Ruan Bouwer

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It's a cold Saturday morning in the Free State province of South Africa. We are hunting on a good friend of my dad's farm, about a 5 hour drive from where we live. I get up, get dressed and take a handful of 300gr Norma Oryx rounds for the .375 H&H.

We had a long night, so a Red Bull and two painkillers does the trick to get us ready for another day of hunting. I meet the PH, Danie Appelgryn, at the campfire and we discuss the action plan for the morning. The land we are hunting has around 300 buffalo and the same amount of sable. Knowing that you might walk into a buff around any corner is a good way to get your instincts sharp and your adrenaline pumping!
We decide that we will be walking from the hunting lodge.

The African sun starts heating up the Free State, and before long we are covering ground at a good pace. After a good amount of walking, we find a herd of mature sable bulls at a distance. We start glassing for a good bull, but as our luck would have it, a lone impala ram spooks the herd as it comes out of a bush unexpectedly. We move forward and after a while, we are on their tracks again. We spot a bull that we would like to take - pitch black in colour, sweeping horns and a beautiful big body. We stalk the herd to get in range and find a good spot of shade from a thorn tree.

As they often do, the bulls start fighting and establishing dominance under the herd. Seeing these beautiful animals on foot, grazing the plains and fighting is one of the most iconic sights you can possibly see. Definitely one of the prettiest pictures in all of the Dark Continent!
The bulls move on, grazing peacefully and staying out of range for us to even have a chance at taking a shot.
They make us work even harder when they force us to stalk with the sun to our faces - something that any PH will tell you is far less than ideal. The fact that this is the Free State's wide open plains with minimal tree cover makes it even worse.

We decide that the only way forward would be to walk in a zig zag, from one thorn three to the next. We stay in the shade and use it as cover, moving forward only when the herd is grazing and looking away. Focused as he is on the bulls, Danie (the PH) gets a small heart attack when a scrubhare jumps out from underneath a bush - one thing leading to the next and Danie ending up in a aardvark burrow!
I help him back up on his feet, we have a silent laugh at what just happened in slow motion, and we move on - we don't want to lose sight of the bulls that made us work so hard up until now.

After a good stalk, we get within range of opportunity and Danie glasses the herd out to find the bull we saw earlier. Clever as he is, he keeps evading us and forces us to work that tiny bit harder. I load a 300gr round into the chamber and start working on my breathing. At this point, my heart is pounding out of my chest. The bull eventually walks out from behind a thorn bush and gives us a good opportunity to look at him. I take the shooting sticks and set myself up for a broadside shot. My crosshair is on the bull, I'm waiting for him to walk out a bit further and give me an open shot. He comes into the open, and I get ready. I close the bolt. My crosshair settles and I reach for the trigger...then he turns. All of the pressure is building up, my breathing is getting heavier and my heart is pounding even faster now. I tell Danie that I'm not comfortable with the shot, as I'm shooting quite a distance into early morning sun with a 4x power scope. Being a qualified PH myself, I decide that it would be the better choice to move a little left and stalk a bit closer. This is an opportunity I'm not throwing away.

I find a better angle after another short stalk, with a bush giving me shade to minimize the effect of shooting straight into the sunlight. The bull is still grazing, now behind a bush but within range and at a better angle. The moment is massive - he doesn't give me an opportunity until he eventually walks out behind the bush. This time, I'm ready. I regulate my breathing and start relaxing. This feels better. I'm comfortable, relaxed and focused. The bull is slightly quartering away, but I know that he won't give us two chances. I close the bolt again. I take the shooting sticks and try to find the bull in my scope - the angle forcing me to shoot quite a challenging shot. He stands still. As he raises his head, I'm ready to let a bullet fly.
I breathe in...and slowly out again. My finger finds the trigger. I press the .375 H&H tightly into my shoulder as to minimize my movement. The crosshair settles...BAM! The shot goes off. It feels like forever until the bullet hits. It was a solid hit and the bull goes down where it stood. This happens in slow motion and my heart can't pound any faster. I am out of breath. Danie gives me a high five and congratulates me on the shot.

We walk up to the bull, and there it lies...one of my biggest dreams since I was a little boy hunting Africa with my father. I crouch and appreciate the moment. Nobody says a word...they know what this means to me. It's dead quiet in the bush and the moment is big. I feel the thick, heavy horns. I feel the skin, the face and admire the Prince of Africa's beauty. The pitch black coat, the white face and majestic sweeping horns. When I finally get back up to my feet, I thank Danie for the opportunity and brilliant guiding. I add a 17th African game specie to my list, and my 40th African animal.
He brings me a cold beer and we celebrate this God-given opportunity that couldn't have turned out better. Learning from our PH School experience with uncle David Sutherland, we start cleaning the foreground and setting the bull up for a photo. It's smiles all around and one very happy 20-year-old South African "boertjie". The bull measures just over 41 inches on the longest horn.

This has been one of the greatest experiences of my hunting career to date. It's something that still hasn't hit me - it doesn't feel like a reality. I will be dreaming about this day for years to come and I can't wait to get the beautiful shoulder mount back from Highveld Taxidermy. This is Africa - this is what I live for.

I want to thank Danie, my father, oom Johann and every other person who played a role in this unforgettable experience. I will cherish it greatly and never forget the emotions that I felt in such an amazing opportunity.

Here's to many more hunting stories to tell around the campfire.

Until next time.

Ruan Bouwer










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Frederik

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Geluk baie netjies!!!

Did you by any chance recover the bullet?
 

Hunting Sailor

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Congratulations and well done. I like your writing style! Keep it up.
 

Ruan Bouwer

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Geluk baie netjies!!!

Did you by any chance recover the bullet?
Baie dankie! Dit was 'n groot voorreg. Ek het nie gesoek vir hom nie, maar ek sal dat die PH vir my 'n foto stuur!
 

cpr0312

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Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 

CAustin

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Congratulations sir! Excellent stalk and story!
 

Ruan Bouwer

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Congratulations @Ruan Bouwer ! Excellent hunting report and a great sable to boot :)
Thank you sir, I truly appreciate the kind words! I will be writing more often from now on, feel free to read my previous stories in the meantime!
 

gesch

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Congratulations. Fantastic writeup. I hung on every word. Thank you. Your friend, Brian
 

Ruan Bouwer

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Congratulations. Fantastic writeup. I hung on every word. Thank you. Your friend, Brian
Such kind words, thank you sir! I love hearing that people enjoy these stories. Just as much as hunting is a passion of mine, telling the stories of those hunts is just as great! I will be writing a new article shortly.
 

Randy F

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Fantastic! Congratulations, that's a beautiful Sable! Well written. Thanks for sharing your story.
 

Ruan Bouwer

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Fantastic! Congratulations, that's a beautiful Sable! Well written. Thanks for sharing your story.
Thank you sir! I appreciate the reply and the compliments!
 

Kevin Peacocke

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Well done Ruan, you hunt well and write well. That is a great sable, he will look good on the wall.
 

cls

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Well done all around, very nice sable. Thanks for the story.
 

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