Overall impression/rating: FIVE STARS Hunt Dates: August 24th-September 1st 2010 Location: North Cape/Kimberley Travel arrangements: Gracy Travel å§«rimary air carriers-United Airlines, South African Airways æ¡§vernight accommodations JNB-City Lodge TAMBO (airport) ç™¾APS clearance (Bruce-c/o Gracy Travel) Outfitter's web-site: Johnny Vivier Safaris PH: Strauss Jordaan Equipment: Rifles/Scopes/Ammunition: ï¾˜ Ruger Hawkeye .375 Ruger stainless (L/H) ï¾˜ Trijicon TR-21-3 German #4 (amber) ï¾˜ Hornady Dangerous Game SUPERFORMANCE Ammunition 375 Ruger 300 grain round nose ï¾˜ Montana Rifle Co. custom .275 Rigby (7x57) ï¾˜ Leupold FX-II 4x33mm wide duplex ï¾˜ Norma Ammunition 7x57mm (156 Grain Oryx) ï¾˜ Dèª•rcy Echols custom model 70 .300 Win. Mag. ï¾˜ Leica 4.5-14 ï¾˜ Black Hills Gold Ammunition 300 Winchester Magnum 180 Grain Barnes Triple-Shocks & 168G Berger VLD Factory HSM Golds Optics: PROMASTER Infinity Elite ELX 8x42 ED Binoculars Hunt Area: Wag å‰µ Bietjie base camp ~ 45 kilometers south of Kimberley in the Northern Cape region of South Africa. Elevation approx. 4000 feet MSL. Hunting area--approximately 40,000 acres. While we were there, fences were being dropped to join adjacent properties. Now approximately 100, 000 acres. Environmental conditions: High veldt-arid. Generally breezy but sunny. VERY dry. Temperature range 29F to mid-70's. Species taken: Impala, blue wildebeest, black wildebeest, Burchell's zebra, common blesbok, common springbok, waterbuck, nyala. Species seen and not hunted: è†REATER SOUTHERN KUDU è†EMSBUCK è±ARTMAN ZEBRA é«LAND è‚˜MPALA BLACK ç´EEDBUCK COMMON æ¨™ARTHOG ç¨—ABOON ç¨—LESBUCK WHITE ç¨—ONTEBUCK ç™¾PRINGBUCK BLACK ç™¾PRINGBUCK WHITE ç™¾PRINGBUCK COPPER ç•¢ECHWE ç–‹UIKER GREY ç™¾TEENBUCK ç¨—UFFALO æ¡§STRICH è¬¬SESSEBE è†IRAFFE ç´OAN ç™¾ABLE ============================================================== My first trip to Africa was in the early 1980's. I didn't go back until two years ago when I was fortunate enough to have friends who convinced me that I needed to backæ¬„Just this ONCE? As many know or will learn, going to Africa is both a blessing and a curse. A blessing for all that Africa has to offer (challenges included) and a curse because we learn that our worlds will now have a new time datum line. The perspective will be related to time--either the time when we were last in Africa or then time when weå€¤l go again. Nobody had to tell me this. Nobody had to tell me that Iå£‡ need to re-charge my å¢eso-pistol before going back either. Don't let anybody tell you otherwiseæºunting in Africa is expensive. Not Bill Gates/Warren Buffet expensive but for most people it's a big deal. Thankfully, there are some very generous outfitters (in cooperation with Safari Club International and other organizations) who donate their services and to local chapters to be sold at auction in order to further the interest in hunting and shooting sports. Fortune smiled upon me and three others last February when I went to the SCI (San Diego) chapter annual fundraiser. I was itching to bid on a hunt. There have been (and will be) outstanding hunting opportunities at SCI fund-raisers all over the US and I was hoping to get back to Africa for at least a 7 day plains game hunt?espite some lingering (and not well founded) doubts about hunting high fence/game farm properties. Before the dinner I perused the offered hunts and had my eye on one that looked particularly appealing. 9 days hunting for two hunter and two observersæ“ncluding 4 trophy animals for each hunterè¬¡ith Johnny Vivier Safaris. I was looking over the item description when I happened to bump into the then president of the local chapterå®¥erry Faust. He was making the rounds and mentioned heå£‡ met Johnny at Reno and what a great hunt it was. å“²icest one Iè‡´e seen in years?oing to go for a small fortune?o doubt? Sigh?br> Nevertheless, I joined forces with my long time hunting partner and we went all in for it. Little did I know, not only would I have the high bid but was in for an absolutely fantastic safari. Fast forward to August?br> Not quite yet though. We had yet to ç¤Žreak the news to my hunting partner's wife. I was in the dog house for a while. Not seriously so. She's been to Africa and was thrilled to have a chance to return. I invited a couple I knowé¥es that makes 5å‚ut weå£‡ work it out. Neither are hunters, neither have been to Africa. I told himé¥ouå€¤l thank meé nd è˜‡ate me if you say yes. He said yes. As it turns out, only he could go-but in the endæºe's not only going back but his wife is insisting that she goes NEXT time. I told him so?br> Now, a flurry of activityæº¶eed to decide on the dates (had to be taken Aug-Nov 2010)å‚ook the travelå¦–ecide on the animals Iå£‡ like to takeå¹¼hoose a ç¤Žattery? etc. It's a good excuse to kit up with some new gear too. Iå£‡ also bid on (and won) a 5 day trip to Namibia and wanted to hunt mountain zebra so I sprung for a new pair of boots to augment my Russell PH's. Oh, and then there was the new glass. Doug from Camera Land (NY) steered me toward a pair of PROMASTER Infinity Elite ELX 8x42 ED Binoculars. For the any amount of money-it's a very impressive set of glass. I was and am very happy with them. As for rifles?strong>So many rifles WILL work there. Iè‡´e got a wide range to choose from thankfully but one rifle stood out. I have a really beautiful 7x57 (and my friends let me call it a Rigbyè€€ounds cool!). Seriouslyæ“t's a great classic and proven round. The rifle handles and feeds very well. So now the choice, one rifle or two? I grew up shooting right handed rifles but I don't HAVE to anymore. Nevertheless the idea of å£®omething going wrong with one rifle spurred me to bring a second. Why the .375 Ruger? Why not? I love how it handles, it's accurate though not é¼ ong legged beyond 300 yards. Neither are my shooting skills. Who knowsæ´‹aybe Iå£‡ be seeing the eland of a lifetime and?ell, you get the picture. No regrets. Ammo: My buddy and I reloadé nd I went back and forth not only on WHAT to take but what bullets I wanted to use. I ended up shooting factory ammo. It's probably sacrilege to say given the absolute devotion some people give to ballistics and bullet performanceå‚ut I decided that my time was better spent SHOOTING a decent load that fed in my rifle than to fuss over ï½½ a grain of powder and 50 FPS. Don't get me wrong, I LIKE to reload and to find the sweet spot in rifles for a given bullet. But for this trip, given other demands on time and limited range opportunities I went ç´ actory? Just my opinion, but for 90% of us, there are some REALLY good and high performance factory loads out there. If there weren'tè‘‰hey wouldn't be in business for longé nd frankly I wasn't going to be after nyati or mbogoæ›œust antelope. Now I can fast forward to August 22nd. Because IçŸ¥ a å¥hrifty fellow I had Debbie Gracy book the cheapest/best available itinerary that would get me from San Diego to Kimberley, RSA with a round-trip to Windhoek, NA along the way. Routing: SAN-DCA-JNB (via Dakar). Despite the è˜‡orror stories Iå£‡ heardè‘‰he equipment (brand new Airbus A-340) and service were fine. Lucked out and got an exit row. Brutally long flight from DCA and there's no way around it. The stop in Dakar does involve the infamous bug-bomb spray treatment. Youå€¤l survive. Overnight in Johannesburg at City Lodge-Tambo airport (very convenient). Modern, clean, reasonably priced. It is walking distance from where you collect your luggage/rifles. If you have a quick turn-around I highly recommend it. Otherwise get out and stay with one of the guest houses that you can read about in other hunt reports. They will help get you in the é„frican mood? Bruce (from Gracy Travel) met us at the luggage pickup and IçŸ¥ not kidding I cleared my rifles in 10 minutes. Worth the expense. After the long flight we were tired but not ready to pitch in for the night so we cleaned up and wandered back to find a pretty decent pub at the airport. That first beer is SO sweet?br> Up and at it the next dayå”¯ruce met us again and got us over to the ç§Ÿomestic side and all checked in for our flight to Kimberley. ***One note for ç§Ÿo it yourself travelers. By using a travel agent, my ENTIRE ticket was booked under an international travel agreement between airlines. Doing so raises your allowable luggage limit SIGNIFICANTLY. If you did this on your own (booked individual flights) you don't have this allowance. If the trip is complex, let a travel agent handle it. Youå€¤l be glad you did. A short two hours later and we arrived in Kimberley at about 10:30 a.m. We were met by our PH, Strauss Jordaan. I recognized him from a hunting video that a former client (and now acquaintance) had made. Strauss is (like many African PH's) someone who people just like right away. Cheerful, polite, organized, knowledgeableæ“n a word, professional. We loaded up our kit and set off for camp. It's about 45 clicks south of the city of Kimberley most of which is along one of the few main å¥ar roads in that part of the North Cape. All the camp staff turned out to greet us and we proceeded to unload our gear and get into our quarters. Youå€¤l find all the modern amenities--hot and cold running water, flush toilets, ceiling fans and air conditioners -direct telephone dialing and internet access is available. Laundry is done daily. This is å£®tandard for most outfitters in RSA these days I supposeå‚ut when you are there you get a sense that you are REALLY being catered to and looked after. I don't have much to compare this to, but it was a good indication of why Vivier Safari's has the motto: å±•hen youè‡´e tried the rest, come and hunt with the best? In my limited experience with other outfitters, the day of arrival is a åƒ§eet and greetç€get settled in and get the rifles zeroed in?eriod. We had a light lunch and Strauss gently è˜‡erded us down to their range. Well set up and convenient. I sighted my 375 for a 2 high at 100 yards and my 7x57 for an inch. I wanted to be ready for smaller antelope at closer ranges and something bigger (eland, etc.) as well. I didn't have an eland at the top of my listå‚ut there's always the ç¾¨frican surprise? Without a doubt my å£®urprise on this trip was the very long ranges at which I ended up taking the majority of my trophies. IçŸ¥ a decent shotå‚ut I don't practice much outside of 200 yards. Not much opportunity to do ité nd my experience has been if I have to shoot fartheræ‚ need to get closer or pass on the shot. In any case, instead of heading back for an early å¥ea or a very early sundowner, Strauss asked if weå£‡ like to go out and å£®ee what's on out in the hunting areas. Heck yeah?br> So, now there is a decision point in how I frame the rest of the report. Do a step by step, blow by blow account of the huntç†”r just let the pictures talk? Iå€¤l do more of the latter and throw in a few highlights along the way. My hunting partner has been to Africa at least 5 times previously and so was out for a smaller ç¤Žag and more than willing to let me have the first opportunity. I have a nice impala (prototypical first African animal) already but there are some very nice trophies in the North Cape and it was a good way to break the ice. I suppose if I was a PH Iå£‡ want to see how a hunter handles him/herself on a fairly common species too. As it happens I took what I think is a really nice impala after a relatively short stalk. We spotted a small herd while driving and there was a good looking ram in the group. The great thing about having an experienced PH is that they know the behavior of the animals, the lay of the land and the environment. They got spooked and bolted up and over a small riseå‚ut we trekked around and came up on a crawl to where heå£‡ guessed theyå£‡ be. Sure enoughè‘‰he ram was browsing about 120 yards away. First test of the 7x57. I crawled up and set up in a prone position. Hold and squeeze. No matter what the animal or how many times youè‡´e huntedè‘‰hat is the magic moment and my heart was beating pretty hard. Hit him just on the shoulder and he dropped in place. I supposed that weå£‡ load up and head to the skinning shedé nd we did. But it was only 4:00 or so and we had about 2 hours of hunting light remaining. Blue wildebeest? Why not? Before I go any farther I want to state adamantly that the game fences NEVER came in to play while I was hunting. EVER. They are part and parcel of the reality of managing game animals. Some must be segregated for propagation or continuity of species. I had visions of a å¢en hunt years ago when I first heard of game farms. This couldn't be farther from reality. The only time I was aware of the fencing was when crossing from one area into another. The property is HUGE, now about 150 square miles. In any case, later that afternoon we spotted a large group of blue wildebeest and it was çµ„ame on? What I learned quickly about hunting the high veldt in Augustæ“t's dry and it's WINDY. In the nine days I hunted I would count only ONE as ç¥–alm? The rest of the time it was blowing between 10 and 20 mphé nd almost all day long. Because of the lack of dense cover in the area we hunted and the numerous sets of eyesæ“t was tough to get within 300 yards. I also learned that despite MY intentions to stalk a wildebeestè‘‰he numerous other game in the area, especially the springbokç†”ften had something else in mind. Once one of them boltsè‘‰hey all go. The wind made everything å‰µervous and so it went for most of the hunt. Thankfully, my hunting partner (also left handed) decided to bring his Echols prepared model 70 chambered in .300 WM. As it happens I took 4 of my animals with that rifle. I have no doubt that I would have eventually gotten opportunities with my selected batteryå‚ut given the choice I grabbed the 300 when wind/range we likely to be a big factor in the hunt. I ended up taking the blue wildebeest at the end of day oneç¾Šight before sunset. It was a great way to finish my first day in the field at Wag å‰µ Bietjie. (CONTINUED IN PART II)... Well...this is where it actually finished. Day 2: It's COLD! IçŸ¥ glad I packed my parka, long underwear, hat and gloves. I looked online and it was 29 degrees that previous night. We mustered at about 7:00 for breakfast (excellent every day) and a cup or two of coffee and off we went. (Dr.Bill--paparazzi) As it happened--I witnessed one of the most amazing hunts Iè‡´e ever seenæ“ncluding all the hunting TV shows, videos, etc. This particular morning we set out to get Jeff (my hunting partner) a black wildebeest. I had no idea of how incredibly wary these animals are. In this region there is very little dense cover and these guys like to graze in these enormous open areas of low grass and small clumps of bushes. Enormous as in 5 miles across--without a chance of being unseen. Again, the skill and local knowledge of the PH came in to play. We drove to a place where there was a good chance we would at least spot a herd or twoé nd eventually we did. They saw us as well. Now I know why they call them the clowns of the bush. I could watch them for hours. (later I wouldå‚ut for another reason)?br> We were about 2 miles from them and Strauss had our driver, Richard, stop the truck near a small (6 feet across) group of thorn bushes. His plan? He and Jeff would get off and have us drive away. We were adjacent to the herd and hoped they'd get twitchy and run toward where he and Jeff were brushed up. From there the idea was that the herd may (just may) stop somewhere close enough that they could stalk/crawl within 300 yards and assess the opportunity. Not only did they (eventually) do that but they ran and stopped within about 30 yards of where they sat. We never got closer than ï½½ mile but I watched the entire thing through my binoculars. Later, Jeff said he could hear them THUNDERING toward themé nd they essentially hooked around their hiding spot and stopped. His heart was in his throat. Strauss sorted one fine bull out and one trigger squeeze later he had a magnificent trophy. From the time we stopped to drop them off to hearing the report of the rifle: 15 minutesæ´‹ax. As a side note, Jeff was shooting 168G Berger VLD Factory HSM Golds. This is how we found the bullet: Off-side shoulder and protruding with the base first. The remainder of the hunt can be highlighted with a few anecdotes and lasting impressions. Since IçŸ¥ writing about the black wildebeest, Iå£‡ like to share that it was the TOUGHEST single animal that I encountered in South Africa. Not that it's physically toughè¬¡hich it certainly iså‚ut that it challenged me the most. I didn't have the good fortune of having one å¥ied to a tree as I now claim Jeff's was. The day I went out for a black wildebeest it was windy and cold. After chasing a pretty large herd on foot for almost two hours I finally got up on a small é¡opi (hill) and spotted them where theyå£‡ settledé s much as they ever really settle in. There were at least 30 in the groupé nd spread out from about 250 to 400 yards away. Why don't they just stop at 100 yards and broadside like I always imagine? Anywayæ‚ can't sort a å–ªeally good bull from an average one and was lucky to recognize a cow at first. Again, luckily Iå£‡ taken the 300 with me on this stalk because it was blustery. IçŸ¥ guessing a steady 12 knots and gusting to 20. I had good glass and we finally sorted out the one I wanted to take. After about what seemed like an hour (maybe 10 minutes) I was holding and squeezing. Bang! You know (if youè‡´e hunted for a while) how you can hear that bullet SLAP when it hits hard? This was more like a å£®mush? He jumped up but so did 29+ others. When I pulled off the glass to look, reload and re-acquire I had no idea where to look. Off then went to our right and not one of them looked å£®ick? Damn?br> We kept the glass on them until they were out of sight and then walked down to where heå£‡ been. Looking for blood spooré nd found a trace. Paced it off at just under 300 yards. I make no excuses. It was not a good shot. I will say thoughæ‚ always (always) replay my shot in my mind and try to recall my exact sight picture, etc. Probably lowç”¨robably in front of the shoulder. What I also learned is that consciously or unconsciouslyæ‚ still use å£®tadiametric ranging. I learned how to do it when I was flying fighters in the Navy. You can do a good job of estimating range if you know the size of your targeté nd have an aiming reference. My problem was that I was imagining the å±¤hite tailed gnu to be a lot bigger than it actually is. I also learned (after the fact) that Jeff zeroed his rifle to be dead on at 100 yards. It's MY fault for not knowing how the rifle was set up. In any caseè¬¡e ended up calling the truck in to meet us. Strauss works with a tracker, Cephas, and he put him on the spoor and gave him a radio. We took off in the direction we last saw the herd. About 20 minutes later we spotted ç–Ž herd. Was it the same one? Who knowså‚ut this is where I learned how beautiful these animals truly are. That's the positive side of it. The downside is that no one (we had 4 sets of glass on them) was seeing a wounded animal. If youè‡´e ever seen them in the bushè‘‰hey ALL look like theyæ± e woundedé t least now and then. Bucking, twisting, tripping and turning?br> Finally, after repeating the same exercise for another 2 hours on numerous groups, we spotted one lone bull about 800 yards from any herd. He looked å£®ick? My spirits lifted! As we drove up within about ï½½ mileç†”ff he went?br> This old guy was running up a draw and we were on a road, paralleling his track about 200 to 400 yards away. It was straight out of Doctari. We had to slow for the small dams built on the roads for erosion controlå‚ut that old bull was flying. He eventually crossed in front of us about 500 yards and up/over into the hills and brush. Strauss and I left the rest of the hunting party in the truck and set off after him. After about 40 minutes of cat and mouse he stopped near a small copse of thorns trees and bushes below us and about 250 yards away. It was still impossible to see if he was THE one Iå£‡ wounded-but we thought it was. After some discussionæ‚ decided that I was going to take him in any caseé nd if heå£‡ not been woundedæ‚ å£‡ just ç¤Žought two animals. I was pretty confident that the one I had hit wasn't mortally or even seriously wounded. Cephas had tracked in the direction weå£‡ picked this guy upè€€o I decided to take him. Because he might have been wounded I treated the shot as if he was. I wanted to anchor him at the leastè‘‰hough the brush was a factoræºe was virtually standing in it. I got a steady rest and aimed for the front third?br> He dropped at the shotå‚ut I took a follow up at about half the distance. By the time we got to himæ“t couldn't have been more than a minuteæºe was as stiff as a fireplace poker. A dramatic example of the effects of adrenaline. You cannot imagine how hard this proud animal had run. ?nd as it happens, he WAS the right one. Iå£‡ grazed him across the front of his left leg. Like I saidæ“t was not a good shot. The good news is that my sight picture had been accurately recalled. Forward and low. The amount of é¼ ow was unexpected and that's when I sorted out the actual zero on the rifle. Lesson learned?nd I accept the luck. Reflecting on this though, I realize that the é¼ uck was really due to having an extremely competent and capable PH. Strauss made a reasonable conclusion based on what weå£‡ seen and without his persistence and positive attitude I doubt Iå£‡ have had success that day. Other hunting notes or highlights? The common blesbok was without a doubt the wariest animal that I hunted on this safari. I spent the entire last dayé bout 10 hoursç†”n repeated approaches, blown stalks, chasing and finally calling it quits when the sun had gone down. We were literally walking out of the area, not really practicing good field craft (walking line abreast, etc.) when Strauss froze. A really nice ram was poking through the thorns bushes about 300 yards away..and he saw us. I was sure it was just another missed chanceå‚ut we gave him about a minute and started walking toward where weå£‡ seen him. Within about 10 minutes and in rapidly fading light I had my lasté nd more memorable of my trophies on my hunt with Johnny Vivier Safaris. (CONTINUED IN PART III)... Let me finish with a few lessons learned and related highlights. * The entire experience was enhanced by having Strauss as a PH as our ç¥–amp counselor and the having the cheerful and attentive staff looking after us. A PH can make or break a hunt. Strauss now has four lifelong fans and friends in us. * One day in the field, we were met by a camp vehicle at lunch time. We were treated to a delightful ç´ ield lunch in the fine tradition of old school safari camps that Iå£‡ read about for years. It was a magical and unforgettable experience. * On the second day in campæ‚ realized that Iå£‡ lost my prescription sunglasses. I had them on the first day of hunting and recall having them after taking my blue wildebeest. I mentioned my dilemma to Strauss and so, after breakfast, we drove out to the spot Iå£‡ taken it. Sure enough, we found them. Broken and bent frames but glass was intact. I supposed that Iå£‡ get them fixed on our planned ç§Ÿay off about 6 days hence. Iå£‡ have to make do with borrowed non-prescription sunglasses. Without prompting, Strauss had them sent to an optics shop in Kimberley that same dayé nd they were repaired and returnedè¬¡ithout charge. That's about a 50 mile round trip. * One of our party had a need for a prescription. Another of our party is a medical doctor. Strauss put him in touch with the pharmacy in Kimberley and they sorted out what theyå£‡ need and how to order it. Again, Strauss sent someone into Kimberley and had the Rx filled that same day. * There was a huge bouquet of fresh flowers delivered to the room of my hunting partner and his wife after we arrived. She could not stop talking about how much that meant to her. * Johnny's partner Wiaan has family who live nearby and he has a large beautiful home on the property. They had a family reunion/baby shower for one of the relatives and a HUGE barbeque, etc. We were invited to join in as if we were a part of the family. We felt as if we were. * There was never a moment in which any of us felt as if we weren't the focus of the attention of the camp and staff. The kitchen staff accommodated us in every wayé nd THEY now have a new skill and recipe. Microwave popcorn with Zatarain's seasoning. It's addicting! * Highly recommend to take a day to be a tourist in and around Kimberley. Visit some of the historical battle sites from the Boer War and make sure to visit the DeBeers é‡˜ig Hole diamond mine museum and associated attractions. * Johnny and Wiaan built a large modern taxidermy studio on their property. From what I gather it's been built within the last year or so. It is run by a highly experienced taxidermist and has a large staff. The work is really impressive. They were working on at least 20 mounts while we were there. It's nice to have the option of having work done there as there is 100% accountability for the outcome of the trophies. I know there is some controversy about tanning methods, etc. but after talking with a well known taxidermist here in San Diegoæ‚ have confidence that there is some good work coming out of RSA. Time to wrap this up. There are great stories to go along with all these trophies, but I'll just let the pictures speak for these few. A few misc. photos. that help me capture the memories of the trip: BOTTOM LINE: If you have ever entertained a trip to Africa but were unsure of the challenge of the hunt, the level of service or if your å£®ignificant other would be comfortableç”¨ut all your doubts aside. Johnny Vivier Safari's has indeed put all the right pieces together to create a top notch, challenging and yet very comfortable safari experience. Whether youæ± e a novice or a highly experienced hunter I can heartily recommend a hunt with Vivier. Try the rest?hen hunt with the best?ohnny Vivier Safaris. å±•hen you see the Southern Cross for the first time you understand now why you came this way? p.s. I get no consideration or benefit whatsoever from writing or posting this report. The opinions and impressions are mine and mine alone. I like to see good folks who have good products and services succeed.