SOUTH AFRICA: Hunting With Karoo Wild Safaris

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by RolandtheHeadless, Jul 8, 2016.

  1. RolandtheHeadless

    RolandtheHeadless AH Veteran

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    Am I being too detailed and long-winded? I've been posting parts of my journal, but if it's boring most people this way, I could just post a couple more photos and my summary recommendation of Karoo Wild.
     

  2. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Post away- the more the better- if folks don't want to read they will skip to the pictures :)
     
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  3. Mekaniks

    Mekaniks GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Don't stop now!
     
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  4. Neale

    Neale AH Enthusiast

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    Jim, Post your report with ALL the detail. It helps us all relive your adventure and makes us envious. It is certainly not boring. More please.
     
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  5. RolandtheHeadless

    RolandtheHeadless AH Veteran

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    Okay, I'll post the rest of it. Almost done anyway.

    Black Wildebeest on the Horizon

    After lunch Victor asked if there was anything else I wanted to go after, a black wildebeest or eland maybe. I’d already decided to pass on an eland because they were too much like moose, in my mind. A shoulder mount would be too big to fit in my house, and if I couldn’t harvest the meat for personal consumption, what was the point of killing one? But a black wildebeest had been something I was thinking about, since they’re only found in South Africa. Who knows if I’d ever get back hunting in this part of the world?

    We went to part of Victor’s own property that was behind a mountain from his lodge. By road it took a half hour to get there and we rode a while on an asphalt road, high-fenced property on both sides of us, until we reached a pull-off with a gate in the fence. Mitchell opened and closed it and we headed up a ranch road. We passed an old two-story ranch house, so ancient the roof had fallen in and its interior been taken over by weeds, grass, aloe plants, and cacti.

    Victor pointed out a pair of eland, light-colored and huge, even at the distance, plodding along sedately at the base of a mountain. A bit later there came a tap on the roof, and Victor took up his binocular and stared out of his own window. When Mitchell tapped, Victor always knew immediately which direction to look. I think that in Mitchell’s taps there must have been a certain tone that meant left, and another one that meant right. Either that, or there was telepathy between then.

    “Black wildebeest,” Victor said. By then it didn’t strike me as peculiar at all that Victor should decide to pursue black wildebeest, and then we’d have black wildebeest appear. He stopped the bakkie behind a large patch of brush and shut off the engine. I caught a brief whiff of diesel fumes, but the wind quickly carried them away. Funny, that I wouldn’t have even noticed the fumes off a gasoline engine.

    “Be sure to hit him forward, on his front shoulder,” Victor told me, before we started our stalk. “Wildebeest can go for miles if they’re wounded. The odd thing is, they’re territorial and will eventually return to the place where they were shot, if they live long enough.”

    “Really?” I said, or something equally profound.

    “When I was just starting out a client shot a wildebeest and we tracked it for miles, until we lost the trail. Then the head tracker, who had more experience than I did, advised me to go back to where the bull had been shot. Sure enough, we found him, lying there dead.”

    Victor and Mitchell saw wildebeest. I couldn’t see a damn thing. We got out and snuck around, through, and under acacia thornbush. We kept dodging through the thorns, across openings of bare earth and patches of grass and cactus and other thorny plants, into the setting sun behind the mountains and the clouds to what I assumed was the northwest. In the distance the slate-gray mountains lay in parallel ridges, like waves coming in from the sea. And somewhere on the nearby ridge there were supposed to be wildebeest. . .

    Ah, now I could see them!

    The wildebeest looked completely black and featureless on the horizon, except for their long, white, swishing tails. They plodded along the top of the ridge, sky-lined by the lingering brightness of the sun going down behind the clouds.

    “The last one,” Victor said, setting up the sticks. I caught the wildebeest in my crosshairs and through the scope I could see his white tail flicking and the white in his mane rippling in the wind. No other details were discernable in the strong backlight of the horizon. I guided my crosshairs as if on a silhouette target, judging the animal’s vitals by the perimeter of the silhouette. I don’t remember the decision to shoot, just the concussion of the rifle and losing the target picture. When I looked again through the scope, wildebeest were running along the ridge, angling away from us, their sharply-defined forms diminishing on the horizon. I couldn’t tell if my bull was among them.

    “Did I miss him?”

    “No, you hit him, and he dropped in his tracks.”

    “Range?”

    Victor looked through his binocular. “144 yards.” Nice of him to give me the information in yards instead of meters. “You’re kind of obsessed with yardage, aren’t you?”

    “Yeah.” I laughed. “The place where I shoot has only a hundred-yard range. So everything I know about ballistics is purely theoretical beyond that range. Except for actual experience in the field. I’m going to have to get me one of those Leica binoculars.”

    I slung my rifle and used my own binocular to inspect the dark mound that lay there on the horizon of the ridge. Mitchell went running and was already pounding in the stake to set up for photos by the time I arrived. Never once did I see Victor tell Mitchell what to do. Mitchell knew his job and he did it. The two of them worked together like the old partners they probably were.

    Victor took photos, then inspected the wound, the wildebeest’s shattered shoulder. “That rifle is a killing machine.”

    “Yes sir,” I said feeling a bit drunk on the thrill of the stalk and the kill, “this is old Methuselah, killer of many northern beasts. And now a killer in Africa.”

    “You named your rifle Methuselah, eh?”

    “A rifle ought not be named until it has drawn blood. Old Methuselah had conducted a goodly number of kills already, when I named him on a sandbar of a river in the Alaska Range on a moose-hunting trip.

    “That was shortly before the whiskey ran out,” I added.

    “What kind of mount do you want?” Victor was still inspecting the kill. Mitchell already had his gutting knife out.

    I’d previously thought of wildebeest as silly, cavorting creatures, as shown on TV. But in death this wildebeest was beautiful and noble. As usual, I was both happy and sad about the death of the animal. I wanted to get rid of the sadness, so I decided to make a joke of it. “A skull mount. He’s going to make a hell of a hat-rack.”

    I regret saying those last words. The wildebeest, and my act of killing him, deserved better. And I don’t have a good place to hang a hat-rack anyway.

    wildebeestDSCN0227.jpg
     
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  6. RolandtheHeadless

    RolandtheHeadless AH Veteran

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    Here is the last piece:


    Impala Jinx and Farewell

    Friday night Lindsay surpassed herself, serving kudu tenderloins with a special sauce on a bed of shredded potatoes. All the dinners served at Haaspoort Lodge were exceptional.

    On Saturday, the last day of our Karoo hunt, we decide to chase the one remaining animal on my secondary list, impala. After walking over the top of a low hill, we spied a pair of impala rams on the slope below. I muffed a shot on the better of the two; he was downhill, I over-estimated the range, and my bullet sailed right over his back. I saw it raise a puff of dust well beyond. I’d been over-confident, and thinking prematurely about the congratulations and photos, and what we would do the rest of the day. I failed to shoot from that calm, quiet, concentrated-yet-disinterested place that you must shoot from. I told Victor I’d missed it clean, but he went down to check for any blood sign anyway. In Africa you pay for any wounded animal that escapes, but more importantly, a hunter anywhere has the ethical obligation to follow-up and dispatch a wounded animal, if possible. I should have gone too, but I was as sure that I missed as if I’d actually seen the bullet fly over the impala’s back.

    This incident was another manifestation of my impala jinx. On other occasions in the Karoo and on my later trip to Zambia, I would drop the hammer on an empty chamber, have good rams leap away just as I found them in my sights, be prematurely detected by the eyes of a dozen impala ewes, and shoot the wrong ram, an immature young one. The jinx would let me shoot an impala for leopard bait, out of the truck, but not for a trophy by fair chase. I never did shoot a trophy impala I could take home. Not on this trip to Africa, anyway.

    The next morning we said goodbye to our new friends, Victor and Lindsay Watson. We had a great time, and a great hunt, with Karoo Wild Safaris. The hospitality and accommodations at Haaspoort Lodge are first-rate, and so is the food and dinner conversation.

    Victor and his tracker/assistant PH know hunting, their territory, and the habits of game. Both of them have great eyes and often spotted game I couldn’t see even after they pointed it out. During our hunts we saw blesbuck, duiker, hartebeest, kudu, nyala, springbuck, impala, eland, blue and black wildebeest, waterbuck, zebra, warthog, ostrich, and giraffe, and probably other species which I forget now.

    Despite the difficulty of hunting conditions due to the drought, I managed to take all the animals on my primary want-list, plus a fifth animal, the black wildebeest. The fact that I didn’t take an impala was attributable to my own mistakes, including muffing what should have been a routine shot on a good ram. My shooting was lucky, for the most part, though, and I avoided the one circumstance I’d prayed to avoid above all: wounding an animal that then escaped.

    I can’t recommend Karoo Wild Safaris highly enough for the quality and experience of the hunting team, the amount and variability of the ground to hunt, and the size and number of trophies available. The Watsons were gracious and attentive hosts. My wife found a nice mix of going on hunting trips as an observer, and also going on field trips with Lindsay to interesting local attractions. All in all, a five-star experience.
     
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  7. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for sharing your hunt with us.
     

  8. Neale

    Neale AH Enthusiast

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    Great stuff, thanks for the report.
     

  9. Fjold

    Fjold AH Senior Member

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    Great report, I hunted with Vic in 2013 and had a great time. They are great hosts, since you didn't get an Impala you didn't get to eat Lindsay's braised Impala shanks? They are fantastic! I could have eaten a half a dozen of them if my diet didn't stop me. I think that I gained 5 lbs. in my week there and we walked every day.
     

  10. lpace

    lpace AH Veteran

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    You were right, I did enjoy reading these stories too! Thanks again! :)
     

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