SOUTH AFRICA: The Curse Is Lifted: 2018 Group Hunt

CAustin

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South Africa, KwaZulu Natal, Kalahari, Northwest, Limpopo, Gauteng, APNR Kruger Area. USA Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas
We cross over the earthen dam which has recently been raised to the other side and drive about two miles. We get out and start through the thick Bush and tall grass! Now I’m a guy who hates snakes and this place looks like snake heaven to me. The previous year I had even been in the reeds next to a Good sized python and I am not really excited about finding one again. But we needed to get up stream to see if there were other hippos. My view of the waterway told me that it was becoming more clogged with water plants and trees. Hamish indicated that we could find good bulls in this so we kept at it until about 1300 hrs. Lunch time at the resort. What resort is that I say. The one your booked into for the next three nights. I exchange a glance with Skobbie and he looks preplexed. I told you Pieter said we were staying at a nice lodge down here. Guess who was going to have to go back and get the stufff left in our rooms at the guest house with the freezer burned food that evening. A 200 klm round trip was awaiting Skobbie that afternoon.
We drove to the lodge and had lunch prepared to our choice and served next to a swimming pool on white linen covered tables.
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Couple of topless Europeans at the pool was a nice view. Hamisch, Johnnie and Skobbie.
 

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Excellent tale Charlie! Hope you’re doing well because I’m hooked on your report so don’t stop!
 

CAustin

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CAustin

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South Africa, KwaZulu Natal, Kalahari, Northwest, Limpopo, Gauteng, APNR Kruger Area. USA Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas
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So after lunch which was excellent by the way we head back to the water. The pod of hippo have moved to the other side from the pump station so we must make our way around. When we do it is a slow walk through waist high grass and thorn bushes everywhere. Always something trying to rip your skin off. Don’t know how these guys from South Africa run around in this stuff in shorts.
We reach the upper edge of the bank and watch from a concealed position. A couple of hours observing movements and it’s obvious the two bulls stay in the middle of the pod with cows and calf’s propping their heads on their backs. One of the cows separates from the group and a bull gives chase. My PH Skobbie thinks it is now or never but we must move closer and sit on a path.
 
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CAustin

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South Africa, KwaZulu Natal, Kalahari, Northwest, Limpopo, Gauteng, APNR Kruger Area. USA Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas
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Visibility of the bull is difficult but we wait and watch. The sun is setting and Skobbie says let’s smoke this bull. The sticks are set as far apart as possible and I am to shoot from a seated position. I am frankly uncomfortable with the sticks and remembering last years first shot this isn’t feeling right. I place my Ruger #1 on the sticks because the shot is too far for the Merkel 470 NE. The sticks are springy and I can’t stay on target. So I refuse to take the shot. Hamish says it’s almost too late anyway so we will return in the morning to try again.
 
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Brent in Az

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Sounds like a good trip so far.

It boggles my mind, how incompetent the Airline industry has become.
 

CAustin

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Back at the lodge I get settled into my tented room. It was an amazing room complex to say the least. The sort of place a man would be most happy to take his wife. Dinner is to be served in a private boma by the fire and again white linen tale cloth. The pre dinner drinks are great as the bar has a couple of good bourbons to choose from.
 
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CAustin

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Breakfast the following morning is at 6:30 and we are off back to the water by 7:00. It’s a beautiful day to wake up in Africa and I’m confident that the curse will be lifted today.
 

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...............The sticks are springy and I can’t stay on target. So I refuse to take the shot. ................
(y)
Every last hunter going to Africa should burn this concept into their minds. If you are not comfortable; Don't shoot!
 

CAustin

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Scouting report says the hippo have moved down stream maybe a hundred yards from the spot the previous evening so essentially where we left them!
The stalk in is easier than the previous afternoon because there is a good path we can follow.
The saying in Africa is we must make a plan. The previous day I was not thrilled with using the springy sticks from a seated position. Soooooo Hamish and Skobbie looted a wooden plant stand from the lodge for me to use. Maybe borrow is a better term given that the item was returned. We didn’t crawl on the path but we got as close to ground as possible and still walk into a very concealed area on the bank above the hippo. We then crawled slowly down the bank to a point where the ground was starting to fall away quickly and we stopped. Skobbie and Hamish set up the wooden stand and placed the bean bag shooting rest on top of that. The sturdiness and height was perfect. Skobbie crawled forward and matted down the the two to three foot tall grass and this was the resulting view!
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CAustin

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It was early yet and both PHs felt that the pod had spent the night out of the water feeding and they would relax for a while. I had no intention of rushing this and it was clear to Hamish and Skobbie tha5 I wouldn’t. And so the wait began. We sat concealed in the grass with the wind in our faces for four and a half hours. Skobbie smoked a whole pack of Winston’s while we waited. At some moments I just fell back in the thick grass and rested my back. Others did the same . At 11:30 one of the bulls and a cow began moving parallel to the bank and down stream. It seemed obvious that they were planning to come out. We could see an excellent haul out area. But the view of the pod looked like this.
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Top picture is taken with my phone through the Leupold scope on my Ruger. You can clearly make out hippo resting on one another!
 
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CAustin

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We needed to move back up the bank and under the trees. These thorn trees are nasty things but I was able to stand fully straight up. We waited and watched as the pair got closer to the haul out place.
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So we set up the sticks under the trees and the hippo still had no idea we were there. The wind was perfect and the sun wasn’t in my eyes.
 
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CAustin

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At 11:58 I was on the sticks with my Ruger #1 375 H&H looking through the scope. The big almost black head of the bull was slowly coming up out of the water. Now I could see shoulder and then the lower jaw was even out of the water. Hamish quietly said take him when you are ready. The bull was moving left to right and I aimed for his right ear. I have never been great at leading an animal with a rifle but this was as good as it was going to get. I took a deep breath and let it out....cross hairs on the ear and I gently squeezed the trigger. BOOM! And there was no hippo in sight!

All the memories from the previous year began to flood my thought process. Had I hit him or was it a miss? What reaction did the others see at the shot? Skobbie says quickly that I hit him. In fact he is adamant that I hit him in the neck, Hamish was quickly reviewing the video he was shooting but a tree was partially blocking the view. But he adds that from the no reaction ....just falling back into the water.....no swirl or wake in the water that he was sure that I had indeed hit him. I checked my phone for the local time....1200 hrs. My nerves were really on end. I missed two shots last year and this one was about 110yards.
As I looked at one of the skinners he smiled at me nodded and said “ you hit him”! Remember these guys have very sharp eyesight. I am feeling a little more confident. Again Skobbie says “ sir I saw the bullet hit him just behind the ear .....you got him”
And so we waited! We watched. Encouraging activity was taking place out in the water. Four hippo cows were arrayed in a semi circle about 70 to 100 yards out in the water and they were watching the area where the bull was to have hauled out. They were not leaving big daddy.
At about twenty minutes Hamish and Skobbie were getting a little impatient and decided that it was time to go in the water. Hamish scooped up his VC 500 and suggested that I bring my Merkel as we went down to the waters edge. We got down the bank and walked down stream to an area close to where the bull had been headed.
Hamish warned me to be ready if the cows started to go under water and head our way.
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CAustin

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And so Hamish and the property manager decided that they needed to go into the water and look for the hippo. Some jokes were passed around that I should go too. No way man! That’s what I am paying you to do. Now go find him. They take the sticks and the VC 500 out into the water. Me I stayed on shore with the loaded Merkel and Skobbie had my 375. We were now at about 35 minutes since I shot the big guy. As they poked around in the water where I thought I shot himthey were finding nothing. Oh crap not this again I thought! I’m thinking that he wasn’t even grazed and that he was up stream a mile by now.
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But the cows still wouldn’t leave.
 
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CAustin

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And then EXACTLY 44 minutes after I took the shot just to the right of where the guys were poking around in the water I saw the gray black side of the beast surface!
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In the words of Mr Rogers “Can you say HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY”?
 
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CAustin

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I had been told that it usually takes about 45 minutes for a hippo to float. It was a long 44 minutes for me......but finally the second curse of the hunt was lifted. I had my hippo. Four of the dangerous six are now mine. Man what a feeling.
Let’s bring him in guys! The tow straps were thrown out to get around his leg and he moved surprisingly easy for the guys in the water.
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