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Thread: My 2014 African hunt

  1. #1

    My 2014 African hunt

    My 2014 South African hunt report. This was my second hunt in South Africa and I'm writing this thread to give those who have not been a bit of insight into the hunting there. Feel free to ask any questions on the thread or by PM. Please note that all prices quoted were at the time of booking and may very well have changed since then. Please check with the companies involved for current pricing if you intend doing something similar!

    Outfitter : Settlers Safaris (
    UK Booking Agent : Adrian Sailor (Hunting Safaris | Big Game Hunting | Safari Hunter).
    Airline : South African Airlines (No issues with them carrying our firearms).
    Rifle used : Tikka T3 Stainless Lite in .30-06 fitted with A-Tec sound moderator and bipod.
    Scope used : Meopta 3 - 12 x 56 Meostar.
    Ammo used : Sako Super Hammerhead 180 grain soft nosed.

    My friend G attended the Midlands game fair back in 2012 and struck up a conversation with Adrian Sailor (aka SD forum member Safari hunter) about an African hunting Safari. At the time they had a 14 animal cull package over seven days and eight nights for sale at a cost of £1950 each for two hunters. The package included cull examples of the following :-

    1 x kudu cow
    1 x blue wildebeest cow
    2 x common duiker
    2 x springbok
    2 x blesbok
    2 x impala
    4 x warthog

    My friend is not a trophy hunter and the cull / management package appealed to him. In addition to the animals mentioned two nights lamping for jackal and caracal were also included if you wanted to do this. It was also explained that jackal, caracal, baboon and vervet monkey could also be taken for free if seen when out hunting if the hunter wanted to do so, though these were not primary target species, after some consideration which included references from other SD forum members three of us had booked with Adrian at a cost of £1950 each. Flights were booked directly with South African Airways at a cost of £710 return from Heathrow to Port Elizabeth via Johannesburg. SAA do carry firearms at no charge currently.
    I left home at 10 am, picked up my friends from Birmingham and headed down to Heathrow, the next day at around 3pm we had all arrived in Port Elizabeth airport to be met by Settlers PH Sheldon. We collected our rifles, headed for his Hilux and then spent two hours driving through the Eastern Cape to Normandale Lodge, a property only recently acquired by Settlers, expanded and completely renovated. The lodge sits within a modest sized game reserve, home to around sixteen species that can be hunted. A neighbouring property has just been purchased and expansion plans were underway whilst we were there to allow expansion in the future. The plan was for us to spend four nights here and then four nights at another area called Bushman’s Lodge later so we could hunt on multiple properties whilst out there.

    I had a few telephone conversations with Adrian Sailor before leaving for our trip. Adrian was very helpful and answered all our questions well. It was explained that although we were on a cull package, Settlers are very flexible and if we wanted to hunt different species we could effectively swap animals should we choose to do so. This was confirmed by Sheldon on our drive to the lodge, although we were down to hunt kudu and wildebeest cows, at this time unusually Settlers had the rare opportunity to cull a number of red hartebeest and waterbuck, so if we wanted to, we could hunt these instead. It was also explained that this is a very unusual situation as both of these species are very rarely offered as part of cull packages and that this was certainly not the norm. Our friend W really fancied the chance to hunt a hartebeest, so decided there and then that this was what he wanted to do whilst G and I considered our options.

    Sheldon also explained that the springbok population had recently been decimated by Rift Valley Fever drastically reducing their numbers in the area. As a result we needed to let them know if we specifically wanted to try for springbok as we would now need to hunt them on a property some distance from where we were based, or we could take other small similarly priced cull species in their place. Decisions, decisions…

    Normandale Lodge.

    View from the lodge. Giraffe were regularly seen feeding in the open areas in the evening.

    Taxidermy work abounds African hunting lodges.

    Saturday evening was spent checking our rifles just in case anything had happened in transit followed by settling into the lodge with our hosts Chris and Rencha, a husband and wife team who manage the property and Sheldon. We would meet Settlers owner and PH, Murray Crous first thing Sunday morning before heading off to hunt.

    Sunday 1st June

    After a good night’s sleep we were woken at 6.30am. Rencha had prepared a cooked breakfast and our second PH Murray had arrived to take us hunting. Breakfast and introductions over and we were off hunting. I was to hunt with Murray, whilst G and W were off to another property to hunt with Sheldon. Murray and I drove to a game farm twenty minutes away from where we were based to try for warthog or impala.

    Travelling along the road I hoped desperately that the very bad chest infection I had wasn’t going to hinder my trip. I’d been coughing badly all morning and I was very concerned that the noise I was making would scare all of the game away! The sun had risen and clear skies were seen over the hills as we turned off the road to drive up a winding track onto our hunting area. It transpired that this farm is uninhabited. The owner died overseas some time ago and it was being looked after by a neighbour, sadly this had led to poaching, a rare and valuable bontebok being taken only recently. Though any concerns I had about there being no animals were soon gone as I saw burchells zebra and a single bontebok as we drove up the path. We stopped the truck, and got out closing the doors as quietly as possible. I chambered a round, applied the safety, and started glassing the area with my binos. I smiled to myself as the realisation that the hunting trip I’d booked many months ago was about to begin hit home.

    There was only a slight breeze in the dry African air. We glassed a large area of vegetation to our left before walking up a track overlooking an open valley downhill to our right. It wasn’t long before a large boar and four sows were seen below us. As I watched I heard Murray say slowly “That’s a monster pig”! And so my first stalk had begun. Warthog was a species I’d wanted to hunt since my first hunting trip to Africa, and now I had a real chance of taking a good sized pig, I was determined to get him. We raced back down the track we’d driven up for around six hundred yards before turning left into the valley we’d seen the pigs in. They were about three hundred meters in front of us amongst a grassy area with small patches of vegetation dotted here and there.

    Warthog like open grassy areas and the sun on their back, the sunny morning had brought this group out and as early june is mating season for warthog the boar was very busy chasing the four sows around. We moved forward using the patches of vegetation as cover, eventually leopard crawling to around eighty five meters from the group. I had my T3 on the bipod and waited for the boar to present. It was around four minutes before he charged forward chasing a sow, the wind was in our face and with him having just one thing on his mind, things were in our favour.

    His body size was twice the size of the sows, although this was my first time hunting warthog, I could tell he was big. I placed the cross hairs behind his front legs, about a third of the way up, paused my breathing and gently squeezed the trigger. I quickly reloaded to see him stagger forward and then go down. I had taken my first African pig. The safari was off to a good start.

    The warthog was then gralloched by the trackers who drove off road to where we were in the Hilux and loaded it onto the truck. It weighed 60kg once dressed out.

    We headed off to a different part of the property seeing kudu, bushbuck, waterbuck and a common reedbuck on our travels. Eventually we came to a large cliff face overlooking an open area below to the right and thick scrub to the left. An impala ram was sighted around two hundred yards away and around one hundred and fifty feet below us. This was a typical cull animal, a small head and not the largest bodied impala I’d seen. The impala rut is happening in early june, and by the end of our trip I had witnessed several fights between rams. They make a pig like noise when fighting, the first time I heard it I’d mistaken them for warthog. In time I’d get to admire the large herd rams steadily keeping the females away from other rams at this time of year, but this particular animal was less impressive.

    I lay down at the top of the cliff face, the bipod just a few inches from a huge drop and took aim. Generally speaking antelope have their heart and lungs lower than UK deer and I took aim slightly lower than I would have done if shooting at a roe deer. The strike sounded good, the ram ran around thirty yards to my right before collapsing in a small group of trees ahead. Despite their size impala are very tough and can run long distances so I was very pleased to see him go down as the shot was a little high. We had been stalking for around four hours before deciding to return to the lodge for lunch.

    My shooting position for the impala.

    The cull ram.

    After lunch we stalked Normandale lodge itself. I saw giraffe, zebra, eland, waterbuck, kudu, blesbock (both normal and white) as well as a young bushbuck ram. After a couple of hours we started our final stalk back home, after walking down a winding track we came across a group of warthog. Acting quickly I placed my rifle on the sticks, a sow was heading in our direction but with the wind in our favour had not seen or heard us. I took a head shot as she faced me, she dropped there and then on the spot as the 180 grain sako round hit her in the skull.

    My second pig of the day.

    Back at the lodge I discovered G had taken an impala and W a waterbuck and warthog when out with Sheldon, so all in all a good first day. I'd also decided to 'swap' my kudu cow for a kudu bull and pay the 'upgrade fee'. It had been explained to me before that this was possible. It had also been explained that Settlers properties contain Eastern Cape kudu and not Southern Greater kudu, the former being slightly smaller. However hunting indigenous species in their native habitat appealed greatly to me, and so I decided to try for a nice bull. Murray had a particular property in mind which had a good number of nyala and kudu on there, so I went to bed excited about the following day.

    Last edited by MJ75; 12-06-2014 at 21:00.

  2. #2
    Awesome! Looking forward to more

  3. #3
    Hello MJ75

    This is a great write up..... Please continue, as me and my friends are also thinking of going to SA next year in May/June 2015..


  4. #4
    MJ, was the first pig a cull animal, if so a good sized animal and a really good set of tusks, sounds like you had a GREAT time, Africa is addictive though, I want to go back again next year after reading this write up. deerwarden.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by deerwarden View Post
    MJ, was the first pig a cull animal, if so a good sized animal and a really good set of tusks, sounds like you had a GREAT time, Africa is addictive though, I want to go back again next year after reading this write up. deerwarden.
    Hi, he was included in my cull number. Though he'd make an SCI trophy for sure. I just got lucky, he was actually the second largest pig we took, but more to follow. One of our group got very lucky with a grey duicker!

    I'll be back, hopefully next year, but if not certainly the year after.
    Last edited by MJ75; 12-06-2014 at 21:42.

  6. #6
    Monday 2nd June

    Kudu! That what very much what was on my mind after Murray and I drove to a different property called ‘The Hills’ after another hearty breakfast cooked up by Rencha. I enjoyed a scenic forty minute drive, seeing impala and bushbuck en route.

    On the way we stopped off at a quarry to drop of the grallochs from the six animals our group had taken the previous day. Murray has bush pig in his area, these nocturnal pigs are rarely seen during the day and are baited using guts etc to keep them feeding in a particular area.

    I’m told their red meat makes very good eating, and so bush pig are now very much a species I want to try for on my next visit.

    Back to antelope, I’d seen kudu in Addo elephant reserve on my first trip to South Africa, but never whilst hunting. One of the larger antelope species, kudu inhabit thick bushvelt on rocky hillsides and are often called grey ghosts on account of them being able to disappear in seconds, despite their large horns, a trait that makes them particularly desirable to hunters.
    We entered the property, the truck headed slowly up a steep hillside for a few minutes before our tracker, riding in the back tapped on the roof. We stopped the truck, jumped out and started glassing the hillside to our left.

    Typical kudu country.

    A bull was spotted close to the top of a hill, however he was a younger animal, as we were at the start of our safari we were in the fortunate position to spend some time looking for a nice animal to hunt, this was just as well as the young bull saw us and was soon running off over the horizon. With six days hunting left to go Murray made it clear we’d search for a nice mature male so we continued heading into the hills. Kudu are most active at dusk and dawn much like our UK deer. As a result morning dew collecting on their horns sometimes betrays their location, and they can be spotted as their horns shine in the sunlight in early morning. As a result I managed to see a few bulls and many more cows, some with calves that morning, but not a 'shootable' bull.

    However, I had booked a cull package and other animals were to be taken. After looking across yet another valley three warthog were spotted, one boar and two sows lying down around one hundred and eighty yards away. We slowly descended from our vantage point through thorny vegetation before getting into position one hundred and fifty yards away from where he lay. I placed my T3 on the sticks and took aim. The shot pierced both heart and lungs and the boar died where he lay. As a result we managed to recover the 180 grain round, the picture below shows how the Sako rounds were ‘mushrooming’ very well.

    More kudu cows and calves were spotted along with a couple of young bulls as we made our way through valley after valley. I also saw nyala and impala with a gemsbok far, far away, its long horns making it easily identifiable.

    Murray paid a lot of attention to the herds of impala. Though many of the ewes we saw were healthy young animals he was aware that there were a number of old females which were perfect for culling. Where the young animals had a shiny sheen on their coat, these older animals had no lustre to their coat, with patches of missing fur, and upon closer inspection very little teeth left. The lack of dentition makes feeding difficult and they soon lose condition, so during early afternoon where we were less likely to see kudu on the move we sought out an old impala ewe to cull.

    More nyala were seen hiding in the bush before we spotted a herd of about twenty animals or so. We spent around twenty minutes stalking the herd before getting into position to identify a suitable cull beast if indeed this particular herd did contain any. After glassing for a few minutes an older ewe emerged from behind a bush and we moved into position. Using a range finder Murray quietly said “a hundred and ten yards” as I placed the rifle on sticks for the second time that day. The remaining impala scattered through the bush as she fell, I had taken my second impala of the trip.
    The picture below shows the poor condition of the impala ewe.

    We searched for a large kudu bull for the rest of the day, this property contained many rolling valleys in the hills, we’d move to the top of one side and then glass the other side trying to spot the animals. Whilst doing so I saw more nyala, zebra, impala and the occasional pig. At one point we were stood searching one valley when I heard an animal approaching, a young bull with less than two turns to his horns ran within just twenty feet of where we were stood! Not ten minutes later another bull came crashing past, but again he was smaller than we were looking for. As the sun started set I thought today was not to be my day. Until my PH suddenly said, “there’s a very good bull down there”. I raised my binos and spotted a large animal hiding in the bush. He had large white tipped horns, but was around three hundred yards away. I needed to get closer, so we headed through thick bushveld, ten minutes later we’d gotten to within two hundred and fifty meters of him. Low in a valley I remember thinking that extraction would be a real nightmare, but I took aim, the sun was in my face and the colour of my scopes reticule kept changing colour. I tried to relax, slowed my breathing down and squeezed the trigger just before watching him run off. I’d shot clean over the top of him!

    Still at least we didn’t have the extraction from hell to undertake. We headed back to the lodge for dinner and to find out how my two friends had done. It was decided that we’d return to the hills on Wednesday giving the place a rest for a day before trying again. Still I’d had a great day and decided to open the bottle of Dalmore I’d taken with me regardless!

  7. #7
    Cracking write ups I have been talking to safari hunter about going out
    Keep the write ups coming

  8. #8
    great write up! i am going in august with bushwack safaris. can't wait!!

  9. #9
    Tuesday 3rd June.

    South Africa is an hour in front of us at this time of year and after a couple of days my body clock was more or less adjusted to being woken at 6.30 am daily for breakfast. Today’s plan was to head back to the property I’d stalked two days ago, a game farm which just happened to be up for sale. At approximately 3,000 acres it features a farm house as well as guest accommodation for visiting hunters. The current price is 7,000,000 South African Rand. Or at today’s current exchange rate around £384,000 in real money! Yes! This got me thinking too!

    The breakfast banter centred around our current tally of animals and future plans. I was to head off with Murray again, the other two guys were off with Sheldon, and after their reports of his extremely fast stalking whilst still suffering from a chest infection, I was somewhat relieved.

    Today we were to stalk a different area. As we entered the property a kudu cow quickly crossed our path as we headed to the start of our stalk. We walked to the edge of a valley and glassed the other side, a common reedbuck stood motionless for around ten minutes near the top of the adjacent hill. In fact the lack of movement made me do a double take as I very briefly checked to see if it was a reedbuck of just a collection of antelope shaped branches!

    We headed to our left and made our way slowly along a ridge, after some time a common duiker was seen feeding on the other side.
    There are twenty two species of duiker found throughout Africa. Their name is a rough Dutch translation of ‘diver’ due to their habit of diving for cover into vegetation when alarmed. When my friend G discussed the hunting package with me the first time he ran through the species on offer. I did wonder at the time if two duiker would be ambitious, I had seen them in Tsolwana national Park on my previous visit, but only caught fleeting glimpses of them. These small omnivorous antelope are predated upon by a number of species and are thus quite jumpy. Now though I had my chance to take my first.

    I was seated quite comfortably sat on my backside on the opposite side of the valley to where the small antelope fed. We had some small shooting sticks with us which allowed me to get into a comfortable position easily. Murray had ranged the duiker at 180 yards and so I took aim allowing for two inches to the right due to a heavy crosswind. The male duiker dropped immediately, the relatively heavy 180 grain round being more than enough for such small quarry. The bullet had struck just behind his left leg and exited through the front chest cavity.

    Duiker are territorial and often rest up on high ground allowing them to observe their territories. Mine was taken near the top of this picture feeding whilst facing away from us.

    A close up shot of the small horns the males grow.

    A couple of hours later I managed to shoot another female impala, this one being selected for camp, a younger female as she was for the table. Impala venison makes good eating and we tried both impala back strap and impala stroganoff.

    Tuesday would turn out to be a day of two very different experiences. We had booked a cull package, and whilst we had hunted previously, after lunch we were now to try driven blesbok shooting on a property which Murray and Co had not tried this on before. Murray was keen to stress that this had nothing what so ever to do with hunting, which we all agreed with and acknowledged.

    The other property contained a large herd of both normal and white blesbok. The plan was to place three guns strategically and have the trackers drive the two trucks to try and herd the blesbok to where they could be examined and suitable animals removed. Having never undertaken any kind of driven shooting I really didn’t know what to expect.

    As it turned out it was quite interesting, in time a herd of almost one hundred blesbok charged into view. I could actually see one particular animal struggling to keep pace with the herd as it appeared to limp very badly, after some time waiting the struggling animal was in front of us in a dip with only its head visible. I managed to take a head shot at two hundred yards knocking over the ewe. Upon inspection the animal had a broken leg. How she managed to still run around is testament to just how tough these African animals can be. I took a close look at her knee and was quite pleased that I’d been able to dispatch her as she must have been suffering terribly.

    Blesbok cull ewe showing the .30-06 exit wound.

    The same ewe’s broken leg.

    I later took a cull ram with a boiler room shot. He toppled over but then got up a minute later and started walking, I prepared to take a second shot, but then he stumbled again. Murray suspected my shot had been a little too far back, though when we recovered him the bullet had pierced both lungs and his heart, further evidence of just how tough some of these animals are.

    I heard additional shots in the distance and assumed W and G had also been successful. Our PH’s had radios with them and it was very interesting to hear them discussing which animals within the herd needed to be taken. Although this wasn’t a true hunting experience, it was good to see how the animals are selected for culls etc.

    Soon afterwards I saw my first steenbok, an antelope even smaller than the common duiker. It ran in front of us before stopping and going to ground. There it sat calmly around three hundred yards from us and didn’t move. By now the blesbok were becoming increasingly difficult to move around, the trackers seemed to have real trouble keeping pace with them and I didn’t expect to get another shot that day, until another common duiker ram appeared in front of us. Murray asked if I wanted to go after him, which of course I did. We moved forward quickly to get into a position in which I could shoot off the sticks. He was just shy of two hundred yards away from us before dropping to another boiler room shot.

    As the sun started to set we joined up with everyone else to see how they’d done. Both guys had taken cull blesbok. So our trip also included a little bit of cull shooting, from now on though, we’d be hunting for the rest of our trip. And the following day I was to try again for my kudu bull.
    Last edited by MJ75; 13-06-2014 at 19:50.

  10. #10
    Keep it coming Jarrod.

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