SOUTH AFRICA: Safari Of A Lifetime... Make That The First Safari Of A Lifetime

Jeffrey Masters

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I am just back from a 10 day hunting trip in the Limpopo, with Kuche Safaris. I could not have been any happier with the entire experience. My brother Kevin accompanied me on the trip, and he too had a blast.

We booked with Koos at Kuche after much research, much reading, a lot of time on AH, and finally meeting him face to face at the Harrisburg show. We chose Koos because he was very straightforward, no BS, and matter of fact. He didn't promise us anything that he did not deliver on, and in most areas of the experience, delived far more than he had told us.

Because of our research here on AH, we chose the Delta flight from Atlanta to JNB with no stops. That flight is a no brainer. We chose to upgrade to the Delta comfort seating, and was well pleased with that decision.

We left Lexington Ky on 25 April, and arrived at JNB on 26 April at around 5:30 PM. The airport is well laid out, and fairly easy to navigate. We chose not to hire an expediter, and refused to tip the police, so our time in the police area was longer than others. A 110 $ would have sped the process up considerably, but that just goes against my grain. Hit the road around 7:00 PM, and made it to the lodge around 2:30 AM . That should have been a 3.5 hour drive, but we chose to visit Africa on the eve of one of their biggest holidays, so the traffic was like nothing you have ever seen. 2 lanes became 6 with cars in the median and shoulder, until we hit the toll booths and it was back down to three.

5 Hours sleep, breakfast, and check the guns at the range. Everything is on, so off we go to get a taste of what is in store. My PH was not in camp yet because of truck troubles(I understood a little better after traveling their roads for 10 days), so I went with my brother and his PH, Dale, adn Tracker Christophe. We were fortunate to stalk up on a warthog each, which was a good way to begin the hunt. I took a female because I am doing a European mount, and she was a decent pig.
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Back to camp, to drop them off at the skinning shed, clean up, and have supper. Supper was quite the experience, and was the first time I began to plan a trip here with the wife. We all gathered around a massive table, the outfitter, and his entire family, all the hunters, and all the PHs. After saying Grace, the women were allowed to make a plate, followed by the hunters, and then the PHs. The hunters nver lifted a finger, nor had to ask for drinks . Our PHs served us at every step. I could go on and on about the meals that we had, but I will keep it short. I love wild game of all types, but I had no idea of what to expect in Africa. I can honestly say that I tremendously enjoyed every meal, adn the wild game was SPECTACULAR!! Impala, Kudu, Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Eland, Zebra, Bushbuck, and more. It was fabulous, every single bite. The beer was plentiful, and a fully stocked bar was at our fingertips.:D Drunk: Our camp Chef, named Never, was incredible, and I came back with a handful of his recipes to use here at home.

Day two began at 430AM with a great breakfast. We hit the road at 515, and were in the bush shortly thereafter. We were looking for Nyala, , and did not have much luck. . after lunch we sat in a blind on water, but still nothing. I let the PH know that I really didn't want to blind hunt anymore, unless it was the only choice. He agreed, adn we made plans for the next day.
Day three began at 4. We hit the bush before daylight, adn stalked into two Nyala very early. Good shot, and off to the cooler.
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We continued the hunt, looking for Kudu, but walked up on some Eland, who quickly decided to leave the area. After a long stalk on the Eland, I absolutely choked. A perfect broadside shot at 160 yards, adn I missed him clean. We tracked him for a long way to make sure, but no blood, and no Eland confirmed the miss. I was SICK. I am not a bad shot. I am no sniper, but I can hold my own. I have no excuse for the miss. On the way out of the farm, we happen on a large Kudu, and put on a long, hard stalk. I am ashamed to say I missed him as well. My PH says we need to check the gun, but i know that it is me. I practiced shooting under perfect conditions, with plenty of time to make a good shot. What I should have practiced is shooting under stress, winded from hurrying through the bush, trying to be quiet, and not be seen. My shooting is now a mental game for me, and I will approach every shot, clearly, and calmly, or I will not pull the trigger. Maybe day three will be better.

Day three, began back where I missed the Kudu. Turns out, I hit him somewhere, because we find 1 spot of blood the size of a dime. We track him for over 5 miles, until we come to a witer hole where the tracks were blurred by at least a hundred other thirsty Kudu's tracks. We call of the stalk, believing that he was hit somewhere non life threatening. Somewhere in the middle of the tracking, we walk up on three nice Impala. I shoot one of the rams, who proceeds to leave the area. Thinking that I have again made a bad shot, I am ready to quit hunting. We track the impala for quite a while, bumping him numerous times. Finally catch site of him and I am able to finish him quickly. Turns out the first shot was about 2 inches low, but right on the shoulder. Back to camp to sulk, and feel sorry for myself. No picture of the Impala on my camera, I will try to find one on my phone.

Day four, we chose to look for Bush buck. The first farm had almost none. We saw maybe 4 the entire morning. We move to another farm, and the Bushbuck are thick there. We see at least40 before dark, but2 seconds at a time doesn't give you much time to shoot. Lunch was a BBQ of Wildebeest sausages. Quite a treat after a lot of walking. Maybe tomorrow morning will be better hunting for the bushbuck.
Day 5, we set out early, to catch the Bushbuck, just as the sun comes up. warming on the river bank. We didn't walk for 400 yards before we spot one walking in the road, away from us. He never presented a shot, so I shot him in the rear end. Finally a good shot, on a pretty small target. Back to the camp and skinning shed, and we finish the day looking for Kudu. We find one at last light, and I mean almost dark. I have only a split second for a shot. My savage has a half safety on it, needless to say, I don't shoot.


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Day 5, we are looking for Kudu, and or Zebra. We are very fortunate to find a small group of Gemsbok without them detecting us. Though I hadn't planned on taking a Gemsbok, when the opportunity arrives, you take it. Turns out, these types of hunts are my favorite of the trip.
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Days 6 and 7 are spent again, looking for a nice Kudu, or Zebra. The wind was blowing hard, and swirling around every bush and tree. The conditions made for two long days of stalking, with no success to show for it.
The evening of day 7 , at supper, I told my PH if he could put us on a good Eland, I would take it if possible. He made arrangements for us to hunt in an area with Eland the next day.

Day 8, we were hunting on a large farm that had some surprisingly large open Savannah areas. Guessing, I would estimate 500-600 acres of mostly open grasslands with sparse trees, and cover.
After working all morning to find the Eland in the bush, we decided to check the open areas and see what might be there grazing and warming, after the really cold morning. We were lucky to spot 4 Eland at about 600 yards, in the open grazing. They were obviously nervous, and very wary. There was precious little cover, so we moved back into the scrub and closed the distance to about 300 yards, until we had a tree in the field between us and the Eland. We proceed to crawl, out to the lone tree in that area. We waited for the eland to turn away from us, as one was looking intently our direction, and was quite nervous. After about 10 minutes of watching, the Eland decided something was up, and began to trot back to the bush. My PH told me to get on them quick, because they wold be gone in a few seconds. My bull turned cornering away but moving at 160 yards. The shot was a good one, and he went down in about 30 yards. What an incredible hunt! Certainly one of the best of the trip.
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Day 9, we spent in the bush, dove hunting from the truck. Had a great time, really got to know my PH and tracker a little more, without the pressure of a hunt on either of us.

When my brother and I began researching for this trip, we had no idea how to find an outfitter, or what to look for. I really want to thank everyone here on AH, for the help. The hunting reports, and forums were invaluable to us, not only while researching the trip, but for helping us prepared to leave.

I cannot say enough about Koos, his family, and all his staff at Kuche. They provide a quality experience, and try very hard to make each hunter trip, one to remember.
The accommodations were nice, and spotlessly clean. The food was truly second to none, and would fit in perfectly here at home. The wild game is incredible, and should be experienced by all. His chef, named Never, worked magic in the kitchen. The cleaning staff were all courteous and efficient. and the skinners were great as well. Koos makes a point of telling every hunter that this is their trip. If we as clients are not having the trip of a lifetime, then we should let them know how to improve it. Kudos to Koos and his entire staff!

I want to take a minute adn brag on my PH, and tracker. Pieter my PH, was as skilled a hunter as I have ever known. His abilities, and knowledge were obvious, and truly made my hunt awesome. My tracker/driver/all around hard working good guy Nkomo was also instrumental to the success and enjoyment of the trip. Watching these two guys work was a pleasure. Their ability to read and understand sign is incredible. There were several times that I thought to myself that they were full of BS about following the sign. Every time I thought that, then without fail, they would show me a speck of blood, or a unique track, and I would just have to laugh at my own doubts. These gentlemen were a large part of why I had such a great time on this trip, and I hope that I did an adequate job of telling them so before we left. If I didn't, then I would like to tell them now. Pieter, adn Nkomo, thank you for everything!!

Just a coupe of notes for those who might read this before their first trip. Maybe it will save them a little anxiety:
We shose to unpgrade our seats to Delta comfort. Well worth the cost to us.
Take 3 changes of clothes, plus what you wear on the plane. The laundry is done every day.
Wear greens, or browns, camo if you have it. Do not wear light tan shirts, it stands out like bright white in the strong sun.
We chose to not get an expiditer for our guns, at the police station, and we quickly understood why. The police outright asked us for money, and when we refused, we became of no interest to him. What should have taken 5 minutes, became 45-60 minutes. Had we paid the 100 he wanted , we would have walked out much sooner. I am not saying that you should pay, but just be aware of what could happen.
The food is incredible, try it all.
Wear comfortable, LIGHTWEIGHT boots, with non aggressive soles. Anything more is just heavy, and LOUD.
Take sunscreen and use it. Including sunscreen for the lips. The sun there is just stronger, especially from 11-3.
When you return to the airport, understand that your ammo cannot be packed in your gun case. We made sure to go by TSA rules on the flight over, because we have a friend in TSA. Coming back is a different story. The people at the Delta counter would not let us go through with the ammo in the same case as the guns. We went through three people, and a supervisor to no avail. Thankfully, my brother had brought a spare lock, so we put the ammo in our checked baggage, and locked the zippers. Stupid I know, but that was the only way they would let us go through.
You don't need a rangefinder. Your PH has one built in to his brain. My PH ws never off more than 5 yards or so, if that.
You do need good optics. and a good harness.
We chose to go to a travel medical specialist before we went because our family doctor had no idea what we would need to take for the trip. BE AWARE, when they suggest you take something preventative for Malaria, it will make you hyper sensitive to the sun. You will burn in ways you had not thought possible. Limpopo is not a malaria are. As of this writing, you do not need any meds for it.

Last thought....
What trip. If you are a hunter, then this place is paradise for you. Game rich, but incredibly challenging hunts. Outfitters that understand Americans, how we think, adn what we want to have a good experience. Land owners that understand the economics of the assets that they posses, and want you to be happy, because it benefits them if you have a great time.
We were told many times before the trip, that we would come back home, only wanting to go back.
I am planning my next trip as I write this.
Last, I am thankful that I got to hunt, and experience this with my brother. Family is everything.

Thanks all. it was a blast!
 

cpr0312

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Congrats on your hunt! Thanks for sharing!
 

Hogpatrol

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Great write up and you got some good animals. Tough missing those shots but there isn't a hunter who hasn't got caught up in the excitement and flubbed one. I've got my share of them in Africa. You learned some lessons that will be valuable on your next trip, namely an expediter for your gun clearance. I use one and my clearances at SAPS rarely take more than five minutes with no requests for gratuities. Thanks for the story and pics.
 

slam8031

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Excellent adventure! Great writeup and welcome to the addiction of going back--especially for the ones you didn't get the first time...
 

DCN

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Good on you for not paying the police. Unscrupulous behaviour and poor ethics can ruin an otherwise pleasurable hunt. Such behaviour can have different faces in Africa and can crop up where least expected.
 

Nyati

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Congrats on your hunt, seems like you guys had a great time and took nice trophies !
 

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So happy you had a great trip.
Never is a magician isn’t he, and always smiling and genuinely interested in your hunt.
We didn’t pay the police or have a service either and we were 2 hours sitting in the SAPS office twiddling our thumbs. Next time we’ll have riflepermits help us.
Great write up and congrats on the hunt.
 

Jeffrey Masters

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Great write up and you got some good animals. Tough missing those shots but there isn't a hunter who hasn't got caught up in the excitement and flubbed one. I've got my share of them in Africa. You learned some lessons that will be valuable on your next trip, namely an expediter for your gun clearance. I use one and my clearances at SAPS rarely take more than five minutes with no requests for gratuities. Thanks for the story and pics.
Lots of lessons learned.
 

Jeffrey Masters

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So happy you had a great trip.
Never is a magician isn’t he, and always smiling and genuinely interested in your hunt.
We didn’t pay the police or have a service either and we were 2 hours sitting in the SAPS office twiddling our thumbs. Next time we’ll have riflepermits help us.
Great write up and congrats on the hunt.
Everything was just as you said it would be. Never did indeed work magic in the kitchen. I was very pl;easantly surprised at the family atmosphere in camp, and around the table. I would not hesitate to take my wife along to Kuche, and I do not know if that is the case with other outfitters.
 

Jeffrey Masters

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Congrats on your hunt, seems like you guys had a great time and took nice trophies !
Our quote of the day, every time we took an animal was" it will certainly be the biggest on my block". The trophies are awesome, but it is the experiences that will live on for me. Instead of checking off bucket list items, I am afraid I just got a bigger bucket!
 

diamondback mike

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Thanks Jeffrey Masters for a great story and advice. I will be going to South Africa for the first time in a few months and I really value your advice. Though I am really excited about my upcoming trip, I am a little concerned regarding the new political changes and political climate (land re-acquisition without compensation). I have heard various things regarding dangers and safety, and was wondering these are over blown or exaggerated. I have nerve been to Africa, but am an experienced hunter, hunting on three continents. Any advice or tips regarding safety in South Africa would be appreciated..
 

Jeffrey Masters

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Thanks Jeffrey Masters for a great story and advice. I will be going to South Africa for the first time in a few months and I really value your advice. Though I am really excited about my upcoming trip, I am a little concerned regarding the new political changes and political climate (land re-acquisition without compensation). I have heard various things regarding dangers and safety, and was wondering these are over blown or exaggerated. I have nerve been to Africa, but am an experienced hunter, hunting on three continents. Any advice or tips regarding safety in South Africa would be appreciated..
We were also a little concerned about the news coming from SA. We were assured before the trip by our outfitter that all was well. Further explanation when we got there made a lot of sense. This has been happening, for many years. Yes, there have been a few incidents of land being taken, but by in large it is difficult for the natives to prove a claim to any parcel of land, unless they can prove their family worked it, or are buried there. We saw nothing dangerous while we were there, and I see no reason to be concerned.You will most likely be so far out in the bush that there would be no possibility of any danger if something did happen. If you are still concerned, there are insurance policies you can purchase for extraction. About 300$ I believe will cover you.
 

diamondback mike

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We were also a little concerned about the news coming from SA. We were assured before the trip by our outfitter that all was well. Further explanation when we got there made a lot of sense. This has been happening, for many years. Yes, there have been a few incidents of land being taken, but by in large it is difficult for the natives to prove a claim to any parcel of land, unless they can prove their family worked it, or are buried there. We saw nothing dangerous while we were there, and I see no reason to be concerned.You will most likely be so far out in the bush that there would be no possibility of any danger if something did happen. If you are still concerned, there are insurance policies you can purchase for extraction. About 300$ I believe will cover you.
Thanks so much for the quick response. Your information makes me feel a lot better, especially from someone who has been there recently. Again, congratulations on a great hunt, and thanks again.
 

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Thanks Jeffrey Masters for a great story and advice. I will be going to South Africa for the first time in a few months and I really value your advice. Though I am really excited about my upcoming trip, I am a little concerned regarding the new political changes and political climate (land re-acquisition without compensation). I have heard various things regarding dangers and safety, and was wondering these are over blown or exaggerated. I have nerve been to Africa, but am an experienced hunter, hunting on three continents. Any advice or tips regarding safety in South Africa would be appreciated..

From what I heard a few weeks ago while in South Africa, the retaking of land was more in line with farms that were non productive and owned by black farmers. The politics and danger? Same caveats as in any other country, be it the U.S., European or any other. Don't wander around by yourself and keep with your handlers, PHs and their employees and you'll be ok. Like the news media in this country, drama sells and that's what's disseminated and sold.
 

diamondback mike

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Thanks Hogpatrol
I appreciate the advice.
 

Jeffrey Masters

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From what I heard a few weeks ago while in South Africa, the retaking of land was more in line with farms that were non productive and owned by black farmers. The politics and danger? Same caveats as in any other country, be it the U.S., European or any other. Don't wander around by yourself and keep with your handlers, PHs and their employees and you'll be ok. Like the news media in this country, drama sells and that's what's disseminated and sold.
Yes sir, he is right, stay with your PH, that stands for snakes, wild animals, and rebellions! Seriously, he is right. Your PH knows the country, the wildlife, and the farms better than you ever will. Trust your pH, He will not lead you astray!
 

diamondback mike

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Thanks guys for all the good advice and humor!
 

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Thanks guys for all the good advice and humor!
Hey Jeffrey Masters.
Great hunt. I especially love the title of your report. I have been on 4 African Safaris and each one has been the safari of a lifetime.
 

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Thanks for taking the time to write your story Jeffrey Masters. I understand your feeling when you start to question your shooting. I had a poor shot on a Gemsbuck on my last trip and the feeling is not something that you want to repeat.
 

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