SOUTH AFRICA: First Trip To South Africa: Sensational Hunting Safaris

Elkeater

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Well this might be a long one but hey I’ve got 5 hours to kill here in London while we wait to fly home to Phoenix, AZ.

I don’t even know where to start really. It was awesome! Take that with a grain of salt as we’ve never been to Africa before so we have nothing to compare it too. This started when my brother and sister in law bought a show special package for 4 last year and invited us to go along. We would be hunting outside Mokopane in the Waterberg and surrounding areas with Sensational Hunting Safaris. Our main PH for the week would be Petie Boon though we would have a bit of help from PHs Dean, Andrew, and Petie jr. on a couple of occasions.

Originally it was to be my brother Brian, sister in law Ariel, my 10 year old daughter Hannah, and myself hunting with my wife and my 9 year old son Sam as observers because there was as no way my wife was going to let me go to Africa without her. About 4 months before the trip my son decided he wanted to hunt too but just for a warthog and maybe one other animal so they let him just come as an observer and shoot a couple critters off the price list. My original package list was a blue wildebeest, impala and warthog, while my daughter Hannah’s list was a Zebra, Impala, and springbok. Brian’s list was a blue wildebeest, impala, and springbok. Ariel’s list was a zebra, blesbok, and warthog. Since these were the packages we bought we figured we’d also add off the price list. Now this was a show special so the basic business idea as many of you know is to get you over on a “cheap” package then recoup costs on additional animals. We added plenty of animals and for my family of four I could not have been happier with what I ended up actually paying. Now before we went over we all ended up with a tentative list of add ons. I had intended to add a zebra for me as well as a bushbuck, and a Kudu. Hannah wanted a Steenbok or Duiker. Brian wanted to add a gemsbok, and Ariel wanted to add a Civet. We ended up mostly filling out our lists and even adding or substituting a couple others.

We flew out of Phoenix on British airways on the Night of Tuesday the 11th of June, landing at Heathrow at 1330 on the 12th. Can’t complain about BA at all. Very friendly service and even though we had one delay out of London they got us moving as fast as they could and we got into Johannesburg at 1130 on Thursday instead of 0930. The great folks at Afton picked us up at the gate and quickly whisked us through passport control and past the customs folks. We are not fancy people and Afton blew us away with the accommodations, food, and South African hospitality. We stayed the night Thursday enjoying a steak dinner and a drink around the fire. Our PH Petie picked us up at 0800 Friday morning for the 3 hour drive to the lodge which included a stop for lunch and and quick stop at the liquor store for beer and scotch.

Upon arrival at the lodge we quickly got settled and Petie asked us what we wanted to do for the afternoon to which my response was that I didn’t fly halfway around the world to sleep. Off to the rifle range we went to shoot the rifles we would be using for the week. Being our first trip over we had opted for rifle rental just to make life easier. We shot everything with either a .308 Winchester, .270 Winchester or a 6.5 creedmoor. We saw plenty of game on the way to the range including warthogs and impala as well as some baboons sitting in the rocks right above the target backstop. We all took turns shooting including the kids and once satisfied with our abilities we all hopped back in the truck to see what we could find for the afternoon. Now as far as property size this first afternoon we hunted the smallest property we would see the entire trip at about 1200 acres. We entered the gate and immediately bumped into a nice impala ram. One thing we found with the kids being short and the grass being tall it was often better for them to shoot from the top of the truck. And we would end up shooting a mix of off the truck and off the sticks throughout the week. Back to the Impala. We tried to maneuver the truck to get Hannah a shot but that proved unsuccessful so Petie, Hannah and myself jumped off the truck and made a quick stalk though the bush til we got within 50 yards of the ram. Of course by this time he knew we were there but he made the mistake of turning to face us so up went the sticks and Hannah put a single shot into the base of his neck dropping him on the spot. 15 minutes into hunting and we had animal number one on the ground. Hannah was rather pleased with herself.
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After collecting the Impala and taking photos we all loaded back up and were off. When you have a long list at the start of the hunt it’s easy to find targets it seemed. Thought the next target really caught me off guard. About 1600 or so Petie stopped the truck and took my brother and Ariel for a sneak down to a water hole a couple hundred yards away to see if there was anything on either of their lists around. The tracker came back about 5 minutes later and waved for me to follow quickly I quickly joined the others in the bottom of a little sandy wash and Petie told me there was a nice Kudu at the water. We snuck back up to the water but bumped the bull and his smaller friend who quickly made for the heavy brush. We sprinted around and down the edge of the wash and Petie threw up the sticks as the two bulls cut across the other side at about 100 yards. The big bull paused to look back one last time and the crosshairs found his shoulder. The bullet blew through and thanks to the sharp quartering away angle it exited his neck and he dropped at the shot. I don’t know what a big Kudu bull really looks like but I trusted my PH to tell me to shoot or not. He ended up being the biggest bull I saw all week and I am very very happy with him. I was not planning on shooting a Kudu bull my first night hunting but hey take the gift when you get it right?
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We took the time to admire the bull and take photos and having fallen in the bottom of the wash we were even able to get the truck to him for recovery. It was getting toward the end of the day at this point so we decided to head back to the lodge for the evening. We made it a whole 5 minutes before bumping into a herd of blesbok with a good ram in among some females. Petie and Ariel jumped off the truck and made a 300 yard stalk before taking the ram with a 100 yard shot. Not only did Ariel have her first animal in Africa but her first animal ever!
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Back to the lodge for the evening. Dinner was some amazing blue wildebeest tenderloin on the Braai. Every meal we had was amazing. Kudu tenderloin ended up being my favorite. Steenbok spaghetti was a very close second though.

Day 2: our first full day of hunting. Up at 0530 We made a plan over the standard light breakfast of coffee, rusks, cereal and fruit. I have fully fallen in love with rusks by the way. The plan for the morning would be to hunt the same property close to the lodge as the previous day looking primarily for impala and maybe try for a blesbok for my son. We got to cruising the roads slowly just as it got light and immediately found some blesbok. We made several attempts to get Sam on one but never could seem to get the right opportunity. Trying to get a 9 year old kid on the right animal in a herd of a dozen that never stops moving isn’t easy. About 0830 we finally got into a group of impala just off the road in very thick brush. They apparently felt safe but Brian managed to find a nice ram in a very small window and snuck a bullet through the brush. The ram ran flat out for 200 yards blowing blood and chunks of lung out the whole way. There was no problem recovering the ram and we had the first animal of the day down.
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We kept going and about 1000 we spotted another small group of impala rams with one really nice ram in the bunch. This group left in hurry, disappearing into the bush. Petie and I jumped off the truck as I was the only one with an impala still on my list. We cut back and forth through the brush following the rams for perhaps 400 yards before catching them in a small opening. The sticks went up and I dropped the ram with one well placed shot. He was an excellent ram and a fun stalk.
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About this time we started making our way over to a waterhole where a guy from one of the other groups in camp had taken a nice impala as well. We stopped, congratulated the other hunter and collected his impala so he could keep hunting. Making our way back to the lodge and skinning shed we caught a group of warthog with a nice boar in some cattle pens getting water. I made a quick shot hitting a little back but a second follow up shot on the run put the pig down. This would be the smallest warthog for our group for the week. I was happy with my prize and throughout the week I think I decided warthogs were one of my favorite animals to chase. They are spooky, show up wherever they want to, cannot be controlled by fences, and look cool.
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Back at the lodge we had a wonderful lunch, a quick nap and about 1430 we headed back out to see what the afternoon would bring. We headed over to a different property where the landowner had some wildebeest including one bull that he said was rather problematic and needed to go. The intent was to get my brother on the bull but once we got over there and found him alone we decided this might be a good opportunity to get my son on a animal that wasn’t mixed in with a bunch of others. I had a wildebeest on my package anyway and so I decided that if we could get him on the bull he would take the bull. As luck would have it we were able to locate the bull and get the truck into position for a 75 yard shot in the extremely tall grass. Sam got pretty worked up on this one. A Blue wildebeest looks huge to a 9 year old kid and he was really concerned he would only wound it but he pulled himself together after some coaching and put a beautiful shot on the bull. He made it only 20 yards before collapsing into and old defunct fence. Sam was obviously excited and everyone was very proud of him. It was about this time I decided that I would rather see my kids hunt and as it would turn out I wouldn’t take another shot at an animal til the last day.
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We took photos and headed back to the lodge to enjoy a glass of fantastic South African merlot and a campfire. In the way back however we stumbled into an excellent looking warthog sow. In the tall grass all everyone saw was big tusks and Ariel took a quick shot from the truck and dropped the pig in less than 20 yards. It was an awesome way to end the day.
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Day 3:
Zebra day. Other than spotting one zebra the first afternoon for 2 whole seconds we had struggled to find zebra. Tracks and sign were everywhere but they would consistently be on of the more difficult animals to locate. They have my utmost respect as a game animal at this point.

We drove to a different property today about 1.5 hours south of the lodge as it had a large number of zebra on it. We got the house and picked up the farm manager and began our hunt. We saw eland, impala, giraffe, kudu (including a first hand look at a bull leaping a 10’ tall game fence like it wasn’t even there), warthog, more impala and even more impala. Finally about 1030 or 1100 we located some blue wildebeest that had adopted two zebra into the herd. No since Hannah and Ariel both wanted a zebra we decided Hannah would take the first shot and Ariel would take the second if the zebra would cooperate. We got Hannah set up at about 200 yards and she took the shot. She hit a bit low but it was obvious the zebra was hit hard. The second zebra seemed to hesitate so Ariel quickly sent a round and made a perfect hit right in the shoulder. The second zebra dropped in seconds but Hannah’s zebra was still on its feet. It wasn’t going anywhere but we still felt it prudent to have Hannah put two more rounds into its chest before it finally went down. It was a fun morning and both ladies were very happy to have secured their zebra rugs. I couldn’t believe how beautiful they are up close and I decided I would try to hunt one later in the week.
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After collecting the zebras we headed back through town. Made a stop for lunch and the pizza joint and then headed over to another property looking for a blue wildebeest bull for my brother. We hunted most of the afternoon. Brian made a couple stalks that didn’t work out and thanks to a rangefinder malfunction or perhaps user error missed a nice bull. About 1500 it all finally came together on a wonderful bull after a short successful stalk and a 150 yard shot off the sticks. When the PH gets excited you know it’s a good bull. This would be the only time all week Petie would pull out the tape measure. The bulls spread taped out at 29” and change.
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Being later in the day we made the long drive back to the lodge. Now to get to the lodge we had to drive through the property where my son had shot his wildebeest the day before. As we drove through Petie suddenly stopped the truck and asked if anyone wanted to shoot a steenbok. This was animal on my daughters add on list as they were cheap and she loved the idea of how small they were. I quickly jumped out of the truck with Hannah and we got a steady rest off a fence post and Hannah made a quick 50 yard shot securing her steenbok. They are a very lovely creature and their beauty certainly outshines their size. If I ever get the chance at one in the future they will be on my list.
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That was the end to our day. Back to the lodge for a campfire and a scotch. Dinner was Wonderful as always and I think I may miss the food more than the hunting.

Day 4: this would turn out to be one of the funnest days I had. Brian and Hannah both wanted springbok on this trip and being in Limpopo that was a bit of a challenge. However Petie came through as always and secured a property with some springbok an hour and half south. We drove down and started our hunt about 0800 and within 20 minutes Hannah made a nice 210 yard shot to collect her springbok. This kid had all the luck all week it seemed. Everywhere we went with her animals popped up.
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We spent the next 3 hours trying unsuccessfully to get my brother on a springbok. We drove into town for lunch and the buck and lion guest house. Lunch was fantastic and if your ever in Groblersdal Limpopo, I would say it’s an excellent stop.

Back at the farm we only spent 45 minutes getting Brian on his springbok. Lovely animals if I do say so. I’ll need one at some point.
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Now all day we’d been seeing warthog. Sam wanted a warthog bad. So after collecting Brian’s springbok the farm manager dropped me and Sam along with Petie off at some catch pens. This was a huge property that was primarily a breeding property. So not only had we seen warthogs all day but we had also seen Cape buffalo sign everywhere, though we had not actually seen the animals. Now when we got dropped off we found out some of the buffalo bulls were in the catch pens. So now we are hunting warthogs coming into the pens that are filled with Cape buffalo but have water in them. We ended up waiting til nearly dark for a big warthog. We watched impala, giraffe, sable, small warthog, and some baboons one of which tempted Sam but he ultimately decided to wait for the warthog. It was also about this time some Cape buffalo came in. This was my first time seeing Cape buffalo in real life. I was in utter shock at their size and the look they gave us when the wind swirled in their direction. I’ll be back to Africa for one with no doubt. Just before dark a large boar warthog finally came in. A visibly shaken Sam got on the gun and pulled himself together to make a perfect shot that dropped the hog on the spot. He was one happy kid with a dang proud dad and PH. There was lots of hugs. It was one of the best hunts I’ve ever experienced anywhere.
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We got back to the lodge well after dark but that was ok. It was an absolutely wild ride that day.

Day 5: rest day. Well kind of. Brian and Ariel got up about 0800 and headed out to a neighboring farm to hunt warthog. After seeing my son’s warthog my brother decided he had to have one. He connected on a nice boar about 1030.
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The rest of us never left the lodge that day until after dinner. I had wanted a bushbuck and Ariel wanted a Civet so a little night hunting was in order. We never saw a mature bushbuck or civet that night and we decided to try again in a couple nights. Did pass up some bush pigs though. All the other PHs thought we were crazy for passing up a bush pig boar but none of us could seem to get excited about them.

Day 6: this was the only day we didn’t shoot a single animal. We slept in. Relaxed. Went out a little looking for random animals as most of our list that was left was night stuff or Brain maybe wanted a monkey. We did the same thing in the afternoon and returned to the campfire early and enjoyed a bottle of wine while the kids played with the blood trailing dogs.

Day 7: our last day. We decided to go out with a bang. We got up at 0530, started hunting at daylight. Hannah decided she wanted to take a blesbok. They are cheap so I told her go ahead. Brian wanted a gemsbok still and I decided to try to find a zebra. We also had some plans to give the civet another try that night. I made the first stalk on zebra but they are spooky and gave us the slip very quickly. Those stripped donkeys disappear really fast. After the zebra the next animal we saw turned out to be the gemsbok. Brian made 2 or 3 failed stalks before finally getting on a nice bull and making a 75 yard off the sticks dropping the bull on the spot.
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Next up was blesbok. We spotted a nice group about 1030 and began our stalk. We bumped them and eventually after half a mile we caught up with them. At 197 yards Hannah took an excellent ram off the sticks. She hit a touch low but the ram only went about 15’. Another proud dad moment for sure.
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After the blesbok it was time for lunch and we relaxed for a bit before heading back out to look for zebra.

We spent a big chunk of the afternoon looking for zebra. We never saw them again. How does a group of stripped donkey looking critters disappear like that! About 1600 as we drove past some dense brush I happened to see the outline of a big Nyala bulls horns. They blend in so well but the horns caught my attention. I quickly gave up the zebra hunt and bailed out the truck. We made a short successful stalk. The sticks went up, I found the bulls shoulder in the brush and dropped the bull with a single shot. I was stunned at the beauty of the Nyala. The Kudu may be king in the eyes of many but for sheer beauty I would argue the Nyala wins. It was my favorite animal I took the whole trip.
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We loaded up the bull and went back to the lodge to eat dinner and get ready for one last shot at the night critters.

We got out to the neighboring property about 1900 and started our night hunting activities. Almost immediately we found a big porcupine which Brian proceeded to miss with the rifle. I then got a hilarious video of him trying to unsuccessfully run it down with a pistol and a flashlight. About a half hour later Ariel shot a nice grey duiker. It wasn’t originally on her list but it was a cool critter.
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About half hour later though Ariel got her wish list critter. The civet was certainly a very unique trophy and very beautiful.

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Since we had the specific animal we came out for we headed back towards the house. On the way back however we ran into another porcupine so I figured what the heck and shot him. They are cool. So yes a full body mount is the plan.
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That was the end of our hunt. Our last day was amazing as were the rest. We didn’t make it 3 days into the trip before everyone in the group was trying to figure out how soon we could make it back to Africa. We departed on Friday. We did stop at Safari Outdoor in Johannesburg before we left. Cool stop and I recommend a stop there if you have a chance. We are already planning the next trip. Oh and Zebras are on the top of my list when we go back. The last animals we saw leaving the farm was 6 zebra seemingly just waving goodbye.
 

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Indeed a very fine first trip with quality animals. Bravo !
 
Congratulations of your big family trip!
 
Congratulation on a very successful trip. Seeing your children be so happy and enjoying time in the bush is very special.
 
A fun family trip-congrats on your success- Your nyala is awesome-
 
Congrats for a great hunt !
 
Thank you very much for your report! I enjoyed it very much. It was especially great to see the kids hunting and enjoying such a special time.
 
And oh course I took more than just trophy photos. The accommodations were very nice. Hot and cold running water, comfortable beds, a great fire and Braai area, and a large main lodge complete with wood stove and bar. Sunsets were my favorite time of day to be out and about.
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Wow, congratulations all around on a successful first safari. You all did very well and took some pretty cool animals.
 
Quite the trip. Love the smiles of your kids. Thanks for sharing.
Bruce
 
Congratulations on a very successful trip and it's great to see your children enjoying it with you! I'm sure they will never forget the time you all were able to spend as a family.
 
Congrats, I don't have any children at the moment but do look forward to sharing Africa with my family one day. Thank you for sharing
 

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