SOUTH AFRICA: Nocturnal Hunt With Wintershoek & Safari Afrika

Hank2211

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Part 2 of Day 10

We headed back to the property we had previously visited to look for zebra – unsuccessfully – to spotlight this evening. We were looking for an African Wildcat at this point, and while every day is a new day in hunting, I was fine with getting it or not (though with a preference for the former!).

As usual, John and I were on the back of the truck, and John was spotlighting. Richard was driving. We had likely driven a few hundred yards from the gate – less than a minute - when John whispered – reasonably loudly and extremely insistently – “Lynx – get ready.” The shot would be from his side of the vehicle, so I quickly got myself into what passed for a shooting position behind John’s back, with him squeezed forward. The position was awkward, which is my excuse for the first shot hitting the ground about a foot in front of the caracal, and spraying it with dirt. Even I could see that was a miss.

I also saw the caracal move off to my right, but then lost sight of it. John said, “he’s behind the tree” – and I replied, “all I can see is something that’s either a stump or his ass.” John whispered “That’s his ass – shoot him!” Well, this would be a new one, but I always do what I’m told. I tried to come as far forward as I could on the rear without hitting the tree, and fired. The cat jumped up and moved off. A hit.

John and I wasted no time in getting off the truck, and John passed me his shotgun. I had to crawl under a wire fence – I knew those warthog holes were good for something. John went over it. Show off.

Once in the thick brush we began to walk slowly towards the tree where the caracal had been hidden. John had his flashlight and within seconds, the eyes shone back at us. “Now” he said – and I didn’t need an engraved invitation. One blast from the 12 gauge and that was it. Caracal down. I had shot a caracal with hounds a couple of years ago, so it wasn’t on my list this year, but John and I had talked about it, and we decided I shouldn’t pass up an opportunity for another one. Anyone who has hunted with hounds knows the fun is in the hounds, not in the shooting – once the animals is treed, it’s like shooting fish in a barrel (most of the time!). On the other hand, finding one like this and shooting it like the others was truly special.

And what a beauty this fellow was! He (he was in fact a he) was an excellent size, and in good condition. The .375 shot had gone exactly where I placed it (the second shot, that is, although the first probably went where I placed it too), and seemed to have destroyed his back hips. He couldn’t, and didn’t, go far.

P1000274.jpg


I should point out that I think John gets me to lie down for these shots on purpose. Of course, he has a reasonable explanation - for the picture, but I can't help but think the fact that I tend to get up with more than a few ticks each time has something to do with it!

After the pictures, we loaded our caracal on the back of the truck, and continued our search for the wildcat. We were unsuccessful in that search, but we did come across a pair of jackals. John asked if I wanted to shoot one, and I said not really, I’ve shot lots. Richard then said please shoot anyway, we want them gone! So, again purely as a public service, I took a bead on one. He began to walk away in a fairly relaxed fashion, so I gave him a nice Texas heart shot, and down he went, guts unzipped. We left him where he lay, as a warning to the other jackal.

P1000279.jpg
 

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Your large small spotted genet would make a fantastic rug or full mount. It's beautiful!
 

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Days 11 and 12 (April 19-20)

Second last day of the hunt, and the only animal we need is a wildcat. In looking for something to occupy us during the day, Richard asked if I was interested in culling some blue wildebeest. I mulled it over for about a half second, and said sure! So off we went, to the beautiful property where we had shot the giraffe. We’d seen lots of blue wildebeest when we’d been there, and the only rules were cows or bulls less than a certain horn width, which I forget now (26" I think) In fact, I forgot it then too, because what can I usefully say about the width of horns on blue wildebeest? I left that up to Richard and John, even as I tried to work out the rules of thumb for estimating.

It didn’t take long to find an animal that fit the bill. I settled in for a reasonable shot – around 200 yards I think – and put the bullet exactly where I intended – on the tip of the shoulder. The wildebeest ran perhaps 20 yards before dropping down dead. One down.

P1000285.jpg


About 20 minutes later, we spotted another cull wildebeest, and we got off the truck to get a little closer. At about 125 yards I took the shot and this one went in the same place – point of the shoulder, and wildebeest down in short order.

P1000292.jpg


And then the fiasco happened.

As we were approaching the downed wildebeest, the herd had stopped some 200 yards away to watch us. John asked – another one? I said sure, why not? So he picked out a cow, I got up on the sticks again, and took the shot. But this time, instead of the point of the shoulder, I shot low, and broke a leg, but apparently not much else. My only explanation is either that these things happen (which is a cop-out), or, what’s more likely, that having brought down two wildebeest in 10 minutes in sterling fashion, I got cocky, and didn’t take the care with the shot that I usually do, and should always.

And so we began looking for the wounded wildebeest. We found the blood, but the herd had run into thick brush, and appeared ready for the long haul. It was a long and difficult tracking job, looking for the spoor of the wounded wildebeest, with the occasional drops of blood to show we were on the right trail.

We had trouble from time to time as our wounded animal mixed in with others, but for three hours, we kept it up. The heat was stifling, the thorns were excruciating, but we kept it up. Until we lost the track completely, and after 45 minutes of looking everywhere, couldn’t find it. She had mixed with a herd, and the blood had long stopped. We tried everything, we tried following multiple tracks in different directions, but we couldn’t find the cow.

P1000304.jpg


John and Flippie in the long grass. Without blood, tracking is difficult.

Of course, the issue is not the money (even if it hadn’t been a cull), but rather the fact that bringing an animal down cleanly and humanely is our No. 1 job as hunters. It’s of absolutely no consolation to say that it happens – bottom line is that I was the cause of an animal suffering for some extended period of time. Heinrich, the manager of the property, assured me they would keep an eye out for her over the next few days, but – and this was some consolation – she would likely be eaten before too long.

I had no control over finding her or not. But I did have control over my reaction. Pouting, moaning and self-flagellation is not helpful, and only serves to bring the whole team down (and make you look worse). When you screw up, you resolve to do better next time, and you bear it quietly and by yourself.

We returned to the house for a late meal, and a quick nap. We were still looking for a wildcat, and we would take up that hunt this evening.

We returned to the caracal property for our search this evening – it had a good variety of topography, and some recently harvested fields, which should provide good habitat for wildcat. We arrived just before 6 pm, and there was still good light, so we had to wait at least a half hour before we could begin to spotlight.

Never one to pass up an opportunity (sometimes to my regret), I saw a couple of white blesbok in the distance. Richard said we could shoot one if I was interested. I have never found shooting blesbok as easy as some – the shots tend to be long, in open country, and in my experience the animals can be quite skittish. Sort of like springbok. But I’ve never shot a white one . . . so game on. The best way to recover from a lousy shot is to focus and make a good one.

So I did, and here is the result (forgive the blood – we had no time to clean it all up before we would lose the light):

20160419_174905.jpg


Getting the blesbok put away pretty much took us until spotlighting time. I won’t bore you with the details – we spotlighted spring hare, bush babies galore, a genet or two, but no wildcat. Not this evening, nor the evening of the 20th, which was my last day.

Out of all of the animals on my list when I started, I didn’t get one (the wildcat of course) and got some I didn’t have on the list – the caracal, the Limpopo bushbuck, among others. But that’s hunting; there are no guarantees, except the guarantee that you will have a good time if you’re with the right people. And I certainly was, and I certainly did.

We woke up at a reasonable time on the 21st and had our last breakfast. I was going to miss Ruth’s cooking, without a doubt. (I should have pointed out that John had told Ruth that I liked freshly squeezed orange juice in the mornings (that’s me, princess), and sure enough, much to my embarrassment, I had freshly squeezed orange juice every day during the hunt (which John shared, by the way!). These people know hospitality!

Before leaving the area completely, we stopped to take some pictures of the mountains. SafariAfrika is in the Waterberg, and there are some beautiful, as well as some unusual, rock formations. Were I a Zulu (or any other kind of) king, I would live on top of one of these formations, and have people bring me my water (like orange juice, but heavier).

P1000322.jpg


P1000234.jpg


P1000257.jpg


We left for Jo’burg at around 9.30, arriving at the airport at about noon. My flight wasn’t until 8 pm, but I’d rather wait in the airport than somewhere else and miss the flight. As it was, it took us an hour to check in and get the guns attended to, but John was a great help.

After that, it was wait, until my South African flight to London. I transited Heathrow, waiting in the Air Canada lounge until my flight to Calgary. As is the norm, for me at least, the guns were a non-issue.

This turned out to be a great hunt, with some wonderful highs, and one low, which was entirely my fault. I met Richard and Ruth, who are wonderful people, and I got to spend some more time hunting with John Tinley, who is a superb hunter, as well as being patient and having a great sense of humor. I’ve set him on the trail of finding some more interesting hunts for us to do in South Africa, and I have no doubt he will come through (I still need a Sharpe’s grysbok, a suni, and, of course, a wildcat!).

Actually, there was one other low. Or high, depending on your perspective. Perhaps the word got out. No ostrich busted any stalk, and none got in the way of one of my guns. I don’t know if this is the start of a trend . . . or a one-off, but either way, the bliksem stayed out of the way.

As I was flying home, I thought about this hunt, and came up with some words of advice for anyone contemplating a similar hunt. So here they are, but bear in mind what you’re paying for this advice!

1. This is tough hunting at the best of times. You need to be in the right areas. If the animals aren’t there, you will be wasting your time. Richard at SafariAfrika seems to have the right areas – and I only visited a subset of what he has available. I’m sure there are other places to go, but you need to do your homework.

2. You need time, or luck, or both. You can, I’m told, normally count on one animal every two days, with the odd run of good luck which can improve that number. But 8 days should be minimum for this type of hunt. There are lots of other animals around during the daytime, but if you’re serious about the nocturnal animals, you need to focus on those and not get sidetracked during the day. Note that we didn’t see a serval other than the one we shot. There are other properties we could have hunted for serval, but the point is that these animals aren’t a dime a dozen.

3. You need to trust your PH. You won’t be able to set up the perfect shot, nor will you generally have the time to decide where to place the bullet, or even what you are shooting at. If you can’t do that, stick to daytime shooting.

4. Your PH needs to have experience doing this. He won’t have much time to identify the animal either, and if he can’t do it from the eyes and a quick view of the body, you won’t get a shot at all. It’s a little easier from a blind, because generally you will know what’s at the bait, but only a little easier.

And that’s it. Thanks for reading!
 

rinehart0050

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@Hank2211 Thanks for another great report! I has been a pleasure to share in your experience. I'm sure there will be a wildcat waiting for you on some future hunt. Congrats on all the success you had.
 

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Enjoyed your report Hank.

Glad you had a great hunt.
 

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Thanks Hank.
 

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..... Velocity and energy only decrease with distance? ...........

Correct. Can't argue with general physics.
Upon first glance we think less energy = less penetration.
Why would you think that? ...........
I have found that with some bullets that is certainly not true.
Core-lokt as an example. I hit a Moose at fifty yards and the bullet pretty well splatters flat 6 =/- inches of penetration. Same bullet, same Moose at 380 yards, near pass through of both shoulders. Bullet found under the skin on the opposite shoulder.
The first bullet looked like a pancake, the second was a perfect mushroom with a long shank with reasonable expansion.

I have found the same process on Elk.

Now, I do like my TTSX for a reason.
 

BRICKBURN

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John will have you back running around at night time soon enough.

Thanks for the effort in the writing. I enjoyed it thoroughly.
 

Hank2211

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Correct. Can't argue with general physics.
Upon first glance we think less energy = less penetration.

I have found that with some bullets that is certainly not true.
Core-lokt as an example. I hit a Moose at fifty yards and the bullet pretty well splatters flat 6 =/- inches of penetration. Same bullet, same Moose at 380 yards, near pass through of both shoulders. Bullet found under the skin on the opposite shoulder.
The first bullet looked like a pancake, the second was a perfect mushroom with a long shank with reasonable expansion.

I have found the same process on Elk.

Now, I do like my TTSX for a reason.
I've thought some more about what you've said, and you may be right. If you are too close, the bullet may have too much velocity, so when it hits the target, it goes splat. Once it's slowed down, it won't over-expand, and thus you can get more penetration and more likely pass-through.

Is that what you were thinking?
 

BRICKBURN

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That is precisely what has happened in the field with some softs I have used.
 

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Makes sense in general but Hank didn't you say the shot was roughly 100 yards? You would think it would have slowed enough unless you can a really really hot load?

Now I am in now way saying that an A-Frame over expands, but their little chart certainly shows the expansion you get at different velocities.


aframelever-topimage.jpg


And Hank,

I throughly enjoyed your report. And loved the tips at the end for sure. Solid advice. I'm definitely ready for the night critters and African Wildcat has skyrocketed up the list now. :whistle:

I will say that I was honestly expecting an Ostrich story to occur somehow, sometime within the hunt. I guess I can always hope for better luck in Ethiopia. And I may just have to take a shot at one myself this summer, just because.
 

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Fantastic read. Like warthog before I actually hunted Namibia, I've never been interested in a bush pig. Now I want one!

Thank you for some great days of entertainment! I looked forward to every instalment!
 

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Thank you Hank for the great story. You need to go to Africa more often so that we can get these stories more frequently!
 

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Hank,

I have already said it before but I thoroughly enjoyed your report and you took some phenomenal trophies. Lots of good hard to get stuff that is on my list for sure. Also, I totally know the feeling on the last cull wildebeest. I have had a similar experience on a nice buck deer that presented a close "snap" shot. I didn't make a good shot because he was close and I got cocky with what an "easy" shot it would be. I wounded and lost him. That is a sick feeling because I caused needless suffering due to my negligence. However, all you can do is move on and learn from it. It sounds you handled yourself very well and that should be commended for that.
 

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Hank !
Thanks for a great report ! It was an honour to host you ! We enjoyed every day of this hunt and I glad we got most of your wishlist animals ! Thank you for all the kind words as well !
Happy Hunting !
 

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Great hunting report!

I have never shot an ostrich or a wildcat, but have opportunities for them. It was a pleasure seeing them in their nature habitat. I'm always looking for that HUGE warthog and they keep evading me:A Bonk:

You are great writer and conservationist at heart.
 

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sad to see it end- great report !
 

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Makes sense in general but Hank didn't you say the shot was roughly 100 yards? You would think it would have slowed enough unless you can a really really hot load?

Now I am in now way saying that an A-Frame over expands, but their little chart certainly shows the expansion you get at different velocities.


View attachment 150409

And Hank,

I throughly enjoyed your report. And loved the tips at the end for sure. Solid advice. I'm definitely ready for the night critters and African Wildcat has skyrocketed up the list now. :whistle:

I will say that I was honestly expecting an Ostrich story to occur somehow, sometime within the hunt. I guess I can always hope for better luck in Ethiopia. And I may just have to take a shot at one myself this summer, just because.

Royal, you're right - at the distance I was at, it should not have over-expanded. As I mentioned, this was a 250 grain bullet - the first time I used these (not even sure where I got them). Light for caliber is probably not what you want in a medium bore. In the end, I would use them again, but at 300 grains or more. Having said that, I really only use something other than Barnes when I can't get the Barnes!

Now, a couple of other points:

1. I think it would be very bad manners to get an African wildcat before I do.

2. I don't think there will be any ostriches in my future this year. You have to pay trophy fees up front in Ethiopia, with no refund if you don't get the animal. I'm not even sure if they have them on license, but I don't want to chase ostriches that much. A lot, but not that much. I'm gratified, though, that they seem to be keeping away from me. Word has gotten around. If you manage one this summer, be sure to whisper in its ear before it dies "this was for Hank". I know I can count on you.

And thanks everyone all for the kind words. I had a great time, chased some unusual animals, and it was a pleasure to re-live it by sharing it with AH.
 

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Great wright up and good shooting for sure. I left on my trip about the time you started your post and just had time today to finish up reading it. We were at a farm two weeks ago and ran into this, my wife ask me what it was cursing about. I replied "Hank"!
image.jpg
 

Hank2211

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Great wright up and good shooting for sure. I left on my trip about the time you started your post and just had time today to finish up reading it. We were at a farm two weeks ago and ran into this, my wife ask me what it was cursing about. I replied "Hank"!
View attachment 151701
I have etched that face in my mind. So it had better watch out - when I run (?) into it - and I have no doubt that I will - it will be no holds barred.
 

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