SOUTH AFRICA: Spear Safaris Kruger Area 2 Week Hunt

ActionBob

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I really wanted to hunt a lion this year and spent a lot of time researching. Really was looking for the best "hunt" I could find, not necessarily the biggest lion. There was a post a while ago discussing lions and based on what I had been told, I think I commented that there were no real wild lion hunts in RSA. Ernest from Spear Safaris responded that he had wild lions in his area adjacent to Kruger. So I corresponded with Ernest and then went to meet him at DSC and booked a 14 day hunt to include one of the two lions he had in his area as well as a buffalo and a bunch of PG.

We arranged travel with Lori and took the flight through Washington DC with a refuel in Dakar and on to Joberg for an overnight at Africa Sky and had them meet us at the airport with rifle permits. That all went very well except for the miserable long time on the plane. The other two times we went over, we had 12 and 15 hour layovers in Paris and my wife prefers that. But the Africa Sky rep met us at the airport and we had a great meal, good sleep and nice breakfast and were retuned and helped to check back in. The only hiccup was at the end of the trip we had a couple bags stolen including nothing irreplaceable other than Ann's notebook from the hunt. (mostly our hunting boots, gaiters, and some dirty clothes)

When Africa Sky was called to email the permits so we could leave, they only succeeded in getting Ann's application through. However we were able to connect with Henry at Rifle Permits and he had two reps at the airport anyway and one of them met us and helped us get new permits so it worked out.

We actually arrived at 1PM the day before the hunt was to begin but Ernest took us out to get some bait that evening! Saw buffalo right away including a very close 40" immature bull staring at us from the bushes.

Came across a group of baboons in a large power line tower settling in for the night... With a herd of impala and zebra underneath. So a challenging stalk but I got a shot off at a zebra but hit it in the neck and it went down but ended up getting back up and I got one more in on the run but too far back. Well Jock, Ernest's young blood spoor dog ( a short hair pointer) came to the rescue and soon had the zebra at bay, right at the limit of what my lungs could take running through the forest. Got another shot into it but high as I did not want to hit the dog, the zebra ran a bit further and a finisher in the chest and it was all over except to cut a road in to retrieve it. It was dark by and the time we had the retrieval done so took it back to camp to skin it and then went to hang it the nest morning.

Zebra Spear April2015.JPG


When we drove out in the morning we found lion tracks right away! The excitement level was way up as John the tracker got on front to watch the track.
Lion print Spear April2015.JPG


As John pointed out the tracks and directed Ernest to turn at an intersection, we headed up towards a pan with water and I saw a lion run across the road! Ernest stopped and John just kind of melted off the front bumper and appeared in the back with me. A second lion was in the bushes and then followed the first but he was limping badly. Before I had booked the hunt Ernest had sent me trail cam pictures of these lions but they were both healthy at that time. He though they might have gone out into Kruger and been in a fight trying to take over a pride.... But I wonder if they attacked a buffalo and the one got hurt that way. The injured one was thin but seemed to be surviving with help from the other. Definitely a coalition between the pair.
Lion day 1 Spear April2015.JPG


We were in Ernest favorite hunting truck which is an older Land Cruiser with the cab removed. Ann was in front (without a door or any windows) and I was on the back up on the high seat so I saw the lions better but she did get that picture. I was able to see both lions very well and had them in my scope and was ready to get down and try to shoot one but Ernest said to hold off as the manes were in such bad condition. These cats were stressed and showed it. The hunt could have been over in the first half hour of the first day but Ernest said we should hang the bait and cameras and get better look at them. He was not happy with these cats representing him and his company and I think he was actually disappointed that it had been so easy to find them. So we hung the bait and as we drove off, I looked back to see them already crossing the road and heading to the bait.
Hanging Lion Bait  Spear2015.JPG
 

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Love the Zebra picture of yall. Great smiles from you both!

Keep the report coming!!!!
 

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The annoying part is travel for sure.
Great to see cats right of the bat.
Keep it coming.
 

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We also hung two other baits in other areas hoping to attract a better cat. The next morning we checked the baits and that first one was half eaten. Also got good pictures and concluded that the injured lion must have been the larger dominant one as it was actually lying on top of the other one in one picture. The pictures I had from before booking definitely showed one larger than the other and I had wanted to be the first hunter to go after them to try and get the larger one.

Ernest suggested we apply for a permit to hunt another area on a place managed by another guy where Earnest had success in the past. However it was now Friday and he had to get hold of the guy to make arrangements and get a permit so we were out until at least the next Tuesday or Wed so we carried on hunting other things and continuing to check baits for other action.

Additionally, I only had Ernest for a few days as he had a leopard hunt booked with another client before I booked to I had agreed to switch to his main PH, Koos. I though this was a great way to get a broader experience but it did take a couple days to adjust to a completely different style of hunting... Both effective but different. Ernest is very high energy and always moving and can get out front a bit to far at times. Koos is more methodical and wants to always take it slow so easy to keep up with. Koos did soon discover were planning to hunt and not nap so he stepped up to the plate and we hunted hard the remainder of the hunt. Probably the biggest thing I struggled with was knowing whether to shoot or not. Earnest would says something to the effect of "bob shoot that thing!" Koos would want to look it over and discuss that yes it is a good one but maybe we can do better, etc. I still am not confident that I know what is a hard bossed bull and what is not, unless it is an old Dagga Boyu like I ended up shooting.

Both of them got me right up close to several buffalo bulls including several we passed on and a couple I wanted but did not get a shot at. I actually arranged with Ernest to have the option of shooting two bulls if I found the right ones. I wanted one really old bull and one that was as wide as we could find as long as it was hard bossed, with big drops and perfect curls pointing right back at the top of the bosses.... We saw a 37" bull that fit that bill one night driving back in the dark but never got on him again in the daylight. There was a 38" I could have dropped from the truck but I wanted my feet on the ground and got off and it was last light and by the time I got around the truck and in the sticks and Koos said to shoot him, he had turned and was partly behind a bush and I thought he was still facing the other way so could not find his shoulder. Then he ran off never to be seen again.

We also stalked in behind a couple great bulls Ernest had spotted while hunting wart hog with his leopard client. We were a long ways from the area and it took us a while to get there and then to find them. We tracked through very difficult conditions including tracking them about a mile down an old tar road! ...... Yes we tracked down the road, kept finding tracks on each side of the road as they meandered back and forth down the road. Really an amazing experience in itself. We had misinterpreted the directions from Ernest as there were two little rivers and we assumed the first when they were down the second. In the end we got to within about 15-20 yards behind and downwind of them but Koos could not see the bosses. The one was 38-39 wide and huge with higher points and the other was 36 or so with the nice drops and curls... but neither would face us to see how hard they were. In hind sight, we should have tried to get them to stand up but they seemed to be settled in for the day (it was now about noon) and we decided to circle around and get on some rocks for a better view. Of course as we got up there, the wind switched and they took off.

Another day we were driving a trail when a group of zebra took off in front of us and we stopped up there to take a piss break. We got off and were heading into the bushes when two buffalo exploded out not 50 feet from where we parked! Tracked them till dark but they stayed ahead of us. Another time I spotted a big mud covered bull under a bush as we drove by. Koos backed up to look and did not see it right away as it was closer than he thought and then it was literally dripping mud so thick he had a hard time telling how mature it was. Of course it ran off as well. Many other similar and different encounters. We stalked up on several that we passed on. At one point I was on the sticks with a cow watching me, a young bull beside her and a big older bull coming out of the bushes just needing to take two more steps to get a shot when the cow blows snot and takes off and spooks everything. This is real buffalo hunting!

So absolutely incredible area to hunt buffalo and lots of dagga boys on their own, in two's and three's and bachelor groups of 5-6. And we saw herds every day as well. Ernest said their is about 20,000 acres and 400 buffalo.

The one I shot was an old mud covered bull that was in a herd with a younger but bigger bull who was a year or two away from being fully hard bossed. We stalked in on the herd and took our time looking them over and I decided to try for the old guy and then try to get a second bull. It was a very long shot for buffalo so we put on a stalk to circle around and get closer. I finally got on the sticks but the herd was moving off some walking, some trotting bit. My old bull was mixed in near the back and I was waiting for some cows to clear. Right before he got to the bush he stopped quartering away to the left which is the side you should NOT shoot a ruminant from. However I had a lot of confidence in the 505 Gibbs I was shooting and shot felt good so I took it. There was an explosion of buffalo running everywhere and we took some time getting around to the spot. I did not confirm the distance but it was about 70 yards. We walked up and heard the death bellow then saw him laying up against a tree. He was mostly dead but I put in another through the chest just because it is a buffalo! Then I put in another because we were late for lunch:)

I'll try to post pictures later of the of bullets recovered. The first shot went through several inches of rumen and well up into the chest. I was impressed with the performance of the 505 and the 525 grain TSX moving at 2300fps muzzle velocity and about 6200 ft pounds energy. At the distance I shot him, it should have hit that buff at about 2100 fps with 5000 ft pounds of energy.
Dagga Boy Spear April2015.JPG
 

ActionBob

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As I mentioned, Ann's notes were stolen with her bags and so all we have is pictures for notes. And it has been almost a month, long travels and 21 critters total between the two outfits. So my memory may be a bit off. After the zebra I spotted a steenbuck and had the 375 and 505 with so grabbed the 375. I was shooting 300 grain Federal Premium Trophy Bonded Bear Claws but had a box of solids with. Started to put a solid in but the steenbuck was moving so closed the bolt and shot him with the soft. Just aimed back a bit.
Steenbuck Spear April2015.JPG


Ernest had spotted a great Kudu but I hesitated a bit too long and he ran off. But the hunting Gods were with us and Ernest later spotted a great Waterbuck. It was a tough shot quartering away through the brush but I got a line on him and the 375 delivered. Ernest commented on the adequacy of that caliber and how something less might have meant a different result.
Waterbuck Spear April2015.JPG
 

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Nothing like having big fire power.

Neat Buffalo.
 

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  1. What a great buff! Looks like someone used a belt sander on those horns. Love it....
  2. You really should have used the .505 on the steenbok. Didn't you feel under gunned with the .375???? ;)
  3. LOVE the waterbuck.... If I see one like that in a couple of weeks here I don't think I will even try to resist....
 

ActionBob

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We were mainly hunting buffalo every day while watching developments on the lion. We had 3 baits out and action with the two stressed ones but nothing else and had to get through the weekend. It was early morning and I was still not fully with it when suddenly John the tracker spotted a blue wildebeest standing in a low meadow by himself and Earnest took one look and said "Bob shoot that thing!" I had told him my tendency on African game is to shoot on the high side and this thing was way below us so as I was putting the gun up he whispered "aim low". I hit it through the heart with the 375. Was actually wishing I had grabbed the 505 just to shoot something with it. (this was before the buffalo) It was an ancient old bull with the horns so worn down the cores were showing! We don't have a great picture of that but here I what I do have.

Blue Wildebeest Spear April2015.JPG


Next was the buffalo but we kept hunting buffalo right up until the last day, other than a few days break after the lion to go to their high veld area.

Monday came and Ernest left us with Koos and went to pursue a lion permit for the other property. The owner also offered an opportunity for hyena there so I agreed to pay for the permit and hunt that on a trophy basis if we got one. After expediting the permit we went to hang bait and look over the new area. Met the guy in charge and his son and hung the baits. We also confirmed with them that we wanted to hunt on our own and get the full expieriance.
 

ActionBob

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So our planned strategy was to go there each morning and evening and return to the main camp to eat and hunt buffalo mid day. We were also going to try for hyena after dark and were successful in getting them to come in to our bait number two.

To step back a bit, I had inquired about hyena but Ernest only gets one tag in his area and it was already filled by earlier hunter. So this was a second chance as the guy will only let a hyena go if you also take something bigger like a lion or leopard. It was a special treat one night at supper when we heard a hyena howl. I never imagined just how loud they are! It reverberated through the hills and rocks like nothing else. We heard lions roar often at night but there was no comparison to the hyena and I have never heard one howl like that on TV. Just further proves there is no way you can even get a good concept of African reality without being out in it!

Back to the hunt.... They were howling back and forth and getting closer and I could hear them behind a line of trees but then everything went quiet.... Until John tapped Koos on the shoulder and pointed under a tree on the other side of us. There was a hyena slinking in after having circled around us! I had a bead on him mid shoulder and just as I squeezed the trigger he saw us and turned and the shot hit him in the mid section but stopped him and he was spinning in place when I fired into the fur and he dropped. The second bullet went in through the top of his head and out the throat. No big holes so all was good. Facinating creatures and Koos confirmed it was a male by feeling for bigger testacies as both males and females have penises and testes but females have little peanut sized ones.
Hyena Spear April2015.JPG
 

ActionBob

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I think it was our second day driving in we spotted a leopard in the grass adjacent to the road. It was a young one but Koos said that was a "once in a lifetime" to see any leopard in the wild without baiting it and in daylight! The camera was focusing on the grass but look right at the top of the grass.
Young Leopard in grass daylight Sprear April.JPG



Well this excitement was to continue... Driving back a couple nights later, we come across a big male walking along the road! Koos says, ok, now this is once in two lifetimes!

Leopard Spear.JPG


Leopard1 Sper.JPG

We watched him for several minutes. I was actually concerned he might come in the window or jump on the back and get the tracker!

Well the next morning we see either him or another walking down a different road in front of us!!! Now Koos is just mumbling incoherently about how this just does not happen!
Leopard 2 Spear.JPG


We also ended up with a female leopard on one of our original lion baits back in Ernest's main area and Earnest had a 9 other leopards on bait in the area he and Carl were hunting them. Carl ended up with a 154 pound male. Ernest is very concerned that the government is trying to cut out leopard hunting because of concerns over there being not enough of them!!! Typical government BS.
 

ActionBob

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Very good an article. Nice trophies and pictures. You did have a good hunting. I envy you. Congrats.
Witold
Hold on, we're not done yet and then we went to the East Cape and spent 6 days with Loodt so I'll try to get back to that report as well. 21 critters total.... But I'm getting ahead of myself now. Just stay tuned!
 

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Great story and pics. Sounds like an awesome hunt. Seeing a Leopard like that in the daytime has to be a thrill.

Hey Bob, I see you live in Minnesota. I was born there, and lived in the farm country outside of Albert Lea when I was a kid.
 
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ActionBob

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Back to the lion hunt... The morning after we hung two baits in this new area, we spent some time scouting and Koos made several plans to stalk in on the baits from different directions depending upon which way the wind might be blowing. We were into our routine and driving back one morning when Koos gets a call from Danny, the son of the property owner. They had heard a lion roar that morning and saw some tracks. We get there and there is Danny and a friend of his (carrying a gun) with a truck parked and they are pointing towards bait 2. They are back bout 200-300 yards and there is a lion standing by a bush near the bait. They are urging us to come shoot it quick. It was all a blur and for a moment I felt a rush but told myself to just calm down and I got the 375 out and loaded and Koos was asking how far I can shoot and I think I think I replied with something like how far do I need to or how far should I? So he took the sticks and gave the tracker his old BRNO 602 458 lott to carry. We moved closer with a little bush between us and the lion and then shot from what Koos said was 100 yards but I think it was more like 80. The first shot felt real good and the lion leapt up and started growling and biting at himself. I followed up with another and he was laying still. We walked up and circled around to the back side of him but he was done.

To be honest it was actually kind of anti climatic. I was honestly pissed that that those other guys had gone out and spotted him "for us". In retrospect, Koos must have had concerns as the first day he did make a point of telling them we wanted to hunt on our own.

Danny's father Phillip showed up for pictures and poured on the BS so thick I told Danny I was going to get up hill to keep my shoes clean. I can highly recommend Spear Safaris and would like to hunt with them again, but would not care to go back to Philip and Danny's place. I enjoyed the hyena hunt but they took a lot away from the lion experience.
Lion1 Spear April2015.JPG

The above hole is an exit from the second shot which entered back on the below picture. . The first quartered in through the other shoulder and is hidden by the mane and the skinner recovered that bullet deep inside. First shot quartering to and second quartering away.
Lion2 Spear2015.JPG


Lion3 Spear2015.JPG


Lion4 Spear2015.JPG


Lion5 Spear 2015.JPG


Lion6 Spear April2015.JPG


Lion7 spear April2015.JPG


Lion8 Spear April2015.JPG
 

ActionBob

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After the lion we packed up and left for the High Veld area. Scenic drive and the property I almost beyond description it is so nice. some of the highest elevation land in RSA from what I understand and a crystal clear spring fed river through the bottom! And the people were really great and gracious.

We traveled an hour and a half to another area for a common reedbuck and shot a fallow deer as long as we were there. A nice guy supervising that property but he kept us waiting at the gate for about an hour and then blew a stalk for us by driving the truck up at a most inopportune time. But Koos spotted a reedbuck on our way out for lunch and even though it was not the big one we were after, he will do for now and I have reason to hunt them again.
Common Reedbuck Spear April2015.JPG

Fallow Deer Spear April2015.JPG


So we ended up only hunting a half day there and headed back to the Highveld base camp. Saw lots of good kudu and any of them would have been a great first bull but I was trying to upgrade on my second. Spotted Nyala a couple times and one might have been a shooter but by the time Koos looked them over, he had walked into the bush and was judged to be only mediocre.
Nyala Spear April2015.JPG


Spear Highveld april2015.JPG


The final day we were driving out early morning and Koos spotted a bushbuck way up on a mountainside! The stalk was on and we slowly worked our way up the slope keeping bushes between us and his line of sight. Got to within a couple hundred yards and hid in a bush and behind some rocks. I got a rather uncomfortable but stable rest in the Y of the bush and the bushbuck had laid down. It was a cool morning and low clouds so Koos figured he was waiting up there for the sun to come out and warm him up. I was stuck in that bush for half an hour and a kudu cow came very close and barked at us but the bushbuck just laid there. Then several more Kudu came out and almost walked over him, still lying, then 3 young kudu bulls came over the hill and stood there for the longest time until they ran off... Bushbuck still lying. So Koos and I whisper back and forth and as I was getting pretty stiff so decided to try something. Koos stepped out to get him to stand, he moves out a couple feet, bushbuck does not see him. He steps out further, nothing, clacks the sticks together, nothing... Then we send the tracker out to walk at an angle across the bushbuck's line of sight towards a group of bushes, the bushbuck just lies there watching him! Finally it stands up and stretches slowly and I dropped him with a shot on the shoulder.

When we got to him. I figured it was a good thing we did not wait any longer as he might have died of old age! I wonder if he needed glasses?

Bushbuck Spear April2015.JPG
 

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So our planned strategy was to go there each morning and evening and return to the main camp to eat and hunt buffalo mid day. We were also going to try for hyena after dark and were successful in getting them to come in to our bait number two.

To step back a bit, I had inquired about hyena but Ernest only gets one tag in his area and it was already filled by earlier hunter. So this was a second chance as the guy will only let a hyena go if you also take something bigger like a lion or leopard. It was a special treat one night at supper when we heard a hyena howl. I never imagined just how loud they are! It reverberated through the hills and rocks like nothing else. We heard lions roar often at night but there was no comparison to the hyena and I have never heard one howl like that on TV. Just further proves there is no way you can even get a good concept of African reality without being out in it!

Back to the hunt.... They were howling back and forth and getting closer and I could hear them behind a line of trees but then everything went quiet.... Until John tapped Koos on the shoulder and pointed under a tree on the other side of us. There was a hyena slinking in after having circled around us! I had a bead on him mid shoulder and just as I squeezed the trigger he saw us and turned and the shot hit him in the mid section but stopped him and he was spinning in place when I fired into the fur and he dropped. The second bullet went in through the top of his head and out the throat. No big holes so all was good. Facinating creatures and Koos confirmed it was a male by feeling for bigger testacies as both males and females have penises and testes but females have little peanut sized ones.
View attachment 41147
Awesome !!!
 

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Thanks Bob for this enjoyable report.....great hunt and great trophies.....memories to keep in your mind for ever.....!!!!

Well done....!!!
 

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