SOUTH AFRICA: Game4Africa Hunt Report February 2017

Jason Rodd

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As usual I found the 10 hour flight from Heathrow rather gruelling. On arrival in Johannesburg the transition to the domestic flight was very easy with both domestic and international flight arrival and departures essentially in the same building. A word of advice here, without a gun, I would leave at least 2 hours between the flights as immigration and domestic booking can be slow. If travelling with a gun and you are taking a connecting flight you would be brave to allow yourself anything less than 3 hours because you need to do all of the usual passenger stuff plus go to the firearms collection point that can take time. You then to take the guns to another customs area in another part of the airport to book them in again. TIA! Having narrowly missed my connecting flight 2 years ago on my way to hunt in Limpopo region, this time, I decided to hire a gun. Just to be clear, if you are not taking a connecting flight then the process isn't too bad at all!
So, with the international flight over and my bags rechecked in for the domestic flight, it was time for coffee and cake in the domestic departure lounge. Here you will find a few nice coffee shops that serve sandwiches etc. as well as bar and Wimpy burger restaurant. I had allowed myself 2 hours and this gave me plenty of time for a relaxed transition. Now it was time to fly one and three quarter hours over to the Eastern Cape and the pretty town of Port Elizabeth.
On the final approach to Port Elizabeth you swing out over the Indian Ocean before cutting back and down to the tarmac. As I watched the white horses race towards the shore, being an avid fisherman, I couldn't help but imagine what lurked beneath the waves down there. The immortal line "we're going to need a bigger boat" floated into my head sending a little shiver down my spine.
Port Elizabeth airport is small and with no immigration or customs to clear I found myself wandering into the reception area, bag in hand, within minutes of landing. I immediately recognised Wikus (pronounced Vikus)sporting his game4africa apparel. Hand shakes and greetings were duly made and off we headed to the hunting area, a pleasant drive of 1 hour 45 minutes. A nice little touch was that Wikus, on my request, had purchased beforehand, a few postcards that I could send to my children. So we popped into Port Elizabeth, quickly scribed my dispatches and had them posted within 30 minutes of landing. Hunter and super-dad sorted!
On arrival at Kudu Ridge Lodge I was taken aback by the sheer size of the grounds and the beauty of the surrounding hills. I have been to Africa many times so please take my word for it that this outfit is in a stunning location. The hills are almost mountains and are covered in everything from dense Speck Boom and Buffalo thorn to stands of tall Wild Plum and Gum trees. The diversity of terrain and flora is surely second to none in South Africa.
The lodge itself is set in an elevated position looking out over a huge grass area which stops abruptly where dense bush takes over. This irrigated grass area serves as a "honey pot" for the huge number of plains game and other beasties residing close by. This affords guests a 24/7 game viewing experience as wild animals drift in and out of the bush onto the grass where they feed, play and fight.
I was given a quick tour of the main lodge which houses, a lovely bar area with extremely impressive trophy room to wet the appetite. The lodge is modern, open plan and extremely comfortable. There are spectacular views from every area. There is a lovely infinity swimming pool on the terrace where fires and Braais are made and hunting stories shared.
After a nice cup of tea (I needn't have brought my own English tea bags!) I was introduced to my partner for the week, the lodge's SAKO 85 7mm Rem Mag. Rifle and me passed swiftly past muster and we returned to the lodge for more hunting talk and some cold South African wine. After all the travelling Wikus had thoughtfully arranged for dinner to be taken early. The meal itself was thick sliced leg of succulent lamb with loads fresh vegetables. It was obvious I was not going to be disappointed with the food. Ponge is the housemaid and cook and she was to prove a real star throughout.
A quick note on my room; spacious, amazing view, super comfy bed (and I'm fussy) with a silent fridge stocked with anything you want. Although all the buildings are modern with air conditioning, the decoration and incredible location combine to create a very genuine African experience.
Now to sleep.

upload_2017-2-15_22-18-53.jpg
 
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Ragman

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Looking forward to this :)
 

Jason Rodd

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DAY ONE: Guest rooms are a stone's throw from the main lodge. I met Wikus at 0545 hrs by the coffee bar and being English quickly consumed 3 cups of tea whilst he enjoyed a filter coffee. Incidentally, the coffee bar is well stocked with tea, coffee, home made cakes and biscuits. As well as drink making facilities in your room this bar is available 24 hours a day. Delicious, sneaky cakes can be a problem for the weak willed.
There are a number of Toyota hunting vehicles at the lodge so any mechanical problems will not get in the way of your hunting. We jumped into Wikus's vehicle with Mike the tracker riding shotgun at the back. As I have shot many times in Africa we agreed that we would hunt for whatever popped up that was either a great trophy, or even better n my opinion, any old bulls or rams we came across. After many years of hunting "my thing" is now taking really old animals.
A short but steep drive of 15 minutes brought us to a hill top not far from the main lodge. The bush is dense and the terrain is undulating with narrow ravines and valleys making for challenging and exciting hunting. Plan A each morning is to walk quietly to a vantage spot and game watch until a huntable animal is spotted. Then you hatch a plan between Wikus, Mike and yourself. Its a nice scenario where by you can get seriously involved in the hunt which makes each success and failure emotional.
After 20 minutes of glassing below the escarpment we had seen numerous groups of Nyala, Kudu, Impala and Wildebeast. It was obvious that there are excellent numbers of plains game in the area but with such dense bush and challenging terrain nothing was going to be over easy.
We repeated the process of moving from spot to spot high on the hill until we spotted a group of 6 mature Waterbuck bulls gently browsing in some dense Spec Boom. At least five were clearly good trophy takers but we would need to get in close to pick an old guy to keep me happy.
The animals were less than a mile away but the first half of the stalk was down a steep scree track which made for slow and slippery going. You will need proper boots with excellent ankle support to hunt these areas.
After half an hour we had manoeuvred around a wary Impala dam and moved to within 200 metres of the group. As we originally thought, most of them were takers but were still in their prime; great trophies for your first Waterbuck but not what I was after. Never the less it was a great stalk and we enjoyed a few moments watching them chomp away quietly. Suddenly I sensed that Wikus had spotted something just to the left of the group, I spied the area myself and spotted 2 huge horns holding quite still in the middle of a bush. It was a seventh Waterbuck bull we had missed up until now and it looked huge.
With no chance of a shot whilst it was right in the bush are only option was to edge a little closer and wait for it to move out. After 20 minutes all the other bulls had moved a further 20 metres away to the right of our new found target. We waited more whilst the others drifted away and out of sight. Then all of a sudden it was up and stepping away from the bush but frustratingly it was heading directly away from us and there was still plenty of bush covering the lower half of the body. I was up on the sticks and tracking its every slow move. Then it happened, a slight step with the front feet towards the right, I had a chance, high and very angled but a chance. You know you have to take your opportunities when Africa offers so I whispered to Wikus "am I OK to take it" he replied to the positive so doing the best I could I placed the crosshairs of the Swarovski higher than I would have liked but there was no other option. The shot rang out across the valley followed by the heavy thud of the bullet striking its target. The bull dropped immediately so I reloaded fearful as always when animals drop to shot that it may just be stunned. After 10 seconds Wikus gave me the good news that there appeared to be no sign of life and that he was happy for us to go forward.
As we approached the old bull lying in the sand next to his last meal all 3 of us went rather quiet as we took in the true magnitude of his horns. The very old bull truly was a monster, in fact almost beyond normal monster proportions if I can say so credibly.
Some of the other staff were called to help and photos were eagerly taken. Everyone commented not only on the size of the trophy but on the bulls obvious great age. He truly was a great animal to take, possibly past his prime physically but luckily for me the trophy was still incredible.
It was nice to see 4 staff carry him out of the bush using 2 strong poles. Seeing him carried away in a dignified way concluded a truly amazing first few hours at Kudu Ridge. My bull measured 33 inches both sides, truly the king of Waterbuck. That is not a typing error, 33 inches and very heavy to boot.
Realistically, no one can go looking for such a huge specimen in this wild environment but what I can say is the other 6 bulls in the group would make any hunter happy
 

cpr0312

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Look forward to more and some pics
 

BRICKBURN

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Enjoying your tale thus far.
Congratulations on that Bull.

Pictures??? :)
 

enysse

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33" is an exceptional trophy, congrats!
 

brandondd24

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Hunting with Wik in September this year, looking forward to the rest of your report!
 

375 Ruger Fan

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I've been emailing back and forth with Wik this past week, planning a future hunt with him. I went to the @Game4Africa website and found this photo. Monster Waterbuck! As Wik likes to say, "Well done Sir."

Waterbuck.jpg
 
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Nyati

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Congrats, an exceptional bull !
 

BRICKBURN

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That is a cranker!
 

BnC 04

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Congrats on your trip! Great write-up thus far. Keep it coming.
Slammer of a Waterbuck!
 

Royal27

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Great job!

Keep it coming!
 

gillettehunter

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What a beautiful bull. Well done! Bruce
 

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Outstanding waterbuck sir! Congrats.
 

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Rick HOlbert wrote on NTH's profile.
NTH, Just found your message. I hunt with Eland Pro Safaris in Namibia. Wide selection of game and great folks. Hell my PH and his family ARE adopted family, LOL! I book people to hunt with them and should you be interested I'd be happy to meet and discuss a trip. Anyway all the best to you and give me a shout sometime. Bye for now.
NTH wrote on Rick HOlbert's profile.
Nice “meeting” you Rick. I made my first trip to S. Africa this year through Kuche Safaris. We had an incredible time. What outfitter do you use? Neal
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