It's been a while since my last post, and I hope everyone has been doing well since I've last posted! I've finally gotten time to write a proper hunting report for my first and second trips with Bush Africa Safaris. I'll preface the whole report with a too-long didn't read version for those who don't want to sit down and read this lengthy report but for those who want to stick around and get a two-for-one hunting report this thread is for you!
Country: South Africa, Limpopo
Dates: May 2022, July/August 2023
Harvest Method: Rifle
Species: Impala, Blesbok, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest, Black Wildebeest, Gemsbok, Kudu, Nyala, Steenbok, Duiker, Zebra, Jackal
Outfitter: Bush Africa Safaris
PH: Robert, Dries, Jaco
Game Quality: The quality of animals that exist on the property, as well as the trophies taken, was exceptional.
Lodging: World Class
Food: Perfect (I still crave it sometimes)
Travel: 3 1/2 hour drive from Johannesburg
Recommended: I would highly recommend considering Bush Africa Safaris as an outfitter for your safari and would trust recommending them to friends and family.
My First Trip May 2022
My first trip to South Africa felt surreal even after arriving there. The travel to South Africa was for the most part uneventful aside from a 6-hour delay we received waiting at the Newark Airport. I had no cell reception at the airport to inform our outfitter of the delay but luckily Bush Africa Safaris went above and beyond and booked lodging for us in Johannesburg overnight so we didn't have to travel to the lodge that night. The next day went off without a hitch and we were off to the lodge and after a short 3 1/2 hour drive we were finally there!
On the First hunting day, we took it easy and unpacked, had lunch, and then went out for an evening drive. I can't even describe how good it felt to have my boots in that red dirt after a 15-hour flight and many years of wanting to hunt the "Dark Continent". That evening, we saw everything Africa had to offer us in the early winter months the trees were still green and somewhat full of life and the Impala rut was in full swing. It wasn't 10 minutes driving out of camp before we could hear the rutting Impala in the distance. Not long after hearing them, we started to see them and they didn't even care that we were driving by as they chased the ewes through the thick Limpopo bush. After observing what felt like hundreds of impala rams we saw a good one to make our first stalk on and after a 30 or 40 minute stalk, we couldn't connect with the ram and decided to keep looking. We tried to stalk 2 more rams but because of the density of the bush and rams chasing the ewes, we couldn't make the stars align with one of the shooter rams and decided to head back to the lodge for the evening. On the way back to the lodge our PH, Robert, spotted an awesome Blesbok ram standing under some acacias in a big herd. I would be telling a bold-faced lie if I said I knew exactly which one to shoot when we were looking at this herd of Blesbok but Robert was very patient and helped me Identify the trophy ram and after a few minutes of back and forth we managed to shoot this beautiful 18 1/2" Blesbok!
After shooting him we made it back to the lodge and had a hardy and well-deserved dinner by the braai, as well as a good night's sleep. The following morning, we had breakfast and then chased Black and Blue Wildebeest all over God's green earth. We tried stalking them and chasing them in the truck but that didn't work, so we tried to get out and make some long walks and hoped to intercept them walking through the property or hanging out by water or other spots they may frequent. We got lucky and after walking around for about 2 hours we were crossing a road and looked down and saw a Blue Wildebeest bull standing in the middle of the road about 200 yards away. After some careful glassing and good field judging Robert thought we could take a better Blue Wildebeest bull and we opted to pass on him. We decided after that we deserved to go eat some lunch and plan out our evening but, some Black Wildebeest had other plans for us. On the drive back to the lodge we spotted 2 Black Wildebeest bulls standing by some water we then decided to get out of the truck and made a stalk on them after a few minutes of crawling around and weaving through trees I shot the older bull of the two, He had some awesome cracked-up bases super worn-down tips, and a beautiful coat of fur on him (we forgot to measure him so I'll edit the thread after I get him back from the taxidermist). After taking a few pictures with him (I was trying to smile but was winded from helping Robert drag him to a good picture spot) and then loading him into the truck we got back to the lodge just in time for lunch and to plan our evening hunt out.
Our evening hunt was spent trying to put a good stalk in on some Gemsbok but they were way too crafty for us and I failed to make the only shot opportunity they had given us that evening work. We also saw a really nice Kudu bull and we tried to put a stalk on him but he lived up to the name of the "Grey Ghost" and he disappeared just as quickly as he had appeared. We went back to the camp that evening empty-handed but had a good time sitting around the fire and recounting the day's events with good food and great friends. The next morning was more of the same, getting skunked by Gemsbok. We tried and tried but just could not make it happen. We decided to stop pursuing Gemsbok after we somehow managed to get a herd of Zebra between us and the Gemsbok and continued to push them further away. After our Gemsbok debacle and on our way back to the lodge (there is a pattern emerging) we spotted a really nice Impala laid up under a tree. By the time we had gotten up to him to shoot he had winded us and jumped up to run. I should not have taken the shot but in a desperate attempt, I threw one down range and hit him more than a foot behind the shoulder at a moderate to steep quartering away angle. Initially, we found a pool of blood about 5" in diameter brighter pink in color but absent of any bubbles. After trailing him for 300 yards, we only found 2 other puddles of that size and half a dozen specs of blood. After 2 hours of searching, we brought in some tracking dogs who were able to pick up on the scent and locate the Impala another 300 or 400 yards after we lost the trail. I was so relieved that we were able to recover him and began to appreciate how tough these animals are. After taking him to the skinning shed we discovered I was lucky enough to have just barely clipped the back of the right lung and didn't want to test my luck with another bad shot again. This Impala, measuring 24 1/4" had a beautiful dark face, a big sweeping bell, and plenty of secondary growth I couldn't have picked a better-looking Impala out of a catalog!
After a quick late lunch, we hopped straight back into the truck and went out to chase Gemsbok for another evening to no avail. After being winded about a dozen times or spotted by a Gemsbok from what seemed to be 10,000 miles away we called it a day. The next morning was unusually cold. I can't recall the temperature but there was frost on the ground and I remember regretting not bringing a heavy jacket. That morning, we saw nothing but our own breath after driving around and glassing we didn't even come across tracks that would cross the roads in between the blocks. After a few hours of searching, we called it early that morning in hopes the evening would be more fruitful. We headed out that evening hell-bent on finding a mature Kudu bull. We glassed and sat in several different spots early in the evening and saw nothing and while driving to another location to check out we saw a Warthog boar running across an open field, presumably from us spooking him out of the trees. He suddenly takes a sharp left and begins running straight back towards the truck I tried to shoot him running across at first and missed completely, I tried to shoot him a second time when he stopped briefly but missed completely again. As they say, the third time is the charm and when he reached the road I shot again and landed a hit. I tried to load a fourth shell to put another round in him, but my rifle failed to eject the previous shell and I was stuck trying to get the spent shell out of the barrel. After messing with my rifle for a few minutes I elected to follow the PH to recover the pig and let the PH make the final shot after we found him bedded down 50 or 60 yards away. He was a great pig that had managed to break off his right side and the side he had left was worn down and smooth from all of its use. I was really grateful for this pig because it ended up being the only warthog we would see for the duration of our trip.
While we were taking pictures with the Warthog our other PH, Jaco, Spotted some Kudu feeding in a stand of trees a few hundred yards away. We really carefully loaded the Warthog back into the truck and pushed the truck in neutral to the end of the road to try not to spook the Kudu. After getting to the end we started the truck back up and drove around to the other side of the big stand of trees they were feeding in to try and spot a mature bull in the group. We glassed the Kudu from 300 yards away and initially only saw younger immature bulls feeding along the edge of the bush and continued to drive and glass the edge of the trees. About 200 yards down from where we spotted the younger bulls we saw a nice old bull that had already spotted us standing there in the trees. I was already nervous because I could see his huge ivory tips through the binoculars 300 yards away. I grabbed my rifle and the Kudu was kind enough to give us an extra 15 seconds for me to aim down on him and take the shot. I landed a really nice shot right in the center of the shoulder and saw him crashing through the brush before he disappeared. We could not find any blood but instead followed the path of knocked-over bushes and small trees for 100 yards before we lost the trail and at this point, it was getting dark fast. Our trackers followed the bloodless track another 200 or 300 yards where we found him before any jackals could get to him. When examining him I was in awe over how big they were, this bull was pretty narrow but had nice full curls and big sweeping ivory tips that unfolded and reached out towards the sky. We measured him at 52 1/4" and I was super happy to have been able to harvest him.
We returned to the lodge pretty late in the evening but with two of the animals the guide was concerned we wouldn't get this trip in the back of the truck I felt pretty good and we only had 2 more animals to try and get for the last two days. The next day was more about chasing Blue Wildebeest and Gemsbok and getting outsmarted by them both. After countless stalks and miles of the country covered through the entire day with no success, we returned to the lodge that evening with nothing in the truck.
The next morning was our last day in Africa. We only had the morning hunt left and we wanted to make it count by trying to get a Gemsbok or a Blue Wildebeest in the salt just before we left. Lucky for us the stars aligned on a slow Gemsbok who got too curious and stood around for just a second too long and there was no tracking required. I took a full frontal shot and he thrashed around in a big circle for a few seconds before going down. After getting up to him It was so easy to admire the lines and patterns of the fur on the face as well as the horns that measured a little over 35 inches. We only had 45 minutes to take pictures, load him in the truck, and get back to camp to pack before we had to leave and catch our flight home so we loaded him up in the truck, and drove like mad men to get back to the lodge with just a few minutes to spare. It was a very solemn few minutes of realizing I had to return home and leave this awesome and beautiful place. I had taken 6 of the 7 animals I had come for and I considered that a great success, especially with the quality of the animals we were able to take in such a short time frame. As soon as we got to the airport and I sat down in my seat on the plane I knew I'd be back and I knew the siren song of the dark continent would never let me go.
Trip Two July/August 2023
After getting home from my first trip I was itching to go back, I wanted nothing more than for my boots to be covered in that red African sand while I watched the sun go down over the bush. I met up with Scalk (owner of Bush Africa Safaris) and his son Dries at the Houston Safari Club Show and planned my next trip as soon as I could carve out some dates for it. I wanted to experience a different season and we decided late July would be the best time to go and see what a real winter in South Africa looked like. This time around I wanted to start working on my tiny ten and expand my plains game collection even further. I was also armed with better knowledge and gear from my experiences on the previous safari and it really streamlined my whole travel process because I managed to get everything into a single carry-on. I can't tell you how relieving it was not having to worry if my bags would make it on the plane in time.
Unlike last time, we had a major flight issue come up and United canceled all of the flights going to South Africa only 3 hours before my departing flight from Houston to Newark. Thankfully, for Scalk's flexibility that was not much of an issue on his end and I just needed to be on the phone with United for 4 hours and negotiate with them to move my return flight back a day to keep the length of the trip the same. After only a day of the trip being delayed, I was wheels up and headed back to South Africa and had no other travel issues. I arrived at 5:45 the next evening and Dries picked me up from the airport and we headed straight for the lodge. We ate dinner, had a few drinks, and stood around the fire for a bit where we planned an easy morning for the next day.
The next morning, we had a little breakfast and checked the rifle before leaving for a late morning drive. The foliage was entirely different from my previous trip. Everything was dead and the dormant trees and vegetation really brought out the reds of the sky and the soil. What wasn't different from last time was the Impala rut, which was still in full swing. It didn't take us too long to get into a group of rutting Impala so we got out of the truck and started making our way through the bush for this trip's first stalk. After some careful stalking and glassing around Dries spotted a nice shooter Impala, but because of our height difference I was having some trouble seeing over the dead foliage. The Impala was feeding and downwind, so he hadn't spotted us standing there while I was struggling to arrange the shooting sticks in a way I could still be up high enough to make the shot. Right when I had found a nice compromise of seeing the Impala and being in a somewhat comfortable shooting position I realized I could only see the top of his back. The shot was only obstructed by some grass and I decided to take the risk and shoot through the grass. As the shot rang out the Impala had no reaction and upon further inspection it looked like the round had caught a tree that was behind the Impala making me think I had aimed too low or maybe the way I was standing wasn't stable enough to brace the rifle when I was shooting. We looked for blood for about an hour or so to make sure I did not wound the Impala and the search yielded no blood in the immediate area. Afterward, we continued to walk around to try and spot and stalk some Impala and walked up on an awesome ram that was tending some ewes. The ram was very good about standing in the group of ewes and not giving us a clear shot and we stalked behind them for some time hoping a shot would present itself until finally they had turned and started walking into our wind and instantly spooked. Shortly after we wrapped up our stalk and headed back to camp for some lunch before the evening hunt.
The evening hunt started off really slow but quickly ramped up. After an hour of driving, we had seen nothing on our list until we came across a herd of Zebra. They instantly spooked and we got out of the truck and started tracking them in hopes they might eventually stop. Not long after we started we spotted a herd of Impala that was hanging around with 2 Nyala bulls. We quickly switched gears to start pursuing the Nyala but we got picked off by an Impala ewe we hadn't seen standing pretty far out from the group. We continued our stalk and kept finding impala but the wind that evening was swirling and we repeatedly got winded. Eventually, we saw this huge-bodied ram standing alone feeding, and by the time he had picked his head up and saw us, it was too late for him. He didn't even take a step and there was no tracking required. He was very heavy-bodied for this time of the year and the mass of his horns that he carried all the way to his worn tips was really impressive. While headed back to the camp with this awesome Impala in the truck we spotted a Steenbok feeding in the twilight hours of the day not far from where we had taken the Impala and not long after either. We watched him feed for a little bit before we decided to take him and one .308 shot later he was keeping the Impala company in the truck. I was so excited to have taken my first of the tiny ten and was fascinated by the texture of the fur of this Steenbok and was also impressed by the sharpness of the 4 1/2" horns. We got back to camp and had a little celebration for a successful first day, a hardy dinner, and a few drinks around the fire before going to bed and having an early morning the next day.
The next morning was spent chasing the bane of my existence, the Blue Wildebeest. It was no surprise that they were being as difficult as they were the previous year but they seemed to remember what I smelled like because we couldn't even get close to them. After chasing them all morning we cut our losses and headed back for lunch before setting out again. That evening hunt was more of the same, chasing Blue Wildebeest only interrupted by stalking a Warthog that we couldn't get a shot on. It was getting dark and we had given up hope of going back to the lodge with something in the truck that day when Dries spotted a nice Nyala not far from the road. I quickly got a shot off as soon as he gave me the go-ahead and the Nyala took off through a creek bottom and up the hill behind it. The shot sounded and looked very good so we didn't wait long before following up the shot and finding him just at the bottom of the hill on the other side. This had been the first time I had seen a Nyala up so close as they are typically sneaking around in thick brush but It was easy to admire the seemingly painted lines that run down their long spindly fur and their beautiful facial markings. To make it even better this Nyala sported a set of 24" horns and even had the ivory tips I was hoping for even though he was unusually wide.
It was still early enough in the evening that we didn't quite want to call it a day, so we sped back to the lodge to drop him off at the cleaning shed and rushed back out in hopes of seeing some more late-night activity. Right as it was getting dark we spotted a herd of Zebra as they were fleeing and Dries told me to throw my gun up in case we got lucky enough for one to stop and look at us. Sure enough, a stallion at the back of the herd stopped right in the middle of my scope. The only thing I could hear was Dries whispering at me, "Shoot, shoot!". I pulled the trigger and nothing happened. I looked up and realized I hadn't flipped the safety off and as soon as I flipped it off and put my head back to the scope the stallion had turned his head to leave and I got the shot off just in time. I hit him right in the middle of the shoulder, and we found plenty of brightly colored blood with bubbles. Even with the perfect shot, he managed to run about 100 yards before finally going down. He had a beautiful hide that was very densely striped and a thick mane. On my previous safari, I had no desire to hunt a Zebra until I had seen firsthand how difficult it is to try and hunt them and knew when I came back I had to try to get one. We took a few nighttime pictures with him, got him in the truck, and called it a day. When we had returned to the lodge dinner was already prepared and we wasted no time eating up after having to load a Nyala and Zebra into the truck.
We woke up the next morning and decided to torture ourselves by chasing Blue Wildebeest. While that isn't entirely true because we started the day by checking some spots for some Warthog it quickly became the Blue Wildebeest day. We stalked for hours and hours either getting spotted or whiffed with the crazy wind conditions or stalking too close to them in the thick bush and spooking them. We finally grew tired of messing with them and decided to try our luck looking for other game. It didn't take long for us to find some Blesbok and after some talking and some decision-making, I decided not to shoot another Blesbok this trip. Not long after leaving the herd of Blesbok, we saw a Jackal trying to hightail it away from us and I threw the rifle up to let him know he wasn't welcome here. We snapped a few pictures got him in the truck and tried to get another hour of glassing in before heading back for lunch.
We set out from lunch and chased more Blue Wildebeest until sunset. Once the twilight hours of the day came we switched gears and searched for Duiker and Bushbuck before it got too dark. We didn't see any Bushbuck but did see one female duiker before we headed back in. As we were heading back in we saw some Baboon tracks and got out of the truck and checked trees to see If we could catch any Baboons in the trees before they went to bed. While checking the trees we came across 2 Warthog sows drinking and Dries demonstrated to me how poor their eyesight is at night and because we had the right wind he was able to sneak up within 15 yards of the pigs completely in the open before they got nervous and walked off. It didn't take long to get back to camp to enjoy the fire before dinner and then straight off to bed to get ready for the next day.
That morning was very refreshing checking for Warthogs and trying to put a stalk in on a Bushbuck we had seen before trying to mess with the Blue Wildebeest for the day. Our luck was looking up and we spotted a single Blue Wildebeest bull away from the herd. We stalked so carefully and so slowly I don't think we made a sound for 300 yards. While we were inching our way through the thick bush and intensely staring into the nothingness of the branches praying to pick out a horn or a tail or a leg my heart shattered when I heard the all too familiar "HUFF". I turned around and to my surprise, he was standing directly behind us at about 10 or 15 yards. He stood around for only a second longer before taking off into the trees at a full sprint never to be seen again. We followed his track for some time hoping to come across more Blue Wildebeest or the lone bull but only crossed paths with a few Gemsbok before heading back to the lodge.
Leaving the lodge our game plan was to look for Duiker and Warthog that evening and we actually found a shootable boar pretty early into the hunt but I decided to pass on him because I was hoping to get a boar that had both tusks still intact. A few hours later we had seen nothing on our list but had bumped into a large group of Eland that we stopped to watch through the binoculars. Shortly after we left the Eland, we came around a bend and started to drive up a hill when we looked up and there was a herd of Blue Wildebeest just standing there out in the open with the bull off to one side. We wasted no time, I threw the rifle up on the door of the truck and aimed down on them and my heart sank as I watched them begin to run away. Dries picked out the bull and told me to keep the scope on them and they stopped to look back and I took a frontal quartering to shot right on the point of the front shoulder. He spun a few times before falling, then quickly got back up and tore through the bushes. The shot looked and sounded good but after walking around for 20 or 30 minutes we couldn't find a drop of blood on the ground and with so many tracks it was difficult to pick out which ones were his. It only took an extra 20 minutes before I finally spotted him at the top of the hill where he had crashed into a tree before expiring. I was relieved when I saw him down and after getting to him we saw he left no blood trail for the 80 or so yards he made it before going down. The feeling I had when I finally got my hands on the thing that had gotten away last time and something we had stalked dozens of times and spent so long just trying to catch a glimpse of was incredible. The hide was beautiful and his horns were worn and chipped up (We also didn't measure this wildebeest because I was so excited just to have him but I will update the thread when I get him back). I greatly appreciated the chase It took to finally get a Blue Wildebeest in the salt but was also disappointed that the chase for one was finally over.
After dinner, I slept soundly knowing I didn't have to chase Blue Wildebeest in the morning and really only needed to worry about Duiker, Warthog, and maybe even a Bushbuck. I woke up and we took it easy that morning with a full breakfast and a cup of coffee to enjoy the morning breeze, we decided that day to go and hunt over some water and wait to see if we could manage to find a good Warthog after lunch. We set up in a blind and waited but only saw a few sows and piglets come to drink and play in the waterhole. We hadn't seen anything in a while then decided to leave and go look for some Warthog and Duiker that may be out and about. Driving around we spotted a nice boar but he was gone before we could put a plan together to hunt him. Right after seeing the Warthog the sun was getting low and we went to call and look for Duiker. Not long after we had started poking around on foot did we finally see a male Duiker feeding underneath a few trees and quickly working his way into some really nasty and thick brush. Glassing the Duiker took some time because of how dark it was and we had to change positions on him several times but just as he crossed into the thick stuff we determined it was a ram and decided to let him have it. He didn't go far and there was just enough light left to get some good pictures. His fur was different from that of the Steenboks but I was just as surprised by how sharp the 3 1/2" horns were on the second of the tiny ten I had gotten.
With the Duiker down we only had Bushbuck and Warthog left on the list to chase and when the next day came, we decided to buckle down and try to get a Warthog. This time around we decided to dust off the crossbow and go sit in a blind over some water and try our luck at a different spot. During our sit, we saw plenty of Impala Waterbuck and even some Blue Wildebeest before the pigs started to come in. There were plenty of sows and 2 young boars that came in but not the shooter pig we were hoping to get. With no luck at the waterhole, we picked the rifle back up and set out for pigs once again. We decided to go and drive to where we had seen the nice pig the previous day and do some walking in hopes of spotting him. We got out of the truck and walked around for maybe 20 minutes before spotting him and some sows getting some water. Our wind was bad but there was no other way to approach where he was lying down. Dries and I slowly walked up and tried to find a hole in the brush to get a shot through when he got a whiff of us on the wind, stood up, looked around, and ran 20 yards away. Making sure we were totally still and silent we waited for him to calm down and after only a few minutes he returned to the sows and laid back down. Then we got on our hands and knees and crawled slowly along trying to get a new angle on him. The whole ordeal took maybe 45 minutes to crawl 15 yards and stop and look then crawl again or wait because we thought they may have caught us. When we finally got to a position where I had a clear shot I rested the rifle on Dries' shoulder and the pig became history. He had broken off just the very tip of his left tusk but he was a beautiful boar with great big warts and nice curled thick tusks that came in right at 12"(including underlip) on the intact side.
After the pig, we loaded up, headed back to the lodge, and took it easy that evening. I had decided not to try to hunt the Bushbuck any longer to give me a reason to come back to South Africa one day. We had an excellent evening by the braai and stayed up telling stories and snacking on some dried sausage. The next day we got to go around the property and do a little sightseeing and observed some Kudu and a beautiful Eland with a nice thick mop on the top of his head. That evening I had my last sundowner in South Africa and the next day I returned home after an awesome trip to once again listen to the siren song of the dark continent calling me back.
If you've read for this long I appreciate you sitting down and reading this hunting report and I hope that you have as good a time as I did having the privilege to hunt in Africa.