SOUTH AFRICA: Cape Buffalo Hunt With TSALA HUNTING SAFARIS

Vintageguy

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Ever since I was old enough to read I have read books on hunting in Africa and spent countless hours daydreaming of tracking an old Cape Buffalo bull. Of sunsets and sitting around a fire reliving what a great day we had just spent hunting and the sounds of the night about us and the stars overhead. Those daydreams were detailed by all those wonderfully told stories of past hunters in the pages of those books and I longed to live those types of stories. But, I am also a man who appreciates the difference often found between stories and real life. How so many times we are let down when we finally get there ourselves. This is not one of those experiences.
We arrived in Johannesburg in the late afternoon and was met by Rouan of Tsala and Bruce of Gracy Travel. Bruce got us straight through with my rifle in just a few minutes and Rouan had us loaded up and headed for Tsala shortly after. We arrived at Tsala and he got us settled into one of their guest homes which was very nice. We changed and he picked us up for dinner at the boma. That first night was nice but as we both were pretty much wiped out from the trip we called it early so we could catch some sleep for our first big day.
The morning of our first day started with an early breakfast at the boma followed by gathering our kit, then checking my rifle's zero. We then set out to look for tracks around the water holes and on the many roads. On stopping at one of the dams they found a lone, large, fresh track that left the water's edge and went up a brushy ravine. We followed it a ways and came upon a civet that had been killed by a leopard, a bit further on and the track vanished into dense and unbroken grass and brush. This wouldn't be my last look at this track. We then moved on again and were amazed at the amount of varied game we saw feeling a bit like a camera safari with all the picture taking. Kudu were everywhere this day and we saw several nice bulls.
Day 2 began with finding tracks early and following but a change of wind direction foiled our next encounter. While on this set of tracks an absolutely huge wart hog jumped up only a few steps from me and trotted away at just enough of an angle to allow an easy shot but neither Rouan the PH nor Herman the tracker had seen it as it had let them pass by and then jumped as I approached. He was also concealed to them by brush. I went to raise my rifle but thought better of it and let him go out of concern of the reaction of Rouan and Herman having a 375 go off unexpectedly behind them. Rouan told me I should have shot as that may have been my best chance for a big one and we could always take up the track again or find another. Lesson learned, establish policy on shooting at wart hogs, jackals,...etc before going out. Next we spotted a group of huge bulls relaxing in the shade. A plan was discussed and formed for the stalk which took us up within forty yards of the bedded bulls, the last few yards covered by crawling. After a long time of trying to locate each one through the thick brush it was determined that none were fully hard and we backed out. Day 2 ended with lots of game seen, lots of walking on tracks but no shots yet.
Day 3 and off again on fresh tracks that meandered around and through the brush, loose them, fan out, and find them again the whole time silence prevailed with only the occasional snap of the fingers to communicate. Then the sound of tick birds came and after checking the fickle wind we approached to within 30 yards of a monster of a bull standing in a nice opening with his head down feeding but showing us only his backside and horns sticking out on each side. I stood at the ready waiting for him to turn and reveal his bosses and a shot opportunity then I felt the breeze come around on back of my neck 1,2,3 and he exploded straight ahead through the brush without so much as a glance back at the source of the scent. On to look for another. The sun was hot and we headed for water again to check for tracks but this time found zebra. I think everyone had decided a little trigger time was in order so we stalked to within about 150 yards and took a nice old scarred up stallion. The day ended with Rouan telling Herman to chain up the bull that night because the next day was my birthday.
Day 4 and the old man, me, turned 55. Everyone chatted up a birthday buffalo but I was honestly thinking that a shot before the week was up would be fine at the rate I was going. Next came a marathon track that took us probably 3 miles. Along the way we had the buffalo ghosted by a go away bird, heard lions roaring in the distance, and then ran into a group a wildebeest that got between us and the buffalo and just kept pushing them on. We found dung so fresh the flies hadn't found it yet and Rouan motioned Herman over for a consultation then stuck his finger in it, pulled it out, and switching fingers quickly tasted, saying it seemed fresh and did Herman want to taste. Herman just smiled and passed on it. The tracks stayed fresh and we doggedly pursued with the wildebeests remaining a problem. Eventually we came to a road and some discussion took place. Brandon, Rouan's son and also a Professional Hunter, had left us earlier to get the truck in the event we came out on a road and he had again checked a dam we had been at that morning and found a very fresh set of tracks. A discussion followed and a plan formulated to leave the current buffalo to settle down and hopefully loose their wildebeest escort and go check out this new track. If it didn't pan out we'd return to it and start over.
We arrived at the same spot we had found that first lone track on day one and I told my wife that I felt like this was an old lone bull that was basically staying in that brush choked ravine and wondered how far he had gone and how thick it was likely to get. We started the track and found where water had dripped from his mouth onto the very dry dust and it was still wet with the sun beating down and a hot dry breeze blowing. He had to be close. We followed only a hundred yards or so and again lost the track due to horrible conditions but everyone spread out and eventually the track was picked back up. We continued on about a quarter mile and there he was only 50 yards ahead and feeding, unaware of our presence. We watched him feed in a very thick patch of thorn slowly heading toward an opening to our right with me on the sticks waiting. It seemed like forever as he poked around, his wide bosses flashing in the spotty sunlight. Rouan whispered to let him get in the clear for a good shot. I whispered back asking if his chain was long enough to make the clearing. Rouan's expression was great. Then the bull turned back further into the thick stuff and Rouan made the call to swing around to the lower side so we slowly moved closer and to the bottom of the thick stuff. I was set up on the sticks waiting as the bull picked his way down toward the opening I had selected for the shot. After what seemed like an eternity and my heart pounding in my ears he emerged with his head down in the opening, then slowly his neck while I searched for daylight between his fronts to give me an idea of his shoulder position. Then he stepped and I could make out his angle and see his elbow. I followed that line up to just below half way and touched off the shot. He immediately dropped like you'd unplugged him, straight down onto his brisket like he was posed for a picture. I didn't hesitate and ran the bolt and quickly put a second shot within a couple inches of the first, reloaded, then looked around. Rouan and Herman I think had the same expression I had, surprise and delight. He measured out at 45 inches with nearly 14 inch bosses. A very happy birthday indeed!
From there on things were a bit more casual and less intense. We visited the taxidermist, saw elephants at a nearby venue and hunted plains game. I will add here that the game all were relatively ok with the truck but get boots on the ground and it was completely different. My wife and I must have made a dozen stalks on wildebeest with no shots. Wind change and other animals foiled each attempt. We also started seeing a lot of buffalo and some very impressive hard bossed bulls just as Rouan had said, "once you get one then we'll see them everywhere". Impala, blesbok, red hartebeest, and a nice gemsbok for my wife rounded out the week. We made a short trip to town for covid tests, came back and hunted. Then the last day we had a late breakfast, we fixed them a southern breakfast of biscuits and gravy with bacon because Johanrie had really outdone herself all week with meal after fantastic meal. This was followed by some nice pictures of the week's take in the sand of a dry wash. Then onto Johannesburg for some shopping, a late lunch and then the airport where we were again met by Bruce with Gracy Travel for the rifle process.
I can't do justice to this whole experience. It still blows me away how it surpassed all expectations and hopes. I thought before this trip that once to Africa would be enough because there's other things I want to do too or maybe if I went back I go somewhere else next time. Honestly, I can't imagine not going back and can't imagine not going back to Tsala when we do. Yes, there's a fence. But I was still seeing new places on day six and we walked hours on buffalo tracks without encountering the fence. It made me decide I needed a new definition for free range. You see, I had always defined free range as no fence but animals have natural barriers they won't cross and internal barriers they won't cross, where they'll turn rather than leave their home range. My new definition is. Does the animal have room to evade me from dawn to dark? If so, what else does it need? Anyway, not looking at starting a debate on this report, just my opinion.
The Tsala motto is "come as a stranger, leave as a friend" and they live up to it. They are easy people to like and their attention to detail and quality of the client's experience really shines. There's a lot of things I've left out. But as a working class guy who has to save a good while for a trip like this to be able to say I view this experience as real value for money says a lot. I'm bit, and bit hard when it comes to hunting in South Africa.

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Red Leg

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One heck of a buff. Congrats.
 

Inline6

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Congratulations on some fine animals!

Thanks for taking the time to write it up and share it with us.
 

Brian

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Thanks for the excellent account of you adventure. Tsala sounds like a good bunch too. Congrats! Brian
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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Nice report, congrats!
 

gesch

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Thanks for a nice report. The fact that you want to go back with Tsala tells us what we need to know about the quality of your experience! Thank you. Your friend, Brian
 

kdenn

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Congratulations on a great buffalo and belated Happy Birthday!! Appreciate reading the hunting reports.
 

AZDAVE

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Happy birthday, I celebrated my birthday this year in africa so I know what a special kinda day you had. Thank you for the great report. I am sure you are already planning your second trip.
 

BnC 04

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Congrats on the buff and thanks for the report.
 

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Congrats for a great hunt, that buff is really good :D Cheers:
 

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Ever since I was old enough to read I have read books on hunting in Africa and spent countless hours daydreaming of tracking an old Cape Buffalo bull. Of sunsets and sitting around a fire reliving what a great day we had just spent hunting and the sounds of the night about us and the stars overhead. Those daydreams were detailed by all those wonderfully told stories of past hunters in the pages of those books and I longed to live those types of stories. But, I am also a man who appreciates the difference often found between stories and real life. How so many times we are let down when we finally get there ourselves. This is not one of those experiences.
We arrived in Johannesburg in the late afternoon and was met by Rouan of Tsala and Bruce of Gracy Travel. Bruce got us straight through with my rifle in just a few minutes and Rouan had us loaded up and headed for Tsala shortly after. We arrived at Tsala and he got us settled into one of their guest homes which was very nice. We changed and he picked us up for dinner at the boma. That first night was nice but as we both were pretty much wiped out from the trip we called it early so we could catch some sleep for our first big day.
The morning of our first day started with an early breakfast at the boma followed by gathering our kit, then checking my rifle's zero. We then set out to look for tracks around the water holes and on the many roads. On stopping at one of the dams they found a lone, large, fresh track that left the water's edge and went up a brushy ravine. We followed it a ways and came upon a civet that had been killed by a leopard, a bit further on and the track vanished into dense and unbroken grass and brush. This wouldn't be my last look at this track. We then moved on again and were amazed at the amount of varied game we saw feeling a bit like a camera safari with all the picture taking. Kudu were everywhere this day and we saw several nice bulls.
Day 2 began with finding tracks early and following but a change of wind direction foiled our next encounter. While on this set of tracks an absolutely huge wart hog jumped up only a few steps from me and trotted away at just enough of an angle to allow an easy shot but neither Rouan the PH nor Herman the tracker had seen it as it had let them pass by and then jumped as I approached. He was also concealed to them by brush. I went to raise my rifle but thought better of it and let him go out of concern of the reaction of Rouan and Herman having a 375 go off unexpectedly behind them. Rouan told me I should have shot as that may have been my best chance for a big one and we could always take up the track again or find another. Lesson learned, establish policy on shooting at wart hogs, jackals,...etc before going out. Next we spotted a group of huge bulls relaxing in the shade. A plan was discussed and formed for the stalk which took us up within forty yards of the bedded bulls, the last few yards covered by crawling. After a long time of trying to locate each one through the thick brush it was determined that none were fully hard and we backed out. Day 2 ended with lots of game seen, lots of walking on tracks but no shots yet.
Day 3 and off again on fresh tracks that meandered around and through the brush, loose them, fan out, and find them again the whole time silence prevailed with only the occasional snap of the fingers to communicate. Then the sound of tick birds came and after checking the fickle wind we approached to within 30 yards of a monster of a bull standing in a nice opening with his head down feeding but showing us only his backside and horns sticking out on each side. I stood at the ready waiting for him to turn and reveal his bosses and a shot opportunity then I felt the breeze come around on back of my neck 1,2,3 and he exploded straight ahead through the brush without so much as a glance back at the source of the scent. On to look for another. The sun was hot and we headed for water again to check for tracks but this time found zebra. I think everyone had decided a little trigger time was in order so we stalked to within about 150 yards and took a nice old scarred up stallion. The day ended with Rouan telling Herman to chain up the bull that night because the next day was my birthday.
Day 4 and the old man, me, turned 55. Everyone chatted up a birthday buffalo but I was honestly thinking that a shot before the week was up would be fine at the rate I was going. Next came a marathon track that took us probably 3 miles. Along the way we had the buffalo ghosted by a go away bird, heard lions roaring in the distance, and then ran into a group a wildebeest that got between us and the buffalo and just kept pushing them on. We found dung so fresh the flies hadn't found it yet and Rouan motioned Herman over for a consultation then stuck his finger in it, pulled it out, and switching fingers quickly tasted, saying it seemed fresh and did Herman want to taste. Herman just smiled and passed on it. The tracks stayed fresh and we doggedly pursued with the wildebeests remaining a problem. Eventually we came to a road and some discussion took place. Brandon, Rouan's son and also a Professional Hunter, had left us earlier to get the truck in the event we came out on a road and he had again checked a dam we had been at that morning and found a very fresh set of tracks. A discussion followed and a plan formulated to leave the current buffalo to settle down and hopefully loose their wildebeest escort and go check out this new track. If it didn't pan out we'd return to it and start over.
We arrived at the same spot we had found that first lone track on day one and I told my wife that I felt like this was an old lone bull that was basically staying in that brush choked ravine and wondered how far he had gone and how thick it was likely to get. We started the track and found where water had dripped from his mouth onto the very dry dust and it was still wet with the sun beating down and a hot dry breeze blowing. He had to be close. We followed only a hundred yards or so and again lost the track due to horrible conditions but everyone spread out and eventually the track was picked back up. We continued on about a quarter mile and there he was only 50 yards ahead and feeding, unaware of our presence. We watched him feed in a very thick patch of thorn slowly heading toward an opening to our right with me on the sticks waiting. It seemed like forever as he poked around, his wide bosses flashing in the spotty sunlight. Rouan whispered to let him get in the clear for a good shot. I whispered back asking if his chain was long enough to make the clearing. Rouan's expression was great. Then the bull turned back further into the thick stuff and Rouan made the call to swing around to the lower side so we slowly moved closer and to the bottom of the thick stuff. I was set up on the sticks waiting as the bull picked his way down toward the opening I had selected for the shot. After what seemed like an eternity and my heart pounding in my ears he emerged with his head down in the opening, then slowly his neck while I searched for daylight between his fronts to give me an idea of his shoulder position. Then he stepped and I could make out his angle and see his elbow. I followed that line up to just below half way and touched off the shot. He immediately dropped like you'd unplugged him, straight down onto his brisket like he was posed for a picture. I didn't hesitate and ran the bolt and quickly put a second shot within a couple inches of the first, reloaded, then looked around. Rouan and Herman I think had the same expression I had, surprise and delight. He measured out at 45 inches with nearly 14 inch bosses. A very happy birthday indeed!
From there on things were a bit more casual and less intense. We visited the taxidermist, saw elephants at a nearby venue and hunted plains game. I will add here that the game all were relatively ok with the truck but get boots on the ground and it was completely different. My wife and I must have made a dozen stalks on wildebeest with no shots. Wind change and other animals foiled each attempt. We also started seeing a lot of buffalo and some very impressive hard bossed bulls just as Rouan had said, "once you get one then we'll see them everywhere". Impala, blesbok, red hartebeest, and a nice gemsbok for my wife rounded out the week. We made a short trip to town for covid tests, came back and hunted. Then the last day we had a late breakfast, we fixed them a southern breakfast of biscuits and gravy with bacon because Johanrie had really outdone herself all week with meal after fantastic meal. This was followed by some nice pictures of the week's take in the sand of a dry wash. Then onto Johannesburg for some shopping, a late lunch and then the airport where we were again met by Bruce with Gracy Travel for the rifle process.
I can't do justice to this whole experience. It still blows me away how it surpassed all expectations and hopes. I thought before this trip that once to Africa would be enough because there's other things I want to do too or maybe if I went back I go somewhere else next time. Honestly, I can't imagine not going back and can't imagine not going back to Tsala when we do. Yes, there's a fence. But I was still seeing new places on day six and we walked hours on buffalo tracks without encountering the fence. It made me decide I needed a new definition for free range. You see, I had always defined free range as no fence but animals have natural barriers they won't cross and internal barriers they won't cross, where they'll turn rather than leave their home range. My new definition is. Does the animal have room to evade me from dawn to dark? If so, what else does it need? Anyway, not looking at starting a debate on this report, just my opinion.
The Tsala motto is "come as a stranger, leave as a friend" and they live up to it. They are easy people to like and their attention to detail and quality of the client's experience really shines. There's a lot of things I've left out. But as a working class guy who has to save a good while for a trip like this to be able to say I view this experience as real value for money says a lot. I'm bit, and bit hard when it comes to hunting in South Africa.

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Congratulations on both a great hunt and report! Rouan and his family are absolutely the very best! I had your same experience back in July and will be hunting with them again in July 23 for a second Buffalo and lion
 

gillettehunter

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Excellent buff. Congrats on your hunt. Looks like a wonderful trip.
Bruce
 

TSALA HUNTING SAFARIS

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Thank you for kind words E.

We had lots of fun and a great week.

See you soon

Rouan
 

vancewalker007

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Great descriptions of your stalks. Its hard to convey the intensity of the experience, but for those of us who have done it, we get it. The sound of the wind, the smell of earth and spore, the strain of the walk with sweat running, the sudden heart pounding appearance of an unexpected animal. All amazing.
 

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Rick HOlbert wrote on NTH's profile.
NTH, Just found your message. I hunt with Eland Pro Safaris in Namibia. Wide selection of game and great folks. Hell my PH and his family ARE adopted family, LOL! I book people to hunt with them and should you be interested I'd be happy to meet and discuss a trip. Anyway all the best to you and give me a shout sometime. Bye for now.
NTH wrote on Rick HOlbert's profile.
Nice “meeting” you Rick. I made my first trip to S. Africa this year through Kuche Safaris. We had an incredible time. What outfitter do you use? Neal
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