Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Hank2211, Jul 3, 2015.
Looking forward to hearing how this whole sock thing concludes.
Your giving me ideas.
Thanks for the excellent report and pics!
I've also hunted Wintershoek. Great place to hunt.
Great hunting report Hank, awesome pictures.......I wondering.....Ozondjahe part is comming soon....???....
I'm out if town for a bit more than a week, and only have the iPad. Can't really write on it, so Ozondjahe will have to wait . . .
But I haven't given up!
Back at the computer . . .
May 26 – Day 9
It’s only day 9 of the hunt, and this story does seem to go on doesn’t it? I mentioned at the beginning that I needed an editor. Maybe I should have a poll about others’ views on that subject. Luckily, I don’t know how to do that, so I guess I will keep going.
I can say, quite quickly, that we hunted hard for a Suni from 6.30 am until 1 pm, when we had to leave the area. We stalked, we sat, we drove, we called, and we were quiet. But still, no suni.
So we said goodbye to Mkuze, and began our drive to the Natal Midlands, specifically the Dargle Valley.
It was a beautiful day, and we took our time, stopping, once again, for a tasty Steer burger in Hluhlue (took me a while to figure out how to say that!), which seem to be conveniently placed at gas stations. If only they had ketchup . . .
For those of you who have not been, the Natal Midlands are beautiful, almost beyond description. The Drakensberg Mountains, rolling hills and lush, green (even in winter) fields, and prosperous looking farms. You could be in the north of England, and the fact that there are English pubs in most small towns is just an added benefit.
Much – if not most – of the hunting in this area takes place on farms and ranches. Cattle are the main livestock in the area, and do very well on the lush grass found throughout the midlands. So the hunting can be for free-ranging animals, although there are private conservancies in the area and some species can be hunted there.
We stayed at Beverley, the home of Gary Kelly and his family, as well as Gary Kelly Safaris, one of the oldest safari outfitters in South Africa. The facilities are top notch, with lots of great showers and tasty food. I need nothing more.
We were here to hunt for common reedbuck, oribi, and bushpig. I had chased common reedbuck in some of my earlier safaris, and they had proven to be anything but common; the oribi was to be another notch in the Tiny Ten; and the bushpig, well, we had tried for bushpig in the Eastern Cape last year, and they had skunked us. This was to be revenge.
May 27 – Day 10
On our first day in the Midlands, Peter and I were to split up for the first time. He was going to look for bushbuck, while I was going to look for the Reedbuck. Peter’s hunting would entail a fair amount of sitting and glassing the margins of forests on the hillsides, particularly in the morning.
I headed out to a local farm to see if we could spot a decent reedbuck. Upon arrival, we picked up a farm hand who would show us around, and he found us a spot where we could check John’s .300 win mag, which I had borrowed (I let Peter shoot my .300, because he was familiar with it). Both John and I fired a couple of shots through it, and while I found the extra-fine cross hairs a bit tough for my old eyes, I didn’t think it would pose an insurmountable problem.
Once we finished making all the noise, we got back in the truck and drove to the top of the hill we had been shooting into – not more than a couple of hundred yards away. We sat there, and began glassing. Within a minute, John found two males, about 600 yards away, feeding just past a large reed/grass bed. Within a few more minutes, another two were spotted. This was looking promising!
After about 10 minutes of glassing, John decided that one, lone, bull to our right had a nice set of horns, and we should try to take him. He was about 800 yards away, across some open fields, and there was really no chance to get more than a couple of hundred yards closer before he’d likely run. We could tell that he’d spotted us where we sat, and was keeping a bit of an eye on us. However, past him were some hills, and John figured if we could get behind the hills, we stood a good chance of stalking to within a couple of hundred yards of him from behind.
After a brief conversation with the farm hand, we began to follow a road – a cattle track more accurately – and hoped (at least I hoped) that the reedbuck would take us for everyday farm traffic and not spook. As we progressed, slowly, it looked like that part of my wish would be granted.
Once we’d gotten some ways behind the hill, we stopped, got out, and began to get ready. I chambered a round, put on the safety, and put the rifle over my shoulder. The walk didn’t look long, but it was uphill, through the very thick, if not overly high, brush. As we neared the crest of the hill, John signaled that we needed to get down, and move slowly, so that the reedbuck wouldn’t see us against the sky. We belly crawled the last 20 yards or so, something I love to do in tick country.
When we finally got to the crest of the hill and could see down the other side, we instantly saw our reedbuck, still feeding some 225 yards away, downhill, but attentive to what was going on around him. Clearly, a wary animal. John and I had been whispering about how to best take the shot, deciding that it was too risky to get up and use the sticks which John had brought. Rather, I would take the shot, prone, using the bipod on the front of John’s gun. I slowly and quietly extended the legs to their minimum length, and tried to find a good position. All of a sudden, the reedbuck looked straight at us.
I looked at John and whispered – how? And John grinned and nodded backwards. I looked behind us and there was Hannes, almost standing up, camera going! I was torn between laughing that we’d crawled through these tick-infested thorns while he was walking behind, and being more than a bit pissed that he might have ruined our stalk!
The reedbuck was still there, and still staring, so I figured what the heck, and settled in, got a good sight picture, and waited for a shot. At this point he decided to run, so I followed him in the scope, and he stopped some 50 or 60 yards further away, so now approaching 300 yards. I settled the crosshairs – at least what I thought were the crosshairs – and squeezed off the shot. I could tell it was a hit, again from the sound, but he seemed almost not to notice. He had reacted, but he hadn’t run, and he wasn’t showing any signs of falling. So another shot it was. Second shot was another hit, and this time, he did run, into a reed bed where he quickly lay down. I could see that his head was still up, so he wasn’t dead, but he didn’t look like he’d be going anywhere soon.
We slowly backed off of the crest of the hill, and got back in the truck, hoping to be able to get close to him that way. As it turned out, we couldn’t get the truck more than about 400 yards from where he was, at least not without some substantial effort, which would no doubt spook him if he had any run left in him. So out we got, and I loaded up again.
From about 300 yards, there was no way of approaching him without being seen and in fact, he spotted us almost immediately. We kept walking slowly, at an angle, but when we got to about 200 yards, John said best to finish him from here. He put up the sticks, I steadied myself, and as soon as the shot rang out, the reedbuck's head dropped, and that was that.
It had taken almost a decade, but I finally had my reedbuck! Funny how “easy” animals can elude you.
After we skinned the animal (the deal is the farmer gets the meat), we headed back to Beverley. Peter had been unsuccessful on his bushbuck, not having seen any in the morning. They planned to try again at dusk.
As for me, we were spending the afternoon checking cornfields for signs of bushpig activity. We had had reports of fairly extensive destruction in a nearby field which had not yet been harvested, so we checked that out first. Sure enough, the signs of bushpig activity were everywhere, and we scouted out locations to set up that evening. We located an area where we saw evidence of pigs having entered through a fence from an adjoining field which had already been harvested, and decided to set up there when the time came.
All of that prepared, we went back to camp for a nap. We headed back to the field at about 5 pm., to get in place before the sun went down. We set up on the back of the vehicle, and put a brown tarp and lots of vegetation over most of the vehicle. Bundled up against the cold as the sun went down, we were ready for the pigs!
We sat quietly for a couple of hours, with John glassing in the dark, and listening for sounds. We saw no activity at all, but all of a sudden, around 8 pm, we heard the unmistakable sounds of something breaking corn stalks and munching on the drying corn. After some time, we had to conclude these were the pigs, but evidently they had entered the field from the roadside, which was a bit surprising. Now, we had no shot unless we could get them in the corn, which wouldn’t be easy.
We got off the truck, quietly, and began to move towards a break in the cornfield, about in the middle of the field. We walked slowly – slower even than tracking – with the sounds coming to our left. It sounded like the pigs were coming towards the middle – if they did, then we could use a flashlight and get a shot at them. We stood, and waited, for a half hour or more, waiting for them to come out, or make a move in one direction or another.
All of a sudden, there seemed to be quite a ruckus in the corn, and then silence. John sighed; the pigs had winded us. On the off chance that he was wrong, we walked around the entire field (in the dark), but he was right. They had gone. These are wary animals!
Home, a hot shower to warm up, and then into a bed pre-warmed by an electric blanket. This is what I call roughing it!
Nice Reedbuck. They can be interesting to hunt. I spent 3 days plus on my last safari hunting one. Love his spread. Bruce
Thanks. Three days confirms my view that they aren't as common as one might think.
Good to see you back and keep going with the report......great Reedbuck good trophie Hank.....!!!!!
Nice to see you back at it Hank. And great Reedbuck. Look forward to the rest.
May 28 – Day 11
At breakfast the next day, Peter told me they had seen some bushbuck the night before, but the light was too dim to take a shot. They planned on returning to that spot this morning. Meanwhile, I would be heading inland to another farm to hunt oribi, another one of the tiny ten I was after.
Oribi are not – in my experience at least – particularly rare if you’re in oribi country, but you do need a special permit to hunt them, at least in this part of Africa, and there aren’t too many of those. I had to plan this hunt some time in advance to make sure I’d have the chance.
Immediately after breakfast, we drove to the property, about 1.5 hours away. I don't know if you can keep orbit in with a high fence, but it didn't matter; there were no high fences here. As soon as we arrived, we began scouting the area. Since oribi generally hang out in open areas, all you really need is a decent vantage point and some patience. If they’re there, you should see them. And within a half hour, we did. They were far, so John had to get the spotting scope to make sure there was a decent male in this group, and fortunately, there was. Now the hard part. Getting close enough for a shot. That took some time, but we managed to get within 250 yards. There was a group of about 5 standing partly in, and partly out, of a dip in the ground. The male seemed to be on the edge of the dip. They had clearly seen us, and were all watching.
We moved very slowly, and I got the gun ready. I focused on the male, and squeezed. Once again, I heard that very satisfying sound of a hit, and the oribi went down, dropping out of sight into the dip in the ground. And once again, Hannes decided to try me on. I said “he’s hit” and within seconds, Hannes said – “yup, but there he goes” and in fact, an oribi had jumped up from the dip and run off to the right. S**t, I thought. How was that possible? Hannes, to add credibility to the story, said he’d noticed me pull the shot a bit to the right, which probably meant gut shot. We had to hurry if we wanted any chance of catching up.
So we raced for the truck, and got on. John was driving, and I was on top. I could see the oribi in the distance, and told John to stop, saying I thought I could get a shot. John said no, we had to get closer. At this point, I’m sure the wounded animal will be in the next province by the time we slow down, and it was then that I should have known something was fishy. When John finally stopped and asked if I could take the shot, I said "sure, but since the one I shot is lying dead 10 feet in front of you, I assume you mean one of the females in the same group, you assh*le.”
I have to give Hannes credit – as soon as he saw an oribi jump up and run, he invented the story about the bad shot, and my seeing the running oribi gave it credibility. I had visions of a bonfire made up entirely of socks. And in fact underwear, which he might just start losing as well (after they were laundered . . . ).
We decided to take a longer, but more scenic route back to the house, and along the way, stopped at the “Nelson Mandela Capture Site”. This is the place, near Howick, where Mandela was captured before his final sentencing. A small, but interesting, museum, with a great sculpture in front. Lots of school kids who seemed a bit surprised to see a couple of old white guys at the museum. I’d recommend a stop if you’re in the area.
Now, after that brief tourist interlude, back to our hunting. We got back to camp to find that Peter managed to get a bushbuck this morning, and a lovely animal it was too. I was sorry I wasn’t there with him – I love hunting bushbuck.
For the afternoon, we were going to take it easy, because we had another late night planned for the pigs, this time at a different location. Peter was going to look for blue wildebeest.
We headed out to a game reserve later in the afternoon, where they claimed to have lots of bushpig. We met with the manager of the reserve, Anton, and he turned out to be a bit of a lunatic. He insisted that John drive, and he would stay in the back with me. He would use a red spotlight to find the pigs, and I would shoot from the truck on his command. No other way to do it, says he.
We began driving on the reserve about 9 pm, when it was quite dark. I told him – after checking – that using my scope with the red spotlight would be difficult, but said I would do the best I could.
The first thing I noticed was that there were lots of animals here – we saw rhinos, wildebeest, zebra, impala, etc. It wasn’t always immediately clear when you saw eyes what the animal was. In fact, at one point, Anton shone the light at something and said “bushpig – shoot!” but as I was looking through the scope, it really didn’t look like a bushpig. I couldn’t say what it did look like, but not a pig. He kept insisting, and while I have a (very, very) strong aversion to shooting at something I can’t identify, I was ready to cave in, as he was getting insistent. I said ”if you really want me to, but I still don’t think . . .” and at that point he said “don’t shoot – black wildebeest.” Right.
Some time later, he did point the light at what did seem to be a pig, and I quickly swung around to try to see it through the scope. I did see something, and I took the shot, and it looked like a hit, so we quickly drove the truck to the spot. We found nothing, and no blood. We all used flashlights, and still could find nothing. Hannes looked at the video, and it was pretty clear that I shot under the pig. I can explain it because he said shoot in the grass, but I should have shot higher. And I still shouldn’t have shot because I really couldn’t see well enough with the red light. My responsibility, but no harm done.
We continued to drive and glass, but by 11 pm or so had seen nothing else, so decided to call it a night. Anton did invite us back the next day, and seemed quite keen that we return.
So back to camp it was, arriving just before 1 am. I was pleased to discover on my arrival that Peter had shot a nice wildebeest, but Dean said it hadn’t been much of a hunt – the animals on this particular property had seemed pretty tame, so he had told Peter’s PH that they were going to leave zebra and other game for another day, when they weren’t in a zoo. A position I heartily endorsed.
This is one of the challenges of hunting in some game or nature reserves. I had hunted in a De Beers nature reserve last year, and while the place was large, and beautiful, it was primarily that, a nature reserve, and the animals weren’t used to being bothered by people, other than being stared at. As a result, we could get pretty close to most animals – walked to within 200 yards of zebra on open savannah, and likely could have gotten closer. When we shot that zebra, the others stood around looking at the dead stallion and us, and didn’t leave until we were about 50 yards away, waving our arms and yelling. Not exactly hunting in my view.
May 29 – Day 12
Got up a bit late this morning because of the late night. We decided to head back to the game preserve where we had hunted pigs last night and try again, but we’d make some changes this time. Most importantly, the red light would have to go. I realize the animals don’t react to it the way they do white light, but at least with white light, I can usually get a shot off.
We headed out about noon, getting to the reserve in time to allow Peter to chase some blesbuck around. It was good to have John Tinley back as PH for both of us, and he led Peter on a brilliant stalk on an impressive blesbuck – far more impressive than either of the two I already have!
Again, I stayed back, but I could see with binoculars. Peter took a shot, and while I couldn’t see the animal, I could tell from his attempt to take a second shot that it hadn’t gone down. I stayed where I was, and quickly Peter and John began to cover ground. After a few hundred yards I saw them stop, and crouch, continuing to move forward, but much more slowly now. At one point they stopped, and John slowly put the sticks up. Peter got up, and I could tell John was leading him through the shot . . . I saw him take the shot, and a few seconds later, John slapped him on the back! Now we could go forward, and there was the blesbuck, piled up on the ground. The first shot had been too far back, but it had clearly slowed him down enough that they could get the second shot off, which was perfect.
We took the animal to the skinning shed and left it there with our skinner, who we had brought with us. Now, it was time to see about that pig. Since we had some time before we would go to a nearby town for dinner, we decided to sit along a ridge looking down into prime bushpig territory. After a couple of hours though, no pig, and we began to head toward the gate to the property.
We ran into Anton on our way out, and it was a different Anton to the man we had left some 16 hours before. He looked at us on the truck and said there were too many people, it would be impossible to hunt bushpig with all those people. John told him that we’d likely have one more than last night (Peter), but Anton said it was impossible. John then suggested that it might be easier if we used a white light, and Anton blew a gasket! Impossible he said. Waste of time. Better we call the whole thing off. And so we did!
We did stop in a great English pub in the town of Nottingham, where I had bangers and mash, and Peter had fish and chips! Could have been in England . . .
By the time we get back to camp, we still have time to sit for pigs, so we go to a field where the corn has recently been harvested, leaving lots of cobs on the ground. It’s already dark when we get there. We sit quietly for some hours. We can see animals in the field, but it’s just cows, and, all of a sudden, some reedbuck, who aren’t at all pleased to see (or smell) us there. But no pigs. Finally, at near midnight, cold and tired, we give up, and head back to camp.
May 30 – Day 13
Our last day hunting in South Africa, and the only thing we are really looking for is a bushpig! So a bit of a lazy day, scouting locations for tonight’s pig hunt. We are directed to a field, which still has corn standing, and recent signs of rooting. We check it out, and there are lots of pig tracks, coming from the woods, across an open field, to get to the corn. So this is where we’ll sit tonight.
We’re back and in place by about 6 pm, waiting quietly for the pigs. We’ve brought reinforcements this time, in case the pigs get into the corn, but they’re held in reserve. After many long, cold hours, we conclude the pigs either aren’t coming, or they’ve busted us. Again, we’ve had to deal with loud and angry reedbuck, which are not happy we are around, and this might be the cause of the problem. So we get the reinforcements to beat the corn at the far end while we wait in the field, hoping something might come out. Porcupines don’t count. Alas, nothing.
As hard as it is for me to believe, especially given the hours we’ve put into this, and the different methods and places we’ve tried, it looks like the bushpigs have beaten us. Again. John is frustrated, but that’s hunting, and while I’m looking forward to eventually getting a bushpig, I’m not about to adopt a new goal – swine of Africa? Not sure how I’d tell my wife – “dear, I took your advice to get some new goals, and the new one is pigs of Africa.” Not worth the grief.
We head back, again around midnight. This will be a short night, since we’re aiming to leave at 5.30 to get to King Shaka Airport (aka, Durban) by 8.30 to get there in plenty of time for our flights to Jo’burg on our way to Windhoek. John also has to leave early – he’s picking up a new hunter that afternoon in Kimberley, so he has a lot of miles to drive to be there by 3 pm.
Looks like a very nice Oribi. Congrats on a great hunt. Some very nice trophies and more importantly memories. Bruce
Thanks Bruce. Not sure how he ranks in the book, but he ranks pretty highly with me!
Nice oribi Hank. Too bad about the bush pig. That's also a dandy blesbok your boy got. Looking forward to the Namibia chapter.
I cannot wait to get the Namibian part of the hunt Hank........this is being a great report.......
Namibia is coming up . . .finally?!
Finally the Oribi!!!!!
You know I've been waiting, mostly patiently, for that one! Great animal!
That is all that matters!
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