One of my two giant Impalas both taken on the same day.
Hi, first time posting but have been a fan of this site for years. This might be long winded but I enjoy when others post detailed stories so, I feel is it my obligation to do the same. Skip down to the end if you want some pros and cons of this plains game safari. Sorry to blur my face but I don’t need any social media problems.
Booking Agent – Don Sangster – Hunt-Nation - firstname.lastname@example.org 416-988-1562
Outfitter – Witfontein / Matswani
PH – Sagie (Samuel)
Hunt Dates – July 6 – 11th, 2019 (7 days with 5 days of hunting)
Area – Limpopo, South Africa
Rifles – 7mm Mag rented (Namibian made unsure of name but magnificent to use)
Ammunition – hand loaded with Hornady ELD-X bullets. (Wonderful loads!)
Game Taken: 2 Impala: 25” and 27”; Gemsbok 37.5” and Kudu 50” & 50.5” and largemouth bass while fishing.
Game seen: About 23 species. Cool animals were: mongoose, aardvark, golden wildebeest, huge alpha male baboon, monster waterbuck (passed), a few monster warthog (passed), 26” impala (passed), many 40” plus sables, croc while fishing. In total over 700 to 800 game seen as much of the resort has private walking and driving trails with game.
Before the Hunt
Spent the layover in London which was busy and hot. We, my buddy Adam and I, decided to visit the Beretta Gallery and Holland and Holland. Both stores had a good display for firearms. A bit disappointed that there were no express rifles at Beretta London but the salesman stated that most English will only take a British made rifle into the field so their focus was clothing and shotguns which they had a wonderful selection. Holland and Holland was very nice but had limited stock as they just opened a shooting range and most of their guns went to their grand opening. Each store was interesting to visit as their clothing and top end guns are much different than stores in North America.
I would strongly encourage anyone who has a long layover to visit one of the many airport lounges. Ours offered a shower which was wonderful even though it cost 20 pounds per person.
Outfitter is called Witfontein. They have two names to avoid any conflicts with their photographic safari business called Matswani. We stayed at their Elephant lodge which caters to hunters only. The photographic guests are about 400 meters away at the Lion lodge. Another lodge at the top of the ravine was under renovations. That one caters to non-hunting groups.
The outfitter has a large complex which focuses on game, food and service and the hunting is conducted by Herman the head PH. Herman was off due to family obligations but he made sure to meet us in a small town as we were coming in from the airport by shuttle van. He introduced himself and assured us that we were in good hands. I was surprised with the personal service. He was very pleasant and sincere.
The PHs are mostly freelance. They have a stable of PHs that they usual use but will ask for additional PH staff if needed. I travelled with my buddy who is a gun guy but a non-hunter. Other hunters at the report were a Danish hunter with his niece who was a first-time hunter and bagged a very nice impala. The uncle was only after waterbuck and he has been hunting at Witfontein before. Another group was a grandfather, his son in-law and his grandson who was 14. They had a truly bountiful safari bagging many magnificent trophies. This family is well known in the American hunting community. I will not reveal their names for privacy. They hunted primarily with bows but the grandson took an impala and I think a zebra with a rifle. Both dad and the grandad took sable, impala, warthog and a lot more but they branched out and dad took an 11-foot croc and his father in-law (grandad) took a 44” deep curl, Cape buffalo with a rented Raven crossbow with one shot. Grandad linked two safaris together as his friend joined us at the end of my week for a kudu hunt. Dinner was fun as all the other guests had many African safaris under their belts and felt that Witfontein was the best overall place they have been to in Africa based on service, quality of food and game.
My PH for the week was Sagie and his tracker Joseea. Both cool guys who were friendly, polite and funny. Sagie is a tough looking dude but he knew his stuff. He was keen and could easily make light out of any situation. They created a very casual atmosphere and catered to our needs without making it too complicated. I ask a lot of questions and being a first timer, it was all new. He easily explained away as I peppered him with questions all week.
Sagie explained we would hunt by waterholes a lot. I wasn’t keen on that at all but he assured me with the dry winter that it would be a great place to start. One piece of advice I will pass on is not to guide the guide especially here. I followed Sagie lead. My buddy Adam and I sat beside each other and Sagie sat behind us. I am a left-handed shooter but the blind had 2 holes in the brushy wall so I was comfortable.
Immediately, the game poured in. First to arrive were blue wildebeest, small groups of impalas and many warthogs. Mostly females and young bulls at first. I was impressed. I have been caribou hunting twice in Quebec in the 1990s but never saw huge numbers of game. This was truly impressive. A big impala ran in from across the back end of the water hole. He was quickly blocked by a young one. He soon jumped to a lump of salt and then was blocked by a fallen tree. I was waiting for him to clear but he just ran off. A very large warthog came in and the PH said he would a great one to kill. I decided as it was not in my package and passed. Sagie wasn’t trying to upsell me but told me quietly that is was very large. I still decided no. Close to 11am the big impala ram returned and I nailed him. He instantly dropped and we bailed out of the blind. Sagie was impressed and told me he was really large. I had no clue but was amazed with the 7mm as it was my first time using one. The truck was called and Sagie prepared for some photos. He spent a lot of time preparing for photos. I commend him for that as it really made a difference.
He told me to get ready as he measured it. Both horns were 25 inches and he and Joseea were laughing and talking in Afrikaner. Joseea kept complementing me that is was so big but I really loved the darkness to the horns. Sagi told me that 21” to 23” is a proper impala. We collected the ram and moved off to a landing strip for more photos and a BBQ lunch. On the ride to the landing strip we almost ran over a blue duiker and saw 2 big impala rams fighting in the lane way plus we saw 2 giraffe and a waterbuck. We ate very well and the animal was cleaned and placed in a refrigerator truck as we would return to the same blind in the pm.
That afternoon was very eventful. We saw zebra, warthog, impala, birds and then a long line of waterbuck cows marching in with a nice blue wildebeest bull. We kept still as 3 kudu cows were about 10 meters beside us. The kudu never moved in 45 minutes and then they were gone. They just watched and listened. A very large waterbuck bull finally came in but not all the way to the water’s edge. He had large sweeping horns. Sagie asked me if I was interested and I declined. Sagie confirmed my answer and replied that it was a true trophy. I still declined as I only been hunting a few hours and already took an impala. The 2 grand price tag was also on my mind. Three more smaller waterbuck bulls walked in and they came right into the centre of the pool of water. I didn’t realize how large the first bull was as he was the first bull waterbuck I have ever seen. He towered over the 3 smaller waterbucks. The funny thing was that anything of trophy size didn’t present an easy shot. They were always moving or hiding in thick cover.
Suddenly, Sagie bent towards me and said that a monster impala was coming to the edge of the waterhole and if I didn’t want it, he wanted to shoot it with my permission. I assured him I would gladly shoot it. I had the rifle shouldered and was looking through the scope. It appeared and I confirmed if it was the monster Sagie saw and he replied yes. Instantly, I fired and the impala dropped stone dead. Sagie jumped out of the blind and was freaking out. I was surprised as it seemed smaller than the one from the morning but both Adam and Sagie said no way. Sagie took a few quick photos and messaged them to the other professional hunters on their group chat. Joseea gave out handshakes when he arrived and the measuring tape confirmed 27 inches for each horn. Sagie announced that I was the luckiest hunter he has ever been with and I was truly blessed for taking 2 fantastic rams. We stopped off at the land strip for more photos before we journeyed back to the lodge. The day and the impala were wonderful and the other PHs were all impressed. I accepted their congratulations but explained that I had 40 years of bad luck to erase.
Looking back, it was a fun day of hunting. I was so impressed and entertained with the amount of game we saw. From the beautiful zebra colts, mongoose and the trophy waterbuck and warthog made the whole day magnificent. We ate a first-class meal and I had a drink to celebrate my first day in South Africa.
Day 2: Gemsbok or Kudu
We drove in a different direction that day 1 and within minutes we arrive at the gate. We brought some bales of grass to keep the animals fed as this farm has a lot of big game and was particularly dry. We entered a depression with a small pond on one side to witness 3 or 4 sables. All were jet black and one had very long horns. They didn’t seem too worried about the truck but the kudu that were on the edge of the tree line quickly bolted. I was told we would be hunting from the truck. Sagie and I would be up top. He told me it would happen fast and to be very careful with the gun while leaving the truck bed. We drove around but didn’t see much. Every clear spot on these farm roads were covered with tracks but we didn’t see anything. We finally saw a band of baboons about 300 metres away as they leapt over the fence. We kept at it and then the truck stopped and Sagie told me to have a look at the kudu. I was looking way off but saw nothing. He told me it was right there so I put up the binos and the view was all kudu. It was only about 30 metres from the truck. He told me it was about 46” and we were after a larger one. My package was for a kudu up to 54” with a $750 fee for every inch past 54. Sagie made a gap about 4 inches between his fingers and asked me if that much horn was worth a few grand? I agreed that it wasn’t and told him I wanted a nice one but I didn’t want to risk going over 54”.
I was very impressed by the system Joseea and Sagie had for navigation. No words were ever exchanged just hand signals. It was cool to see such team work. The truck stopped and we bailed out. I only saw a bit of a white patch of a gemsbok through the brush from my perch. “Those were kudu and gemsbok.” Assured Sagie but we didn’t see them again. We walked around briskly and I am very glad I didn’t have to shoot as my heart was pumping. I think I was shaken up and a bit hesitant of using shooting sticks even through I practiced from them a lot back home. Sagie motioned for me to advance and I saw the reddish pelt of a Hartebeest. He told me no one has seen this animal in over 2 years. We made it back to the road and were about 400 metres from the truck.
It was decided to sit in a blind by the waterhole. We had zigzagged the road for a few hours since we arrived and didn’t see much. I was cool with the change in tactics. On a small knoll stood our blind. Constructed out of canvas and an aluminum frame, it was clear that it was professionally made. It was very spacious and much taller than the one the day before which was made from branches. We quickly saw about 7 sable that came and went. I think 8 kudu cows and a few smaller bulls were walking around along with a few zebra, warthog and 2 or 3 impalas and even 2 nyala bulls. I spotted one warthog with really large tusks but Sagie told me that it was a non-shooter as it was a female. I didn’t realize it as I was preoccupied with the tusks. I spotted one large kudu in a dark hole in the brush. Sagie said it was nice but not 50”. We waited about an hour more until the truck was radioed. As we drove out of the farm and I started asked countless questions again. Sagie who was facing me while talking locked the brakes when he spotted 2 gemsbok bulls about 70 metres away on my side of the truck.
Jumping out, I quickly saw them as they walked parallel to the road we were on. Sagie loaded the gun and handed it to me and we scurried down the road. One gap in the brush confirmed they were still there. We scurried another 20 metres to confirm that they were shooters. Then another scurry about 40 metres and the sticks were up and I was ready. They kept walking even as Sagie yelled to stop them. They didn’t and now one was behind the other. As Sagie continues yelling the closer one became free of the other and I shot. I hit it just off the main shoulder line and in the middle part of the animal’s frame. It was not hit far back just not perfectly on the shoulder. We looked back and Joseea who had the truck turned around was standing with 1 finger in the air. Sagie explained that was good news as the other gemsbok must be trying to figure out where his friend had gone after the shot. When we arrive to where I think the animals were walking, Sagie looked for blood as I was trying to get my bearings. I quickly made out the rump of my gemsbok as it was trying to rise off the ground. I alerted the PH and he told me to wait with the gun ready. We didn’t want to shoot 2. I could see the entrance hole in the animal through the scope but needed to wait. He gave me the ok, I shot, causing it to fall forward. As we ran closer and I could see it was not 100% dead and trying to stand. I told Sagie I was planning to shoot again and he questioned me but I said “why not?” and shot it again which finished it. I am sure if we left the animal for a few minutes it would have succumbed to the first shot. I wasn’t concerned about how many shots I took as long as it was down.
Joseea had the truck beside us in no time and was full of joy. He commented on how large it was and Sagie agreed. Sagie informed me earlier that a big gemsbok for this area is 33” to 35” and anything larger than 40” requires a trip to Namibia. Mine scored 37.5 inches for each horn. After photos and loading it onto the truck, Sagie announced that I was put on holiday for the rest of the day! “With your Canadian luck, you’ll have your kudu this afternoon then what will I do with you for the rest of the week?” stated Sagie. I was in total glee. I always wanted a gemsbok. They are truly special. Later, we met up with Adam who spent the morning on a photo safari within the Matswani grounds. That afternoon we ate an excellent lunch and took a long hike into the brush near our bungalow where we saw several giraffe, zebra, impala and kudu. One kudu was very large but as if by magic an even larger bull appear behind that first one. This second bull was well on it’s 3rd curl.
Looking back, spotting the gemsbok from the truck and jumping out to get closer was what I wanted to do when I arrive in Africa. With everything happened so quickly; I now question that choice. I was only given a few seconds for the shot which is normal for me in North America but I really don’t remember much of the hunt. Sure, all that rushing helped make it exciting but not as memorable as hunting waterholes.
Day 3. Kudu time
With Adam on a Big 5 Safari, we planned to return to the waterhole from the Day 1. Before we arrived at that farm, we decided to first have a look at a few waterholes on a neighbouring farm. When we arrived, there was 5 giraffes standing there to greet us. I also saw another 2 gemsbok which stood on the road over 300 metres away. I was thrilled.
The tracker and PH set up a trail camera and mended the blind. Sagie explained that a group of 5 Europeans were all coming for kudu in the following week plus the friend of grandad from the States and myself. He told me the PHs needed to come up with places to hunt. We soon went to another corner of the farm to discover that waterhole only had a drip in it and informed the ranch hands that it needed attention. I was feeling the morning tick by but Sagie assured me that we were not missing any good hunting time. We quickly left that farm and arrived at our hunting blind.
Surprisingly, we ate breakfast at 7am and then left the parking lot at 7:30 am. The mornings were cold, about 2C to 6C, so no one was in a rush to leave. The PHs told me that 11 am is prime time. I explained that most whitetail guys are coming home for lunch by 11. It seems that everything in in our area of South Africa needed to warm up; the people and the game. It was common to see animals lying half dead by the road in the early morning trying to soak up some sun light.
Once in the blind, plenty of animals arrive all at once. Zebra, lots of blue wildebeest but only one that was a barely a shooter and over 40 impalas. We saw another shooter warthog but Sagie was not impressed as it was smaller than the animal I passed on Day 1. The highlight of this sit was an impala over 26” that came within 20 feet of the blind. It was huge and it floated around for over 15 minutes. Impala are truly remarkable and beautiful.
The truck was radioed and we had the BBQ right beside the blind. I think Sagie was planning on letting that place rest a few days so we didn’t worry about our lunch routine. He set up a trail camera as the meat was cooking. Again, we ate very well. Beer and pop (soda) and water along with chips, dried fruit and jerky were in the cooler. We continued to eat a lot of meat. The PHs started to complain to the cook staff as they were tired of steaks and sausages. I had no problems with the heavy meals.
After lunch we loaded up and went on a drive to check the place out. There was an old waterhole way in the back but no one had been there in a long time. On the drive up, we drove right past a huge kudu that was just standing in the brush about 10 feet from the road as we passed. We kept driving for about a half kilometre before we turned the truck around, climbed up on the bed and loaded the gun. Both Sagie and I sat ready to shoot as Joseea drove slowly back. As we neared, I was told to be quick but wait for approval. All those instructions were wasted as it had vanished. When I quizzed about the kudu’s size, he said 52 inches or maybe a bit bigger. This animal was tall, proud and striking. We continued to drive around for about 15 minutes and saw a few wildebeest and over 25 impalas. We came down from the high seats and went to one last waterhole in the corner of the property. We arrive at a swampy hole with tracks around its muddy edges. Sagie pointed out a group of 5 cape buffalo tracks and said they prefer these dense, bushy places as do monster kudu and impala bulls. I was surprised buffalo were on this farm. Knowing that they were somewhere close helped make the morning even more rewarding.
We radioed another PH whose guests have seen plenty of kudu. This farm was personally owned by that PH so we needed to wait for the key and his orientation. Both trucks rolled into the farm and after a few turns we came upon the waterhole. We spooked at least 6 kudu. We climbed over a berm which had a small silo and tiny pond beside it. It seemed to be the remnants of an abandon farm. A few holes were punched out of the silo to allow bowhunters to zip an arrow through it. We would be hunting behind a bricked, 1 metre high u-shaped blind that had no back. The front, sides and roof were covered with thick branches. It looked like the ruins of a small shack or building. We would focus our eyes along a narrow pathway as we sat about 60 yards from the water. The trackers added some grass cubes and we settled in. Almost instantly, I heard 2 animals walking behind us. They were super close, maybe 30 feet away. Scared to turn around, I froze but did catch a glimpse of a smaller kudu bull. Waiting a few minutes, I asked if it was one cow and one small bull. “No, one small and one trophy bull.” Sagie whispered. I was psyched and had a bit of buck fever. About 10 minutes in, a small kudu bull appeared, then another. There wasn’t much of a panoramic view here. We really could only see down the lane way due to the thick bush on either side. A hint of tan was coming within 15 metres of us which revealed an impala. As I turned my attention back to the water and there were now 3 kudu bulls. This new one was closest to me and was like a dinosaur. More than double the size of the other 2 bulls, its shoulder was ripped revealing muscles on top of muscles. It had a cut along its back which I later found out was from its horn as it lunges through thick bush. I motioned to the PH who shook his head no. I was shocked. He knew I was surprised but still waved me off. The gun was resting upon my hunting jacket which lay across the brick wall. I slowly slid the rifle stock towards me but every move was felt by the kudu. These beasts were on high alert. I was so nervous; terrified to move. My whole body was shielded by a wall but they still sensed movement. I finally manage to shoulder the gun but now all 3 bulls had their ears focused on us. Truly sneaky, they would look away but their ears were folded backwards, locked onto our blind. We remained frozen. Another 2 bulls appeared but were blocked by the monster. Then the wind switched and after a loud bark they panicked and disappeared.
I asked Sagie why he didn’t approve the largest bull. He joked that I was a meat hunter but reminded me that old bulls tend to have much smaller bodies. He explained that the furthest bull was a possible shooter. He couldn’t tell and cautioned me that many hunters make mistakes when kudu are bunched up like that and misjudge the shooter animal.
It started to get dark and slowly a new bull arrive. It was very young. Soon after, a large horned bull came in. Sagie whispered that is was about 49” and a good one. I asked for a yes or no but he told me it was my choice to take it. I study it closely. Its horns shot up instead of being splayed; typical of kudu. It was an easy shot but I elected to pass. It was now very dark and that number 49 played tricks in my head. The truck was called and it spooked another small kudu bull along with the 2 in the lane way. A total of 8 kudu bulls with 2 shooters made the afternoon heart pounding. Sagie told me that we would return tomorrow. I had a mix of emotions as I never had had an opportunity to pass on a trophy class animal like that before.
This morning Adam cam with us to a new farm. Almost instantly golden wildebeest arrived. The group of 30 cows and calves can into water. Some had ear tags. Sagie instructed that the owner didn’t want anyone making a mistake and bagging one as they are uncommon and expensive. Again, more warthogs fought with each other and the wildebeest. As we sat in the blind, we reviewed the trail camera pics. Only 1 big kudu was captured in 12 days of photos.
Suddenly, I saw this massive baboon. It seemed over 4 feet tall and was galloping towards us. I motioned to Adam to look as he was reading just as this screaming and barking erupted. The baboon somehow detected my movement even thought it was about 200 metres away and cause all the animals to scatter. For the next hour, it would yell every few minutes. Trying to locate it, I discovered many other baboons in the rocks and tree limbs. Another scan with the binos uncovered kudu female. Enjoying the view, I detected a strange branch which turned into a hoof. Following it upward, revealed a sizable kudu bull but at over 400 metres off and in heavy bush I couldn’t really identify its horn length. Just as were prepared to leave, a band of 9 kudu with 1 young bull walked briskly to the water.
At the lodge, we ate and decided to return by 2 pm to where we hunted kudu yesterday afternoon. I asked Adam to stay behind as the blind was small and the game super spooky. I was super serious in getting a kudu and worried one extra person would make the hunt more difficult. Even Sagie and Joseea’s mood intensified. We all wanted to make it happen as the owner of this farm was having his own guests arrive in 2 days which meant we would not have the privilege to return. The truck was packed with additional camo netting and we were off. Luckily, the waterhole was empty so no game was spooked as we arrived. The guys folded a huge military style netting over the front of the blind which had a tiny hole carved out of the webbing. Another netting closed us in from the back. There was just enough gap in the camo to push the rifle through. Both the PH and I had to share this tiny hole to spot approaching game.
At 2:40pm, the first bull walked in. A few minutes later, another bull arrived. We determined it was the same from the night before. Sagie agreed it was still about 49”. I stood waiting with the rifle shouldered the whole time. The strange thing was that this animal stayed broadside the entire time. If the gun would have misfired, the bullet would have easily killed it. As the minutes ticked by and the bull stayed perfectly still, I could hear my dad’s voice in my head scolding me for not taking such an easy shot. I confirmed with the PH a second time about its size and he told me it was my choice but it was a nice one. I decide on taking it after watching it for 30 minutes. I needed no adjustment and threaded the needle. It was slightly turned away so the bullet went through the heart and out the opposite shoulder. It jumped into the air and was off. We untangled ourselves from the camo netting and went for a look. We didn’t see any blood but I saw the kudu about 25 metres to the side. Sagie was impressed that the bullet went right through the far shoulder. That made 3 complete pass through with Hornady ELD-X bullets.
Sagie was very pleased and commented how beautiful it horns rose straight up. He told me this configuration is very rare. The tape measure confirmed 50” and 50.5” of horn. I was excited and disappointed as the safari had came to an end. We took many nice photos and had the most wonderful eland steak for dinner. It is by far the best meat I have ever eaten. It is similar to moose or caribou but much more flavourful. That night I toasted Sagie, Joseea, Adam and my late father with brandy.
The food was superb! I have travelled the globe and the food was plentiful and professionally prepared and served. Every meal came with dessert which were expertly created and garnished. The staff were helpful, courteous and clean. Each tried their very best and would chase you down to ensure your glass was full. Excellence all the way.
Don Sangster the agent was truly great. With the internet, everyone thinks they are an expert but Don really was important. He made sure they had a left-handed rifle for me even though I decide on a right-handed model. I am a bit lactose sensitive so the staff was alerted. We pushed back the date of the safari a few days as flights were difficult to book. None of my accommodations were a problem for Don. He answered all my questions and even had bottle of champagne waiting for us in our room as I know him personally and professionally. The price he arranged was great for the standards of this resort and the trophy game I took and saw. I actually think it was a bargain compared to what friends have paid on other safaris.
Witfontein/ Matswani has been in business over 15 years. Almost 95% of their clients are Danish. We were the 3rd and 4th Canadian guests ever. The first two Canadians arrived in May. You don’t find much info on them in English but this is sold as a 5-star hunt and it truly is. Many people tell me that stuff happens in African so be patient. I didn’t find that here. Everything was new. Not one monogrammed plate has a chip. All cutlery was in perfect order. Even proper wine, brandy and mixed drink glasses were on hand. Considering I was hunting, I was impressed with this level of care and service. I am now afraid of trying a new place to hunt in Africa as I know it will not match Witfontein. The Dutch and American parties who were with us earlier in the trip have already planned a 2020 hunt together. Having a game park surrounding the resort was super cool and made the trip even more special. I am not sure if this is common but it surely is unique to see so many species while taking a drive or long walk from your bungalow.
Negatives: The only thing I was disappointed with was that their kudu have a size limit of 54”. Kudu and sable both have size limits. It seems to be common in this part of South Africa. I have never had the time, money or desire to be a true trophy hunter but now I am hooked and would love to see what a 60” kudu bull looks like.
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