Hey Everyone, I have just settled back in to the real world from my hunt with Henry Griffiths Safaris on the edge of the Kalahari in the North West Province of SA near Piet Plessis. This was my first time to Africa and I could not have written a better script; I can’t wait to get back. I have posted a few threads to help me plan this trip and wanted to make sure I left a good report to thank everyone for the help up front. So thanks again to everyone that has had input in preparing me for my hunt. Video of all events to follow in the coming weeks. For a big picture overview, read only summary and view photos below; for in depth play by play, read all. Summary: - Outfitter: Henry Griffiths Safaris - PH: Henry Griffiths - Location: Piet Plessis, North West Province, Kalahari - Date: March 6-12 - Property Type: Free Range/Ranch (5000 acres) combination - Free Range Game Taken: Kudu, Springbok, Steenbok, Jackal - Free Range Game Seen: Warthog, Duiker, Baboon - Ranch Game Taken: Gemsbok, Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Blesbok - Ranch Game Seen: Eland, Waterbuck, Giraffe, Blue Wildebeest, Steenbok, Kudu, Duiker, Jackal, Buffalo, Baboon, Impala, Ostrich, Warthog - Game Quality: Abundant, Rowland Ward potential, lacking trophy warthog (in Kalahari) - Accommodation: En-suite thatch roof chalets, 4 star, clean and comfortable - Free Rifle Hire: Primary .300 H&H - Recommendation: This was my first African experience and Henry Griffiths made it incredibly memorable. I was not sure what to expect but Henry was incredibly flexible and catered to all of my requests to make a perfect hunt (specifically my wish to capture everything on video, it turns out Henry is also a pretty good cameraman). I would highly recommend Henry Griffiths Safaris to anyone looking for a quality hunt. I left Africa with an extraordinary hunt and a new friend. - Humble Advice: Take what the bush gives you: don’t focus too much on the full wish list, have a primary species in mind and “wing it” after that (easier said than done); Listen to your PH, if he is excited you should be as well; The hunt is what you make it, enjoy the trip in the way you prefer (for me it was a big emphasis on walk and stalk and capturing everything on video camera) Full Story: To start from the beginning, this was a trip that I tried to work in to September of 2015 but could not nail down dates due to work obligations. When I finally knew I would have some time in March 2016 to make the hunt work, it was already mid-January 2016 so it had to happen rather quickly. I decided I would only talk with outfitters referenced through AH to avoid deciphering the authenticity of an outfit; Using AH I was able to build a long list of options within a week (sponsors and member recommendations). Thanks again to everyone who reached out to me and all the PH’s who took numerous questions, everyone was first class and incredibly helpful. As anyone, I had certain elements of the hunt that were important to me and was able to sort through my options with a focus on my priorities, always conscious of budget as well. My “wish list” was 5 animals: Kudu, Gemsbok, Zebra, Warthog, Impala. I was also drawn to any additional shooting such as baboon and jackal hunting/culling. It was also important to me for a hunt to be heavy on the walk and stalk, boots on the ground, not waste any time, hard hunting. Additionally, I am currently working in Australia (US resident) with no access to my gear so I needed someone willing to deal with catering to my needs. Fortunately, most everyone I spoke with could meet these priorities but at the end of the search, Henry Griffiths Safaris ended up being my choice as the best all-around option. Henry had a reasonable price list and after a few phone conversations I made a connection that our hunting styles were well aligned for a good trip. In early February I booked a 5 day/6 night trip with Henry for March 6-12. Lucky for me, from booking date to hunt date was only about 5 weeks but the anticipation was high as ever. I departed Australia on a direct flight from Perth to Joberg on Feb 24 to squeeze in a bit of a holiday before the hunt. I spent 3 days in Kruger park and a week in Cape Town. Kruger greatly out did my expectations as the wildlife viewing is incredible; I saw all of the big 5 multiple times. Cape Town was excellent as well which included hiking Table Rock, Cage diving with Great White Sharks, Wine Tours, Paragliding and more. All the while I could not wait for the hunt to start. Finally the time came and Henry picked me up from the Joberg airport on Sunday morning March 6th about 9am. From there, we stopped by Safari & Outdoor in Pretoria to pick up some hunting clothing for myself; I grabbed a couple pants, shirts and miscellaneous gear. After the quick stop, we had a bout a 4 hour drive out to the Kalahari along the Botswana border. Along the drive, Henry and I got to know each other a little better and began to form a plan for the week. Kudu was the number one animal and, according to Henry, would be the most challenging. The agreed plan was to opportunity hunt for two days and if the Kudu had not cooperated by then, begin a focused Kudu hunt on the third day. The property Henry hunts in the Kalahari is called Geelhout Safaris; Geelhout is a 5000 acre high fence with general plains game, buffalo, Leopard and cheetah. Henry also hunts surrounding free range cattle farms for Kudu, Springbok, Duiker, Steenbok and Warthog. We would end up spending about half the week on the free range properties. Upon arrival to Geelhout about 3pm, we settled in prior to hitting the range. Geelhout is a great setup with well-appointed en-suite chalets, main lodge with kitchen/bar, outdoor eating, and fire pit area; I felt right at home and besides staff/management we had the whole place to ourselves. After unpacking we hit the range to get accustomed to the .300 H&H Henry had provided at no cost. The gun shot beautifully and we were quickly off on a late afternoon cruise through Geelhout, beer in hand. It was a perfect sunset and we saw just enough animals to keep me from sleeping that night. Morning 1: Anticipation could not have been any higher, I did not sleep much. Breakfast was at 530am leaving camp right at day break to begin the hunt. The great thing about Geelhout is as soon as you drive out of the camp, you are hunting. Based on my priorities, we had a short morning drive to a location Henry had chosen to begin walking. Our tracker, Nikolas, tended the vehicle and Henry and I set off through the bush. By mid-morning we had seen an array of animals; one red hartebeest in particular peaked my interest but was not on my wish list and I chose to continue hunting for the “wish list.” But the red hartebeest left an impression that would later influence my week. Around 10am we stalked up on an area that had been cleared in to a clear cut of sorts. We could see a herd of Gemsbok and Henry quickly got excited as a good male was in the group. Henry and I had previously discussed the difference in Male/Females regarding length/mass; I had expressed interest more so on the mass of the males. We were able to stalk around the edge of the clearing to within 200 yards of the target. Just before being busted by a group of blesbok, I was able to get off the shot and dropped him where he stood. Excitement ensued and the recovery process began with the picture taking; I could not have been happier to have my first African animal on the ground. After taking care of business we returned to camp for a full hearty brunch and prepared for the afternoon hunt. 35-1/4" Gemsbok Afternoon 1: After a successful morning I was gleaming and couldn’t wait to get back out in the bush. We followed the same plan, being dropped off in an area and began our afternoon stalk. Again, we were seeing numbers of animals but not the right ones. Half way through the afternoon we walked up on a group of blue wildebeest bedded down; they were hidden by the bush and we did not see them until they stood up about 100 yards in front of us in a bit of an open area. Henry quickly identified a bull that he was clearly excited about; there was only one bull with a group of 15-20 cows. The wind was perfect for us and we stood there in a standoff with the group. I knew nothing about wildebeest (had not done my homework since they were not on my list) but as we stood for several minutes Henry explained the Roland Ward standard for a blue wildebeest and also the prestige of a 30”+ bull. Henry was confident this bull we were looking at would break the 30” mark. At this point, I was still stuck on my “wish list” and did not REALLY know what was in front of me. Even though Henry was clearly enthusiastic about the opportunity there was no pressure to shoot and ultimately I stuck with my decision to hold off and got some great film footage as they group eventually meandered away (this would again affect later in the week). After a few more turns through the bush we came across a group of zebras feeding in another clear cut type area. There was a large group of 15+ without much cover for stalking. Henry and I army crawled through the bush down a tree line that split the clearing. Originally we ended up about 200 yards from the nearest zebra but needed to get closer to decipher the group. We crawled again to within about 100 yards. Henry spent a minute glassing the group and eventually picked out a large stallion. We got in position and I took the shot; the stallion ran a quick circle and fell nearly in the spot he was shot. We radioed in Nikolas and poured the celebratory drinks before heading back to camp. Dinner was ready soon after and I did not have a bad meal during the entire week. After a few more celebratory drinks around the fire (and quite a bit of friendly ribbing on the passed wildebeest opportunity) we turned in to bed to do it all again the next day. Zebra Stallion Morning 2: Morning 2 started with the same agenda with breakfast followed by a drop off to begin our hunt. Our morning walk was quickly interrupted by the sound of Jackals in the not too distant distance. Henry and I closed the gap a few hundred yards and stood amongst some thick bush. Henry had his distress call in his pocket and gave it a few blows. Unfortunately on this occasion the cunning jackal spotted us before we spotted him coming in through the bush; we just saw his taillights heading the other way in cover too thick for a shot. The morning carried on through the bush until coming across a group of blesbok. At this point, I had already made the decision to replace the impala on my original wish list with a blesbok (a lot changes once you have arrived!). It was an overcast morning and the stalk again required crawling through the short bush in a bit of a rainy mist. It was an exciting hunt that left us about 200 yards from the group. Henry picked out the best ram and I took the shot; the blesbok dropped in his track and just like that we were 3 for 3 (hunts/kills). Every time I thought I couldn’t get any happier, I got happier. After photos and loading we headed back to camp to regroup over brunch. 16" Blesbok Afternoon 2: With some animals under our belt the initial anticipation was over and the pressure was building for the Kudu. We decided to take the afternoon and walk an area where the ranch manager had recently caught a glimpse of several good Kudu bulls. Our Kudu sightings had been minimal up to this point so we were optimistic for a good encounter. Over the course of the afternoon we put some miles on our boots slipping through some thick bush; Kudu sign was plentiful but the afternoon did not produce any Kudu encounters. We came across multiple species but not the one we were looking for. The afternoon ended back at camp over an excellent dinner, drinks and fire, game planning for the following day. Day 3: The plan for day 3 was to leave Geelhout out in to the surrounding free range cattle farms in search of Kudu and potentially warthog. The morning started a little earlier in order to make the 15 minute drive to the hunting block. At sun rise, we were on the cattle farm cruising in search of the Kudu. Due to the expansiveness of the properties, we opted to stay on the vehicle and circle the blocks to get a feel for the kudu movement. We drove around all morning and never covered the same road twice; it was a great feeling to be out in the free range country hunting these Kudu. The morning action was slow with sightings of primarily cows but it was clear the Kudu were plentiful in the area. We also saw numerous warthogs but not quite of the trophy size I was after. We also had multiple sightings of duiker and steenbok (and the fever began). We had brought lunch along and was enjoyed under the shade of some trees in the bush. The afternoon started on a neighboring farm and got off to a fast start. We spotted a group of baboons crossing the road several hundred yards in front of us; as we tried to close the distance, I was extremely excited for the opportunity at a baboon, we jumped a bachelor group of Kudu bulls. Focus shifted to the kudu as a good bull was seen in the group. As we tried to cut off the group, the big bull broke away and the foot chase was on. This was my first experience truly tracking an animal following the tracks; it was an absolute blast. We caught up to him within the first 200 yards of the trail but just caught a glimpse of him disappearing in to the bush. We continued along the trail for quite some distance before ultimately deciding he was too startled and still running to continue the chase. We made our way back to the vehicle and it wasn’t long before we came across another 2 bulls worthy of a chase. The bulls crossed the road about 400 yards in front of us. We stopped the vehicle and picked up the trail at the crossing. Again, we caught up to the bulls rather quickly but they were alert and spotted us just before we spotted them. They were not too alarmed and we decided to continue on the trail. We continued following the tracks working up quite a sweat for a great distance. After an hour or more of following the kudu seemingly in circles, we hit a dead end as the Kudu crossed on to the neighboring property outside of our hunting block. By this time it was midafternoon and we were on the losing end of the Kudu battle, but not for lack of effort. We made our way back to the vehicle that circled around to collect us and were once more on the hunt. We shifted back to farm from the morning hunt and it wasn’t long before we were again on the heels of a big bull. It was getting to be the late afternoon magical few hours when we spotted the bull and set off on his tracks. Once again, we caught up with him within the first few hundred yards but, yet again, just in time to see the tips of his horns slipping in to the bush. We stayed on the tracks for quite some time circling our way through the bush. At this point, I admit I was beginning to think it was impossible to catch up to a bull a second time on his tracks. After a solid 30-45 minute track, we were nearing the road for pick up when the tracks circled back. I definitely second guessed our decision to circle again but after about 100 yards of making the turn back, I spotted the bull only 100 yards in front of us moving left to right just as he disappeared again. When we began in his direction, I made the suggestion that we move around to cut him off instead of staying on the tracks. As soon as we came around to the direction he was headed, there he was about 100 yards in the bush, standing facing away. We quickly got in position and I squeezed off the only shot I had, just at the base of the skull when he turned his head. He dropped in his tracks which was followed by extremely enthusiastic handshakes, congratulations and what probably looked like a small party in the bush. The hunt, and really the whole day, will always stand out as one of my favorite hunts of my life. After countless photos and a celebratory drink in the bush, the festivities continued at camp with dinner and a few extra drinks around the fire. 51-1/2" Kudu Day 4: With the Kudu in the salt, the remainder of the trip became primarily opportunity hunting. Warthog was the only animal left of the wish list; while trophy warthog do exist in the Kalahari, they are not in abundant supply. I decided I was having too much fun walking and stalking and chose to continue hunting this style instead of focusing solely on the warthog; if he were to cross our path, all the better. This brings us back to the day one encounters. Now that I had my feet wet in Africa, I realized I would really like to hunt the red hartebeest and wildebeest. We set back out on foot on Geelhout for morning 4 with that in mind. The wildebeest were more than abundant on Geelhout but after the first day encounter, not just any wildebeest would do and I passed on several that were likely Rowland Ward. The morning was uneventful but by early afternoon we came across a group of red hartebeest 6-800 yards away through some low bush. We were able to circle the wind and stalk within about 200 yards. There was one gap in the bush that we watched the group pass through; the last in the group was a good bull. We were already in position and I took the shot. The shot was a hit but he stood his ground for a few seconds before laying down. The rest of the group retreated to the tree line and he got back up to follow. My next two shots were through the bush and did not connect as he made it in to the tree line. About the same time, the day that had been 100% clear and sunny took a turn for the worse as thunder cracked in the distance. We quickly got on the tracks and found minimal blood. The trackers had been only the trail for only a few minutes when the rain started and quickly turned in to a torrential down pour. Things were not looking good and I was devastated replaying the shots on the video camera over and over as we waited for the storm to pass. After what felt like days but was probably 45 minutes the storm let up and we got back in the bush. Henry and I got in the vehicle and circled the blocks where the group was headed; we had hoped they too would have hunkered down for the storm and not gone far. Luckily we were right and spotted a group of hartebeest in the distance and took off on foot. We caught up to the group but initially did not see any sign of the wounded bull. As we approached and the group ran off, the bull stood up out of the bush and hobbled after them. After closing the distance and picking up their tracks, within a few hundred yards we came across the bull laying down again and I was able to take the final shot. The initial shot turned out to be a quartering gut shot that did not get a pass through. In that moment there was a huge amount of relief followed by extreme excitement. We took the photos and headed back to camp for an early dinner. 21" Red Hartebeest Night 4: In our early phone discussions Henry had picked up on my keenness to hunt and offered that we could go night hunting for jackals and spring hares. After our early dinner, we loaded up the .223 and headed back out to the surrounding cattle farms to fulfill this promise. We did not call in any jackals but we did have an absolute blast controlling the spring hare population. Spring Hares Morning 5: By day 5 we had filled and exceeded my wish list also adding wildebeest. Additionally, I thoroughly enjoyed hunting the free range cattle farms which also offered the opportunity for steenbok and springbok so they were added to the list as well. Day 5 started on Geelhout for a quick morning cruise in search of a wildebeest with intent to move on to the free range springbok rather quickly if no luck; however, almost immediately, plans changed. As we crossed a crossroad, we spotted a Jackal down the ride side of the crossroad moving away from us, he did not see us. We stopped the vehicle and ran back to the crossroad on foot; Henry again had his distress call in his pocket and stopped the jackal. I took the shot and just like that we had a jackal in the salt. Jackal Already having success and daylight still breaking, we decided to head out to the cattle farms in search of the springbok. We spent the remainder of the morning cruising the cattle farms in search of the springbok; while we did see them in the distance we could not set up the right opportunity and headed back to camp for brunch and a midday wildebeest hunt. The midday hunt was hot and while we found some wildebeest we could not find the right one and headed back out after the springbok for the afternoon. The springbok seemed to have settled down grazing in the afternoon and were more cooperative. After about an hour of positioning, we were able to find a mature ram and get off a shot at about 300 yards. The shot dropped the springbok and the celebrations began. 12-1/2" Springbok As the final night, celebrations continued well in to the night to commemorate an excellent week. A group of traditional dancers was also brought in to camp to accompany the traditional braai. Henry and I had cut out the back straps of all of the animals earlier in the day and we sampled each one of the meats. All of them were extremely tasty with the biggest surprise being that the zebra was near the top of the list. It was a late night and a fun night but it was not the end of the week. Morning 6: Due to a late night flight, Henry and I had decided to get back after the steenbok and wildebeest that had alluded us. The steenbok was up first back at the cattle farms. After the previous night, we were slightly behind the sun on this morning but made it to the cattle farms shortly after sun rise. After passing on multiple steenbok looking for the right one, as luck would have it, we came across a true trophy. After eluding us on several stalks, we finally got in position to take the shot as he thought he was hidden under a tree. The shot hit its mark capping off the week with a solid Rowland Ward trophy. After a big celebration and the pictures we headed back to Geelhout for one last quick search for a wildebeest that proved unfruitful. The bags were already packed and after a round of goodbyes with the staff we were on our way to the airport. 5-3/4" Steenbok Overall, I would not change anything about the week; Henry and his crew are top notch and were patient in teaching me quite a bit on my first African hunt. As a person who usually has a plan, I learned more than anything that sometimes the best hunts do not have a plan. I’m extremely grateful for Henry’s friendship and look forward to my next trip to Africa which cannot come soon enough.