SOUTH AFRICA: First Plains Game Hunt In RSA

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by masonmc, Dec 28, 2016.

  1. masonmc

    masonmc AH Member

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    I am finally getting around to posting a report on a first time plains game hunt in RSA. Its a slow week for me so I hope to post some information that would be helpful to other first timers. One thing I loved about planning a trip to Africa was how helpful everyone was. If you ask a question you will get an answer and then some. Thanks to all who helped me through the planning phase. I am also happy to report that for our first hunt I think we set the bar pretty high. I had good advice on outfitters to choose from and we were very happy with the results from our final choice. I hope to tell a good story and then give some advice at the end for anyone planning a trip.

    My wife is adventurous and was totally on board for an African hunting trip. Our boys are 6 and 4 but with able grandparents to keep them now seemed like a good time to go. As suggested we went to DSC to meet with a few recommended outfitters but after talking with Vlam Myburg of Madubula Safaris we were sure he was our guy. It was Jan 2015 and we wouldn't hunt until May of 2016. That ended up being a good thing because boy did several desires change during that time. Every little detail was thought out and we were glad we had ample time to think everything through. Probably the best advice we were given by our PH for our first hunt was to "keep an open mind". This made sense as we had ideas what we wanted to hunt but understood when we got there it could change. RSA seemed like a good safe bet for our first trip so we booked the flight from ATL to JNB and began the waiting process.

    We had a good flight to JNB and with the help of Air2000 services we made it though JNB with a rifle and a bow very easily. We were met at the plane and guided throught the whole process. After we were escorted to our car my wife Lena said whatever you paid for that...It was worth it. We stayed two nights at the Michelangelo Hotel in Johanessburg. After some dining and some serious shopping at Cambanos even Lena was ready to leave the city.

    A short flight to Kimberley got us to our final destination. Upon arriving at the camp were happy to find very nice accommodations and meals. After a sleepless night we got up and began hunting. The first stalk was a very unexpected climb up a mountain after Gemsbok. The terrain here was quite varied and not the flat dusty dirt I expected everywhere. I saw several animals that looked huge to me but of course the PH insisted we wait. We made several stalks that morning but finally on the fifth we found two good Gemsbok bulls laying down in a clearing. We waited for them to stand as I settled into the shooting sticks in a sitting position. A good shot at 175 yards had him down immediately. I wasn't sure how to feel it seemed so surreal. We were thrilled as the one animal we couldn't leave without was the first one we took. Lena loves the way these animals look and we absolutely had to take this home for a shoulder mount. I wanted quality mature trophies and scores didn't matter to me but I was very happy to hear this should be a silver medal and it is.

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    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 28, 2016
  2. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Looking forward to it.
     
  3. masonmc

    masonmc AH Member

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    Attention to detail was clearly a priority for Vlam and his crew. Dennis our main tracker and Nicolas our driver/tracker paid close attention to Lena's needs and kept her more than comfortable at all times. Temps would start out in the mid 30s and climb to 70s so layers were important.

    The second morning we spotted a nice Blue Wildebeest and got out to get a closer look. It was a chilly morning and the stalk was in a sandy area which felt like walking on a beach. We took a nice old bull with scars all over his head. PH says this should be another record book. We weren’t concerned with trophy size, Lena and I just like the color of the skin for a rug. But I wasn't complaining that these trophies were making the record book. I had never killed a record book anything.

    I do have to admit I made a couple bad shots here. I was told to practice and practice and I just did not practice enough apparently. Mistakes happen but I felt a bad shot here and a miss there is clearly my responsibility. One thing I wish I had done was practice more from various shooting positions. I did ...but not enough. By the way we were shooting a Savage .308. Its a great rifle for both Lena and I to use and we decided to take just one. Vlam had others if we needed anything else. IMG_0022.JPG

    Getting back to attention to detail. I love a good picture and Vlam would go to every length to get the best photo he could. He kept saying its the first thing you get to take home with you and he wanted it to be perfect.

    I had discussed bowhunting with Vlam but that wasn't a priority. We decided to try it and set up at a watering hole over lunch the second day and Lena enjoyed taking some photos. It was a nice break from the truck but this concession was huge and I was ready to give Lena a chance to do some hunting. We decided to spend more time in the truck with the rifle as I still had a fair list of species to hunt. Most importantly a Kudu.

    Enjoyed watching Warthog and Jackal at the watering hole. IMG_1905.jpg
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2016
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  4. reedy0312

    reedy0312 AH Legend

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    Thanks for sharing the report and congrats!
     
  5. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    That is so true. You also only get one chance to take those pictures.


    It is such a great experience.
     
  6. Shootist43

    Shootist43 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    So far, so good. I assume there is more to the story.
     
  7. CAustin

    CAustin BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Good report and thanks for sharing!
     
  8. masonmc

    masonmc AH Member

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    We saw several Red Hartebeest the evening of Day 2 and had become quite taken with them. When it came to keeping an open mind the Red Hartebeest fell into the why category. While making our wish list we had no intention of taking a Red Hartebeest but once we started seeing these animals and the majestic way they bounced along we became very interested in them. This area is known for restoring a dwindling population of Red Hartebeest and the quality here was very strong.

    We were able to get pretty close to a good bull so Vlam was suggesting this would be a good time for Lena to take the shot. She was not steady and the bull would not cooperate so we passed. We were hopeful day 3 would be a good one for Lena.

    The start of Day 3 was quite cold and we drove to a completely different area. Luckily we had something to put over our faces to stay comfortable.
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    We later spotted a nice bull and Vlam and trackers worked hard to get Lena into a comfortable distance. Lena was nervous but pulls off a perfect shot. What a start to day 3! The trackers are especially excited about this Hartebeest and the PH is very happy. I was just happy for Lena and had no idea why there was such excitement. I had not done much research on what makes a nice Red Hartebeest but I would later realize this was the highlight trophy of the trip! A fantastic first trophy for Lena.
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    Lena was also very excited but also relieved and says she is done hunting and glad the pressure is off. She just wants to relax now.

    One hour later on the way back to camp an old Blesbok bull is spotted on the edge of a large field. We were able to use cover to get within about 150yards. I wasn’t really interested in taking a Blesbok but had to remember when on a plains game safari to “keep an open mind.” I figured this could be my wildcard and at this point if Vlam says shoot...well Im not asking any questions.

    When we get to the perfect vantage point Vlam points to Lena to come take the shot. She points to herself and says "ME?" She gets on the short sticks in a sitting position and takes another perfect shot, it goes nowhere. Walking out into the field to the Blesbok she says “I see how this can be addicting” but is also happy to say that on day 3 she is done shooting and the pressure is off her. Dennis and Nico are talking in Zulu and excited so we ask Vlam whats going on and he says they are talking about Lena. We asked what they are saying and he says they say “She shoots, She Kills!”

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    At this point Lena officially becomes the only one to put two in the truck at one time during this 7 day hunt.
     
  9. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH Elite

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    Great start to your hunt. Nice pics. That Hartebeast looks to be a very good one. Thanks for sharing. Bruce
     
  10. masonmc

    masonmc AH Member

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    Day four started with spotting a nice group of Giraffes in this first pic as we ride to the first area to look for Kudu. You can see in the pic the small range which made for varied terrain in spots. Luckily I had taken up running and was in pretty good shape. Climbing a few of these was in my future...
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    We weren't interest in hunting Giraffe but we loved watching them. Anytime Lena wanted to watch them we stopped immediately and all enjoyed it. She was done hunting and loving the camera now.

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    Such a great feeling to just walk out amongst them.

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    No luck with the Kudu so we move into an area where they have been seeing a nice Impala. We finally spot a good one and in one of the quickest stalks of the week find him in about 5 minutes a very short distance from the truck. Hes only 80 yards and barely goes anywhere before crashing after one standing shot on the sticks. I was thrilled! Growing up we always talked about one shot, one kill when deer hunting. After the Wildebeest experience I was glad to regain my confidence.

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    The Impala was one of the big surprises of the trip for me. I had no expectations of taking an impala this big or with this much character. It looks like a black faced impala but is actually just a standard. Old, scarred and plenty of character. I loved the red dirt and brush in this area. For the picture we couldn’t get the head to stay up so Nico laid down behind it and held the head straight. You can see his hand if you look. I actually like it because some people don't notice it and others say hey what is ....

    but hey gotta get that photo and photoshop can help with the rest if you really care.
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    Day four afternoon was looking for Springbok again. We kept returning to a small clearing in the Acacia brush near a stone dam and looking at Springbok at least once a day but Vlam and Dennis weren’t finding exactly what they wanted or getting the right wind.

    Finally on day four we use a tree to sneak within 150 yards of a good ram. Vlam and I crawl closer through the Acacia leaving Lena and Dennis behind a tree. I set up on the short sticks stitting but quickly realize the small size of Springbok even at 150yards. In addition it is facing me and I’m not so confident in my shot. Trigger is pulled and I hear the hit and it runs out of sight.

    Vlam and I go to the point of impact and Dennis gets on the blood trail. Good blood and Dennis confidently says we will find him. I was relieved but they said to wait on Nico and the truck and Vlam got his rifle out for backup. Luckily that wasn’t needed as we found him dead about 400 yards away. Vlam and Dennis had been seen this particular ram on day one and they wanted it bad. Now I realized that’s why we had been coming to this spot every day and glassing Springbok, we had been looking for this particular ram for 3 days.
    IMG_2033.JPG
     
  11. masonmc

    masonmc AH Member

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    Day five was started in the mountain range near the river. I started to refer to this as "Kudu Country" because I was learning they like to drink in the river and sneak back to the mountains and hide in the brush. No luck today and I am starting to wonder if we will ever find the right Kudu. Ive had a wonderful trip but I do really want a Kudu.

    Day six started with a very cold morning. We got on the back of the truck early and Lena stayed in the cab with Nico and fell asleep. We spotted 3 good Kudu bulls following a cow on the side of the mountain opposite the river. Lena got out and started the stalk with us. We were finally on Kudu! This stalk was quick, before I knew it Vlam had the short sticks out, had me in position, told me which bull but before I could get ready they started moving. We got up and watched them scramble effortlessly through a small pass in the mountain. Vlam and Dennis proceeded after them without speaking so Lena and I followed. I moved in behind Vlam and quickly realized we were about follow them up and across this small mountain.

    We gained elevation quickly and Lena decided to turn around and meet back up with Nico. I stripped off all my extra layers of clothes and gave to her to take back down and just hoped she could find Nico and the truck. We got to the top and didn’t see anything but a huge porcupine. Dennis started tracking while Vlam and I moved higher to get a better view of where they may have gone. Dennis met up with us and we went higher and higher and higher. Vlam and Dennis set up to glass the next peak. They radioed Nico to move the truck as we had covered so much distance he would have to meet us on the other side of this range. I asked if Nico had found Lena, they said yes and my mind was right back on these Kudu.

    I was concerned that our best move was now following them through such difficult terrain and wondered if this would ever pay off. I joked with Vlam that we’d come this far so might as well keep going? He agreed and when I asked what that funny shape was on the other peak level with us he replied “ a beacon to alert planes of these peaks”.

    We watched the last bull pass the farthest point out of sight and started our walk across after them. Normally our stalks lasted about 30-45 minutes, this stalk on Kudu went on for over two hours. I cracked a small smile that I had come this far and was barely breathing. I was in the best shape of my life, but could I pull off a 300 yard shot on the sticks after all this?

    Finally we got to the point where we had seen them last. Vlam and Dennis crawled to the edge of a cliff and began glassing. I sat and tried to remain calm, not even attempting to look at the Kudu. I knew whatever they said to shoot would be a great trophy, I just had to mentally prepare for the long shot I knew was coming. Vlam put the short sticks up and motioned for me. I started to look off in the far distance for a Kudu bull. Vlam said “no he is right there” and pointed down. “68 yards” he said. I silently let out a big “hell yeah” aimed and BOOM! He went straight down.

    I don’t know what getting struck by lightning feels like but that’s how id describe the way I felt right then. No hunting scenario for me had ever required that much effort and none had ever felt that rewarding.

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    Lena climbed to where we were to celebrate with us. We took picks and then they quartered it to get it down to the truck. An older bull past his prime with a worn right tip. It wasn't a record book Kudu but I didn't care in the least as I has just had the most memorable hunt of my life and a fine Kudu bull.

    We all felt a little dusty, which was Vlam’s way of saying we needed a cold beer. We got back to the truck 4.5 hours after we left it on the other side of the mountain.

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    Vlam Nico Dennis Mason


    Day seven was an enjoyable day of looking and relaxing. We found some Cape Buffalo and Sable and enjoyed watching a future quarry. We looked for Warthog and Steenbok to hunt but didn’t find any and that was fine by me. We went into this with an open mind and it turned out perfect.
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    Celebrating the Red Hartebeest kill.
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    Loved every evening drive home. All were different but this one was pretty nice.
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    End of the last day all smiles. Im smiling because I know at this point Lena wants to go back...so do I!
     
  12. billc

    billc SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    You had one heck of a hunt and did very well. Your Ph showed you some great animals.

    The red hartebeest did the same to me after seeing them. They just make you want to hunt them after you see them.
     
  13. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Ambassador

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    Congrats on a very nice hunt @masonmc! I'm another who really had no interest in Red Hartebeest until I saw my first herd. Well done!!
     
  14. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH Elite

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    Very nice Impala. Good mass. The Kudu gave you a good chase. Nice looking bull. Cograts on a good hunt. Bruce
     
  15. cls

    cls AH Veteran

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    Great report and congratulations on a successful safari
     
  16. dory

    dory AH Fanatic

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    Awesome trip mate .
    Jezzz you got some top animals for a bloke that wasnt worrying about trophy scores .
    And what about the wife !!!!
    Shes a born hunter mate , lucky you .
     
  17. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH Enthusiast

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    Thanks for sharing such a great trip. I am always happy to see a couple who both hunt. My wife did for a few years, then decided she had enough of carrying a gun while hiking around the mountains. She still likes the hiking around though.
    Congratulations on such great trophies!
     
  18. Shootist43

    Shootist43 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    You and your "huntin" buddy had a great hunt. With her wanting to go back, your return trip is already in the cards. Since she enjoyed it so much how about asking her to write up a report from a woman's perspective. Her experience could be instrumental in convincing other wives (including mine) to go on a Safari. You "guys" got some excellent animals, thanks for sharing.
     
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  19. rinehart0050

    rinehart0050 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Congrats on a great trip and some awesome trophies/memories. Thank you for sharing your adventure in this report!
     
  20. masonmc

    masonmc AH Member

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    Thanks to all for the kind comments. I enjoy reading all the reports on this site, was very happy I could finally contribute.

    Some more thoughts to share.

    Getting trophies back and taxidermy planning was the thing that concerned me the most. I wish I had asked more questions and actually talked to taxidermists at DSC instead of just gawking at mounts of Lions. I considered using a taxidermist in Africa but in the end decided to have the final work done in the states with someone I knew locally. I was able to tour some trophy rooms in my area and see the quality of his work. To my surprise he had much more experience with African animals than I expected.

    Lifeform Taxidermy in South Africa was recommended to us and we used them for dip and pack only. We recently got our skulls and horns back to our taxi in the states and he said the dip and pack quality was some of the best he had ever seen. IMG_1980.JPG

    Lifeform was not the cheapest but I would absolutely use them again and hope that I can. The communication was great, very responsive. Lifeform suggested Safari Cargo Systems for shipping and we used D&L for brokerage. All these guys were great. Communication was so good, I felt informed through the whole process and was very comfortable.

    For plains game it can be hard to decide what to hunt. Keeping an open mind for a wildcard or two can be helpful. Things are so different when you get there. We had such a long time to plan this safari our desired list of species changed a couple times. I started to look at species specific to this area that I could not find elsewhere in case we ever went back. This made sense as I started to plan another safari in the midst of planning the first. (many veterans talked about this and now I understand). After all when you go through this process and learn so much it would be a shame to not go back and use that knowledge...right?

    Taxidermy decisions are something Lena and I have worked on for a while. We both wanted to shoulder mount a Gemsbok but she hated pedestals. Then I took her to a trophy room to see our taxidermists work and they had a Gemsbok on a pedestal. We both loved it and she changed her mind quickly. Going to trophy rooms and looking at animals is so much different than looking at pictures if you can do it. I planned to shoulder mount my Kudu but don't have a good place for it. I may just hang on the wall as a skull cap mount until I have space for it one day, hopefully in a cabin. Told the tanned cape could be good frozen for up to 5 years. Maybe more? Others here will know better than me on that one. But the point is there are options to explore and if you wait to do the work in the states your decision making time grows exponentially and you can spread the cost out if you want.

    We purposefully spent two nights in Johannesburg to acclimate. 3 days later we were still waking up in the middle of the night. It took a long time to adjust. I understand now why everyone says stay as long as you can. It really does go by fast. Of course Lena wanted to "see the city" and that was part of the deal but we realize next time we will likely go to the concession ASAP.

    I went out and shot my rifle a good bit. I figured out how accurate I was freehand standing sitting prone and at what yardages I was comfortable. Not good enough. My safari shots were almost all standing or sitting both with sticks and distances a little further than I practiced. There is so much advice on this site to practice. I read it all but it didn't really sink in until the Wildebeest.

    Getting around JNB with a rifle or just on your own? Air2000 Again Lena said worth it, no matter what it cost.
    And the cost wasn't so bad. Plus just having the paperwork already done saves so much time.

    The best advice for this whole adventure came from my PH well before the hunt "ASK QUESTIONS"

    Happy New Year!
     
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