SOUTH AFRICA: Incredible Experience With KMG Safaris

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Aegis, Aug 11, 2017.

  1. Aegis

    Aegis AH Senior Member

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    It's been a little over a week since I got back from my first African hunt with KMG Safaris, and I'm still struggling to find adequate words to describe the experience. As many of you probably already know, the flood of thoughts, emotions, and memories that come from a first African hunt defy ready explanation to anyone who has not been there.

    To start at the beginning, SkunkMonkey14 (aka Chris) and I had been talking, planning, and saving for this hunt for about four years. Both of us work the night shift at different companies, and a phone conversation on a slow night launched the project. AfricaHunting.com was a major resource for us, and we pored over the many threads for advice and hunt reports before deciding to book with KMG Hunting Safaris. Boy, did we get that one right.

    We arrived in Port Elizabeth on a mercifully short flight on South African Airways, after the long haul on Delta 200 from Atlanta to Johannesburg, and a comfortable night in Afton Safari Lodge (formerly Afton Guest House). We were met by Martin, our PH, and Ollie, our tracker/skinner for the week. Rounding out the crew was Rocky, Martin's dog...my hero, for reasons I'll reveal later.

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    Morning at Afton Safari Lodge
    Although we tried to use the drive from Port Elizabeth to the lodge to get to know Martin a little better, I'm pretty sure we both spent most of the two hours staring out the window at the amazing country we were in...a behavior we were never really able to shake while we were there. But before we knew it, we were rolling to a stop in front of Mpunzi Lodge, our home for the next week.

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    Mpunzi Lodge
    We got settled in our room, and headed to the range to check our rifles. Well, my rifles. Delta Air Lines managed to leave Chris's rifle in Atlanta, so he was going to be without until it caught up. (So I guess that technically, "my" rifles were "our" rifles, at least for now.) Now normally, the checking of rifles is not worthy of much coverage, even if they're off and need some adjusting. But there's a curve ball farther down the road, so it is important to note how this process went. I brought two rifles, a Ruger Gunsite Scout Rifle in .308 Winchester, and a Ruger M77 African chambered in .375 Ruger. The scout was topped with a Burris 2-7x scout scope, and the M77 African was carrying a Leupold VX-R 2-7x Illumidot. I planned to use the scout rifle for springbok, bushbuck, and impala, and intended the .375 Ruger for a zebra hunt. At any rate, once at the range, I was happy to find that both rifles shot exactly where they were supposed to, exactly as I had zeroed them at home. Good to go, right? Hold that thought...

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    Right on the money...

    Then it was back to the lodge to settle in, have a cold beer, and our first (of many) tasty meals in South Africa. Tomorrow, we hunt.

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    After a night of what is apparently typical tossing and turning, we got up to an amazing African sunrise and a tasty breakfast. (I'm already getting concerned that I'm going to gain weight on this safari.)

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    It's Day 1 of our hunt, and today we're out for springbok. Chris's rifle still hasn't arrived, so the plan is to share my scout rifle. On the plus side, he's shot both my rifles before, and both of us brought the Hornady Precision Hunter 178-grain ELD-X load for our .308s. We're in rolling terrain littered with loose rock, acacia thorns, and cactus...I'd equate it to walking on billiard balls laced with concertina wire. But Martin gets us on some springbok in short order, and picks out a good ram. I give Chris the nod for the first shot, and it's a little off, which is uncharacteristic for him. He finishes the wounded ram pretty quickly however, and the first trophy of the hunt is in the bag. Still, he's a little bothered by the unusually bad first shot. We chalk it up to buck fever and drive on. It's my turn.

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    Chris scores a springbok to start the action.
    After Chris's shot, all the springbok in the area are nervous, so we have to chase a bit before Martin catches us up to a decent ram. I put the scout rifle up on the sticks, settle onto the shoulder, press the trigger...and whiff. Clean miss, over the back! Okay, maybe I've got a little first day jitters and snatched the trigger. But it's still early, and Martin leads the pursuit until we intercept the herd again, and I have my second chance. Bang! Missed...again? I'm getting the feeling that Martin is losing patience, and I don't blame him. I can't really explain the misses. The rifle checked out fine on the range, so it has to be me...right?

    We break for lunch at the lodge, and then swing back by the range to double check the rifle, just to be sure. Yep. It's right on, exactly where it should be when I take another couple of shots from the bench. So I guess that settles it...I am the problem, and I have got to sort myself out when we head back for another try at a springbok.

    It takes some more chasing, but Martin eventually gets me lined up on a ram. I push past all the self-doubt and take the shot, and we've got a springbok on the ground. A little back, but the lungs are hit and it's over pretty quickly. Have I finally shaken off the first-day jitters? It would seem so, but let's reserve judgment...the day isn't over yet.

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    My first African animal.
    It's getting late, so we start back for the lodge, but just a little way down the road, Chris and Martin think they see something on a hillside, so we stop. They're glassing the hill, but I see something on the gravel road, dead ahead. I can't quite make it out, so I tap Martin and ask, "What's that?"

    "Bushbuck! Get out! Get out! Get out!" I bail out with the scout rifle and get on the sticks...Martin already has them set. The bushbuck is quartering away hard, so I'm lining up a bit back of the shoulder, angling for vitals. I break the shot, and the ram bucks and heads back into the scrub next to the road. Martin and I are both confident that it's hit, but we move up to investigate...and the ram steps back into the road. We set up again, and I shoot again. It's only about 90 yards, so I am confident, but the ram again disappears into the bush. It looks like the ram is following a low fence in the bush along the road, and Martin decides to send Rocky to sniff him out.

    Within moments, Rocky is engaged with the bushbuck. There is clearly some sort of furball going on, with all kinds of commotion and barking coming from the cover next to the road. We move up, and through the bush I can see the ram and Rocky going at it, with a broadside shot available through the scrub. But Rocky is close, and Martin tells me not to shoot until he can call him off. It's a 10-yard shot, but it takes a minute for Martin to get Rocky to back off. I tell Martin I have a clear shot, Rocky finally disengages, and Martin says "shoot!" I press the trigger and the ram falls.

    But when Rocky emerges from the brush, we can see he has blood all over him. Is it his, or the bushbuck's? Martin wipes him down and we can see he has a pretty good hole in his hip where the bushbuck has stuck him. Not good. So we hurriedly load the bushbuck in Martin's Landcruiser, and head back to the farm we had just hunted. They have livestock, and veterinary supplies, and Martin wants to get some penicillin into Rocky's wound ASAP. Once Rocky is treated, we head back to the lodge. This day is done. I've already scored two of the animals on my list, but it is bittersweet.

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    A battle-scarred bushbuck.
    Sleep was a little fitful that night; partly due to the time change, and partly out of concern for a brave little dog. How would Rocky be in the morning? After some breakfast to start Day 2, we found out. He was a little gimpy, but at least so far, he seemed to be on the mend.

    For now, we're off to another property to look for zebra. I grabbed the .375 Ruger for this one, and Chris now had his rifle, a Mossberg Patriot in .308 Winchester. It didn't take long before Martin got me out in front of a couple of zebra, and set up the sticks at 200 yards. The shot was good, though the zebra did run a bit before collapsing. Martin decided to take the opportunity to let Rocky do some more tracking, both for the training opportunity, and to make sure he hadn't lost his nerve after the fight with the bushbuck. He shouldn't have worried. A quick sniff of some blood spoor, and Rocky was off like a zebra-seeking missile. Despite the slight hitch in his giddyup, Rocky was still more than game...and I had my zebra.

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    The .375 Ruger proved to be great zebra medicine.

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    Perfectly expanded 250-grain Hornady GMX retrieved from the zebra; 246.8 grain retained weight.
    We went on that day to collect an impala for Chris...a good one, and commence the search for his kudu. The kudu didn't happen, though we did see a few females and non-shooter bulls in the area. The impala would have to be enough to round out the day.

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    Nothing wrong with that impala.
    Day 3 saw us heading to yet another property, hunting in earnest for a kudu for Chris. I carried the scout rifle that day, but didn't fire a shot as we learned precisely why the kudu is called the "Grey Ghost of Africa." We drove, and walked, and climbed, and glassed all day, until about 2:00 PM, when Martin jammed on the brakes of the Landcruiser and hissed, "Good bull! Get out!" I was on the opposite side of the vehicle, and struggled to get around in time to grab a little video of Chris's 220 yard shot.



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    Good bull.
    Time for me to hit the sack...we'll finish this up tomorrow.
     

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    Edge, SkunkMonkey14, dtarin09 and 9 others like this.

  2. Gemsbok Gangsta

    Gemsbok Gangsta AH Enthusiast

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    Incredible seems to be a common theme!!! @KMG SAFARIS looks like some new range digs very
     
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  3. billc

    billc SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Glad you had a great hunt. animals look very nice to. Great job
     
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  4. reedy0312

    reedy0312 AH Ambassador

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    Congrats on your hunt and thanks for sharing!
     
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  5. JakeH

    JakeH AH Veteran

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    Seems like every time I read about KMG, the hunter has nothing but GREAT things to say. I'm looking forward to part two!
     
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  6. CAustin

    CAustin BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Nice animals ! Congrats on your hunt.
     
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  7. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH Legend

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    Good stuff gentleman. Love your bushbuck. High on my list. But everything is high on my list.lol be there in 6 days........ Can't wait to track buffalo and add some PG to the trophy room!
     
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  8. Wheels

    Wheels AH Legend

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    Glad your having a good hunt with Marius. Look forward to the rest.
     
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  9. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Those dogs are all guts.
    Lots of excitement so far.
     
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  10. adgunner

    adgunner AH Fanatic

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    Great report Dave, it was fantastic to meet you in the camp! Looking forward to the rest of your hunt report!
     
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  11. huntaholic

    huntaholic AH Senior Member

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    Great report so far. When I got to the bushbuck, I immediately thought about the bushbuck we saw in the road every night just down a bit from Mpunzi also saw a 1 horn duiker in the same area nearly every night.

    It won't be long and Marius will have a 2-3 year wait list with all these awesome reports. Goes to show you what a great job he does for his clients...

    Looking forward to reading more.
     
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  12. Nyati

    Nyati AH Ambassador

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    Bushbuck are dangerous, for dogs and people, you should never underestimate them.
     
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  13. MarkD

    MarkD AH Senior Member

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    Our ph said he's way more scared of a wounded bushbuck than most dangerous game. He almost got stuck one night going in after one. Had a dog almost killed by one. Tough suckers
     
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  14. Wheels

    Wheels AH Legend

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. Aegis

    Aegis AH Senior Member

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    Got held up yesterday helping to move my niece into her dorm for her first year of college. I hope to get the rest of the story up tonight. Thanks for all the likes and comments!
     

  16. cagkt3

    cagkt3 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Good stuff so far, looking forward to the rest!
     
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  17. Aegis

    Aegis AH Senior Member

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    When last we met, Chris had just taken a nice kudu bull, after about a day and a half of chasing. But there's some daylight left, and we both have impala on our list, so our next move is to try to find me one. There are some in the area, but the only opportunity at a ram that afternoon is fleeting. We see a lone ram bound across the jeep trail in front of us, but by the time we can dismount and get set, my only look at the impala is horns disappearing over the ridge. We swing by the skinning shed to pick up Chris's kudu cape, and head back to the lodge.

    And now is as good a time as any to talk about the atmosphere at Mpunzi Lodge. By this point in the week, there are four pairs of hunters in the lodge. Ole and his teenage son Henrik, were in from Norway and were the first other hunters we met there. Then Chris and I arrived, followed by adgunner and Mrs. adgunner, just in from their lioness hunt near Kimberly...and there's another amazing story to go with this. Reading another KMG report from earlier, adgunner and I had both commented, and figured out that we'd likely cross paths at Mpunzi Lodge, and get to meet up as fellow AH users.

    Once we'd introduced ourselves, we began talking and getting to know each other, and adgunner revealed his service in the Canadian Army. "That's great," I said. "I used to be an officer in the U.S. Army, and once did an exchange program with the Canadian Army for a couple of years." He looks at me a little sideways and asks, "Where were you stationed?" I reply, "Chatham, New Brunswick." Now he's really giving me a look and asks, "When?" I tell him, "1990-1992." He blurts out, "I KNEW you looked familiar! You were one of my instructors!" As it turns out, he had been a new lieutenant in his Phase IV officer training, and I was a U.S. Army captain on exchange there, and had instructed on his course. Here we were, bumping into each other in the middle of Africa, 25 years later! Talk about a small world, and some amazing luck. Luck will play no small role in this safari, it turns out.

    One other pair of hunters arrived the next day, Dave and Maddie from Idaho, and at that point, the group was meshing into a pretty fast little family. Experienced African hunters will already know this, but the people you share your lodge with will make a huge difference in how your total experience goes. When you are not out hunting, these will be the people you eat breakfast with, maybe lunch, and then share a drink and dinner and hunting stories with every evening. I can only hope that when you hunt Africa, you have a lodge full of smiles and laughter like we did. Quality lodge life...

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    Braai!

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    New friends...

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    A country music singing PH...

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    And dogs to scratch...it doesn't get any better.
    Day 4 of the hunt was a little different. It had been clear skies and unseasonably warm weather so far, but this morning we woke to cloudy skies, cooler temps than we'd experienced so far, and quite a bit of moisture in the air. It even sprinkled a few drops of rain during the day, but nothing significant. Regardless, we hunted all day for impala, but nothing was moving. But even though no one fired a shot all day, we got to be out in the wide open spaces of Africa...and there is nothing wrong with that!

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    A misty morning in Africa.

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    Not much moving out there.

    We headed to a new property on Day 5, still looking to collect an impala each for me and for Chris, and a blesbuck for Chris. I had the first opportunity, as Martin lined me up on a nice ram at about 150 yards. After taking a few seconds on the sticks to make sure Martin and I were looking at the same impala, I have him facing to the left, broadside. I line up on the shoulder and press the trigger, and the ram goes down as if struck by lightning. I exhale in relief, as it appears that my shooting troubles are no more, and I have finally redeemed myself. But as we approach the ram, lying left side up, we can't see an entry wound. There's some blood pooling on the rock he's lying on, but no apparent bullet hole. As we get closer, however, we spot the exit wound...on the back of the ram's neck, below the base of the skull! What the heck? How did that happen? And we still can't find the entry wound, until Ollie points it out...the bullet had entered precisely in the left ear hole of the impala. Now I'm feeling bad about my shooting again, because although technically I did shoot an impala in the ear hole at 150 yards, that was not where I was aiming. Oh well. I have now collected the last animal on my list, and it is a good one.

    In fact, Martin's first words when we got a closer look was, "that is a freaking gold-medal impala!" And when I told him my original plan was to simply do a European mount for my impala, his response was that while he didn't want to push me into doing anything I didn't want to do, he was afraid that if I didn't shoulder mount this ram, I'd wind up regretting it. I knew he was right, and asked Ollie to go ahead and cape it for a shoulder mount for me.

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    Headshot impala ram...yeah, I meant to do that.

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    Tagged out.
    Once my ram was loaded up, we were off to try to get Chris on a blesbuck, and time permitting, another impala. We had already seen a big herd on the property with lots of standard and white blesbuck, and a few zebra, so we headed back to that area. It was pretty open terrain, dotted with anthills and some low acacia thorn and other scrub trees, so there wasn't much cover. We got busted several times, as one of the sets of eyes in the herd would spot us, and off they all go. Let's try this again. And again, and again. Finally, Martin gets Chris on the sticks, but it's a fairly long shot at about 250 yards. Chris underestimates the drop and puts the shot a little low, breaking the leg of his blesbuck, but it is still able to run and we lose it. But we aren't giving up, as we know it's hit and there's plenty of day light left.

    We make a big circle to try to get ahead of the herd without spooking them, but in the meantime we stumble across a nice impala ram, and Martin waves Chris up. But he can only see it by dropping to a knee and looking underneath some brush, so there's no sticks for this shot at about 120 yards. Chris pulls up into a kneeling position, and makes it look easy with a perfect shot, dropping the ram in its tracks. We go collect the ram, and although it's good one, we're still worried about finding the wounded blesbuck. We get some pictures and get the impala in the truck, and head back out to track down the blesbuck.

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    A nice second impala for Chris, and a perfect shot.
    We keep working to outflank the blesbuck herd, and all of a sudden we cross paths with the wounded ram, all by himself. Even though he's almost out of gas, we want to end it as quickly as possible, and Chris sets up a shot to finish it at about 100 yards. He breaks the shot and the ram falls, apparently done for. But as we approach, Chris notices that the ram is still moving, and as we close to about 50 yards, he gets up and makes a run for it. When we started our hunt for the wounded blesbuck, Martin had retrieved his rifle from the vehicle, to get as many guns in the field as possible and hopefully end the animal's suffering as quickly as possible. Now, the twice-shot blesbuck is up and running almost straight away from us at about 50 yards, when Martin raises his suppressed .300 WSM and puts one right between the shoulder blades...and the blesbuck somersaults to a stop. It's over.

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    One tough blesbuck.
    Day 5 is over, and Chris and I are both tagged out. We spend the next day with Martin, working the 50,000 acre property that Mpunzi Lodge sits on, looking for baboons. We see one troop cross the jeep trail ahead of us, and we all three bail, hoping for a shot. Martin and Chris both let fly and miss, but I never get a good look, so I hold fire. We finish the day without taking anything but pictures of the amazing African countryside...and there's nothing wrong with that at all.

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    You'd almost expect to see King Kong come stomping out of the forest...
    So now our hunting is done, and all we have left on the to-do list is a photo game drive at nearby Pumba Game Reserve. This is a large private game reserve, with all of the Big Five on property, and lots of opportunities to see other iconic African wildlife. Highlights of this tour were a close encounter with a solo elephant, a beautiful male white lion...the "old man" of the place, and an amazing view of two male giraffes in combat. I will say that if you have never see two adult male giraffes going at it, it is incredible just how violent it actually is. I had seen video of this type of behavior before, on TV nature shows and the like, but I had no appreciation for just how hard they actually hit each other. Even our guide on the drive, who had seen this before, gasped at some of the blows these two were landing. They hit each other so hard, you could actually see strings of saliva fly, as they literally knocked the slobber out of each other. It was an incredible display!

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    This fellow got close enough to touch. I did not.

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    A nap in the sun feels too good...ignore the tourists.

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    Giraffe fight!



    It is impossible to describe how hard these guys were hitting.
    But now our time in Africa is winding down, and as we're in our room packing for departure the next day, I go to case my rifles. When I pick up my scout rifle, I feel the scope assembly move a little under my hand. I think. It was so slight, I wasn't sure it wasn't in my head, so I handed it to Chris and asked him if he could feel it. He could. Well, that explains a lot. Although the rifle shot perfectly from the bench, apparently something was loose enough that it could be moved, and perhaps had done exactly that in the field. (I investigated further upon arrival home, and it turns out that the Picatinny rail upon which the scope was mounted had loosened slightly. Lesson learned: I will physically test the tightness of all screws and mounts next time, regardless of how the gun seems to be shooting.)

    The week is over way too quickly, as Mpunzi Lodge has begun to feel like home, and its occupants much like family. I'm a little sad to leave. As Robert Ruark said, I have left a bit of myself behind in Africa, and I must return to ransom it back.




    Thanks, KMG!

    I cannot say enough good about KMG Hunting Safaris. I know of folks who like to go to different places in Africa, and hunt with different safari companies, and I can understand the appeal of approaching African hunting in that way. As for me, I cannot imagine hunting anywhere else, or with anyone else. I'll see y'all again soon...
     

  18. reedy0312

    reedy0312 AH Ambassador

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    Some nice pics also! Congrats on the hunt and thanks for sharing!
     
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  19. tay50

    tay50 AH Veteran

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    13
    Likes Received:
    116
    Member of:
    Ducks Unlimited, SCI, RMEF
    Hunted:
    Canada, USA, Michigan, Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Ohio, RSA, Limpopo, Free State
    Aegis I knew you would have a great hunt with KMG, have been there twice and planning number 3 already. Glad you had a great time and Adgunner is a stand up guy, met him in Toronto this past March when we went to see Marius and Kim at the sportsman show.
     
    Aegis and SkunkMonkey14 like this.

  20. adgunner

    adgunner AH Fanatic

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2012
    Messages:
    739
    Video/Photo:
    41
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    542
    Hunted:
    Canada (AB,SK,ON,QC,NB,NS) USA (TX,ME) South Africa (5) Argentina
    Aegis, those are two great videos! I have told the story around the HQs of how we ran into each other at the lodge more than 25 years later and people can't believe it. It truly is a small world. I look forward to telling all the old birdgunners about our meeting during the St. Barbara's day festivities later this year!
     
    Aegis likes this.

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