SOUTH AFRICA: Hunt With VDV Safaris For Suni, Red Duiker & Serval

JES Adventures

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Grant and I arrived OR Tambo at 1 and got him checked in with Air France for the flight home. When you are 6 hours early, there is no queue!


This next leg of my trip would be spending a week with Ian Van de Vyver of VDV Safaris in search of Suni and Natal Red Duiker as well as some small cats. I texted Ian that Grant and I were eating lunch at the Spur in the airport and he was there a few minutes later. We finished up lunch, saw Grant through customs and headed out for Natal. We had a 6 hour drive up to Hluhluwe and stayed in a camp right near Zulu Nyala. The roads were good and traffic not so bad as it is a national holiday. We were at the bar by half past eight and after a couple of Bains on the rocks we turned in early. Tomorrow morning we'll be up at first light to shoot the rifles and begin our search for Suni.
 
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JES Adventures

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Sunrise in Zululand

Day 1



We were up at 6 and after coffee and toast off to check the rifle and pick up the tracker. I will be using Ian's 375 Sako and one shot clipped the bullseye so we knew she was still on. Back by the workshop we collected Tobay, a pleasant but quiet man of Zulu heritage. He has worked the area we will hunt where the Suni and Red Duiker inhabit. We got to the sand forest about 8 and by 8:15 had spotted the first Red Duiker - a female. It was nice a nice style of hunting, still hunting in fact just walking slowly in the forest on cut paths stopping periodically to spot game. We made our way through to a hide where we would sit for Suni. After a couple of hours, spotting two more duiker but no Suni we set out still hunting again. By 1 o'clock we had seen two female Suni and three more Red Duiker, two female and one unidentified. This is typical forest hunting and visibility can be tough so being 100% sure of a Red Duiker male is challenging.


We broke for lunch and headed back out about 2:30. Within 20 minutes we spotted two Suni, a young male and a female. On to the hide, we sat for the remainder of the day. We never got a shot at a mature Suni or Red Duiker, the total count for the day was 3 Suni and 7 Red Duiker. Not bad for day one, I am confident to say the least. Back to camp for dinner and early to bed as we will be out at 5 in the morning.
 
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JES Adventures

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Day 2


I woke to a weather change today. A front had come in and the wind was blowing in from the coast. We are only 20 +/- miles from the Indian Ocean near False Bay and the humidity level was high. By first light it started to sprinkle. By time we got to the hide it was raining and it rained on us the first hour and a half of the day. As the wind blew and the rain stopped sunlight started to beam into the forest and almost immediately we saw a pair of Red Duiker, but the male was rutting the female and I could not get a shot. Not less than ten minutes later another appeared but quickly disappeared before it could be identified. Still no Suni and the clouds built and the rain came again. Unseasonal rain but this close to the coast it didn't surprise me. In the afternoon, we spooked two different Suni off their beds, seems they were down early for the day. We stayed with it the entire day but the animals were bedded and by sunset the count was 2 Suni and 4 Red Duiker. Our plan is to go to a new hide tomorrow before first light so its early to bed as there will be a 4:30 wake up call.
 

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Tobay in the hide

Day 3


To bed early and up early - I was ready for the day. The weather seems to have stabilized and we should have a good day. We collected Tobay well before 6 and were in the hide by 6:15. What a pleasure it is to hear the bush come to life as the dawn of a new day begins. The first rays of light hit the forest floor by about 7:15 and shortly thereafter a female Red Duiker appeared. She fed calmly for several minutes before moving on. At half past eight we left the hide as Ian wanted to check on another tracker he called in to help. James had worked this property many times in the past so he wanted to have him along to make sure we weren't missing any hot spots. While Ian and I went and sat in the first hide built, Tobay and James went scouting the various pockets of sand forest on the property.




We were in the hide no more than 30 minutes and the first Red Duiker appeared close by. I felt confident it was a male but Ian could not be 100% sure and the Duiker disappeared into the forest. About an hour later a pair appeared and we were able to identify the male. They moved about the brush feeding and they spooked off for no reason. I said to Ian "it must be the trackers coming back" but they did not appear. About 20 minutes later I spotted a red patch and within a few minutes was able to identify as a female. Strange as she was in the same area as the pair had been feeding. She moved about and I watched her but never could find the male. Finally, as I was glassing she stepped forward and there he was, right behind her but he kept up with her lock step. They disappeared into the bush never to be seen again. This Duiker hunting is frustrating to say the least, but we are in to them every day so its just a matter of time.


About a half hour later the trackers appeared and spoke to Ian. The had found an area with lots of Suni sign and built a blind. It was abut 2 o'clock so they suggested we spend the rest of the day there. We walked about a K and entered the bush. Not five minutes into the walk we spotted a young male Red Duiker I could have shot, but I passed. Then a few hundred yards up the footpath James spotted a male Suni but he ran away before I could see him. Another fifty or so paces and he spotted him standing. I knelt down and could see half his body. I got the sticks and Ian asked if I had a shot. I said yes but through some bush (I am using a 375 H&H with monolithic solids to buck the brush). We quietly talked about the shot and agreed I would take it. I shot and the Suni jumped up in the air, flipped over on the ground and hopped 10 feet then flipped again. Ian took off running towards the Suni but it somehow gathered up its feet and took off. Ian and James quickly found bone and blood, it appears to be a leg shot so we began to track. Over an hour of tracking and we never jumped him, but had a steady blood trail. Everyone who had hunted Suni in the group were shocked at the amount of blood loss and that the Suni was still up. The farm manager brought in his Jack Russel but he had been injured the week before (got a large acacia thorn through the nose). Subsequently the dog was not much help. Ian went back to the last place we lost blood and cut through the bush. It was less than 75 yards from where the Suni was shot. He had done basically a large circle after I shot him. Ian sent two of the trackers into the heavy bush ahead of the last place and within 30 minutes they had jumped the Suni out of very dense cover. We got there quickly and there was steady blood on the trail. By now the sun had set and the light was fading quickly so we left it for the morning. I pray that the Hyena, Bushpig or Jackal don't find my Suni tonight. We will be back at it first thing tomorrow, back on the tracks.
 
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JES Adventures

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Day 4


Back out at first light, we hunted for Red Duiker until the sun got high enough in the forest to resume the Suni search. It was the coldest morning yet and the animals were slow to move. We saw many Nyala sunning themselves but very few Red Duiker. It was almost as if it was too cold for them to move.

About half past eight, we headed back to the Suni spot and a friend of Ian's showed up with a tracking dog. After a couple of hours with no success the dog handler left. We continued to look along with two trackers through the day, trying to comb every bush but it is virtually like trying to find a needle in a haystack. I put a cash reward on the Suni for anyone who can recover the skull so hopefully it will be found in the next week. The day heated up and we made the decision to move on. Time was running out and we wanted to relocate and do a bit of night hunting farther to the West.

We arrived the farmers house just after dark and had a nice hot meal then headed out to the fields in search of Serval and Aardwolf. It was windy and blustery so needless to say, we saw very little. In fact, we even got hit by a light rain which is somewhat unusual for this time of year. After a few cold hours on the truck we had spotted a Whitetailed Mongoose and a few Duiker - that was it. We hit the sack after 10 so we could travel about an hour the next morning to try a new location for Red Duiker
 

JES Adventures

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Day 5

Up at 5 and a quick cup of coffee then out the door. We arrived the new property, a beautiful valley with pecan orchards surrounded by high, steep hills that had dense cover. We saw Kudu , Nyala, Impapa and Warthog almost immediately. By eight, the first Red Duiker was spotted - female. I am shocked at all the females we have seen. It is so difficult to ID these tiny antelope in the heavy cover. Before 11 we spotted another female and were successful calling a pair but it was so fast I could not get a shot off on the male.

The afternoon proved to be slow but I helped out the farmer by taking an old Warthog male out of the pecan orchard. They have a constant battle keeping the pigs out and this old boy had nice tusks so he went to the salt. We cut out shortly afterwards to get back to the farmhouse for an early dinner so we could start night hunting by seven.

The weather was perfect tonight, only a light breeze and crystal clear sky. The stars shined like diamonds on black velvet and we were very thankful for the pleasant weather change. Apparently another front is arriving tomorrow so we plan to stay out as late as the hunting is good.

Thirty minutes into the night we spotted an Aardwolf. He was in the grass at about 90 yards and difficult to see but I got comfortable and squeezed off a shot - I missed. We went to the site and searched for blood but there was none. I was disappointed in myself and I felt like I had blown my opportunity to take an Aardwolf. These are a difficult to find little animal but Ian was confident we'd get another chance. We carried on - Not three minutes into the drive we spotted eyes in the distance. As we stopped to glass it, there was rustling in the high grass next to us not 20' away. Ian said Serval, Serval take the shotgun. I grabbed the 12 ga. Double and they cat stopped and looked over its shoulder and I shot. It was instant, as all I had was a head shot and the cat was down. A gorgeous animal I have only seen once before in all my years of hunting Africa. The shot was 7 paces - I'm just glad I didn't miss that one!

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After the photo session and retelling the story we were elated and carried on in search of Aardwolf. Another thirty minutes go by, we spot another White tail Mongoose but no shot. Then eyes off in the distance, a Aardwolf! Ian stopped the vehicle and I asked the distance (for me judging distance at night is difficult) and he said 120. I cranked the scope up to 12 and could see the animal clearly and took him with one shot behind the shoulder. I was speechless, two incredible trophies and it wasn't yet 8:30.

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We decided to keep on and see what else we could find. We spotted another Serval, two more Aardwolf and another Whitetailed Mongoose. A little before 10 we got on to some porcupine but tried to get into shotgun range and it didn't work. This four hour night hunt has made up for all the bad luck I have had this week on Suni and Red Duiker. We then decided to call it a night and give try the morning hunt for Red Duiker before calling it a week.

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JES Adventures

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Day 6

Up a little before 6 and after a quick cup we were on the road. We got to the property about an hour after sunrise and it was cold and crisp. Almost immediately we saw a Red Duiker female so we remained optimistic this our last chance. Continuing onward we saw several Kudu, Nyala, Bushbuck and Warthog. A Red Duiker bolted across the road and as we proceeded it was stopped in the bush looking at us not 40 yards away. I threw up the rifle and put the crosshairs on its shoulder and said "Ian, talk to me". He reluctantly said - "female". We continued our search, stopping and calling in places. We finished the morning about half past ten as the front arrived with high winds and the animals started heading to the heavy bush. Despite the hours we put in and 30+ Red Duiker we saw, it was not my week.

I greatly enjoyed my time in Natal, especially Zululand and the area around Hluhulwe. At the end of the hunt, I can't say I was disappointed as I took some very nice and unique trophies. But the effort put in to the Red Duiker and of course the loss of the Suni weighed on my mind. But, if things had gone perfectly then there wouldn't be any challenge. Furthermore, if I had collected all the species on my list there really wouldn't be any reason for me to go back to Zululand. I don't know when it will be, but I will go back in search of Suni and Red Duiker. Be assured, Ian and I will finish this quest and I will report on that hunt as well.

Special thanks to Ian Van de Vyver as he had everything organized for my "mixed bag specialty safari". He is honest, worked hard and we hunted day and night to achieve my objectives. I highly recommend Ian for the specialty hunts, or a general mixed bag Natal hunt as he has excellent areas. Just as with many Safaris in the past, we were strangers on day one and now after spending a week hunting together I am honored call him my friend.
 

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Thanks for your great story. I love stories about animals that I have yet to hunt. What other night animals can you hunt on this particular hunt?
 

JES Adventures

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Thanks @Alaska Hunter, other speices are Whitetailed Mongoose, Civet, Genet, Jackal, Porcupine and Bushpig. We saw a Cape Fox but did not have a permit.
 

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View attachment 192013

Grant and I arrived OR Tambo at 1 and got him checked in with Air France for the flight home. When you are 6 hours early, there is no queue!

When you are 6 hours early, sometimes there is no ticket agent either! :P Pilot:

Another great report, thanks!
 

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Thanks for sharing and congrats!
 

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You got a couple of very unique trophies. Congrats and well done. Too bad some of the others didn't co-operate for you. Gives you a good reason to go back. Thank for sharing. Bruce
 

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Great report. That's why it's called hunting.
 

JES Adventures

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Thanks guys for the positive feedback, I enjoy sharing my adventures with y'all and reading about yours.
 

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Sounds like you had another fun hunt. You got a couple of neat animals there. Congratulations and thanks for sharing the report.
 

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Congrats sir, I really like the serval
 

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View attachment 192013

Grant and I arrived OR Tambo at 1 and got him checked in with Air France for the flight home. When you are 6 hours early, there is no queue!


This next leg of my trip would be spending a week with Ian Van de Vyver of VDV Safaris in search of Suni and Natal Red Duiker as well as some small cats. I texted Ian that Grant and I were eating lunch at the Spur in the airport and he was there a few minutes later. We finished up lunch, saw Grant through customs and headed out for Natal. We had a 6 hour drive up to Hluhluwe and stayed in a camp right near Zulu Nyala. The roads were good and traffic not so bad as it is a national holiday. We were at the bar by half past eight and after a couple of Bains on the rocks we turned in early. Tomorrow morning we'll be up at first light to shoot the rifles and begin our search for Suni.
I had a very similar hunt in 2018. A real adventure!
 

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Congrats on the great animals taken, the aardwolf and serval are beautiful!
 
 

 

 

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