SOUTH AFRICA: Cruiser Safaris Hunt September 2016

Vanguard2279

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As promised, I am finally writing my hunt report for my first African hunting safari. I'll apologize ahead of time as I should have kept better notes.
I lost my wife in June 2015 to cancer. I didn't want to go anywhere or do much of anything unless I could do it with her. In January 2016, I was at the SHOT Show and the thought of hunting in South Africa came to mind. I had been dreaming of this for a long time. Caeli wasn't a hunter, but she would have been with me for every minute of it.
I started researching where to hunt and with whom. I chose South Africa based upon it's relative safety, the ability to get direct flights, it's established safari industry and quality of medical care if things went badly wrong. I had not yet discovered AfricaHunting.com, but Google took me where I needed to go. After much research, I settled on Cruiser Safaris and contacted their American booking agent, Bob Clark. I went with a variation of the seven Day Package and purchased tags for Kudu, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Warthog with the understanding that I hoped to take an Impala ram if a nice one presented itself.
I'm 47. I actually hate when time "flies by", but not that much this time. In the intervening months between March and September, I had gotten my passport, Global Entry/TSA Pre-check, a Customs form 4457 and utilized the Afton Guest House's assistance for a pre-approved Temporary Firearms permit.
In the early morning of 14 September, I boarded a delta flight in Las Vegas for Atlanta. After a seven hour layover in ATL, I boarded a 777 bound for Johannesburg. I was immediately impressed by the significant number of hunters on my flight. After what seemed much longer than 15.5 hours, we landed in Johannesburg. I collected my suitcase and headed to the SAPS office to pick up my rifle.

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Hank2211

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I assume this is the teaser . . . keep it coming Vanguard!
 

Vanguard2279

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Part Two: I hate to do this in sections. Bear with me.
I was met by a female lead officer who verified my identity and issued my permit. Very painless. I was out the door and on my way with Afton's concierge, Mr. X.
Travel Tip: Use a firearms permit service. After hearing horror stories, I wanted that to go smoothly. Also, pack your medications, tooth brush and Copenhagen in your carry-on.
Afton Guest House was clean and well-fortified. Three other hunters from my flight were staying there as well. Two were going on to Kimberly and one to Windhoek the next morning. We took advantage of the steak BBQ that Afton offers and several Carling Black Labels. I went to bed at 2130 after having been up about 32 hours. I promptly woke up at 0345 and couldn't go back to sleep. I got up, dressed and watched my first sunrise in South Africa. Afton's owner, Annalise, made a wonderful breakfast the next morning and I waited to be picked up by Cruiser Safaris.
I was met by Carel Engelbrecht who I discovered would be my Professional Hunter on this trip. We immediately set out for the Cruiser Lodge near Lephalale. During the drive, we discussed what I expected of the hunt. I hadn't come to South Africa obsessed with making the book, but I did want mature, good quality trophies. I had the utmost confidence in Carel that he could deliver on my expectations.
We arrived at Cruiser and were immediately met by the stunning young Acting Executive Chef, Aimee Smith, who immediately gave us homemade juice. After settling in to my chalet room, I assembled my Forbes 24B .30-06 and we zeroed it by the crocodile pond. I had settled on handloads that I developed with a 200-grain Nosler Accubond backed up by 56 grains of RL-22. Carel and I then drove around one of the concessions. I was impressed by the abundance of game, but I was well aware of how animals can make themselves scarce when you're actually hunting them.
Dinner: Gemsbok Stroganoff. I had vowed that I would try everything put in front of me. This was great.
 

Vanguard2279

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Day One:
I was up early. Aimee had breakfast ready. Carel and I ate and headed out with Muntzu, the driver/tracker. Carel used a phrase "We'll let the bush decide what we hunt first". We saw some Gemsbok (my main priority) and immediately dismounted and started tracking them, but they eluded us. We came to a clearing where we encountered a large Giraffe bull who seemed intent on staring at us. I love Giraffes and was taking a picture of him when Carel advised that there was a nice Impala ram just past him around 300 yards. He set up the sticks and I took aim. First, I've never shot off sticks before. Practice that before you go. The Impala was moving to the left and quartering away more than I realized. My round went into his left side by the hip and exited his right shoulder. He rapidly left the scene. Carel and I discovered hair and stomach content, but no blood. Carel advised me later that there never was any blood. We tracked him for a distance in a sea of tracks. Carel went to get Muntzu. Muntzu worked his magic and we found the Impala dead 150 yards from where he was shot. I had been truly worried that I had hit him badly and I was going to lose the first animal I had shot. Later, I was advised that he had missed SCI Gold by 1/4". Nice to know and be able to tell people.
We enjoyed a bush barbecue of Kudu sausage and freshly-baked hotdog buns by a waterhole.
In the later afternoon, we encountered a solitary Blue Wildebeest bull at approximately 150 yards. I deeply respect the individuals who put them down solidly with one round. I will just characterize this event as a "sh@#show of gunfire". I broke his right shoulder with my first round. I sent one into his chest via his right hip. The third round was high shoulder. The fourth was from five feet away into his left chest (downward angle) as he was trying to get up. The fifth was into his heart from about two feet away. He still took about three minutes to die. I felt horrible. I pride myself on making quick kills and that the animal does not suffer. I will say that this was the worst experience of the whole hunt. My fault. Nobody else's.
Dinner: Kudu Roll with Gemsbok Kabobs.
 
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Vanguard2279

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Day Two:
Carel and I spent the day chasing Gemsbok. It was interesting to see how Impala were performing a rearguard action for the Gemsbok, seemingly to insert themselves between us and the Gemsbok. I was in awe of how beautiful the Gemsbok are, even as they ran away from me. We saw some Red Hartebeest and tracked them for a while, as well.
Lunch: Eland Burgers. Yep. Pretty fabulous.

Day Three:
Breakfast: Beef sausage and hard-boiled eggs.
While trailing Gemsbok on foot, we encountered a large old female Warthog with stout tusks. One round into her heart off the sticks at 50 yards. She dropped in place.
Dinner: Bacon-wrapped Impala and pork short ribs.
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Vanguard2279

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Day Four
Carel and I hunted a different property and encountered a male and female Gemsbok in a cleaing. We stalked within 150 yards and prepared to take a shot. Unbeknownst to us, we had settled down with a Warthog hole ten feet to our front. We heard a strange rumbling and a Warthog launched himself out of the hole. Fortunately, this did not disturb the Gemsbok. I settled into a somewhat awkward seated position, steadying on one knee while utilizing my sling. My first round hit high shoulder and broke the bull's neck. He dropped where he stood. I rendered one additional round into his heart upon approach.
The Gemsbok was the single most important trophy to me for this trip. I doubt that I'll ever hunt another as this bull will never be replaced in my heart. I had told carel that my main focus was on a mature bull (given how many females are shot due to their longer horns) with thick bases. While not especially long in horn, this Gemsbok was perfect. We utilized my camera's timer to take a group photo.
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Vanguard2279

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Day Four (cont'd)
Lunch: Beef and Gemsbok stir fry
I was advised that a friend of Pieter Lamprecht (Cruiser Safaris owner and all-around prankster) had a friend with a herd of Kudu on his farm. One particularly old and big bull was struggling to get through the dry season. I was skeptical at first. Carel suggested that we at least go and look at him. After lunch, we drove to a property about an hour away. Upon arrival, we met with the owner who sent one of his farmhands (Cedric) with us to help locate the herd.
Trivia: During the dry season, farmers and landowners will put out hay to try to help the animals survive. Many will not eat it. Unfortunately, when they do decide to eat the hay, they are weak and stronger bulls push them aside. That was obviously the case here.
Apparently, Cedric was worried that this hunt would not be adventurous enough for me so we scaled a mountain. Okay, it was a hill. A boulder-strewn, brush-covered hill that I realized later we could have walked around. That's okay. It was an experience. As we made our way through the trees, we bumped the Kudu herd and they took off. Not letting this discourage us, we set up in a grove of trees and waited. After about 90 minutes, Kudu began trickling into the clearing. The bull in question was obvious. 50" horns with a wide spread, white tips and very skinny. We later estimated his age at about ten years. I was in a firm seated position and sent one round into his heart at about 100 yards. He dropped and didn't move a muscle. I realized quite profoundly how hard the dry season can be on animals. That was ultimately the last shot I would take on game for this trip.
Dinner: Fried chicken, pumpkin puffs and strawberry shortcake. Did I mention that Aimee is an awesome chef?
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Vanguard2279

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Day Five
We continued our search for a Red Hartebeest. They proved to be very elusive.
Lunch: Deep-fried pork chops
In the afternoon, we set up by a waterhole for a little while and watched Warthogs females and their piglets come in to wallow. That remains one of the funniest things I saw in South Africa.
Dinner: Beef sausage and Wildebeest kabobs.

Day Six
We spent the early part of the day looking for a large mature Red Hartebeest and a Blesbok ram. We got close repeatedly, but our stalk was blown, particularly by Gemsbok. We worked our way into a decent position near a waterhole where we checked out a group of Red Hartebeest, but that was made up of females and young males. We eventually set up in a blind by another waterhole where we were stalked by an inquisitive giraffe cow. She was literally sneaking up on us (in her mind, at least). While hidden, we observed a group of five Sable come in to drink. One bull saw us and stood there snorting at us for the better part of an hour. We also observed a herd of approximately 18 Waterbuck with a few really nice racks come in to drink. The herd bull attempted to find a female who shared his romantic vision. He was soundly rebuffed. It was actually pretty entertaining.
When we headed back to camp, we were diverted to the dry riverbed for the formal barbecue that Cruiser holds for it's guests. I had enough to eat with the New York steak and passed on the Sable steaks. Next time.
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Vanguard2279

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Day Seven
Carel and I committed to sitting at a waterhole in a blind frequented by a group of Hartebeest. While there, we observed a large herd of Impala come in to drink with several outstanding rams. Later, a herd of Blesbok made an appearance and Carel advised me that there was an outstanding ram in the group. Being convinced that the Hartebeest had to be nearby, I passed on the opportunity. I would come to regret that. However, we observed a group of obnoxious monkies who were well aware of us and several Mongoose. Several female warthogs and their piglets came in to drink. At a critical part of the day, a Giraffe bull came in. I may have made enough movement that he stared at us for an hour. Unblinking. With Oxpeckers hanging off him. He wouldn't leave,.... Eventually, he decided we weren't going to eat him so he drank and left. That's an interesting sight.
As the light was dimming, a group of Impala and Blesbok approached the waterhole. They were preoccupied with something to our left and out of our sight. Carel thought it might have been a Leopard. Eventually, we called it a day and headed back to the lodge.
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The next morning, Aimee made my favorite breakfast. Bacon and ostrich egg-dipped French Toast. That was amazing. We said our goodbyes to everyone and loaded onto the van for the trip to Johannesburg. We stopped at Highveld Taxidermy and met with Mary-Ann Fernandes, the coordinator. She was amazing.
I travelled with another hunter, John, who was on his fourth trip with Cruiser. He had hunted with the great PH Hans Moatse. It was only my first trip and it was hard to leave. I can only imagine how John felt.
 

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We stopped at the Mall of Africa as I wanted to see if Starbucks (there are two in Joburg) had the souvenir "city" cup. They did. The store was huge with ten people working and fifty people deep at the counter, mostly waiting on their drinks. They haven't developed the technique of a stateside Starbucks yet. Give them time. We ate lunch at Spurs downstairs. I had the bacon burger. it was great, but all of the calories that I had burned hunting went out the window. Carel dropped us at the airport and I was sad to see him go. I began the long journey back to Las Vegas. I arrived at 0915 Sunday 25 September. I managed to stay up until 1930. I woke up at 0435 the next morning and went to work. While there, my daughter texted me and said "We had a baby". Talk about cutting it close. I will be going down to Phoenix to see Penelope Rose this weekend. My first grandchild.
My hunt with Cruiser Safaris was great. While I would have liked to put one more trophy in to the salt, I am well aware that this is why they call it Hunting. There is nothing guaranteed. This was absolutely fair chase. I would highly recommend Cruiser Safaris and my PH Carel Engelbrecht to anyone. I am deeply indebted to Carel for all that he taught me and for his patience and instincts. I hope to hunt with Cruiser again one day, particularly now that they may get a Free State concession and I hope that Carel is my PH.
Breakfast, Hans and Carel (PHs extraordinaire), Chef Aimee
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Vanguard2279

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Good report. Congrats on getting most of your animals. It sounds like the africa bug may of bitten you. Planning a return? Looks like a great impala. Bruce
 

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Nice job on the report and I am glad you had a great trip. They did a great job on your safari by the look of what you took and have said.
 

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Looks like you had a great trip! Thanks for sharing!
 

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Great report.
From the lows to the highs. Thanks for sharing your tale.

Congratulations on your success.
 

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glad to see you had a great time. I was there with the family last year July, should get your taxidermy this month.
 

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Great report. Loved the pics, especially all the smiles. Africa is special, and you guys showed it.
 

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