Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Mort Hill, Aug 23, 2019.
Some trail cam pictures... Hope to harvest a Civet tonight...
Still at it folks. As you can see from the trail cam pictures, lots of things moving in the night. Great success so far, but a couple of target species left with four nights to hunt. The ironic thing is once you are successful on a particular animal species, no matter how elusive it has been, it is as if the “all clear” signal goes out and they immediately show up on every bait. Murphy is alive and well in Africa.
Great Pictures Mort--hope you continue to have an outstanding time in Africa! And I agree, the brown hyena is incredibly cool!!
Two nights left on the hunt but we are done with the all night blind sits. My final night in the blind ended shortly after the moon went down. I won’t spoil the report to follow, but as I discussed with PH, it feels like two months of experience and memories are being crammed into ten days/nights of hunting! Lots of pics to follow.
Can't wait to see the full report and pictures, hunting those night critters is a great time!
You are not kidding about being a great time. No idea what I was getting into but sure glad I got the push I needed from great folks on AH!
Maybe after your report, everyone will understand why we love hunting those night critters! I’m excited for your report! I’ll get to live your night hunts vicariously!
Just got back and seamed I missed your awesome so far updates, thanks Mort. Great that your done the night sits, can only mean a great report and pics will follow. Keeping me on pins and needles, at least its less than a year for me. Great post, eagerly waiting.
Let me just say that I hope the information I will post will help others in their decision to go on this hunt, or, if like you @MarkB, to have a better awareness of what to expect, and what to do and bring in preparation. I can only say that this hunt is so action packed, I feel like I have been hear a month or more. Yes, my blind sitting is over, but the final two nights involve specific plans for spot-lighting the illusive night cats, Serval, Caracal, and African Wild Cat. In addition, we will be looking for any of those strange little night creatures like diker and porcupine that we may come across.
Stayed tuned. My journal is looking more like a Wilbur Smith novel right now. So much information to go through to try and present a proper report.
So with 24 hours of flight travel I am back from Waterberg Mountains of SA. Trip was just a total blast from start to finish. I will begin the task of composing the promised report tomorrow, but for anyone that is interested in this type hunt next year, or in the future, I can not say enough good things about Kemp African Safaris, Dawie Kemp, and his entire staff. They have this night critter stuff down to an art. And yet they are always looking for new ways to be successful, improve on opportunity, and make it comfortable for the hunter.
And yes @Hogpatrol, I was introduced for the first time ever to the SA Spring Hare. Holy Moly. I had no clue as to the athleticism of these olympic jumpers. Not only do they never sit still, but when they do move, it is perfectly timed to 1-1/2 lbs of pressure on a 2lb pull trigger. But more on that later.
Well, so here goes with the continuation of the trip report as promised. As I stated earlier, the night critter hunt is extremely unique for those like Kemp Safaris that take this on as a specialty hunt. So much goes into this hunt before you even set foot in Africa. The exhaustive work of finding good bait sites. The moving of blind locations to optimize success. The baiting to insure the target species are not only in the area, but frequenting the bait. This is and should be years in the making. As a hunter, we experience only a small bit of what goes on to make the safari a success.
So in short, let me first put forth some comments and clarifications to the report, so that it may be read in proper context.
First, I am no expert on this type of hunt. I am a first time night critter hunter with copious notes of my experience. Any statements made that come off as knowing it all, or somehow bragging of success, are purely a reflection on the vast amount of wisdom imparted by my PH, and their experience at play putting this hunter in the best position for success.
Also, let me say that I do not think this hunt is for everyone, but I do believe it can be. If you are wanting the carefree down time of a plains game hunt, the fellowship of hunting with friends and family, or lots of great evening around the fire with a cocktail in hand, forget it. This is not your trip.The days are as long as the nights. The reward is directly proportional to the effort. The physical and mental strain are real, not overwhelming, but very intense. Having hunted all the Dangerous 7 successfully(with exception of rhino), all in free range conditions on extended safaris, I would humbly rank this two week night critter hunt as the hardest, most rewarding, when compared to the quest of any of those individual species.
Last clarification. This hunt requires the proper amount of time to give the big pay off. 10 nights of hunting is great. Any less and you are placing more success in the luck category than the creating opportunity category. So spend the most time that you can in your pursuit. This is not a hunt to dabble in if you want opportunities at most of the night critter species.
OK, sorry, enough of the terms and conditions. On with the report.
Where was I. Oh yes, we had just shot a baboon for bait and were preparing for our first night in the blind. The blind, which I will name The Leopard Blind, for obvious reasons later, is a wood structure, about 10’x 8’, with a bench rest, two chairs, two mattresses, a dirt floor and a tiny little shooting port aligned with the bait site about 40-50 yds across a two track, and up a rise in some rocks.
Oops, almost forgot. Because of the scheduling of my trip, Dawie was not going to be able to spend the full time hunting with me. We discussed, and I suggested I spend the full hunt with his PH, Marco Duplessis, who also resides at the lodge with his wife Fran, who is the FABULOUS camp cook. More on that later.
So Marco and I set up in the toaster oven, I mean blind, about 5-5:30 before dark(6:20PM), and prepare for the sit for the night. When I say sit, I mean we will sit on stand, lay on mattress, doze on mattress, crawl back into shooting position on gun, go back to sleep, repeat, as often as something is coming to bait.
So this was the view just before we got in blind looking toward the bait. I was using the camp gun, a 7X57 Mauser Action with a suppressor that quickly became my best friend. We used a combination of IR equipment and night vision to give us the most opportunity for success. We also had a .22 with silencer in the event we needed to red light some of the smaller and thin skinned critters that might come in.
So here we go into my first night hunt. All ears because except for the dim light of a cell phone screen( didn’t know, but you can change the screen brightness, which Marco did for me since I looked like a lighthouse) there is no relative light as these critters are very attuned to even the slightest ambient light.
Well, first night in the blind was a total bust. Nothing, nadda, zilch. Even with new bait, a new gut drag to leave scent, nothing. Right about now I am thinking this is gonna be a long two weeks. But my spirits are up, and I made it thru my first 12 hours in the blind( thanks to my Transcend Mini CPAP with battery -a miracle device indeed), and actually got some good sleep, so that ain’t all bad.
On the way back to the lodge I joke, “I know how it is. You make the newbie work hard a couple of nights, then you take them to the honey hole.” Without missing a beat Marco stops the truck, looks at me and says “Mort, that was the honey hole”. Gulp.
Enjoying the story Mort!!!
So night one ended as a bust. The second day started and ended with a familiar theme that would play out for most every day of the trip. We return in the morning from the blind to the lodge. Coffee, light breakfast, cigars on the lodge veranda, until we head out to check baits. Baits checked, more cigars, lunch, followed by more cigars, then an afternoon cull hunt for more bait. Take cull to skinning shed, come back to collect stuff from lodge to prepare for night sit. Repeat next day.
So on this day, we head out after lunch for bait. As alluded to before, keeping the stands in fresh bait is very important. As for my 10 day hunt, we ended up taking a blesbok on day two, a wildebeest on days 3 & 7, and a zebra on day 5. I would budget roughly $ 1,500 for bait animals, unless you are also hunting trophy plains game during your night hunt. Great part about culls is the prices are very reasonable, the back straps and tenderloin delicious, and the more fresh bait and guts, the better your odds.
As it worked out, since culling needs to be time efficient to give the skinners time to gut and quarter the bait, you are ofter required to shoot from the truck. This is after all culling, not hunting. However, as fate would have it, all my cull hunts wound up being traditional stalks due to location and wariness of the target animals.
This is where I also met my new best friend in the world. Stitch, an Irish Terrier. While most my culls were one shot kills with the 7X57, the game would run through the long grass or thick silver bush and would have taken hours for us to track and locate. However, once Stitch was loosed on the scent trail, our recovery time was usually minutes. What an absolute joy, and necessity, to have this lovable, well-trained tracker on our team.
So on day two with a blesbok secured as bait, thanks to a quick sniff and recovery by Stitch, we head to what I will call the tree blind for our night 2 sit.
Hopefully, the trail cam photos will result in more activity than night 1.
And I just hate when those silly leopards come and eat your badger bait.
So night two begins with just the awe inspiring view of the blind site. Picture a steep canyon with just enough room at the bottom of the gorge for a two track. In the bottom of the canyon, the bait site. About 1/2 way up the side of the canyon, the most awesome machan type blind I have ever hunted. Anywhere. For anything.
We haul all the gear up into the blind. It takes some time to set up the mattress, secure the gear, set up the gun for a nearly straight down 40 yd shot, and settle in for dark. I am living among the tree tops. The shot will be from a prone position. The blind is rock solid with sturdy sides which allows for sitting on the large mattress(our bed) and leaning against the low railing. A few tugs on the railing to insure I am not going over, and any fear soon dissipates. As darkness comes, the night jar sing, the stars come out, and all seems right in the world. I look off toward the horizon and ask if the orange glow over the mountain distant is the sun setting, or some local town. Nope, neither. A bush fire. Marco texts his fellow land owners to find out the details. A slow moving bush fire is burning but the locals land owners are already on it and what was a bright and moving glow is soon swallowed within the hours by darkness.
At about 11:00, I am nudged awake. An already alert Marco whispers to stay still, but a group of bush pigs are moving around the bait. I am to remain in place until they start eating and then ease over into position on the gun. We will then turn on the IR sight and locate the big boar. Or that is the plan.
The pigs are nervous says Marco. I lay still like a kid who thinks he saw Santa Claus walk by his bedroom door on Christmas. I get whispered the reports. 9 feet from bait. Circling. I can hear the crunch of chewing on old bones strewn in the darkness outside the bait site. I hear grunts. The click of pig feet on rocks. Left, out, back. Then Marco says 6 feet from bait. Then nothing. No news. Just the clicking of tiny hooves moving down the gorge. A mixture of excitement and disappointment move over me. Am I cursed? Did I make an imperceptible noise? Did my cigar smoke(yes, this blind is so high, Marco said I could smoke freely) somehow betray us? I never move from my position and just drift into some dream about not being able to find my math class in high school for the final exam.
I am jarred awake and back to reality by the grip on my arm that I will come to love as it means “get ready-we got action”.
It is 12:30AM. All I really hear is “blah, blah, blah, Genet”. NowI am really awake.
Marco coaches me to move to the gun. I slide behind the gun and get focused. I turn on the IR illuminator. The illuminator shows exactly what the scope is dialed in on, complete with crosshairs.
There on the bait is a large spotted Genet. Marco had discussed using the .22 on the little Genet, but states that we need to take him with the 7X57. So we work out the required location of the shot. A tiny mid body shot as to not hit any bones to blow up this little trophy. I take a deep breath, exhale, steady the sight and fire. The genet never moves off the bait where he was dining. Wow! First night trophy. Marco retrieves the Genet and I marvel at this trophy. Stunning marking. Sleek. Just awesome.
So a cup of coffee to celebrate. I smoke a cigar. Then back down to see if something else comes in.
Well, the remainder of the morning includes a young civet at 3:30AM, and again at 4:30AM. We can do better is the word from Marco. So an eventful night two comes to an end as the sun rises and the warmth of day returns.
Note, tonight Marco said bring a pillow from your room. What a blessing. A pillow, a down comforter. I am very comfortable in spite of the temps being in the 40’s (F). Not necessarily snug as a bug, but only occasionally chilled. I have wool socks, long pants, a fleece pullover, knit hat, and neck gaiter. Even though I am at the end of winter in SA, it behooves one to remember just how cold you can get sitting still, sleeping, being basically motionless in cool/cold weather. It pays to be prepared.
Congrats on the genet, I love looking at my mount. In fact I’ll Go look at him right now.
I like how you say leopards, as in plural. I have twice hunted leopard in Zambia and Tanzania. Crafty, sly, sneaky, and stealthy on bait. However, take them off the menu, throw out a hunk of meat for some poor starving badger, and the things sit and eat mountains of meat, and acts like a damn possum on my dog food bowl at home.
Preparation for night three starts like the other days. Check baits, the try to get meat. We go after wildebeest, and are once again successful after a fun stalk. I only mention this because during our stalk, a mature male spots us closing in. He snorts and shifts back and forth. Marco breaks into his wildebeest pane mime. He snorts. He coughs. He rakes branches, breaks limbs, and snorts some more. He takes his foot and kicks dust, leaves whatever. We close the distance and nobody in the herd moves. One shot and the female cull is down. It was the loudest stalk I have ever done. But by golly it worked. Lesson is know your subject.
Our night 3 hunt is in the shooting range blind as it just around the corner from, well you know.
The blind is a tent, as it has not been permanently built because Marco has big plans for his ultimate hide there. On this trip, to increase the accuracy and comfort, placed a folding plastic table out the side window, on which a gun rest could firmly sit. Functional and practical. As I said, Marco is always trying to tweak and improve things.
We hunker down for another night hunt. This time the blind is up a hill and we are shooting down about 60 yds to the bait site.
Around 10:30-11:00, Marco grips me with some urgency and says a large brown hyena is circling the bait, but not coming into the meat. I slowly, but with purpose, get behind the gun while Marco slides the chair up under me. I settle into the gun and go through the motions I have practiced before in complete darkness over and over. Should to gun. Right hand, two fingers, gently click off safety, left hand pushes button to turn on the IR. It takes some time, but then something in the shadows behind the bait moves, and I now have a clear but dark image of the brown hyena. I move the scope hairs to a front on, slightly quartering to shot. I am on the right front should. Breath. Exhale. And I begin to take the shot. At about 2lbs of pull on the trigger, the hyena drops his head and looks straight at the blind. What? No noise. No light. Is it 6th sense? I do not have a shot now, so I let off. As I do the hyena turns and walks back into the night. Gone. He will not return tonight. Nothing has happened but I somehow feel exhausted. The amount of tension, nerves, focus that one goes through during this brief period of time is amazing. So back to bed, and nothing else comes in. In the morning, we find tracks where the hyena has been circling the bait all night.
He is big. That’s a full size leatherman for reference. Up wind, down wind. All over. Now I understand how these beast get so old and wise. They are a formidable foe.
Well, back to checking baits and cameras for tonight will be a new night.
Congrats on the genet! High on my list.
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