SOUTH AFRICA: Hunting In The Eastern Cape With Kingsview Safaris

Isabelle

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This June, I spent several days hunting in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. My hosts - a lovely married couple, and two of my newest friends - were Jono and Justine of Kingsview Safaris.

I stayed with Jono and Justine in a concession on Nyala Ridge where they have exclusive hunting rights. The land there is lush - filled with aloes, giraffes, zebras, kudu, and many other wildlife species.

Prior to arriving in South Africa, I had never shot a rifle. The evening I arrived, Jono took me for a bit of target practice. We made sure my rounds were tight (1.5 inch radius for 6 shots) and I was ready to go for my first full day of hunting.

On the first day of hunting, we awoke before sunrise to search for Kudu, which usually appear at first light to warm themselves on the ridges of the Cockscomb mountain range before heading down into the valleys to avoid the heat of the day.

We spotted several kudu cows and climbed far up and along several ridges in search of an adequate bull. Our trek went on for over two hours. Then, across a small valley, on the face of the closest mountain, maybe 200 yards in front and 150 yards to the right of us, a kudu bull appeared.

Looking through the binocs I could see him clearly - a gorgeous kudu bull with nicely spread, ~ 50 inch horns. He was visible only from the neck up, sunning himself in the bushes on the ridge. His antlers reflected golden sunlight with the same intensity as the leaves of the surrounding aloes.

As the bush was thinning proceeding to the right, we were unable to attempt a shot from across the valley and instead had to stalk him by moving down the valley and up the ridge, to finally approach him from behind. We set up the sticks at about 120 yards away and waited for the kudu to provide us with a clear shot. As I stood tensely behind the sticks, my heart pumping loudly, Jono told me to most of all, enjoy the moment, and to aim for the shoulder.
His words helped me to relax, to truly be in the moment, and to take my shot. As I was shooting down the mountain, my aim was a touch high, but I delivered a spinal shot that dropped the kudu immediately.

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After our successful and exhausting morning, Jono and I returned to the cabin for a delicious South-African meal, compliments of Justine’s brilliant cooking. After lunch we went in search of springbok in a concession on the other side of the mountain ridge. The land was bone dry. The animals, as a result, were hungry and skittish. The light was fading and we were also beat, so we headed home.

We had steak from the kudu I killed for dinner, cooked outside on the fire of our log cabin in Nyala Ridge... As a working professional, I have always been proud of my ability to “put food on the table.” Literally putting food on the table, in the form of kudu steaks, redefined my notion of “putting food on the table” and is one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life so far.

The next morning we went in search of springbok again, but the wind was fiercely blowing across the plains and not in our favor. Jono and I stalked several groups of springbok across the plains for four hours, never managing to get within 400 yards of groups of springbok that were all female and making themselves scarce as a result of the wind.

We decided to break for lunch and search instead for impala where we had better luck previously in Nyala Ridge. After another one of Justine’s amazing meals, we drove to scope out ridges where animals would likely seek protection from the fierce wind. Indeed, we spotted a group of ewe impalas along a nearby ridge, and stalked them in hopes of finding a ram nearby. We climbed the ridge, and walked nearly all the way around it in our search. The light was, by this time, quickly fading on the South African winter’s eve. Suddenly, through the dusk and from ~300 yards away, we spotted a group of impala concealing themselves in the bush.

We ran - stealthily - but we ran, to try to close the distance between us and the impala in the fading light. We got within ~100 yards and saw that there was an old ram in the group. However, he was standing nicely behind a tree that made taking a shot impossible. We had to get closer. At this point Jono looked at me and said “we’re going to walk.”
I absolutely thought he had lost his mind. But I knew I could trust him after our success the day prior, and together we walked; quietly and slowly, closing ~30 yards on the ram, moving to tree cover of our own and gaining a better vantage point. The ram, likely unsure of exactly what he was seeing in the fading light, watched us the entire time.

It was necessary to improvise to get a good angle, and I used Jono’s shoulders instead of sticks to set up the rifle. Wanting only to take a shot I was 100% sure of, I had requested he re-adjust the scope and momentarily stop breathing so I could take a shot without interference.
I fired.
And my heart immediately sank.
All I could say was “fuck” as I saw the entire group of Kudu - including the one I hit - sprint down the ridge.

Jono told me to wait - attempting to see where the kudu had gone. He then turned to me as we stood up and moved in the direction that the kudu had run and asked“how did you feel about that shot?”
I told him honestly, “I felt good, I had him right in the shoulder. I waited until I was comfortable and I had him.” Jono looked at me and smiled “I know. That’s why he’s laying right there.” The ram managed to get ~20 yards down the hill, running on sheer adrenaline after my direct shot shredded his heart. I daresay it was difficult to tell if I or Jono was more proud!

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We gathered up the ram ourselves and took him back to the house and gutted him, leaving the meat to hang in the cool air beneath the cabin, and enjoyed a delicious lambshank with butternut squash, and mulberry tarts prepared by Justine.

The next day, we headed down to the coast and I went fishing while they packed up the cabin. I caught 3 small tuna and 1 bluefish in a very rough and cold sea, discovering that I indeed had sea legs before turning the boat back.

We took a trip to the taxidermist and before heading to the Walskipper, a restaurant in Jeffries Bay that is literally on the beach. There, we sat close to a fire and enjoyed tremendous helpings of fresh seafood (the tuna I caught were on the menu) and ice cold beers. It was the perfect end to an incredible trip.

The hunting trip I took in the Eastern Cape stands as one of the best experiences of my life. As I write, I wonder if I would ever have become aware of the way of life, and side of myself, to which my hunt and my hosts opened my eyes, if I had not ventured down to Cockscomb mountains.

I know now that I want to have a tangible set of skills in addition to my day job. I want to be able to "put food on the table" in every sense of the phrase. I want to have a marriage and live in a community of friends as strong as the ones that Jono and Justine are lucky enough to enjoy.

And most importantly, I want to make decisions in my every day and even my professional life, the way a proper hunter makes decisions. The best part of my hunting experience was seeing the kudu for the first time. Looking at him and seeing his horns turn gold in the sunlight, I was left in complete awe of his majesty. I knew looking at him that I wanted him. He was the one. After making that decision, nothing could stop me from getting to him. I was strategic and determined. I went through thick bush and climbed steep ledges that I otherwise would not have approached. When the time came, I was 100% confident in my decision to shoot. In order to prevent the animal from unnecessary suffering and to be able to look myself in the mirror, I owned that decision.

Many things we do in life, we don’t do with such certainty or passion. When was the last time you really, really wanted something? Wanted it so badly that nothing could stand in your way? Wanted it so badly that when you finally got close enough to have it, you reached for it with 100% confidence in your preparation, knowing that a life and your ability to respect yourself at the most fundamental of levels - as a basic hunter-gatherer - were at risk if you miscalculated?

Our daily lives usually allow us to avoid such intensity. I won’t say that I regret this, but I do want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to experience it via hunting, as well as my desire to hunt again.

I normally have a list of 1,000 ’to-do’ items on my mind. But while hunting, I was entirely focused on hunting. And for the rest of the trip, I was so exhausted that all of the little things that usually seem to matter simply slipped away. Hunting, therefore, brought me peace of mind and a respect for the interconnectedness of life.

I know that if and when I return to Africa to hunt, I will return to the Eastern Cape and to the hospitality and generosity of Justine and Jono!
 
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cpr0312

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Welcome to AH! Congrats on the hunt and thanks for sharing!
 

Ragman

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Wow! Congrats! I started hunting in 1981 as a 12 year old boy and I dreamed of shooting a kudu nearly every day until I finally made it to Namibia in 2014. And in 10 days of hunting, I never got one. My kudu is still out there waiting for me whenever I can get back.

Great to see a young lady get involved in the sport we love. You have great writing skills too. Hope to see more reports from you in the future!
 

huntermn15

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Isabelle,
Thank you for sharing the great story of your first hunt and trip to Africa. You are a proud hunter. Congratulations on a great first safari!
Michael
 

gillettehunter

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Thanks for the great hunt report. Well done. Nice shooting and some good trophies. The nice thing is every time you look at the those trophies you will remember this hunt. Most of us are not fortunate enough to hunt in Africa for our first animals. Congrats Bruce
 

buck wild

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Fantastic Isabelle- Give us a little info on how you ended up hunting in Africa considering you have never shot a rifle before :) Fill in the blanks.
 

BRICKBURN

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Welcome to AH Isabelle.
Thanks for sharing your tale with us.
 

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welcome to AH , it is great to see female hunters .
 

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Welcome to AH and congrats for a great experience.

Thanks for sharing !
 

Clayton

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Welcome to AH. What a way to start off! Awesome story, hunt, trophies and report.
 

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Welcome to AH and congrats on your trophies- especially the kudu! Great report - any photos of your fishing excursion?
 

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I understand from Jono you had a fantastic safari. Congratulations. We are so happy for you and look forward to your return.
 

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Great first post. Congratulations.
 

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Glad you had fun!
 

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Congrats on the great hunt, that is a dreamy kudu!
 

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Welcome to AH and the brotherhood/sisterhood of the hunt. You are obviously a very mature and wise beyond your years young woman. You made some very good observations on life and the responsibility you embraced is to be commended. Good luck in life and enjoy the memories of this safari as you start to plan your next.
 

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Thank you for sharing your first hunting experience and thoughts afterwards! I imagine your gift to us will send many of us back to our own memories of hunts long ago.

Thank you again and wish you all the best!

Ed
 

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Great story, well told!
 

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Thank you for sharing that wonderful experience. Your words were passionate and feeling. It is good to see how you connected your hunt with life. We all hope you can take the time to hunt again. You will truly enjoy it for the rest of your life. Congratulations!
 

FallowJaeger

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This is a wonderful report, thank you for sharing and your pictures. Glad you had a wonderful adventure in the Eastern Cape.
 

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