SOUTH AFRICA: First Blood Package With Bushwack Safaris

ArmyGrunt

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I'll start this off by prefacing with the fact that this is, as the title suggests, my first trip to Africa, and my first time hunting anything that wasn't a rabbit or feral cat in the family fields. Those of you who have read my posts are likely familiar with this information. For you others just joining my saga, Welcome!
The above image is one of the favorites I took. This was the silver lining of the day, after I boogered a shot and missed a ..... tell you later.

I started to dream of Africa in January 2014 after reading in a magazine, while getting my oil changed, about how relatively inexpensive it CAN be to hunt in Africa. After returning home I did a web search on everyone's favorite go-to, and found this site. I probably spent as much time on this website as I did doing homework in the second term of college last year. All the stories and images and videos fanned the spark of a dream that was building.
I looked over hunt reports, and browsed the classifieds and DEALS section on here, and finally found the "First Blood" package that Patrick Reynecke of Bushwack Safaris posted. He is a PH and the Outfitter for this tale. Patrick is a very kind person, and did what i would say is more than he needed to just to ensure I had a very enjoyable time. He was quick to reply to emails, patient in answering my questions, and even went a little further to get some answers to a gun import question I had. Ultimately, I didn't take that shotgun, but I thoroughly appreciate him going the extra on my behalf. His 13 year old son went on a few of the hunts with us, and is on his way to becoming a seasoned hunter, and eventually a PH.
In June of this year, I received a bonus for extending my contract with the Army. 14 years going strong, I figured I'd be foolish to give up now, and if they want to give me money to keep at it, who am I to decline?!?! I checked with my employer for the dates where I could get two weeks off, and not be denied because of someone else's prior request, then I paid my deposit for the trip, and booked my flight. That's when time really started to tick for me. I had a solid date to look toward, and a plan in mind for what I wanted to hunt. I have another thread that chronicles the choice of animals not included in the package deal. Also, while speaking of package deal, I'd like to explain to new hunters that a package deal is that price. Your Outfitter must organize concessions and lodging, pay those places and his employees, etc, so get your critters or no, you will pay the agreed price. I'm not sure about other outfitters, but I have a certain time frame to go back and get the ones I missed. That will be a good opportunity (read: "excuse") to return to the Dark Continent. Please don't take this as a bash against Bushwack, it's only providing info that I didn't understand before. I'm not upset about that detail.
We spent the week at a Bed and Brai called Biki Bini Bos. I was the only hunter on the property, but there were local people staying in other chalets. Again, not an issue. Schalk and Marie-Lo Havenga were excellent hosts. She would not allow me to eat leftovers, even though I suggested it for one of the meals, since they were starting to get an assortment. He drove me around on the bakkie a few times, and shared in my fun. Their kids and significant others were also visiting for the long weekend. I arrived the day before a national holiday for brai. Imagine that, no one working one day a year just to celebrate the barbecue....I'm looking at you, America! We should follow this tradition!

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My accomodations were terrific, and the bed was better than some of the hotels I've stayed in here in the States. All the amenities of home were present, and none of the aggravation we call "work." The staff took care of cleaning my laundry, making the bed, and all the dishes. I was practically not allowed to lift a finger, not even to get a drink sometimes. I kind of felt like I was living on an plantation from the last century.
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My flight across the ocean was on Delta. They were hassle-free in checking in my gun case. I had no problems with the locked ammo box in my suitcase. I used my own non-TSA locks on the gun case, TSA locks on the ammo box and suitcase. The powers-that-be didn't choose to look at my things, and I had no issues with the airliner. Patrick had been helping and advising me on the gun import stuff. I considered using one of the permit assistance companies, but decided against it. I had no issues doing it myself, and no one asked me for any money. Patrick was there beside me to give some extra support at the SAPS office, if needed. He also would not allow me to take my own luggage out to his SUV when we left. His son had the gun case, he took the other two bags. All my time in the Army tending to my own gear made this hard for me to accept, but I just let it happen. Strange land, new culture. Learn to accept all the change, it's not half bad!
We drove directly from the airport toward the lodge, but stopped after escaping the hectic suburbs at a small diner and had dinner. I had a side of ribs that would cost me over $15 here, for about half that price. Once again, I was surprised that I wasn't allowed to pay my own tab. Things are going to be VERY different on this vacation from any other I've ever had!
By the time we got to the lodge, I'd already seen several African animals, to include the herd of red hartebeest I'd be looking for later in the week. The rabbits I saw on the road looked larger than the ones I've always seen here, but more to come on that topic as well. Pulling up at the lodge, I was met by Schalk and Marie-Lo. He showed me to my room, and once again I had all my things carried by other people. Second floor, with a balcony, and no one to bother me at all. I was so tired from the lack of sleep on the airplane that I was out like a light but 1130 pm. Wake up would be pre-dawn so we could drive to another concession to try for the first two animals on my list of seven.
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For anyone going on their first safari, or those of you who like to share your tales with other, but don't like to repeat yourself constantly, I suggest getting a journal to take along. Lots of people like to just type away their thoughts these days. That is convenient, and much faster, but I chose to take pen and paper. I got a leather-bound one from a local bookstore for about $30. I used not quite half the pages, and intend to put pictures on several of the remaining pages. I expect to have a different one for each foreign hunting trip I take. If you choose to follow this example, write some at your lunch break, and again after dinner. Waiting until the end of the day to do all your entry for that day will take lots of time, and detract from some of the details you'll want to recall later.
In the next several day, I'll be transferring the thought scribed into my journal onto this thread. I hope you'll all enjoy the story. I apologize if I switch from past tense to present tense, but I'll try to provide you with the quality imagery that will help you feel like you were with me.
To my outfitter, camp hosts, and new friends in Africa: "baie dankie" for making it a memorable first trip!

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enysse

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Looking forward to the hunt report, it's been excellent so far! I knew you would have a good trip with Patrick.
 

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Great start to your international hunting career.
 

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Having not taken those that I missed just means I'll have to go take care of unfinished business before undertaking the other continents. After discussion with him, I am thinking lioness may be on the next trip, or a green rhino hunt.
 

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I'm SO happy for you! I've followed several of your other threads and it is exciting to see it all actually happen! Can't wait to read the rest!

. I'm not sure about other outfitters, but I have a certain time frame to go back and get the ones I missed

This is very interesting. I'd love to get more detail as to how this works. Is it just the animal that is free on the next trip? I can't imagine it being everything. Either way, that's a nice touch.

He also would not allow me to take my own luggage out to his SUV when we left. His son had the gun case, he took the other two bags. All my time in the Army tending to my own gear made this hard for me to accept, but I just let it happen.

The hardest thing for me to get used to on my first safari was someway handing me my rifle! Definitely took some getting used to!
 

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I didn't dig too deep about the details of getting the other animals yet, but I take it as I'll get another hunt deal established, and jut pick up my strays while there. I would not expect the entire thing to be gratis.
The only time someone put hands on my rifle was while in the case, and once when I couldn't resist a photo shot of something amazing.
 

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DAY 1 - Home Departure and Arrival in RSA

I made it through the security gate in Louisville without any headache. The lady at the ticket counter said to wait fifteen minutes before passing through, just in case they needed to inspect my rifle. I used my own locks, so they would need me to be present if they wanted to look inside. My wife got suckered into the airport gift shops, and spent $40 on one single pajama suit for my 3 year old. I couldn't sway that decision at all. Oh well, I'm about to spent a hundred times that much, or more.
It was recommended by most everyone to arrive at the airport 3 hours early, just in case there arose any issues, but I ended up spending that time browsing (not buying) at gift shops, and started to use the internet on my tablet. I also had some small talk with other travelers. After a 90 minute flight, and me wondering why I didn't just pay the extra $180 to fly from the airport in my own town, I arrived at Atlanta. 3 1/2 hours wait until my next flight.
The E-wing is where the international flights depart. They have a food court, and some display cases with lots of African animals and trophies. I saw some really neat items, including a crocodile purse that was made from a full-body rug, some boots, some ladies high heel shoes, cheetah rug, elephant molar, scrimshaw of many different forms, and much more. Sitting in the gate area across from where I was I saw a handful of people playing guitar, bongo drum, and singing. Most of them looked like teenagers, or early 20s, but the man appearing to be the chaperon was likely in his 30s. He was wearing a shirt that made me thing of the Peruvian flute bands I saw on an episode of South Park. The flute bands kept giant guinea pigs from invading the US...but I digress, as most of you probably don't know the show and its low caliber humor.
It had been about 6 years since I flew last. The sensation of the airplane taking off got me a little anxious, but I was able to calm myself down pretty quickly. After all, this was nothing like doing a combat landing in a C-130: sharp angle changes, and up and down like a roller coaster!
This fifteen hour flight was brutal to my bum. I tried to use the time machine (sleep), but you can only sleep so much in an uncomfortable, upright bucket seat. Eventually, I stood in the short passage between sides, under a light to read for about an hour. A light snack and another lavatory break, and I sat down again. The movie selection was immense! I had put several new releases onto my tablet to watch, but almost all of those were on the Delta selection. No need to use up my battery.
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Passing through immigration was just as easy as my time spent in ATL. I was completely done with it in under 20 minutes, and the plane was completely full. I even had to stick my carry-on bag in the overhead at the far end of the plane from my seat. There were 25-30 agents checking passports. I walked over to the carousel to collect my checked suitcase. I had put a red strap around my blue case. Brilliant idea, as it only took me about ten seconds to find it. Black is so bland, and common!
I had already texted Patrick as I was taxiing in. He told me he'd be waiting in the arrivals area, and we'd collect my gun after I joined him. He didn't bring in the Bushwack Safaris sign, but I promptly recognized his face from what I'd seen on his website. Standing beside him was his son, Voldo, who would be joining us on a few of the hunts. He led me over to the SAPS office where I took out my US documents and itinerary. In total, I spent less than forty minutes in the office. There was only one person ahead of me, but the officer handling my stuff appeared to be new. I was surprised to see how simple the process was, considering how I'd seen several on here saying they'd never attempt the import without using the meet and greet companies. I was grateful for not having spent the extra money. Leaving the police office, Patrick insisted on carrying my luggage, his boy was dragging my gun case. It was quite odd, as I've always had to carry my own stuff.
I was listening to the conversations around me, but not understanding much. They primary language in my area is Afrikaans, and I hadn't studied any of that like I'd planned. It's a little annoying to not understand anything being said around you, something I'll learn to get over during the next week. On the way to the lodge, we stopped for dinner at a "Wimpy" and I had some pork ribs and fries. The ribs were great, and cheaper than I'd have paid at home; fries are fries no matter where you are, but here they're called "chips." I bet Americans are the only ones calling them fries, but I haven't traveled enough to confirm this notion.
The highway we drove to get to the lodge was reminding me of being in Iraq, and Kurdistan. The road is plenty wide for the traffic, but the lines are barely painted. There were people walking on the side of the road, right next to traffic. No one had lights in their hands, and very few had a flashlight (torch) to mark their presence. I typically run after dark at home, but always have those safety items.
The long trail leading up to the base camp from the roadside gate provided some interesting views of the kudu and red hartebeest. I was told there was a nice, old bull in the mix of hartebeests that needs to be taken. Fingers crossed! He also said there are a couple of big warthogs on the property- also on my wishlist.
At the lodge, I briefly met the managers, Schalk and Marie-Lo, then was whisked off to my room. I did some writing in this journal, had a quick shower, then hit the sack. Wake up at 430 was just 5 short hours away. I passed out on the bed with pen in hand, but not until after capturing some lovely night images of the kudu feeding across the dry riverbed from the dining area. I had tried to close in on them myself, but the dried leaves scattered across the ground crunched louder than I expected. I got to about 40m from them before I was busted.

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ArmyGrunt

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By the way, I took a Nikon D40X and a Samsung Galaxy camera. The Nikon was used for the night photos, and an extra perspective of the trophies. The Samsung I carried in my pocket the whole time. I did get a small dent in the lens guard of the Samsung, and it wouldn't open and shut freely. I just trapped it in the UP position, and was more careful of placement from then on. BestBuy should take care of that issue for me, since I paid the extra warranty... we'll see.
 

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You kept an excellent journal.

I have not used a permit service either. Perhaps if I ever have a close connection or something.
Otherwise, I'll fill in those little boxes myself just like you. :)

Hunting in the dark. Awesome.
 

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not so much hunting in the dark, more like watching them eat and getting close. Every night they come up close to the lodge and eat from the hay racks. Kudu, blue wildebeest and the occasional waterbuck.
I was told there are 25+ eland, but aside from a stray footprint, there was no sign of them on the 2200 ish acres farm.
 

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Sounds like a good start to your hunt. Looking forward to the rest of it. Bruce
 

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Keep these coming! I am going in April and really like the detail you are giving!
 

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not so much hunting in the dark, more like watching them eat and getting close. ………...

I pull out a camera and sneak up on something I'm hunting. :)
 

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Good hunting and more importantly.

Thank you for your service.
 

ArmyGrunt

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ood hunting and more importantly.

Thank you for your service.
Thanks for your support!

Keep these coming! I am going in April and really like the detail you are giving!
In my profession, writing a detailed narrative could make the difference in a court case in the future. The more detail I use, the less I'd have to remember. It also makes the Dr's doing follow-on care understand the initial situation better.


My detail will get even better as we go on. I expect you'll think you were present in my shoes!
 

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Doing well so far... Keep it up and....we will read on...
 

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Day 2 - The First Hunt

Wake up was at 430. I have not been looking forward to this...I'd much rather be going to bed at 430 than to ever get up then. Night owl, indeed. By 530 we were in the truck to drive about 90 minutes to another farm of about 4800 acres. Patrick says this is where we'll find the black wildebeests and the blesbuck. There are also oryx, zebra, eland and springbuck, but those aren't on my list at the moment. We met the farm manager around 730, and confirmed my zero. Still spot on at 35 and 100 yards. I got tickled a little when I went prone, and Patrick commented that he'd never seen anyone get that low on the ground. It's just normal for me, I can lay far more stable if I get flat to the ground.
Rian, the manager, drove us around the perimeter to scout the herds of black wildebeest - the first target of the day. The plan is to have this be my first ever hunted big game. After we saw all four herds, to let Rian ensure we didn't over-hunt one particular herd, we stepped off the truck to work the stalk. There is almost no cover at all, just wide open plains. All I might have to hide behind are some termite mounds, and the rolling hills, with a few bushes here and there.
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This property wasn't hunted very much this year, so the animals weren't skittish in the beginning. We managed to get to about 140 yards a few times, but the herd would shuffle, or flee altogether. Rian was bragging that he could get inside 80 yards to them, but I think he meant on the truck and not on foot.
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He had us creeping closer and closer, until the herd just left the area completely.
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By this time, we've started to see the springbucks, a bunch of eland (which I was fully surprised how large they are), and a few small groups of red hartebeest. A couple of zebra and gemsbok have made cameos.
About an hour later, Patrick and I are walking in on our 2nd attempt. They let us in to about 200 yards, but ran quickly away again. The third try was about the same. Around 1030, we were considering heading back to the camp for lunch, but spotted a dozen or so standing just over a short hill. We closed to maybe 250 m, then they ran. This time, they did what black wildebeests do, and went out about 100 yards, then ran back to the same spot. We set up the tripod to my standing height. Patrick estimates 230 yards. I can see the target bull in my sights. I'm asked if I can make the shot, but I didn't have enough confidence at that distance. Lying down, I'd have put him in the salt, but I didn't feel stable enough standing up. I put a lot of thought into spin drift, wind drift, and all the little tick marks on my reticle. "I don't think I can get a good hit," I say, as the herd raced away at the same moment. We gave one more attempt to close the distance, but by then the animals had figured our intent, and wanted me even farther away than before. Rian tried to corral them with the bakkie, but they stampeded between us and him.
Time for lunch, and some conversation.
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Cold chicken nuggets, mutton sausage, pork sausage links, biscuits with luncheon meat, beef in some kind of sauce. I sampled it all, and contrary to my picky palette, I was not disappointed. A nice tropical punch to wash it all down. We partook in some small talk for about half an hour, mostly comparing the differences between US gun laws and RSA gun laws. I'm thrilled I live in such a liberal country. They have a 5 gun limit, unless you're a "dedicated hunter," and the long wait to take possession is just not for me. I like going into the shop, picking a gun, and leaving with it under an hour!
1300....let's get moving. We had a brief discussion about point of aim, I'm feeling better about my shot placement. We're back on the truck, and looking for a herd to thin. Patrick and I spotted the same herd simultaneously. They are about 600m out, and there are a great many shrubs and trees between us and them to aid in my ambush. We agree this COULD be the chance I need.
Cautiously, we stalk toward the herd. A couple of them on either side can see us. We moved up closer, and hid behind a shrub. To the left, some springbuck and a couple black gnu flee, but the herd is still in place, and seem hardly concerned. The eland to our right haven't noticed us, or simply don't care. Closer and closer we stalk our prey. 300 yards. Bush by bush we get ever closer. Ten yards, another bush. Then another. Sh*t, busted again.
This time, they only ran 50-100 m to the right, and stopped again. No problem there. We creep a bit closer to the next bush. Patrick crept around to the left side and set up the tripod. This will be a standing shot, about 220 m out. He called out a target, which was the same one I was already looking at. The beast is facing head on in my direction. The sun is shining proudly on the bases of his horns. His body, as he turns broadside, looks massive in my scope at 10x. Patrick says, "This is a good bull. Do you feel good about the shot?" I replied with a confident YES. My cross hairs are lined up, center of the body, just behind where the shoulder meets the torso. Safety clicks off. Finger on the trigger. Slow and stead pressure, and I see my sights are holding steady. I'm surprised at how stable the tripod is versus the bipod sticks I'd been using. Slowly pressing the trigger rearward, it feels like five seconds have passed since I started squeezing. BANG!
My first thought is how loud the ringing is in my right ear. I chose to skip that earplug so I could hear him whispering. "Reload," I say to myself. Patrick says, "Good shot! I heard the THUMP of the impact." Then "Get out of my way." My standing up was blocking his view at the target, so I squatted down immediately. As I scanned the herd on the move, and noticed one running much slower than the rest, but still in a big hurry. He disappeared into the bushes. I asked Patrick if he saw where the impact was. He said he couldn't but it sounded solid. Rian and Voldo came up to us in the bakkie. From their position, Rian also heart the thump. Patrick reported when it was hit, the animal dropped to its knees, then got up and ran.
We hiked on the path the herd took for a couple hundred meters, then turned back after seeing no blood trail. Rian suggested following the herd, which we did for a short while, but Patrick insisted on going back through the bush where it had run. Twenty minutes or so by this method, and several "is that it" later, we started to drive back to the shooting point. I was searching and scanning like everyone else. I started to question whether or not the shot was good. Where my fundamentals wrong? Did i jerk the trigger at the last moment? Was it a gut shot?
"Look! Right there!" or something close to that, possible in Afrikaans, Voldo started pointing and waving. He spotted my quarry lying beside the dirt trail. As we walked up the last few feet to the fallen animal, Patrick spoke, sounding disgusted. "It's a damned cow." Then he took a few steps around, and said "Nope, just a young bull. I couldn't see his balls." Apparently, my bull has unusually large bosses for someone his age.
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Smiles and cheers and handshakes all around. Voldo got the first picture with my first kill, since he was the one who spotted it. It looked like it was a pretty big deal for this 13 year old lad. Photos were taken, and this beautiful creature was loaded into the bakkie. Off to the skinning pad. I found it very interesting to watch the skinning and cleaning. This animal has very similar anatomy to humans, regarding organ location. The heart and liver are double the size of ours, but they look the same. That is, except the liver. That's where this fella was hit. Half of it looked like it went into a meat grinder.
I recall looking at my watch a few times during the stalk. 1313, boots on the ground. 1333, final approach to the firing point. 1348, walking after the fleeing herd. Around 1440 we found the target, lying on the ground with a hole in each flank. Rather quickly done, when compared against the morning.
After the skinning was completed, and the carcass washed and bagged, we left out to seek the blesbuck. "The bush Ferrari," as it's called. It certainly earned its title. This critter is FAST! the herd we saw before lunch was the same we saw after the kill of the black wildebeest. We got one approach of about 250m. I was ready and willing to have a shot off the truck, but they must have hear me thinking because they shot off like rockets. "Let me shoot into the group. I'm bound to get one of them!" I said, in jest.
It's almost sunset now, time to give in, so we headed back to the camp to do paperwork. The black wildebeest is a Threatened or Protected Species (TOPS), so special documentation is needed for export/import. More gratitude is shared, then we recovered the meat and trophies from the cooling house, and head back to my vacation home for a shower, dinner and conversation. Potatoes, porridge, sausage, fresh fire-baked bread and beef brai for dinner. Delicious. One long day complete.
We also saw some warthogs. Funny little creatures. Several ground squirrels were quick to get into the burrows, as was the mongoose we spotted. A jackal, which I was asked to shoot on sight, made two appearances. The first time i saw something dog-like, but no one else found it. The second time it was too far away for a shot. I was thinking of bringing one of those home, too.
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Hunting reports
Africa
8
USA/Canada
1
Member of
Northeast Wisconsin SCI chapter, Lifetime member of NRA,RMEF
Hunted
Namibia, South Africa (East Cape, Guateng and Limpopo)
Congrats, on the black wildebeest!
 

ROCKET

AH fanatic
Joined
Jul 3, 2014
Messages
756
Reaction score
574
Location
Cordoba, Argentina
Website
mghunting.com
Media
13
Articles
1
Hunting reports
Africa
1
Mex/S.Amer
4
Hunted
Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, South Africa
I am enjoying alot reading your good hunt.....go ahead.....we want more......!!!!
 

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Latest profile posts

DGGardner wrote on Rare Breed's profile.
I'm sure I am a day late and a dollar short but if the deal on the .416 falls through let me know and I will buy it.
Pondoro wrote on Tally-Ho HUNTING SAFARIS's profile.
Hello...could you please pm me regarding what species available on this fly-camp offer....can cape buffalo be taken for instance..? Trophy prices..?
matt vejar wrote on kevin masters's profile.
Kevin,
Played rookie league for the Yankees in Paintsville after winning the College World Series at Fullerton State, in1979. All I could think about was the movie “Deliverance”- lived up in a hollow with some other players. Refused to go on a moonshine run because it was a dry county-no way. Met some of the nicest people on the planet there! Van Lear the home of Loretta Lynn was highlight of summer LOL.
Tally-Ho HUNTING SAFARIS wrote on jfowler812's profile.
hi Mr fowler

im happy to do these deals for 2021

i will knock off 10% off each deal if you take 2 so $18000 per package

look forward to your response

regards
Mule deer and Colorado elk seasons almost done! Hunters driving farm roads, looking for racks, their PH driving them along, I ask that you not pull into my drive. The buck behind me, on the boundary line of the GMU somehow knows. The hunter laughs, I would invite you in to see my Searcy rifles but social distancing prevails, darkness arrives and the buck slides away into secret tree grove...
 
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