Blood River monument Me and Boela with my first common reedbuck My first Nyala please note the lack of stripes on the body My second nyala hunted for table fare for the farmer My first Nyala side view "Piet My Vrou" Red Chested Cuckoo Rourkes Drift Museum The thick dune forest where we were hunting red duiker. Judt above us that is where I was able to call in the Kites with the predator call. When we got vack onto the two track road outside the forest fresh leopard tracks were on top of ours. I suppose the caller worked for him also. My second nyala being carried of the hill. October 2018 I was fortunate enough to hunt Nortern Zululand with Boela Bekker Safaris. It was to be my first Nyala and Common reedbuck hunt. The story follows below. Zululand – A Royal affair Rorke’s Drift, the name that started our plans for our KZN hunt in Zululand with my good friend Bernard Robinson from England. Bernard previously a hunting client now a family friend, on his bucket list was to visit Rorke’s drift. Now, a quick history lesson about the defence of Rorke’s Drift, it happened on 22nd of January 1879 the exact same day of the famous battle of Isandlwana where British forces suffered a massive defeat. Rorke’s Drift was a small mission station not far from Isandlwana with a hospital and church which was also used to keep supplies for the troops at Isandlwana. In the end 150 British and colonial troops defended themselves against 3 to 4 thousand Zulu impis and 11 Victorian crosses were awarded. So my search began for a good reputable KZN outfitter who could help us with a hunt in northern KZN and we would do a tour on our way to Rorke’s Drift and visit other sites along the way. After a few conversations over the phone and some e-mails I eventually booked with Boela Bekker from Boela Bekker Safaris who operates from Richards Bay. This would also be my first hunt with Bernard where we would both be hunting together as clients. Our primary species would be nyala and common reedbuck and on chance a red duiker for Bernard. Neither I or Bernard have hunted nyala and common reedbuck before. I have previously guided a few hunting clients on nyala before but never a common reedbuck or red duiker. Truly the royalty of Zululand game. Bernard being a true English gentleman is not your average hunting client and is not in the hunt for inches but as luck would have it he has had considerable luck along the way thus far with a few good trophies. So any good representative of the specie would be in the cross hair. Our drive down to KZN was uneventful with a cool rainy day perfect for the long road. We ended up seeing the Blood River monument, Rorke’s Drift and the Isandlwana battlefield. Be warned if you are going to venture in the area, bring a proper GPS as the road work network in that part of the country is apparently not seen by Google Maps or non-existent! After a long day of driving and sightseeing we eventually met up with Boela just south of Hluhluwe and made our way to camp to enjoy a relaxed late-afternoon perfect sunset. Our hunting accommodation was good the food great and company of hunters swapping stories even greater. Carlos would be our chef for the week and Innocent, Boela’s right hand man would be making sure that Bernard had more than enough coffee than he could handle. The area where we hunted is very close to the Umfolozi Hluhluwe reserve the heartland of nyala country! After a good dinner and getting to know each other we went to bed for the adventure of the next day. The next morning the weather was still cool and very windy and light chances of rain which apparently the nyala don’t like. We headed out to the hills to see if we could spot anything from higher ground. On the way we went past two herds of giraffe and some of them lying down on the ground, a sure sign that they didn’t enjoy the weather either. When we came upon the top of one of the hills our tracker, spotted 3 nyala bulls on the furthest hill away from us. I stood astounded on how he spotted those bulls and I have seen my fair share of trackers spotting animals. This was by far the best spotting I have ever seen. I even struggled to make out the shapes of the nyala bulls with my 10 power magnification binoculars. The tracker spotted them with his naked eyes! It was so far, we couldn’t judge the horns on that distance but by the sign that they were all dark it was worthwhile to investigate. Planning our stalk on the hill and marking where we last spotted the bulls and allowing for the wind, we stalked closer with our tracker in front. Bernard was going to have the first chance at a nyala and I just came along on the stalk to enjoy it. The wind was perfect and even the clouds moved away, with the sun shining on us. Bernard didn’t bring his own rifles but used mine, leaving the hassle of flying with firearms. He was using my son’s 6.5 x 55 sporterized Carl Gustav M96 Mauser. Loaded with 140gr bullets at a speed of just over 2500fps, the long lead tipped bullet helped with penetration and didn’t lack any killing power for the game we would hunt. We came closer to the area we marked as the tracker spotted a young nyala bull not 40 meters away from us. Boela knew the other bulls were close by and got Bernard on the shooting sticks ready for a shot. As soon as he was ready, another much older bull stepped out. The younger nyala bull spotted us and stood completely still staring at us while the older nyala didn’t have a clue about our presence. Boela gave the go ahead for Bernard to shoot the older bull, he was almost facing full frontal and Bernard pulled off the perfect shot and the nyala dropped in his tracks. It was a good bull with a lot of character exactly what Bernard was looking for! We were very fortunate that the nyala were heading in our direction. So basically, we walked into them instead of trying to find them in the bush on the hill slope. Bernard enjoyed his quiet moment with his first nyala, his right horn going outward on the bend then coming back in to the other making him a narrow horn nyala. Almost a complete black face to top it off with those long hair, orange socks and very thick tail. We made sure that the skin would not be damaged by getting the nyala back to the skinners in time. Before our hunt I mentioned to Bernard that nyala have such beautiful long hair on their underside one must be very careful, not to shoot to low as it gives an idea of a much deeper body. The ewes looking completely different with an orange coat and body size that splits antelope between gender of bull and cow or ram and ewe. That is why Nyala males are bulls and females ewes. Quite rare, but one does sometimes get bulls with the same orange coat than ewes although I have ever seen one myself. The rest of the day was spent looking for more nyala and common reedbuck but also included seeing more species like zebra, impala, steenbuck and blesbuck. We didn’t find any more nyala bulls, except for a young reedbuck ram didn’t spot any more of our quarry the rest of the day. The weather and wind picked up and it started to cool down considerably. We were happy as Bernard was able to bag his first nyala and if the weather improved we were sure to find some more opportunities. With the weather being foul for northern KZN standards we spent dinner inside at the table instead of sitting around the fire hoping for better weather. The plan for the next morning would be to see if we could find the other nyala bulls that we spotted with Bernard’s bull. Not one of us even spotted the younger bull meaning that there would be at least 4 in the group. Waking up the next day the wind was still blowing, and the temperature still cool very uncommon for late October. Bernard enjoys the heat and always makes sure to hunt with me when it is nice and warm. We once hunted in Mopane just south of Mussina in mid-November where it got so warm that the temperatures read 42 degrees Celsius at 9:30 am. That day I found my and Bernard’s limit to the amount of heat we could hunt in. So off we headed to the hills again to see if we could spot the other nyala bulls. We stopped on top of the one hill to glass and so it was after about 10 minutes that we spotted a nyala ewe and 5 minutes later a nyala bull. Glassing a bit more we counted 3 nyala bulls, it could have been the same group but we couldn’t be sure as we didn’t spot the younger bull with them. One of them was looking good with nice long straight tips going up and we got ready to start our stalk. The wind was blowing the same direction as the previous day and the nyalas was not far off from where we stalked them before with denser growth around them. This time I was behind the tracker and Bernard coming along on the stalk for enjoyment. As we were about to move in to the dense bush a common reedbuck ram suddenly popped up directly in front of us higher on the hill 120 meters away. A quick look confirmed that he was shootable with a thick neck and good posture. The previous day after spotting the young reedbuck ram we didn’t have anymore sightings of anymore reedbuck rams and I told Boela that while we have a chance we should take what nature presents us. We quickly changed roles Bernard got ready on the shooting sticks and had to shoot through a small opening in a bush that stood in front of the reedbuck ram. Bernard took careful aim and we could hear on the report that it was a hit and the reedbuck moved a bit higher before vanishing from sight. We marked the spot where we last spotted the ram and moving in closer the ram that was hidden from sight suddenly reappeared when Bernard put in a quick finishing shot. The ram was down, and it was Bernard, and my first time to touch and admire a common reedbuck. Beautiful animal with a thick coat and the scent gland under the ear, unique and very privileged for this experience. So even though we went out to stalk for my nyala after spotting them we really felt we couldn’t let this chance pass on the reedbuck as weather predictions didn’t look too favourable. I have been in the bush, hunting long enough to know that you don’t want to pass on a gifted horse. So after Bernard hunted his second animal on the same hill face not 300 meters apart from each other, Boela decided to aptly name the hill Mount Bernard! We took back the reedbuck to the skinning shed and were about to retire for brunch when Boela said we should just take a quick look at the area just south of the camp. This area was overgrazed long ago and with that came a lot of low growing thorn bushes, perfect for animals that would like to hide from the wind. We didn’t venture too far when we spotted impala and with that a nyala bull. Trying to see what his horns looked like with the tips in the shade and brush, the wind suddenly swirled. With that the impala took off with the nyala and another 3 bulls behind them. The game was on we spotted at least one good nyala and we followed suit. Moving ever so slowly while trying to spot the animals first, the tracker spotted a dark shape and we went down on our haunches. Boela had a quick look with his binoculars and gave me the go ahead to shoot. Range was about 45 meters and I couldn’t see his legs but saw his shoulder clearly the grass to high to sit flat, I had to take the shot from my haunches off hand with my Musgrave 375 H&H. The crosshair lined up and I squeezed the trigger. I felt very confident of the shot and the bull ran off at high speed to our right none of us spotting any of the other animals. The tracker and I moved to the spot where the nyala stood while Boela moved to our right where he saw the nyala disappear. Just arriving at our spot, Boela from our right whispered and called me over while he put up the shooting sticks. The bull was standing 50 meters away about to collapse but before he did, I ended it with another shot. My second shot connected with the spine and neck and ended the animals life swiftly. I was elated, my first nyala bull and a perfect specimen. The first shot was good, and he would have died had we given him more time. Being in the thick stuff it’s not always easy to go look for wounded animals and we didn’t want to take any chances. We took some good photos and while setting him up we found that he didn’t have any white lines on his right side and only a few on the left side. This was quite odd and Boela has never seen a nyala bull like this before. Figuring out where the closest road was, we managed to get the bull onto the bakkie and took him to the skinning shed. What a fabulous morning Bernard with his first common reedbuck and my first nyala. Brunch tasted extra good of course and although the weather was still very windy we were all positive. While enjoying brunch the farm manager came to see us and told us that he would like to take out some more nyalas especially ones with horns that grow towards each other. This was for future management of nyala trophies and he would give them to us as a gift, obviously we accepted. The afternoon was not as exciting as the morning, except for enjoying the surrounding and unique birds of the area like the purple crested twaco we didn’t see any nyala. We did however, have a good view at a young female red duiker that followed a troop of vervet monkeys. Red duikers love eating fruit, flowers and berries that the monkeys drop. With the spotting of the duiker and the not so good forecast of the weather for the next day Boela decided to change plans. We would be hunting on a different property which is more coastal forest with a higher concentration of red Duiker the following day. The coastal forest was a complete change of scenery except for a small path that was cut to walk, it was extremely thick. We managed to spot a few duikers, but they were all too quick to determine their sex and trophy quality. We even resorted to calling them in with a predator whistle with a little luck. Suni were also to be found in the coastal forest and countless of tracks were seen but with one good opportunity where Bernard missed and that was our day on red duiker. The next day we went to a different area of the property and there was an excellent area to try and call in the duiker. I was busy calling when suddenly we saw two large shadows flying over us! The next thing we knew, one of the yellow billed kites came through the tree top canopy to sit on a branch just above us. The moment he spotted us he flew off, they must have thought that they were going to score on an easy lunch. So the predator caller was working but not so well for the red duiker. As we got back onto the small two track road that we took to get to the area where we drove just over an hour ago there were fresh leopard tracks on top of our tire tracks. Looking at the tracks it was about 150 meters away from where I called in the yellow billed kites. Seems like the leopard also thought of a free easy lunch that day. With no luck that morning either, except for the experience of calling in kites and a leopard with the predator caller we took a break for lunch. The weather inside the forest was much more constant than with the wind outside, although it made the wind swirl at times. After lunch we decided to fix up a makeshift hide and sit it out trying to call or maybe spot a red duiker coming past. When everything got settled in and all the natural sounds came back, we had a magnificent visitor. A seldom seen but always heard “Piet my vrou!” or also known as a red chested cuckoo. It was interesting to see that it had no fear of us while sitting, but as soon as we stood up to stretch a leg or do something else it would vanish to come back a minute or two later. We were about to pack up leave when suddenly I saw ahead of us and to our right something running over a big termite mount! Now, it also looked like the shadow of one of those kites that flew over us in the morning, but I wasn’t sure. I told Boela just to hang on for a few minutes. Out of nowhere, there was the red duiker right in front of us at 30 meters standing broadside giving us a small time frame to judge and sex it. The duiker vanished behind low shrub at a slow pace and we were sure it would come out again. Boela told Bernard to get ready and as soon as it clears the shrub to shoot it. As fast as it magically appeared the duiker also just vanished. We hardly had time to call it as a good trophy and I didn’t even have time to take a photo with my 300mm zoom lens and it was all over. We all felt despondent, our plan worked and suddenly it was over. Bernard also decided that the red duiker outwitted us and instead of trying again for another, to let the duiker have victory this time. We also just had one more day with Boela and Bernard wanted to see the Indian ocean and make wet his feet. So we went back to camp and made plans for the next day. We had the best dinner prepared by our chef Carlos that evening; pork belly and lamb roast with some wholesome vegetables, we ate like kings! The next morning the weather was much better than anticipated and the plan was to look for nyala and then spend the afternoon at Cape Vidal and the surrounding areas. Off we went to Mount Bernard and all of us were anticipating on seeing some nyala. We glassed for over 20 minutes but there was no nyala in sight. We moved on to the next valley and crested the peak of Mount Bernard when the tracker spotted a reedbuck ewe, again we glassed for a few minutes to see if we could find a ram. She was on her own, we moved on but we didn’t even get 100 meters further when I spotted the ram. Quickly, we got everything together and moved closer. The ram looked good from far and we stalked in closer. He was lying down in thick grass with just his head sticking out typical reedbuck behaviour. I had time to put my scope onto my largest magnification of six and as we came closer, he stood up. Boela got the shooting sticks ready and with careful aim at a range of about 120 meters I took the shot. My beloved 375 H&H fired, and the shot felt good as the ram ran further up the hill to some thicker bush as I reloaded. The ram fell and vanished out of sight before reaching the bushes. It was quite a pleasant surprize after not seeing many reedbuck and here in a short little time I had hunted my first common reedbuck. We were in a terrific area for some good trophy photos and we all enjoyed the morning thus far. Our hunt was done and we were looking forward to seeing the coast again. Loading the reedbuck ram we were slowly on our way back to the skinning shed when some nyala were spotted. They were up a hill and with them were impala, giraffe and zebra, many eyes and many ears. There was a road around the hill where we could get to the back of the animals and stalk from the top. It was decided that we had enough time to give the hunt a try, as the owner wanted us to take off some more nyala. We exited the bakkie and Bernard decided to rather stay and not stalk with us but rather to enjoy the sun. We all understood as in a few days he would be back to English weather moving into winter. We had no idea there were kudu cows as well with the rest of the animals. As we crossed the peak of the hill to look down it was just chaos with everything running. From the giraffe, zebra, kudu and impala all going downhill making a lot of racket as they went down. Busted we thought, but with nyala bulls being like bushbuck rams and big kudu bulls they will rather move away and hide again than follow the herd. We stalked slowly and after about 150 meters or so we spotted the nyala and they spotted us and moved away but with no great haste. There were 5 bulls in total and we could hunt any with narrow horns or horns growing towards each other. We spotted one about 100 meters away and Boela was not sure if he was in the criteria of narrow horns. I was ready on the shooting sticks and he moved away a bit further down to our right and stood again fully broadside this time. Boela looked again and this time was sure he made the criteria. I was ready, and the 375 H&H fired the last shot of the hunt. The 270gr bullet hit it’s mark and the nyala jumped and pulled up his tail. With running downhill and basically dead on his feet he was going fast as he vanished out of sight and we marked the spot. We went to the spot where he was last spotted and slowly moved in the line he followed. After a bit of a worry we finally found him about 300 meters away from where he was shot. We didn’t expect him to go that far but with the downhill and going as fast as he did, he covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. The bull was perfectly shot with a double lung shot. What a morning! Just showing what difference it makes when the weather changes for the better. Some quick photos for my second nyala and this time the bull had a perfect skin. This bull was larger in body than my first nyala and maybe heavier than Bernard’s nyala. What a privilege it was to hunt both nyala and common reedbuck in their own environment as I gave thanks to our Father. The short trip to cape Vidal was very enjoyable even though the weather was still not perfect, we enjoyed a little bit of the beach and waves, walking in the Indian Ocean with our shorts. The area and surrounding areas are magnificent, with St. Lucia and the Umfolozi Hluhluwe reserve being so close to each other it’s a real natural paradise. Plans are being made for my son and I to return and to hunt nyala again. Thanks, Zululand for an excellent hunt and for helping an English gentleman tick off some items on his bucket list. I can truly recommend a hunt in Zululand we are so blessed living in a country with such varied ecosystems and landscapes.