SOUTH AFRICA: Tootabi Hunting Safaris In The Pink

tarbe

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Got home from Tootabi about 5pm Houston time. Fell asleep at 6pm and woke up at 11pm. All messed up...so thought I'd at least get this ball rolling.

First a PREFACE (Long, so I will apologize in advance!)


You Are What You Eat


Each of us is a product of our environment.

Being the complex animals we are, our “being” is so much more than a collection of organic and inorganic molecules. We are also emotional, dare I say spiritual, beings as well.

So, while my body is just so many pounds of proteins, lipids (ugh), water and carbohydrates with some other nasties thrown in for good measure, what resides between my ears in the form of electrical impulses is a lot tougher to nail down.

It is this mystical stuff that makes us truly who we are…gives us our personality and uniqueness.

Where does all that stuff come from? Well, I’d argue that ultimately it all comes from God. But I’d also say that our environment and our genetics play a role in how all this God-given stuff plays out in real time.

So, let’s go back to 1963. I am 6 going on 7 and I get turned-on to Johnny Weissmuller.

Some of you know that he was an Olympic Champion swimmer, winner of five Olympic Gold Medals, and also the winner of 52 U.S. National Championships. In fact, he is reportedly undefeated in official competition during his entire competitive swimming career.

But it wasn’t his competitive swimming that garnered my attention as a young boy. It was the visual of Johnny wrestling a Crocodile and riding a rampaging Rhino that made me see him as larger than life.

Of course, Johnny didn’t do these things in real life…but to me he may as well have. When I saw Johnny portray Tarzan on my folk’s TV, doing these things and more, he became a hero of sorts to me.

Of course, the setting of all these adventures was this far away, mystical place simply know to me as Africa. Now, as we all know, Africa is a very large continent and is as diverse in terrain, vegetation and climate as can be found on earth. But to me, Africa was where Tarzan was. Where the spiders were as large as a grown man’s hand. Where all the crocodiles were 18 feet long and where danger lurked around every bush and every bend in the river, courtesy of some strange and exotic wild animal (or head-shrinking cannibal!).

It was also a place of great beauty and adventure. Untamed, unspoiled, and ready to be explored by anyone willing to subject themselves to the hazards that were simply part of the cover charge.

In the days portrayed by the Weissmuller Tarzan movies, only the wealthiest of the wealthy could afford the expense of the typical safari. One was essentially purchasing the services of an entire small company of white professionals and native porters. Not to mention, to make it all work, one had to be able to take up to several months off from their normal worldly duties. What working stiff could ever hope to do that?

These realities all taken together….the heroics of Tarzan, the danger, beauty and adventure offered by Africa herself, and the slim odds of one ever making such a trip…well, taken together they made Africa as much a pipe dream as was getting to one day marry my boyhood dream girl, Raquel Welch!

Just as I managed to forget about and grow past Raquel, I also managed to forget about ever experiencing Africa. Fortunately, God has His way of giving us what we need and desire, when we need it and often when we least expect it. I met and married a wonderful woman who is now my wife of 31 years and is the Mother of our two wonderful adult children. I have also had my share of adventures, from four years of active duty in the Marine Infantry, to numerous hunting trips in my native U.S.A.

Sometimes though, we get the sundae with the cherry on top, or the donut with the surprise yummy filling. Sometimes we are allowed to have something we had essentially forgotten we even wanted.

Which brings us to the subject of this story. A hunt that is much more than a hunt. The meeting of people who might, by some, be thought of as hired contractors, but who in fact have become family. The sharing of a place and the bounty of that place that will live on in the memory just as I recall my first deer hunt on my Uncle’s farm over 40 years ago. Memories that make us, in many ways, who we are.

Remember, you are what you eat. So eat wisely…..


Choices, Choices


Life is chock full of choices. Even when we think we don’t have choices, we have choices.

I chose to retire from the company I went to work for out of college, at the ripe old age of 54. I wasn’t really ready to quit working for good, but I felt like I needed to shift gears and the timing just seemed right.

It did not take long for my wife to let me know she expected me to find something else to do! 4 months after retiring, the company I retired from was asking me to come back. 3 months after agreeing to a “low-stress” position, they were asking me to jump back into the frying pan. I somewhat jokingly told my wife that if I was going to plunge myself fully back into the rat race, I would need to hold back some of each year’s pay to treat myself to an adventure…the kind of adventure that I had heretofore always denied myself.

When she did not quickly and loudly object to this notion, I made a note! Then I began to make a plan! Less than a week later, I was on AfricaHunting.com shopping for an Outfitter!

I soon found out that there were a bunch of well-regarded Outfitters on AH…folks who also would cater to the husband/wife combo safari that I hoped to be in the market for. It appeared that pricing was fairly consistent for similar products, from one outfitter to the next, with obvious geographical differences. Given I work for a South African company and travel there on business on occasion, it seemed only natural for me to concentrate on South Africa for what would be my first Pains Game Safari.

I wrote to 4 different Outfitters explaining what I was looking at doing, to ask for pricing and whatever else they might be able to tell me, to help me in the process.

All of them came back with similar responses and similar pricing…with one notable exception. One fellow spoke to me in a bold, personal and refreshing way…honestly, in a way that might actually turn off some potential clients…but not me. And such boldness from a young fellow who is just getting started!

I instantly liked this fellow, and knew I shared something in common with him that would allow us to make a plan and make it work to our mutual benefit. So without a whole lot else to go on, I found myself sending in a deposit on an adventure to Africa. Yes, it was a little unnerving doing a wire transfer of a fairly substantial amount of money to a place halfway around the world, to a fellow I had only corresponded with a couple times. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut, and my gut was telling me this guy was someone I could trust. So 16 months prior to leaving for the hunt, the deposit was sent to Loodt Buchner at Tootabi Hunting Safaris. It was official…we were going to Africa!


I’m Not in Kansas Anymore

As I did more research on all the intricacies of pulling off a hunt to the Dark Continent, I came to realize that compared to going Elk hunting in Idaho, this trip was going to be complicated. Kathy needs a passport. We need to make sure we have adequate layovers for getting through customs. We might want to hire a rifle importation service on the RSA side to help avoid any issues with SAPS. We must fill out a Customs Form 4457 and get it stamped/signed by a Customs Agent. And then there is the Mother-Of-All Bureaucratic (MOAB) Nightmares…the dreaded ITN via AES (which was temporarily “suspended” when we left, but I brought my ITN anyway!).

Nobody told me it would be like this! I bet Tarzan doesn’t have a clue what an ITN is!

Fortunately, like most bad surprises, these turned out to be no big deal. A flurry of internet study, a few hours of grinding my teeth, and everything was in place.

I still had to decide on things like what taxidermy to do, and who to have perform it (the age-old USA vs RSA dilemma). But that stuff can be decided pretty much on the fly. I did have the fortune to spend a couple days with Loodt in January 2015 while in RSA on business, and got a chance to see a couple of his mounts done by Relive. They looked great to me…so in the absence of some new revelation, that would be my primary plan. I liked the idea of using someone Loodt has a relationship with….can only help in the event there is an oops.



Final Preps

I have been handloading my own ammo since 1974. Load development has been an integral part of my hunting since then. I take great pleasure in determining which bullet, powder, case and primer combination to use on any given hunt, and this was no exception.

I decided I was going to start off from scratch and purchase the “ultimate” rifle/cartridge combo for this long-awaited hunt. After some research I came across the Boddington Series of Ruger Number 1 rifles.

Now, as a former Marine, you know I have a soft spot for General Boddington. And I purchased my first Ruger Number 1 (a 45-70) in 1975 as a 17 year old. My first elk was taken with a Number 1 in .375 H&H. I (like most) think Kudu are really cool animals. So when I learned there was a Boddington Kudu Ruger Number 1 in 300 H&H…oh my….how could I NOT get one of those???

After only a few days I was fortunate enough to find an unfired specimen for sale. I paid a bit of a premium for it, compared to a standard Number 1. But not near as much as I would have been willing to pay! I topped this rifle with one of Leupold’s VX-6 2 - 12x scopes in medium Ruger rings. The quick release rings that came with the Kudu hold a Leupold VX-3 2.5 – 8X that will serve as back-up.

One disappointment with the rifle turned out to be the short throat that it has. $60 and a week later and the throat had been lengthened by a local gunsmith and I now truly had a “Super 30”, albeit one that now needed additional load development!

I found I was able to get consistent sub-MOA groups with the 180gr Barnes TTSX and a large dose of IMR 7828 SSC. Velocities averaging 3,100 fps were reached, but in the end I cut the load back to 3,050 fps to afford a little additional leeway in case we ran into unusually warm temps on our hunt.

Then there is the issue of conditioning.

Having played sports in school, and having been a grunt in the Marines, I knew a little bit about exercise and conditioning. I had my previous backpack hunts into the Frank Church Wilderness of Idaho to remind me of the value of physical conditioning of the right type, and how that can make your hunt much more pleasurable. I have also witnessed how a lack of such preparation can make a fellow wish he had stayed home!

I had no illusion that this hunt would carry with it the same physical rigors that the backpack hunts in the Rockies did…but I agree with the oft-heard saw regarding the need to control the variables that you can! So I made sure I humped my pack on the incline enough prior to the hunt that 20 pounds of those previously mentioned lipids were melted away. Besides, I fit into an airline seat a whole lot better at 192 pounds than I do at 212!


I know this preface has been long, but I hope it conveys some of the history of how and why this hunt came to be.

Next up….Let’s go hunting!

photo (6).JPG


The Boddington Kudu in its virgin state...all dressed up but never 'been hunting. That will change shortly!
 
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huntermn15

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Great intro tarbe. Get some rest, we're all expecting more of the written word and Photos!

Cheers,
Mike
 

tarbe

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KUDU!

Kathy and I arrive to Port Elizabeth at 9pm local time, and a smiling Loodt was there waiting on us. It was such a relief to us first-timers to be past the reach of the airlines, TSA and SAPS and on our way to Oliphantskop Lodge with all our gear!

On the way Loodt informed us we would be shoving off in the am to drive to Kudu Camp. Many of you who are familiar with previous Tootabi trip reports have heard of this place...it is an older Colonial with generator power in a remote location.

Kathy and I both absolutely loved everything about Kudu camp. We were blessed to share the camp with Royal and Nancy and their PH Lammie. I cannot adequately describe the unique combination of remoteness, large country, wonderful birding, great smells and sounds, and a touch of roughing it like the oil lamps that provided us some light at night for those trips outside the bedroom to investigate the plumbing!


Each night ended at the fire pit with a drink of choice, with Lady Kathryn and Lady Nancy sitting atop the pile of glowing coals carefully placed by Lammie. Those girls got spoiled!

We arrived at Kudu Camp late morning and got off to hunting as soon as we could get all our gear unloaded.

Loodt and I headed off to a confluence of several canyons that he felt would afford us an opportunity to see some Kudu moving toward water in the late afternoon.

After an hour or two it began to impress me that Kudu hunting can be a lot like elk hunting. And the more I watched the animals and their interactions, the more they reminded me of our elk.

We did have a small herd move past us across the drainage. The herd included several bulls, but none were mature. We moved along the trail we were following, trying to make sure we were in a good position should Mr Big show up.

While watching this herd and waiting on Daddy, we were treated to an exuberant display of youth and vitality when a young calf began running up and down the mountainside, past the cows one way...then doing a 180 and zooming past them again. I am pretty sure the moms were not pleased with this activity as it only brought attention to the herds whereabouts.

It was great to have a chance to put my rifle on the sticks and actually see a live Kudu bull in the crosshairs. But as so often happens in hunting, our little ambush got found out and one of the cows let out a loud bark and they all vanished into the deep bush.

Having more or less worn out our welcome in that drainage, we thought we better move to another area to glass.

As we were driving in the Bakkie, someone (not sure if it was the tracker Deon or Loodt) spotted a Kudu bull chasing a hot cow parallel to the road off to our right.

A mad scramble ensued. I readied my rifle first, then let my eyes come up to the bush to see what I could see. Well, I couldn't see much!

Loodt said it was a shooter, but all I could see were horns bobbing up and down just above the brush. We move rapidly to our right (the direction he and the cow were moving) hoping to find a spot in the brush were it would be low enough for me to get a glimpse of his shoulder.

Loodt wisely found a hump of ground about 3 feet higher than the surrounding ground, and he set the sticks there and I got on them. Mere seconds later the Bull passed through a spot that showed shoulder and I quickly sent a 180 grain Barnes TTSX on its way.

The shot was close...maybe 50 to 75 yards...and I did not hear the bullet hit. The bull ran perhaps 50 to 75 yards and crashed, never to get up again! What a great sound that is!

Deon, Loodt and I made our way uphill to where we believed the bull to be. We found him stone dead in some very thick bush...with light beginning to fade! My first thought was, than God he fell quickly and we did not have the worry of tracking as dusk falls.

My second thought was, "what a beautiful animal"!

My third thought was "how fitting that the first animal taken with the Boddington Kudu is a Kudu"!

We quickly moved the animal a few feet in order to get some pictures before light faded. Then we made a call to Lammie and Royal, letting them know that when they were finished for the day, we could use some help!

The Cavalry arrived in due time and we loaded the Kudu on the tarp for the interesting carry to the Bakkie. I say interesting in that the thorn bush was thick enough that it seemed either the guys on the right, or the guys on the left were having to walk through the thorns instead of around them.

During the photo shoot I leaned the Kudu against the Kudu and got a fair bit of blood on the rifle. There remains today a Kudu blood stain in the checkering of the grip. Not only will I not clean the blood out of the checkering, I am thinking I might need to put some clear varnish over it to make sure it stays! A fitting reminder of the first animal taken with the rifle.

Tim Arbeiter_Kudu (15).JPG


 

huntermn15

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Great Bull, keep it coming. I look forward to the rest of the report. Thank you for posting.
Mike
 

tarbe

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First afternoon of hunting and a Kudu bull in the salt.

Loodt says when a hunt starts with success on Kudu, the rest of the hunt is bound to go well.

Stay tuned to see if this is true or not!


Tim
 

tarbe

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So now a little explanation for part of the thread title.

After this Kudu was taken I texted a couple pics to my son. His reply....."Oh, ohhh yeah!

This became the chosen verbal response during the trip, anytime anyone wanted to express that they were pleased with something.

It almost became a ritual...Loodt even made me record the exclamation to send to his sweetheart. Now she is trying to master it! ;)
 

tarbe

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Outstanding! I'll be hunting lioness with Loodt come September, I hope to be using the same exclamation.

Perhaps Loodt can post the audio so you can start practicing! ;)
 

tarbe

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Sitting here at 0255 local Houston time, sipping Amarula and wondering if I should take a shower and go to bed, or keep going.

The Amarula and time zone changes may have a negative impact on the quality of the posts...so I think it best to call it a night (morning) and live to fight another day.

Though part of me wants to keep writing so I can keep reliving this trip!

oh well, until tomorrow, cheers!


Tim
 

bluey

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nah mate , keep chugging the mothers milk ,and punching the keyboard .its the weekend , what else are you gunna do ,
 

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That is a very nice shaped kudu and nice thick horns all the way to the tips. Has a great looking cape to match.

Looking forward to hearing more about the trip.
 

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Been waiting for this Tim!!!!

Can't wait to hear more, so I hope you don't sleep too long.
 

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Ahhhh, Stories of Africa...
Its a good Saturday morning(y)
 

Albertaguy

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Excellent start to your safari and that is one good looking rifle !
 

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After hunting with Loodt in March, I really look forward to these Tootabi write ups from AH members. I enjoy hearing of the successes and seeing the photos as they take me back to relive my own hunt with Loodt.

Great start Tim. I look forward to the rest of the adventure!
 

tarbe

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Gemsbok!

The first day at Kudu camp was very sweet. The first animal is in the salt, we had a great dinner and some nice time around a fire with drink in hand. The ladies were happy...so what could possibly improve on that situation? Maybe if there were 40 hours in a day??

Day two and Loodt has a plan. He knows that Gemsbok is on my list, but they are not available on the property we are staying at. Fortunately, Loodt has a lot of contacts and options! One of those options was nearby, and had Gemsbok.

So Kathy, Loodt, Deon and I head out before first light to make the short trip to another concession. After meeting the farm owner and picking up one of his employes, we make for the hunting grounds.

Within 15 minutes a herd of about a dozen Gemsbok are seen at roughly half a mile. The weather was cool and we all felt like a walk, so we disembarked from the Bakkie and started hoofing it, hoping to find a way to get in range.

It appeared as though these Gemsbok did not like our company! Over the next 2-3 hours, I doubt we ever got closer than 400 yards to them. And each time they bumped, they seemed to go farther and faster than the time before.

Being the brilliant, highly evolved thinking beings that we are, we eventually noodled out that we needed a new approach!

Loodt confers with the trackers and decides that if the frontal assault won't work, perhaps it is time to move these Gemsbok like a herd of Texas Longhorns!

So the plan is for the two trackers to circle around to the backside of the mountain the Gemsbok just flew over. We would position ourselves at their (hopefully) most likely escape route.

Once we were in position and I surveyed the countryside, I had to admit I had just about zero hope that this would work. With thousands of acres and several obvious escape routes, why should these animals just happen to decide to run within a couple hundred yards of this doofus with a rifle?

I lie not...we were not in position 5 minutes when Loodt says "here they come, get your rifle ready"!

Stunned, I rotate 90 degrees and see Gemsbok coming down the mountain, very tentatively, to my left rear. These guys know what's up and they are not committing to anything with reckless abandon.

Loodt finds what appears to be the largest of the Gemsbok, and I find it in my scope, as well. Of course, it is standing with its entire shoulder covered by a tree! I am hoping it will inch forward and give me a shot, vs just taking off like a bullet. We estimated the animal to be at 200 yards.

After about a week of waiting (well, maybe 10 seconds) the Gemsbok started moving forward and I applied the final couple pounds to the trigger and sent that Barnes on its way.

The whole herd went full gallop down the mountain, running somewhat quartering towards us initially, then veered away somewhat. We could see blood coming from the Gemsbok right on the point of the shoulder, and it was clearly hurt badly. After about 150 - 200 yards it fell from the herd and made for a tree where it appeared it would fall.

After standing on wobbly legs a few seconds, this incredibly tough animal gathered itself and tried to rejoin the herd. It was not to happen though, as the herd turned up-hill. The wounded Gemsbok could not follow and after a short run down a gully it fell, never to get up.
Tim Arbeiter_Gemsbok (14).JPG


With Deon. Quick with a smile, always willing to work, and great eyes! He was a pleasure to be with for 10 days. I'd hunt with him again in a minute!

Gemsbok Hanging.jpg


Deon (on left) always working. We did keep him busy!
 
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tarbe

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Oh, and I forgot to mention...this turned out to be a cow!

I am no judge of African game on the hoof, so I can only tell you that several fellows much more experienced than I were a little surprised that this turned out to be a cow. I guess she was eating well!
 

tarbe

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Another cool aspect to this particular hunt was that Kathy was along for the whole thing. Here she is, in her first ever trophy pic.

Tim Arbeiter_Gemsbok (29).JPG


Having Kathy along on this hunt meant so much to me. The enjoyment of the trip was elevated immeasurably by her presence.

She is the true trophy!
 

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