SOUTH AFRICA: Eastern Cape - July 2019 - Bullet Safaris

M Whitley

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JULY 18TH, 2019 HUNT – DAY 9

After breakfast we drove about 40 minutes to another property that Craig said usually had a lot of mountain reedbuck on it. We drove in and parked, climbed the first saddle and spotted a group of 20 plus mountain reedbuck. We left the tracker there with the spotting scope and stalked around the back of the mountain, bumping another group of 8 mountain reedbuck with a small ram in it. We climbed, crawled on our butt, and crawled to the top of the mountain. At one point the mountain reedbuck ram was 40 yards. Craig said unfortunately he was not big enough. As we sat glassing there was an impala ram chasing a female several hundred yards away he was grunting and for those that have never heard it, it sounds like an old car with no muffler taking off from a stoplight at low speed. They were not rutting so I think the ram was being optimistic but it was cool to watch and listen as he chased her around. We stalked our way out, not finding anything else to hunt but did spot a free range group of eland cows and young bulls. A total of 9 eland in the group. We went back to the lodge for lunch then to a nearby look out spot to try and find a gemsbok for me.

We parked the truck and walked to the top of the look out where we could see the valley between two mountains and the side of the opposite mountain. We spotted a group of old Gemsbok cows, I let Craig know that a bull or cow either was fine with me I just wanted to take a mature specimen. Craig picked out one old cow and explained that the animals left horn about an inch from the tip shifted out. Now we started our stalk, we cut across a saddle in the hill side and then up to a point that would protrude out over the top of the herd. This was about 100 yards to where we needed to be, the skyline and horizon would not allow us to crouch as the herd would spot us. We crawled on our bottoms and on our hands and knees for this 100 yards. When we finally reached the spot Craig confirmed where the shooter was in the group and set the sticks up. The Gemsbok were 200 +/- yards, one of my furthest shots off of sticks. I lined up on the Gemsbok and squeezed the trigger. There was a thud at the shot and the cow took about 8 steps before stopping again. Craig let me know my shot was back a few inches from where it needed to be and to shoot again. I did shoot again square on the shoulder and the Gemsbok cow fell to her end. Craig called the tracker on the radio and told him to go back to camp and get some help, there were no roads close and it was very steep where the animal fell. Craig and I descended to the cow and attempted to get pictures, the slope of the ground and just us two limited our photos but we still managed to get one or two good ones. The tracker arrived with 4 helpers and to work they went, it is hard to explain to those who have not been hunting in Africa how hard the staff works when an animal is down.
 
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Matt_WY

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Great trip report! Glad you had a successful hunt. Very well done.
 

M Whitley

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JULY 19TH, 2019 HUNT – DAY 10

This morning after breakfast we went out to look for a mountain reedbuck again. I was texting with Nathan Askew a month or two before my trip and he said “If you get the opportunity you should hunt a mountain Reedbuck, its and awesome hunt.” I have known Nathan outside of this trip and if he says you should do it its awesome, which means it will be better than what you think is awesome. I let Craig know I would like to hunt the mountain reedbuck if given the chance, and I was way ahead of my original 5 animal list, lol.

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We climbed a mountain and spotted a small group of mountain reedbuck, after much glassing Craig said the ram was too young and we should move on. It was very windy that day, I am sure the wind was 15+ mph and gusting to 20+ mph. We did however see many animals. Impala, kudu, eland, black wildebeest, and zebra. As we came down the mountain we saw more mountain reedbuck but no male that was big enough. We moved over to another lookout point and as we came around a large veld bush Craig froze as did I. Then I saw why Craig had frozen, at only 50 yards broadside looking away was a mountain reedbuck ram. I am not very good at judging the mountain reedbuck so I stood frozen and looked at him closely. We were mostly hidden behind the bush from the ram so we had plenty of time to look him over. Craig set up the sticks and said he is a mature ram Mark, I got on the sticks quickly. I had a very small triangular shaped window in the brush that was placed directly over the ram’s shoulder blade. Almost perfectly outlining the vitals of the mountain reedbuck. Craig asked if I had a shot, I answered that I did. Craig asked again “You do?” As the opening in the brush was rather small and from Craig’s height and angle I’m sure it was smaller than mine. Craig said to take the shot and I did, the ram instantly fell to the ground. We posed the ram on the rock that covered that mountain and took many pictures, we had put in many hours and miles hiking and climbing to find a mature ram. This was one of my most memorable hunts in Africa thus far. Not the actual taking of the trophy but the time and miles logged looking for this specific species.

After lunch we decided to try and stalk the black wildebeest herd we had seen earlier after we recovered the mountain reedbuck. The herd was 25+ animals and Craig said there was only one bull that was big enough to shoot in the herd. This day was very much colder, I do not believe the temps got out of the 40’s. We spotted the herd about 500 yards away. Craig confirmed the bull was still there and off we went on the stalk, leaving the tracker at an elevated location with the spotting scope to radio us if the herd moved or was spooked. This was the most challenging stalk I took part in to date. We crawled on all fours, crawled on our butts, and scooted along the rock and thorns to cover the 400 yards that the cover was thinner. We finally got to 220 yards, we spotted the bull and sat for an hour as he moved within the herd and the only opportunity we had he was facing directly at us in the bush. I told Craig I did not feel comfortable with the frontal from that distance and Craig agreed we would not be taking that shot. We backed out and called it a day.
 
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Smitty

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View attachment 298626 View attachment 298551 View attachment 298552 View attachment 298627 View attachment 298628 JULY 17TH, 2019 HUNT – DAY 8

We had breakfast at 7:00 am and then loaded up 4 trackers. The six of us spread in a line walking the bush for the gut shot impala. After a half hour of searching we found him, he had circled back close to where he was first shot. The jackals had eaten one of his back quarters but the cape was still good as the temps had been in the 40’s that night. We dropped the additional help and the impala off at the skinning shed and went to see if we could spot a zebra stallion or gemsbok that wanted. We parked the truck and walked to the edge of a mountain side where we spotted a group of five zebra, one a stallion that Craig said was a shooter. I got on the sticks when the stallion turned broadside at 160 yards I shot him with my 375 through the shoulder. The herd ran in the valley and the stallion fell about 60 yards from where he was first shot. Craig said we would need some additional help, I volunteered to walk down to the animal myself while Craig went back to get some more help. I walked down and sat by the zebra admiring his beautiful coat and markings.

While I was sitting there I was looking at the mountains in the distance thinking what an amazing life I had. I had been brought up with humble beginnings, we weren’t poor growing up but we didn’t vacation and my father worked 60-70 hours a week. Even as a teenager and young man any days off school were spent working for dad, usually for no pay. While I sat there I thought I must be the luckiest guy in the world to be able to have what I do and be able to be hunting in Africa. I’m sure I am not the only guy that stood over a trophy in Africa looking at the horizon thinking the same thing.

At my request the afternoon was very laid back. After lunch we just stayed close to the lodge, walked some mountains and glassed for mountain reedbuck and gemsbok. We did not make any stalks that afternoon, we saw lots of animals but no stalks.
Thank you for your report, so far it is wonderful. Also thanks for your introspective about how you felt hunting in Africa. I, too, felt very emotional and blessed when I went. It was hard for me to put into words, a dream come true
 

Chago

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Wow hell of a trip thus far.
 

M Whitley

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JULY 20TH, 2019 HUNT – DAY 11

Today the wind was very strong and a high of only 45 F +/- Craig advised we make a later start to our hunt. Craig had purchased a lamb from a farm about 45 minutes south for his personal food to take back to Cape Town. I told him we could skip the morning hunt and I would keep him company going to get the lamb from the farmer. This drive was beautiful and I enjoyed it very much, after we picked the lamb up and got back we hung out at the lodge and had lunch. After lunch we stayed close and just glassed animals at my request. A great day relaxing and seeing some beautiful country.

JULY 21st, 2019 HUNT – DAY 12

Today is my second to last hunting day, I had 5 animals on my original list but always knew I would take what Africa gave me. 10 animals in the salt on the first 8 days of hunting and what an experience I have had. It was windy again and the high temperature would only be 60 F today. We decided to try and find the black wildebeest herd again this morning. We got to a high vantage point and again spotted the herd at 500 yards or so, while Craig and the tracker were trying to locate the bull in the herd that was a shooter the tracker pointed out a blue wildebeest bull off by himself. Craig and I looked at him and Craig let me know he was an old bull kicked out of the herd and would be a good trophy. I told Craig I would like to take him if we could make it happen. We entered the pasture and got to 120 yards from the bull as he stood broadside. I took the shot with my 375 H&H and the first shot was perfect. The bull to my surprise ran about 80 yards and stopped again. Standing broadside after taking that shot I squeezed the trigger again, this shot a few inches higher and the bull was down. Craig said that is why they call them the poor man’s buffalo, they are extremely tough and can take several shots to down the animal. We got him staged and cleaned for pictures. After lunch at my request we just stayed close to the lodge, going up on a high overlook and glassing below. Craig and I had discussed hunting a red lechwe at another property. Our plan was to drive to another property about 1.5 hours north in the morning to try and find a good red lechwe for me to take.
 

M Whitley

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JULY 22nd, 2019 HUNT – DAY 13

My final hunting day, my original list when I booked had 5 animals. As of the start of my last day I was at 11 animals. I knew I would go over my original 5 animals and told Craig I would be willing to shoot anything that he said was a good representation of the species or better that gave us a good opportunity or stalk. Today we traveled North up
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to another property that had a good population of red lechwe, Craig knew this farm manager and they had allowed us to come this morning to hunt. We checked in at the lodge and picked up another tracker that worked at this property. We had not traveled long when we spotted a group of red lechwe and springbok. Craig and I both thought the ram was quite nice however the tracker from this property insisted we keep looking and could do much better. We spotted two rams together in the distance, one like the one before and one that was noticeably wider than the other ram. We parked the truck and got into a waterway that held minimal water, the local tracker knew the property well and weaved us in and out of the waterway hidden by the steep bank. In a straight line maybe 200 yards, as we wound probably close to twice that far. We slowly crept up the bank and Craig looked back to me saying “ The ram on the right about 60 yards from us” The ram was quartering to us by the time I got on the sticks, Craig saying “Split the front legs and 1/3 of the way up the body, shoot when you can.” I squeezed the trigger and the ram jumped while kicking. He ran about 50 yards and stopped I fired again into his shoulder. The ram went down but was surprisingly tough and took several minutes to expire. We called the tracker with the truck and got the ram set up for pictures in the strong wind. We took several pictures and then back to their skinning shed. Once we had the Lechwe skinned we checked out with the main lodge and on our way back.


After we got back to the farm Craig and I went over paperwork for my export documents and tips for the trackers, maids, and cook. I packed my gear with the exception of a backpack I gave to Craig, boots I gave one of the trackers, and left over ammo I gave Craig.
 

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Congrats on your hunt and thanks for sharing! You took some nice game!
 

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When I got to Day 10, I thought you had had a helluva safari and then I realized you still had a couple more days. Great list of animals taken and the eland and kudu are awesome.

Did you fly SAA from JNB to East London?
 

M Whitley

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When I got to Day 10, I thought you had had a helluva safari and then I realized you still had a couple more days. Great list of animals taken and the eland and kudu are awesome.

Did you fly SAA from JNB to East London?

Yes, SAA to East London. They tried to charge me when I checked bags on the way to E London and on the way back to JNB for the rifle but I had bought my tickets before the new charges went into place.
 

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Thanks for report. Congratulations on a great hunt.

I hunted with Craig on my first hunt to Africa in 2005 in Limpopo and Freestate. Nothing like the first trip to Africa. That’s been a few years back, and he still greets me every year in Dallas like that hunt was just a few weeks ago. He bears a lot of the blame for all the time and money I’ve spent trying to get back to Africa. If I had all the time and resources, I’d plan a few days hunting with him on every trip to Africa.
 

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Thanks for sharing your hunt.
Congratulations on having a very successful and fun adventure.
 

M Whitley

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JULY 23rd, 2019 TRAVEL DAY 14

After breakfast and goodbye’s we took one last picture in front of the skinning shed with my skulls. I handed out some tips and gear I left behind then we traveled to East London to catch my domestic flight. Pretty uneventful travel to Johannesburg. I had about a 5 hour layover in Johannesburg got some souvenirs for my family and hung out in a restaurant most of the time. Caught up with some buffalo hunters at the gate that I spoke to on the way down in Atlanta. They also had a great trip and were hooked as this was their first safari also.

I sent a few Whatsapp messages to Nathan and Craig, harassing them about my next trip that I have planned for 2020 in the Selous with Bullet Safaris (see leopard trail camera pic Nathan sent me from Tanzania). Overall this trip even with all of my anticipation was better than I expected it would be. I know now why there is such a passion for hunting in Africa and such a bond between hunters that travel to Africa. It is unmatched in any other experiences I have had hunting.

Nathan, Craig, and the Bullet Safaris team are outstanding host and I would highly recommend them.
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Matt_WY

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Sounds like it was an awesome hunt. Congrats on all the great trophies!
 

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