SOUTH AFRICA: Kingsview Safaris March 2020

375Fox

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I just returned back to US on March 22nd after finishing a hunt with Kingsview Safaris in the Eastern Cape with PH/outfitter Jono McHugh. This was my 9th African hunt between South Africa, Namibia, and Zambia. This was a really great hunt and was equal with any of my best hunts. I hunted from March 13-March 20, 2020 and took 2 cape bushbucks, 1 nyala, 1 impala, 1 black wildebeest, 1 bushpig, 1 black springbok, 1 common springbok and I unfortunately had to cut the hunt short before we were able to get a kudu (last animal on my list). Had I been able to stay the extra 2 days as planned I’m really confident I would have taken one, but I was just really glad to be allowed to leave South Africa and get to the USA with all the coronavirus measures happening without notice.

I only recently joined this forum, but I have been watching for quite a while. I started this hunt by wanting to hunt with a smaller outfitter and focus on getting at least 2 cape bushbucks (and hopefully get out of cold early spring weather). I used the hunting reports posted here as my starting point to contact outfitters. I contacted multiple outfitters and received quality responses from all, but I decided on Kingsview Safaris for a couple of reasons that stood out to me. I contacted all of Kingsview’s American references who all had great things to say about their trips. Then after talking with Jono on the phone, I decided to book for March 2020. I really enjoyed hunting with Jono. He puts in a lot of effort each day and really enjoys hunting and knows his areas. I appreciated that he allowed me to be a part of the hunt by discussing how we were going to hunt and being willing to listen to my input for how we could maybe do something different. I’m sure he was under a lot of stress during my hunt with concerns about cancellations and deferred hunts over coronavirus, but he didn’t let it show or interfere with the hunt which I think says a lot about him.

I hadn’t previously hunted the Eastern Cape. I had always thought of it as a first African hunt destination, but I’m really glad this was my 9th trip because I think I appreciated the hunting areas more. This was one of the first African hunts I’ve had where we seriously spent a lot of time glassing and did a lot of walking, I really enjoyed this aspect of the hunt. We started the hunting in Jono’s coastal area, which is exclusive to him. It is located just outside Port Elizabeth near Jeffreys Bay. I was really impressed by this property. He said it is around 8000 Hectares (20,000 acres), the total surface area is much larger. It is comprised of deep valleys, cliffs, a flowing river, open areas, high ridges, thick brush, a long coastline, just a really diverse landscape. Hopefully pictures can show it better than what I can describe. Here we saw Bushbuck, Bontebok, Eland, Giraffe, Impala, Kudu, Lechwe, Nyala, Red Hartebeest, Warthogs, Waterbuck, and Zebra. For Nyala and Lechwe, this must be one of the best properties available for trophy quality and numbers. There is also a smaller breeding camp for oribi, but they want to let them breed more before they release them onto the main property. We also saw lots of tortoises, several big monitor lizards, and Jono said he gets leopard pictures on most trail cameras he sets up. This property was really unique to me, the owners are trying to remove all non-native vegetation and it just feels really wild when you hunt there. The next property we hunted was a huge property in the karoo near Graaf Reinet. I was really glad to hunt here in March because it had been receiving rains and was really beautiful green with good grass. The property was divided into 2, a flatter part with a high fence and a more mountainous part, all low fence area, part of a larger conservancy. We focused on the low fence area for most species and we also hunted inside the high fence area for kudu. We did a lot of walking each day, up and down valleys with a lot of glassing. I really enjoyed hunting like this. Here we saw Blesbok, Black and Common springbok, Bushpig, Eland, Kudu, Mt Reedbuck, Black Wildebeest, Zebra, Vaal Rhebok, all free range/low fence. There are more species inside the fence including Hartebeest, Gemsbok, impala and others. I can’t imagine a better area for Vaal Rhebok hunting we saw them numerous times each day. The views here each day were stunning.

I’m going to give a day by day break down, but in summary, I had a really great hunt and would highly recommend Kingsview Safaris to anyone. I used Travel Express for travel arrangements and was really happy with them. I used Africa Sky guest house for gun permit and for overnight and day room and was really happy with them too.

March 11 – I arrived in Johannesburg on the Delta flight from Atlanta. I was met by Gilbert from Africa Sky Guest House. They had my rifle permit pre-approved and everything went really smoothly. Really nice accommodations.

March 12 – I was supposed to start hunting this afternoon, but because SAA went bankrupt my original flight was cancelled. I stayed at Africa Sky for the day and flew to Port Elizabeth on an airlink flight that evening that landed at 8:15 pm. Jono met me at the airport and we drove to Intle Lodge.

March 13 – We started hunting in the morning. The lodge is about a 15-20 minute drive to the hunting area. We drove the river, drove some of the higher areas, went to the more open areas along the coast doing a lot of glassing as we went. Focus for hunt was bushbuck. After lunch in hunting area, we walked a water line going from the owner’s camp. A bushbuck ram barked at us but we weren’t able to see in the thick brush. We reached the water pipeline right of way going through the property and found a female bushbuck but no ram. We continued to drive and stop to glass. We found a really nice nyala close to dark, but I wasn’t able to get a shot off in time before they ran off. Saw a lot of animals and had a great day.

March 14 – We found same Nyala from previous night along river, after a successful stalk, I took maybe a 150 yard shot, and we had first animal of trip. We took Nyala to skinning shed and left Elvis our tracker/skinner to skin the Nyala. Jono and I went to walk the pipeline right of way along the coast for bushbuck. We walked entire way to fence line without seeing anything, on walk back Jono and I were talking and a bushbuck came running out of the brush. He stopped and faced us when he saw us. I dropped to one knee and took a frontal shot at about 50 yards. We found him about 20 feet into the brush, second animal of trip. This was my primary animal of the trip and definitely took off a lot of stress. Saw a lot of animals again today and was a great day.

March 15 – We took a loop around the high ridges of the property. We saw 2 really impressive bull eland, but Jono said he wants to let them get older. These eland would have been impressive trophies anywhere, I was really impressed he was willing to pass them up and let them get older. He said there are several really old blue bulls on property but we didn’t see unfortunately. While still on loop of high ridges we bumped a bushbuck ram really close to the road. Jono saw the dark color and I saw the horns flared out, but we weren’t 100% sure he was a good one or not yet. Luckily he ran into one of the few isolated thick patches surrounded by open area. First, we slowly started to walk the edge of the brush hoping to see him, but when we realized how big the brush patch was, I suggested to Jono we walk back to top and just watch and he agreed. After about a half hour of no movement, we sent in Elvis our tracker to flush out the bushbuck. I told Jono to just tell me yes or no, as soon as Elvis stepped in, the bushbuck ran out at full speed. Jono started to say the word yes and our 2nd bushbuck was down. I don’t remember the scope picture, pulling the trigger, or anything, but it was a good shot at about 75-80 yards. When we got up to the bushbuck, we discovered his front leg was broken really badly, his hoof only stayed on by some skin, he was still in really good condition and it didn’t appear to slow him down at all. The heavy bands of rain came in right after shooting the bushbuck and we stopped hunting for the afternoon. Jono took me to Jeffreys Bay and I had some great seafood at a restaurant right next to ocean.

March 16 – The weather actually cleared up much earlier that it was supposed to. We were trying to hunt bushbuck #3. We saw lots of fresh bushbuck tracks but we were thinking they were from first thing in morning. The wind started to really pick up and we saw a lot less animals than before. We drove the high ridges looking for an impala and found a bachelor group. We had a really good stalk in on them, we bumped them once and they ran further down the road, we stalked in again. I scooted out on edge of brush and had a sitting shot off sticks, I could see impala but only had a small window. He had to take one step. I was getting tired of holding gun and needed to rest. I told Jono if they start to move to tell me. He said now and I took my shot at about 120 yards, the impala ran about 20 yards. We continued hunting rest of day, it was a beautiful sunny day, but the wind caused us to not see a lot of animals.

March 17 – Started hunting again in morning, but with the wind we didn’t see a lot of animals. We went to town to eat at seafood restaurant. Then started drive to the Karoo, arrived at lodge late that evening after about a 5 hour drive from Jono’s farm.

March 18 – We started out from lodge (lodge is in hunting area). We found herds of mostly black springbok right away at base of mountain across from lodge. We used river beds/erosion cuts to stalk in on them. I took a 200 yard shot and we had a black springbok. I was really surprised to find black springbok free range. The owner’s son said they only released several them about 10 years before and it just seems to be the dominant gene now in that part of property. We dropped off Elvis with Springbok then myself, Jono, and Hans (the property owner’s son) started up the valley. Hans spotted Mt reedbuck, Vaal Rheboks, and kudus right away. We moved further up and he found black wildebeest high on mountain. We took Jono’s hilux as far up as we could get it, but then we had to start walking. We got to a point to start our stalk. Hans stayed at point where he could glass wildebeest while Jono and I tried to stalk in, we got to about 400 yards but had to reposition a little further down the mountain and they spotted us. We moved across mountain but couldn’t find them. We radioed Hans who said they had run down the mountain into the valley. We worked our way down the mountain on the side of the valley the wildebeest were on. The wildebeest changed sides of valley, but it appeared they wanted to come back up. We set up in some rocks and watched the wildebeest for a long time they would move our direction and stop, move up and stop, move down and stop, couldn’t really predict their next move but just seemed like they wanted to be back on top. We radioed Hans to walk high above them and see if he couldn’t push our direction. We had set up overlooking a well worn game trail hoping they might use it. The zebras came first then the black wildebeest came trotting through, we were really lucky they used the trail. I took a 200 yard shot in the ribs. He stood behind bush and I took a second shot into his neck that was exposed and we had our black wildebeest. We went back to lodge to eat lunch. After lunch we hunted behind the lodge for kudu. We saw several cows but not many bulls until close to dark. While we were glassing for kudu, I thought I saw a bushpig. I pointed it out to Jono and Hans and Jono got really excited, distance was 1300 m and moving away from us. We quickly drove higher up the mountain we were on. Jono and I side hilled as fast as we could passing Kudu, Vaal Rhebok, and Gemsbok (our only focus at this point was Bushpig) and somehow we got into shooting position on it. I took a 308 yard shot at last light and he went straight down. We were both really excited to have gotten the bushpig, I had almost given up on getting one when they weren’t hitting baits on Jono’s farm (I knew before it would be difficult to get in March with all the green). We had a really long day, but another great day, 3 trophy animals down.

March 19 – We went up mountain with Land Cruiser. Plan was to hunt area without roads for Kudu/Eland. We spotted bull kudus on top and started walking at about 9 am, we crossed the valley and spotted the kudu in next valley again. We tried to stalk but they had moved too far off and we could see eland further up the valley. We worked our way up valley and saw the eland had started to feed our direction. We climbed a small ridge and got set up from sitting position on sticks. It worked out perfect, Eland fed right into us at 150 on opposite side, but unfortunately no old bulls. Another group of eland was further up the valley. We glassed a long time, but unfortunately determined there were no old bulls in the herd. After the eland fed off, we worked our way over to the next ridge close to the border with neighbor’s property. We saw a huge old bull with herd of cows but unfortunately 200 yards on wrong side of border. We started the long walk back to the truck. We saw huge herds of blesbok, lots of springbok, and several Vaal Rhebok. It was a really good day in the valleys on top of the mountain. Was really glad to get back to truck for some water and lunch, finally made it back at about 3 pm. Took a quick rest at lodge then headed back out in last hour behind lodge for kudu. A very cold wind was blowing from a distant thunderstorm and we didn’t see a lot that evening.

March 20 – Woke up and received a forwarded email from Jennifer at Travel Express from State Dept urging all American Citizens to end travel and return home immediately. She suggested I return home ASAP. Contacted Jennifer to change my flights out to the next day as soon as possible. We went behind the lodge again to look kudu, we saw many kudu this morning with the warm sun. We had a great long stalk on a good kudu bull, we were at 250 yards at one point but lost him in the unevenness of the ground. We went right after we got over the ridge and it turned out he had gone left, we accidentally bumped him and he was gone. We changed our plans from Kudu to Common Springbok knowing this was probably going to be our last hunting day. We went a little further up the road to neighbor’s property. From vantage point, we could see multiple herds of springbok and several nice rams. We had a couple failed stalks and got in on a herd with a nice ram, just when I got set up they ran, but another ram we were after showed himself to our left. I had a good shot but I missed at 270 yards. We continued chasing springbok for next hour or 2, easy to see them not so easy to get close. We were at base of mountain and springbok changed direction and came back our way. I got a 170 yard shot off at a nice ram, he went out 10 feet. We got some good pictures and headed back to lodge. At lodge, we spoke to Jennifer at Travel Express and realized getting me out of South Africa was no longer so easy. We made decision to head back to Port Elizabeth right away so at least I was close to airport. She was able to get me on airlink flight leaving Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg, South African airways had announced it was closing all domestic and international flights that day and I was concerned this flight may be included since it was coded SA, luckily it was not. Next she tried to find me a flight back to the USA, originally it was going to be through London with Delta, she also said there were options with Emirates, luckily she was able to get me on the last seat of the Delta flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta, flight was confirmed at 11:30 pm that night I was relieved. Especially relieved that she was able to get me on a gun friendly route, we had discussions about just leaving my gun and luggage there, so I could travel with just a carry on and be flexible, luckily this wasn’t needed.

March 21 – Flew from PE to Johannesburg on airlink flight, Gilbert from Africa Sky met me at airport and took me to guest house for the day, everything there was good again. I met other hunters at the airport and guest house who were not as lucky as me to get a flight out on the 21st, hopefully things worked out for them. That afternoon, he took me back to airport and had me checked in in 20 minutes including gun. I got through security and customs and at 9:30 pm got on my flight to Atlanta, was very relieved, but also disappointed to have needed to cut trip short. Original plan was to hunt through the 22nd and fly out on March 23rd.

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Coastal Hunting Area
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Bushbuck #1
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Coastal Hunting Area, the line just above the beach is the pipeline right of way where we took Bushbuck #1, entire picture is hunting area
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Bushbuck #2
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Monitor Lizard/Coastal Hunting Area
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Coastal Hunting Area
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Coastal Hunting Area
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Eland in Coastal Hunting Area
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Karoo Hunting Area
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Karoo Hunting Area, path the Black Wildebeest took down Mountain
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Karoo Hunting Area
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Glassing Free Range Eland in Karoo, this was final ridge we reached
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Congrats on a successful Safari, thanks for the report and joining the AH fraternity. Maybe post a couple reports from your other African hunts.
 
Congrats on the hunt! Glad you made it home!
 
Beautiful areas.
Sad the Pandemic screwed with your trip.
You made the best of it and got some of your trophies.
Next time....
 
I’m glad I got 8 days at least. We made a lot of jokes during trip about getting stuck and working on farm, but it got pretty real there for a couple hours until my Atlanta flight was confirmed. Definitely a new experience for me.
 
Great trophies, those travel agents are worth their weight in gold. My wife and I have a trip planned for August but things are not looking great right now. This virus is hurting a lot lives, hopefully the infections taper off sooner than later. Thank goodness you were able to get out of there.
 
Congrats and thanks for sharing! Even though you had to cut it short, was still a great trip!
 
Great trophies, those travel agents are worth their weight in gold. My wife and I have a trip planned for August but things are not looking great right now. This virus is hurting a lot lives, hopefully the infections taper off sooner than later. Thank goodness you were able to get out of there.
Hopefully your trip will work out for you. At least by August hopefully all actions taken around this thing will be somewhat planned. I wasn’t ready for how quickly things spiraled with zero notice. Travel express let me know my original flight home was canceled 6 hours before delta did. Everything just seems good when you’re out hunting, I had no idea.
 
Thanks for sharing your hunt report. Glad you were able to get most of your trip in, sorry it was cut short. So many trips postponed or cancelled over this virus ☹️
 
Congrats for a great hunt, I have postponed mine :cry:
 
Congrats on your trophies. Some good animals. Glad you got your #1 priority species. Good shooting. Glad you made it back without more difficulty.....
Bruce
 
Thanks for sharing your hunt report. Glad you were able to get most of your trip in, sorry it was cut short. So many trips postponed or cancelled over this virus ☹️
Thanks for your help with this trip
 
Sounds like a great trip. Wonderful trophies. Sorry for it being shortened. I hunted with Jono and Justine in 2019. My second and best trip. Plan on going with him again when all this covid-19 mess is cleared up. He is truly an incredible PH.
 
Congratulations well done.
 
That's a gorgeous Nyala you got there! Bummer about the shortened trip...I would have been a basket case not knowing if I was going to make it out at that point!
 
Nice report and great hunting.

What rifle / ammo were you using?
 

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