SOUTH AFRICA: Eastern Cape Plains Game With Doornrivier Safaris

Bearkat

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Australia, South Africa (Eastern Cape), USA (GA, LA, ME, MI, MS, NC, NH, SD, TX, VA)
I had the pleasure of completing my first safari in South Africa this past June with Doornrivier Safaris in the Eastern Cape. I have dreamed of hunting in Africa for the last 30 years, but never thought it would be possible. (Note to those “thinking” about going: Go!! Save your money and go!) My brother-in-law purchased a hunt at the 2023 Houston Safari Club auction that Doornrivier donated to the Gazelle’s Luncheon. He called me from the convention to ask if I wanted to go. I said, absolutely, but there was no way I was going to Africa without my wife. In the end, my wife and daughter accompanied Mike and me on the trip.

The owner of the Doornrivier Outfit is William Hayward. He was very accommodating in tailoring our trip for the species we wanted to hunt and the activities that the ladies wanted to do. We flew from Houston to Newark and on to Johannesburg where we spent the night at City Lodge at OR Tambo. The airport is nice and so is the hotel. It is very easy to walk to and is basically inside the airport. The only warning to future travelers is to be prepared to tell all the guys that want to carry your bags “No!” They are relentless, but waive them off and make your way to the hotel.

Day 1

We had a 6am flight the next morning to Port Elizabeth, and the folks checking us in the night before said we would be fine leaving the hotel at 5am. We got up at 4am and went down for breakfast. The buffet was really nice and we all wanted to stay a little long to keep eating! I think I paid $34 for the four of us to eat. We left promptly at 5am, told the guys waiting to carry our bags ‘No,’ and made our way to the Air Link check-in. We dropped off our bags and made it to the gate by 5:30. The flight was smooth and exiting onto the tarmac at PE was a nice change of pace. Once we collected our bags, William and his co-PH Ruben were there to greet us.

We stopped for coffee and a quick bite at a cool diner on the beach called Something Good Roadhouse. We even got to walk down to the beach and touch the Indian Ocean.

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Afterwards we headed out to Addo Elephant Park for the day. We all enjoyed seeing so many African species and it gave us an opportunity to talk about what to look for when judging them. It took some time to find the elephants, but when we did, we had some close encounters which were fun. We had an awesome steak dinner at the Addo Cattle Barron grill and then spent the night at the adjacent chalets. It is definitely worth the time!

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Day 2

We headed out at 6am to drive to our first concession. On our way, we met William’s wife and she took my wife and daughter sight seeing around Port Elizabeth and Jeffreys Bay. It was interesting to see the changes in terrain as we drove. You would hit sections that looked like California, then the Texas Hill Country, etc. Upon arrival, the first order of business was to shoot our rifles. We chose to hire rifles on this trip. William had a nice custom built 30-06 on a K98 action, and his other PH, Ruben, provided my brother-in-law, Mike, with a Howa 30-06. We both sent our rounds out to 200m and the hunt was on!

This was the first time I was able to hunt by spot and stalk, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! After a lifetime of sitting in stands hunting whitetail, it was a pleasure to hunt in this manner. We were quickly on some Impala and after a couple of stalks, I had my opportunity for my first African animal. Needless to say, my nerves got the best of me and I totally missed the first shot! With the wind that day, the ram didn’t move far and I connected on my second shot. What an adrenaline rush and truly a special moment as I couldn’t believe I was finally hunting in Africa and had a beautiful Impala ram in the salt.

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After returning from the skinning shed, we continued the hunt. The wind was quite strong and made getting into position difficult. We spotted a small heard of Blue Wildebeest and, as it was getting late, we decided to give them a go even though they had the wind. We dropped down into a rather deep dry creek bed and moved a 100m or so before climbing up and peeking over the bank. As you may have guessed, the heard winded us with that lumbering, methodical gallop moving away. As I said earlier, this was my first time to hunt animals via spot and stalk. I was blown away at how easily they sensed our presence and it gave me a whole new appreciation for an animal’s sense of smell.

It was now “Kudu hour” and as we were driving though a pass to the next basin, the skinner, who they called Bosvark (bush pig) or Bossie for short, banged on the roof. We came to a stop and caught a glimpse of a mature Kudu bull and younger bull headed toward the basin. William and I piled out of the truck and found another dry creek bed to use to our advantage as we had the wind. We moved quickly, and after a brief but heart pumping stalk, I had my Kudu! He was a very old bull, approximately 11.5 years old, with those pretty ivory tips. Definitely a trophy to be proud of.

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Back at the chalet, we had a nice hot meal that William and Ruben prepared. We enjoyed a couple of drinks, a warm fire, and telling stories of the day’s hunt. It was like being at deer camp with three of your best old buddies. The guys really made us feel at home. Unfortunately, Mike hadn’t harvested anything, but tomorrow is a new day.

Day 2

We were up at about 6am, had a hearty breakfast, then hit the veldt. William and I headed to the first basin area that we had hunted the afternoon before, while Mike and Ruben went to the second. We parked the bakkie (truck) and started our spot and stalk on foot. Waterbuck was high on my list, so we were primarily looking for them and a nice Springbuck. As we were glassing, we found the heard of Blue Wildebeest from the day before. After a nice long stalk, we closed within 200m. William found the bull he was looking for, and with one shot from the 30-06, he was down.

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Since Mike and Ruben were further back in the property, we decided to drop off the blue at the skinning shed and head up to the top of one of the mountains where there was a huge mesa to hunt for the afternoon. We were looking for Waterbuck, Springbuck, and Blesbuck in the area. With essentially zero cover up there, stalks were difficult. You had to rely on the terrain for any cover. We eventually found a lone Common Springbuck ram that we were able to successfully stalk.

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While Mike had a slow day one, he had an epic day two putting four different species in the salt! He started the morning with a nice Impala ram, followed by a Black Wildebeest. Later that day, while looking for Kudu, he glassed a really nice Mountain Reedbuck which he decided to take. I was jealous as it was something on my list as well! There were quite a number of Red Lechwe on the concession. When a nice ram presented itself, Mike couldn’t resist!

As you can imagine, there were lots of stories to be told at camp that night! The evenings were filled with good food, lots of laughter, and camaraderie.

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Day 3

We were back up at 6am for our final morning hunt at this concession with the hopes of finding a good Waterbuck as it was high on my list. Until this point we had only spotted two young ones, so that was the focus of the day. After a couple hours of glassing, our hopes were beginning to fade as we needed to leave soon to meet up with the girls and travel to our next concession. We were walking back to the bakkie when William stopped us quickly. Perched high up the side of a mountain on a terrace just below the top was a fine Waterbuck bull! As we contemplated how to reach him, he began moving toward a far ravine. Unfortunately, that meant we did not have time to go after him. William and I were both highly disappointed as you can imagine. We finally found a shooter Waterbuck but had to leave him. As we sulked back to the bakkie, we stopped to have one more look up the mountain. To our amazement, there was a second mature bull standing not 50 meters from where the first one was!

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In an instant our attitude changed and the adrenaline was pumping. We smiled, took a deep breath, and proceeded to make the assent to get into shooting position. There was no easy way up for sure, but after a good 35-40 minutes, we made it up. We marked him at just over 200 meters and then closed within 180 meters. I took a couple of deep breaths and let my heart rate settle for a minute, then got on the sticks. The wind was ripping down off the top, so I had to aim a little further back. Exhale, squeeze, and he was down! What a stalk! Now we had to get down and figure out how to get him out.

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We made our way back down to the bakkie, but due to recent heavy rains, we could not use the switchback road nearby to get close to him. We had to make our way around the base of the mountain and up the other side. It took an hour and a half to get around and back to him. We still had to cape and quarter him on site and pack it up to the top. This was by far the most exhilarating hunt! Such an incredible place and animal! I will never forget this hunt.

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While we were chasing Waterbuck, my brother-in-law was out looking for Kudu and Springbuck. Fortunately, he and his PH Ruben, found a lone ram and were able to successfully stalk him. There was a unique thing about this ram; at some point someone tried to head shoot him and shot through the base of his horn! There is even a hole in his hear. It will make a unique mount for sure.

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The property we were on was approximately 16 thousand acres with no internal camp fences and an abundance of game. In addition to the species we harvested, there were a lot of excellent Eland, Blesbuck, Fallow, and Steenbuck. I look forward to hunting one of the big Eland in the future.

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After packing up, we left to meet up with the girls and go to our second concession. My wife and daughter had a wonderful time sightseeing. They went horseback riding along the beach, ate dinner at a restaurant with their toes in the sand, visited a bird sanctuary, and hit the local mall. I couldn’t have asked for them to be taken care of any better than that!

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We made it to the new concession in time for Mike to look for a Kudu that evening, but they didn’t see a mature bull. This concession had three separate sleeping quarters and a main dining area. The cook was excellent, we had a fantastic dinner, and spent time around the fire getting to know the staff and other PHs.

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To be continued......
 

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Excellent report and stunning photos.
 
Great pictures! Keep it coming.
 
Enjoying the pics, please send us more
 
Enjoying your report and pictures. Sounds like a great time.
 
good report, glad to hear you finally made it, now to start planning your next trip
 
You had a great safari. Thanks for the report and the pics.
 
Will be going back in '25!
I went in April 2022 and then this past April also and planning on 2025 and hopefully my wife will be able to go getting her second knee replacement in 2 weeks and will go to the East Coast again with Intaba Safaris great people
 
Congrats on such a great start to your first safari. You both did well. Some very awesome looking animals. Can’t wait to read the rest of the story.
 

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