra came out.

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We follow the trail and while I am looking out in another direction, Johannes steps around a tree on the trail and disappears from sight. By the time I can navigate a path through the camel thorn, he is nowhere to be seen and I have to call out to him. I hear him reply and head his direction. By the time I finally catch up to him, I laugh and say “Track the zebra? I can’t even follow YOU!!” We continue on but never catch up to our quarry.

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At sunset, we call off the search and head back to camp. I hear a new sound I had never heard before. John Henry tells me it is zebra. Either they are mocking me, or my zebra split from the herd and they are looking for him.


There is no return call.

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I suspect his surface wound started to close up as the blood finally began to clot, but the internal wound will likely remain, especially if the arrowhead is lodged in his ribcage.


If it cut his lungs, I can’t imagine him walking miles but I am told zebra are tough as hell. Maybe he bleeds internally tonight and we find him tomorrow – otherwise we are in for another long hike.


You are never supposed to name an animal destined to be food as you don’t want to turn it into a pet. That said, I have named this zebra anyway. He will forever hereafter be known as Charles Bronson.
 

mrpoindexter

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Just a note here - the 27" impala isn't in the photos - I was holding my bow and not my camera when they were coming into range.
 

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