SOUTH AFRICA: Eastern Cape 2019 With Hotfire Safaris


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Aug 16, 2014
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Calgary, AB Canada
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Alberta, Florida, Eastern Cape of South Africa
I hadn’t even touched down in East London in May 2014 and I was already plotting how I might be able to hunt in Africa again. That 2014 hunt with Patrick Fletcher of Hotfire Safaris was a success and did not dissuade me from wanting to return again. Not only did I enjoy some fantastic hunting with Patrick, but my best friend, my wife enjoyed some fantastic times seeing local sights with Patrick’s wife, Jennifer. Although Patrick and Jennifer are 15-20 years younger than us, it was evident that everyone got along like peas and carrots or potatoes and gravy.

Life can get in the way. I soon had to have a second low back surgery. For the next 2 years, injury after injury set me back. Don’t ask me what the problem was, no one has explained it, but I’m glad my joints no longer swell up causing intense pain.

2018 was the year I had to make a life decision. Early in 2019 I would be turning 55, I had to decide if I was going to stay in the pension, or if I was quitting pre 55 and taking the commuted value of my pension. The main benefit of taking the commuted value was that my heirs would have 100% of the remaining value, that was not the case if staying in the pension. Quite a number of policy decisions at work helped me feel quite at peace to pull the plug after 28 years. December 6, 2018 was my final day as an enforcement officer with the City of Calgary. My plans were to hunt coyotes and get in better shape for my April 2019 return trip to Hotfire. If I could find a hunting related job, so much the better.

So much for plans. I had been walking around with a loonie sized hole in the side of my foot since mid-October. A follow-up visit to the Doc got me sent to the wound clinic (no diabetes, I walk on the outside of my foot due to the enervation in my left leg after the first back injury, I just built up a callous which eventually sloughed off). I was prescribed a soft cast with a relief molded in, and no weight bearing. 3-4 months to heal. Too bad I had just purchased airline tickets!

Healing was slow, mainly from me not keeping off it totally. I mostly wore the cast, but damned if I am using crutches for 3 steps to the toilet! I was a shut in to avoid un-necessary walking. Mid-March, a bossy nurse told a Doc to send me to an orthopedic surgeon. She believed that my foot would continue to deteriorate due to the uneven musculature and nerves. They also said they would not go to Africa, if they were me, as there was too much chance of getting an infection in the wound. I determined that I could manage that risk, game on!

Somehow I was able to see a surgeon. He wanted two surgeries, the first to fix the wound, and prevent a reoccurrence, the second to reroute ligaments to properly stabilize the foot. I also started a hunting related job within those 24hrs. Talk about a whirlwind!

April 7th I left Calgary and arrived in East London on April 9th. I picked up some supplies and Patrick and I headed for Hotfire. I noticed that there are more street beggars, but there are more street beggars in Calgary than 5 years ago. I’ll call it a wash.

Arriving at Hotfire was like visiting my second home. Totally at peace, the bird sounds were awesome. It was considerably hotter than I anticipated. Our late winter and early spring had been unseasonably cold. It was about a 20C difference in temp.

P1030024 Hotfire Jim_zpskg3ztrwu.jpg

I really like the safari tents that Hotfire has. You can hear the critters grazing around your tent each night. It enhances your experience and the full feature bathrooms are only a few steps away.

P1030267 Tent Jim_zps1zodw7uo.jpg
P1030268 Tent Jim_zpshtxbu0ii.jpg

Some random Hotfire scenes. If I understand correctly, it is categorized as “sweetveldt” and can be quite thick.

P1030092 Hotfire terrain Jim_zpsxjgo7xgd.jpg
P1030112 Hotfire terrain Jim_zpsf3nw84oq.jpg
P1030238 RiverJim_zpszexr0gbd.jpg
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P1030028 Hotfire cliffs Jim_zpsx4hms9mq.jpg
P1020996 Hotfire terrain Jim_zpsxogwbabc.jpg
P1020987 Hotfire terrain Jim_zps7s7czymj.jpg

Late on the first day of hunting, as desired by the cook, I shot an impala for camp meat.

impala edited_zpsgzkrevhm.jpg

The next few days were quite hot. I was completely open to siestas after lunch.

My team at work. Chewy and Patrick.

P1030041Patrick and Chewy working_zpspijiimxh.jpg

Allman, Patrick and Chewy.

P1030272 Hunting team Jim_zpshgqfnzat.jpg
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A tortoise we found.

P1020981 Jim Tortise_zpsklu4jnln.jpg

Finally, on the morning of the 4th day, we (I) managed to spot a mature nyala bull. We tried a couple of attempts to spot him in the thicket he went into with no success. By crossing the river we were able to look back into the thicket and spot the bull. As with any nyala, it was difficult to find a shot into his vitals. Nyala are the masters at standing behind an obstruction. Finally, I could see his chest, although mostly quartering to us. At the shot there was a heavy thwack sound and the bull hopped a couple of steps and was out of sight. We waited and looked and waited some more, and more. The bull had to be dead? Then his head was seen to the right of a bush. It was moving, but on its side. No shot to the vitals. Then, he was up and across the opening. No shot. Then he was down again on his side. Vitals behind bush. Then he thrashed a bit and his chest is now visible, but hidden by his head and horns. Another thrash caused his chest to be clear of the head. A second shot finished it.

P1030070 Hauling Nyala Jim_zps1fkhi78z.jpg
IMG_5536 Nyala Patrick_zpsnbxmpjpk.jpg
P1030085 Nyala Jim_zpsu5bxoowd.jpg
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The next day and a half was very hot, couldn’t even sleep during the Sunday siesta. No breeze. Yuck!

That evening, we finally found a waterbuck bull, but Patrick deemed him too short. Apparently, waterbuck don’t respect fences especially if you are on a river, they come and go at will. It was good we didn’t shoot him as it began raining and rained hard from about 5pm to 930pm. That certainly broke the heat! Patrick said we wouldn’t have made it out of the draw after it started raining.

The next morning, with cooler temps, the wind was more stable and we were able to go into the “Nook”. How they spotted the waterbuck bull, I don’t know. How they got me on it, is even a bigger mystery. It certainly looked good to me. I had been warned that kob antelopes, like waterbuck, can take a lot of killing. Something about larger, sturdier bones for their body size. I think that, like nyala, in thick vegetation, you never get a totally clean look at their vitals. Never a broadside, but some variation of angling towards or facing you, with enough vegetation to cause you to question your idea of where to place your shot. The bull became deceased, but with way more lead in him than I would have liked. The center of the first photo shows where the bull was standing facing us. About 200yds.

P1030118 Where waterbuck was shot Jim_zpsahjfdwrb.jpg
P1030127 Waterbuck Jim_zpstacnokh5.jpg
IMG_5574 Waterbuck Patrick_zpslhp1pqpk.jpg

Patrick was quite disappointed about the bull. It did look quite nice in the bush above us. Who hasn’t had ground shrinkage?
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The next day found us heading to another farm where two Cape eland bulls had jumped into the paddock where they had started a herd of Livingstone eland. The farmhand that rode with us sure knew the eland behaviour. They weren’t in the first location, but the second. We spotted the larger bull at 1100yds. The paddock is only about 7000acres. The farmhand predicted how the bull would react if disturbed, and with only a few fits and starts, that is exactly how and where the bull went.

I usually always have tape over the end of my barrel to avoid getting an unplanned obstruction. This roll of tape my wife bought at the dollar store. Whether it was the heat, or the tape quality, the tape kept sliding off to the side. I had looked at it and saw that the muzzle wasn’t covered, but a shot at the eland was imminent and I was sitting behind the sticks. No issues, right? Wrong! Somehow the rifle fell off the sticks and went muzzle first into the soft soil, maybe 2”? I quickly cut a small cedar branch and started clearing the soil out. A little judicial blowing and poking cleared out the soil, with only about 5 minutes before the eland appeared!

I couldn’t get a clean shot until he was only 80yds away and quartering towards me. At the shot, the bull was rocked hard, he almost went down and did some drunken sailor stumbling, but he stayed up. He had stepped into a dip. I held low, but did not clear the rock. Apparently I tried too hard to miss the rock, because I missed the eland with the next shot. I then had a great look at the neck broadside, the 4th shot took him down with no further fuss.

Look at the size of those hooves!

P1030150 Eland hoof Jim_zpskoyijcf3.jpg

I’m about 280lbs. Eland are huge.

P1030154 Eland and Jim_zpsd9u9uabl.jpg

He definitely was right handed, way more rubbed on that side.

IMG_5584 Eland Patrick_zpslwlaum4o.jpg
P1030155 Eland Jim_zpsz34d5g7r.jpg

Now that is the way to retrieve an eland!

P1030172 Eland transfer Jim_zpsoocwyizv.jpg

Making tripe!

P1030204 Making tripe Jim_zpskwgzonv4.jpg

I paid one of the staff to find the bullet that had penetrated 5ft of eland. The TTSX had lost all the petals but still weighed 114.2gr. That is 68% weight retention!
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When the skinning was nearly finished, we headed off to find a red lechwe. We soon had a lot spotted at quite a distance. While we were strategizing how to approach them, we saw a bull move out of sight close in front of us. We drove ahead and hopped out. There were about 20 lechwe in front of us including 4-5 bulls. Two bulls were in a class of their own. One was more broomed, but I shot the one that was larger with a classic shape. What beautiful antelope!

P1030186 Red lechwe Jim_zpsqnko9etg.jpg
IMG_5589 Red Lechwe Patrick_zpsw4aipgot.jpg
IMG_5596 Red Lechwe Patrick_zps1smyi1qv.jpg

What a great day and a great sunset.

P1030260 Sunset Jim_zps3mwkmxj9.jpg
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The next morning we headed off to a third farm to locate a fallow deer. They soon had a chocolate buck spotted. Unable to shoot or stalk from our location, we drove around, then hiked in quite a distance, but found the buck sleeping. As with the nyala and waterbuck, the chocolate buck, lying in the deep shadows, was hard define angles etc. Finally he stood up, but behind a tree. When he took a step, I shot him in the chest. He acted like any chest hit deer and went on a run. We waited and Allman was assigned to check on him. The deer was not dead, I finally got another shot on him, but maybe more forward than I would have liked. One hop and he was out of sight. We found him barely able to stand, but trying to walk away. A final shot ended it. We found that he had broken several tines and part of one of paddles. He was in poor condition with a much rubbed hide. What an old warrior!

P1030230 Fallow Deer Jim_zpsirelnxfe.jpg
IMG_5609 Fallow Deer Patrick_zpstasrx585.jpg

An old stock dipping tank.

P1030236 Old dip tank_zpscmkrrlly.jpg
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The next few days we tried to find that 54” kudu we had seen, or a duiker or a larger waterbuck. While the heat had broken, we had the full moon to deal with. The animals did seem to hold very tight.

IMG_5630 Moon Patrick_zps9lgskr2x.jpg

Our final morning at Hotfire had lots of low cloud. We used one of the new trails and found some kudu high up, but no shooters. Here is a neat shot of some trees in the clouds.

P1030294 Mist Jim_zpspdeleafm.jpg
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We headed for a couple of days near the coast to find a bushbuck. A major rain front was moving in, and we found few bushbuck where there are usually many. However, at sunset, Patrick found a nice buck. We were able to move in on him and shooting into the sun, I mitigated that by getting as low as I could with a bipod assisted prone shot. Even with the recoil, I was able to see him thrown back towards the side. He didn’t so much as twitch. That made me feel good that no one had to follow a wounded bushbuck at sunset.

IMG_5639 Bushbuck Patrick_zps0l4vpxns.jpg
P1030345 Bushbuck Jim_zpsmmii5ijy.jpg
Jim Bushbuck_zpslnpjvk72.jpg

The farmer was incensed that we hadn’t gotten a duiker. He took us jacklighting on his vegetable farm (legal) for duiker for about 3 hours. No success though. Our talks were great, so great that I guess we ignored a chance at some jackals.
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This is my rifle: Kimber 8400 Montana 300WSM with a Leupold VX3 2.5-8x36 in Talley LW extra lows. I handload a Barnes 168gr TTSX using Federal cases, CCI250 and RL17. Three shots are close to 0.5 inch if I shoot well. 3100fps.

P1030245 Kimber and Leupold_zpsgvkaz7ck.jpg

I have used Air 2000 Hunters Support twice. I can’t recommend them enough. They meet me at the gate, take me to SAPS where they have my preapproved rifle permit ready. Then they take me to the City Lodge hotel. Next morning, they pick me up and make sure I am checked in on the next leg. When I returned to Joburg, the driver met me and took me around town. Then we met Apero who made sure I was checked in with my rifle. What great service! Well worth it.

I had a lengthy layover in Johannesburg. I had hired a driver, Gavin Spowart. He is great company. I went to Safari Outdoors. Nice store with a lunch bar. Some touring and shopping at an African decorating store. Pretty cool. Gavin took me to Soweto for about 3hrs. Not what the press shows you. Small brick houses or apartments. Schools, hospitals, shopping malls, universities, just a regular city of 4million souls. Only the newest, poorest immigrants live in the tin shacks that the press likes to show of Soweto. The shanty towns are scattered and are less than 10% of Soweto. Had lunch at an African restaurant across the street from Mandela's original house and around the corner from Bishop Desmond Tutu's house.

The flight home was 22hours. Even wearing compression socks, my legs were very swollen. A rash was below my knees. Within 48hrs of arriving home, I had a bad cold, chills and heat flashes. I went to a couple of weekend seminars in the snow. I felt miserable and Friday night my left leg was sore at one spot. That spot continued to grow. Sunday morning I couldn’t keep awake. The left leg was reddening and swelling. I made an appointment for the doc, to check out the rash. By the appointment on Tuesday, I knew I was in trouble, lots of redness and swelling. As I knew he would, the Doc wrote a letter and sent me directly to emergency. What a way to spend our 25th wedding anniversary!

No blood clot, but definitely a massive infection in my left leg. Four days of IV antibiotics, that pump went wherever I went. I finally feel good, but am still on oral antibiotics. When is the next trip?
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Glad you had a good time on your hunt.
Some nice trophies.

Get healthy!
Very impressive trophies and a great read. Thanks for sharing your trip. I have 11 months to go yet. Get well and start planning that next safari.
very nice trip and pics !
Beautiful trophies and congratulations on a great hunt. Sorry that you've had to deal with the physical issues. May your recovery go well. I have eight years to go until I punch out. That will put me slightly under 31 years and 58 years of age. It will be strange to not have to put on body armor or a duty belt for work. Congratulations on making it to retirement. Be healthy and start planning your next African adventure!
Congrats on the hunt and thanks for sharing!
Great trophies - congrats! Really like that lechwe - majestic animals.
Thanks for your report. Congratulations on the trophies. Also I really enjoyed the photos.
Great trip, and excellent trophies! Thanks for taking the time to share it!
Great trophies - congrats! Really like that lechwe - majestic animals.

The lechwe is my favorite. Not only is it cool, but after the heat and the hard hunting for the nyala and waterbuck, it seemed like the lechwe was a gift from God. Combined with the eland, it may be my best day of hunting in my life.

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Good morning 7MAG. I have a NEW, never mounted, Leupold M8-4X Extended Eye Relief scope that I will sell you for $325 shipped to you. I was a Leupold rep for 12 years and this was always our preferred mounting for a lever gun, scout rifle style.
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You’ve got an interesting screen name. Will the Thrill provided lots of great times for me as a lifelong Giants fan. Even though I never met him, a number of buddies either duck hunted or shared a dugout with him. He’s a great guy according to those guys. Cool screen name and if that’s your real name, it’s a great one.
in-between all the bush fire, hunting and work on the hunting area its hard to find time for fishing as well
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is the 505 gibbs still for sell? Thanks!