SOUTH AFRICA: Eastern Cape With KMG Hunting Safaris Late May 2021

Bill DeHaan

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Safari Day Minus 1 and Some Background

My youngest brother Tom and I had originally planned to make our first safari in June of 2020. Of course we all know Covid reshuffled the deck. So quickly last year a new date in late May 2021 was set for our safari with Marius Goosen and KMG.

In the weeks leading up to the trip, there were many warnings and broad consensus that U.S. hunters should fly Qatar Airlines through the Middle East, avoiding both Delta and KLM. There are (Dutch and EU) travel restrictions to The Netherlands from South Africa, that are confusing and difficult to understand. The bottom line is that the Dutch ban on travel from South Africa doesn’t affect travelers who are only transiting through Amsterdam. Again, the ban doesn’t apply if you are only traveling through Amsterdam, providing you do not leave the international terminal.

This was to be our first safari. I had chosen KMG and Marius Goosen based on their AH Forum representation and very positive client feedback. There are a number of top shelf outfitters and PH’s to choose from. Marius and KMG have a fine reputation for personality, character and ability to delivered for clients. KMG seemed to produce wonderful experiences and above average trophies. (spoiler alert - KMG exceed not only my expectations but also my hopes.)

During telephone and internet conversations, I communicated our priority lists to Marius along with a couple other personal needs and expectations. My brother and I are not spring chickens. I am 62 and have had a serious back injury that has left me with nerve damage that has impacted my balance and mobility. So as our father used to say, “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. Tom, on the other hand, has fantastic mobility and still very physically able. (maybe I spent too much of my youth in 4 wheel drive) His help to me, along with that of Marius’ were key to my success. Thank you to my brother and Marius my friend.

During our hunt we stayed at The Outspan Farm Lodge. It is a striking setting, with wonderful building architecture, and staff that make you feel at home. It was lovely, quiet, peaceful and frankly a paradise to our mind and spirit. It is cliche to say but true, owner/hosts Andrew and Debbie, their daughter Laura, and staff Porche and tracker T-Man looked after us like family. Saying our farewells to them, Marius and his tracker Lloyd was hard. Ten days have never passed so quickly.

One key desire that I expressed involved the animals to be taken. I have hunted across North America for over 5 decades. During that time I have been blessed with the opportunities to harvest a lot of game. I told Marius I have shot enough animals during that time so it was important that he know I was seeking something special in the animals I shoot. Something other than being “representative of the species”. I was ok eating my tag and going home without a particular trophy. I am sure Marius had heard that before from many clients, but he understood that I meant it. I was committed to only take “proper” or “finished” animals. Possibly even a “chief”.

Tom and I would be hunting with rifles chambered in .270WIN and a .300 RUM respectively. Both were firing hand reloads that are on the hot side of charge, using Barnes TSX. All were tested and confirmed for point of impact during a sight-in upon our arrival at the Lodge. We’d both practiced shooting off sticks – sitting and standing. I’ve spent considerable spent time on a long-range shooting over the past several years. At an long range steel course near me, I practiced shooting from both positions out well beyond ranges I’d ever consider taking an animal. It really improved my skills and also my confidence.

Before leaving the shooting bench, we planned to test fire a couple rounds to confirm the point of impact was unchanged with the bipod that I planned to use on a hunt for Barbary in a couple days. To my shock, as I tightened the mounting knob on the bipod, the front sling stud on my rifle pulled out of the stock! Suddenly, I not only couldn’t use my bipod, but I also would not be able to use a sling! Eventually we did locate the local version of our own JB Weld product, a two-part epoxy. Unfortunately it was the night before our Barbary hunt and a trip to the range was not possible. So I elected to leave the bipod in camp. Having the sling again was very appreciated.

Safari Day (SD) 1:
Following our arrival, a trip to the rifle range and a delicious lunch, we slipped out for an afternoon of glassing the mountain slopes that surrounded us. The topography included deep ravines, grassy rounded hilltops, steep, slopes, and the thick thorny bush common to the mountains there on the eastern cape. It reminded me of west Texas on steroids. We spotted Nyala, Kudu, Warthog, Wildebeest, Zebra, Impala, Blesbok and more on the very first outing. Marius is meticulous about examination of animals to verify their trophy worthiness. We saw many good animals but none worthy of a stalk and shot. So at sundown we returned to the lodge and a fantastic dinner featuring Nyala Stroganoff, night caps and stories around the large open hearth fireplace. As best I could tell, many of the stories were true! Then we turned in for the night, sleeping lightly until my 0530 alarm sounded.

Safari Day (SD) 2:
Jet lag hit us at about 0300 so ample application of coffee was called for and the staff had already dialed that in. Rifles, ammo, cameras and binos were loaded into the bakkie and we left for the bush at a rather chilly first light. With Lloyd and T-man at overwatch in the back, I can’t imagine anything slipped by their eyes. And on this early morning, it was the case. We’d only been on the two-track for a few minutes when two quick taps on the roof brought the bakkie to a stop. Words were exchanged between Marius and the tracker. Marius quickly turned to me and whispered, “Warthog, a very good one, close, get your rifle and let’s go.” Well we had a problem. I was sitting in the front and my rifle was in the back seat. Brother Tom instantly uncased and passed my rifle forward as both Marius and I slid out the passenger door. We hunkered down and scooted around behind the elevated bank of a mostly dry water hole. Then the sticks came up, my rifle found its familiar rest, and there about 65 yards away was a monster warthog, fast asleep in the early sunlight beside his burrow. He was facing nearly dead on to me. The whispered instruction of “shoot him at the base of his neck and shoulder” was received with concern as I found the pig in my scope. Threading the shot to his shoulder/neck crease meant putting the round precisely between his tusks, and crazy close to his right tusk. I did the best I could under the circumstances. When the 300 RUM barked, the pig spun off the lip of his burrow down into the dry pond shoreline. He was done. And just that quickly we had drawn first blood and I had earned my first safari trophy. The 180 grain TSX passed between the tusks, striking the pig just below and left of the on-hand side eye, exiting via the off-side shoulder. He never woke up.
warthog.JPG


After dropping the warthog off at the skinning building, we headed back down the two-track to glass the mountain slopes and ravines as the sun rose. Hoping to find a Kudu bull warming himself in the morning sun. Marius had previously seen a couple very nice bulls, which were on both of our lists. By late morning we had spotted a truly fine bull and the stalk was on. As we worked our way down, then across that mountain to close the distance, the ground and cover became less and less accommodating. The crushed shale rock acted as ball bearings on the dried clay soil. To maintain traction one had to rely on the larger rocks and boulders to control your movement. The brush was thick, inhospitable, and blood thirsty. Eventually we reached a point that three sets of boots and bodies made too much noise. And since my ability to navigate that steep slope and cover was seriously challenged, I stayed put and Tom went ahead. They continued down the mountain about another 400 yards, where even their safety and ability to silently stalk reached an end. I was able to watch the bull and his harem for all but the final 5 minutes of their stalk. Waiting with great anticipation, I finally heard the familiar single shot report of his .270 and a solid whack of the bullet strike, “kaaa….wok”.
Toms Kudu.JPG


Tom had his first safari blood with a single shot at 272 yds. After a short 20 yd run, the bull dropped, and he had his Trophy Kudu and what a dandy it was! A beauty that could grace any trophy room.

We retired perhaps a little early that night, quite tired, and certainly very happy! Dawn could not come soon enough.
 

Randy F

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YAY!! Congrats! Keep it coming. (y)(y)
 

Pheroze

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Great report and I am looking forward to hearing more. Please post ictures of the area too! Sounds awesome.
 

Royal27

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Great pig!

Marius is an animal. :A Rock:
 

Hunter4752001

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Did the The Outspan Farm Lodge used to be called the Mpotshane Game Resort? If so I hunted there in 2014. A great location and great people.
 

scott fairchild

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Bobcat, great story keep it coming.
 

Chukar

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Keep it ripping!

Got a hunt scheduled in 2022 with KMG after many rescheduled plans....

So waiting for the finale.
 

Bill DeHaan

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cpr0312

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Great warthog, congrats!
 

Bill DeHaan

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Thanks CPR!
 

Nyati

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That wartie is just fabulous !
 

Gemsbok Gangsta

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I've hunted with KMG and concur!!! Very nice start to the Safari for sure well done Gents.
 

Bill DeHaan

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SD-3

Another morning jumpstarted with strong coffee and a breakfast of more than ample choices. The Warthog (not my pig) sausage with cheese was phenomenal! Afterward we quickly remounted the bakkie to glass some new ground (for us). Marius had all the intel and told us he wanted to hunt that ground specifically to look for a proper Blue Wildebeest bull he’d spotted previously, and if we were fortunate, a Bushbuck. The farmer’s son came out to say hello and meet us. As normal, I knew we were being sized up. Were we competent, careful, appreciative? We certainly believed so and always tried to present ourselves as such knowing our conduct and capability in the field would speak volumes. As we left to hunt his farm, he wished us luck, and sent his tracker along to help us. The reports on us from the field and the skinning shed must have been favorable because we eventually met and shared some great conversation with more of his family including his father, whom I had great conversations with while the skinners worked. He was a fair bit older than me, and a wonderful gentleman who personifies the character of that great land.

The farm was a vast expanse of varied topography and cover. It had rolling savannah like grasslands with broad drainages. All were interspersed by scrub brush and thorn tree choked ground. It provided great habitat for both grazers and browsers.

During our first session of glassing, a lone Blue Wildebeest bull was spotted on a far hillside. He was a very fine animal, massive, fitting the bill for an old solo bull. So a stalk was planned. We drove the bakkie around to the back side of the large slope he was on. This would cut the nearly one mile distance down considerably, yet leaving us with walk of at least a half mile up and across the grassy slope to a point we believed we should be looking down on the bull. When we got to the overlook, the bull was gone! How could this be? We were never in sight, and the wind was always on our faces. Suddenly he was spotted, a half mile across the valley sprinting across the slope like he was being chased by demons. Then he suddenly stopped and returned to grazing. I asked for some explanation on why he would do that and Marius offered a simple and succinct answer. “Blues are crazy.”

We tried another stalk on that bull at its new location. After all from our perspective WE had never spooked him. Once again were rewarded with a wonderful walk through waist high grass hiding a vast number of gopher holes. We peaked over the final rise and across the plateau, realizing he had again vanished. We did see him one more time later in the day. He was still all alone, and running wide-open across the original hillside heading back to where we had first spotted him early in the morning. He ran a good mile at a full sprint before suddenly stopping to resume grazing. There were no files, nor pressure from us. Blues are crazy.
1623088877504.png


I recall some advice I’d received that when on safari one should be alert and ready to pounce on the opportunities Africa gives you. This is precisely what happened. We were winding along the two-track in some piece of bottom county when a double tap on the roof brought the bakkie to a halt. Marius and Lloyd spent a long-time glassing and discussing something I could not see (again). After their short conversation we were told, “That is a good Impala. A proper Impala. You have that on your list don’t you?” My answer was “yes, doesn’t every first-time safari hunter?” The bakkie was parked and the stalk began. I had to hustle to keep close to Marius’ backside so I could stay in his tracks. After a while he suddenly froze, then slowly crouched, and mouthed the words, “He’s looking right at us.” Peering thru a small hole in the brush I could see the ram was alert……. Almost 200 yds away! This was like sneaking up on a whitetail. Slowly, slowly we stayed in the shadows and closed the gap. We halted a bit above and about 80 yds from an alert ram. He had not seen or heard us move to our final location, yet was still clearly nervous. So when the sticks came up, I got on them and the slightly quartering ram as quickly as I could. As soon as the crosshairs settled, my RUM fired, dropping the trophy in its tracks.
1623088953259.png


The trip to the skinning shed was well timed for us to sit in the shade and enjoy the boxed lunches prepared for by the ladies at Outspan. Afterward the quest for a trophy Blue was resumed. Where or where should we re-start our search ….. but where we saw that lone bull last? Again, the slope was empty. However a new group of 5 bulls was spotted a couple ridges farther away. They were slowly grazing straight up a expansive, steep hillside that was perhaps a mile wide and a half mile tall. Perfect for a stalk into the wind, from a higher elevation, and set up the ambush. The problem was the Blues didn’t get the memo. Before they reached our ambush point, for some unknown reason, they bolted and ran well out of range, nearly off that short mountain slope.

Those who have hunted with Marius know the man is skilled, and relentless. So once again we backtracked and worked the other Plan-B. This one would be a sneak for the books.
 

Bill DeHaan

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Did the The Outspan Farm Lodge used to be called the Mpotshane Game Resort? If so I hunted there in 2014. A great location and great people.
You are correct.
 

Randy F

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Very nice impala, congratulations!

I like the new avatar too. ;)
 

BRICKBURN

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Marius was working hard for you! Nice trophies.
 

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Enjoying your report…brings back good memories of hunting with Marius. Two of my animals got the “Proper Chief” judgement by him. That’s a good feeling. Your Warthog and Impala are certainly “Proper Chiefs”!
 

Bill DeHaan

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Enjoying your report…brings back good memories of hunting with Marius. Two of my animals got the “Proper Chief” judgement by him. That’s a good feeling. Your Warthog and Impala are certainly “Proper Chiefs”!
Thank you Ragman. I appreciate that. I am trying to get the next segments of my report out to share this morning. Like Paul Harvey reporting “the rest of the story” - It gets even better!
 

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Love itMy first safari is next year and this just makes the wait both unbearable and every more exciting.


Roy
 

Bill DeHaan

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SD 3 continued;

1623156649858.png


Thankfully the five bulls didn’t run too far, stopping near a dried-up waterhole. In relatively short order, three or four of them had actually bedded down. This gave us a glimmer of hope, so we hurried back, almost jogging (Ha - Not me!) across the slope, above and again downwind of the bulls. At about 400 yds we could see most of the bulls. Three seemed to be napping. All were respectable bulls. One was clearly the most mature and outstanding. Our plan was to use the thickets of thorn bush for cover while closing the gap. The bulls were all lying down now just beyond the far side of the dried pond. There was a large brush pile there that at times obscured one or more bull. If we could make it undetected to the far lip of the pond, it would be simple to locate the #1 bull, and put a round in him at close range. Lights out – Welcome to Hotel California. Simple ..., right?

Well, it turned out the slope down to the pond was steep enough to make staying out of sight during the stalk just possible. We managed to zig-zag between stands of bush all the way to the pond. When we got to the pond, about 70 yds from the bedded bulls, we discovered the pond was not dry! This meant we couldn’t walk across it, through the low spot, to the berm on the other side. The crescent shaped pond had completely exposed ends, with only the center of the berm holding cover that would conceal us. I saw a look on the faces of my PH and tracker to match my own opinion. It looked like we’d be going wading, but hopefully not swimming!

I am not known among by buddies as a lucky guy, but good fortune shined on me that afternoon. We made it to the pond undetected, and by crouch walking along the very water’s edge, made it to the tall section of the pond berm undetected. From there Marius crawled over the lip, staying behind some thick brush, and examined the bulls. He counted three bulls. By carefully peering through other openings in the brush, Marius located all five and gestured me to crawl forward to him. He was not immediately sure which one was the best. They were less than 60yds away. I was on the short bipod awaiting his decision.

Maybe my luck ran out because inexplicably the farm tracker/observer became restless and slowly stood up to peer over the brush along the berm. Before we could stop him, and before we could sort out which bull was the best, all five exploded out of their beds. We leaped to our feet and I followed Marius along the berm to the left, where a big opening in the brush allowed us to see the fleeing group. Sticks went up, rifle went atop sticks, and in a few more fractions of a second I formed my opinion on which bull seemed notably larger, but waited for PH guidance. He called out, “farthest left” which matched my own opinion. Safety off, cross-hairs on leading edge of chest, pressure on trigger……. have you heard Blues are crazy?

Suddenly the whole herd came to a dead stop, for just a moment, at about 140 yds, with the “chief” turning broadside. At that instant, with dust still in the air, I fired and heard the familiar “kaaa….. wok” of bullet striking flesh. Again, the small group was off. The bull I shot sprinted about 100 yds, pinwheeled and then skidded to a stop in an impressive dust cloud. And wow was he a beauty! Hide, head and horns were all spectacular. Oh, and definitely crazy!

1623157545545.png


With two trophies from the day in the skinning shed, and just a bit of daylight left, Marius wanted to go glass one particular hillside for Bushbuck...... (to be continued)
 

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