SOUTH AFRICA: Hunt With KAROO WILD Safaris - 22 Days In South Africa

KAROO WILD Safaris

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I'd like to share this hunt we recently did with Scott and his son, Jock from New South Wales Australia. Scott contacted me in April last year about a hunt he'd been dreaming of for several years. Scott had hunted Africa on 4 previous occasions, twice in the Eastern Cape with additional safaris in Limpopo and Zimbabwe. I knew this was going to be an extremely complex hunt to put together, nothing like we've ever done before. Scott's wish list consisted of animals he hadn't hunted on previous safaris, many complex and rare species that are logistically challenging to hunt together in a single safari with the permitting issues that go along with hunting some of the species. Not to mention actually hunting the animal. We talked for some months about it and our plan became clearer with time. I offered to fly Scott into the different areas we intended on hunting while I would drive to ensure we had wheels and our rifles and gear wherever we needed them. His answer was "if you drive, we drive, I like to see the countryside anyway". Just my kind of guy. It was the start of a relationship which developed over the course of 22 days, 7500 km, many fine days and nights hunting South Africa.

For rifles, Scott chose to bring a Blaser set up with detachable scopes for each rifle barrel. He brought a 375 HH, 7 mm Remington Magnum and 243 barrels for the Blaser and then also a separate Blaser .17 Hornet rifle. For night hunting over blinds, he brought a Hik Mikro thermal riflescope that could act as a handheld monocular. I was amazed all this gear could fit into a single rifle case! Jock, Scott's 22 year old son and cameraman for the trip brought some sophisticated filming gear and a world class sense of humour. Given the amount of gear we had to haul around South Africa, I wanted to travel light so I packed my 375 Ruger with extra 375 HH, 7mm and 243 rounds for Scott. The amount of ammo he could bring for each rifle was limited. Crucially I reloaded some 243 Impala solids that work well on minimizing damage on some of the small game we hunted. I packed in my AGM thermal monocular for night hunting over blinds / bait.

Scott's initial wish list consisted of - croc, buffalo, brown hyena, spotted hyena, aardwolf, small and large spotted genet, red duiker, civet, giraffe, golden wildebeest, kings and copper springbok, bat eared fox, Limpopo bushbuck, cape grysbuck, porcupine, cape mountain zebra, burchells zebra for Jock, roan antelope, African wildcat, black impala and hippo. He was keen on another extremely rare nocturnal species which I'll mention later in the report. If time allowed, he was also determined to improve on the 7.5" Vaal Rhebuck he hunted with another outfit in the Eastern Cape.

A safari of this length and magnitude would no doubt throw us some curveballs along the way but in Scott, I knew I had a client and later a friend that would take any setbacks or disappointments in his stride, wake up the next morning and enjoy the next day as much as he did the first. Initially the 22 day safari would have us meet in Johannesburg, travel to Bela Bela in Limpopo, up to Louis Trichardt and then to the SA/Botswana border, drive 16 hours to Hluluwe in KZN, drive down to one of our main areas in Graaff Reinet (14 hour drive) and then end the safari at Karoo Wild Safaris near Kleinpoort. I started the hunt as the sole PH, Jason flew up to assist us once he'd completed a hunt for us in the Eastern Cape. I loved planning the hunt, now it was time to live it!

To be continued (soon)
 
Met Scott and Jock at City Lodge restaurant for dinner and drinks, early to bed and drove 3 hours to Bela Bela area where we were to hunt for the next 5 days. Had a range session to check the rifles. No major issues and we were all set. Checked in with the local PH / farm manager who was just finishing a hunt and was going off to Zambia for another hunt. He'd been baiting for us for the past week and gave us a list of what he'd recorded at each bait site

Berg huis - honey badger, bushpig, brown hyena (skelm)
Dry dam - civet, 2 x brown hyena
Cattle Farm - brown hyena, bushpig

Skelm means sly, a hyena with papers (ie a college degree in being hunted)

We had hyena coming into all the bait sites and decided to check the berghuis and dam sites before deciding on a plan for the evening. We re-baited berghuis bait site but decided to dedicate our evening to the dam site. Hit the blind at 5pm with the 7mm with thermal scope. Got dark around 6pm and we switched to thermal mode. At about 9pm a mongoose type creature emerged from directly below the blind and fed on the bait. With my thermal on red hot and later white hot it was difficult to be certain it was a civet. We debated for a few minutes whether we should rather wait for brown hyena. The debate ended, "boom"! Jock and I could watch Scott's shot through the thermal scope on an iPhone. Scott's shot was dead centre to minimize damage from the 140 grain Nosler Accubond. Moved down to the blind to find a big civet. Civet was high on Scott's list and we felt our decision was justified. Plenty of time to hunt brown hyena and decided to call it a night
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Up at 5am to hunt buffalo. We started taking tracks where we'd spotted buffalo from the blind the previous evening but they'd moved off some ways into thicker bush. The bush was dense and impenetrable in areas. We drove the roads, following buffalo spoor on foot at times. came across several brown hyena tracks on these short tracking hikes. On one such hike along the riverbed we saw fresh leopard tracks from the previous night. We were returning to the truck when we bumped 5 buffalo in a small open area. They snorted and moved into thick bush 50 yards ahead of us. We moved slowly on their spoor hoping to get onto them. We did, but the bush was too thick to get a comfortable shot before they'd break and move away from us.

Later that day we got onto a dark giraffe bull Scott was looking for. He was in open country and it seemed like a perfect opportunity to shoot a giraffe bull where the retrieval would be easier. Scott's head shot from his 375 was perfectly placed and the bull dropped. We called in support ad the cavalry arrived to skin, quarter and load the bull. We dragged some guts along several roads leading to berghuis blind site and tied the guts to the remaining bait, 70 yards from the blind. We returned to the blind at 6pm and sat there until 10:30pm. A large family of bushpig tucked into the bait and fed for several hours. On the mountain slope behind us we could hear a large herd of wildebeest coming into the open areas to feed.
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Hunted buffalo the next morning. Bumped a few and followed their tracks but with 20 yard visibilty in places it was tough hunting. We got extremely close at times and was wishing I'd brought my 416 Rigby with open sights. Quit at around 11am and returned to camp. Spotted a magnificent black impala ram on the way back and decided to take him.

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Checked all the bait site cameras and we had 3 brown hyena coming into the dam from 11:30 to 2 pm. The vultures had devoured the bait so we re-baited and did a drag of guts from several directions to the bait site. We felt confident tonight was a brown hyena night and decided to hit the blind after dinner at 9pm. We decided to do some lamping before sitting in the blind. We'd barely driven 15 minutes when I picked up the eyes of a brown hyena in the road ahead. I whispered to Scott to get ready and the hyena turned and ambled down the road. The driver stopped, the hyena stopped briefly quartering away from us. Scott's shot missed and the chase was on. Remarkably the hyena didn't seem keen on leaving the road for the grass cover on each side and kept ambling down the road, stopping briefly each time to check up on us behind him. The difficult part was stopping the truck at the same time as the hyena would stop. Several shots later we were in a real shit-show and the hyena was still sticking to his plan of outrunning our 2.4 litre Toyota Hilux. Scott was in a state at this stage, the Toyota was revving higher and hitting the drainage bumps at high speed, the hyena had upped his sprinting performance. Our luck was about to run out and he surely had to realize that all he had to do to escape the Hilux was take two steps into the waist high grass on either side of the road. I told Scott "pull yourself together and make this last shot count" and shouted to the driver to stop. The hyena was at full sprint when Scott placed his last bullet up his anus. The hyena crumbled and our 7 shot, 10 minute show was finally over. Relieved! A magnificent hyena male and a full night's sleep ahead.
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Set up for croc the next morning, hoping to see one emerge and sun himself on the bank at around midday. First a snout appeared in the water on the far bank. A minute later, a 12 ft croc was half out the water, lying on the bank. Scott had to take a few minutes to steady himself. 120 yards away it doesn't seem like a difficult shot but the margin for error on a croc is small. The shot hit the water an inch befoe the croc and sent a spray of water over him. Rather too elegantly the croc submerged and was gone. We replayed Jock's footage and remarkably the bullet bounced up at a sharp angle after hitting the water, travelled over the croc's head and sent a cloud of dust flying out of the bank behind the croc. A missed shot. Checked Scott's rifle and the scope mounts were loose. Back to the range, rifle shooting 7 inches low at 100 yards. Tightened mounts and set the rifle in. We hunted croc that afternoon but no luck. Ducks and geese on water's edge alert the crocs to our presence. Early morning set up is a better option than stalking in.

Awake at first light and walked the waters edge to find a spot where big croc's may like to come out the water. Found a good drag mark and set up 100 yards away. Convinced Scott to use my rifle. Still a question mark hanging over the mounts on his rifle and don't want to blow another opportunity. At 9:30am a croc moved slowly out the water close to where we found the drag mark. This time Scott's shot was true and he'd got himself a 12 ft croc.
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to be comtinued...
 

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Great adventure so far Victor, I can’t wait to read the rest of it!

HH
 
The list of your hunter is quite impressive!
Nice writing. Looking forward for the rest. I will be jealous if you got the Grysbok.
 
Enjoying the report, I like his list for a epic safari. looking forward to the rest of the story.
 
Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 
I fetched Jason from Johannesburg airport to assist us with the hunt. J's first words to Scott and Jock were "your holiday is over cupcakes, I'm here to break you". He was right, there were times in the next 15 days we were all inidividually or collectively broken. The South African / Australian banter and sense of humour had kicked into overdrive and the although the hunting was serious, there wasn't a serious moment throughout the next 15 days. Scott jokingly commented "I can't believe I'm paying you two this much money to abuse me!". He could however give it just as good as he could take it. A class act this Aussie.

We moved camp further north where the thick vegetation gave way to a drier bush, lined with ancient Baobab trees. Camp was 30km from Louis Trichardt which was to be our home base for the next week. Our spotted hyena permit in KZN hadn't been processed by nature conservation but we were able to secure a permit in a concession we hunt along the Limpopo River. The 30,000 acre property shares an unfenced, Limpopo River border with a wild part of Botswana. Lion, elephant and more importantly spotted hyena routinely cross the river and take up residence on the South African side. Gerrit, the landowner, warned us that there were currently a pride of lion traversing the property. A previous attempt to call in hyena had almost ended in disaster which led the hunters scurrying for the safety of the truck when a full pride of lions came hard into the call site. First tactic to hunt hyena was to set up a call site. The moon was bright. We weren't intending to hunt hyena this early in the hunt and had planned it for around the perfect moon phase in KZN. We found a clearing in an open bowl, surrounded by low hills. The bowl gave way through a narrow valley which led directly to the river. Hyena tracks were everywhere. We set Mike up with the speaker 50 yards ahead of us hidden behind a clump of bushes in the clearing. He was the most in danger and the only member of our hunting party which couldn't scramble for the safety of the vehicle. We backed the truck up into some bush, facing the direction we thought the hyena would come in. We covered the truck in cow hides and bushes front and sides leavingt he tailgate open to allow us access to the high seats. Jason and I were on thermal monoculars, Scott on his 7mm with thermal scope. We called for an hour, nothing. Stopped for a short dinner break and called again an hour later. Almost immediately hyena answered from the top of the hills behind us, Not where we expected them to be. Called again and got a loud call 100 yards behind us. It was on and we knew it would happen quickly. Jason and I were trying to pick up the hyena but there was a lot of cover behind us. Called again, nothing. Took a break and there was an answer again from the hills 300 yards away. Couldn't get them to come in and concluded that we were too visible in the bright moon. Dejected we moved onto two more areas where we got replies from hyena but couldn't get them to commit to the last 200 yards when they normally commit and rush in. Heard some lions in the distance. Returning to camp at first light, we had the sighting of the night, a young male leopard on some rocks 100 yards from us. We're not done with hyena yet.

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Despite only returning to camp in time for breakfast we decided to hunt through the morning and rest in the afternoon. We travelled an hour to some thick forest areas on the foot and called for red duiker. Jason on the call, me spotting, Scott set up for a quick 10-30 yard shot. We called in an old male, he came in perfectly but his horns were totally worn off. Passed on him. Called a few more areas. Another ram came in and fleetingly turned broadside. Scott fired, but missed the shot. Hit brush or just rushed the shot, not an easy game this. Scott would get this same red duiker the next day. We returned early in the morning with a plan to call him in when Jason saw him cross the road as we were getting off the truck to hike into the forest. We drove down the road and sure enough there he was not 20 yards to our right. Scott threaded his bullet between two branches and had downed a beautiful red duiker, Interestingly enough, vervet monkeys are the watchmen for red duiker. Set them of in a chatter and the red duiker will scurry for thick cover. When we came down the road there were was a family of vervets close to the road. They stood still and mute as the vehicle purred past them, perfectly used to vehicles using this road everyday. They'd let this duiker down.

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Later that afternoon were we got onto a monster bushbuck that ducked into some very heavy forest. We could see him hiding 20 yards in. It was an almost impossible shot but we had to try, he was an absolute beast. Scott sent a bullet his way. It had to have connected with some brush, impossible for it not to have but somehow the bullet hit the ram. He went down and crawled deeper into the forest. We crawled after him with a 9mm, the only weapon one could manouveur effectively in this situation. We caught up to him eventually and put a shot into him. Big smiles and the bushbuck of Scott's hunting dreams. He measured 16". No doubt there have been bigger bushbuck hunted here, but we loved his horn shape.

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Thats a fantastic old bushbuck. Nice thick horns with wear. Bet his teeth were about gone. Good job!
Bruce
 
Really like the bushbuck and red diker
 
Love the mass on that bushbuck and congrats on taking an esteemed member of the tiny ten. No doubt hyena is in your future-good luck!
 
We were hunting roan the next day when we got the call that hyena had hit the bait at a site we had running. We rushed back to pack our gear and did a quick range check on the 7mm with the Hikmicro thermal. It was badly out. Several attempts to get it set in failed and the crosshairs had shifted completely to the left of the screen. Total equipment failure when we needed it most. We made a few calls and were able to borrow a Pard Night vision clip on. We arrived at the bait site later than we'd intended at 5:30 pm. We decided to drag some guts into the bait and to rebait before sitting in the blind. Tired and a little unfamiliar with what was going on in the thickly wooded area we dragged the gut pile into the clearing where we were baiting. There was a hyena sitting on his haunches 5 yards in front of the bait, not 50 yards from us. Pandemonium doesn't accurately describe what happened next. Scott leaned out the truck and fired and the spotted hyena bolted. We followed tracks looking for blood. Fifty yards later still no blood. It was getting dark and we decided to call it a day and return in the morning to be absolutely certain. We didn't want to sit in the blind and perhaps shoot two hyena. We returned the next day and made certain there was no blood. A night wasted but the trail camera did reveal hyena eating at 11:30 pm the previous night.

Returned that afternoon, did some remodelling on the blind and were in by 4:30 pm. A long wait until 11:30. Scott wasn't absolutely comfortable with the Pard clip on and was struggling to get it focussed. At 10:30 the battery died and we aborted.

We were disappointed but we did learn a few things that will help us on Scott's return hunt for spotted hyena in 2025. I always maintain that a good PH is always learning, should be prepared to learn from every situation and person and above all else have no ego. So I have no qualms admitting to some some things we could have done differently.

When our permit got cancelled in KZN we should have stuck to the original moon phase period to hunt spotted hyena, no matter the disruption to our hunt schedule. Next chance we get to hunt spotted hyena we'll start hunting hyena on the first day of the hunt on the perfect moon phase and allow ourselves 3 full nights. It's not a hunt one should plan while you're hunting other species - it's a dedicated business hunting hyena in South Africa where they're considered vermin and have masters degrees in staying alive. You have to be absolutely familiar with your equipment. Thermal is great for spotting but a dedicated night vision scope is the correct set up.

Behind on our planned schedule now we decided to hunt spotted hyena and hippo on another trip, hopefully 2025. Hluluhuwe was a 16 hour drive away and not one of us was keen for the trip. We could combine the hippo with a suni hunt for Scott on a future safari.

The next evening was our second last in Limpopo and we decided to give the night hunting a full go for African wild cat, genet and serval. Jock had been feeling ill the entire day but bravely joined us. It was barely dark and he began getting violently ill at regular intervals. Soon Mike followed suit and like clockwork half an hour later Scott joined them in throwing bait sites throughout the area. We called for an emergency evacuation for Jock and a vehicle was sent from camp to collect him. Scott bravely soldiered on, shooting his first African wildcat shortly after the evacuation. then a small-spotted genet. Around midnight we got another wildcat. The moon was going down and we were moving into serval territory. Scott and Mike were struggling, this was a super violent virus. Jason and I teased them relentlessly but we did secretly feel sorry for the pain we were inflicting on them by keeping them out in the cold night. We decided to be show them some mercy and returned to camp at 2pm. We'd jokingly pulled our muscles up "Eastern Cape strong" the entire night but as soon as we hit camp, we both came down with the same virus. Nothing to joke about then!

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All of us were collectively broken. The next day was hard but we managed to drag ourselves through the bush and find Scott a good roan. We were sad to leave Limpopo but were ready to return home to the Eastern Cape and hunt more familiar territory...

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JG26Irish_2 wrote on WISafariHunter's profile.
About Lon's Elephant hunts w/Tokoloshe? I hear Lon is battling cancer? What is his long term prognosis? I am already booked to hunt Africa in 2024 2025. Might consider 2026 for another African hunt. I want to hunt a more wild open region devoid of civilization. Concern is the risk that I book f/2026 then find poor Lon has passed on? Does Lon have any assistance to carry on the business in his absence?
Life is Short live it how you want...
jgraco33 wrote on 85lc's profile.
Is your 22HP still available? If so have the original case?
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Hi Ian, I'm contemplating my first outing, leaving UK via Dubai to Africa, taking rifles as you did.

I presume it went okay for you, would you have done anything differently? Cheers, Richard East Sussex
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