SOUTH AFRICA: Nick Bowker Hunting South Africa - March 2020

Cuthberto

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Nick Bowker Hunting

Country: South Africa
Dates: March 9th – 14th (6 days of hunting)
Type of Hunt: Plains Game
Method of Hunting: Rifle
Outfitter: Nick Bowker
PH: Nick Bowker; Benjamin Pringle
Locations Hunted: Eastern Cape
Species Hunted: Nyala, Impala, Kudu, Gemsbok, Warthog
Trophy Quality: Yes
Surreal Experience Due to COVID-19 Hanging Over Hunt: Yes
Recommend To Others: Absolutely

This hunt was my first African hunt, but I’ve hunted with outfitters before in the Midwest and Western US. While this was an extraordinary hunt, the trip was made surreal as the World seemed to turn on its head because of Covid-19 during the 7 days we were in South Africa. Despite the fact COVID-19 was hanging over most of the hunt, I couldn’t be happier with how it all went.

Covid-19. The quick progressions of world events related to Covid-19 made the hunt a bit more surreal. We were not looking at our phones on purpose, but that didn’t last once we started hearing about the travel bans, etc. Nick had clients cancelling because they either couldn’t get to SA, or they faced a quarantine once they got home. It was clearly a stressful time for both Nick and Benjamin, and while we could tell it was causing problems to the business, they in no way let it impact our trip. We all did our best to have a great hunt, despite this world seemingly grinding towards a halt more and more every day. We ended up leaving on schedule, which was two days before South Africa essentially closed its “airline” borders to foreign travelers. Our flight out of Johannesburg had 60+ open seats two days before we left, but it was loaded to the gills as people changed their plans to get home while they still could once SA travel bans were announced.

Planning/Logistics – As I mentioned in my into message in the Introduction Forum, this trip was planned relatively last minute by my Fiancé as a 50th birthday present. She contacted a few Outfitters, and Nick responded quickly and indicated he had a recent cancellation the week we were looking at. We tossed a few hunting ideas around, before settling on a package that included Nyala, Impala, Kudu, Gemsbok, and Warthog for me, and since my fiancé wanted to be along on the hunts, we added a daily rate and Warthog for her. We contacted Nick initially through BookYourHunt.com, and used that as our primary source of communication up until we switched to using WhatsApp the day before our arrival. Nick did a great job of keeping in touch and updated – in fact, he is the one that pointed out that South African airlines was having trouble, and we might want to rebook on British Airways for the flight from JNB to Port Elizabeth.

Arrival - Nick was standing outside the arrival doors the moment we got there, helped us with our bags, and then drove us to the lodge. It was a great 2 hour drive, although it rained most of the way there. We were able to ask questions, understand the daily routine, and just get acquainted. Nick was easy to talk to, and didn’t seem the least bit bothered by getting peppered with questions by enthusiastic rookies! Upon arrival we met Benjamin, a PH that works with Nick.

Facilities – Nick’s clients stay at his home, which is a sprawling group of separate and connected buildings that include the main house, guest rooms, a cabin for 1-2 guests, a bar, braai/dinner area, work sheds and garages, staff quarters, etc. We stayed in the separate cabin which was amazing – small, rustic and modern at the same time, and extremely comfortable. The bed was amazingly comfortable, there was a great walk-in shower, a huge tub, bathroom, sink, etc. The house seems like it is an older farm/ranch house, with additions made to accommodate larger hunting parties. Nick has WiFi, that either runs with the power is on (sounds like consistent power in many parts of SA is tough to come by), or when Nick kicks on the generator. The inconsistent power didn’t impact us at all – Nick made it relatively seamless with the generator. We loved the house, and couldn’t have felt more comfortable. Plus, we weren’t there to stay connected – we wanted the opposite. We were doing well with that until the news of COVID’s expansion started making it necessary for us to connect.

Staff – Nick has a great staff. The people preparing breakfast and cleaning the rooms were on top of it. Our room was cleaned each time we left (in the morning, and again in the afternoon), and our laundry was done every day. Nick’s hunting staff were also great. Cheerful and helpful, they helped make each hunt better. Benjamin is also a great PH (more on that later) – easy to talk to, friendly, and always looking for ways to make your trip better. As he often said while doing something for you “Don’t worry about it, I’ll do it. You’re on holiday!”

Food – The food was incredible. There were always baked goods available, and we usually ate a muffin before heading out in the morning. We typically were back by 11 or 12 for brunch, which was also great. Over the course of the 6 days hunting, we had kudu sausage, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, hamburgers, fries, pork, and probably 5 other things. Dinners were made by a woman Nick has hired to only handle dinners, and she crushes it. Every dinner consisted of appetizers, a main dish often cooked by Nick or Benjamin over the Braai, and dessert. We ate lots of wild game, beef and lamb, and there was always at least one perfect side dish, often South African favorites. We drank beer and wine each night (Nick asked what we liked to drink before we arrived) and had a blast at dinner-time by the fire.

Hunting/PH Work – We started our first morning by shooting. We didn’t bring our guns and instead opted to shoot Nick’s, which was a great choice for us. We travelled very lightly (only carry-ons), and using Nick’s guns made it that much easier to get there. We shot from a bench and sticks. After I shot, I went out with Benjamin to look around/hunt while my fiancé stayed back to make sure she was comfortable shooting from the sticks. We had gone shooting before, but this allowed her to get comfortable with Nick’s guns, and for him to get comfortable with her shooting. After that morning, we hunted together each hunt. Nick hunts on his land, his families land, and some other big tracts that he has the hunting rights too. There is a great variety of land, and we didn’t see all of it by any means. Nick has a big sheep operation as well as running the hunting on his property, so there are some low fences for the sheep. When we were making our choice, hunting where the were no fences, or they were low (meant to control sheep, not wild game) was a priority. Nick’s property fits the bill and is filled with animals. We were blown away by the numbers and variety.

Rather than discuss each hunt, I wanted to pull out some of the things that stood out to me. Nick and Benjamin were very selective. This being my first-time hunting in Africa, I was excited. I like to shoot nice trophies, but not at the expense of a good hunt. I’d rather shoot an average trophy on a great hunt, than a great trophy on an average hunt. Everyone is different, but for me the hunt is important. That said, Benjamin and Nick didn’t want to compromise on either. While my Nyala was spotted in an area that was pretty easy to get to (first day), we worked pretty hard for all of the others. The Nyala we shot was terrific, but since it was the first day, it also reinforced what I was looking for in the hunts. Nick and Benjamin did their best to ensure we got the best of both worlds.

Both Nick and Benjamin worked their butts off making sure we got the animals we came for. My impala hunt was amazing. Benjamin kept getting us close to a large ram, but something always messed it up – hogs busting out of bush, an unforeseen Mountain Reedbuck, and skittish Springbok. We chased it back and forth across the valley, until Benjamin got us in position for a great shot where it had no idea we were there. Benjamin did a great job keeping us on the ram, and it was an amazing hunt.

On my Kudu hunt, I made a shot that wasn’t ideal – the animal wasn’t going anywhere, but it needed another shot. I was wound up, and when I pulled the trigger for the second shot, there was that loud “click” that only comes from not having reloaded. The best part was Benjamin recognized I wasn’t squeezing the trigger but was yanking it back in my excitement. He perfectly said “Squeeze the trigger…” – it was just what I needed not only at that moment, but it stayed with me the rest of the trip.

The last couple of days were spent chasing Warthogs. While it sounded like they were normally shot when you found a big one during the pursuit of something else, that wasn’t our situation. Given the huge amount of rain (drought-ending, apparently) that had been falling in the area we were hunting, the hogs didn’t need to move much at all to get food and water. Plus we were early, and the boars weren’t really pushing the sows. All of this made it so that getting a big Warthog was the most challenging part of the hunt. They did not give up, despite the weather not wanting to cooperate. We pushed hard for hogs, and it resulted in a gnarly old boy for my fiancé, and great pig for me. Nick and Benjamin did a great job with her – they put her in a great position, and she made a great shot (I think she is better off the sticks than I am)!

The last hunt (for my hog) really put the hunting skills of Nick and Benjamin on display – we saw good pigs from at least a mile away, and then started the hunt. Given the weather (some rain, but cool and overcast), and that it was the last day of our hunt, the pursuit of this boar seemed to be the last pig chase we were going to get. We had a good strong wind which helped a ton, but given the distance we had to travel, we knew it would be tough. We ran into Duiker, rabbits, Mountain Reedbuck and Impala on the way. Each time I thought we were screwed, but Nick and Benjamin played it perfectly, and we were able to thread the needle and catch up to the hogs. After the boar was down, we all started laughing. None of us could believe we made it through all those eyes, ears and noses that seemed to constantly threaten the hunt.

We laughed a ton. Both Nick and Benjamin are a lot of fun – by the end of the trip it felt like hunting with old friends. To me that only adds to the hunting experience and memories and is exactly what I’m looking for in this type of trip – great hosts, smart and talented guides, and good people.

Business Wrap Up/Departure – After the hog hunt, and before dinner on the last night, Nick and I wrapped up and settled the bill. This was a painless process, and he walked me through the bill – absolutely no surprises (other than my bank not authorizing purchases in SA like they said they did on the phone and email). But we got that sorted out and Nick made it easy. The next day our flight out of Port Elizabeth didn’t leave until 3:30pm, so Nick offered to drive us through Addo on our way to the airport. He was an amazing Park guide as well – we had a blast and were very thankful for his generosity with his time. Great way to end the trip. Since we left, Nick has texted to make sure we made it back alright, and again to check in on how we are dealing with COVID, and keep me updated on taxidermy stuff.

Bottom Line: I’m already trying to figure out when I can get back, and which friends I can talk into joining me. Nick Bowker gets my highest recommendation – for the reasons I've mentioned (and probably 50 other smaller reasons I haven't) he is better than any Outfitter I’ve ever used. I’m an adventurous person, and love meeting new people – however, because this trip was made so incredible by Nick and his PH Benjamin, I doubt I’ll ever hunt with anyone else in South Africa. We had a great hunt with great people. What else can you ask for

A few pics:
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Trogon

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Congratulations! You and your fiance had an excellent trip, all of your trophies are great. Appreciated reading your detailed story, glad you got it completed before the virus deadline. Thanks for sharing your safari!
 

gesch

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Congratulations on a great hunt. I enjoyed the way you broke down the hunt. What guns did you use? Thanks again for a great report.
 

cls

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Congrats on a successful hunt and some great trophies, thanks for the report.
 

Uncle Sauce

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Wonderfully detailed hunt report!! (y)(y) Congrats on all the great trophies and glad you made it back fine during Covid 19! Thanks for sharing Cuthberto!
 

gillettehunter

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Sounds like you had a great trip. Congrats on getting it in ahead of the virus.
Bruce
 

Graham Hunter

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Congratulations glad your trip went well. We were the ones coming in behind you. Trip and travel canceled! Will try again for June. If not we will reschedule again. As long as Nick will hang in there we will too.
 

Cuthberto

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Congratulations on a great hunt. I enjoyed the way you broke down the hunt. What guns did you use? Thanks again for a great report.
Hi Gesch - We used Nick's guns - I shot his Sako 300 Win Mag, that had a suppressor and great Swarovski DS. My fiancé used his Remington 7mm, also fitted with a suppressor and Swarovski scope. Both were great guns!
 

Nyati

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Congrats on a great hunt !

Your fiancée got a magnificent pig (y)
 

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