SOUTH AFRICA: Lioness Hunt & Vacation With DE KLERK SAFARIS

degoins

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We landed in Johannesburg on Saturday 10/2/21 and were greeted by 2 ladies (I wish I could remember their names, but things were happening fast) from Gracy Travel and guided us through all the lines and gates we needed to get through. After that we were met by Bruce from Gracy Travel and taken to get the rifle checked and taken care of. That might have taken all of 5 minutes. Very smooth and efficient.
The next morning Hans and Marie De Klerk picked us up at City Lodge and we were on our way to a wonderful stay at their beautiful lodge. The road trip took about 7 hours but the time flew by as Hans and Marie are great travelling companions/hosts. They pointed out various sites of interest and Hans gave me a most interesting history of the ranch. We made a lunch stop at in Vreiburg (sp) (sp). The food was great and we got to stretch our legs a little. The countryside between the towns was vast and beautiful to my eyes. Lots of interesting sights.
We finally turned off the paved road and onto the long dirt road leading to the ranch. My wife Gwen got her first look at kudu up close and personal when 2 kudu cows ran out in front of the truck from some thick brush close to the side of the road. That woke us all up pretty good. Hans told me that they’d had two of their vehicles totaled so far this year from hitting kudu. After we turned off that road onto to the road where the ranch starts, we saw a very nice buffalo bull in the shade of a tree near the fence. I got out to take some pictures of it and while sticking my arms through the fence to get unobstructed pictures a managed to touch one of the hot wires. My phone went straight to the dirt. Everybody got a good laugh out of that one………a little too good in my opinion, but anyway. Hans kindly retrieved my phone and we were on our way again. We soon arrived at their lovely main gate and took more pictures. Hans told us one time when he arrived at the gate, he opened the left side and when he turned around to open the right side there was a lion standing there!!! He said he hurriedly jumped back in the truck and managed block the gate with the truck and run the lion far enough away so he could come on through. Quite a welcoming party!!
Arriving at the beautiful camp we were greeted by Frikkie, Heidi and Chris. Hans and Frikkie very kindly took our luggage to our chalet. Gwen and I looked around the chalet a bit, freshened up and went to the dining area where there was an array of delicious snacks (including dry sausages of beef and game made by Heidi’s husband Andrees and a variety of beverages awaiting us. I’m telling you Heidi and Marie will fatten you up!!! Hans and Frikkie couldn’t wait to show me the nice gift that Frederik had left for me. It was some lovely Striped Horse brand beer which I happily shared. Thank you again Frederik. I hope we get to meet someday or at least I can leave you something someday soon. After snacking and chatting we went for a drive on part of the ranch to see what we could see and of course take pictures. What a magnificent place!!! The landscape is beautiful and we saw lots of wildlife.
The next morning, 10/4/2021, I was awakened with a start when the door to our chalet flew open and the room was flooded with sunlight. For some dumb reason I leapt (actually, I just got up a lot faster than normal) instead of peeping out from under the covers to see what had happened. My first thought was leopard, then baboon, then the maneaters of Tsavo. Especially after the ominous warning of the night before not to go walking around after dark inside the camp let alone outside. Of course, it was none of those things. The door was locked, but not latched good and the wind blew it open.
After a wonderful breakfast we went out to look for lion tracks and take pictures. Got lots of pictures of game and other wildlife but saw no lion tracks. Back to the camp for a delightful lunch. After a short siesta we went to the photographic blind for wildlife viewing, more photographing and Frikkie told us to shoot any non-trophy warthogs that came in……..YES!!! Not long after we settled into the blind three warthogs showed up and I shot the biggest one in the neck with my .450. The other two ran off and never came back. First animal of the hunt taken and first African animal with the .450. Great stuff!! After a little while I decided to go move the warthog into the shade. As I started out of the blind, Gwen asked “You’re not taking your gun?” I replied, “I’m just going right there.” She said” Well what if a lion shows up while you’re messing with that warthog?” I said, “You’re right. I have to keep in mind where we are.” I retrieved my rifle and went on out and moved the warthog into shade. It was a decent sized female with fair tusks. No more mammals showed up and around dusk Frikkie and Chris came and picked us up. They had two or three warthogs in the back of the truck themselves. One was a big male. Back to the lodge for another fantastic dinner around the fire and some fine conversation. What a great first full day in the Kalahari.
Tuesday morning has us up early for another great breakfast and off to look for lion tracks, wildlife viewing and to shoot any warthogs we might see.
HALELUJAH!!! Not far from the camp we find lion tracks in the road that lead into the bush going in the direction of another road. Frikkie calls Hans and we take off to see if the lion made it to the other road. Not only has she made the other road but is walking down it facing away from us. A big female and she hasn’t seen or heard as she was a good ways off. After easing along behind her for a while we see her suddenly look up. After a few seconds we see Hans’s truck coming. The lioness turns around and sees our truck then goes to her left toward the perimeter fence that surrounds the DeKlerk’s and their staff’s residences as well as the cattle and sheep pastures. She was going in that direction to begin with because some other lions had made a kill earlier that morning and were roaring in the distance. I could barely hear them after we got off the truck, but it was a glorious sound.
The lioness tried to get through the fence a couple of times and finally got shocked by one of the lower hot wires. naturally she wasn’t happy about this and made a run toward our truck grunting as she went. This of course made me even more nervous than I already was. She finally whipped around and ran back toward Hans’s truck but wouldn’t go into the bush. Hans made a rush at her with his truck and she finally left the road. I thought to myself that now the lioness is good and irritated and will probably try to scratch the first person that comes up on her. We all got off the trucks and Adam and Chris took up the tracks with Hans and Frikkie helping. I could make out the hard hooved tracks but could only barely make out the lion tracks when someone pointed them out to me. Those trackers are incredible!
After losing the tracks in the thicker grass and picking them back up again and after what seemed like a long time and a long way, but actually wasn’t, the lioness was spotted lying under some brush. While Frikkie and I were trying to maneuver around so I could get a clear shot, she jumped up and ran off. I thought that would be the end of her for the day. Thankfully I was wrong. Frikkie told me those lions don’t hang around in the sun much after daylight and usually by around 10 in the morning they’re laid up in the shade for the day.
We took up the tracks again. After again, losing the tracks in the thicker grass and finding them again and after what seemed like a long way and a long time, but again, actually wasn’t, we found her lying under some brush. This time she was relatively in the clear about 40 yards away and Frikkie put the sticks up and told me to shoot her behind the shoulder. Apparently I wasn’t seeing what I thought I was seeing and instead of hitting her behind the right shoulder, I hit her in front of the right hind leg. She jumped up and whirled around and I shot again at center mass hitting a “bushbuck” with the bullet fragments hitting her on the opposite side of the first shot. Some of the fragments exited right beside the first wound and the bullet core was under the hide about midways of her body. She ran away from us, thankfully, and collapsed after about 50 yards. She was lying on her side but still breathing when we walked up and Frikkie told me to finish her which I did with a shot behind the left shoulder.
What an exciting hunt and the fulfillment of a dream that I never thought would materialize!!! Thanks to Hans, Frikkie, Chris and Adam for making it happen!!
After congratulations, back slapping, handshakes all around and some initial picture taking, Hans called the skinners to get the lion and to swing by and pick up Gwen. More congratulations and pictures.
Back at camp Marie and Heidi were waiting and congratulated me some more. After another great lunch Frikkie, Chris, Gwen and me went over to the shooting range. Frikkie wanted to check the zero on his laser accurate Tikka .300 Win. Mag with some ammo he had. The rifle is equipped with a silencer and I’d never heard one fired. It works better than I’d imagined it would. Frikkie let me shoot it several times and man what a nice trigger that rifle has and very accurate. He also let Gwen shoot it. This was her first time shooting a high-powered rifle. After some good coaching by Frikkie, she was on target with 2 shots. She was very pleased. I asked Frikkie if he wanted to shoot my double, actually I insisted, and he relented. Two good shots off hand at 50 yards. I then asked Chris if he wanted to shoot it and he did. Chris gets lined up, Frikkie talks him through the triggers and the safety, Chris takes the safety off, takes careful aim and BAM-BAM!!! The muzzles fly up in the air, Chris takes a few steps back, but hangs on to the rifle like a man. Yep, he strummed the triggers. I don’t know, but the thought that that might happen never crossed my mind or I’d have told him the shoot the left barrel first. I felt really bad, but Chris was a good sport about it even though he said it nailed his cheek and shoulder pretty good. We all had a good laugh.
While on the subject of rifles, Frikkie also has a very cool CZ 550 in .416 Rigby. It has a nice slim synthetic stock that makes a huge difference in how those big rifles handle. He offered to let me shoot it, and as bad as I wanted to, I didn’t want to shoot up his hard to get ammo. Hans has a magnificent Heym Express bolt action in .416 Rigby. That thing handled like a light shotgun. All hunting bolt actions should be made like that in my humble opinion.
Frikkie asked Gwen if she’d ever hunted before and as best either of us could recall , she may have sat in a deer stand with me once, but other than that, she had not. He then asked if she’d like to shoot a wart hog and she said she would. So that afternoon after riding around and taking pictures, we set up at a waterhole and watched from the truck. Sure enough not after we got there a nice fat warthog showed up. It took a little bit, but Gwen finally found him in the scope. Frikkie told her to shoot behind the shoulder and she made a perfect shot. The warthog ran a little ways and fell over dead. Man was she ever pleased!! Her first actual hunt and first kill…….and in Africa on top of that!! It doesn’t get much better. I was thrilled for her. We all were. What a great day!!
Wednesday morning, we were up and out after a yet another great breakfast to see if we could get some good buffalo photos as well as any other wildlife photos and of course shoot and warthogs we might come across. We spotted some good buffalo bulls, but they were camera shy, so we didn’t get any good pictures of those. We did however see lots of wildlife and got some more photos. After a fantastic lunch and siesta Gwen and I were off to the photographic blind to see what we could see. We had some guineas to show up to the water shortly after arrival and could see some blesbuck and waterbuck in the distance, but none would come on in. Finally, three warthogs showed up and I shot two and missed the other one. Almost immediately Frikkie and Chris showed up with two or three warthogs in the back of the truck. Back at camp for the usual fantastic dinner and I think it was this evening we got to meet Hans and Marie’s sweet and beautiful daughter who was home from college. She is an accomplished endurance racer of Arabian horses.
Thursday morning we slept in a little an after a splendid breakfast we were off to see what we could and photograph. As usual lots and lots of wildlife to see.
Either before, during or right after lunch we had a little rain. That afternoon when we went out we saw 2 mole snakes and 3 leopard tortoises along with lots of other wildlife. I’d asked Frikkie which of the less expensive antelope he thought we could slip up close enough for me to shoot with my .450. He said springbuck or blesbuck could be done. We dropped Gwen off at camp and proceeded to hunt.
While trying to sneak up on some blesbuck, Frikkie spotted two warthogs. He quickly set up the sticks and motioned me to move forward. Instead, I handed him my .450 and insisted he shoot. He tried to wait until they were lined up just right so he could get both with one shot. Finally they got pretty well situated and Frikkie took the shot. Unfortunately the one closest moved forward a little bit and was the only one hit. At the shot, one went forward and the one hit took off to our left. We took up the blood trail but in soon became evident that we might need some help, so Frikke called Chris over.
We were finding blood and tapeworms (yes tapeworms) here and there and finally Frikkie spotted the warthog lying down but not dead. As Frikkie eased forward the warthog jumped up and took off. Frikkie got off a quick shot and hit the warthog in the left hip. Meat flew a good ten to fifteen feet in the air and rained back down all around us. There was meat hanging on several bushes and it looked like somebody put it there on purpose to make biltong. Man it was epic!!
Friday morning after breakfast Frikkie, Chris and me went out to hunt either springbuck or blesbuck and of course warthogs. It wasn’t long before we spotted a nice looking sprinbuck, so we get off the truck and start stalking. As we’re trying to work the wind it looks like the springbuck has spotted and is trying to get our scent. But it turns out that he has his eyes on a lady and is trying to meet up with her.
Frikkie and I start working what cover we can when the springbucks heads are down and finally ease up on a bush that I can shoot from within a little over a hundred yards from the male. I get on the sticks, the sight picture looks good so I let fly and the springbuck drops in his tracks. While I was unloading my rifle, a baby springbuck jumps about ten yards from us and runs off. What a beautiful animal and fun hunt!!
Chris went to pick up Gwen while Frikkie and I took some pictures of the springbuck. When Chris and Gwen arrived we took a few more pictures, loaded the springbuck onto the truck and went over to Hans’s and Marie’s residence where Hans kindly showed us around the place and showed his knife making equipment. Hans is a very skilled knife maker. We also looked around where the sheep and some of the cattle kept as well as the landing strip. It was a very enjoyable and interesting visit.
Back at camp for another delicious lunch and siesta. That afternoon we were off again for more wildlife viewing and photographing and of course to shoot any warthogs we might come across. No luck on the warthogs on this our last evening.
I asked Hans if we had time for me to ride along with Andrees on a jackal hunt with hounds that he would be doing the next morning near the camp if Andrees didn’t mind. Hans said we’d have plenty of time before we were to leave for Joberg. So I asked Heidi if Andrees would mind if I tagged along and she said she’d ask but thought that he’d be delighted if I joined them. Andrees, being the fine gentleman that he is, kindly agreed to let me join them and told me to be ready to go around 6:30 am.
Saturday morning I was up and ready when Andrees, his tracker a the hounds showed up. After riding up and down and criss crossing the area for about an hour, we found no jackals. It was fun and interesting anyway and I thoroughly enjoyed spending a little time with Andrees and the hunt.
Back at camp and another fine breakfast we said our goodbyes and were off to Johannesburg. Again the drive was pleasant and the time seemed to fly by.
Arriving back at the airport, Hans kindly helped us get our luggage to the hotel and made sure we got checked in alright and told that his next clients might be delayed and that if that were case he’d be glad to show us around Johannesburg the next day since we were going to be there two nights. As I said, Hans and his family and staff were the nicest people you could ever hope to meet. As it turned out, we were unexpectedly and quite hurriedly able to get a flight out the next morning and then it was back to the real world.
Our visit with DeKlerk was absolutely fantastic. Everyone was kind and friendly and most enjoyable to spend time with. Frikkie is a top notch PH and a fine companion to hunt with and just hang around. As well as being a great cook, doctor and biltong processor. I’ve already sent a deposit for June of 2023, so God willing we will going back and hopefully bringing more family members.
I cannot recommend DeKlerk highly enough. It was much more than expected. Great people, great accommodations, beautiful property and lots and lots of wildlife. Just slipping out behind the chalet every morning to see what was at the waterhole behind camp was highly enjoyable to me. Just a fantastic experience all aroud.

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