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

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The blue and black wildebeest, red hartebeest, and aoudad are all truly exceptional. And you have a great set of memories with each one. Heartiest congratulations on what was obviously a fantastic experience.
 

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Well done! Great story and congratulations!
 

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Thank you all for your kind words. I cannot say we earned or deserved the luck we had, but it was appreciated every day, to this very day.
 

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Brother Tom has provided us with the following (crazy) account of his hunt for a Springbok. If I didn’t know better I might suspect truth and facts sere stretched a bit. You be the nudge…..

Compared to the last couple of stalks, approaching the Springbok was a cake walk and it was a good thing because daylight was in short supply. Marius quickly had us near four, grazing in an area of tall grass and happily they seemed to be relatively unconcerned about our presence. After playing hide and seek behind the ewes, the Ram o finally offered a quartering shot opportunity and I took it. To my amazement the ram immediately sprinted with apparent effortlessness in a circular path ending up only 20 yards from where he started. My mind was busy figuring out what I just witnessed but quickly reverted to the task at hand as the ram stopped in a good position for a second shot. It was quartering towards me again but this time from the opposite side. I touched off the second round fully expecting that to be the end of things but no. The ram, about 100 yards away, was now running full steam almost directly at Marius and I.

To this day it is unclear why I made the curious decision to remain seated as the Springbok raced at us, the only protection within twenty yards being the small tree just behind me. Perhaps I was busy convincing myself that the harrowing tales of Bushbuck attacks told by the Trackers the last few days did not apply when it comes to the now rapidly approachingSpringbok and that I was in no danger. Or maybe ensuring I didn’t soil myself was occupying all of my bandwidth. But more than likely I stayed planted because I was still unable to comprehend what was transpiring; a springbok that appeared unaffected by two rounds from a .270.

Still in possession of all of his faculties, Marius wisely stepped behind the aforementioned small tree as the ram tore past us at full speed and at a distance of about 8 to ten feet to our right. I had just started making a mental note to nominate the springbok to the Durability Hall of Fame when it cartwheeled over dead 15 yards behind me. The after-action examination revealed that my first shot was a bit too far rearward, not a good attribute for a forward quartering shot. However, the second shot was good so how that little springbok stayed on its feet for so long remains a mystery to me.
1623629761622.jpeg
 

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(Barbary Side-Story)
A little while after photos were taken with the Barbary ram, the local tracker (let’s call him Martin) and later my brother Tom each told me a side story that are best told together.

Tom’s story was an account of events that took place while we were lying bellies down to the stone, trying, waiting, praying to get a shot off on the ram. Tom and Martin were a short slither behind me so I was not aware of anything other than the animals and the shot. Martin was looking through his binos. As the ram walked among the herd, paying loving attention to the one ewe, Martin was whispering “shoot it… shoot it!” The minutes crawled by as I waited for the ram to stand clear of the other animals in his herd. Then suddenly Martin’s message changed, “shoot…. It is going to lay down!” Which it did. Tom mentioned how surprising it was to see Martin get all worked up. Well,….. here’s the rest of the story!

We had just finished loading the Ram into the bakkie when the local tracker spoke to me with that big white smile that is so endearing. He said he had “a secret”. A Secret? I asked. Yes, a secret about that ram. He had my attention at the jump and so here the secret Martin told me.

Over the past two years he recalls each time he has spotted the ram. Last year of course, COVID made sure there was little to no hunting, so the ram made it to 2021 with little pressure. In early May, before my arrival, Martin and a hunting client looked all over the mountains and never found this ram. Martin was surprised at its disappearance. Then just a week before my arrival, he escorted a crew of workers out to do some repairs on the berm holding back water in a lower water hole (pond). As Martin and the crew drove up to the pond, there standing atop the very berm was the ram I just shot. Martin expressed that it stood there looking at the men for a while, then casually walked off that berm and into the hills. To Martin the ram clearly had a posture and attitude of defiance. Martin felt the ram was taunting him as if to say “Yes, I’m still here!” Martin said very pleased that I shot that ram and that he was there to see it. (me too!)

If done right, done well, Safari will never be just a business transactions as some have opined.
 

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SD-5

Dawn broke on this morning with plans for the day already set in motion the night before. We were on the hunt for a proper Kudu and/or as luck might provide a different trophy. Finding the right Kudu bull was starting to become a troublesome challenge. Not because we couldn’t find any, but because we couldn’t find one of the TWO finished bulls we had seen at different places while hunting the mountains on prior days. In each case we could not get into position for a shot.

Since our arrival, the night skies had been clear and the moon was full. This meant the Kudu would be up feeding most of the night and sleeping much of the daytime. This is why we’d seen both bulls suddenly appear in the failing evening light, yet become unlocatable the next morning. We all knew this was part of the chase. In fact it’s these sorts of realities that make up the foundations of a great story.

The best option we had besides blind luck was to hope for a snappy cold night which would give cause for the bulls to stand in the warming morning sun. So the plan was to glass the sunny slopes starting at first light, find a dandy, stalk it, shoot it, drop it at the skinning building. A seemingly great plan that would fail more ways than we could imagine!

Early in the morning we watched a mature, finished Kudu bull cross the two-track on a grassy plateau. The bull and his herd had been on top all night eating. We watched them pour over the edge and head back down into the covered slopes. We changed positions to better view the slopes and spent the next 4 hours glassing without any further sightings.

After lunch we resumed our vigil of glassing, pouring our attention on three mountain slopes. Late in the day that same slippery bull was spotted easing up through the bottom of a narrow ravine, browsing as he went. The group of cows were nowhere to be seen, possibly a sign the rut was winding down. After some quick consideration of how we might get into position for an ambush, we went up another track to get above him. From the far side of the basin the country seems so open. The reality was that on the ground it was thick, thick, thick and ravine filled. All we could do was make a plan and do our best to make something happen.

After a period of time had passed without sighting the bull, Marius scrambled up and across slope to gain a different view. He resumed glassing about 15 yards from my position, but was about 10 feet higher in elevation. He’d been glassing only a couple minutes when suddenly he got my attention and whispered that he could see the bull and to come quickly! The route he took was mostly sidehill through nasty flesh ripping brush. I chose the direct route. I handed my rifle to Tom, and due to the steepness started on hands/feet/knees to claw straight up toward Marius. Grabbing weeds, bush trunks, etc I made it part way up the slope, stalled, and started to slide backdown hill. Suddenly I felt a hand on my right butt-cheek, shove me back up so that I could grab the trunk of a substantial bush and make it to the same level as Marius. Once on ground that I could stand on, I looked for Tom and my rifle. Somehow he had come up directly behind me, with both of our rifles slung over his back. However he had lost his own footing and gotten tangled up in thornbush. His binos were pulled in one direction, the rifles in another, and his own hide hung on multiple sharp points. Marius was now only feet away whispering “hurry!” So like a typical (ruthless?) older brother, I took my rifle off Tom’s still tangled and bleeding remains, and pressed on to Marius.

I plunked down beside him and simultaneously put my rifle on the short sticks. Marius was pointing straight down that very steep slope. “He’s right there, about 130 yards.” I could see the bull’s horn tips moving above the brush as he slowly worked his way up hill directly at us. A few moments later I could see half his long horns. Then I could see his horns and all of his head. It was all coming together! The bull stood there, as they can, for a long time. He calmly browsed with only his head and neck showing. He became motionless and checked his senses. He didn’t look spooked, but more so just alert. His radar dish ears swiveling to pick up any out of place sound. He scent-checked the evening air… the evening thermals. The same stroke of luck that allowed us to find that bull in that thick cover, put him directly below us with evening thermals underway! The bull wasn’t sure where we were, but he seemed to have caught our scent. He was perhaps 75 yards away. I needed him to take only two more steps to clear the cover. But instead, he simply slipped backwards into the bush and completely disappeared. No panic flight. He just disappeared. That was strike two - Damn Grey Ghost.

Silence hung over our group. I had the cross-hairs on him! Two more steps and he’d have been clear. Hell, I’d have taken that shot with 1 ½! I found I needed some private time to process this surprising turn of events and the guys let me sit there on that patch of clay and crushed shale rock. I had dreamed of Kudu since I was 12. It may have been the first animal to make my bucket list. After 3-4 minutes I was able to begin packaging up and putting it behind me. We all walked back out to the bakkie and to an evening at the lodge. But Africa wasn’t quite done challenging us on this day.



Speaking only for myself, my mind clearly had not completely locked the door on the failed Kudu opportunity. We had loaded the bakkie and gone, according to my memory, over the next short ridge and started down. Seemingly less than 400 yards. Suddenly a double-tap on the roof and the cry “there he is!” was growled by someone in the bakkie with a SA accent. My attention immediately went to Nick in the back seat who was pointing at 3 o’clock out the window. We had just passed a steep ravine and he (they) had seen something. The bakkie was shut off and quietly rolled to a stop. Nick, Marius and the tracker Lloyd briefly traded information in their bush dialect. Then Marius said to me, “let’s go!”. I grabbed my rifle, he grabbed the sticks, and we hustled back up the slope to gain a vantage of the ravine that, I assumed, held that damn Kudu bull. Suddenly the sticks went up with the encouragement to “shoot quickly”. My rifle came to rest as a set of twisted horns and blackened face appeared in my scope from the dark shadows below. Instinct took over as my cross hairs sought and found the front of his chest for an animal facing dead on. Through the recoil I could see a flash of white, then nothing where the animal had stood. Then silence as we all listened for any sign of the shot results. Both PH and the Tracker signaled a tumbling animal by spinning their arms around each other in the universal egg beater motion.

The brush was super thick. Difficult to claw your way through. I was grateful to see Flexy and Rigby had leaped out the bakkie window after the shot and were diving into the brush ahead of us. Shortly after flying past us they began barking as they struck scent and trailed it to the downed animal. Slightly later my PH hollered “it’s here and finished”. The 75 yard shot had found the mark and bowled the trophy over in its tracks.

The whole sequence was but a blur of opportunity and reflexes by all involved. However I was uncomfortable about the shot that took only 2-3 seconds to make. My mind was struggling. When I heard, “There he is!”, the image of the Kudu bull, the enigma that had eluded us a second time only minutes earlier was what flashed in my mind. This was not the Kudu. The “he” was a stunning Nyala bull. A beautiful animal that had been seen on water hole trail cameras for a couple years but never fired upon or collected. I couldn’t translate the conversation among our PH and trackers but I could tell by the way they placed their hands on the bull that there was a respect and reverence not afforded just any animal.

1623973652270.png




Light faded fast as we collected the bull from the brush choked ravine and found an open space with enough light for photos. (the above photo was captured with the camera set on “night mode”)

1623973670396.png


Such a beautiful animal and another trophy that exceeded my expectations.
 

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SD-5

Dawn broke on this morning with plans for the day already set in motion the night before. We were on the hunt for a proper Kudu and/or as luck might provide a different trophy. Finding the right Kudu bull was starting to become a troublesome challenge. Not because we couldn’t find any, but because we couldn’t find one of the TWO finished bulls we had seen at different places while hunting the mountains on prior days. In each case we could not get into position for a shot.

Since our arrival, the night skies had been clear and the moon was full. This meant the Kudu would be up feeding most of the night and sleeping much of the daytime. This is why we’d seen both bulls suddenly appear in the failing evening light, yet become unlocatable the next morning. We all knew this was part of the chase. In fact it’s these sorts of realities that make up the foundations of a great story.

The best option we had besides blind luck was to hope for a snappy cold night which would give cause for the bulls to stand in the warming morning sun. So the plan was to glass the sunny slopes starting at first light, find a dandy, stalk it, shoot it, drop it at the skinning building. A seemingly great plan that would fail more ways than we could imagine!

Early in the morning we watched a mature, finished Kudu bull cross the two-track on a grassy plateau. The bull and his herd had been on top all night eating. We watched them pour over the edge and head back down into the covered slopes. We changed positions to better view the slopes and spent the next 4 hours glassing without any further sightings.

After lunch we resumed our vigil of glassing, pouring our attention on three mountain slopes. Late in the day that same slippery bull was spotted easing up through the bottom of a narrow ravine, browsing as he went. The group of cows were nowhere to be seen, possibly a sign the rut was winding down. After some quick consideration of how we might get into position for an ambush, we went up another track to get above him. From the far side of the basin the country seems so open. The reality was that on the ground it was thick, thick, thick and ravine filled. All we could do was make a plan and do our best to make something happen.

After a period of time had passed without sighting the bull, Marius scrambled up and across slope to gain a different view. He resumed glassing about 15 yards from my position, but was about 10 feet higher in elevation. He’d been glassing only a couple minutes when suddenly he got my attention and whispered that he could see the bull and to come quickly! The route he took was mostly sidehill through nasty flesh ripping brush. I chose the direct route. I handed my rifle to Tom, and due to the steepness started on hands/feet/knees to claw straight up toward Marius. Grabbing weeds, bush trunks, etc I made it part way up the slope, stalled, and started to slide backdown hill. Suddenly I felt a hand on my right butt-cheek, shove me back up so that I could grab the trunk of a substantial bush and make it to the same level as Marius. Once on ground that I could stand on, I looked for Tom and my rifle. Somehow he had come up directly behind me, with both of our rifles slung over his back. However he had lost his own footing and gotten tangled up in thornbush. His binos were pulled in one direction, the rifles in another, and his own hide hung on multiple sharp points. Marius was now only feet away whispering “hurry!” So like a typical (ruthless?) older brother, I took my rifle off Tom’s still tangled and bleeding remains, and pressed on to Marius.

I plunked down beside him and simultaneously put my rifle on the short sticks. Marius was pointing straight down that very steep slope. “He’s right there, about 130 yards.” I could see the bull’s horn tips moving above the brush as he slowly worked his way up hill directly at us. A few moments later I could see half his long horns. Then I could see his horns and all of his head. It was all coming together! The bull stood there, as they can, for a long time. He calmly browsed with only his head and neck showing. He became motionless and checked his senses. He didn’t look spooked, but more so just alert. His radar dish ears swiveling to pick up any out of place sound. He scent-checked the evening air… the evening thermals. The same stroke of luck that allowed us to find that bull in that thick cover, put him directly below us with evening thermals underway! The bull wasn’t sure where we were, but he seemed to have caught our scent. He was perhaps 75 yards away. I needed him to take only two more steps to clear the cover. But instead, he simply slipped backwards into the bush and completely disappeared. No panic flight. He just disappeared. That was strike two - Damn Grey Ghost.

Silence hung over our group. I had the cross-hairs on him! Two more steps and he’d have been clear. Hell, I’d have taken that shot with 1 ½! I found I needed some private time to process this surprising turn of events and the guys let me sit there on that patch of clay and crushed shale rock. I had dreamed of Kudu since I was 12. It may have been the first animal to make my bucket list. After 3-4 minutes I was able to begin packaging up and putting it behind me. We all walked back out to the bakkie and to an evening at the lodge. But Africa wasn’t quite done challenging us on this day.



Speaking only for myself, my mind clearly had not completely locked the door on the failed Kudu opportunity. We had loaded the bakkie and gone, according to my memory, over the next short ridge and started down. Seemingly less than 400 yards. Suddenly a double-tap on the roof and the cry “there he is!” was growled by someone in the bakkie with a SA accent. My attention immediately went to Nick in the back seat who was pointing at 3 o’clock out the window. We had just passed a steep ravine and he (they) had seen something. The bakkie was shut off and quietly rolled to a stop. Nick, Marius and the tracker Lloyd briefly traded information in their bush dialect. Then Marius said to me, “let’s go!”. I grabbed my rifle, he grabbed the sticks, and we hustled back up the slope to gain a vantage of the ravine that, I assumed, held that damn Kudu bull. Suddenly the sticks went up with the encouragement to “shoot quickly”. My rifle came to rest as a set of twisted horns and blackened face appeared in my scope from the dark shadows below. Instinct took over as my cross hairs sought and found the front of his chest for an animal facing dead on. Through the recoil I could see a flash of white, then nothing where the animal had stood. Then silence as we all listened for any sign of the shot results. Both PH and the Tracker signaled a tumbling animal by spinning their arms around each other in the universal egg beater motion.

The brush was super thick. Difficult to claw your way through. I was grateful to see Flexy and Rigby had leaped out the bakkie window after the shot and were diving into the brush ahead of us. Shortly after flying past us they began barking as they struck scent and trailed it to the downed animal. Slightly later my PH hollered “it’s here and finished”. The 75 yard shot had found the mark and bowled the trophy over in its tracks.

The whole sequence was but a blur of opportunity and reflexes by all involved. However I was uncomfortable about the shot that took only 2-3 seconds to make. My mind was struggling. When I heard, “There he is!”, the image of the Kudu bull, the enigma that had eluded us a second time only minutes earlier was what flashed in my mind. This was not the Kudu. The “he” was a stunning Nyala bull. A beautiful animal that had been seen on water hole trail cameras for a couple years but never fired upon or collected. I couldn’t translate the conversation among our PH and trackers but I could tell by the way they placed their hands on the bull that there was a respect and reverence not afforded just any animal.

View attachment 407447



Light faded fast as we collected the bull from the brush choked ravine and found an open space with enough light for photos. (the above photo was captured with the camera set on “night mode”)

View attachment 407448

Such a beautiful animal and another trophy that exceeded my expectations.
Amazing critters aren’t they? That’s an awesome example! Congratulations!
 

cpr0312

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Great nyala, congrats! You're certainly on a roll!
 

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Looks like a super Nyla’s! Congratulations
Bruce
 

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Oh I am hooked on the bushbuck, teaser......my favorite critter to hunt.
 

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SD – 6

Yesterday was a great day. From this hunter’s perspective it had everything one could ask for and/or have the ability to deliver. Challenges, opportunity, and the cherry on top was the harvest of a trophy. Even the narrow escape of the Kudu bull was a wonderfully rich script! At this stage in my life and hunting, I don’t need to shoot more animals. I hope to be successful, but only under select circumstances will I pull the trigger. Given a fulfilling challenge and experience, going home with an unpunched tag is acceptable.

So we rolled our sleeves up, and executed the plans made for the morning of safari day #6. The plans again called for the team to divide and conquer. Specifically, to greet the day’s first light at positions along a ridgeline that allowed for glassing into multiple drainage and ravines that (damn) Kudu seems to frequent. If anyone sighted the bull, it would be a short jog back down the track to Marius (and me). It was an excellent plan. Multiple sets of stationary eyes glassing multiple ravines. We arrived in two bakkies at the fork in the track. All piled out to have a quick glass over the far slope and nearby visible areas. Half would proceed farther up the drainage and the other half down.

As I said it was an excellent plan. However, I was about to learn that Africa has a way of mocking you by brutally crushing your plans. There we were, about to split up when of all things….. (I’m not lying)… that same damned bull stepped out of the bush ONTO THE FRIGGIN TRACK just a few yards ahead of us. Before anyone could think, before I could shoulder my rifle, before anyone could say “holy @%^ shoot it”, both of Marius dogs spot the Kudu and erupt. I mean erupt and race down the track after the instantly fleeing bull! Marius and Lloyd scramble after them and astonishingly managed to quickly stop the dogs. But the plan had already gone up in smoke. Marius was smoking too. But Tom and I come from hunting dog backgrounds. I was a highly competitive retriever trainer competing in AKC Hunting Tests and Field Trials, eventually becoming a well-traveled AKC judge. Tom and I understood Flexy and Rigby were just doing what they were bred and trained for. Marius was clearly frustrated, but we held no fault there. It was simply bad Kudu juju.

The pendulum of luck had clearly swung to the negative side, and it was time to change that. During the short period we glassed for the fleeing Kudu, we spotted a lone Impala ram across the basin, grazing in a broad open plateau. It was a long way off but very stalkable if we hurried… and a dandy animal. I had my Impala, so Tom was up.

We loaded into the bakkie and quickly traveled down and across the broad drainage. We parked before reaching the bottom. From there we hustled down to the bottom. As always, there was a lot more “down” to it than envisioned. Knowing that we had a significant amount of “up” to quickly recover, it was easy to see that Tom and Marius needed to press on ahead of me or run the risk of having the ram finish breakfast and slip away.

They eventually climbed back up to the proper elevation. From the far edge of the plateau they could see the ram was still grazing there. Working around the edge, using the available cover, they closed the gap to about 180 yds before the short sticks came up. Sitting on the ground Tom was able to find an opening in the brush, achieve as comfortable and as solid a position as possible, before taking the shot. From my location I heard the “kaa....wok” hunters hope to hear signaling the shot and bullet’s impact. Tracker Lloyd had heard the shot too and so with the dogs he drove down to the bottom of the drainage, picked me up, and we found our way to the rest of the team.

1624096099102.png



Tom had collected a very fine ram indeed! We couldn’t help but think, maybe that little bit of good fortune signaled the pendulum of good luck was coming back to “favorable” with Kudu too? Either way, following some lunch and maybe a short nap, we were going to find out!

1624096151091.png


The plan that afternoon was similar to the morning’s. Spread out so we can glass multiple ravines up until dusk. During that afternoon we glassed immature Kudu, Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Warthogs, Zebra, and Nyala. Nothing to compel us to give chase. The Kudu bull we were after had again vanished. But that’s not surprising given the reputation to step into the shadows and become invisible. It was a very slow afternoon. Although brother Tom watched a herd of mountain zebra slip into the shade and stand completely motionless, without moving a step, for a full hour! I suppose a regular appearance on the lunch menu of major predators provides the motivation necessary for such feats.
 

gillettehunter

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That Impala looks like a dandy ram. Well done guys.
Bruce
 

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Oh Mr. Flex, still going strong! Love that dog!!!
 

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Oh Mr. Flex, still going strong! Love that dog!!!
Ditto here! more personality than you can shake a stick at. We got to see his mother (15 years old now?) Other than being male, the Flex man is a 100% carbon copy of his mother physically and personality wise. Amazing!
 

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Yess
Ditto here! more personality than you can shake a stick at. We got to see his mother (15 years old now?) Other than being male, the Flex man is a 100% carbon copy of his mother physically and personality wise. Amazing!
Yessir. Imagine all the pics of those two dogs we’d get if we started a “Flex and Rigby” thread!!!
 

Bill DeHaan

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Yess

Yessir. Imagine all the pics of those two dogs we’d get if we started a “Flex and Rigby” thread!!!
Think of the money we could make sneaking a DNA sample and cloning that rascal. My brother Tom and I would each take one. Fearless, smart, charming ..... better than most dates I've had! And the Rigby dog is all business. I hope you don't mind Marius, but this is a great picture!
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Bill DeHaan

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SD-7

The next morning we awoke and hit the trail early to be glassing new slopes at first light. We had worked or way well down through our “list”. So that morning we were looking for Kudu and any unplanned opportunity. Though we hunted hard, covered a vast amount of country, the Kudu we saw were all cows, and juvenile bulls with cows. Yet another sign the rut was winding down. The Kudu voodoo hex was still on me.

On the upside, I was still in South Africa, the weather, scenery and company were incredible!

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I have an old friend and hunting buddy who has been on multiple safaris. He tells a story of his PH in Namibia advising that they had been summoned to a local village for a meeting with the chief. When they stopped in that same day they were introduced to the shaman who was to perform a ceremony to bestow good luck on them. However, for such a gift they were told they needed to perform something of a sacrifice. Specifically, to shoot one or more of the baboons that were raiding the crop fields each day. The next day my friend tipped over a big male whom he spotted leaving the corn fields. The baboon was carrying more than a half dozen ears of corn when a well-placed round ended his crop raiding ways. Likely put some fear in the troop as well.

.... “I told you that story so I could tell you this one...” We were in the bakkie, rounding a corner at the foot of a mountain when two quick knocks on the roof were heard. Words I couldn’t understand were exchanged and I was asked in English if I wanted a Baboon. I stammered around a true answer. It was not a priority for this hunt but would likely seek one on a future hunt. I am very aware how damaging and dangerous they are. In a word, they are pests. In some areas of the African continent I see them a bit like we see prairie dogs here in the US – vermin that should be controlled with the help of hunters. My odd answer included a question, “Ok, why this one?”

Our tracker had apparently seen this baboon more than once before. Always alone, away from any troop. He clearly felt there was something amiss about this one and it needed to be culled. (reminded me of bright kids with too much time becoming juvenile delinquents) It was not hard to find the baboon. He was sitting alone in a tree a bit over 100 yards up the mountain from the trail. I sent a 180 gr TSX. The surprise for us came when we inspected the animal. His fur was noticeably lighter in color. His skin pigment was white and not the typical dark or black color! And his face was starkly white. His eyes were not pink so we doubted he was an albino.

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Other than having just taken a round, he seemed to have been healthy.

The rest of the day was spent glassing the mountains without additional events or actions to report.

The final two days of our hunt and the end of my report coming shortly.
 

Bill DeHaan

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SD 8

Like every other morning Tom and I met early for coffee. I have bad sleep problems and have not needed an alarm clock for years to be up at “O-dark-thirty” . Most often is was me, but whomever woke up first would zip over to the main building, fire up the coffee maker, grab a mug for themselves and bring a mug back for the other. We’d visit a few minutes, then part to get ready for the day. There was something different for me that morning. Something unwelcomed had just began encroaching on my wonderful day. For the first time I realized how little time was left. A two -week vacation is a long one for me. Normally on even a week trip, at the point when there is only one or two days left, I see the return to my normal life is imminent, and that is when I’ll emotionally acknowledge and accept it. Thereby starting my return home in advance. That dark cloud appeared on my horizon and made me angry. I resolved right there to not let that happen to MY safari. I would continue to look forward to and accept one day at a time, the adventures each one held, until I boarded that plane in East London.

On this day, Tom was again “shooter up”. We would be hunting some new ground for Gemsbok and Red Hartebeest. There was a chance for a trophy Kudu but it was likely to be a low chance and not our priority. It was a cold morning so the expectation was the Gemsbok would be standing on the hillsides in the sun to get warm. Our expectation was accurate.
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From quite a distance we found three small herds mixing in the sunlight with small herds of Blesbok, Impala, Zebra and Blue Wildebeest. Getting into shooting range was going to pose a real challenge. To get into range without being seen or scented, they needed to go low on the mountain and cross under the closest herd before the thermals started up. Then it would be time for the classic maneuver to flank and approach from above. That was a good plan that had plenty of risk. The morning winds were very fickle and likely to continue so. Oh, and recall that lesson we all eventually learn about Africa’s regard for even our best made plan? Well, the visiting team was about to get a refresher course.

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Marius, Tom and a tracker left Lloyd and me high on a hillside directly opposite the broad hillside now holding the three small groups of Gemsbok along with an assortment of other plains game. Their route brought the three thru the drainage bottom that was choked with bush and impossible to see to or through. Their crossing to the opposite hill face was about 200 yards downhill form where Lloyd and I were watching. As I intently watched the far side of the brush for our guys to emerge, Lloyd softly spoke one word that will get anyone’s attention. “Buffalo.” Where? Just upwind in the bottom going into the bush. I scanned to the right and saw about a dozen buffalo disappear into the bottom brush, on a collision course with the trio. All we could do was watch the edges of the cover for the anticipated rush of running men or beast!

Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and 10 minutes later we saw the guys emerge into an opening about 70 yds uphill of the buffalo who apparently carried on their way undisturbed. Neither knew the other was there. And the trio continued their approach to the Gemsbok still over 200 yards away. About half of the herd had laid down with two or three still standing watch. Eventually the herd was spotted and our heroes and visiting team member prepared for the final stage of their stalk. Those who have hunted with Marius have waited for this moment. The trio paused their stalk, removed their boots and continued on either bare foot or in socks.

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Lloyd and I had a good chuckle at that point..... until we saw another herd of buffalo crest the top of the hill, above the Gemsbok. There were a couple dozen walking directly toward the green plateau where the Gemsbok were resting. They could easily cause problems if aggressive or if spooked, surely sweeping the Gemsbok up in their run. But for some unknown reason the Buffalo altered their course, passing above and downwind of the Gemsbok who continued their rest.

Finally, it seemed the hunting party was in a position to take a shot. We waited and waited, but no shot was taken. We speculated that they must be having trouble getting a good look at all of the herd. (From our vantage, Lloyd and I had sorted that out a long time ago - Ha!) Suddenly the herd bolted, running side-hill and directly away from Tom and Marius. Then just as suddenly they stopped.

A half mile away we could see Tom on then off the sticks. The wait seemed very long. Actually, it was a long time. I found out later that as he got on the sticks Tom was seized with leg cramps. The high, dry air, sunshine, stress and strenuous physical effort had left Tom dehydrated. Eventually the cramps were worked out and he went back on the sticks. From our position we had no clue. We just kept eyes on the herd.

Suddenly the herd exploded in a panic run, again away from Tom. Then a couple seconds later the crack of his shot reached or ears. I could see the Gemsbok near the lead of the herd develop a scarlet spot appear just behind its right shoulder. They ran about 100 yards, disappearing over the crest of a knoll covered in tall grass.

Allow me a moment to recount something to you that occurred at this moment in the hunt, and it still brings a smile to my face.

It was an exciting but tense experience to be able to watch that drama unfold, from the start of the stalk to the shot. For two and a half hours Lloyd and I were sitting beside each other on our respective rocks overlooking the drainage. For 2 ½ hours we were riveted and sat there almost motionless in a cold incessant wind. Then Tom takes his shot, the herd bolts, blood is drawn and we both know we need to get to the bakkie and find the other guys across the valley. Lloyd, who is a younger and powerful man, jumped up like he’d only been sitting there two and a half minutes, and was quickly making tacks to the bakkie. My knees (et al) receive the order to get going and promptly declare a labor strike. While I’m feverishly negotiating a settlement, Lloyd is already about 15 yards away, turns and in a most pleading voice says, “Bill (pronounced “Ball” in South Africa), hurry, we must go now!” I chuckled and said, “Oh this is hurrying!”

I hope to remember that for a long time.

The boys retraced their steps and retrieved their boots. Lloyd and I brought the bakkie down, across and back up to about where we saw the herd disappear. We arrived there just moments behind Marius and Tom. In the tall grass Tom found a spot of blood. Flexy and Rigby were put on the trail and like a rocket they were off. We trailed behind as quickly as we could. A few moments later, and just a short distance ahead, I could hear them give voice that they were on the downed animal. Tom had taken another trophy!

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(Safari Day - 8 To Be Cont.)
 

cpr0312

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Congrats on the baboon and congrats to Tom on a nice gemsbok!
 

Ragman

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So many memories coming back reading this. My wife had to make the same run back to the Bali’s with Lloyd when I shot my Kudu! Really enjoying this report and I’ll be sad when it’s over.
 

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