SOUTH AFRICA: My First Safari, The Experience & Things I Learned

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Tbitty, Dec 1, 2019.

  1. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    I would like to share my experiences from my first Safari this past August. It was a tremendous adventure, a whole lot of fun, and it gave me the bug I've heard so many warn about; I have to go back! To make it a little more manageable of a read, I'll break this into sections. This post will cover the lead up to the hunt. Then I'll do a "post per day" of the time spent there.

    Here we go...

    A couple years ago, my brother calls me and says I need to start saving my $ and get ready for an African Safari hunt. He was the high bidder at an NRA banquet live auction, winning a trip for 4, hunting 2x1, for 5 days/6 nights with Numzaan Safaris. We had 3 years to use the hunt, and decided to do it year 2 (allowing us time to save, prepare, and a fallback year just in case something happened). We were able to get our Step Dad to join us as the 3rd. Surprisingly, amongst our friends and family, we could not find a 4th hunter to commit, so it was just the 3 of us. Numzaan said it would be no problem, we could go 2x1 and 1x1 if we couldn't find a 4th. We proceeded to make our wish list, then many revisions to the wish list, and otherwise make plans and preparations.

    For those of you who have never been, or others who want to hear how we did it, here's a little more look at our preparations. I don't recall exactly how we came to the decision, but we determined August 2019 was the time for us to go. Based on availability, we chose to arrive on the 4th and leave on the 10th. After back and forth consideration, we elected to rent rifles rather than bring our own. It was less cost than the permits, saved us the hassle of paperwork, and we didnt have to worry about damage/loss in transit. We asked many questions of the outfitters, and they were always timely and courteous in their responses.

    As we all hail from different locations, we decided to all meet a day early in New York, and take a direct flight from there to Johannesburg. *Side note- Do yourselves a favor, and pay extra for upgraded seats; we got exit row and the legroom plus ability to stand up and stretch was worth every penny.

    One of the last decisions to make was what to do with the trophies. I'm sure there are plenty of threads about this very topic already, and can be a separate conversation. A good friend of mine, also from DFW, recommended a local taxidermist. He's been happy with their work, and they also act as the "customs broker" which saved me a step, or personal trip out for pickup. Plus, they either do the pickup at no charge, if they are doing the taxidermy work, or for a small fee if the others wanted to ship their trophies to a different (local to them) taxidermist. We chose to let them do the receiving and mounting for all 3 of us. -- we actually just received word that our trophies are done at the Dip and Pack place, and ready to ship from SA. So we should have them in the US soon!

    At this point, we'd made all the decisions we could, paid our deposits, booked the flights, and were ready to roll!!

    ... Stay tuned for the departure from US, and arrival day in South Africa. Feel free to ask questions about anything started above...

    20190806_074615.jpg
     
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  2. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    Our departure started a little rocky. As I mentioned, we all come from different locations and were to meet in NY on the 2nd, stay a night there together, and depart on the 3rd for a direct flight to Johannesburg. Oddly, each of us was delayed in departures from starting cities. My flight was cancelled the morning of my flight. I was lucky to hear the alert (couldn't sleep with excitement anyway) and found that they tried to re-book me too late. Instead, I found a flight leaving sooner than original, got it reserved, and had to high-tail it to the airport. Good thing I was packed and ready! ... My brother had to wait for 40 minutes for his planes' pilot to arrive, then they had to fly around a big storm. He ended up 2 hours later than scheduled arrival time. ... and, to hit the trifecta, my step dad's flight was held in a holding pattern waiting to land. BUT, we all made it safely and headed to the hotel for the night. We had a nice dinner at the hotel restaurant, and retired early. The next morning , we shuttled to the airport and got there plenty early to ensure we didnt miss the flight. Everything went smooth and we played the waiting game for boarding to begin. Knowing it was a long flight, we mostly strolled around the airport aimlessly killing time.

    Finally, we boarded and made ready for the long flight (roughly 15.5 hours). Given the distance and time changes, we were set to arrive in Johannesburg around 8am local time. A lot of card playing, movie watching, mostly failed sleep attempts, and reading, we arrived ready for the hunt. I mentioned it before, and I'll say it again: upgrading to the exit row seats was the best "extra money" I've spent in quite some time.

    Upon arrival, it was first class all the way. A Numzaan representative met us at the gate, escorted to to customs, waited for us on the other side, and got us to the main entrance/exit where our PHs were waiting to take us to camp. We made a fuel stop, got some drinks, and made the 3 hour trek to camp. They had packed a lunch, so we stopped once to stretch and eat, and kept going. It was exciting as we got into areas seeing various hunting concessions, and our first glimpses of game animals. My brother and I rode in one truck with our PH, and he asked us questions about what we were after, got to know our experience levels and comfort with potential shooting scenarios. He gave us a book about shot placement on African game, and made suggestions. We also got to know him some, and before we knew it we were at our concession.

    He gave an impromptu tour of the ground to help us familiarize and understand the terrain and layout, then made our way to camp. I dont know why, but I was surprised that the lodge was in the middle of the hunting area. We unloaded our gear, and checked out our weeks "home". We were the only group in this camp, I'm unsure if this is standard or unusual, but it meant we each had our own room. There was a fully stocked fridge and bar, and it was a wonderful place to stay. We also met the camp staff, and our tracker/skinner. After a little paperwork, since it was still only midday, we went out with the rental rifles to make sure we were comfortable with them.

    I went first, using the PHs Ruger American Rifle in .308 with suppressor and Core-Lokt 180gr ammo. First shot, I was 1" high at 100, which is nearly identical to where I sight in my hunting rifles. Took a 2nd shot to make sure, and it was touching the first. I was happy.

    My brother took the rifle, since we would share it as a 2x1 hunt, and was comfortable with the results of his first and double check shots. He shoots lefty (I'm right), and his POI was a little different, but still within a lethal zone and not enough to worry any of us.

    My step dad then took up his PHs Remington 700 in 308, using same ammo, and was ready to test fire. He does not hunt as much as we do, and isn't as immediately comfortable for quick shots, so it took a couple extra minutes for him. We made some adjustments to the scopes zero to fit him, and had him confident in just a few shots. Knowing that he had not shot off sticks before, I asked his PH to let him take a shot or two off the sticks as well. He obliged, and even my brother asked to take one shot that way, too. They both felt good, I was ready, and so we were all set to go hunting.

    Since there was some good daylight left, our PHs decided to have us all go together in one truck to look around some. As luck would have it, a very nice impala ram was spotted. I had the longest list of critters I wanted to chase, and despite my buddies advice not to shoot the first thing we saw, both PHs indicated this was a nice old ram and a great trophy to chase. Combine that with my itchy trigger finger, and it was a quick decision that I would like to make a try before it got dark. We stalked along into a good position and had him in the crosshairs. However, he was with a group of ewes, and there was one directly behind him. My PH told me to wait for him to step forward some, or her to move from behind, and I waited for the opportunity to present. After a few minutes (or maybe it was less and just felt longer), he finally stepped forward and gave me a clear shot. My PH had already given me clearance to fire when I was comfortable AND there was a clean shot without others that could be hit behind, so I put the crosshairs on the shoulder, perfect broadside, and touched off.

    I heard the bullet hit home, and watched through the scope as he jumped sky high, then disappeared behind some thicket. I was sure he'd be laying right there, but my PH put some slight question in my mind as he said it sounded a little hollow, like I'd hit too far back. I told him I didnt think so, I was confident my shot was true, so we headed to where he'd been. The others had hung back some, watching through binoculars so as to put fewer bodies in motion to be spotted by the heard, but they joined us now. I surged with confidence as my brother said he'd seen it hit through binos, and he scored it as a great shot. We walked up, and sure enough, he was laying one jump away from where he'd stood! Straight through both shoulders and a path that would have taken both lungs and heart.

    With daylight starting to fade, we snapped some pictures and carried him off into the sunset to the truck. A phenomenal first day in Africa!

    IMG_9555.jpg IMG_9561.jpg

    We headed back to camp, enjoyed a nice dinner, and started planning for the next day, which was supposed to be Day 1 of the hunt.
     
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  3. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    That's all for tonight. More to come tomorrow...
     
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  4. Ridge Runner

    Ridge Runner AH Enthusiast

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    Nice first day, and a nice way to start your first hunt.
     

  5. DieJager

    DieJager AH Member

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    Congrats on the impala, cannot wait for more
     

  6. BenKK

    BenKK AH Elite

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    Nice ram!
     

  7. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Nothing like the first Africa adventure,...unless...it’s the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc!:ROFLMAO::D:LOL: I’ll bet you can’t wait to go back!
     
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  8. cagkt3

    cagkt3 AH ENABLER PLATINUM SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Great way to start
     

  9. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Nice start. Always feels so good to get that first animal under your belt. Especially when you make a great shot and they don't go far. Congrats
    Bruce
     

  10. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    Thanks all. On to the next day:

    The next morning we woke before sunrise, had a nice breakfast, and headed out for the day. My brother and I went with our PH, Lourens, to chase Kudu, both of us listed it as the primary target, and also for other opportunities to our "possibles" list. My step dad went with his PH, CC, for Gemsbok first, with only that and Impala on his list. He was mostly along to enjoy the experience with us boys.

    The concession we were on was large enough to split up into different areas, so we parted ways and headed out. After an hour so of not spotting worthwhile quarry, we got a call on the radio that CC had spotted some good Kudu bulls and we headed that way, while they would move to a different area for Gems. We neared the area and started stalking up on where they were spotted. I now know why they're called the grey ghost- they easily disappeared through the heavy brush as we tried to get in position to find a mature trophy and a clear shot. Soon, we decided that the best bet would be to get to an area they they generally seemd to be moving to, where Lourens knew of a watering hole. We built a quick blind, and settled in. Since my brother had originally bought the hunt, I told him to take the rifle and have first option, meanwhile I got out my camera and binoculars to watch.

    Much sooner than anticipated, only about 15 minutes, a very nice bull came into view. My brother was on the sticks and ready, and Lourens told him to take a shot when comfortable. I got my camera on my bro, and started recording. We didnt have to wait long, as only a few seconds later the gun fired and he scored a solid hit. As the Kudu ran, he fired a quick follow up and the bull stumbled into the thicket. We jumped out of the blind and made our way to where the shot was made. Finding a good trail and marks of a dragging leg, we followed about 50 yards before spotting him down. A final follow up was made to finish the job, and high fives commenced. We took our pictures and the tracker went to get the truck.

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    We loaded up, and headed back to camp for lunch, check in with the others, and make plans for the afternoon.

    Continued in next post...
     
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  11. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    We got back to camp and were happy to see a Gemsbok hanging at the skinning shed. As we went for closer inspection and to get the tale from our step dad, we realized he had another on the ground next to it! He had shot one after a successful spot and stock, that dropped behind a brush pile. After they waited for their tracker to come with the truck, the walked up to where he was and up jumped the gems. CC told him to shoot again, and down it went. Much to both of their surprise, as they walked to where it was down, they get around the original brush pile to see the first. An "Oh S@!&" moment for CC, they realized they had two down animals, despite the intention of only one. Nonetheless, it makes for more story to go with the trip.

    After some lunch, we decided that my brother and step dad would go out with CC for Impala, while I would go with Lourens for another Kudu. They had a few possibles, but decided there were still 4 hunting days, and my step dad only intended to take the one more animal, so they passed and were back to camp a bit before dark. On my end, we found several cows and calves, a few small bulls, but no mature animals to pursue. We did see a good zebra stallion and a very nice Bushbuck, but I did not have either on my list. So, it ended up being a sight-seeing afternoon for all.

    Back to camp, we lit the fire, ate a phenomenal dinner, (as were all the meals prepped for us!) and had a grand time talking about the day. We made plans for the next day, where my bro and I would leave early to go to a concession a little over an hour away, where they had some Black Wildebeest for us to chase. It was his only other primary target, and one that was on my list, too. Also from my list of possibles, there were good Gemsbok, Blesbuck, Kudu, and Blue Wildebeest in this area, so we had lots of options. Our step dad would go to a yet to be hunted area of the concession we were on, or one of the neighboring concessions, to look for his impala. With an early start ahead, we quieted down early and headed off to dream.
     
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  12. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    The next morning, our camp chef had prepared some to-go breakfast and lunch for later, and we were off. We arrived right near daylight, and made a quick stop at the lodge to check in, which happened to be Numzaan's main lodge (not their offices). The local crews advised where game had been spotted recently, and made suggestions to help us plan our day.

    Just as we started to make our way towards the target area, we spotted a lone bull Black ambling along. After the PH gave a look through the binoculars, he excitedly told us to hop off the truck and we would slip back around the hill to try and get in front of him. My bro and I had determined it would be my turn for this one, so I took the rifle and off we went. When we got to a good clearing, I was surprised how fast it had moved and the bull was much further along than I expected, and actually was still ahead of us and walking somewhat away. We sat up the sticks and waited for him to stop and give a good shot. He hit a clearing but never slowed from his walking pace. Even when Lourens gave a loud whistle, then a half yell to try and get him to stop, he kept moving. I was perfectly comfortable and confident with my options, so as he neared the end of the clearing, I gave a slight lead and touched off. Once again, I heard the bullet hit home, cycled the bolt, and was back on him. No need, he was down in his tracks and there was no movement. We gave it a couple minutes to make sure, then made our way to him. He had deep curls, and what I call a wider than normal spread, and was exactly what I was looking for in my Black.

    20190806_074615.jpg

    We were very quickly on the board for the day, and got him to the skinning shed, then headed back out to look for another.

    *as a quick aside, it was really great to hunt with people that we had no quarrels about who would shoot next. Half the fun was enjoying each others company, and sharing in the hunt. This led to my favorite stalk of the trip, which comes next.

    After spotting another group of blacks, and chasing them for a spell, we never got a good look and they were distancing from us rapidly. We decided to back off, and look elsewhere. Shortly thereafter, we came upon a nice herd of Blesbuck, and our PH spotted a mature ram in the group. I really had to rely on him for these, as they all looked similar to me and I had a hard time keeping track of the target animal. As we stalked along, suddenly he stopped and motioned for my brother to take the rifle; a big black wildebeest was also near the herd. As he was starting to get up on the sticks, the group moved on and kept us from getting a shot. We stayed with it, and then another motion to switch back. The ram had come into a clearing and was standing broadside just one step behind some brush. As I settled in, watching through the scope, and waited for him to step forward, from the other side of my scope, the black brings his head into view. I whispered to my brother to come swap me again. He took over the rifle and it wa his turn to wait for the black to step forward. Instead, my ram was the one to move, and the black turned to trot a little further along. We picked up the sticks and were moving again. Finally, my ram was in a clearing, open shot, and I quickly took the gun as the sticks were opened, I got on them, found my aim, and squeezed the trigger. Another one shot kill, he fell in a heap and there was no doubt about him getting back up. We got up to him and Lorens told us to take pictures while he went back for the truck.

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    I absolutely loved that stalk, as it was a back and forth, everyone engaged affair, and both of us were willing to give up the rifle to see the other succeed. It ranks right up there among the top hunting stories in my life, because it was so much more than just a kill. ... we got it loaded up, and were headed for the shed again.

    Before we could get there, we spotted another group of blacks. Our PH said There was one big old bull with huge bosses, but wasn't as long or deep as others we might find. My brother said he wanted to give it a try, so we were on the stalk again. This time there was a lone tree between us and them, so I held back to minimize movement and watched through my binoculars. They eased on up, and at 137 yards (we ranged it back to the tree later) it was a comfortable shot for him to take. He leaned over the tree for a solid rest, settled in, and took his shot. I heard it hit, and saw the bull drop & disappear behind the tall grass. We quickly moved up and found him right where he'd dropped. Another one for the salt.

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    Due to the thorns and brush in the way, our PH left us to take pictures while he went to the lodge (not far from us at this point) for some help and a trailer. We got him loaded and headed to the lodge for lunch.

    Making the rest of the day a short story, we looked for some more while the animals were skinned, but did not find anything more to target. We got back to our camp, nothing more had been bagged here, just a clean miss on an impala, had dinner, and shared more stories. More plans were made, and we enjoyed the African night.
     
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  13. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    One again, more to come tomorrow. However, I do want to share these pics from the main lodge we stopped by, for what I believe is the greatest giraffe mount I'll ever see.

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  14. slam8031

    slam8031 AH Enthusiast

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    Awesome tale and I also agree, fantastic giraffe mount! Congratulations on a fantastic safari with family and great critters so far!!
     
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  15. Cam Moon

    Cam Moon AH Veteran

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    Nice report so far. I'm especially pleased with the way you and your brother switched the rifle back and forth with each other, hoping the other would get their target animal. There is SO much more to hunting than shooting/killing, and it's nice to read how much that meant to you as well! :A Hi Five:
     
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  16. Tally-Ho Hunting Safaris

    Tally-Ho Hunting Safaris SPONSOR Since 2015 AH Fanatic

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    sounds like a lekker hunt with family!!!!
     
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  17. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Enjoying the report, congrats so far on your hunt!
     

  18. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    Thangs all, I'm glad your enjoying the tale.

    Also, Thanks to whichever mod is helping me, by editing the photos to rotate properly. - Could you advise how to do so, and I'll try to make sure they're properly oriented in my coming posts?
     

  19. Tbitty

    Tbitty AH Member

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    At this point, my brother had checked his target boxes. He had another trip planned with his boss (also best friend) for 2020 that includes Impala and Blesbuck. For him, the rest of the trip would be an adventure to join either me or our step dad, and keep any eye out for a big Pumba to add as well. I still wanted a Kudu and Blue wildebeest, and had a few more maybes. Silly me, I thought it would be a one time trip over, so I planned to shoot a little more and not come back except maybe a Buffalo many years down the road. Little did I realize how addicting it would be to make me want to go back! Our step dad was still really only chasing an Impala, though he was starting to mull possible add-ons if he was successful and still had hunting days left.

    With the remaining lists, CC and dad were going to chase Impala on a neighboring concession. Lourens and I were going about 20 minutes away to yet another area with kudu and blue, and also had some good Hartebeest and Gemsbok. My brother elected to join me, as there were reports of some big warthogs where we were going so he might get a chance at one.

    We again took a packed breakfast and lunch, and headed out. When we got to our place, we found the gate was locked and the "ranch hands" were not yet there to unlock for us. Our tracker hopped the fence and headed down the road to find them. After a few minutes of waiting, the PH was handing me some spare cartridges to put in my pocket and realized he had forgot to pack the rifle! He was clearly upset with himself, but I told him it wasn't the end of the world. Me and my bro could stay until they came to unlock the gate, and let them know what happened, while he went back for the rifle. He was a bit torn on the decision, not wanting to leave us alone, but we convinced him we would be fine until he returned. So we hopped the fence to be on the inside, and he headed out. While waiting, we saw some hartebeest nearby, and one looked a lot bigger than the others to us but we didnt really know how to judge them. Soon enough, the gatekeeper came and unlocked it, and a little after that our PH returned. We were ready to get started.

    Since it was a new area to our PH, he said we would do a quick tour of the property and see what we came across. We spotted the hartebeest and he confirmed that was a good bull we'd seen. He asked if I wanted to go for him, but I told him I'd rather see if we could find a Kudu or wildebeest first. Perhaps we could try to locate the hartebeest later if we had time. We saw a few other animals, found a nice wildebeest to try for, but it was right off the road and would not have been a "hunt" to me, so we kept going. We stopped again at a large herd of wildebeest and spent several minutes looking at a nice old bull, but I ultimately decided he didnt have the traditional curl look I wanted (a little more straight out and up), and lacked the defined stripes in his hide that moved the species up my list, so I'd rather keep looking or go stalk after the previous one. We found no Kudu, so it came decision time on what I wanted to do. I elected to look for the original blue, if we could park near where we saw him and pursue on foot to get closer. We went for a hike, and came up empty in our search. After returning to the truck, we went to corner of the property we'd not visited, and spotted the hartebeest group again.

    I decided to give them a go, so we started stalking. These were the most weary group of all I'd chased so far, and kept giving us the slip before we could get in position for a shot. Finally, they moved up on a plateau across a small valley from us, my brother did a quick range and said it was about 200 yards. I'm comfortable with that range, and felt solid on the sticks, so when I had a shot, I took it. We heard the hit, and watched as he ran a bit, staggered, and fell. As we started to advance towards him, he got back up and started moving. After about 50 yards we had another opportunity and I took an off hand follow up. He dropped again and we ran down the hill and halfway back up before slowing the advance to close the final gap. As we crested the rise, we saw there was no need for any more hurry. The first shot had hit the shoulder, but on the oblique it exited a little far back. The follow up had found the vitals and done its job. Another animal ready for pictures.

    20190807_110518.jpg

    It turned out, he had a broken tip on one side that we had not noticed before. However, I was pleased with the overall animal and dont mind a little "character" to a trophy, so there is no disappointment on my end. Another great hunt and happy ending. We got him loaded, and headed to the skinning shed and to take a lunch break.

    After lunch, we weren't far from where we had seen the wildebeest I wanted earlier in the day, so we just walked out of the lodge area for a spot and stalk attempt. Luck was on our side, and we quickly spotted the group, and picked out our target. We made our way along to get within range, and at 150 yards we were left with nothing but open grass between us and them. Again I was confident I could make the shot, so we sat up, double checked to make sure we had the right one in the sights, and I fired. While cycling the bolt, it hung up slightly on me, so I looked down to complete the reload. As I got back on the scope, my PH said he was bucking like a bull and I found him again, just in time to see him go down. Lourens had joked several times during our hunting days that a wildebeest is a sick animal, and every time you hit them they get healthier. At this point, I realised he was very serious about his concern for it getting up, so I followed his quick pace to close the gap, though it turned out to be unwarranted action. He was down for good, and I was a very happy hunter. My brother and I took pictures while the others went for the truck.

    20190807_123616.jpg

    We headed back to our lodge, and met with the others, who had achieved their goal of an impala. Another great dinner and night of stories ensued, as we wound down the day.
     

  20. Ridge Runner

    Ridge Runner AH Enthusiast

    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2017
    Messages:
    332
    Video/Photo:
    13
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    Hunted:
    East Cape, South Africa
    Some more really nice animals. Congrats!

    I would think it humorous a PH forgot the rifle, had I not grabbed the wrong rifle case last week. I thought I had grabbed the case with my 30-06, to go deer hunting, got to my hunting area 30 minutes from home, was geared up when I reached to pull the rifle from the case and discovered i had brought my .22 rifle by mistake.Two hours later I was finally set up in the woods.

    So I can understand your PH's frustrations.
     
    MAdcox likes this.

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