SOUTH AFRICA: My Once In A Lifetime Trip To Africa With Umlilo Safaris Eastern Cape

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Smitty, Jun 10, 2019.

  1. Smitty

    Smitty AH Senior Member

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    My Trip To Africa

    By Smitty

    To begin, let me say I have hunted my entire life and since I was little, I have dreamt of Africa. I saw “Hatari” with John Wayne and was hooked. Growing up, I read many books on Africa. As expected, my favorite author was Peter H. Capstick.

    I am a working man, having spent most of my life as a carpenter and in blue collar jobs. Hunting Africa always seemed something out of my reach, and although I had researched a trip many times, it was never really something I thought I would be able to afford.

    The story really begins with a heart problem first being diagnosed last May, resulting in an angiogram followed by a triple bypass in October. In the midst of this, my 2nd oldest son, Zachary, approached me. He is close to 30 and doing well in his career. He said, “Dad, you aren’t getting any younger (I had just turned 58). The kids have discussed it, and it is time for you to go to Africa before it is too late. We are sending you.” I was touched and appreciative. I didn’t feel right about taking a free trip on him, so I said I would pay my half if he would go with me. Zach agreed, and I suddenly had something to keep my mind off the health problems! Research, planning, and everything else involved with one’s first safari was just the therapy I needed.

    AfricaHunting.com was my primary resource. Once I joined as a member, I received several emails from Outfitters asking for my business. Most Outfitters advertised their luxury accommodations and great cuisine and extensive wine list. My interest was more in actually being in Africa and hunting. I didn’t think I could afford to pay for 5 star accommodations, being on a 2 star budget.

    It’s very nerve wracking to plan a once-in-a-lifetime hunt with no prior experience traveling abroad for hunting. How could I choose an Outfitter who would be able to help me realize my lifelong dream, and not turn it into a nightmare of good money spent for broken promises and dashed hopes?

    I decided to write a short statement explaining what I was looking for, the animals I wished to hunt, and what I was willing to pay. I sent each Outfitter the exact same statement. I received many replies. Some Outfitters replied with my exact list but at a much higher figure than I could afford. Some Outfitters replied with a hunt within my budget, but with a totally different list of animals.

    Umlilo Safaris (Francois and Johan Dorfling) were among the Outfitters who replied to my inquiry. They responded with a proposal for a hunt, exactly as I requested. The exact species list, lengthy of hunt, and price. After a few WhatsApp conversations, I was hopeful.

    Next, I searched AfricaHunting.com, Facebook, Google, and anywhere else I could find for information on the Outfitter. I found several people who had hunted with Umlilo in the past. I sent each one a private message and asked if I could speak with them regarding their experience. Three of them responded. All gave glowing reports of their hunt and were well pleased with the value and the company. I booked the hunt. No turning back now!

    Using the thread, “Hunting Safari Preparation Timeline”, I began preparing for the hunt. While recovering from the heart surgery, I began exercising, first on a treadmill, and then hiking local hills to get in shape. I also lined up my 4457s, insurance, shots, dental work, practicing on shooting sticks, everything I could do to be as prepared as possible. Thank you everyone who contributed on the preparation thread. I would like to give a special thank you to sierraone for his post about making extra copies of your itinerary, 4457s, etc. It saved me a BIG headache when I returned to the USA and found my original 4457s had been torn out of my packet and kept by the South African Police. Thanks to Sierraone’s advice, I had backup copies. I even brought a flash drive with all documents on it in case I needed to print out more.

    OK, onto the trip!

    18 May 2019.

    Departure: SFO, Jet Blue to JFK 2115 departure. Then at JFK switch to SAA to Johannesburg and on to Port Elizabeth. 38 hours of travel time.

    As I came out of the gate area, I was met by my PH, Francois Dorfling, co-owner of Umlilo Safaris. After months of texts, emails, and WhatsApp messages, it was nice to finally meet him in person. Francois assisted me with picking up my rifle and getting the luggage loaded. We loaded up for the hour trip to the property.

    Upon arrival, I was shown to our room and told supper would be ready shortly. After stowing my gear in the room, I went downstairs to the bar and gathering place. Out back is a deck overlooking the bush. At a distance of about 800 to 1500 yards is a mile long area that is mostly a clearing. From the deck, I saw impala, black and common springbok, black wildebeest , and blesbok. I immediately named the plains area the “Serengeti.” It was a constant glassing spot for the duration of my trip. I couldn’t believe I was really in Africa and seeing these animals live.

    My hunt list was for mature animals representative of their species, and I had no expectations of getting huge trophies of every species. Of all the trophies, kudu was the #1 animal I dreamed of. Nothing else outside of the big 5 says Africa to me like the kudu. Since the beginning, I told Francois that if I could get one exceptional trophy, I was hoping for a good kudu. Francois said he would do his best to make it happen.

    I didn’t want too much recoil because my chest was split open 6 months ago. The rifle I decided to bring was a Tikka 7mm Rem. Magnum, left handed. It has a Bartlein barrel with a 8.7” twist, a Boyd’s Stock, and a Zeiss 5-25 scope. I love this rifle, and had installed the barrel, stock, and scope myself. I usually shoot around a half MOA with it. Because I was worried about troubles importing handloads to South Africa (I later learned it wouldn’t have been an issue), I used factory Barnes 160 TSX bullets, shooting at 2995 fps.


    21 May 2019, 1st day hunting

    First hunting day! It had rained lightly overnight, but the rain had stopped by morning. A quick trip to the range, and I was ready to hunt. We drove the bakkie (pickup) to a high spot near the top of a nearby hill. Driving in, we saw steenbuck and vervet monkey. Francois spotted gemsbok about 2000 yards away on an opposing hillside. It was a cold, clear, beautiful morning with the sun behind us shining onto the hillside. With some coaching, Francois was able to show me where they were. I realized I had a lot to learn about spotting african game.

    We started walking. After what seemed like 2 miles or so, Francois stopped. During the walk, we saw warthog and duiker, but It seemed like the gemsbok had given us the slip. I had noticed Zachary (my son) was limping. When I inquired, he told me he had been having problems with his knee for a while, but he had hoped it would be better by the time we traveled. It obviously wasn’t, and he was in pain.

    While we were talking, Francois was looking around. He told me he had not seen any tracks circling to our right (uphill) and he was sure he would have seen them if they circled to our left (downhill), so he believed the gemsbok were still somewhere on the hillside in front of us. We started out again, but we hadn’t gone 100 yards when suddenly there they were, 50 yards away. I saw a flash of straight black horn and I involuntarily gasped. It was a real, live gemsbok! Two of them to be exact. They were on their feet and gone in a second! Strike One! I was thrilled to have seen them, yet I felt a little foolish to have gasped like a little kid at the circus. I was amazed at how big they seemed, and how beautiful.

    Francois said we had walked 3 miles. I realized my view of the african bush looked exactly the same to me no matter where we were hunting.
    My view of the African Bush.jpg
    Francois called for the truck and we drove about a mile to another section of the property. Francois said he had spotted zebra and blue wildebeest on this hill while we were stalking the oryx. After walking for about a half hour, suddenly Francois stopped. He knelt down and told me he had just spotted a wildebeest bull about 180 meters ahead. We stayed low and approached a bush a short distance away. Francois ranged him at 168 meters. He also spotted 3 other bulls lying down next the original one he had spotted.

    Having hunted in California, Wyoming, and Utah where shots can tend to be long, I was ready to shoot. Francois said no, we must get closer. We slowly moved from bush to bush, trying not to make a sound. A slight breeze blew in our faces, so I had no fear of their catching our scent. We stopped at 100 yards. Francois said, “closer.” We moved from bush to bush until we were between 50 and 60 yards. FINALLY, Francois said it was time to shoot. He eased the sticks to the edge of the bush we were crouched behind, and I slid into position. Francois made a noise I can only describe as barking, and the wildebeest got to their feet. He pointed out the one he wanted me to shoot. It was facing us straight on, so I centered on his chest about 1/3 of the way up and shot. The bull was obviously hit hard and Francois said not to shoot again. He only went about 50 yards and went down. As we closed in, the bull lifted his head up, so I shot him again, and my first african animal was in the salt!

    It was hard to believe how beautiful he was. His coat was incredible. I think I was in shock because it was hard for me to process that my safari was really happening. We took pictures, discussed the hunt, and loaded the wildebeest onto the back of the truck.
    Blue Wildebeest.jpg


    After a delicious brunch at the lodge and a brief rest, we resumed hunting around 3 PM. Zach’s leg was hurting, so he stayed behind to rest up. We drove west from the lodge and hadn’t gone a ¼ mile when we spotted kudu running at about 300 yards. I put up the binoculars and gasped. (I don’t know what happened to my breathing, but I seemed to have been doing that a lot since I arrived in Africa.) A bull! He appeared to have good horns to me as he disappeared into the brush. Francois said we could do better. A minute later, I saw giraffe, about 7 of them, one a baby. Then we spotted another kudu bull about a thousand yards away, not a shooter. Then some warthogs, but only sows and young ones. We moved on and for a mile or so, then got out and began to quietly sneak up a hill. We had walked about a 1/4 mile and had just crested the hill when or so when off to the left at maybe 50 yards, a kudu cow barked (a sound I had never heard before). The cow ran off and appeared at the bottom of the hill, running by herself.

    We loaded up into the bakkie and drove to another hill to glass for the evening. We were overlooking the original old farmhouse. One of the trackers had reported seeing a monster warthog near here. That evening we saw sable, impala, warthog, zebra, blue wildebeest, and kudu. On a distant hillside, Francois spotted a magnificent kudu bull, but it was too far away to reach before dark. Below us, a different kudu bull appeared, but Francois said we could do better. As darkness fell, we returned to camp.

    Dinner was sable stew, among other things. I don’t remember exactly what else, because I was amazed at the stew! It was the best! The flavor reminded me slightly of Indian cuisine. Each piece of meat was circular, and in the middle was a small donut shaped piece of bone with a hole in the middle. It was obviously shank meat. Yet it was so tender I just couldn’t believe it. Francois confirmed it was from the front leg of a sable. Amazing.
    Menu.jpg

    22 May 2019, 2nd hunting day.

    Zachary’s knee was still hurting, so he stayed behind. It was quite cold during the night, and at daylight it was about 2 degrees Celsius (35 degrees F.) when we left the lodge. Francois and I went to the same lookout as yesterday, and we began glassing for oryx. We didn’t see much, so Francois said it was time for Plan B, just going for a walk. The weather was breezy and cold.

    We drove through a gate, parked the bakkie, and began walking. After about a half hour, we spotted a young kudu bull about 100 yards away, looking right at us. His horns were in full sun and he was just so incredible to watch. Through binoculars at this distance I could clearly see his markings, eyelashes, everything. It was a special moment. We moved on and soon saw a herd of impala and blesbok intermingled on the opposite hillside. As we continued down the hill, Francois and I both heard a sound, like a donkey. Francois said he thought it was a zebra, but it might have been a bird. 20 yards later, he turned and said, “no, it was a zebra, and there he is.” On the opposite hill, at about 400 yards, a zebra was with some blesbok and they were angling downhill and towards us. Suddenly, I heard lions roaring in the distance. I thought, how cool is this? We were stalking zebra while lions roared in the distance! (Ok, it turned out later that the lions were in a Cat Sanctuary a couple of miles away, but I didn’t know that at the time.) We hurried to intercept the zebra. Francois stopped and setup the sticks. He pointed to an opening. He said there was a white blesbok and 3 zebra following. They should pass through the opening and he would tell me which one to shoot. The blesbok passed, then the 1st zebra. The other two veered slightly and went behind a bush. No shot offered.

    Francois said we would intercept them. We went down the hill, around the hill, up the hill, all trying to keep the wind right and the sun at our backs. Finally, Francois stopped. He said that he had bad news and good news. Bad news- the zebra had run directly away from us. Good news- they had turned around and were now running back and if we were patient, we should have a shot. WHAT?? How does Francois possibly know this? Does this man have a drone or something? I hadn’t even seen them in a half hour, how did he possibly know all of this?

    About 10 minutes later, Francois looked over the bush and said, “yes, they are coming.” He setup the sticks and I waited. He showed me a gap in the brush and said to hold there. zebra began to come into my view. Francois told me the one we wanted was standing behind a bush, with only his head and neck sticking out. It was 180 meters away. I saw the zebra and lined up the shot. After several minutes, Francois asked me if I thought I could shoot him behind the ear. I checked my sight picture through my scope. I was steady and felt good about the shot. I told Francois I was comfortable taking the shot. He said if you are sure, go ahead. I took aim and squeezed off. I lost sight picture at the recoil, but I heard a very loud and distinctive bullet strike. Francois said, “Do you think you hit him?” I heard my own voice say, “Oh, I hit him alright.” What? Did I just say that? I realized I might have just made a fool of myself, should we find out that I missed and the sound I heard was my bullet striking a rock. We walked up to the zebra, and my shot had hit exactly where I had aimed behind the ear. What a relief.


    I was a little overwhelmed at the sight of him. He was a beautiful large stallion. I kept looking at him and I was hit with an emotional response I never expected. I started getting all choked up. It was hard to see, and I had to walk away, afraid I was going to cry. This was the moment when the reality hit me. I was actually in Africa, hunting. I have no idea why it didn’t happen the day before, when I shot the Wildebeest. I only know it hit me hard. I was so happy, I couldn’t hold it in. I kept looking at the zebra and realized my lifelong dream was a reality. After we had loaded the stallion into the bakkie, I climbed into the cab, but still was unable to really speak. I wished that feeling could stay with me forever.
    Zebra.jpg

    After brunch, we went to look for kudu and warthog back by the old farmhouse. On the way, Francois spotted a lone impala. He told me lone impalas are often big males. We stopped and after a minute, Francois said he was a shooter. We walked down into a dry creek bed and starting our sneak. About 300 yards later, Francois set the sticks. The impala was to pass at 180 yards angling away from us, but the brush was thick. I aimed at a gap in the brush and waited. As it entered the gap, Francois made a noise to stop the impala. Fearing he was going to pass the opening before it stopped, I fired while it was still walking. The bullet was true and the impala ran about a hundred yards and fell, shot through both lungs on a quartering angle. He was a good ram, with a beautiful shape to his horns.
    Impala.jpg


    We went and sat on the hill overlooking the old farmhouse. It was a good evening for viewing and we say 6 warthogs (2 sets of sows with piglets), 3 blue wildebeest, 3 sable, numerous impala, 9 kudu cows, and a giraffe.

    Before dinner, an appetizer of grilled kudu liver was given. Liver isn’t high on my list, but I do eat it occasionally. It was delicious! Kudu liver is mild, sweet, and far better than any other liver I have had! Dinner was impala lasagna, also delicious.

    May 23rd 2019 3rd hunting day

    KUDU DAY!!

    It happened. We left to lodge (with Zachary) and Francois said, “Today, Oryx or bust!” Francois suddenly turned left and went up the hill behind the lodge. We had been hunting to the east of the lodge for oryx, so I was surprised. When I looked over, Francois explained that it was still early, and he had an urge to scout the kudu before full daylight and we would check the oryx a little later. Once upon the top of the hill, we walked over the other side to avoid being skylined while glassing.

    We glassed the other side for a few minutes and animals seemed to be everywhere. I counted 11 kudu cows on the opposite ridge, a couple further down. Blesbok were down in the small valley between the hillsides, and it just seemed magical. 745 yards away, a kudu bull was feeding in a small clearing below the cows. Francois took one good long look at him and said, “He is a trophy, that’s your bull!”

    Our hillside was sparsely brushed and I worried how we would approach him. Francois walked away from the bull for a short distance until the sun was behind our back and slightly to the right. We began to descend the hill. Francois kept us in the shadow of the bush, even though it was the side facing the kudu. We kept descending. About ½ way down the hill, I remembered I had not chambered a round in my rifle yet. We stopped and as slowly and quietly as I could, I slid a round into the chamber. As I closed the bolt, Francois said “that kudu cow heard you.” I looked up and approximately 400 yards away, a kudu cow was staring at us. The bull was about 100 yards above her. Francois said that if she barks, he would be gone. We stood without moving for several minutes. We were in the shadow of a bush, but in full view. Francois whispered that she wouldn’t be able to see us as the sun was directly in her eyes. After 3 to 4 minutes, otherwise known as an eternity, she turned downhill and walked into the brush. My knees almost buckled. On we went.

    As we neared the bottom of the hill, there were 3 blesbok about a hundred yards away. We re-routed and skirted them. As soon as we began to ascend the hillside below the kudu, Francois gave me a thumbs up. We continued on a diagonal towards the bull. After a few hundred yards, Francois stopped and we knelt down. He peeked around the edge of the bush and nodded. Slowly, Francois slid the sticks out and set them up. He came back and told me the bull was at 228 meters and still feeding. We couldn’t get closer due to the kudu cows above on the ridge. I slid into position and slowly stood while placing my rifle on the triggersticks. I kept telling myself, “don’t look at the horns, don’t look at the horns.”

    I steadied my breathing and concentrated on making a perfect shot. 1/3 up and on the point of the shoulder. This is it, 1 shot away from your dream bull. Don’t screw this up. I realized I needed to quit talking to myself and just shoot. As I squeezed the trigger, I heard the bullet and Francois said, “perfect shot.” The bull had disappeared into about 10 meters away. Francois said he could see the bush shaking and was sure the bull was down. He then said to me, “are you shaking a little?” I replied, “No, I am shaking A LOT!” We both had a good laugh and started up the hill to see my bull. Zachary was pretty excited also and I was so glad he was there with me, even though I know his knee was hurting badly.

    We got to the bush and slowly approached it. Suddenly Francois jumped back. I threw the rifle to my shoulder and he started laughing. He said, “just kidding. He is lying right there.” I looked and saw the back of the kudu. He was in the middle of this big bush. We circled the bush, but there was no path into it. The bull had simply jumped in and died. Thorns or not, I needed to see this bull. I dove in and started to pull him out. As I write this, all but one of the scratches has completely healed. He was beautiful. Very wide, ivory tips, good length. Francois said it was as good as an Eastern Cape Kudu gets. Francois left to get the truck, and it was a good thing for I burst into tears. Yes, I cried. I was so happy, so over-joyed I just couldn’t process it. I didn’t tape him, and I don’t care what he scores. To me he is a trophy, my trophy. I would guess him at about 48-50” in length, about 3’ wide and heavy.
    Kudu.jpg


    On the way to the skinning shed, Francois spotted a nice warthog and we put a stalk on him. He gave us the slip, and frankly, I was glad. I wanted to continue thinking about the kudu and wasn’t ready to move on to something else. After lunch, I took a quad back over to the skinning shed and watched while my bull was skinned and caped.

    In the evening, we again went to the hill overlooking the old farmhouse and watched for the monster warthog. I saw a couple of groups of warthog, but no boars. Then I saw a kudu bull. He was young, not quite mature. He was in full sunlight and fed around in front of me. It was an awesome sight to watch. After an hour, we moved to a different hill and looked over a new (to me) area. We saw 2 nyala bulls, browsing at about 70 yards, and in the distance, several kudu cows. As we drove back to the lodge at last light, kudu were everywhere. We saw several groups, in total about 30-40 cows and at least 4 bulls. What a perfect day.

    May 24th, 2019 4th hunting day.

    Francois and I left the lodge about 0730 to look for oryx. As we began to near our lookout spot, We both saw an animal standing in full sun under a tree several hundred yards away. Francois immediately said, “warthog.” He looked through the binoculars and said that the hog was a very good boar. We parked the truck and began walking. Francois said we had to hurry as it wouldn’t stay still for long. We rushed for a while, then suddenly Francois changed the pace from double-time to snail-slow.

    Francois stopped and pointed at a tree 25 yards off our right and downhill. He said the warthog was behind the tree, but we couldn’t see it to shoot so we would circle. We only went maybe 50 yards when he suddenly said, “here he comes. He is going to feed into the gap in front of us, left to right.” I got onto the sticks, and waited. I heard Francois say, “he is in the gap, shoot him.” I couldn’t see him at all. I lifted my head and realized he was closer and I was looking over his back. I dropped the sticks slightly and could see the middle of the pig. In my mind, I had the pig behind the tree on the right and downhill, so the only way for the pig to get to the gap was by going right to left and uphill. I placed the crosshairs just behind the front leg and squeezed off. The pig took off running. We waited a moment and went forward to find him. We didn’t find blood, just tracks and slobber. After a short distance, a small spot of blood was found, then stomach contents. 200 yards later, Francois said the pig had quit running and was walking. The sign disappeared. We searched for a long time, but no luck.

    I couldn’t believe I had missed so badly as to hit the stomach. During the discussion, I realized I couldn’t have missed by 2 feet, so I must have aimed in the wrong spot. It suddenly became clear. Francois said he was wrong about which tree the hog was behind, and it had actually been a tree higher and on the left of us. He saw it feeding down and setup the sticks. Francois had even said, “from left to right” but my brain didn’t process it and I had shot 2 inches in front of the back leg instead of 2 inches behind the front leg. An expensive and tragic mistake on my part. Francois put on a good face about it, but I could see he was also disappointed. I thought about not including this section in my report, but perhaps others can learn from my mistake.

    We returned to our lookout point and began glassing for oryx. Francois spotted some at a long distance. Very long. I have no idea how he can see as far as he can, with or without binoculars. We drove in a semi-circle to get the wind right and started walking. After about a ½ mile, we slowed and began our stalk. Maybe 15 minutes later, Francois suddenly stopped and set the sticks. I saw a good oryx at 75 yards looking at us. Before I could get on the sticks, he turned and ran off. I saw several more tails and horns in the brush as they left. Francois said he thought we should wait a few minutes, then continue after them. He said only the one oryx had spotted us, but he wasn’t sure what we were. They only trotted just out of sight and if we let them settle a bit, we should get a shot. We waited a bit, then began walking after them. 10 minutes later, we still had not seen them. Francois had me wait while he circled looking for fresh tracks. He came back and said they were still ahead of us. We continued our stalk. A few minutes later, we saw them again. They were skittish and milling about. They began to leave the area, but they weren’t running. Francois set the sticks and said, “the bull on the far left.” I asked the range, and he said it was 227 meters. I took aim and waited for the bull to stop. He stopped and turned his head to look at us. I shot and heard the bullet strike. I lost him in the recoil and racked another shell into the chamber. I heard Francois say, “and he’s down.”

    What a beautiful creature an oryx is. Their markings are stunning and next to the kudu, my favorite. OK, nyala are majestic, but not in my budget. I was so happy. Before we loaded the oryx, I asked for a few minutes to just look at and admire him. My mood was somewhat tempered by my mistake on the warthog, but I was still elated. A magnificent trophy, and memories of a wonderful stalk. On a side note, I had decided on a bleached skull and rug for the oryx to save money. After it was skinned, my son Zachary said he really thought we should shoulder mount it. I explained the skin was removed for a rug and it wouldn’t work for a shoulder mount now. Francois heard this and said he had an extra oryx cape he would give me for free, and I could have both, a rug and a mount. I thought this was very nice, and problem solved!
    Oryx.jpg


    I still had a springbok (or a Blesbok, either one) on my list, but I decided I would rather go after a warthog and I would pay the difference in trophy fees. Francois was nice enough to give me a good discount. For the evening hunt, we went to a new spot, overlooking a two-track down a hillside leading to a water hole. As we walked up the hill to the overlook, a nice boar warthog was sighted, but he disappeared into the brush. After cresting the hill, we walked another 50 yards and sat down. I immediately saw a sow and 3 piglets feeding 300 yards below us. For the next hour and a half, warthogs wandered in and out of the road, along with 8 Kudu cows. We didn’t see any shooters, but it was a great time anyway. On the way back, we saw more kudu, 2 sables, and a white-tailed mongoose.

    Dinner was Chicken Schnitzel, stir fry veggies, potatoes, and mini cupcakes for dessert.

    May 25th, 5th hunting day.

    Francois wanted to start at 8 this morning and go for blesbok. We drove to the same property where I shot the blue wildebeest and the zebra and began walking. After a mile or so, we spotted some blesbok with some zebra mixed in. 45 minutes later, we were still stalking. Suddenly 3 zebra followed by 2 blesbok ran across in front of us. Francois said they were good rams, let’s follow them. Almost an hour later, we decided they had given us the slip. Francois called for the bakkie. When it arrived, we drove to the opposite side of the property. The tracker, Yani, suddenly said he had seen blesbok not too far ahead. Francois and I started walking. We had only walked a few hundred yards when we saw the blesbok. They were about a half dozen, most of them lying down.

    There wasn’t much cover, but we worked our way in. At about 80 meters, we stopped. Francois setup the sticks at kneeling height and I moved into position. I found the sticks to be a bit high for kneeling and tried to adjust them. One of the standing blesbok began to get nervous. I decided to quit trying to adjust the sticks and just stretch up a little bit to make the shot. I took aim and shot. They ran off, but then they turned and came back. Eventually, they moved off. Francois said he thought I had hit the ram, but he wasn’t sure. We checked the tracks and didn’t find blood. I can only conclude I was too shaky stretched out and missed. I know that after my problem with the warthog, I simply felt a little off my game. I knew I had to get over it and get my enthusiasm back.

    Francois felt we could get back on them, so off we went. We went back to the bakkie and drove a short distance to get the wind right. We barely began walking before the blesbok appeared, walking in our direction. At about 80 meters, the lead blesbok (a white one) veered to his left. Some of the other blesbok followed, and a couple of them stopped behind a tree. Francois said the one I wanted was behind the tree. Soon, they waked out from behind the tree and I shot. The ram made it about 10 yards and went down, heart shot.
    Blesbok.jpg


    Dinner was kudu, wildebeest, oryx, and springbok loins. The first 3 were from animals I had shot. The oryx was delicious. So was the wildebeest! It would be difficult to call a favorite. Oryx - hint of liver flavor, but mild. Kudu – firm, taste almost like beef. Wildebeest, very tender and it had a little more fat than most game meat. Springbok – hard to describe, but closer to our venison.

    A couple from Colorado arrived in camp tonight, and 3 more men from Georgia are set to arrive tomorrow. Until now, it has just been me as the only hunter, and Francois as the only PH. Tomorrow we will have a very full house.

    That night Francois suggested a black wildebeest. I still had several hunting days left. He gave me a good price, and I was sorely tempted but I didn’t want to bust the budget too badly. Finally I told Francois I had figured out a way to pay for a black wildebeest, (long pause as I looked him dead in the eye), but it was going to involve his tip money. Francois didn’t blink. He replied, “you know, we are fresh out of black wildebeest!” We had a good laugh, and the seed was planted in my mind. I knew I would cry once, and I would enjoy the memory for a lifetime.

    May 26th, 2019. 6th hunting day.

    Today we had decided to go for warthog. Francois picked up Zach and I and we drove to a lookout spot and got ready for a long session of glassing. We weren’t there 5 minutes and we spotted a good warthog about 1500 yards away. We left Yani and Zachary on the hill, and Francois and I began to close the distance. As we got close, we saw a sow and 4 piglets, but were unable to locate the boar. Eventually, we gave up, given the slip again. While waiting for the bakkie, Francois spotted springbok not too far away. Just as we got close, some geese flew over. Suddenly one of them began honking and veered away from where we were. The springbok got nervous and started walking/running away. We set the sticks, but I was unable to get steady enough.

    We stood there and noticed some black wildebeest lying down a few hundred yards away. After some discussion, black wildebeest was added to my list of animals. I had known since last night, but I hadn’t actually let Francois in on it.

    The terrain was very open, with only a few bushes here and there. We placed one bush between us and them and began walking out on the open plain. We made it to a large bush about 200 meters away. There was a small acacia tree approximately 45 meters in front of the bush. We low crawled to the tree and had the wildebeest at about 150 meters. I braced my rifle on the tree, and Francois made a noise to get them to stand up. Francois said to shoot the one on the right. I aimed and fired. They ran a few yards and stopped. As my wildebeest turned around 180, I could clearly see an exit wound streaming blood from mid chest. He was staggering a little, but I shot him again to make sure. He went down and out.

    The wildebeest was beautiful in a crazy sort of way. He was a good specimen and had beautiful horns. I was overjoyed to have taken him. Both of the wildebeest I shot, one black and one blue, were very tough animals and were the only two animals that lived long enough to shoot twice.
    Black Wildebeest.jpg


    Dinner was good, Kudu in gravy (from the bull I shot), and several delicious side dishes.


    May 27th 2019, Monday and non-hunting day.

    Today we went to visit the Cat Sanctuary nearby. It was about 4 miles from the lodge. There were meerkats, 15 cheetahs, about 7 leopards, 2 lions, 3 hyenas, and several caracal and servals. The cheetahs were fun to watch, the leopards beautiful. The first enclosure of leopards were juveniles, most of them about 9 months old. Zachary began taking pictures of them through the chain link fence. He explained the trick was to get close enough to the fence that the lens shot through the small opening and the fence didn’t make it into the picture. While Zach was kneeling down, taking pictures with his camera touching the fencing. He was totally absorbed with looking through the viewfinder. He suddenly felt something touching his hand. He looked down and a young female leopard had reached through the fence and placed her paw on top of his hand. Zach was thrilled and a little nervous at the same time. He carefully removed his hand and backed up a little bit. Here is a picture of a young leopard.
    Leopard.jpg

    The lions were magnificent. They were a pair of black maned brothers about 8 years old. They were the ones I heard roaring while stalking my zebra. Danelle was our guide, a pretty, young girl my daughter’s age. As we talked, she showed us pictures of an awesome kudu she shot last year. At the end of the tour, we were given the opportunity to enter an enclosure and pet a Cheetah. After Danelle assessed the mood of the Cheetah, we moved in close. The Cheetah began to purr loudly and rub its’ head on us. The Cheetah began smelling my right pants leg right at the knee. She then took 2 small bites at my pants. I realized there might be residual blood on my pants from hunting and decided it was time to terminate my visit with the Cheetah!
    Lion.jpg


    May 28th 2019, 7th hunting day.


    It rained hard during the night and was raining off and on during the morning. It was gloomy and dramatically different from what I had experienced so far. The roads were snotty and slippery to say the least. I decided to follow along on Brian’s hunt as an observer. He is one of the gentlemen from Georgia. Francois spotted black wildebeest out on the open plain I had nicknamed the Serengeti. Brian and Francois took off while I watched from the bakkie. It was a lot of fun to sit as an observer. As I was watching, a jackal began trotting across the center of the plain. It attracted the attention of ostrich, wildebeest, springbok, and blesbok. The jackal paid them no mind and trotted along, finally stopping halfway across and sniffing at a bush. Suddenly I saw the springbok and blesbok take off running. Behind them was a second jackal, apparently trying to chase them towards the first one. The springbok knew better and veered off to the side. About a dozen ostriches ran out onto the plain and started chasing the jackals, who ran off in the brush. Then a large male ostrich took off by himself and began chasing the black wildebeest that were on the far side of the plain. This reminded me that Francois and Brian were still stalking the wildebeest that were on this side of the plain. I found them in the binoculars just in time to see the wildebeest take off, followed by the sound of a shot. It ran a short distance and stopped, stiff legged. It fought to stand for almost a full minute, and finally fell over dead. Talk about drama on the high plains! More excitement than my heart should be subjected to!

    After loading the wildebeest, we drove to the corner of the property and started glassing for Kudu. We saw a bunch of kudu cows. At about 300 yards, a warthog suddenly stepped into view. Francois said it was a nice one and I should step out of the truck. As soon as I did, the kudus began barking and ran off, as did the warthog. Francois said he was sure the boar had a burrow very close as everything was wet and muddy except for the warthog, whose fur was dry and clean. He said we would come back tonight and sit up on a dirt mound behind where the warthog was seen.

    That evening, I rode with another PH, Jacques, as he took me out to the dirt mound to wait for the warthog. We no sooner sat down than we saw about a half dozen kudu cows running about 300 yards away, almost exactly where we had been parked in the morning. Behind the kudus, I saw a sow and 3 or 4 piglets running, tails in the air. As we were watching them, I saw another warthog halfway between the kudus and us. It was trotting in and out of the brush and suddenly stopped. I said, “Jacques, look at that one!” Jacques looked over with his binoculars and said it was a nice boar. I asked if I should shoot, and he said, “yes.” I took aim and pulled the trigger. Jacques immediately said, “miss.” The hog ran into the brush. I couldn’t believe I missed it. I was dead steady and sure of my shot. I told Jacques I didn’t think I had missed. He said he would go check, just to be sure. Jacques and the tracker disappeared into the brush.

    20 minutes later, I saw brush shaking in front of me. I thought, “Great. Another warthog is going to show. Should I shoot it and possibly have to pay for 2? Or not shoot it and find out I missed the first one and didn’t shoot at the second?” While I pondered my dilemma, the bushes continued to shake. I continued watching through the binoculars and finally saw Jacque’s head come into view. He was walking with the tracker next to him.

    I was disappointed as they were walking and not carrying a pig. Then as their lower halves came into view, I saw they both had their arms behind, clinging to a pole and dragging something! Turns out the pig was shot through the heart and hadn’t gone 20 yards. It had just taken time to drag it across they dry wash and up the embankment. YEAH!! My warthog curse was over.
    Warthog.jpg

    On the trek back to the bakkie, I came across the remains of a dead porcupine and gathered a handful of beautiful quills. It was a beautiful end to a wonderful hunt. I couldn’t be happier with the animals taken and the experience. I pushed the budget a bit (a lot), but what a wonderful time.

    While preparing for this hunt, I had worried my expectations were too high and I was setting myself up for disappointment. No problem there. I was actually thrilled with how everything went. The hunting was great, Umlilo Safaris did a fantastic job, and the food was awesome.


    May 29th, 2019 Addo National Park

    Today we went to Addo Park. Francois’ wife, Melissa, took us to the park. The morning was very foggy and we waited a bit before leaving. Once we left, it was about 45 minutes to the park. The fog lingered and it seemed as if we would not be able to see well at the park at all. Literally as we turned off the road and into the park entrance, we broke out of the fog and into bright sunshine. I am not sure, but I think angels sang and I heard a harp as well.

    Addo is a huge park, and we only traveled a bit in the lower half. The tour lasted about 4 hours and we saw tons of kudu, zebra, hartebeest, and warthogs. In the distance we saw eland, cape buffalo, and elephants. Then, as we turned a corner, we saw a large elephant bull crossing the road. The bull passed within 10 yards of the car and started feeding about 30 yards away. We got some fantastic pictures and enjoyed the show as long as we could. His ivory was on the light side, but he was impressively tall and majestic.
    Elephant.jpg


    May 30th, 2019 Departure for Port Elizabeth.


    We had planned to spend couple of days at the end of our hunt and tour Port Elizabeth and shop for souvenirs for the family. Saying goodbye to Francois and Melissa was tough. I know why they say you arrive as guests and leave as friends. We were driven into PE and dropped off by Ian, one of the PHs for Umlilo. We stayed at the Courtyard hotel for 3 nights before catching our flight back to the United States on the afternoon of June 2nd. I would recommend a shop called Wezandla African Craft Traders for trinkets. They had the most handmade crafts and the prices were reasonable.

    Summary: It was a fantastic hunt, better than I thought it could be. Africa was amazing and I truly hope to return again. I am reminded of a post by Terry Blauwkamp

    "Once in a Lifetime"??? ya right.. Biggest lie I ever told my ex-wife in 1985... that this was my one chance to go.

    I will never forget the wonderful time and the fulfillment of a life-long dream. I have also dreamt of Buffalo hunting in Zimbabwe……..

    Thanks for taking the time to listen to my ramblings. If you get the chance to go, GO!
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 10, 2019
    Rick Cox, Roan, MAdcox and 29 others like this.

  2. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats on your hunt and thanks for sharing!
     
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  3. spike.t

    spike.t AH ENABLER SPONSOR Since 2013 AH Ambassador

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  4. cagkt3

    cagkt3 AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Congrats on the hunt, time to start planning for round 2!
     
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  5. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    very nice !
     
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  6. cls

    cls AH Elite

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    Thanks for the hunt report. Congrats on a very successful hunt. I'll be watching for your "next" hunt report:whistle:.
     
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  7. rinehart0050

    rinehart0050 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Congrats on your hunt! Francois and the whole Umlilo team are great hosts/ outfitters.
     
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  8. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats on your hunt and thank you for the hunt report!
     
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  9. Smitty

    Smitty AH Senior Member

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    Thank you sir. Yes, I did.. just a LITTLE! :E Excited: I know the post was long, but I wanted to be thorough. I figured if it was too long for some, they could just scroll through and look at the pictures.
     
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  10. Smitty

    Smitty AH Senior Member

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    Absolutely, and thank you.
     

  11. Smitty

    Smitty AH Senior Member

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    They certainly were. Francois worked very hard to see I received the trip of a lifetime. I was so very pleased.
     
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  12. slam8031

    slam8031 AH Enthusiast

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    Congratulations and great write up!!
     
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  13. AZDAVE

    AZDAVE AH Elite

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    Thank you for sharing and welcome to the club of "bitten by the Africa bug" Trust me you second and 3-100 safaris will be great. Buff hunting is just amazing!
     
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  14. Shootist43

    Shootist43 AH ENABLER GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    A great hunt and a great post. Not too long just complete. Your next safari is planned for when??
     
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  15. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    I'll add my congrats to the others. Looks like some nice trophies. Its great that you got to go. Makes rehab a lot more important. Enjoyed your writing style.
    Bruce
     
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  16. Nyati

    Nyati AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats, you had a great time, with the company of your son, which is a bonus !

    Enjoyed your report (y)
     
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  17. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    That was enjoyable to read about your experience of your hunt.
    Your pleasure, excitement and humour came through in spades.
    Thanks for the effort in the write up.

    Congratulations.

    (Feel free to do it again. I want to read your next hunt report)
     
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2019
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  18. TXhunter65

    TXhunter65 AH Veteran

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    Congrats on your safari looks like you had a wonderful time. Nothing is as valuable as the memories we make with loved ones, especially those made afield.
     
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  19. Smitty

    Smitty AH Senior Member

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    Thank you slam8031. I kept a journal, and each night I would write down the whole day's adventures so I would never forget any of it. :)
     

  20. Smitty

    Smitty AH Senior Member

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    So true TXhunter65. It was twice as special having my son with me. My youngest son is 15 years old, and I think I may just have to take him to Africa so I can have those memories too! (big cheesy grin). :Smuggrin:
     

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