SOUTH AFRICA: Sable With HENRY GRIFFITHS SAFARIS

mcaustin

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Namibia, South Africa, US - Alaska, Texas, Colorado, South Dakota, Virginia, and Kansas.
I hadn't necessarily planned on an Africa trip this year, but last summer I was drawn in by @HENRY GRIFFITHS SAFARIS's sable deal posted here on the forums. A friend and I who had hunted together in Namibia in 2022 discussed it and we decided to go for it. We put it out in our friends text group to see if anybody else wanted to join us, and our friend Mike said he was in. Throughout the planning phase, Henry and Tanya were quick to answer any questions we had.

The primary goal of the 5-day hunt was to be sable, obviously, and I asked Henry about opportunities for walk and stalk bowhunting for two of us, as we didn't want to spend 5 days in a hide - I took both a rifle and bow. Henry said no problem, that the properties had some good spots for bowhunt stalking. My basic thought being, let's try bowhunting on foot first, then use the rifle if that doesn't work after a few days.

We booked flights though Jennifer at Travel Express on United, direct from Newark to Joburg. Other than being long, there's really nothing to report about the airports or flights. I had no issues outbound (checked through) or inbound with my rifle in Newark. On the way back in, I had a few minutes with the CBP officer while we waited for another hunter and his rifle, so I asked him about suppressors transiting Newark. Granted, this is one officer's comments, but he told me that he sees suppressors come through from time to time, and, as long as it's on the 4457, it's not a big deal. He said the only time you're really "in possession" of the can is while you're in their federal space, so there shouldn't be any problems. Obviously, that doesn't address cancelled flights, or other potential issues if you had to collect your bags or transfer to a different airport, etc., but it was a good discussion.

I used riflepermits.com for my SAPS permit, and that was easy as could be.

My friend that hunted Namibia with me in 2022 had to cancel his trip for work issues, so it was just Mike (his first African hunt) and me for the week. We landed in Joburg about 5:30 PM on 4/28 and cleared the airport by about 7-7:30ish - mostly just waiting for my 2nd bag (that also had my bow). It turned out that they'd taken that bag to the "fragile" bag area for some reason, so it wasn't on the carousel where I'd been waiting. Henry met us and we started the drive to his camp. We arrived in camp at around 11:30-12:00 and got to bed in the bedrooms within the Wild Goose Lodge, with plans to hit the range at 7:00 the following morning.

After a quick bite and some coffee, we hit the range with Henry to check out my rifle and let Mike shoot Henry's rifle a couple of times. I took my rebarreled Weatherby Vanguard in 300 WinMag, shooting 174gr Hammer Hunter bullets that average 3200 ft/s at the muzzle. Mike ultimately used my rifle all week since it ended up being just the two of us.

While driving around on Monday morning, we had a very brief glimpse of 2-3 sable bulls in some very dense brush. For the next day or two, they were elusive. We also came across some rutting waterbok, with a very nice bull. I've always liked waterbok, and hadn't hunted one, so I let Henry know that I was interested in trying for that bull, but the winds weren't right for a stalk. Following lunch, we set out looking for an opportunity to get stalk the waterbok bull. We got to about 300 yards from them when he started chasing a cow all over the place, going rapidly from visible to not visible, and in and out of range repeatedly. Then he started running two younger bulls away from his cows. This went on for probably 30-45 minutes, so we just watched the cows, figuring that he'd come back eventually. Once he came back, we watched him walk toward the cows at about 210 yards and I got on sticks. As he was walking back and forth amongst the others, I had a clear broadside shot and took it. It was a good hit and stumbled slowly away from us and laid down. The bullet passed through with a solid double lung hit. as we approached, Henry said to shoot him again to make sure he didn't get up, and that was that!

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After we dropped him off at the skinning shed, we headed back out to look for sable - not because they weren't there, but because the bush was so thick. While walking an area that Henry thought may have some sable hiding in it, we came across a couple of young eland bulls and a herd of impala with a nice ram. Once the eland finally lost interest in us, Mike decided that the impala ram had made his list. We watched the ram spar with and push a couple of younger rams away before he started eating near a tree. Mike had a nice quartering away shot at about 120 yards and the ram dropped in his tracks (not surprisingly, the Hammer bullet was also a pass through).

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We spent Tuesday walking and driving all over the place trying to locate sable, and never had any shot opportunities. Around lunch, I got my bow out and shot a few arrows from 20-60 yards to confirm that it was all good following travel. The brush was very green, and REALLY thick, so locating tough work and we walked a ton. We saw a bull sable around last light on the way back to camp, but he evaded us on my short bow stalk.

Wednesday morning was much the same as Tuesday. We split up on Wednesday afternoon, with Henry and me going out to try to walk and stalk sable with my bow in a different area. Mike went with Liam (who was helping out for the week) with my rifle. Henry and I located a herd of sable with several shooters in it and tried to ambush the on their way through the brush to water but weren't able to get ahead of them - they move deceptively fast through the thick stuff. Then we sat in some brush on the edge of the plain waiting for them to come back by on their way out to the plain for the evening. Unfortunately, the closest they ever came was about 110 yards - way too far for an arrow. While Henry and I waited for the sable herd, we watched a golden wildebeest bull and Henry mentioned that they had too many, so some bulls needed to be culled. I said let's do it. The bull eventually walked from left to right, right at 40 yards. Henry made a noise and stopped him....then I shot an arrow right under him... Apparently, I held mine 30 pin...call it first bowshot in Africa nerves I guess, but it was a clean miss.

Later that afternoon while watching sable in distant plan with my bow, we heard a distant rifle shot, and then a little later, a second shot, and I got a text that Mike had a sable down! We met up with Mike and Liam to find a very nice second African trophy for Mike!

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Thursday morning began with Henry, Liam, Mike, and me checking out the sable herd in the second area to see if we might be able to get within bow range again. We watched them and waited for them to get up, and again, they stayed way out in the plain as they moved to water in the late morning. Henry and I again took off on foot to try to ambush them on their way to water. As we made our way around the far side of the water hole, we caught a glimpse of a nice bull at about 70 yards. When we tried to close distance, a sable cow decided to blow our cover and sent everybody away from us, so we made our way back to the edge of the brush to see if they'd come back along the edge of the plain for the evening. Once again, they never came closer than about 170 yards of the bush.

As Henry and I wrapped up out sit in the brush, we heard from Mike and Liam that they had a golden wildebeest down and could use some help loading him in the bakkie since they didn't have a winch. Mike had put his third African trophy animal in the salt!

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Henry and I started Thursday afternoon off the same way - trying to get in position on the sable herd. We quickly realized that they had no intention of leaving the plain, so we decided to stalk some golden wildebeest bulls. We had several good stalks, including a getting to about 30 yards of a cow in a herd while we waited for the bull, before getting busted by the eyes of the herd. That's hunting. Then we got on another bull in the late afternoon that we'd seen earlier that morning. We managed to avoid his bedded cows alerting everybody that we were there and got to 41 yards of his position where he'd been bedded down. I drew my bow, and came up over a bush ready to shoot, only to find that he'd stood up and was facing me. I wasn't willing to risk the front shoot with that long face staring at me, so we stared at each other for what seemed like a long time before he quickly turned and left, stopping very briefly at about 65 yards. I let down my draw and decided to see if he'd let us approach using my bow as "horns". He seemed curious before he finally caught wind and bailed. Even though neither of these stalks resulted in a shot or wildebeest down, they were tons of fun, and what bowhunting is about.

Since it was the evening of the 2nd to last day of hunting, and I'd now had Tuesday, Wednesday, and most of Thursday without success, I told Henry that I wanted to get my rifle and try for that sable bull in the herd. The herd was still 400ish yards out in the to the plain, along with a herd of springbok and a wildebeest herd, with no cover whatsoever. Henry suggested we try walking straight out into the plain and see what the sable herd would do. We got to about 350 yards when the springbok took off, then about 250 yards when the wildebeest decided they'd had enough of the three of us (Henry, Mike, and me). We closed to about 225 yards and the sable starting milling more nervously, so I got on the sticks. My bull cleared the others at about 228 yards and stood broadside, so I sent the shot. Good impact, and the herd started moving. The bull walked slowly with them, and both Henry and I could see pink blood at my bull's mouth and nose but he I didn't have a clear shot to hit him again. After a couple of minutes, the other sable finally cleared a lane, and Henry said to send another. This shot was at 359 yards, and down he went. The shot hit within a couple inches of the first, and the impact was LOUD. I'm glad I gave it a solid effort of stalking them with my bow, but I was thrilled to have my sable! We recovered 1 of the 174 gr Hammer Hunters from sable, and it looked exactly as described by Hammer - petals shed, with a mushroomed shank.

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Celebratory drinks around the fire that night especially good!

Now it was Friday morning and Henry asked what I wanted to do. I was still interested in trying to get a wildebeest with my bow, so we decided to check cams on the water holes - again, it was still relatively wet out so there hadn't been a ton of activity at the water holes. While driving to a water hold that Henry thought might be the best bet, we saw a lone golden wildebeest bull, and thought he may head that direction. We checked the cam, and he'd been there the evening before, so I figured we'd sit the waterhole hide for a couple of hours, the go stalk if nothing came by. After about an hour, a nice golden bull came by and stood at 26 yards. I drew my bow, and as I was getting ready to shoot, the curtain in the hide moved back in front of my arrow rest...which I tried to move with my hand at draw, causing me to not realize that the bull had started taking a couple of steps, and when I shot, the arrow ended up hitting back. I knew instantly that it wasn't a good shot. The arrow passed through, and we watched the bull leave. After talking with the trackers, we decided to give him a couple of hours, so we went back to the lodge for lunch. Following the excruciating 3 hours, I took my rifle and we ended up finding my bull under a bush, and I finished him at about 15 yards with a hard quartering-to shot to seal the deal. We ended up recovering this bullet as well, most likely due to the essentially full length of the wildebeest that it travelled. I'm always in awe when I watch these trackers do their work! He was full of blood, so I'm confident the arrow shot was going to kill him, but I was relieved when we were able to end it more quickly.

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That was a wrap to our 5-day hunt with Henry. While Friday morning was a rough one for me, it turned out well in the end. We wrapped up Friday with a sundowner with probably the best sunset of the week.

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Hats off to Henry, Tanya, and all of the wonderful staff at Henry Griffiths Safaris. Mike and I had a great time with them. The lodge was beautiful, and the food was very good all week long. Also, Mike says that he may be hooked on hunting in Africa now...sorry bud.

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A path through the thick stuff.

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Thanks again Henry!

I think we need to start a band, solely to use this photo as an album cover:

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Congrats on some really nice trophies for the two of you, thanks for sharing
 
Thanks for sharing!! You guys took some great animals. Also, you got quite a few "band" cover pictures!
 
Nice animals. Sounds like a great time. Bet your buddy that couldn't go was frustrated.. Thanks for taking the time to post. Nice pictures.
Bruce
 
Very nice animals and a nice write up. Namibia hold a special place i the hearts of those that have hunted there.
 
Congrats for a great hunt, and thanks for sharing !
 
Nice animals. Sounds like a great time. Bet your buddy that couldn't go was frustrated.. Thanks for taking the time to post. Nice pictures.
Bruce
I think he'd possibly trying to work out another time to go on his own, but we'll see. Thanks!
 
Congratulations on an amazing unplanned hunt! Great report and awesome pics/trophies. Thank you for sharing. Stalking with a bow had to have been a blast over there. It’s my favorite way to hunt here at home. I may consider taking it along next time as well after reading about your adventure.
 
Stalking with a bow had to have been a blast over there. It’s my favorite way to hunt here at home. I may consider taking it along next time as well after reading about your adventure.

Even though my bow stalking didn't result in animals down, I enjoyed it and learned along the way. As much water as there was around, it was a bit questionable how productive waterhole hides would have been, and I didn't want to sit in them for five days anyway. Henry was great about it and enthusiastic about giving it a go.
 
That’s great. Sitting in a blind over a waterhole is exactly why I did not take a bow last year. It does not appeal to me especially since a big part of hunting in Africa is all the sights and scenery. I like how you did yours and dedicated a few days to the bow to give it a chance. Then pick up the ole rifle to up the odds a bit.
 

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