SOUTH AFRICA: My first Africa trip Cruiser Safaris

Desert Dog

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The following is a report from my first trip to Africa this month. I tend to run on too long with details in my writing style, so please bear with me. I definitely plan on expanding my Africa travels and hunting experiences in the future, but this was the perfect introductory trip for me to learn the ropes of traveling to and hunting in this unique place.

Here is a video of my trip:

I recommend that you read the reports first and watch the video last so you can put it all in context.

enjoy............


My First Africa trip.


How it happened:


I have hunted in three countries and many different states, but for some unknown reason never hunted Africa. Sure, I bullshitted by the campfire with my buddies about going to Africa on countless occasions, but chalked this up to the usual guy talk that transpires when the mason jar gets passed around the camp chairs. Alcohol has a tendency to bring out embellishment in men, and nothing of this world holds more false promise than the plans that inebriated men make.


It wasn’t until February of 2015 that a good friend of mine seemed serious about taking a trip to the dark continent. We researched outfitters, lodges, locations, and prices. Our wives are both hunters as well, so we decided that we should make this trip a double date!


My buddy and I are just as comfortable in a freezing cold tent as we are at a 5-star resort, but we had the ladies to consider in the planning for this trip. Our perfect place needed a history of quality game animals, large concessions that were fair chase hunts, non-hunting activities in close proximity (particularly for photo safaris), an attractive and comfortable lodge with all the amenities, great reviews and references from people who have taken their spouses, wifi, and competitive prices. The place also had to be very safe. That is a LOT to ask for when planning a hunting trip, so this required a great deal of research. I joined this forum, read an infinite number of reviews, attended the hunting conventions, private messaged other hunters, and watched almost every Youtube video on Africa hunts. The more research I performed, the more excited I became about really doing this.


I narrowed my choices down to 5 outfitters; Two in the East cape region, 3 in Limpopo, and one in Namibia. I contacted several outfitters to frustrate them with stupid questions, which all of them happily answered. Rebecca was especially sold on the videos and website for Cruiser Safaris in Limpopo. I contacted a half dozen hunters who had taken their wives to Cruiser and got overwhelmingly positive reviews. The hunters I spoke with were just as impressed with the property and staff as they were with the actual hunts. I contacted the USA booking agent for Cruiser Safaris, “Cruiser Bob”. He was in constant contact with me for the entire 8 months leading up to my hunt, giving me updates on lodge activity, hunting, and constantly motivating me to get everything prepared well in advance. Anytime I contacted Bob with a question, I received an immediate response. Their website and Facebook page is also well maintained and up to date with hunting reports and current conditions, which seemed to help keep me motivated about the trip throughout the year.


As plans among friends often unfold, my buddy lost interest in the trip just before we were ready to fully commit to doing it. But this trip wasn’t a typical alcohol-induced pipe-dream to me, I seriously wanted to do this, and after the research wondered why it took me so long. I guess I always considered an Africa trip would be too expensive, but was astonished to find that hunting Africa (including airfare) is much cheaper than a quality hunt here in the States. I have spent more money to kill one Elk than this Africa trip was going to cost! Deposit sent, and hunting days locked in. We were definitely going to Africa.



Pre-trip preparation:


I was lucky enough to buy our plane tickets when fuel prices were plummeting. Airfare to Africa was much cheaper than I had imagined. Ten weeks before departure, Cruiser Bob contacted me to let me know that I had the option to pay my entire balance in full before departing to Africa. This was offered as an option because many clients stated that they do not like carrying that much cash when traveling. So, with two months remaining before departure, my lodge fees, hunting fees, trophy fees, and airfare were paid in full. This gave me an overall sense of relief.


Rebecca and I are both in good physical condition, but we ramped up our cardio in the months leading up to the trip. We wanted a good fair chase hunt and had no desire to disappoint a hard-working PH on a long stalk by resting constantly due to sub-par fitness. In the process of doing this, she lost over 10 pounds and I lost 5. We were lean, mean hunting machines!


I ordered new cotton clothing, South Africa plug adaptors and converters, a new gun case, and dozens of other little odds and ends in preparation for this trip. After reading several clothing related threads on this forum, I came to the realization that all of my hunting cloths were made from high-tech synthetic materials that should never experience a hot iron. I washed my new cotton hunting cloths a few times to wear them in, then treated them with Permethrin before departure with hopes of keeping the April mosquitos in Limpopo at bay.


With two months to go before my trip, it was time to make the final decision on what rifles I would take. Honestly, this isn’t as easy as it sounds. I own a LOT of rifles that would be perfect for this hunt. I have several very nostalgic 50s-vintage model 70s handed down to me by my grandfather that would be perfect and meaningful for this hunt (including a 300 H&H that I am just in love with). I own many lightweight custom-made beauties that are just as impressive to look at as to hunt with. I have a custom Mauser that just screams “take me to Africa”. I hammered out my final decision on what rifles I was taking probably 10 different times over the period of 8 months preceding this hunt, but inevitably changed my mind because of some crazy over-analysis of my situation. I didn’t want to risk taking a rifle that was too expensive, or one that shoots scarce ammunition, or one that didn’t cover a wide range of uses. With two months to go, it was time to make a decision, stop over analyzing my selection, and get my form 4457 done for the rifles I was taking. Men are notorious for our lack of commitment, and nowhere is there a better example of this than with our “favorite” firearm. A woman will sooner find a “perfect” pair of shoes long before a man finds that “perfect” rifle.


In the end, choosing the right rifles was easy. I planned on shooting bigger plains game and Rebecca planned on shooting smaller plains game. I have some fantastic loads for my 375 H&H and am perfectly comfortable shooting it. Rebecca hunts with a 30-06 and kills animals easily with no flinch. We are both perfectly capable of handling both guns. I was taking my special edition M70 stainless/laminate Alaskan in 375 H&H AND grandpa’s old pre-64 M70 30-06 was going to get one more big hunt in his honor. I went to the local Customs office, did my 4457 paperwork for both rifles, decision set in stone, commitment finally achieved. I can’t change my mind now!


For the 30-06, I didn’t really trust or want to damage that 60-year old stock on a trip of this magnitude. So I bedded it into a beautiful, rugged, and comfortable McMillan pre-64 McWoody stock; classic looks with modern improvements. Took it to the range with my favorite 168 gr TTSX load and fell in love with this gun all over again. To get the Rebecca used to the new stock, we practiced for several days shooting off the sticks and from several other positions. We went to the Central Coast and she shot a nice boar. Perfect shot placement off the shooting sticks from 120 yards. That hog went straight up in the air and came down on its back with legs sticking straight up in the air. It didn’t even take a step or let out a sound. She was ready for Africa.

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My 375 H&H was ready to go without any modifications. What did concern me was the fact that I was not crimping my hand loads for this round (or any of my bolt-gun loads). I have never had an issue, but wanted that extra piece of mind for this trip with the 375. I witnessed a guy on a bear hunt (who was an expert loader for 35 years) get bullet set-back on several rounds from the recoil in his 338. He believed that he either left too much lube inside the necks of some of the new brass or the new batch of bullets he was loading had slightly different dimensions; a mistake anyone could make. Similar to the feeling one gets on vacation when you don’t remember if you locked the house when you left, that bullet set-back episode is always in the back of my head when I shoot this gun. My mind needed to be set at ease. Hunting is just as much about the confidence you have in your equipment as it is about the equipment itself. I ordered a Lee factory crimp die for this caliber and went back to the drawing board with my loads. If I lost a little accuracy with the crimp, so be it, I wanted to have full confidence in my ammo.


Surprisingly, my existing load recipe for the 250 gr TTSX really liked a light crimp. Accuracy was the same, but I gained a little bit of velocity as a result of the crimp. This load is a real thumper! Very flat trajectory, bucks wind like a champ, and hits with about 3550 ft-pounds at 100 yards and almost 1800 ft-pounds of energy at 500 yards! It pretty much hits like a 300 grain lead bullet, but with a flat trajectory and lower recoil. I find it relatively easy to shoot 1” five-shot groups with this load. No need to develop any further, and another rifle is ready for my African adventure.





I go over my itinerary, my gear, airline procedures, gun import/export procedures, my paperwork, taxidermy plans, and domestic arrangements seemingly on a daily basis in the last week leading up to my trip. I even make a checklist to go through before I leave my home for the airport, and continually add to it as the departure date gets near. I made copies of copies of everything for checked bags, carry-ons, and the rifle case. I call British Airways 5 days before departure to give my firearms and ammo notification. Not fully trusting the broken English from the BA call center in India, I call back 4 days before the trip to verify that the information was correctly entered. I constantly annoy family members to make sure my dogs, cats, and chickens will be well cared for in my absence.


I am ready, I think.
 

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Desert Dog

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Getting to RSA:


I hate driving from the Central Valley of California to LAX. Mainly because I really do not like Los Angeles; the traffic, rude people, poorly designed freeways that are constantly under construction, and the filth. I can’t breathe a sigh of relief until I hit Orange County to the South or Valencia to the North. It is sad that when people fly into California, their first impression of this beautiful state is Los Angeles. Anyway, I sit in traffic for hours on the 405, often for long periods at a complete stop. I avoid about 5 accidents in the process from people who I doubt have insurance, but finally make it the airport. On the shuttle ride to our terminal, Rebecca asks me “why are you smiling so big?”. I reply, “I just realized that I will not be driving again for the next 12 days”!



Walking into the British Airways terminal, I was almost trembling in fear that something was going to go wrong with firearms check-in and ruin my trip. All of the internet horror stories I had read over the last 8 months have culminated to this one moment. With a lackluster climax to this fearful situation, my rifles were checked through to RSA with nary a problem or concern. Have all of your paperwork, know the airline procedures, have the proper things in the proper cases, and traveling with rifles on BA will be a cake walk. People tend to blame hunting outfits, guides, taxidermist, and airlines for their own mistakes and lack of preparedness. When flying on BA with firearms, make sure all of your flights are BA and that your guns are checked through to your destination. Do not mix airlines or re-check your baggage between connecting flights in London. This process is very easy if you follow the rules.


The only negative things I can say about British Airways is regarding a couple of additional fees. They do charge you a small fee to pick your seats in advance. They also charge you a “firearm fee” and consider it extra checked baggage. But, in the big picture, I did save almost $400 per ticket to fly with them rather than SSA or Delta. The $800 savings for the both of us was my primary reason for choosing British Airways. After you factor in all of BA’s additional fees, the cost savings turned out to be minimal.


All of my flights were on an Airbus a380, and this was the first time flying on one. Let me tell you, these are THE best aircraft I have ever been on. They are far more comfortable and have a much better layout than any of the Boeings I normally fly on. The Economy seats are reasonably comfortable and the head-room around the whole aircraft is amazing. The Plus and business seats are amazing. The in-flight entertainment systems on these planes are fantastic, and each seat has its own USB port to keep your electronics charged. For future trans-oceanic flights, I will actively seek out flights on this aircraft and upgrade my seats. If flying world traveler, avoid the window seats, as many of them have an electrical box under the seats that eliminate about ¼ of the available leg room.



The 10.5-hour flight from Los Angeles to London was smooth and fast and the food was good. BA does a great job of keeping the jet dark and quiet enough to sleep during nighttime hours.

We had a 4-hour layover at Heathrow. It has been years since I have been to this airport. From the air, London seems much bigger. The people and employees at the airport shops and restaurants seemed to lack the manners and tact that citizens of England are famous for. Even though it is a small and unfair sampling of the general populous, it made me wonder if society is taking a turn for the worse there as well. Here I go again over-analyzing geo-political issues when I should be enjoying my vacation! Time to down a couple Boddingtons and get ready for my next flight. The flight to Joberg was just as long and uneventful as the flight from Los Angeles.



Day 1 in South Africa:


We exited the plane and slid through immigration without a problem. After securing our checked baggage, we proceeded to the general meeting area where we were supposed to be met by an employee from Cruiser Safaris. After a half hour of waiting, I said screw it and took my rifles to the SAPS office. They took my paperwork without even looking at it and stated that the computers were down so he would have to hand-write a permit for me. It was done in 15 minutes. After going back to the meeting area, a Cruiser rep finally showed up, apologized for being late and loaded up our gear.


While waiting for our ride, I purchased a South African sim card and bought plenty of data and cell service to use it. This turned out to be a horrible rip-off, as I was only able to complete 2 phone calls during my entire time in Africa, and the data service was too slow to be usable. The locals with the same phone as me were making calls and watching youtube videos at will, while my crappy sim card left me without anything. I will rent a sat phone in the future if I must use a phone, and go completely without if a phone isn’t necessary.


The Cruiser Safari van also had a nice gentleman named Dean riding with us, who was picked up at the Afton Guest House. Dean is a retired police officer from Minnesota and now works as a fishing guide in the same state. Dean is a veteran Africa hunter, and this is his 3rd trip to Cruiser Safaris in the last 5 years. Dean would prove to be a valuable wealth of information on how things work at the lodge and South Africa in general.


Because of the remote location of the lodge, they take advantage of trips into town to buy fresh fruits and vegetables for the kitchen. I didn’t mind at all and actually did a little shopping of my own. The location was a type of farmer’s market situated inside of a giant windmill about an hour outside of Joberg. Not knowing that I was an American, everyone kept speaking to me in Afrikaans then immediately switching to English after I responded. What a strange and unusual language it is.



After loading up our groceries, we began the remaining 3-hour journey to the lodge. The environment looked very similar to the mesquite brush lands of Texas before looking more like the chaparral forests of California as we traveled further north. By the time we arrived at the area northwest of Thabazimbi, the environment took on a characteristic of its own, with a random assortment of plants I have never seen. Much like the people of South Africa, various plants were intermixed together but seemingly out of place, as if god had a handful of extra plants and threw them about the area to see if they could coexist. It was lush and green due to the season, but one could tell that this place transformed into something completely different in the middle of the dry season. Of course, you don’t fully accept the fact that you are actually in Africa until you casually drive by ostriches and warthogs feeding on the side of the road.


We stopped in Thabazimbi for lunch, and that’s where I first realized how far the US dollar goes in this county. Rebecca and I both ate till our bellies were full for 100 Rand (less than $7 US). The final leg to the Cruiser Safari lodge leaves the “tar road” and consists of 45 minutes of pounding washboard dirt road. That road is a testament to how much regular abuse a Toyota van can take. On the way to the lodge, we passed several home-made donkey powered carts. I was told these carts were known locally as a "Kalahari Ferrari".



After 22 hours in the air, 7 hours of driving, and an additional 10 hours spent inside of airports (since I left my home), the lodge was a sight for sore eyes and sore butts. I had not been able to sleep during the entire journey, so had been awake for over 48 hours! I was immediately met by my PH, Hans, who asked us if we would like to start hunting right now. I said “of course”. After taking our luggage and gear to our beautiful room, Hans took us to the rifle range to verify our zeros. The 30-06 shot a tight group a half inch high at 100 yards; I left it alone. The 375 H&H put the bullets right in the middle of the bullseye; I also left that rifle alone. Hans asked me what I wanted to hunt and I replied “let’s go get a zebra”. I reminded Hans that I wanted to spot and stalk hunt and had no interest in watching water holes or sitting in a blind. I also reiterated to Hans that I was not hunting for SCI records; I simply wanted to experience good hunts on mature animals.


We loaded the Land Cruiser and headed for one of the properties across the Matlabas River. We hunted on foot for about 4 hours chasing a group of zebras but couldn’t get a jump on them in the super thick brush. The only exposed shot I had on one was at 425 yards, which I passed on. Dean hunted that evening also, chased a one-horned Gemsbok but was never able to get it. We were all beat and ready for sleep. My donkey and Dean’s unicorn got away on day 1. We had Kudu steaks for dinner, and I slept like the dead all night long.
 

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Desert Dog

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Day 2:


Monday morning, I drug myself out of bed and was rewarded with scrambled ostrich eggs and eland sausage. Then it was out to hunt zebras on a different property. We saw no sign of the striped donkeys, but found some nice Gemsbok tracks. We stalked up on a small group of gemsbok for hours, bumping them several times, but could not get a shot in the thick brush. Finally, we flushed them toward a huge open plain, and drove the Land Cruiser around to cut them off. As soon as the bakkie emerged from the thick foliage, we could see the gemsbok out far in the distance at the other end of the clearing. They were looking right at us and ready to run. I lasered the one Hans wanted me to shoot at 287 yards, turned my CDS dial to 1 click under 300, aimed for the shoulder, and immediately took a shot off the top of the truck. The 375 hit the old oryx with an audible “thud” causing it to rear up on its hind legs like a horse throwing its rider off, then coming down to the ground on its front knees. Remarkably, the gemsbok got right up and limped into the thick cover about 10 feet away from where it fell. There was blood everywhere, and an easy trail to follow. Unfortunately, Hans had to track this nearly indestructible animal for hours, before it finally limped across a clearing and I was able to put a TTSX through the lungs at 200 yards.






Upon inspection of the dead gemsbok, it was apparent that the first shot was 6 inches too far forward, right through the chest where it meets the neck. Then the truth hit me; damn, I forgot to compensate for the 15-20 MPH wind before making that 300 yard shot. In the excitement of shooting my first African animal, I dialed in my elevation and shot without holding for the significant wind. It was already 6pm, time to head back for dinner and to drop my gemsbok off at the skinning shed.


I felt ashamed that I had wounded my first African animal and had to track the poor beast for so long before putting an end to its misery. I felt like I let Hans down and wasted way too much hunting time because of my mistake. I regretted that shot. I hoped I wouldn’t lose my mojo by second guessing future shot opportunities. I have been shooting for many years. I know I am better than that.


Hans’s tracking abilities were otherworldly. There were many areas where the blood trail stopped and our gemsbok crossed tracks with many other gemsbok, but Hans was able to stay the correct course every time.


Back at the lodge, Dean’s hunting fate was taking a different path. On Sunday night, a story emerged of a wily buffalo bull that could not be caught. Apparently, a local property owner had 5 bulls on an enormous property that became problematic. 4 of the bulls were hunted down, tranquilized, and relocated. Bull #5 could not be caught and continued terrorizing employees and destroying fences. Many hunters tried their luck at killing the bull, but couldn’t find it. The land owner even hired a helicopter to locate and kill the bull, but to no avail. Since Dean had shot practically everything but a buffalo, His heart was set on getting this bull. His PH warned him that it would not be easy, safe, and would be far from a guaranteed hunt. Dean didn’t care, so they met with the property owner and spent all day Monday trying to find Bull #5 (to no avail). Even though bull #5 is not my story, it is indeed a story worth telling, so bear with me throughout this report.


At dinner, we were notified that a father/son hunting party from Germany was due to be in camp tomorrow. They were having problems with SAPS, and even though they had the correct paperwork in order, SAPS was not letting them have their hunting rifles. Dean and I both agreed that we would let them use our back-up rifles if they needed them.


I washed my fresh lamb chops down with plenty of Carling Black Label and sipped on some iced Amarula before slipping into my nightly coma.
 

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Desert Dog

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Day 3


Back to zebra hunting, this time on a bigger property. Within an hour of starting the day’s hunt, we spot a group of zebra from the bakkie. Hans and I jump off and begin a stalk. We walk and crawl for 2 hours, getting within 100 yards before a wildebeest appears out of nowhere and scares everything away. This was one of many instances where a wildebeest would ruin a good stalk on my animal. I didn’t plan on shooting a wildebeest before, but after several of these incidents, I couldn’t wait to kill one.


Walking through the bush, the variety of animals that one stumbles upon is amazing. Late that morning while stalking in the thickets, an impala ram stood 25 feet in front of us grunting. Then, like a charging NFL safety, a second ram appeared out of nowhere and locked horns with the first ram. An epic battle between these wonderful beasts transpired before our very eyes. I was struck with awe, too paralyzed with amazement to think of shooting the second ram (which was estimated at close to 25”). I felt like an invisible observer to one of god’s private shows.


At around noon, we find the group of zebra again and begin another stalk. We find ourselves about 40 yards from the group in thick cover. We are crawling on our hands and knees trying to get around a bush and prepare for a shot. While crawling on the ground, a big bug flies up from the grass and into my mouth. If I dare to cough or spit, the zebra will hear us and nullify hours of work to get this shot. So like a champ, I ate that damn bug and it didn’t taste half bad. On the edge of the bush, Hans sets up the sticks and I prepare to take a shot. Unfortunately, the stallion has a small nursing mare standing right in front of him blocking my shot. As fate would have it, another wildebeest runs through the area before a shot opens up and I never see this group of zebra again.


After more searching, Hans finds fresh zebra tracks where one has recently crossed the road. A few minutes later Hans glasses a large old mare, alone, that seems to be having trouble walking. He asks me if I want to shoot it, and after glassing it, I decide that I really like the size and the condition of the skin. There is also something obviously wrong with this lone zebra, as evidenced by the way it was walking. We were about 120 yards from her and she exposed the front of her body from around a thick bush to look at us. Hans tells me to place my rifle on his shoulder and shoot if I am comfortable with the shot. Without thinking, I line up my reticle while Hans plugs his ears and put a TTSX right through the heart. The zebra instantly falls without taking a step.




Upon closer inspection of this big lady, we solved the mystery of the “funny walk”. This zebra has severely overgrown hoofs, to the point of them looking like snow skis! In his decades of tracking/guiding, Hans has never seen anything like this. I am keeping these unique feet and making a gun rack out of them. After 3 days of zebra hunting, it was nice to finally get one. Zebra proved to be a very challenging and rewarding hunt.




Just before the sun sets, we spook a group of blesbok into the trees. Rebecca grabs the 30-06 and jumps out of the bakkie with Hans in the lead. We hike a mile, cut the group off on a road downwind, and set up the sticks about 100 yards out. Hans picks the best animal and Rebecca puts one right through the heart. An excellent trophy and a great way to enjoy our 3rd African sunset.






Back at the lodge, the father/son team from Germany has arrived. They ended up paying the SAPS official at the airport a bribe to get their rifles through. This was the first of several experiences with corrupt government employees on this trip.


Dean and his PH roll into the lodge at about 7pm, exhausted from walking 13 hours in the hot sun in pursuit of bull #5. They drug all the roads and plan to start with fresh tracks tomorrow. Dean is covered in sweat and walking with a noticeable limp.


The owner of the establishment, Mr. Pieter Lamprecht, joins us for dinner. Pieter is a larger than life personality, with an infectious laugh and propensity towards concocting pranks at every opportunity. Pieter’s operation is very diversified and he is the hardest working employee on the property, which has been in his family for generations. Even though he is always extremely busy managing his enormous land holdings and business operations, he always finds time for personal interaction with the guests.


Pieter instantly lets Rebecca know that he will be serenading her every evening to the tune of Worsie Visser’s “Rebecca”, which he did. That damn song is still in my head!


We ended the night with horrifying tales of local legends like “Tripod” and the “Matlabas Monster”.
 

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Desert Dog

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Day 4


It was time to actively look for an impala. We had seen many nice looking impala rams in the last few days, but Hans would always determine that they were too young.


We went to a property across the main road from the lodge and visited all of the clearings, water sources, and grasslands that the impala like to frequent. None were seen. As we were deciding whether or not to try a different area, a nice old ram stuck his head and neck above a bush. Hans whispered “shoot it if you get a shot”. I took the full-frontal shot off-hand at about 70 yards. The bullet entered the neck, broke the spine, and exited at 45 degrees to the back side of the neck. The old impala dropped on the spot without taking a step. He was a fine old ram with beautiful coloration and a robust build. These creatures are tenfold more beautiful to behold up-close, exhibiting intricate details not noticed from afar. They are the epitome of perfection in a plains game animal.




It seems that I had recovered my mojo after the gemsbok incident. I was proud of myself for not letting that first bad shot on Monday effect my ability to make difficult shots at a moment’s notice. The shot on the zebra (off of Han’s shoulder) and this perfect off-hand frontal shot on the impala really boosted my confidence back up.


After the impala hunt concluded, we decided to head back to the lodge for lunch before heading back out to try for a kudu. We saw several male kudu over the last few days that I was able to get my scope on. Those kudus looked huge to my virgin eyes, but Hans was always quick to point out that they were too young to shoot. This afternoon, we were going to work our asses off to find a good mature bull.


Kudus hate vehicles and are one of the most skittish and elusive of the plains game animals. You can sit in a blind over a waterhole for many hours waiting for a nice one, or you can put many miles on your hiking books attempting to track one down in the bush and put an effective stalk on him. No sitting in a blind for me, I wanted to get my kudu on foot.


After entering the hunting grounds, we parked the bakkie, loaded up enough gear for a long hike, and set off on foot in an area with good signs of kudu activity. Subsequent to about a mile of walking, we glassed a big male with a group of females that turned out to be too young. He caught scent of us and took off running. We crossed a large clearing to adjust for the changing wind and set out again. After another couple miles of walking, we glassed an old solitary bull that was worthy of shooting. Hans said it was very old and quite skinny, with a decent set of horns. We kept the wind in our faces and stalked to within 220 yards, setting up the sticks beside a thick bush at the edge of the tall grass. The kudu was standing in some very thick cover, so we were going to wait for him to present a shot.



Surprisingly, the bull exited the thick cover and began to walk toward us, oblivious of our presence. I cranked my VX-6 up to 10 power to get a better look. At about 180 yards, the bull wedged himself between two trees facing us and stopped. The wind suddenly shifted and he had his nose up smelling the air. Hans whispered “he knows we are here”. Seemingly acting without thinking, I centered my reticle for a full frontal shot, let Hans know I was going to shoot, and slowly squeezed the trigger. With a BANG, my hat flew off my head, but I kept my composure, chambered a fresh round and followed the bull in my scope. It seemed like a good hit. The kudu stumbled backwards slowly for about 20 yards, then stopped quartering away from me as its legs wobbled and its neck swayed back and forth. I put another shot through the lungs and it stumbled to the left before flopping on its side, dead. I finally bagged my dream animal; the Gray Ghost of Africa. I don’t remember taking a breath during the whole ordeal.




This was the perfect Kudu for me; his face and neck were full of scars from battles won and lost. His horns were well weathered with distinctive ivory tips. Even in death, he had a regal expression and a soul-piercing gaze. I was extremely proud of this trophy and honored by the hunt. I will never forget this kudu.


On inspecting the old warrior, it was obvious than my first shot (frontal) was good and would have been a clean kill if I waited a few more seconds. The second shot (quartering away) was also perfect. A perfect ending to a perfect hunt. Yes, I did overuse the word “perfect” in this paragraph by design.


Rebecca and I watched another amazing sunset unfold before us. The sky turns as red as the African soil and silhouettes the tree line making unrecognizable the things that lurk beyond the sun’s reach. Natures farewell finale to another perfect day.



Back at the lodge, Dean and his PH Sorel lumbered back in late from a tough day of buffalo hunting. They found fresh tracks and dung, but the bull was just too damn smart. They would track bull #5 for hours, only to find that the wily buffalo was circling back and crossing their tracks several times. This bull knew it was being pursued and was successful at staying ahead of the game. They almost had a sense of the animal taunting them, daring them to participate in his dangerous chess match. Dean was exhausted and his feet were getting very worn out.


Dinner was a fantastic outdoor barbeque with everyone in attendance. We drank and told stories of our exploits around the fire pit, as our ancestors did for thousands of years to celebrate a successful hunt. We consumed eland filets with all of the fixings. DelMarie’s delicious desserts put the entire meal over the top. It was primal with a touch of elegance. This was a feast to remember.


Pieter, in his infinite quest for the perfect prank, was a genius of his craft this evening. When Rebecca went to our room to use the bathroom, Pieter rigged a long length of fishing line from his seat at the dinner table all the way to the door to my room, and tied it to a rubber snake. When I say he “rigged” the fishing line, that is an understatement to this Rube Goldberg contraption that went around posts, though mounted kudu horns, and was intricately threaded through table legs. When Rebecca exited the room, Pieter pulled the string, and the prank was complete. Not one to let good fishing line go to waste, Pieter rigged it over the lamp above the table, through a set of elk horns, and tied it to a giant rubber grasshopper above the buffet line. When one of the guests went to make his plate, Pieter let the oversized rubber bug fall in front of his face. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Why does this guy have so many rubber creepy-crawlies? But isn’t that like asking Picasso why he had so many paint brushes?
 

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Desert Dog

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Day 5


After consuming large portions of DelMarie’s excellent sausage and eggs, we were off to hunt wildebeest. I was looking for a big male and Rebecca was going to hunt a big female. Hans knew that wildebeest were always out in the open in the early morning and late evening hours, so we started this morning’s hunt extra early.


Our Driver, Frekky, parked the bakkie and we were on foot hunting before the sun crested the horizon. The plan was to stalk with the wind in our face to a road that runs along a fence on the far side of the property. From there, we would glass down the sendero and hopefully pick a good bull.


Han’s plan worked to perfection. We snuck through the bush for about a mile and began glassing a group of 9 wildebeest. We picked a beautiful big bull out of the group as the animal we wanted to shoot. We were able to covertly get within 150 yards of the group and the wind was cooperating perfectly. Hans set up the sticks low under a bush on the side of the clearing for a sitting shot. I lasered the bull at 146 yards and set the gun up. The group of wildebeest was huddled together tight, so I couldn’t shoot until the bull separated from the group as I didn’t want the TTSX to hit any animals behind my target (firearms rule #4). My arms and eyes grew tired on the sticks waiting for what seemed like an eternity for my bull to present a clean shot. Perhaps finally sensing our presence, the group became skittish and separated out. With luck on my side or perhaps the hunting gods smiling upon me, my bull came perfectly broadside with no other animals obstructing the shot. I gently pulled the trigger straight back and the 375 cracked through the morning air and destroyed the vitals of that great bull like a bolt thrown from Zeus’s arm.


He was a fantastic large bull with a great spread. His imposing mohawk, long beard, and shaggy snout gave him the look of a warrior straight out of a Tolkien novel. Cruiser Safaris does it again. What a great hunt.




We spent the rest of the morning looking for a shooter female for Rebecca, but could not locate one. We went back to the lodge to eat lunch, take a nap, and lounge around the pool for a couple hours. Later that afternoon, we would continue the hunt for a good female wildebeest.



We continued the hunt at about 3:00 pm, this time on a larger property with a better population of wildebeest. We tried to sit over a waterhole for about an hour, but no animals showed, and to be honest, we didn’t like that style of hunting. We went back to the spot and stalk for the rest of the evening but could not find any shooter females. Ironically and surprisingly, female wildebeest are much harder to hunt than the bulls; they are much more skittish and tend to favor cover over open areas.

Just before the sun set, I got a lucky break. Our hopes of getting a decent warthog on this trip were slim because of the extremely tall grass and thick bush. In an unexpected and welcome moment, a decent warthog was seen trotting across a clearing. Hans said “shoot it” and I took a quick snap-shot on it before my opportunity could disappear forever into the thick brushy abyss. The tusky pig was finally mine. The first and only shootable warthog we would see on the entire trip.



Back at the lodge, the guests were making good progress diminishing the bar’s beer supply. I flopped my exhausted bottom onto a leather couch in the lounge and Christian (Pieter’s son) served me a huge glass of iced Amarula.

Dean had experienced another tough day hunting Bull #5. The buffalo completely changed its daily patterns and seemed impossible to predict. After four 12+ hour days of hunting this animal on foot, Dean’s feet were in horrible shape. One foot looked like he had been walking on hot coals. Dean was covered in scratches and bruises from the forbidding terrain, and was suffering from severe sunburns. Trudging through the overgrown bush in 90-degree heat was taking its toll on Dean’s body and mind. Everybody wondered if this bull was ever going to be successfully hunted. A cloud of doubt began to overshadow this hunt. Dean himself wondered if he could endure another day of this.


The whole camp went to bed early, hoping to recharge our bodies for another day in Africa.
 

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Desert Dog

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Day 6


This was a non-hunting day. We wanted to do a good photo safari on this trip, so Hans scheduled to take us to Pilanesberg National Park today. There were parks closer to the lodge than Pilanesberg, but Hans felt that the animal viewing opportunities were superior at this location. We really wanted to see elephants in the wild and Hans said that Pilanesberg was the place. We had Hans make a quick stop at an ATM in Thabazimbi so I could acquire some Rands. We passed several horrendous fatal vehicle accidents along the way, mainly head-on collisions from passing on the narrow 2-lane highways. After a 2-hour drive, we were at our destination.


At the park entrance, Hans registered us to enter and I paid the visitor fees for Rebecca and I in rands. The park employee handed me my map and receipt, but did not give me my change. Actually, she refused to give me my change and Hans had to argue with her in Afrikaans to get it for me.

Once inside the park, Hans headed down a dirt road to a remote area where he frequently sees elephants. About 5 miles in, we saw a big group of elephants close to the road. The group consisted of about 7 cows, most with calves, and a lone bull bringing up the rear.

We took a great deal of excellent pictures and videos from the vehicle when the group suddenly turned toward the road we were on and began to cross in front of us. We watched these magnificent animals cross one by one. When the last elephant stepped into the road, it stopped and turned to look at us. Then it began to charge us. Hans quickly put the transmission of the vehicle in reverse and drove backward through the twisty narrow dirt road as fast as he could. The elephant picked up speed and committed to its pursuit of us, flaring its massive ears and trumpeting as it lumbered at the vehicle. The massive animal chased us for over 200 feet before slowing down and giving up, but Hans continued backing out of the area for an additional ¼ mile! He wasn’t taking any chances. We were scared while it was happening, and even more scared after what had happened finally sunk in. We decided we had seen enough elephants. Our curiosity about seeing these animals in the wild has been completely satisfied.



Rebecca and I made a crude attempt at taking pictures and video during the event, but being in fear of our lives makes for shaky film and off-center pictures. Although of poor quality, we did get pictures and video.

We ventured throughout the park the rest of the day seeing rhino, giraffe, impala, springbok, crocodile, monkeys, baboons, hippos, wildebeest, waterbuck, kudu, turtles, warthog, zebra, and many stunningly beautiful birds. We had lunch at a great restaurant; 3 steak dinners with Heinekens for 277 Rands.









Back at the lodge, we took a swim in the pool before taking a much needed shower and early-evening nap. We woke and found our way to the lounge area at about 5pm. We sipped down a few Black Labels and relaxed while waiting for the other hunters to return from their day’s activities. By 6:00, everybody was at the lodge except for Dean and his PH.

Just after 6:00, a call came in stating that Dean had killed Bull #5 and they were on their way back to the lodge. When Dean and Sorel exited the bakkie and walked toward the lodge entrance, they were greeted by the entire staff and guests with a standing applause and a huge round of congratulatory hugs and hand-shakes.

Dean and Sorel had noticed during the day that 2 of the 3 water sources that the buffalo had been visiting were completely dry. Because Dean’s foot was in such bad condition that he could barely walk, they decided to sit over the existing water source and wait for the bull to come to them. They sat over that water hole for over half a day, watching the place come alive with various animal species comfortably unaware of their presence. Just as the sun began to set, the buffalo cautiously emerged from the bush and made his way to water. Dean carefully put his reticle on the bull’s vitals and placed a perfect 100-yard shot with the 375 H&H. He unleased to the power of the Barnes TSX, followed by the solids in the rifle’s magazine and ended this great bull’s reign over this property. In the ear of this bull was a tag that read “#5”. This tag now hangs above the center of the bar at the lodge as a reminder of this epic hunt. A dangerous animal that could not be killed, a grueling 60 hours of hunting, and a storybook ending. Even though it is not my story, it was worth telling none the less.





That night, we had a great barbeque consisting of gemsbok filets, zebra backstrap, and spicy eland sausage. Dean was a rock star among hunters that night. It was difficult to think about impala and warthogs with that big buffalo hanging in the skinning shed. Everyone fell asleep dreaming of a future buffalo hunt.
 

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Desert Dog

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Day 7


Up early, we gulped up our ham & eggs and headed to the hunting grounds. Rebecca's hunt for a good female wildebeest had been tough on Friday, so we decided to get an early start and revisit the same property. We located several groups of animals, but none contained the female we were looking for.



Late in the morning, we were blessed with a good wind and set up a stalk through some thick bush to a clearing on the other side. Hans gave us the hand signal for a sudden stop and immediately ducked behind a bush. He whispered to us that there was a good female in the bushes 100 yards ahead of us. I looked as hard as I could, but saw nothing. Hans insisted it was there and set up the sticks for Rebecca. Rebecca had to scan the brush ahead of us with the scope at 6 power for quite some time to find the hidden animal. Hans’s eyes are simply amazing.

Through the scope, Rebecca found a hole in the bush that exposed the animals shoulder perfectly broadside. She took the shot and the animal went down. This was her first kill with the 375. If you gave Hans a marker and told him to draw a dot where he wanted Rebecca to shoot, that is where the bullet went. Right into the center of the shoulder 1/3 the way up. She said “this is my gun now”.





We drove around for a while after that looking for an additional warthog or a jackal, but none cooperated. Almost out of cash from shooting several additional animals, we called an end to our hunt.


DelMaries’s chicken dinner was fantastic, as was the company as we drank and told stories late into the night.

 

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Desert Dog

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Day 8


We napped, drank beer, and lounged around the pool for most of the day. Pieter had some chores to do on his property and asked if I wanted to join him. I jumped into his golf cart and took off into the bush. He had a crew doing some dirt work across the river and he wanted to check on them. Pieter took that golf cart across the river!!! Yes, water was coming in the floorboards, but the cart made it through after a running start. Pieter also breeds sable on a plot of land near the lodge. He left the dirt road to show me the new-born babies, blasting through the tall grass at full speed while bouncing off of hidden termite mounds. If you ever want a different form of entertainment, I highly recommend a South African golf-cart safari.







Our last dinner at the lodge was wildebeest pie with all of the fixings. This was amazingly good, and I went back for 3 helpings. The cook, DelMarie, really outdid herself.


Day 9

Up early, we had our last breakfast at Cruiser Safaris. We said goodbye to the other hunters and exchanged emails. Pieter and his staff gave us a long send off which included plenty of hugs, handshakes, and a last serenade to "Rebecca" by Pieter.

On the drive to Joberg, the driver stopped by Highveld Taxidermy. This is a very impressive operation, the largest and most well organized I have ever seen. The full elephant and lions attacking a gemsbok were awesome. The property that Highveld sits upon is as beautiful as the mounts they create.

We checked in our bags and rifles without incident. We left Africa.
 

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Forrest

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I have hunted with Cruiser twice and they are outstanding. Congratulations on a great hunt.
 

375 Ruger Fan

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Wow! Excellent report. Looks like you had a great time and will have memories for a lifetime. Thanks!
 

BWH

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Very good report. Sounds like a great hunt
 

Scott Slough

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Great report! Those zebra hooves are crazy! Now to watch the video!
 

gillettehunter

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Sounds like a great african safari. Congrats and thanks for sharing. Bruce
 

Nyati

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Congrats for a great experience and very good trophies.

Excellent video !
 

cpr0312

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Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 

ChrisPy

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What a great report. We were there last July as a family, my daughter and I hunted with Hans. It looks like everyone is doing will. Congratulations on a great hunt.
 

CAustin

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You had a great hunt congrats!
 

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