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Jan 12, 2010
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SCI, DU, Pheasants Forever
Canada, United States, Zimbabwe, South Africa (Eastern Cape; Northern Cape; North West Province, Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo), Namibia, Cameroon, Benin, Ethiopia, Liberia, Argentina
Don't know if the world needs to read about my most recent hunt, but since I was suffering from insomnia when I began to write it, I thought maybe someone else suffering from the same might want to read it! so here goes.

Day -1: Arrival

After a grueling hunt for bongo and forest sitatunga in 2013, I was looking for a more relaxing hunt in 2014. This was going to be a hunt for a few of the smaller plains game trophies I didn’t already have, as well as a (repeat) cape buffalo, followed by a hippo/croc hunt in southern Zimbabwe. Having said that, I clearly got carried away, as you will see!

I brought two rifles. The first – a Kilimanjaro African in .404 Jeffery – a lovely gun, on its maiden voyage, wearing a Swarovski Z6i scope in 1-6x. The second was an old Browning A-bolt in .300 Win Mag – been along on all six of my previous African hunts and never let me down. Not as pretty as the Kilimanjaro, but reliable as the day is long.

After a long and, happily, uneventful series of flights starting in western Canada, and ending in Port Elizabeth, South Africa I arrived feeling about as refreshed as one could after nearly two days of flying! While the hunt was starting in the Eastern Cape, I was planning to move around a fair bit to get the animals I was looking for; fortunately my luggage showed up as well as my guns and a small Pelican case holding my ammo.

I had met up with Dean Stobbs, a Zimbabwean PH, outfitter and friend, in Jo’burg. Dean would double as a cameraman for this portion of the hunt. We were met at the PE airport by PH John Tinley (of Wintershoek Safaris), with whom I’d hunted twice before. John and I get along great; he puts up with my antics, and only occasionally gets “cross” – usually when I’m not paying enough attention (easy enough to do when everything around you is endlessly fascinating).

After a quick stop at the Spar supermarket for beer, Coke and a few other necessities, we hit the road for our first destination – Blue Cliff Hunting Safaris lodge, about an hour from the airport. The lodge is beautiful and very well appointed, in the midst of typical Eastern Cape country – lots of unbelievably thick brush interspaced with (small!) open areas. Hunting here would be interesting.

Once we settled in, we sighted in the rifles. It was around 4 pm, so I assumed that since my hunt officially started tomorrow, I could get a start on a good night’s sleep. John had other ideas.

We drove some distance to an area where orange farmers dumped rotten or otherwise unwanted oranges. Apparently this attracts Cape kudu just before dark. We stopped more than a half-mile from the place, and began a slow walk in, not expecting to see anything since we were early. I’ve shot a number of kudu before, but had never seen a Cape kudu. Turns out the horns are about the same length as a greater kudu, but the body is smaller. The smaller body seems to make the horns look bigger, so each one seems like a monster!

As the sun was beginning to set over the hills, turning everything a soft yellow and orange, we saw what seemed to be an old kudu alone, eating oranges. A short stalk, a few mis-steps as we tried to find the best angle, and I took my first shot of the hunt. It was about 200 yards, and while I hit him reasonably well, it wasn’t enough to put him down – I like to think it was the jet lag! He ran about a hundred yards, and at that point was about 200 yards away. I put a second shot into him, and down he went. He turned out to be an ancient specimen, not only on his last legs, but also on his last teeth! John figured he was early to the oranges because he was too weak to fight the younger, stronger kudu for a share of the oranges at dusk. A great first trophy.


We headed back to Blue Cliff for dinner and a good nights’ sleep. Well, still not batting .1000. We did have the great dinner, and then John announced that the moon was perfect for grysbok hunting. I muttered something about sleep, which seemed only to provoke laughter all around.

So off we went, driving about an hour to a large property nearby, in an area John said was known for both the quality but especially the quantity of grysbok. I was a bit concerned about the ethics of shooting at night, but John was pretty clear – not only was it legal, and the traditional way these were hunted in the Eastern Cape, but it was about the only way to hunt grysbok, other than opportunistically coming across one while hunting something else. My concerns mollified (somewhat – old habits die hard), we arrived at a property that was also the site of a feedlot and slaughterhouse. The smell was overpowering – happy not to stay too long. We picked up the landowner’s son, who knew the property and could find his way around in the dark. And so began our grysbok hunt.

And it was certainly not as easy as I had assumed a night hunt with a spotlight would be. We drove for some hours, and each time we spotted a grysbok – and we spotted a few – they wouldn’t stand still long enough for us to decide if they were male or female. These were not animals paralyzed by the spotlight! Each time the spotlight would land on an animal I would try to get it in my sights, but the call to shoot never came. Until it did. I was ready, took the shot, and fortunately dropped it on the spot. I would not have wanted to try to track a wounded animal in the thick brush during the day, let alone in the dark. We went up to it, with Dean holding the light on the spot where it had been to guide us, and there was my lovely grysbok. Quite a pretty little animal, with a brown coat interspersed with white hairs, giving him a bit of a grizzled look. Horns were fine, but that was never the goal of the exercise, even if we had been able to properly judge them in the time and light available.


The goofy look comes from it being a lot later in Canada! So at this point I didn’t ask if I could go back to the camp for sleep, I just did it!
Two trophies before the hunt has even started? Nice!!!!

I love the flecks of color in Grysbok. I took one in Zim and it is one of my favorites.
I can already tell this is going to be a fun read.

Looking forward to the report and photos Hank.

got a good start on your hunt...
Hank, hell of a start and great read thus far.

PH laughing at you. Awesome relationship.
I'll go with jet lag...
Congrats on two fine trophies. Glad to hear that you lost some control as this story will not end for a while.

Looking forward to the rest.
What a great way to start your hunt! Nice trophies. Keep writing. Love to read about the rest of your hunt. Bruce
Two trophy animals on the arrival day, pretty impressive! Not to forget they are great looking!
Great write up, love the humor.
Well Done

Now I am waiting for day 2, or is it day 1.
Thanks for the encouragement gents. That was day minus 1. So now on to the first day of the hunt!

Day 1: Blue Cliff Safaris

John Tinley is not one to let the grass grow under his, or your, feet. Day 1 of the hunt began as every other day begins – up early, breakfast and out the door. Apparently I didn’t come all this way to sleep.

Since this was the first day of our hunt (!), we were looking for a nice cape bushbuck. I had shot a chobe bushbuck in Zimbabwe some 5 years ago, and was looking forward to the Cape version. As I understand it, the coat is darker, and the body and horns are a bit smaller, on average.

We drove to a group of mountains (I’d call them hills, but then to me mountains are the Rockies), and got out. We began a slowish walk up hill, in what I can only say was surprisingly cool weather – only a taste of what was to come. We came up on a bit of a valley, and stopped there to glass the surrounding hillsides. Given the cool weather, it seemed likely that bushbuck would come out to sun themselves as the sun rose in the east.

We were treated to an impressive array of animals, unfortunately none of which were male bushbuck. We likely saw a half dozen female bushbuck, but even though we thought a male must be near, we couldn’t see him. We say warthogs and kudu, and about 600 yards away, a pair of male impala fighting over territory, or so it seemed. No females in sight. We walked, glassed, and walked some more, until by about 11, we decided the male bushbuck weren’t likely to show themselves that morning.

As we were walking back to the vehicle, we spotted three warthogs bedded down under the same tree – what appeared to be an old male and two females. None would make any record books, but then I hadn’t pulled the trigger since the night before, so it seemed like a good idea to try for a double if not a trifecta! I got my gun on the shooting sticks, and put the first shot through the left eye of one of the females, killing her on the spot. The other two ran away, and when I found the male in my scope, I took a shot. Unfortunately (for me), I rushed the shot and missed him by about a foot. At that point the male and the other female decided to vacate the vicinity, and we went to reclaim our trophy. And what a trophy. A female so boney and covered in fleas and ticks that I was surprised she had still been alive when I shot her. In fact, it may be that she wasn't, and I was fooling myself! In the trophy pictures I am doing my very best not to get too close to her. I’ve shot some tick-ridden animals before, but nothing like this warthog.


We tried for bushbuck again in the afternoon, and sat for caracal as the sun was going down, but whether it was just bad luck, or the changing weather, we were destined to return empty handed. But that was alright. After all, it was only day one of the hunt, and already I had three animals in the salt. A good days’ work!

Day 2: Fort D’Acre

Time to say good bye to Blue Cliff. Early on day 2 we packed up the truck, and headed north west, through miles upon miles of orange groves, until we reached the coast at Port Alfred, my PH’s home town. Another stop at the local Spar for more beer (where does it all go?) and some of the great South African wine that is easily had here, a quick stop at his home to pick up a shotgun for - hopefully - blue duiker hunting - and we were off for a short drive up the coast along the Indian Ocean to Fort D’Acre, our home base for the next few days.

The lodge at Fort D’Acre is beautiful on its own, but it's situated facing the Indian Ocean, which I could see from my bedroom, at the mouth of the Fish River. The area from Port Elizabeth to the mouth of the Fish River is called the Sunshine Coast, and for good reason. The views are breathtaking, and the beaches are Caribbean-like. Given the season, there was also no one about. Probably an improvement over summer.

Once we were well settled in, we had a delicious lunch, and immediately headed out to explore the Fort D’Acre nature reserve. The reserve is not enormous, but there is plenty of wildlife and we were the only hunters (in fact the only people) there. Driving slowly we soon came across a one-horned nyala. I've taken two nyala, so was not really looking for another one, but one regret I've had is that with shoulder mounts, the beauty of the nyala skin is lost. So, a thought began to occur to me . . . and a few minutes after passing the nyala I asked John if he thought it would make a good rug mount. John made a quick phone call, in Afrikaans, not a word of which I understood. I was a bit surprised he seemed to be checking with someone since he’d told me I could shoot anything on the property except Cape buffalo and rhino. When he got off the phone he said I could shoot it if I wanted, and it would be half price because of the broken horn! Nothing like having a PH to negotiate for you!

We backtracked slowly, and found the nyala still there, but with his head in a thicket eating. A short whistle brought him around and I placed a quick shot into what I thought was the heart and lungs. He went straight down. I asked John if I should shoot him again (I’ve had trouble with animals dropping to the shot in the past). I didn’t hear anything, so didn’t shoot. And then, of course, the Nyala got up and ran off into the thicket. Damn, I thought, and taking my earplugs out asked John why he didn’t tell me to shoot again. His response – “what part of whack him again didn’t you hear?” Apparently, all of it!

John was convinced we'd have a bit of a slog ahead of us, especially if I'd only shocked the animal. We gave the nyala 15 minutes and then walked up to the place where he had been standing. We then began a very slow walk around the thicket, and not five feet from the spot where he first fell we found him quite dead. Surprised my PH. Not me. I knew he was dead! Interesting behavior though – once he got up I’d have expected he'd go more than a few feet. But I had my trophy.


His skin was in beautiful shape, and with orange legs will make a great rug.

With this great result from what I told John was a great idea (on my part), we continued our exploration of the property. We quickly came to a large hill with panoramic views. Sitting and glassing, we quickly found rhino, ostrich, blue wildebeest and waterbuck. But most interesting was a pair of gray duiker about 700 yards away. We made a plan and quickly geared up as the sun was beginning to go down. We headed through very thick brush downhill. Once on the flat, we our plan was to walk along a lengthy depression we'd seen from the hill, and with any luck would poke out heads out a few hundred yards from the feeding duiker.

The plan went as we expected (hoped?) until we stuck our heads out of the brush onto the plains. Instead of being a few hundred yards from the duiker, we were about 100, and the female saw something. We paused for a moment, and she went back to feeding, but not comfortably. John set up the sticks slowly and quietly, and in the same fashion I got my rifle up. At this point the female clearly saw something, and I froze. She was standing right in front of the male, so I had to hold the position and wait for her to clear. I had no doubt that any movement would send them both off faster than I could get a shot off. Fortunately she cleared the male in about a minute, I took the shot, and the gray duiker went down without taking a step! And unlike the nyala, he didn’t get up.


This was my first duiker, and I was thrilled to have him. I was looking for a blue duiker soon this hunt, but had not focused on a gray, assuming I could find one somewhere else . . . not sure why I assumed that, since I'd rarely seen them and certainly hadn’t got close enough to one for a shot in multiple safaris!

End of day 2, and five animals in the bag. Since I was planning to be in Africa about 28 days, this pace could prove to be a bit of a problem . . .

End of day 2, and five animals in the bag. Since I was planning to be in Africa about 28 days, this pace could prove to be a bit of a problem . . .

I know that feeling exactly.

Nice trophies.

Great discount on that Nyala rug.(y)
Great beginning, I look forward to the rest of the report. Thanks for posting and including photos.
Great writing, you have a knack for telling a story!
Great post and looking forward to the rest.
The next couple of days.

Day 3: Fort D’Acre

Day three of the hunt dawned sunny and cold. John told me that weather forecasts were predicting very cold weather, with some suggestions of record breaking cold. I had packed for the usual cold mornings, but not for all day bone-chilling cold. John suggested that his wife would scope out some mens’ wear stores in Port Alfred to see what might be available. Now that’s a PH!

We were going to look for bushbuck today, but we had an iron already in the fire – there had been reports of a caracal on a ranch nearby and if a friend of John’s with some hounds could get the scent, we would go after that. I have a couple of the big cats – lion and leopard – and was really interested in some of the smaller cats. Serval licenses were proving to be difficult to get – perhaps as difficult to get as Servals themselves – but caracals were plentiful in the area and I had high hopes.

So it was off to glass hillsides hoping for a big bushbuck. Again, we were destined to be disappointed, but no matter – the phone rang at about 11, and we were off to a nearby ranch with high hopes of getting a caracal before the dogs did!

The beauty of this sort of hunting is that you have plenty of time to get yourself worked up before you actually get to the animal. I will admit – if only because John and Dean have pointed it out on more occasions than I think absolutely necessary – that the less time I have to think, the better I shoot. And I had plenty of time to think as we raced down the highway. So lots to worry about!

Once we reached the ranch we could hear the dogs baying in the distance, so there was no time to lose. We drove as quickly as we could overland to where we were to meet John’s friend. Once we reached him he said we didn’t have far to go, but that the going would be tough. At that moment, the sound of the baying changed, and the houndsman told us that the dogs had treed the caracal. I grabbed John’s 12 gauge and off we went. The thickets here reminded me of the Cameroon rainforest, minus the humidity – unbelievably thick, littered with vines and creepers, any of which could halt your forward progress in an instant.

It took us a few minutes to reach the dogs, but in that few minutes I was panting as hard as I have in recent memory. It was a good thing I had a shotgun – I was told that the caracal wouldn’t stay in the tree once he saw us, so I had only a moment once I spotted him to take the shot. Without a doubt, I wouldn’t have been able to do it with a rifle.

We were taken forward a few yards and the dog handler pointed to a tannish blob in a tree high overhead. I wasn’t one hundred percent sure I saw the caracal but at that moment he jumped out of the tree, and I let loose with the first barrel. The caracal came down running and the dogs went crazy, and began to chase him, handler in hot pursuit. A lucky shot – the caracal died about 10 yards from the tree in a creek. The dog handler helpfully retrieved my trophy from the midst of a pack of hounds, and seemed to keep his dogs happy without letting them rip it to shreds!

While caracal hunting with hounds is exciting, it’s exciting in the same way that cougar hunting with hounds is exciting. It’s great fun to chase after dogs and watch them work, but the action is over in a very short period of time, and if you can see the caracal before it sees you, you are pretty much shooting fish in a barrel (not to mix my metaphors). I guess in one way it’s a bit tougher than cougars – cougars seem to stay in the tree even after they’ve seen you. In any event, once my breathing returned to what-passes-for-normal when I’m hunting, there was no doubt I was happy to get my caracal!


After the excitement of the caracal, we headed back to the ranch for another wonderful meal. That afternoon we resumed our search for bushbuck, but decided to cut it short when John heard from his wife that there was a store in Port Alfred that had warm clothing, but that it would be closing soon for a few days. John made her promise not to let them close until we got there, and once again we sped into town, arriving just as John’s wife was having a discussion with a security guard, telling him that no, she would not move out of the doorway! There is nothing like a determined woman!

We bought some warm clothes and a warm hat, and I felt ready to face whatever mother nature could throw at us, at least in South Africa. One day I will figure out why I keep having these silly thoughts, but until then, I guess I’ll keep having them!

After that it was off to sit in a blind hoping for a visit from bushpig. John said that bushpigs were far smarter and more sensitive than leopards, and whatever I thought would do in a leopard blind would not do in a bushpig blind. So after one last pee, we sat down, not to move again for the next four hours.

We did receive a visit from a sounder of pigs, but whether they smelled us, or whether something else was wrong, they never came near the front of the blind, and I never had a shot. After the animals I’d been able to take over the past few days, there’s nothing as humbling as being beaten by a pig! But beaten we were, so off we went back to Fort D’Acre.

Day 4: Fort D’Acre

Today was blue duiker day. I’d never seen one in “real life” – I don’t think many have – they live in incredible thickets and rarely venture out. “A rat on steroids” I was told by Adrian, on whose property we would be looking for our duiker.

As we walked (crawled? stooped? hunched?) into the thicket, John and Adrian were explaining to me how the hunt would go. We would find a spot along a game trail, and wait for the dog handler – with two dogs – to bring the dogs around, and then set them loose. They would look for the scent of a duiker and once they found it, would start barking and give chase. The sound of dogs barking would be the signal to get ready. I wouldn’t have much time to shoot, so no farting around (latter bit from John). I asked John how he would be able to tell the difference between a male and a female. Now he was “cross”. He would judge the size quickly, and I would shoot on command. End to silly questions!

We found what looked like a nice spot, and got ready. By that I mean we stood around. Waiting for dogs to bark. All of a sudden – no warning – Adrian shouted “there” and pointed to a New York subway rat-sized animal running a full speed. I quickly shouldered the shotgun, fired, and did severe, possibly fatal, damage to a tree. I took a breath and then fired the second barrel, but the animal kept on running.

At that point we looked at each other and I gave voice to the obvious – “I think I missed”. I shoot lots of birds, and usually if there is a hit, there is some reaction. I dind’t see any reaction from the duiker. Of course everyone was very nice, telling me that it was a difficult shot, that it was unexpected (aren’t those dogs supposed to bark?), and that lots of people don’t get one on the first try. The usual. John added that it was too bad, because it was the biggest duiker he’d ever seen. By far. A monster. Likely would have made any further entries in the record book a waste of time. But not my fault. Everybody needs a helpful group of friends when hunting. I just had to find one!

As we started to walk back to the trucks to move to another area, Adrian decided to let one of his dogs loose on the track, just to give it some practice. We were walking slowly back to the vehicles when we heard it – the unmistakable sound of a duiker in distress! John and Adrian started running – apparently if we didn’t get the duiker the dogs might tear it apart. We didn’t have far to go, but John had to crawl on his belly to get into the thicket (I sure wasn’t going in there unarmed against a duiker!). He grabbed the duiker by the neck and handed it out to me, telling me to wring its neck! This may not be a big animal, but it isn’t exactly a pheasant either, so it took me a bit to figure out the mechanics of that. Once done, I looked at my trophy, looked at John, who was breaking out into a huge grin, having been caught! This wasn’t a monster, it wasn’t a record book duiker, but it was my duiker, and I was damned proud of it!


Once we had the duiker in the bag (and it would have fit – in any bag), Adrian offered to let us explore his property for bushbuck and gave us one of his hands to guide us. Adrian is a rancher, and has an enormous property – some many thousands of hectares – ranging from the ocean to the other side of the highway into the hills. Truly one of the most spectacular pieces of property I have ever seen, and one I felt honoured to be allowed to hunt on.

We were enjoying just driving and walking the property without a great expectation of seeing a bushbuck. The weather was changing, going from cool to cold, and the wind had begun to blow, if not to actually howl. A time when good animals should be tucked into their beds, not out in the open. But at one point, when John had gone off to look south, I was with the guide, who was about five yards away from me, looking north. The guide whispered something to me (I understand a few languages but Xhosa is definitely not one of them) and pointed. Straight in front of him about 150 yards away was a bushbuck walking towards us feeding slowly. Only problem was no John and the guide was directly between me and the bushbuck.

I managed to get John’s attention with a low whistle. He took a moment to see the bushbuck, but when he did, he quickly whispered that I should shoot it. He motioned the guide to get down, and told me to shoot over him. I wasn’t really happy with this idea, but told him to keep an eye on the guide - if he so much as moved I wouldn’t shoot, since I couldn’t see what he was doing through the scope. Surprisingly, with all of this blather, the bushbuck was still there, although he was now looking straight at us. I quickly focused on the base of his neck, and pulled the trigger. Straight down! Perfect shot and as a bonus, still had a live guide! Lucky day for both of us!


Obviously not a monster either, but a good representative example of a Cape bushbuck and, again, one I was pleased to have, especially given the weather.
You swung a shotgun in that thick crap and hit it! You should be proud. Well done.

Beaten by the lowly pig.
They are an under rated trophy by a long shot.

I'm with you. The idea of shooting over someone is completely unsettling.
The first shoulder rest was an eye opener for me.

Keep it coming.
I hope your insomnia continues until the end of this tome.
congrats on a great story and successful hunt
Yeah.... I'll be adding a blue duiker in the spring.... :)

this is a great read!!!!!
Great stories and pictures, I love the honesty.
Great job. You are having a great trip. Love the story. Keep it coming. Bruce

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