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 (www.settlerssafaris.co.za).
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…
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.