Tundra Tiger

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AH elite
Jun 1, 2019
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SW Alaska
Hunting reports
South Africa, USA (Alaska, Kansas, Maryland)
By the numbers:
Hunt report: South Africa, Eastern Cape
Outfitter: @GAME 4 AFRICA SAFARIS, Grahamstown
Professional Hunter: Wikus Coetzee
Dates: May 20-27
Original species targeted: impala, blesbok, kudu, blue wildebeest, zebra (package), cow water buffalo
Harvested: impala (x2), blesbok, kudu (x2), blue wildebeest, zebra, cow water buffalo, warthog, springbok
Shot distances (yards): impala – 100, 209, blesbok - 220, kudu – 130, 150, wildebeest – 150, zebra – 50, buffalo – 45, warthog – 110, springbok – 230
Guns used: Marlin 1895GBL .45-70, Marlin MXLR .338 Marlin Express
Ammunition: .45-70 – 325 grain Cutting Edge brass solid handloads, .338 ME – 200 grain FTX factory ammo
Services used: Lori – Travel Express, Rifle Permits
Airlines: Alaska Air (Dillingham to Seattle), Qatar Airlines (Seattle to Johannesburg), Airlink (Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth)
Air hours (one way): 1 (DLG to Anchorage), 3.5 (Anchorage to Seattle), 14 (Seattle to Doha), 7 (Doha to Johannesburg), 1.5 (Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth)

I’m a 54 year old lifetime hunter who’s dreamed of hunting in Africa since my college days. I vividly remember a story in Bowhunter Magazine by the late Dwight Schuh, about bowhunting at a place called Meloranie Safaris, that particularly stoked my desire. I probably still have that issue in a box somewhere. So why did it take me so long to finally make the journey? Life happens. For much of that time I was an elementary teacher, which doesn’t exactly make one independently wealthy. Also, a divorce which left me in a tight financial spot, raising my kids, didn’t help. Whatever. I choose to see it as the length of wait made me appreciate it all the more.

Also, I have some health issues (diabetes, heart disease) though I’m in decent shape. I decided to add that for those that might have health conditions and are wondering if having such will slow them down. I have spent most of my life living and working in rural southwest Alaska, first as a teacher, and for the past 14 years as a staff member at Togiak National Wildlife Refuge (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service). I currently serve as the Visitor Services Manager. I consider myself a competent hunter and outdoorsman. I’ve harvested my share of moose, caribou, and deer, along with a few bears (black and brown).

This trip was supposed to have taken place in March 2020. It was supposed to have been a daddy – daughter trip, with my youngest (then 17) daughter. Due to the trip getting put off until this year, my daughter was not able to go with me. That was my one and only regret, and the only thing that would have made it a better trip. I will be going back. She will be going with me.

I whittled down potential places to hunt with an eye towards finding someone who would be good for my daughter. While there were several possibilities that emerged, after a number of phone calls I settled on Game 4 Africa. My daughter had recently had some pretty severe surgery to her foot and had mobility issues. References helped me decide that Game 4 Africa would be a good place for her to hunt. After things got postponed, I decided to stick with them even though my daughter wouldn’t be going. I am very, very glad I did.

I feel competent planning trips. That said, this was my first international trip. As such I decided to go with Travel Express and Rifle Permits, after reading so many great things about them on this site. Wow, am I glad I did. Lori had me unbelievably prepared, in terms of paperwork, and what to expect at each and every turn, through every single phase of the trip. I had zero issues at any stage. Paperwork was prepared and in order. I made it there and back without any issues or hassles at all. Also, Rifle Permits made it so easy in Johannesburg. Marius and Anna made that stop a lot easier than it would have been otherwise. I am so thankful for the assistance of these talented people.

Twenty-seven hours in the air is a lot. I did not have particularly long layovers – three or four hours in some instances. I like to read, so that’s really no down time at all for me. I had a well-stocked Amazon tablet (music, movies, books) to keep me occupied. I did pay for an exit row seat (leg room, proximity to bathroom) and was very happy I did. I was comfortable during the course of each and every flight. Qatar Airways absolutely rocks, with their in-flight service and entertainment options. In short, all that flight time was no big deal at all – just a part of the adventure!

Wik was there to pick me up at the airport in Port Elizabeth. I didn’t sleep much during my flights so I was feeling it a bit. Once I was settled into my chalet (Game 4 Africa has 3 chalets that guest stay in) I had a pleasant first evening, checking my rifle at the range, meeting Wik’s family, eating, resting, and settling in. I also got to meet another AH member – Everett. He and his brother were in camp at the same time. A very happy part of my trip was getting to know them. They are really good people and I hope it’s not the last time our paths cross.

I told myself in writing this I wouldn’t be long-winded, but now that I’m typing it – and trying to anticipate questions people might have – it’s taking on some length. Ugh. My apologies in advance. I believe what I’m going to do is have a separate entry for each day of hunting (I killed animals each day). The subsequent reports shouldn’t be as long as this one. If you have questions, please ask. If you wonder if I have photos of something I didn’t post, please ask.

As the phrase goes, your mileage may vary. This is what worked for me. I tried to share stuff that was information I was looking for as I was planning my trip.

Photos: my gun case (I took AK t-shirts as gifts, in addition to tipping), my ammo case, locks, how I organized my documents, the flight tracker on the Qatar flights, the Police Department at Tambo Airport, the final stop - Port Elizabeth, checking my rifles
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Disclaimer: I have nothing with which to compare this; this was my first ever guided hunt, in addition to my first trip to Africa. That said, I was super impressed. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Chalets were clean and comfortable to the maximum. Service was incredible (laundry, cleaning, meals). The main lodge was a joy to meat for meals and to visit. The outdoor seating area and nightly fireside conversations were something I very much looked forward to each day. Staff was always friendly and helpful. The scenery from my chalet door took my breath away each and every day. Food was beyond words. Every meal – always game meat – was better, IMHO, than beef or moose, and I like moose an awful lot. My favorite was probably zebra.

We settled into a nice routine of breakfast at 7, out to hunt at 7:30. Sometimes we came back to the lodge for lunch, sometimes we took lunch with use. In the evenings, the fire was going by 5, with snacks. Supper was 7:30ish. It was very, very pleasant. A couple of afternoons, after a long successful morning, I opted to take some time off. I relaxed in my bed, reading and enjoying the view, and awaiting the evening of socializing.

I don’t know what scale you use to rate your experiences, but for me this went above whatever the cap might be. It just could not have been better. (except to have my daughter there)

Photos are random ones around the main lodge; again, if something's not clear or you have a question about something specific, please ask.
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It's a pleasure to see the exuberance of your trip in your report. Everyone seems to have a concern about being long winded, don't worry about it. We have all got the time and AH certainly has the space. Keep on writing..... Thanks.
It's a pleasure to see the exuberance of your trip in your report. Everyone seems to have a concern about being long winded, don't worry about it. We have all got the time and AH certainly has the space. Keep on writing..... Thanks.
Keep it coming.
Day 1:
The game plan for the first day was to find a wildebeest. It was Wik’s suggestion and I was good with that. I should mention here that two things I really grabbed onto in preparing for this hunt, based on the advice of others was 1) practice shooting off sticks and 2) listen to what your PH says. I did practice off sticks, or a tripod rather. Based on photos I’d seen of what Game 4 Africa uses, I bought and used a Bog Pod tripod. Also, my mantra – and I’m sure Wik got tired of me joking about it – was “Whatever Wik Says”. So… for first day… wildebeest it was.

The property we hunted had some of the densest, nastiest, most tangled stuff I’ve ever seen. I had read that everything has thorns in Africa. Wow, what an understatement! In fact, that led to my biggest mistake. At mid-day on day one, because it was so much hotter than I was expecting, I unzipped the legs the legs of my pants and converted them to shorts. I would live to regret that decision, and did not convert to shorts the rest of the trip.

We found a group of 5 bulls almost immediately, but the wind was in the wrong direction. We made a long circle to get it right and managed to get within a bit less than 200 yards. Wik got me set up on what he thought was a really good one, and at 170 yards… I had a clean miss.

Side note: I made a conscious, good-faith effort to practice from my tripod, and did over many range sessions. I felt like I was making progress. But on my first shot at game, and with two people watching, I’ll admit I was nervous. Thus, the miss. Needless to say, the miss didn’t do a whole lot for my confidence. But Wik was very supportive, the entire time.

We made the decision to stay on those five bulls. We got close a few times, only to have it fall apart. Finally, after many miles and a lot of hours, that afternoon we got close again, on the same bull. This time, from 150 yards, I put a bullet in the chest. I felt like it was a solid hit, but maybe a bit far back – it was a quartering away angle. Unfortunately, the shot happened near a steep drop from a really thickly covered bluff. You can guess where he went after the shot.

We managed to push him closer to the bottom, and then circled and came up from below, to attempt to finish him. It was thick enough that getting close was very difficult – and my legs were really racking up the cuts in the process. When we did get close, there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room. Wik stepped aside so I could shoot. The distance was maybe six or seven feet. The bull had been bedded and came to his feet quickly and started downhill – right at me! In hindsight, I think maybe he was just going downhill because that was the easiest, but at the time it felt and looked like a charge. I attempted to get back; Wik grabbed me and pulled me. Those horns looked mighty large. The best guess is he missed/passed by me at not much more than a foot, literally. After he passed us, he stumbled and I got in a killing shot. My first African animal was down.

By the time he was loaded and a light lunch consumed, there was just a couple of hours of light left. Wik asked if I wanted to hunt or head back and rest. I told him let’s hunt.

We went back to grass covered area with intermittent vegetation, where we’d seen a crap-ton of blesbok earlier in the day. We began a downhill stalk, with most blesbok running away as we did. Eventually we found a single bull that hung around a bit too long. From a seated position and the shorter tripod, Wik gave me a range of 220 yards. I was still nervous from the miss on the wildebeest and – wait for it – managed to do the exact same thing. I missed the first shot, hit him in the chest on the second, and then had to put a finishing shot in him from close range. Animal number two was down, though I was a still a bit rattled.

Fortunately, it all changed for the rest of the trip. My comfort level with shooting from a tripod steadily went up, and my other eight animals were all one shot kills. More on those hunts in subsequent posts.

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Day 2:
The plan for the second day was to hunt the property close to the lodge. I’m not sure Wik would admit it but my Spidey-sense was telling me he wanted to get me on something – anything – to boost my confidence.

We took both of my rifles to start the day. We put a stalk on three nice impala rams but got busted by a bunch of ewes. While regrouping and deciding what to do next, Wik saw some zebras feeding not terribly far away, and thought they looked approachable. I should mention the wind was screaming on day two, and I grew up in central Kansas, so I know what wind looks and feels like.

We circled to get the wind completely in our faces, and then had to cross and navigate a thorn choked dry creek bed. When we came out the other side, there was a dip in the land, from the field to the creek, and that provided some cover. Also, the wind was so strong there was no way they were going to smell or hear us. Frankly, I think we could have been traveling with a performing rock band and they wouldn’t have heard us. We had to belly crawl to get to a good position on what Wik said was a nice stallion. I had my .45-70 for this one, and again I think it was a Wik/Spidey-sense thing. My .338 ME certainly would have killed that zebra, but I think Wik wanted to see how it’d perform before we went buffalo hunting, though that’s just speculation and nothing he said to me. After a patient wait for a mare to clear the stallion, I put one right through the boiler room at 50 yards. I doubt that brass solid even slowed down going through. A 70 yard run and he was down, and with it animal number three. I was ecstatic; I’m really looking forward to a zebra skin rug.

We went back to the lodge for lunch before going back out for the evening. I think the plan had been maybe to find a kudu, though that didn’t happen. From a high rocky point overlooking a lot of lower areas, we found a really nice impala ram. We slowly made our way down the slope and used the wind and brush to make an approach. Wik set up the sticks for a 100 yard shot. The only concern was the number of eyes between us and the ram: there were warthog sows and piglets everywhere. I put one through the heart and he went on a very spirited but short run and in the process did something odd. My first impala was a homicide/suicide. I hit him through the heart, and during his death run, ran into a tree and broke his neck and nose. I kid you not.

So… day two: two more animals. A side note, about hiking. We hiked between 2 and 9ish miles every day, with an average probably being around 5 or a bit more. The hiking was both difficult and easy. It was easy because I’m used to hiking in Alaska. For those of you who have hunted here, you know what I mean: everything here is soft and squishy, and some of it is really bad. It can suck at your soul with every step you take. So the firmness of Africa was welcome. It was hard because of the brush and thorns. I chose Lowa Renegades for this trip and they were perfect.

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Day 3:
It was decided that my third day would be spent looking for a kudu – the animal at the top of my wish list, or at least tied for the top (kudu – 1A, buffalo – 1B). The kudu were numerous; at times the hill sides seemed to be blanketed in them, with a lot of nice bulls. They seemed to really like the densely tangled stuff.

The properties were crisscrossed with very rough, rocky pathways. We used these to walk and glass from, and then we’d plunge into the rough stuff when we had an animal spotted and a plan for approach. Stalks were far from givens. The winds would swirl and we were busted several times when our scent gave us away. After a few hours and a few attempted stalks, Wik got us above a really nice feeding bull. The distance was 130 yards, downhill, and it was at a pretty sharp quartering away angle. Oh, and there was a couple of dead limbs blocking the back half of the rib cage. Did I mention my nervousness from my shot misses on day one (haha)? When I was set up and Wik said to take the shot, I actually looked back and whispered “Are you sure? What about the branches?” to which he responded “Shoot in front of them.” And with that I squeezed the trigger.

I never saw where the bull went; Wik said he saw him head downhill into some dense cover. I did hear the shot and my impression was it was a good hit. We waited for the dogs, just to be sure, but their talents were not needed. The bull was dead not 50 yards from where I shot him.

A note here about size and expectations: I had none. I wanted representative animals. On kudu I did have a preference. I was hoping for a narrow one with deep curls; wide horns were/are less appealing. It’s totally a beauty/subjective thing, but that’s what I wanted, and the bull Wik put me on was just about perfect. The curls were such that he was able to extend an arm through them down to the head. Because I have no experience with African species I can’t tell you how big mine actually is (we didn’t measure) but I know I was and am ridiculously happy with it. After an adult lifetime of seeing photos of guys with kudu, I now had one of my own. I was so pumped – still am. Also, I think this bull really helped my confidence with shooting and the tripod. 130 yards isn’t very far, but it wasn’t a completely easy shot either, at least for me.

Another note: I’m a stop and smell the roses type of guy. I have always been somewhat that way. After they put a stent in my heart 9 years ago, and I lost 70 pounds, I became much, much more so. Every day is a gift. Never overlook all the many small blessings each day has. As a result, there were times I’d stop to look at something (birds for example; I like birding), only to look forward and realize Wik was 60 yards ahead. We joked about this often; it was never an issue. He’d stop if he noticed; I’d scurry to catch up when I noticed. The butterfly photo is one example. My oldest daughter is into birds and small things like butterflies. When I saw that one I had to have a photo, for her. I thought about my kids throughout my hunt.

The photos... the one photo shows where the bull was, down by the white branches in the middle of the photo.

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Stunning pics!

Keep it coming!
Day 4:
The fourth day was buff day, and we drove to a different property quite a ways from the lodge. The area was a lot of more open grassland, intermittent brush, and thickly brushed draws. We hiked these thickly brushed draws, at a steady, slow pace, looking for fresh sign. We found nothing through the morning hours and went from one draw to another, trying to keep the wind in our faces. We finally found sign that looked to be pretty fresh, and followed it up a wooded draw, zig-zagging looking for animals.

Finally, Wik said that he thought they must have heard us, that he thought they had beat it for parts unknown, or words to that effect. I got the impression we were about to break it off. One of his trackers spotted something on the other side of the draw and we tried to get where we could see. Sure enough, there was a cow looking back at us. My hunt was specifically for a cow; I’d love to hunt a bull someday but it wasn’t in the budget. Several weeks before my trip Wik suggested a cow buffalo hunt. I told him to give me a day. I spent that day researching what a cow hunt would be like, on this site, and at the end of it emailed back and said “Yes please!”

We began to put a stalk on the cow, even though it looked like she knew were there. Through a lot of very slow walking we closed to within 45 yards before we could go no further. I could see her, through the binos, and maybe another one behind her. She looked pissed. A couple of times she took three or four steps towards us, in a menacing manner, and then would step back. Wik thought probably there were more. He gave her a good look and said she was an old, mature cow – just what we were looking for. The problem, as I saw it, was that she was facing us and it didn’t look like she had the room or inclination to give me a broadside shot. So it came as a surprise when Wik told me “Hit her in the front, right below the chin.”

I know a lot of people have debated the merits of using a .45-70 for buffalo. I’m not suggesting it’s a perfect solution. However, I was determined to use my own guns to hunt, and it was ALL I had that might work. I spent months working up loads with different bullets before settling on the Cutting Edge brass solids. They grouped well at the range. Wik had said that the range would be 75 or less. I felt confident my load would work. But I practiced for a broadside shot. I never considered I might be presented with a frontal shot, and yet there it was, with my PH telling me to shoot. So shoot I did.

I knew it was a solid hit. She disappeared back into the brush immediately, and moments later we heard a loud death moan. Also, the brush exploded: turns out there was a herd of 30, including a couple of large bulls, though I couldn’t see them, and they lit out like a covey of flushed quail. Wik was understandably concerned about making sure of where she was, and we circled wide to the right, where the cover was a bit less dense. As we came around a stand of trees we could see her on the ground, down and dead. I was ELATED. I still am. I was able to harvest a mature buffalo, with my lever action, with my own load.

I’d love to know how far into her the bullet made it. There was a hole right in the chest in the perfect spot, where I aimed. She didn’t go 30 yards and was down in seconds, so it obviously worked. Wik’s guess on her weight was 1300 pounds on the hoof. I was, and am, extremely happy. I hope to hunt a bull someday, but I’m not sure it’ll top the feeling I got from hunting this cow.

We took the rest of the afternoon off. I lazed about on my bed, reading and reliving the day. At this point I was four days into my seven day hunt, and had all six of the species I had originally come to Africa for.

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BLAAUWKRANTZ safaris wrote on gpiccs94's profile.
You are welcome to join our family at Blaauwkrantz in February. We have been hosting international hunters since 1978 and known to be the best kudu hunting in the world! we are based on our 100 000 acre ranch, an hours drive from the Port Elizabeth airport. Please email me on
CrippledEagle wrote on 7MAG's profile.
Good morning 7MAG. I have a NEW, never mounted, Leupold M8-4X Extended Eye Relief scope that I will sell you for $325 shipped to you. I was a Leupold rep for 12 years and this was always our preferred mounting for a lever gun, scout rifle style.
DLSJR wrote on Will Clark's profile.
You’ve got an interesting screen name. Will the Thrill provided lots of great times for me as a lifelong Giants fan. Even though I never met him, a number of buddies either duck hunted or shared a dugout with him. He’s a great guy according to those guys. Cool screen name and if that’s your real name, it’s a great one.