SOUTH AFRICA: First Safari In The Books

AustinL

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Well this trip was a lifelong dream for my dad and I, one that I honestly thought might never happen. Once it was determined that we were going to set all things aside and make the trip happen I chronicled our preparations in thread Titled the Journey https://www.africahunting.com/threads/the-journey.42093 . It is now time to being our hunt which has us Departing Sept 7th, 1028 and Returning Sept 15th 2018 during which time we will be hunting with Rudolf Graupner and Molopo Kalahari Safaris

This morning came early with much to do before our 10:00 am departure for the San Antonio airport. I was up early to finalize my packing then get the kids ready for school. Today will be the last time I see them for the next 10 day, this is probably the hardest part of the trip. Kids are ready and it is off to school we go, this day also happens to be grandparents day so my dad goes along for the obligatory grandparents breakfast. Breakfast done and our goodbyes said we are headed out. I drop my dad back off at the house and he begins loading the car, me I am off to the office for a quick stop to make sure all is in order and grab some cash for travel.

It's now 10:15 just 15 minutes behind schedule and we are pulling out of the driveway headed to the airport. As I think back it is amazing how long it took to get to this point since booking our hunt yet it seems to have been a blur. We make the trip to the airport and it is uneventful, the staff at Delta were extremely friendly and helpful in assisting us with our baggage and checking our guns. It is at this point that all is in fates or should I say Delta's hands. A short line at security and we have time to grab some lunch before our 2:00 flight out to Atlanta.

The flight to Atlanta was on time and passed quickly with the anticipation building. A brief layover in Atlanta waiting on the DL200 flight was occupied with a quick snack recharge the phones and watched as they made the plane ready for flight. This is when the real anticipation set in, the fact that this was actually happening along with the pending 16 hour non-stop flight to Johannesburg and would our luggage arrive along with us.

Before I knew it boarding calls were being made and it was time to embark on the second leg of our Journey. Once boarded it did not take long for the pilot to point the plane down the runway and off towards the Atlantic we were headed. The flight to Johannesburg was for lack of any other words grueling. The flight staff were great and weather was as good as could be expected there was little to no turbulence for the entire flight. The anticipation and excitement made rest hard to come by I may have slept a total of 3 or 4 hours during the entire flight and I think never was it for a span greater than 30 minutes at a time.

To say I was happy, excited and relieved when the wheels touched down at OR Tambo in Johannesburg would be an understatement, we quickly disembarked the plane and made our way through customs and on to baggage claim to retrieve our luggage. I was very relieved once both suitcases were in our possession once again. Now it was the long walk down the green hall were we were to meet our outfitter who also had handled the import permits on our firearms for us. I will not lie it was a bit overwhelming walking out of that hallway for the first time to a crowd of people some holding signs some not, all waiting for someone. I stopped and started scanning the crowd for a familiar face that of our outfitter but I just did not see him. As I scanned and moved through the mass of people bit of fear and apprehension begin to set it, but it was for naught. I had not seen him but he had seen us and soon had made his way over and greeted us with a big smile and a handshake.

From here we made out way to the firearms office where we quickly cleared our rifles and away we went. It is now time for the third leg of our Journey the 7 hour car ride to the hunting concession in the Northwest Province near the Botswana border.

To be Continued: I promise I will get to the hunting part soon.

Dad_springbok2.JPG
 
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AustinL

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Day Two......Or is It Three

At this point we are loading up for the drive to the main lodge and hunting area we are somewhere around 24 hours out since we left my front door. It feels like we have been traveling for days especially since we departed my house mid morning on Friday and it will be the wee hours of Sunday morning before we make our final destination.

While I want to sleep anticipation keeps me going long into the night. As we travel out of Johannesburg I look out across the night sky and see lights as far as I can see. I knew it was a big town but it is much larger than I gave it credit for being. I should back up and say one thing that I struggled with for the duration of our trip was the drivers side being on the right hand side of the vehicle. I was constantly attempting the climb in the drivers side and ever apprehensive that we were on "the wrong side" of the road. As we distanced our self from the city traffic continually became less and less till we were soon the only ones on the road with only the odd truck passing us by from time to time.

We made a brief stop for dinner in a town about two hours from Johannesburg the name of which escapes me. It was a "steak" restaurant called Spur Steak Ranch or something along those lines and it was themed of Native American's in the US. We sat down and I tried doing the math on USD to Rand conversion hamburgers worked out to about $9 usd. This our first night did not have me overly adventourus and I opted for the hamburger. I must say I do not know exactly the spice that was used but it was eused heavily and not something that I cared much for. When our meals were brought out my dad tried requesting ketchup several times from the waitress to no avail it was latter that we realized the term for this American favorite condiment in South Africa was "tomato sauce". Bellies full we embark once again.

Long into the early hours we arrive at the lodge and quickly unload our gear into our respective rooms and make a plan with the outfitter to sleep until we wake with no set agenda for the day. I believe I was asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow and I did not move again until I awoke sometime around lunch time. It is Sunday now and we are somewhat rested and eager to see Africa in the daylight for the first time.
DSC_0036.JPG


Above is the Main lodge and where we will base our trip out of. We met here in the main lodge for lunch and then headed out to check the sight in on our rifles. My .280 was right where I wanted it 1.5 inches high at 100 yards. My dad's 7mm mage was shooting a little to the right and a few quick adjustments had it back where it needed to be.

With that chore out of the way we headed back to our rooms to grab showers and settle in with plans to head out about 2:30 that afternoon. We had booked our hunt as a 1x1 hunt and the two ph's in camp were Ruldolf Graupner the outfitter and Jaco Mueller. The plan was for my dad and Ruldof to hunt together and I would hunt with Jaco for the remainder of the week but for this our first day we decided to all go out together.
 

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Any name for a town you were near?
I’m ready! Where’s the next episode:(!
Just kidding! Thanks for taking the time to write it up and share with us. Looking forward to it.
 

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Keep it coming sir!
 

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Vryburg was the nearest "large city" to us and Bray was the nearest community. We were hunting right along the Molopo River which forms the border between South Africa and Botswana.

First Hunt


2:30 Came and we all loaded up in the Cruiser My dad, myself, both PH's and two trackers and we set out in search of what Africa had to offer us. We came into this hunt with a idea of species we wanted to focus on but were certainly open to "what Africa gave us".

It was not very far from camp when we came upon our first with African game a herd of springbok. While they were not on either of our radar prior to getting boots on the ground we stopped and surveyed the herd mostly young rams and females. We then carried on.

A short while later we came across a herd of Gemsbok again some young males and females but nothing worth pursuing. Due to the time of year we were hunting the Gemsbuk were already starting to calve so we were only looking for mature males.

We passed up several other herds of springbok, blesbok, and zebra and red hartebeest in no great rush to disembark on a stalk we were just enjoying Africa. As we came to a clearing in the next block we spotted a herd of Blesbok which had a nice management ram in the bunch. My dad was primarily hunting management animals so we decided to try and make a stalk. The problem was not only was there a herd of blesbok but we also had gemsbok and springbok to contend with.

We stepped off the truck and ducked into the brush on the side of the road and got down low as the truck pulled away. We waited several minutes to allow some time for things to calm down. As we started slowly and methodically working our way in the herds direction we came to a spot which should have put us near where we saw them last but when we worked our way out towards the edge of cover we looked to see that the gemsbok had gotten nervous and pushed themselves and the rest of the game further away again. We ducked back into the brush and circled around and came back up towards where they should be but once again the gemsbok had pushed the whole herd further still. As we stood in the shadow's and watched and surveyed the situation we spotted a old heavy horned springbok ram which fell into there management category. With this seeing as how he was alone and the large herds had moved off we had a perfect opportunity. The wind was right, the sun was at our back and he was slowly feeding along. Our only challenge was about 500 yards of very open.

From this point we slowly and methodically followed Rudolf as we ducked from one scant piece of cover to the next in single file as the ram fed with his head down. Each time he would raise his head we would freeze until we could continue our advance. At the final piece of cover we were now just over 100 yards away from the ram but he was now out of sight in some heavy brush but he was feeding towards a clearing. One last check though the binoculars as he cleared the bush showed him to be exactly what we thought he was and the sticks were deployed and my dad steadied his rifle. We needed the ram to take one more step to clear a few limbs and when he did my dad touched off his 7mm. The ram staggered a few yards and fell.
Dad_spingbok1.JPG
Dad_springbok2.JPG


It was quite and experience and one that I will always cherish getting to share in that hunt and first harvest in Africa with my dad. We quickly approached the downed ram just in time to see the pronk as it was raised then lowered for the last time. The truck was radioed and they came around to us and we set up and took some outstanding field photos before calling it a day and heading back to the lodge to wind down the evening.


We slowly worked our way back to the lodge enjoying the evenings success and watching the sunset on our first hunting day. It its finally setting in that we are really here in Africa on a hunt that previously had only been a dream. Back at the lodge we unloaded and sent the trackers with the cruiser off to the skinning shed. A fire was blazing in outside the lodge and the tables were set around the fire just waiting for the chef Kelani (sp?) to call us to dinner. We sat around and enjoyed the warmth of the fire and a cool drink. Grace was said to thank the lord for all the blessings bestowed upon us and we set down to a fine meal this one centered around Springbok backstrap steaks. I have to admit this was about as fine a meal as I had every had and if this was an indication of the rest of the week I know I would be letting my belt out as opposed to tightening it up before the week was out.

After a fine meal we watched as the fire started to dwindle to coals the stars illuminated the sky like I have not seen in many years and the milky way streaked across the night sky. Still tired from the previous days travels we retreated to our quarters early with the jackals calling into the night.

This night sleep would come easy....
 

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I love these father/son hunts!
 

cls

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Great, so far...
 

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Excellent writeup and good to see someone experience this with their father. Looking forward to more reports.
 

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Dawn Breaks

As I ended the previous post sleep came easy, what I was not prepared for was it to end quite as early as it had. I found myself awake it was about 3:30. Our PH had told us we would be receiving a wake up call at 5:00. I looked at the time back at home it was 7:30 P.M so I capitalized on the early wake from my slumber to place a WhatsApp call back home to my wife and kids. While I had been enjoying the solitude it was great to see my wife and kids and have the opportunity to visit with them.

With that done it was now 4:00 no sense in fighting sleep to only gain an extra hour so I went ahead and grabbed my shower and got dressed. It was about 5:00 as I stepped out of the door to be greeted by Jaco my PH heading to give me my wake up call. Not needed today, I noticed the crispness in the air and he commented on it being cooler than usual for the time of year due to a major cold front on the Cape. I took a few moments to breath in the cool African air prior to heading over to the lodge for breakfast.

By choice our breakfasts were nothing fancy and consisted of several cereal options, toast, homemade muffins, yogurt and fresh fruit. There was also a container full of "Rusk" near the coffee. The rusk along with a hot cup of "red bush tea" became my breakfast of champions for the week coupled with a piece of fresh fruit and cup of yogurt. As we consumed our morning calories Jaco made sure the cooler boxes were full and loaded in the cruisers for our morning hunt. During the usual morning conversation the talk turned of the weather. It was discussed that today with the cold front would be a bit windier than usual and it would make hunting more difficult, and with south wind it would be pushing more cold air up. Wait what was that the "cold south wind" cold wind comes from the north not the south right? Wrong South African cold fronts come up from the south, just like driving on the wrong side of the road I'll get used to it maybe.

As the sun started to illuminate the landscape we departed from the main lodge myself, Jaco and our tracker/driver Ellias headed one direction with my dad, Rudolf and their tracker/driver Andreas heading the other. The air was cool and we both pulled face masks up to provide some warmth as we scanned the landscape. At this moment for some reason I just was not in any great rush to shoot anything I was too busy just taking it all in, we came across a herd of blesbok first but did not find a suitable ram in the bunch, fine by me I am just enjoying the day. Some time later after glassing several herds of blesbok and gemsbok along with numerous other species we finally came across a good blesbok that we wanted to go after.

The usual drill commenced climb out of the truck duck into the brush get down and wait until it was out of ear shot we would then slowly make our way towards where we last saw the herd, upon our arrival the spot that had just moments before been teaming with game was now void. Radio for the truck and make our way back to it. This scene would repeat itself over and over again throughout the morning with blesbok and gemsbok. The wind had them all on edge and when they didn't spook from the truck or a swirling wind we would be foiled by unseen warthogs, springbok or some other species.

During our morning hunt me and Jaco discussed the animals there habits and most importantly what was important to me in a trophy animal. My response was first a fully mature male with heavy horns, I much prefer mass over length but most importantly I was there for the experience and if he said shoot I would not question that call. Likewise he said to pass I would gladly do so. This would happen many times over the course of our hunt and not once did I question or regret the calls made.

We had several successful stalks that morning not just failures only to find the animal to be to young or "we can do better". We had a wonderful opportuning on a 34" mature gemsbok that morning the statement was we can kill him if you want but we can do better. Better it is and away we went.

It was nearing noon now and we made our way back to the lodge to meet up with Rudolf and my dad and enjoy a wonderful lunch prepared again by Kelani. When we got to the lodge they were not back yet, I really thought they would be waiting on us. A call was received on the radio my dad had shot a blesbok and they were tracking it. Finally they returned with the blesbok loaded in the back of the cruiser. They had got on the male and had a hard quartering to shot, my dad pulled ever so slightly to the left and the shot entered behind the on shoulder instead of infront of it. He was hurting but moving at a steady pace, the chase ensued. The followed him quickly never losing sight for close to 2 miles in the Kalahari sand before closing the distance and being able to put a finishing shot through his shoulders as he walked through a small clearing.
dad_blesbok1.JPG


Time for a short break then back out for the evening hunt.
 

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Nice blesbok! May be early but have you considered your taxidermy options?
 

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The way this is turing out I should have titled this First Safari... The Book.

Yes I am not 100% sure on what my dad will do but I have a pretty good idea on what I want to do
 
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Hogpatrol

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:) Your "book" is making for some very enjoyable reading. (y):D
 

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Redemption....

Due to the late morning with my dad's blesbok there was not much time between lunch and our anticipated 2:30 departure for the field for the afternoon's hunt. We all gathered around the hunting trucks and loaded our gear my dad and Rudolf were going to go and focus on a nice gemsbok bull. Me well I am still taking in Africa and waiting to see what she gives me.

I find myself perched in what will become "my seat" in the high rack for the next several days heading out again looking, waiting and wanting the right opportunity to come along. As we bounce along the two track roads I find myself amazed at how smooth the ride is even so much that Jaco my PH spends a good bit of his time standing on the seat to gain some additional elevation, no doubt should I try this I would quickly find my self in the African dust as the hunting truck continued on down the track.

The eye's of the PH and tracker never ceased to amaze me, the game they spotted as the truck bounced along was nothing sort of amazing. It's not just that they saw game it's that they could spot the game and in many cases assess whether or not it warranted a longer look. Had it been up to me I would have stopped and glassed every herd with bino's. Of course I found myself wanting to stop the truck every time any game was spotted so that I could look and watch. We did a bit of this but I soon came to the realization that it would not make for a productive hunt. This after all was not just a photo safari.

Much like the morning we bounced along spotting game, we had several failed stalks even spent quite a bit of time playing cat and mouse with some Gemsbok in some heavy cover never really able to get a good look at them to assess trophy quality. The wind swirled and they blew out. Back to the truck and onward we will go.

As the day grew long and we were down to probably the last hour and a half of light we spotted a group of impala with a really nice ram that warranted a better look. With that we once again disembarked from the cruiser, same routine, I am getting good at this part. With the truck out of sight we moved to get the wind right and began our approach. As we came upon the last bit of cover we surveyed ahead of us the band of females had drifted the were broken up into smaller groups, a few here a couple over there but where was the ram. Jaco finally locates the ram with a couple of females in small bunch of cover about 100 yards out. For the first time the trip the sticks are up and now it is crunch time, I slip beside Jaco and get my rifle cradled in the sticks and focus on getting my heart rate down and my breathing under control. They stay back in the cover for what seems like an eternity but at last the females emerge and start working back towards the rest of the group, right behind them the ram comes moving quick from left to right he is just in front of a small bush quartering towards me when he pauses. I am focusing on the mechanic's of a good shot, breathing, sight picture, trigger squeeze when in my ear I hear Jaco say "punch him" and the crosshairs settle right on the point of the shoulder and I...Jerk the trigger. The shot rang and all hell broke loose impala went everywhere, in my heart I knew I had missed, in my mind I knew what went wrong. My head got the best of me I was so focused on the mechanic's I just did not "let it happen". We watched as the ram ran off with his girls stopping once to give us a good look almost mocking but more importantly providing further confirmation of a clean miss.

I was dejected and beating myself up, not only did I feel as though I had let Jaco down for all the hours and hard work that went into getting that one opportunity Further I must say I was mad at myself I had just muffed a chip shot that I should have made day in and day out, would I be able to get over this, will I be able to shake the nerves going forward? All of the questions were racing through my mind as we headed back to the truck. Jaco was ever positive and encouraging, there's plenty of game we'll just find another.

Back in the truck we climbed, me on one hand almost hoping we didn't have another opportunity on the other desperate for redemption. Well it did not take long for us to come across a great blesbok with a small herd of females. The wind was perfect, the sun at our backs good cover all the pieces were there for a perfect stalk opportunity. Jaco ever cheerful and optimistic looked at me and smiled as he asked you want to try him he's a great trophy. At that moment all that happened before was pushed out of my mind, lets go get him I said, and off we went.

Same routine as many before out of the truck get down and wait for it to pull out of ear shot. We began our stalk through cover sunlight quickly dwindling, will we run out of daylight, or will they be spooked like so many times before. We near the edge of the cover and peek around a bush the big male is in the lead with his females behind him moving from right to left. We quickly duck back into the cover and move quick and low through the shadow's to try and cut distance and get set up with a clear lane they should be coming to. About the time we reach the lane we look up and there are the females. Quickly Jaco set's up the sticks but all we see are the ladies the male was in front he must have gone through the clearing ahead of us. The females break and run about that moment, my heart instantly sinks another opportunity missed. Not quite at some point the male dropped back and the females hit the clearing first, as they break all of a sudden from the right the male breaks into the clearing wondering what is going on. A quick check yep it's him sticks are in place already and in one fluid motion the rifle settles into the cradle as I flick the safety off. Again those words ring in my ear as he stops one last time quartering away to look back at us "punch him" next thing I remember the shot rang and I lost my sight picture but I heard the 160 grain barnes hammer home. Quickly I chambered another round and re-acquired my sight picture for a "texas heart shot" as he stopped after about 30 yards. I whispered do I need to hit him again Jaco's response was not needed because no sooner than I uttered the words he went down.

I had my redemption, we quickly made our way to him and set up to get some pictures in the fading light a perfect ending to another day In Africa. The ride back to camp that evening was a great one I set up in the seat enjoying the setting sun and the cool air admiring the amazing animal that Africa gave me.
austin_blebok3.jpg
blesbok1.JPG


Back at the lodge I had to confess that the evening had it's roller coaster moments but we ended on a high note. Once again we gathered around the fire kicked back and just relaxed taking in the cool night air enjoying the sounds of Africa and prepared for another fine meal.
 

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Great story which brings back memories I hunted in this area in 2010 and 2017.

So you have become addicted to rooibos (y) I enjoy it myself.
 
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Redemption....

Due to the late morning with my dad's blesbok there was not much time between lunch and our anticipated 2:30 departure for the field for the afternoon's hunt. We all gathered around the hunting trucks and loaded our gear my dad and Rudolf were going to go and focus on a nice gemsbok bull. Me well I am still taking in Africa and waiting to see what she gives me.

I find myself perched in what will become "my seat" in the high rack for the next several days heading out again looking, waiting and wanting the right opportunity to come along. As we bounce along the two track roads I find myself amazed at how smooth the ride is even so much that Jaco my PH spends a good bit of his time standing on the seat to gain some additional elevation, no doubt should I try this I would quickly find my self in the African dust as the hunting truck continued on down the track.

The eye's of the PH and tracker never ceased to amaze me, the game they spotted as the truck bounced along was nothing sort of amazing. It's not just that they saw game it's that they could spot the game and in many cases assess whether or not it warranted a longer look. Had it been up to me I would have stopped and glassed every herd with bino's. Of course I found myself wanting to stop the truck every time any game was spotted so that I could look and watch. We did a bit of this but I soon came to the realization that it would not make for a productive hunt. This after all was not just a photo safari.

Much like the morning we bounced along spotting game, we had several failed stalks even spent quite a bit of time playing cat and mouse with some Gemsbok in some heavy cover never really able to get a good look at them to assess trophy quality. The wind swirled and they blew out. Back to the truck and onward we will go.

As the day grew long and we were down to probably the last hour and a half of light we spotted a group of impala with a really nice ram that warranted a better look. With that we once again disembarked from the cruiser, same routine, I am getting good at this part. With the truck out of sight we moved to get the wind right and began our approach. As we came upon the last bit of cover we surveyed ahead of us the band of females had drifted the were broken up into smaller groups, a few here a couple over there but where was the ram. Jaco finally locates the ram with a couple of females in small bunch of cover about 100 yards out. For the first time the trip the sticks are up and now it is crunch time, I slip beside Jaco and get my rifle cradled in the sticks and focus on getting my heart rate down and my breathing under control. They stay back in the cover for what seems like an eternity but at last the females emerge and start working back towards the rest of the group, right behind them the ram comes moving quick from left to right he is just in front of a small bush quartering towards me when he pauses. I am focusing on the mechanic's of a good shot, breathing, sight picture, trigger squeeze when in my ear I hear Jaco say "punch him" and the crosshairs settle right on the point of the shoulder and I...Jerk the trigger. The shot rang and all hell broke loose impala went everywhere, in my heart I knew I had missed, in my mind I knew what went wrong. My head got the best of me I was so focused on the mechanic's I just did not "let it happen". We watched as the ram ran off with his girls stopping once to give us a good look almost mocking but more importantly providing further confirmation of a clean miss.

I was dejected and beating myself up, not only did I feel as though I had let Jaco down for all the hours and hard work that went into getting that one opportunity Further I must say I was mad at myself I had just muffed a chip shot that I should have made day in and day out, would I be able to get over this, will I be able to shake the nerves going forward? All of the questions were racing through my mind as we headed back to the truck. Jaco was ever positive and encouraging, there's plenty of game we'll just find another.

Back in the truck we climbed, me on one hand almost hoping we didn't have another opportunity on the other desperate for redemption. Well it did not take long for us to come across a great blesbok with a small herd of females. The wind was perfect, the sun at our backs good cover all the pieces were there for a perfect stalk opportunity. Jaco ever cheerful and optimistic looked at me and smiled as he asked you want to try him he's a great trophy. At that moment all that happened before was pushed out of my mind, lets go get him I said, and off we went.

Same routine as many before out of the truck get down and wait for it to pull out of ear shot. We began our stalk through cover sunlight quickly dwindling, will we run out of daylight, or will they be spooked like so many times before. We near the edge of the cover and peek around a bush the big male is in the lead with his females behind him moving from right to left. We quickly duck back into the cover and move quick and low through the shadow's to try and cut distance and get set up with a clear lane they should be coming to. About the time we reach the lane we look up and there are the females. Quickly Jaco set's up the sticks but all we see are the ladies the male was in front he must have gone through the clearing ahead of us. The females break and run about that moment, my heart instantly sinks another opportunity missed. Not quite at some point the male dropped back and the females hit the clearing first, as they break all of a sudden from the right the male breaks into the clearing wondering what is going on. A quick check yep it's him sticks are in place already and in one fluid motion the rifle settles into the cradle as I flick the safety off. Again those words ring in my ear as he stops one last time quartering away to look back at us "punch him" next thing I remember the shot rang and I lost my sight picture but I heard the 160 grain barnes hammer home. Quickly I chambered another round and re-acquired my sight picture for a "texas heart shot" as he stopped after about 30 yards. I whispered do I need to hit him again Jaco's response was not needed because no sooner than I uttered the words he went down.

I had my redemption, we quickly made our way to him and set up to get some pictures in the fading light a perfect ending to another day In Africa. The ride back to camp that evening was a great one I set up in the seat enjoying the setting sun and the cool air admiring the amazing animal that Africa gave me.
View attachment 250664 View attachment 250665

Back at the lodge I had to confess that the evening had it's roller coaster moments but we ended on a high note. Once again we gathered around the fire kicked back and just relaxed taking in the cool night air enjoying the sounds of Africa and prepared for another fine meal.

That's a great blesbok, very nice horns!
 

cpr0312

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Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 

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New Day....

Once again sleep was not hard to come by, I had a morning alarm set for 4:00 again so that I could call the family before they all retired for the night. I came to enjoy this time to catch up with the family and get ready for a new day. Ea ch morning I found myself outside enjoying the cool morning air the final calls of the jackals while wondering what was to come.

Morning at this point was pretty well routine and once again we found ourselves loading up in the hunting trucks for the mornings hunt. As the day before we set out eyes peeled and peering behind and though each bush, at least I was. Again the game spotting ability of the PH and trackers was second to none. There were very few times that I ever spotted game before them. Many times I thought I had only to have the PH tell me what it was the moment I pointed without so much as a glance in that direction.

This morning our primary focus was on Gemsbok, but as always we were open to what the day offered. We looked over group after group of Gemsbok as the morning progressed we made several stalks some unsuccessful and some worked out just as they should have only to hear the words, we can do better. This continued on as we searched for "the one". We were crossing though some extremely thick black thorn scrub when Jaco spotted just the tips of horns in the distance. With a quick snap of his fingers and some words exchanged the tracker backed the truck up to the edge of the thicket it must have been 1/4 mile. Here we would depart.

As we climbed out of the truck Jaco said were are going to follow the edge of the brush and pick up their tracks then follow them into the thick stuff for a look. I stood thinking to my self yeah right sure there are tracks everywhere and to be honest in this sand they don't look like much more than smudges not matter what left them, but they don't have the title of PH for nothing so I 'am following you boss. Away we went about 300 yards down we hit some tracks that appeared as most of the ones we had walked over had. Jaco looked back at me and pointed, here they entered and we began to follow. Slowly and methodically we moved through the brush occasionally the track veering left or to the right we pushed on until all of a sudden Jaco stopped and ducked down. He pointed there was the herd some 80 yard in front. Now with them in sight we circled keeping the wind in our favor and staying in the shadows we tried to assess them looking for a solid bull. As we worked through we were now within 40 yards straining to see, a hindquarter here a shoulder over there never able to see more than bits and pieces of one or two animals at a time. Alas the wind swirled and our location and the herd exited never revealing to us whether or not there was a trophy amongst them.

We cut across to the nearest road where we radio the truck to pick us up, we found shade and sat down to wait, hot and thirsty the temperature was nearing 80 degrees now and as I sat in the shade I was amazed at how cool the sand still was to touch. As the truck arrived I stood right into a black thorn branch catching a thorn right in the inside of my ear, it's amazing how such a minor prick can cause such hemorrhaging. We grabbed some water and loaded up in the truck once again, it was now time to start working back towards the lodge.

On our way we stumbled across a great impala ram feeding on the edge of a thicket with some females. A quick glance confirmed he needed a closer look so we departed from the truck same routine as many times before. We then made our approach and got to within 100 yards, he was a good one alright, sticks went up and I settled in for another try, he was broadside but there was too much brush in the way and all that could be seen was his head and neck. We repositioned quickly and set back up, with a few steps he offered a quartering to shot and I squeezed the trigger. Just like it's supposed to be the shot came as a surprise and I lost sight in the recoil. When things settled the ram was gone, I had heard the bullet connect but did not see him fall nor did I see him run. I looked to Jaco as if to say what happened but before I could get the words out he said I did not see he flinched in the binoculars and did not see where the ram went.

We approached the spot where he was and nervous trepidation soon turned to relief as the ram was laying right where he stood. I can't say enough about the care these guys take in making sure they get good clean field photos.
austin_impala1.JPG


Upon Arrival at the lodge we found out that my dad had made a fantastic shot on a great management bull gemsbok as well. Now time for lunch and a nap.

Dad_gemsbok1.JPG
 

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Better Lucky Than Good...

Back at the lodge we all gather around for lunch and Rudolf with some concerns comments on my bloody ear "what happened to you" I simply responded that today I decided to leave a piece of me in Africa. After an amazing lunch we all retreated to our rooms for a brief nap before our anticipated 2:30 pm departure for the afternoon's hunt. I rested some but hated to waste a moment so I grabbed my binoculars and chose to sit on a the deck at the main lodge which happened to overlook a water trough. I spent about an hour watching a herd of waterbuck, some young warthogs and Kudu cow's mingle in and out of water till it was go time.

Like all the hunts before we were soon loaded up into the back of the truck. I had assumed my position ready to see what the afternoon had in store, my dad and Rudolf in the other truck were heading out to another property with intentions of focusing on finding a nice old Kudu bull. Me we were still in search of Gemsbok as a primary goal.

I know we had not been on the ground along time but I was beginning to wonder if we would be able to put all the pieces together on a good bull. I can tell you I do not know exactly what I had expected coming into this trip but I was surprised and thankful for the experience. All of the game we encountered was extremely wary and you had to be on your A game to get it done. If one were to keep a tally at this time it would read something like Gemsbok 20 Me 0. That's ok though it has been an amazing ride up to this point and I feel blessed to have the opportunity to experience it.

Jaco snaps his fingers and the truck slows to a halt with that I snap back to reality. Their is a herd of gemsbok out ahead quick surveillance reveals cows and young bulls but nothing worth dismounting our trusty steed for. Onward we search soon coming across another band, this one has what might be a suitable target in the bunch. We dismount once again, we have done this so many times now it seems as though we know each others moves and we are out of the truck almost instantly. The truck slowly moves off and out of sight we slowly advance with sparse cover until we hit the last usable cover and duck into it's shade and wait. As the herd feeds ever closer it soon becomes clear that this bull is not quite the caliber that we are looking for. Once again back to the truck we go continuing our search.

We have not made it too much further when we spot a great old bull in some cover. Jaco said I think this is the one so once again we head off to try and get a shot at this great bull. A perfect stalk is planned and we pull it off without a hitch only to discover as he steps clear of the brush that yes he is a grand old bull but he has broke one horn off leaving just a nub on the other side. Once again we continue our search. The good news is game movement is increasing as the weather has improved and with the wind calming so the animals are not as on edge.

Once again it does not take long for us to find another herd, this one is quite large though, probably 35+ head of gemsbok. As we glass the herd we are shocked not one bull in the bunch that has what Jaco is looking for. At this point I must confess his guidance and knowledge was paramount in finding a great bull as to me every gemsbok is impressive and it is so hard to distinguish a good one from a great one. As we are discussing the herd I notice one gemsbok alone about 100 yards removed from the main bunch. I quickly acquire him in my binoculars, as I said they all look big but this bull looked much better than anything I had seen so far. I point him out to Jaco and we a quick glance he said that's the one. We move off in the truck working to get a favorable wind. Once in position we dismount and duck into the shade of some scant cover and wait, the truck departs. This situation is different than past in that now we are waiting on them to come to us vs having to go to them. Soon they are upon us the big male and some younger males about 130 yards out, Jaco gets the sticks up and I slide my rifle into the cradle. Jaco takes the time to make sure I am on the right bull, once we are on the same bull he gives me instructions to stay on him and let him know what I am seeing so that we can confirm both stay on the right bull.

We are in a waiting game he gives us a shot but has other bulls behind him once they clear he is in brush or not providing a shot angle this goes on time and time again, The rest of the herd is now on to us and staring intently our direction. It is just a matter of moments before they foil the whole thing, yet as in of cue the steps forward out of the brush quartering to us. There are those words again "punch him" and the shot rings out, I hear the thwack of the bullet and know it was a solid hit. The bull staggers and backs up now broadside but with some light brush shielding his vitals. He is still on his feet, I can see the shoulder but would have to shoot through brush to reach it. Another round is already in the chamber and I whisper, "'do I need to hit him again" the reply "go ahead" and I touch off again, at this shot the bull drops. Quickly I chamber another round and we move towards the bull circling around him but he is done. This bull is what I dreamed of when we left on this trip and I can not imagine a better bull. As I admire the animal thankful for the opportunity I think to myself, I am completely satisfied even if I went home with no other animals on the trip.


A quick photo session and we get him loaded in the truck, the method that they use to do this is absolutely amazing and ingenious. Having loaded him we quickly head back to camp gather up some chairs and race off to a nearby waterhole hoping for an opportunity at a big warthog. Upon dropping us off the tracker returns to the skinning shed with the big bull.

austin_gemsbok1.JPG
austin_gemsbok2.JPG


There was no warthog excitement tonight in fact activity was virtually non existent at the waterhole this evening with the exception of a couple of buffalo bulls. Seeing these massive animals up close really gives you an appreciation for the statement that they look at you like you owe them money.

My dad's hunt was a very eventful one in which they played cat and mouse with a great Kudu bull but were never able to get a shot, no worries though we have lots of time left to hunt.

At the lodge we are again greeted by the wonderful staff and the Grauper family as we wind down and prepare for another fantastic meal.
 
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AustinL

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I should have mentioned that the first shot was perfect and the insurance shot was not needed but lead is cheap. The Barnes 160
Grain TSX bullets preformed flawlessly and only one was recovered the whole trip but we will get to that
 

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