SOUTH AFRICA: June 22 - Cabelas & Leopards Valley Safaris - Sable & Plains Game Hunt

xbr897

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Background​

I was thinking back on my hunting experiences and have concluded that it has been >20 years since I have hunted any game larger than birds. There was a long period of time where I was not shooting firearms at all. It was roughly 7 years ago that I got back in to rifle shooting and then started doing more ‘precision rifle’ shooting. Since then, I’d done plenty of shooting at targets, just none at animals. For those who ask why I’d go from nothing to hunting Africa, I blame my brother. He is much more of a consistent hunter and the person who had convinced me to get back in to rifle shooting years ago. And when this hunt came up being offered by Cabela’s, he convinced me to take a chance on it. This hunt was a big change for me from my normal routine but boy am I am glad I did it.


The players:
  • B – My PH
  • J – The Cabela’s host who travelled with us and spent time along with each hunter on different days
  • D – The Cabela’s photographer with us, also splitting his time along with each hunter
  • M – our spotter/tracker/skinner along with my PH & *
  • Dave – Owner of Leopards’ Valley

Day 1​

The day started out with sighting in the rifles. My PH, who I’ll refer to as “B.” in this report, had me using his Sauer 70 in 30-06 with a suppressor on it. The rifle was stamped as “Made in West Germany” and was manufactured during the 1980s. It was an adjustment for me due to its more raked hand grip as I’m used to closer to a 90-degree angle grip. But it didn’t take long to get comfortable. I started on their bench to confirm zero. Sadly, due to my short height and the fixed concrete seat & tabletop, I couldn’t get setup using their bag and being in a seated position. After trying to sit on a gun case for more height, and that not working, I decided to just stand instead. Target was an 8” steel square positioned 200 yards out. I aligned crosshairs on its center, carefully squeeze trigger, and hit on the first shot. Next up was to shoot using the sticks. For shooting sticks, B. had the quad sticks that supports both front and rear of the rifle. He had them already pre-set in height for me so I just had to get the rifle on them and take shot. I lined up on target, got some advice on position when using sticks, squeezed trigger, and hit again. With that, we were done confirming zero and headed off to our hunting area.

There it was a 1-hour drive to the location we’d be hunting that day. Right past the first gate we went through we saw a Kudu bull that was seemed pretty nice size to me. This felt like a good sign for the first day. But it was on a property not open to hunting and it was not as big as they’d like folks to get. Driving through many more gates we saw various other animals and a ton of monkeys. Those dang monkeys annoyed me so many times as I’d think I’d see a flash of movement only to see it was just a monkey.

My First African Animal​

We eventually got to the property we were to hunt on, picked up our ranger to ride with us, and started to drive around looking. We saw some Elephants and even a Rhino, just nothing on my hunting list. After driving for a while and seeing Giraffes and other animals not on the list, the trackers had seen a good-looking Impala. So, we got out and hiked along a ridge to get a better view of them. We got aligned up with them but one was just staring at our position and we were afraid they’d all run if we tried to setup for a shot. We sat for about 15-20 minutes waiting for him to look away and for us to be able to setup. But it never happened. So M., our tracker, walked back and further up the ridge to see if there was an angle from there. He signaled there was and we back tracked and then walked further up. I still had not been able to see the Impala as we were hiding from their view. We got up to M.’s position and B. motioned for me to get lined up right behind him. He setup the sticks and I set the rifle on top of them, already perfectly aligned with the Impala. He explained which one to shoot to confirm I was looking at same one, and it was right in my scope. But it was moving around a bit, it seemed to know we were there. Some other smaller rams with it were just milling around so it didn’t dart. It was circling though so we had to reposition the sticks to re-align. It quartered away for a few steps and then it turned and stopped to give me broadside shot at about 130 yards. I placed reticle right on its right front leg, 1/3 up in to the body, got steady in position, and took the shot. It dropped right in its tracks and B. says “now that’s some rifle shooting”. We walked over to it and I was able to see it up close. Beautiful, with good size horns including a “tractor seat” (curving out from head and then back in and backwards, looking like an old tractor seat). Looking at point of impact, I pulled the shot a little right as instead of the shoulder I had hit in the neck and broken its neck. But it was down clean. We then did our pictures and called in the guys to pick it up for skinning and prep. Then we drove to the skinning shed to meet them and the other truck.

We chatted for a bit, had lunch, and then sat for 30 mins to let weather cool off a bit before we went back out.



Animal #2​

Going back out, we were planning to look for some Springbuck or Warthogs for a bit before looking for Kudu. We drove around just a little bit before M. & B. spotted a nice Springbuck. We dismounted and walked over to a point above it. Once we got there, we setup sticks on it. It was across a small valley a bit under 200 yards away and mostly a broadside shot, though he was also facing a bit uphill. But I rushed the shot and cleanly missed in front of it. It ran about 50 yards to its left and then stopped again. We setup again and I felt like I have a good shot on it, right at shoulder, but I didn’t account for it having run a bit further away and I hit low and in to the leg. It was wounded, but it was still up and moving. It was unfortunately exactly what Dave, our host, had described as “The Estate Agent” as it then took us for a bit of a tour of the property. It would hobble a bit and then stand still. But as soon as we’d get the sticks on it, it would take off again. We tried three times to get lined up on it but it just kept moving too much. B. then said we’d put his dog Ruger, a Jack Russel, on him. Surprisingly, this dog has learned to take down wounded animals as large as Kudu. So off Ruger went ahead of us as we kept hiking to follow the animal and try to get another shot. Unfortunately, the springbuck just kept going. We walked at least a mile and a half before Ruger was able to drag him down. Ruger would have gotten him earlier but there was a bedded down Springbuck that the wounded one went past and they split in separate directions. Ruger first went after that other one before B. got him called back. Then he was back on the trail of the wounded one. We went over a hill and then Ruger had him down. Another tracker had circled ahead of us and was nearby. He tried to approach the animal but then it got up and ran another 20 yards before Ruger took it down again. Then the tracker was able to get to it and use his knife to finish it. It was a long hike, through very rocky and unstable terrain, but the animal was finally done. Its fur raised and B. knew it wouldn’t last long so we quickly got in and got my pics with it. Within 2 mins the fur was back down and B. explained that it raised right after death and could last as little as 30 seconds so it was fortunate we got as may pics as we did in the minute or two we had. I had to try the smell of its back and it did truly smell like cotton candy, very sweet.

Springbuck.jpg


Then our guide & tracker took it back to the truck and drove it to the skinning shed. We dropped it quickly then went looking for Kudu. We didn’t find any but did some a couple of elephants around. We drove to get closer to them and got some great pics.

We caught up with another hunter in our group, who had shot a Kudu, and then headed back to the lodge as it was about 5:30 and we had another hour drive back to the lodge.

All in all, an amazing first day in Arica.

Day 2​

The plan was to find Sable. We had two trucks with plans for each truck to work on different sides of a riverbed looking for Sable. J. and B. and I went for the high side and to look a bit more in the flatter areas first. We spent about an hour and a half with not seeing much other than some springbuck. B. then checked in with the other PH, A. to see how they were doing. A. reported they were tracking a wounded one and that he’d update us. We looked for about 30 minutes before checking in again with the other group. They were now looking for some help as they were still tracking the wounded one. We went over to figure out where they were and how we could help. I was impressed at how easily B. found them considering there was no sharing of GPS coordinates, just verbal descriptions of where they were and where we were. Once we met up, we first got them some water and then we all worked together. Each team had the PH, a tracker, and the hunter. Now we had 2 of each. We tracked the blood trails and marks in the sand for another hour or so before finally being a position for him to make the final shot. The interesting thing to me was that the trail seemed lost at one point but it was due to the Sable taking a greater than 90 degree left turn from the path he had been on. The group had lost the trail but then A. picked up this turn and got things back on track. The animal was less than 50 yards from that point, holed up in some brush. The hunter and A. were able to find him and a final shot finished him off. Then we had about an hour wait for people to go find the trucks and get to where we were. After that they did photos of him & his Sable, including the Cabela’s photographer doing all of his professional shots. All in all, about 30 minutes of photos. We eventually packed up and headed back for the house around 2:30. We got back and had lunch and then B. took me back out to walk a different part of that property and look for two other Sable they had seen in the morning. This was a nice 2.5-mile walk, but no Sable to be seen. We went back to the lodge and called it a day.


Day 3​

Woke up to a much colder morning that previous two. We had another great breakfast and then headed out around 7:15. Our plan was to return to the same area as previous afternoon. We didn’t see much of anything as we were driving. We got to our intended area, which was about the furthest point we had walked to the previous afternoon but on the other side of the riverbed. We parked the car and started walking in. Plan was to walk down hallway and then back before driving the truck around to the other end and doing same halfway & back from there.

Before walking up the riverbed B. wanted to check out the fence corner upper area at end of our walk the previous night. We walked up there and saw a Sable standing to our left, near the corner. Unfortunately, the sun was across right on us with the Sable looking right at us, so no chance to setup sticks without spooking it. We moved behind brush to our right and up the hill to try and get the sun behind us. We lost sight of him as we did this since we were using the brush for hiding our movements. When we came around to be able to see where he was, he was no longer there. Our guess was he jumped the fence and was gone. We walked back down to the riverbed and no more than a minute later we heard movement again in the brush to our left. We slowly and quietly went back up near the open area we had just been in. We could see him through the brush and then looked for a good place to come out without him seeing us. B. adjusted my scope to 12x mag saying it would be longer shot. He also warned it could be tough shooting towards the sun and that he’d try to help cover if there was glare. We got out of the riverbed and just behind some brush. B. saw him and motioned for me to get right behind so I’d be ready when he setup the sticks. Just to the right of a small tree he put down the sticks, perfectly aligned with the Sable, and moved for me to setup the rifle on them. I had rifle down and Sable right in the scope immediately. I lined up vertical reticle on the front leg and put the crosshairs right on the bulge at top of the leg, just as B. had guided. My breathing was spot on and there was no wavering in my hold on the Sable. After the 4hr tracking of a wounded one and my miss on the Springbuck, I wanted to be very sure of shot placement so we wouldn’t have to track him down. It all felt right so I squeezed the trigger. The Sable leapt and bounded to my right and disappeared behind a larger bush. I asked B. if I had missed him or not hit right and he said he didn’t have his binos up yet so he didn’t have a good look. But he said he heard an impact and wasn’t worried.

We waited a few minutes for M. to make his way over to us and then started up towards where the Sable was when I took the shot. I was getting nervous as I wasn’t seeing any blood or indicator of a hit. Then M. picked up some blood drops. We followed them a few steps and B. waved me over to show me more blood and tell me that he liked the color of it because it was oxygenated blood and likely from the lungs. I was still nervous and unsure if it would be a long tracking, so I turned on the ‘outdoor walk’ workout on my Apple watch to have it track our GPS position and distance travelled. We walked just a little bit more between some bushes and M. motioned to B. B. came over to congratulate me, I hadn’t yet seen the Sable. Then he took me a few steps forward and I was able to see the Sable down on the ground and done. After we walked up to him, I stopped the watch workout and noted we walked a total of 5 minutes and covered 386ft. The slow time was due to walking very slowly following the small amounts of blood. When we got to the animal, I was able to see why – there was no exit hole. The bullet entered just behind the Sable’s right shoulder but there was no hole on the other side. Once the animal was dressed M. was able to dig out the bullet as it had embedded in the left shoulder bone. The shot had torn through the lungs and impacted the far shoulder.

We then did all the pictures, with the Cabela’s Photographer D. being there with all of his professional equipment and then B. using his and my phone to take more pictures. This took a bit of time to get all the professional pictures, but boy where they amazing.

Then came the hard part. There was a road about 200 yards away, but no gate through the fencing. We were going to need to drag the Sable back to the truck by going through the riverbed. M. quickly gutted it to reduce the weight as much as we could. But that sucker was still heavy. We dragged him on the sail about 50 yards and then D. suggested we look again for way to get truck closer. He and M. went up to the fence corner to look. B. and I were talking for a bit while I was still taking in having shot this animal. At appoint we both basically said “they’ve been gone longer that it would takt to just look, they must have found a way in and went to get the truck”. Sure enough, we then hear the truck engine and see D. guiding M. around holes in the ground. There was no gate in the fence but the fence had been broken and they saw they were able to lay it down so they could drive over it. They drove in, we loaded the Sable, and then we drove out. Then we spent some time fixing up the fence to ensure it would stay up and we headed back.

We drove to the skinning shed and M. finished up his skinning work. He then dug out the bullet and gave it to B. I took some pics and then boiled it to get off any meat residue and be able to bring it home. B. was very happy with how well the ‘cheap’ 150gr Federal ammo worked and said its why he’ll keep using it.

B. and I talked about what next and decided to go for another Impala we had seen that was an old dude with some more vertical shape to his horns. We went looking that afternoon but were unable to find him.

Day 3 – Windy nothingness​

We went back to same property as first day and basically drove around all day without seeing much. We were checking low and high. Most of the day was really just driving around on rocky/hilly terrain with periodic stops to glass and look. It was just not a good day and we didn’t see much of anything.

Day 4 – Back for Kudu​

It was another windy day, so we stayed on Dave’s property. Goal was to look for Kudu or find that Impala we had seen twice before.

We were back in the same area where I shot the Sable, but more in the field vs in the riverbed. We were walking along and really not seeing much at all. We did come across a Duiker under a tree, and he was a very nice one, but I didn’t want to take a shot early and pass up chance for Kudu or Impala that morning. Then B. just veered off to our right to a different area. We saw a bunch of springbuck and Impala together and sure enough the Impala we’d had our eye out for was in the group. They were all in some brush and spooked, running to our right. Then for some reason some springbuck stopped and ran back to the left. The Impala were just milling around. We moved to our right to a different cleaning and B. setup the sticks, right on line for me. The ram was standing mostly on his own and not moving a whole lot, just looking around. I held to ensure I was steady and took the shot. Distance was 180-190 yards with point of aim being the shoulder. I apparently pulled a bit right as the impact was in base of neck. Right in line vertically with POA, just a bit right. The Impala reared up like a Ferrari prancing horse and then he was down. Not even 5 yards from when I took the shot. Out total distance from leaving the truck to the shooting location was 1.25 miles. We took our pictures and then took him back to the house.

In the afternoon, we looked around for Kudu but continued winds really kept stuff from moving. Lots of walking, not much seen.

Day 5 – More nothingness​

We drove the whole day without seeing much of anything. Winds were high and most animals were bedded down. In the afternoon we went up to the mountains behind the lodge. We sat on a ridge overlooking a valley. Very close to last light, we did see a nice Kudu bull and a cow. The bull was about 200 yards out across the valley but with all the winds going on neither B. or I felt we wanted to take the shot. We watched him for a while and then called it a day with a plan to come back for him in the morning. That night Dave warned up “I’ve seen this story before…” hinting that we may have missed our chance at the Kudu.

Day 6 – A rough one​

This day was the toughest on me mentally during the trip. We knew I just had Kudu left on my list of animals for this hunt, and were hoping to get one. B. had warned me on the first day that he had a rep as only getting Kudu on the last day and we were both wanting to break that streak. We again stayed on Dave’s properties and hoofed it around. We went back in the morning to glass the valley from the previous evening but the wind was just howling and we saw nothing at all. In the afternoon we went back to the riverbed area to see if we could scratch any up. We weren’t seeing anything all day long. Around 3:30, we get a radio call from A. that they had seen a Kudu bull on the opposite side of the lodge from where we were, back in the mountains again. We had just started our walk from one end of a property and M. had taken the truck to the other end, so we had a bit of a hike on us. We were fighting daylight so I was trying to go as fast as I could, but I knew I wasn’t in the shape I should have been for this hunt. We finally got to the road and about same time could see M. coming out of the field ahead of us with the truck. He drove down the road to pick us up and give us all water. We high tailed it back past the lodge and then took a bit to meet up with A. and the other hunter. They had seen a nice bull go over an embankment to the other side and were waiting for us. We then all went to the edge to take a look but didn’t see anything. After a bit, B. and A. caught some motion that was the Kudu bull going over the next ridge. At this time, we were out of daylight and so we went back to camp. I was pretty disappointed with my being out of shape hurting my chance to get a Kudu. On my next trip I’ll ensure I’m in much better shape. Definitely a rough way to end the day.


Day 7 – Final day​

For this day, we headed back to where we had been two days earlier to the overlook area in mountains behind the lodge. We headed out around 7AM and had two places we stopped along the way to glass for anything. M. had seen a bull but he moved in to the brush and disappeared. We drove up to the top and parked. M. went one way and B. the other so they could check out different valleys. I waited a bit and B. came back with not having seen anything. So, we went the opposite way to get back to the overlook we had been on 2 days earlier.

We were sitting and not seeing anything at all. Wind was blowing, just not as strong as earlier days. Then in one lull in the wind we hear a tree branch snap. B. asked if I heard it and then he locked in binos on the area it came from. Then the bull appeared. It took a bit for B. to get me on him with my binos as the bull was about 300 yards and just walking in brush. I then watched him while B. was setting up sticks and a shooting perch for me. He set it up for me to sit on a rock with the sticks low in front of me. The shot was angling downhill from me. Bull was about 280-290 yards at this point. B. reminded me to align with front leg and aim at top 1/3rd of the animal to account for extra drop of the 280-yard shot. The Bull had no idea we were there, he was just milling around and eating. This was the first time I got a bit of buck fever on the trip. B. noticed and calmly reminded me to take deep breaths and not rush. Within a minute I was good again. I lined up to take the shot, pulled the trigger, and then realized the safety was still on. It was good though as I noticed I had jerked trigger and had not really been steady. I took more time to calm down and flicked off the safety. The bull then walked behind a bush and B. said he would step right out into a clearer area and to be ready for a good shot. It seemed like forever while we couldn’t see him at all. In talking afterwards, we were both thinking the bull had disappeared on us. Then, we see his head stick out the other side. He stepped out mostly broadside but very slightly quartering away from us. It was a very good target setup so I made sure I had good breathing and a steady aim point. I slowly pulled the trigger and then immediately cycled the action to be ready for follow-up. B. saw the hit and called out ‘reload’. He asked if I still had him in my sights, but I had lost him why cycling action. As I was re-acquiring him, B. then said “wait, he’s dead”. He then asked M. if he saw the same thing and M. said yes. We watched for a bit while I still have rifle ready and then agreed he was down. He maybe went 10 yards from when I shot.

Describing it later, B. noted that he first thought it was a gut shot due to the sound of impact and that the kudu didn’t have the hit reaction he was used to. The Kudu jumped a bit, just not what he normally sees. Then, as B. described it, the Kudu stopped and was looking in our direction when he just slowly tipped over and fell to the ground. Once we secured the rifle and M. was on the way down to the animal, I was able to look though my binos and see where he was down, easily seeing one of his large ears. We stayed on the ridge to guide M. to the animal. Once he got there, we asked him to hold up the horns and that was the first time I had a real reference point on the size. Beautiful horns. When cleaning the animal, they determined that the bullet entered just behind right shoulder, destroyed the heart, and exited out the left side. It was the lack of near or far side shoulder impact that had B. thinking it sounded like a gut shot.

I cannot describe the feelings of getting the Kudu. It was just different from the other animals on the hunt. It was much more work, and a lot of frustration along the way, but it all came together. I still need to work on getting in shape, but firing 6 shots to take 5 animals felt pretty good to me in terms of rifle skills. It had been an up & down week trying to get a Kudu, but we finally had it. The night before I was fearing there would be no Kudu on this trip. But instead of giving up, I went back out there and relied on B. & M. They both came through for me with flying colors. I could tell B. got a giant rush out of my success as well. We absolutely bonded on this trip and I can’t wait to come back and hunt with him again.

B. and I made our way back to the truck and then down the hill. It took us about 30 minutes to get to M. We went back to the house to get D. to do some photos, as he had been waiting there to see who was able to get animals and then he’d go to them. We then went back to M. with D. and 4 helpers, including one of Dave’s sons, to get the Kudu out. We spent about 15 minutes getting all the pictures before they gutted the Kudu to lighten him up to get out. Then it took a while to get him on the sail and over to the truck before we all headed back to the lodge. Even though it was only morning, I was done for the day and going to enjoy finishing a bottle of wine at the lodge to cap off the trip.



Wrapping it all Up

Words seem to fail me in trying to express how amazing this whole trip was for me. From the point of being picked up at PLZ airport to the point of being dropped back off there, I felt so welcomed and supported. I really enjoyed the environment and variety of the areas we hunted. The 3 hours’ drive to Leopard’s Valley gave me time to get to know B a bit and really become comfortable. As soon as we arrived Dave & Nikki and everyone there was awesome, taking care of anything that we may need the whole trip. I was truly sad to be leaving them all on the last day and I am planning to get back there next year for some more hunting and time with them.
 
Last edited by a moderator:
I hunted with Leopards Valley in
DE9978BF-5E4C-47CA-9A14-6F164C8D498C.jpeg
2016 and hunted those same mountains. Took a kudu on down in the riverbed on 2nd to the last day with PH Craig Done. Nikki and Dave are a lot of fun. Had a great hunt also.Took Rowland Ward Klipspringer, Mountain Reedbuck, and Steenbok one of my best hunts ever!
 
Great report- would love to see some pics
 
Dave & Nikki are awesome. As much as Nikki professed to not liking to cook, all of her food was great. Craig was there during my trip as well though he was with another hunter. Great guy. They all had great senses of humor too.

I'll get some pics up shortly here.
 
I'm not much for myself in photos so I've cut me out, but here are some pics:

Springbuck:
Springbuck.jpg


Sable:
Sable.jpg


2nd Impala:
I know these aren't the largest set of horns on him. He was a very old guy and we both liked the character he had, particularly with the more vertical horns vs tilted inwards.
Impala 2 - Old Guy.jpg


Kudu:
Kudu.jpg


The view from behind the lodge to the mountains
Mountains Behind lodge.jpg
 
Wow those are great- thank you for sharing
 

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