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Thread: My first African Hunting Trip.

  1. #1

    My first African Hunting Trip.

    Africa Calls!!!

    “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”. Helen Keller.

    It was always meant to be that I would end up hunting in Africa one day, though it eventually happened in a very roundabout way. I had embarked upon an adventure in March of 2014 to Madagascar and the famed Castor Bank in search of free dive spearfishing’s holy grail the mighty “Dogtooth Tuna”. As a precursor to that trip my wife and I visited a friend living in South Africa just outside Nelspruit. We stayed there for 10 days and during this time visited Kruger National park and Kings Camp in the Timbavati Game reserve. We had such a wonderful time I had been eager to return as soon as I could. Africa was calling!!!!

    For those that have never been to Africa you probably won’t understand the attraction but once you have been Africa somehow keeps calling you back.

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    During the latter part of the year I began planning a follow up spearfishing trip to Mozambique with Richard Leonard, also an avid spearfisherman and African spearfishing guru, to take place in October of 2015. Unforeseen circumstances however caused the cancellation of that trip, desperate to salvage something of the trip I reached out to Richard and explained my dilemma. I proposed that my son and I would still make the trip and we could instead travel up South Africa’s east coast and Spearfish when the weather allowed and try something else if it didn’t. My son had recently completed school and was about to leave home and embark on a career of his own, so this may be my last opportunity to do something like this with him for quite some time. I discussed this with my wife and she agreed it was a good idea. However we were informed that the weather at that time of year could quite easily scuttle our plans. Rich then mentioned, "Why not come out and hunt with me" Now that was right up my alley and something I had wanted to do for many years. Rich then suggested he could quite easily work within the original budget set for the Mozambique trip so I asked him to put together a few different options for us.
    He hastily agreed and when I received his options I was simply stunned at what he proposed. He suggested we hunt in the East Cape region of South Africa for 5 days; we would then travel to another location in the Karoo and hunt for 2 days. Then to top things off we would travel to the Kalahari and hunt for a further 5 days. He was proposing to hunt, Kudu, Impala, Black and Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Lechwe, Zebra,Waterbuck, Gemsbok, Warthog, Hartebeest, and Springbok. After checking he was not joking I gave him the go ahead to make arrangements. Richard owns a media company called In The Zone Media Productions and was not only going to arrange a hunt of a life time for us but he was also going to bring the ITZ Media crew out to film our hunt for a series he produces called African Hunter.
    The intervening months dragged by ever so slowly, the only thing that made them remotely tolerable was regular sessions at the rifle range practicing shooting. I asked Rich how do I best prepare for hunting in Africa and Rich said the best thing you can do is practice as much as you can shooting off sticks. He said 99% of the shots we would take would be off sticks and in his experience most visitors that come to Africa to hunt end up shooting a lot worse than normal because they are not used to or are not prepared to shoot off sticks.

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    Preparing to take a shot from sticks in the field.

    For some reason in Australia shooting off sticks is unheard of, I can’t for the life of me think why it’s just the way it is. Maybe it’s that old delusional thinking that we men have that we are just naturally good at some things like fixing cars and shooting. Sadly most of us are not that good at either and need as much practice as we can, so with this in mind I cobbled together a set of sticks and set to shooting as often as I could.

    I decided that due to the length of time it takes to get the permits required I would not take my own rifle but use one supplied by the PH at each location, and thinking at some point I may end up using a .375 H&H I decided to practice with my 45-70 being as though it had roughly the same amount of recoil. Once I included my son in the practice sessions it did not take long to deplete my supplies of both powder and primers and I was fast running out of projectiles as well. It was around this time that I came to the realization that although my rifle barrel was stamped 47-70govt, it was actually chambered for $5 notes!!!! Still that was a minor expense in the overall scheme of things and the extra practice certainly paid dividends later with not one animal lost to a poor shot.

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    One of our practice targets from a range session.

    As the departure date for our trip drew nearer both Jack and I were getting very excited and were pouring over every available piece of information we could. I discovered 2 very good web sites
    African Hunting and Accurate reloading, both have forums and are extremely informative, I highly recommend a visit as there is a wealth of information on each site. it was through one of these forums that I was pointed toward Gary Pegg of South Pacific Taxidermy in Melbourne. I gave Garry a call and we discussed the requirements for importing trophies into Australia, it is actually quite an involved process and the paperwork is not so simple, suffice to say I have since enlisted Gary;s services to import my trophies.
    During this time I was also having plenty of email conversations with Richard regarding where we would be hunting and what conditions to expect, what clothes would be suitable for each area etc. Well you would not believe it but Rich arranged a clothing sponsor for the trip and Jack and I were kitted out in local camo, something we really did not expect. As you can see in the pictures below the terrain varied greatly from the hills of the East Cape to the sands of the Kalahari Savanna. The surprising thing about the difference in terrain is that the shots taken in the East cape tended to be around the 200mt range while in the Kalahari they were shorter being around 100mts sometimes less. This is mainly due to the ground being much flatter and a little more open allowing you to stalk bush to bush a little easier and being sandy a lot quieter.

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    The Hills of the East Cape.

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    A big Eland Bull grazing in the Kalahari Savannah.
    Richard gave me the run down on what to pack and what sort of weather to expect and we ended up fitting all our gear in the one bag, this left us a spare bag to pack with souvenirs to bring home, which was fortunate as my wife had her heart set on a Zebra skin rug and we could now avoid the possibility of excess luggage fees.
    Eventually our departure date came around and we boarded our overnight flight from Perth to Sydney and then after an uneventful flight and breakfast in the Qantas lounge we boarded our flight from Sydney to Johannesburg. At long last I was on my way back to Africa, though this time I would have my son with me and we would be hunting. We landed at Johannesburg's O.R.Tambo airport some 14 hours later after a very pleasant flight and cleared immigration then collected our luggage. We made our way to the City Lodge hotel, a short 200 meter walk and checked in, after dinner and a couple of drinks we turned in for the night. The following morning we walked back to the Airport and checked in for our flight to Port Elizabeth. A short hour and a half or so later we were met in Port Elizabeth by Richard and introduced to Greg and Jacu the ITZ media crew who would be accompanying us on this trip.

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    Our first Destination the mountains of the East Cape clearly visible in the Background.
    It was amazing seeing Rich again, it had been over a year since our Madagascar trip together and it seemed like no time had passed at all. Our gear was soon loaded and we were off in the Land-rover headed out on an African adventure. Together we would smell the smoke of Africa and walk the sands of the Kalahari.

  2. #2
    Excellent Write Up....

    As I'm planning my own adventure to South Africa this year....

    Can't wait for the rest of the story....


  3. #3
    Looking forward to the second instalment!

  4. #4
    We arrived at our destination early in the afternoon and our host, PH Chris Bolton was there to meet us as we pulled up in a cloud of dust and barking dogs. After a round of introductions we were shown our rooms, the Dining facilities and the general lay out of the Camp. We quickly unloaded and changed before having something to eat and drink and discussing the plans for the afternoon. Chris wanted to make sure we could safely handle a rifle and see how good we could shoot so our first point of call was his rifle range. He had a great bench set up and two targets set at 100 and 200mts, we were to be using a .300wsm fitted with a suppressor. I had never used a supressed rifle before and now I have I can honestly say, the reduction in muzzle blast and recoil was amazing. I was even able to use the .300wsm comfortably without any hearing protection. We fired 5 shots each and once Chris was happy we packed up the shooting gear and Chris gave us a tour of some of the property. He has a wonderful place set in the mountains slightly East of a prominent formation known as the Cocks Comb.
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    The view of Cock's Comb just after sunset from a hill on the concession.

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    The mountain country of the East Cape we hunted.

    After our tour we returned to the Lodge where Chris and Toni treated us to pre dinner drinks and appetizers straight from the Brai, followed by a dinner fit for a king complete with the freshest organic produce grown on the farm. Chris and Toni are passionate about growing their own fruit and vegetables and serve only the best, they also have their own brand of Honey. In fact they take their environment so seriously they ask that you only use the Eco friendly toiletries they supply to ensure that no chemicals are introduced into the local ecosystem. This care is evident by the number of frogs and birds present around the lodge.

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    The Brai and Bar area at the Lodge.
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    Chris told us he had been watching an old Red Lechwe Bull for some time and he wanted me to try and take it as my first Trophy the following morning. He explained how we would hunt the area, it was very thickly covered in parts and very hilly, so we would use a glass and stalk method. After dinner and a couple of drinks we all retired to bed eager to start out hunt first thing in the morning. It did not take long before I drifted off to a restful sleep listening to the relaxing soft croaking of frogs.

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    A group of Lechwe Bulls grazing.
    We were up early for a light breakfast of Toast, Coffee and Rusk's before loading our gear into the vehicle ready to start our hunt, we were joined by Chris's tracker Lionel and his dog Chester. We drove for a while to a prominent ridge that ran North South and began glassing the valley floor below, looking for any game animals. Chris soon spotted the Lechwe grazing alone about 2 kilometers away, he pointed it out and we had a quick chat about how we would stalk the Bull. We decided to walk along behind the ridge for a couple of hundred meters then cross and drop down into the head of a gully and into the base of a watercourse that ran to within 200 meters of where the Lechwe was grazing. From there it was going to be a bush to bush stalk until we got to within shooting range. Lionel would stay on the ridge with Chester and watch the stalk, he would then join us when we had hopefully been successful.

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    On The Ridge getting ready to set up to glass the valley below.

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    The view from the ridge with the Watercourse cutting through the center of the picture.

    We set off heading South behind the ridge and after about 300 meters we reached a low saddle, we crossed the ridge in cover and dropped into the watercourse heading West. We stalked our way down the watercourse climbing over and under all manner of branches and exposed tree roots. At one stage almost treading in an underground Bee hive. About 40 minutes later things started to flatten out as we neared the point we would have to stalk bush to bush, Chris went a little ahead and called us forward one at a time, we soon found ourselves in a small depression surrounded by bush.
    Chris quietly informed us the Lechwe was only a hundred or so meters away in a clearing on the other side of the bush. He indicated a position on the side of the depression where he thought was the best place to take a shot from. We crawled to the spot and as quietly as possible set up the sticks and camera gear, once everything was in place Chris motioned for me to get set to take the shot.
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    Set up for the shot on the Lechwe Bull with Richard from ITZ Productions filming the action.
    As I rested the rifle over the sticks I could see that the Lechwe knew something was up, he was nervously looking around trying to make out what was wrong. I had just settled the cross hairs on his chest and began to take up the trigger when he suddenly stared strait at us. At that instant I noticed him shift his weight and knew he was about to bolt, I took the shot right then knowing I would not get another chance. The Lechwe collapsed as the bullet hit and did not move it was a text book shot and we were all very relieved after such a long stalk with a camera crew.

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    I took the shot from bushes behind the small clear area on the left, the Ridge we glassed from is in the background.
    No one was more relieved than Chris and I, Chris had just successful guided a hunter his son and a 3 man camera crew to within 80 meters of an animal and got the film crew set up without getting busted, and I had just taken the shot on film, any mistakes on our part would have blown the footage. The Camera crew were also amazing and managed to do their part without getting spotted either, all up we could not have asked for a better result, I had my first Trophy and Richard, Greg and Jacu had captured some amazing footage and Photographs.

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    Just about to run, time to take the shot.

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    The Shot

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    He's Down.

    As Chris and I slowly approached the Lechwe I pulled some grass from the ground to place in his mouth, a hunters tradition of providing the animal with a last meal out of respect.

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    The Lechwe Bull where he fell.
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    Myself, my Son Jack and PH Chris Bolton with my Lechwe.
    As we posed for Jacu to take more photographs and waited for Lionel to arrive with a vehicle Chris explained a little about Red Lechwe and why he had chosen this animal for me to take. He showed me the plants it was browsing and I noticed they were all small succulents. He then told me this was because the Bull was very old and had worn away all his teeth, he could not chew the coarser browse plants and would likely starve over the coming summer. We looked in his mouth and sure enough he had no teeth just raw gums where they had been worn away, I was pleased to have been able to give him a much more dignified end than slow starvation would have.
    Once Lionel arrived we loaded the Lechwe into the Bakkie and began the drive back to the Lodge, Lionel would take care of the caping and skinning of the animal while we had a bite to eat and some coffee. We also took the opportunity and backed up and went over the footage and photos we had taken to make sure we had made no mistakes.

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    Last edited by Chris Wood; 27-01-2016 at 08:13.

  5. #5
    Chris then told us he would like us to try and stalk a Waterbuck as our next animal and asked if I was comfortable taking a long shot over 200 meters if needed, I said I was and would let him know if I felt the shot was too long. Chris went and checked with Lionel to see how he was going then returned to tell us to be ready to leave in about half an hour. We relaxed in the bar area and discussed the type of footage we would like to shoot and future hunts we would like to undertake as we waited.

    Chester eager to get out hunting as always.

    Within a few minutes of Lionel and Chester arriving we once again jumped in the Bakkie and headed off this time to try and stalk a Waterbuck, we passed the ridge we had glassed from earlier and crossed a flowing creek, then crossed another small ridge before dropping down into a wide shallow valley. Chris pointed out that a number of creeks flowed through this area and it was a good spot to look for Waterbuck as they do not like to be too far from a water source.
    With this in mind and with the temperature starting to get up a bit we figured that it would not be too long and the Waterbuck would be coming down from the hillsides to get a drink. We set up in the shade and started glassing the surrounding hillsides for movement, and it didn't take too long for Lionel to spot a group of 3 big Waterbuck Bulls making their way down the hillside. Lionel pointed them out to Chris and he had a look and confirmed they were all good Bulls over 30 inches. Chris said we must hurry as they would cross the creek some 500 meters from us quickly drink, and then head off into the thick scrub to rest during the heat of the day.

    One of the Group of Waterbuck we were stalking having a quick look in our direction, luckily he didn't see us.

    Luckily the wind was in our favor and we used the creek line as cover to quickly close in on the group or a better look. We crossed the creek numerous times back and forth through the thorn bushes that grew on the banks. All the while Chris was somehow keeping an eye on the Waterbuck as they continued to move toward high ground. We finally had to leave the cover of the creek and stalked for 300 or so meters bush to bush before covering the last 100 meters crawling. The Waterbuck were standing in the shade getting ready to bed down so we did not have long.
    Richard and Greg got set up as quickly and quietly as possible, while at the same time Chris set up the sticks. The distance was just over 200 meters so I decided to take a sitting shot for better stability, I slowly and carefully shuffled myself from behind a bush to behind the sticks, all the while watching the Waterbuck.
    When I was ready I told Chris and he quietly confirmed which animal I was to take and to take the shot when I was ready. I took a few deep breaths and let the crosshairs settle on the Waterbuck's shoulder as I slowly squeezed the trigger. As soon as the trigger broke I knew the shot was good and I heard the sound of a solid hit come back, the Waterbuck bunched up and jumped at the hit and ran a few meters before falling over in the open between two trees. Chris watched for a few minutes through the binoculars before turning to congratulate me on a good shot and another trophy animal. Once again Richard, Greg and Jacu had captured the entire stalk without me even noticing them being there.

    Waterbuck Bull in the shade ready to bed down for the day

    A good solid hit

    Landing and trying to run.

    The Waterbuck goes down less than 10 meters from the shot.

    My Trophy Waterbuck, later measured at 33 inches.

    We Called Lionel on the radio and he was quickly on his way. It was starting to get hot so we had to take the trophy photographs quickly and get the Waterbuck out of the sun and into the cool room at the lodge as quickly as possible to prevent the meat spoiling. Once Jacu had taken the photos we all loaded the Waterbuck into the Bakkie and headed off back to the lodge, Lionel would then cape and skin the Waterbuck in the cool-room while we had some lunch and a rest. As we drove through the bush on the way I found it hard to believe what we had just achieved, two trophy animals and it was only the first day!!! what surprises would the afternoon hunt bring?

    We ate a wonderful lunch and had a rest for a few hours before gearing up and heading out for an afternoon hunt. Lionel once again picked us up and we set off for the mountains to the West of the lodge. Chris had told us of a herd of Black Wildebeest living in a high basin that he wanted to cull and had offered to let my son Jack take one as his first game animal.

    The view of the track leading to the Mountains where Jack hunted Black Wildebeest while shrouded in cloud.

    Jack was very eager to hunt his first game animal and as we climbed higher into the mountains the temperature started to drop and the wind picked up. When we reached one of the highest points we stopped and glassed the surrounding hillsides and basins for game. Chris spotted the Wildebeest in a basin well over a kilometer away to the North and we set about stalking them, we crossed a small depression and as we topped a small rise we could see that we could get no closer from this angle.

    The Wildebeest were in the center of the picture in open ground making an approach from this angle impossible, so we backed off and stalked in through a gully out of frame to the right.

    We then backed off behind the rise and circled to the West to approach with the late afternoon sun behind us, Chris told us they were very unlikely to look into the sun so they should not see us even though we would be exposed for about the last 200 meters of the stalk. As we slowly stalked closer a huge bank of cloud began to roll over the mountain tops and the temperature dropped even further, I was glad I had decided to bring a jacket.

    Circling around to approach the wildebeest from the West the small gully we used as cover in the background.

    The wind was howling by now and I was getting a little worried about Jack making the shot in these conditions. The Wildebeest were starting to get a little unsettled by the wind and started milling around nervously, Chris quietly reassured us they would not leave the basin unless they saw or scented us as it was the best shelter for a few kilometers. We continued slowly over now open ground all the while keeping low with the sun behind us to a point some 250 meters from the herd.

    Jack and Chris Bolton in the gully with the cloud bank just about to roll over the mountain tops.

    Chris suggested that this was about as close as we were going to get in the current conditions and asked if Jack was ok to take a shot, he replied he was and Chris quickly set up the sticks. Jack settled behind the sticks with Chris at his side and they quickly identified the correct animal and Chris gave his ok to shoot. The wind was still buffeting us from the side and just as Jack took the shot a particularly strong gust hit and caused him to shoot wide, the bullet striking a rock in front of the Wildebeest. The rock then hit the animal on the hoof making it jump and run in a circle, luckily the wind was strong enough to muffle the sound of the shot and the Wildebeest stood still looking at the offending rock long enough for Jack to take another shot.

    Chris coaching Jack through the set up and his first Game Animal a nice Black Wildebeest.

    His second shot was perfect and hit the Wildebeest squarely on the shoulder, the animal turned and tried to run before falling down less than 30 meters from where it stood. Jack made up for his first shot with a perfect double lung shot in very difficult conditions. Chris shook Jack's hand and congratulated him on not only his first ever Game Animal but his first African Game Animal. Once again the crew had set up the cameras and recorded the whole stalk from start to shot without being noticed or getting in the way and we had some amazing footage to view later back at the lodge.

    Jack looking very pleased with his first African Game Animal a Black Wildebeest.

    Lionel was quickly on the scene and we all pitched in to carry the animal a short distance to a point where we could gain access with the Bakkie, Lionel then retrieved the vehicle and we loaded the Wildebeest into the back. The journey back to the lodge was spectacular with the sun setting behind the mountains giving us a postcard view of the Cocks Comb in the distance. I was extremely happy to have been able to share the days events with my son and to have him take a fine trophy on his first day of the hunt was amazing.

    The late afternoon sun behind the Cocks Comb.
    Back at the Lodge we packed away all our gear, backed up our footage, put the camera batteries on charge and quickly showered before meeting up in the dining area for pre dinner drinks and appetizers. We discussed the days events and made jokes about Jack shooting a rock which he took well telling us it was all planned to distract the Wildebeest. We were than treated to another wonderful dinner of Kudu steaks and fresh vegetables followed by desert. We talked for a short time before the days activity caught up with us and sent us all off to bed, tired but contented I once again drifted off to sleep with the sounds of the the frogs helping me on my way.
    We could not have asked for a better end to our first day of hunting, what a way to start our African adventure.

    A Hunters Reflections

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    Last edited by Chris Wood; 27-01-2016 at 09:10.

  6. #6
    nice write up Chris and a fantastic hunt...Love the Lechwe

  7. #7
    Thank you RickyC the Lechwe is definitely my favorite animal from the trip, I did get some other fine trophies later in the trip too.
    I hope you enjoy reading about the remainder of our adventure as much as you have the first day.

    A Kudu Hunt in Pebble Paradise. ( Day 2

    We were all up nice and early, as Chris was taking us to his favorite Kudu spot on a property just over an hours drive away. We ate a hearty breakfast, collected our lunch packs for the day and loaded our gear into the trusty Landy then followed Chris and Lionel as they drove ahead through the predawn darkness. As we traveled we saw lights inside distant farm houses as the golden glow of the coming sunrise started to show in the East, I was getting pretty eager to hunt as the dawn broke and was hoping our good fortune would hold and see us with a nice Kudu Bull before the end of the day. We soon turned off the road and into the farm just as it was light enough to see and arrived at the farmhouse a short time later. We soon arrived at the farm house to meet the farmer and discuss our plans with him, he kindly gave us a little local advise and wished us good luck before he headed off to begin his day.

    A small Valley on the side of the hill complex we dubbed Pebble Paradise.
    We then drove for another 15 minutes or so then stopped and unloaded our gear, we were at the base of a complex of hills and valleys covered in Jade plants, Thorn trees and pebbles!!!. These were not just ordinary pebbles, they were almost perfectly round and varied from Grapefruit sized to Mellon sized and the whole hill complex was covered in them!!!.

    Imagine trying to stalk in these pebbles, It was hard work to say the least
    We left Lionel, Jack and Jacu with the vehicle while Chris. Myself. Richard and Greg entered what we later dubbed "Pebble Paradise" as there was no way we could all stalk through this. It was extremely hard going not because of the cover but the pebbles, every step had to be taken with care as the ground was so uneven, each step was a potential broken ankle if not careful. We eventually made our way to the top of the first hill and started to glass the surrounding hillsides and the valley below, and there were Kudu cows everywhere. The way their ears stuck out reminded me a lot of the Sambar Deer I had long ago hunted back home.

    Kudu Cows, yes their ears do stand out don't they.
    This place was Kudu paradise, and I must say they did pick a very safe place to live, it would be virtually impossible to get much closer than 100 meters from one without getting seen or making noise and alerting them. After glassing for sometime we decided there were no big bulls in this valley and we backed off and circled round to check the next one. The next valley system was much the same but had a couple of nice looking sets of horns protruding from the bush in places, the only problem being we couldn't see the animals they were attached too. Still we pressed on as quietly as we could trying our best not to slip and send showers of pebbles careening noisily down the hillside, and for the most part we succeeded. The ITZ camera crew following us did an amazing job of keeping quiet and once again we didn’t even notice they were there, how they filmed and photographed in these conditions without blowing our cover I have no idea.

    Stalking Pebble Paradise was not an easy proposition.

    Each step had the potential to blow an ankle.

    We continued with this for most of the morning and got to look at quite a few sets of very impressive horns but just not the bodies supporting them. At one stage I had a big bull Kudu moving through the bush toward the top of a ridge and Chris put the sticks down in anticipation of him stopping for a look as he topped the ridge. I followed him all the way up in the scope but he never truly broke cover and didn't stop as he topped out and disappeared over the back of the ridge.

    A Kudu bull making his way over a ridge, one of many we saw that day.
    Chris and I, frustrated having just watched the best animal of the day walk over a ridge without presenting a shot.
    By this stage of the day it was starting to get a little hot and we began circling back towards the area where the vehicle and our lunch were located. It was a fair distance back to the vehicle and we discussed how far we thought we had walked over the morning as we made our way back, Greg had the GPS on the whole time and told us he would check later. When we arrived back at the vehicle we all made a dash for the cool drinks in the cooler, closely followed by opening up our lunch packs and hungrily tucking in to the offerings. Greg took the opportunity to check the GPS and informed us we had walked just over 10kms on our mornings hunt. We then all picked a shady tree each to have a bit of a rest under for a couple of hours during the midday heat, I even managed to drift of and get a short nap. I woke up about 45 minutes later to see a Kudu Cow and two immature Bulls looking straight at me wondering what the heck I was.

    The Cow is in the centre and the two Bulls are above and to the right in the shade under the tree.
    One of the many immature bulls we saw during the day.
    We had a short discussion and decided to glass a different hill complex from a nearby ridge and if that came up a dud we would return to Pebble Paradise and hunt a different side. We drove up onto the ridge and glassed for some time but didn't see anything of note, so we decided to walk to the next ridge and glass again from there but again we drew a blank. Chris suggested that our best chance for a Kudu was back in Pebble Paradise and as it was getting late in the afternoon we agreed that we should go back and try again.

    An Old abandoned farm house near Pebble Paradise, the hills we hunted in the afternoon are in the background.
    We knew there were plenty of good Kudu there it was just a matter of finding the right one before we lost too much light and had to call it a day. I felt sorry for Jack and Jacu as they had been left out of the mornings hunt and now there was nothing for them this afternoon either, and they were left alone again. We made our way back into the bush and ankle snapping terrain and hunted as best we could, we glassed every hillside and stalked as quietly as possible, I was fast becoming aware of the many reasons Kudu are often referred to as the Grey Ghost. Unfortunately despite our best efforts we failed to find a decent Kudu Bull before we ran out of usable light. Slightly dejected we made our way back to the vehicle and packed our gear away. In the fading light we made the journey back to the farm house to thank the farmer and were treated to a spectacular sunset that afforded us the opportunity to take some amazing pictures and capture some truly iconic African images.

    Jacu the ITZ photographer managed to capture this amazing picture of a Kudu Bull just on last light with the aid of a telephoto lens.

    After thanking the farmer for the opportunity to hunt his amazing property we began the drive back to the lodge with the burning orange glow of another African day slowly fading over the horizon. We were tired, slightly dehydrated but content with the effort we had put in, our legs ached, our ankles were swollen and our feet were sore but we would do it all again in a heart beat. The hour's drive back to the lodge passed quickly enough and we were soon showered and clean, with the dirt and dust of a hard day hunting scrubbed from our skin and washed from our hair.
    Ice cold drinks quenched our thirst and we soon filled ourselves with Toni's home cooking before settling down to relax. Our thirst and hunger now satisfied and with Toni's chocolate pudding sitting heavy in our bellies, one by one we all slowly succumbed to the exertion of the days hunting and made our way to bed. Once again I drifted off to sleep with the refreshing chill of the evening air gently creeping through the open window and the frogs croaking out their soft relaxing chorus.

    A Hunters Reflections

    Last edited by Chris Wood; 27-01-2016 at 23:39.

  8. #8

    nice write up! Africa is unbelievable isn't she?
    Patrick Reynecke (Bushwack Safaris)
    Mobile:+27 82 773 4099

  9. #9
    Chris. Thanks for sharing and some very nice trophies you got there!!!

    Gerrit jv Vuuren PH & Outfitter
    Bos en Dal Safaris- South Africa
    Home - Bos en Dal Safaris

  10. #10
    Africa truly is amazing, Thanks for all the positive comments guys, I hope you enjoy reading more about my trip.

    A Hunters Reflections

    Impala by the Sea.

    Right from the start today was going to be a special day regardless of our hunting success, Chris was excited to be taking us to a special place where the Impala grow very unique horns and today was Jacks turn to be shooting. We were again up before dawn and despite being somewhat sore from the previous days exertion we were all keen to get going. After fueling up on breakfast we loaded the vehicles and followed Chris on the drive to what turned out to be a special place in far more ways than we expected. The travel time was close to 2 hours and took us through some small towns, but it passed very quickly as we went by all manner of people beginning another day, each in their own unique way.

    As we turned off the main road and started to wind our way through hills and valleys the scenery changed from outer urban to remote jungle despite being less than an hour from a town. As we topped a ridge the jungle closed in completely and we found ourselves in a tunnel of vegetation the light only just filtering through the dense canopy.

    The number of Lechwe along the river was astounding.

    Winding our way down hill we suddenly emerged from the jungle and opening up before us was the most beautiful valley complete with a river, manicured banks and literally hundreds of Lechwe standing in the river and grazing along the banks. Set right in the middle of this was a beautiful old Farm House and Stone Barn. We stopped behind the barn and unpacked our gear from the Landy and loaded up Chris's Bakkie, Chris had a short conversation with the land owner and we were soon on our way. We then crossed the river and climbed out of the valley and up the side of a very high hill, high enough in fact that the air became noticeably cooler as we climbed. From the top of the hill we were treated to the view of the valley below with the river snaking it's way to spill into the sea.

    The view of the river valley below, you would not believe this is less than an hour from a town.

    After sumiting the hill we drove downhill through more jungle for a short time then almost magically the jungle gave way and opened up to reveal lush green pasture dotted here and there with small trees and behind all of this lay the Indian Ocean, miles of uninterrupted beach and the town of Jeffreys Bay only just visible far to the South.. The pasture was almost completely open and fringed with impenetrable jungle, Chris explained that this was a dairy farm at one stage and pointed out a derelict set of yards and shed in the distance. I knew strait away that stalking Impala in this open country was going to be a real mission, they could see us from over a kilometer away, Jack was going to have to be on the ball here and play his "A" game to secure a trophy that was for sure. We stopped on the very edge of the clear country and unloaded our gear before Toni backed the vehicle up the track out of view and parked up in the shade with Lionel and Chester.

    Stalking here was going to be extremely hard.
    We set out walking along the edge of the jungle until we spotted a herd if Impala in the distance, Chris then set up the sticks and spotting scope and glassed over them looking for a nice Buck. After searching through the herd, he decided that one of them was good enough to warrant a stalk. We began by dropping into a low spot out of view and making ground at a crouch until it became necessary to crawl to avoid being spotted. Fortunately the grass was extremely tall and it was not too much trouble to stay hidden if we moved slowly. We passed a small clump of bushes as we circled around the side of a small hill and I decided this was as far as I would go, I did not want to blow the stalk for Jack. I hid myself in a clump of bushes and took photos and filmed Chris, Jack and the ITZ crew completing the stalk.

    Jack and Chris in the later stages of a stalk, I took the opportunity to hang back and film.

    Chris, Jack and the Crew almost completely hidden and almost ready to take a shot
    As I was filming hidden from view, a small herd of Hartebeest appeared from behind us and decided to wander over and check us out. I could not believe it they just walked strait towards Jack and Chris and the rest of the crew, who were at this point totally unaware of what was happening. They eventually got to a point where they were down wind of us and once they scented us they started snorting and jumping around nervously. Unfortunately this alerted the Impala and they retreated over the next hill. The Hartebeest then proceeded to run to where the Impala had been effectively blocking any chance we had of following them.

    The Hartebeest just as they scented us.
    Ok Game's up, the Hartebeest herd that ruined our stalk standing in place of the Impala blocking our approach to the hill behind.
    With our cover now blown we decided to have a short break, so we sat just below the ridge line and had a cool drink and a small snack. It is amazing how you loose all sense of time when concentrating on stalking and we were stunned to discover we had been stalking for close to 3 hours. As we rested up we glassed to try and locate another herd of Impala and were rewarded in finding one a couple of kilometers away. This would give us plenty of opportunity to plan our route to avoid being sky-lined or spotted in the open. So having found the Impala, once more we set off down hill and out of their view.

    The second herd of Impala only just visible on the distant ridge, we managed to stalk to just beyond the big tree to the right.
    Again we used the grounds contours and stayed hidden for most of the way, ending up in a dark shady patch under a tree. Just beyond the tree was a small ridge and Chris, Jack and the ITZ Crew crawled through the grass until they were just over the ridge. I stayed behind again and watched the proceedings from the shade. Chris had managed to get Jack to within about 250mts of the Impala and that was as close as he was going to get. Ever so slowly Chris set up the sticks and Jack shuffled into a sitting position behind them, they were in plain view but the Impala had not seen them yet so they had to be careful, any sudden movement would draw attention for sure. Richard and Greg slowly got into position and had the cameras set up and rolling to capture the shot, once everyone was set Chris told Jack which Impala Ram he wanted him to take and made sure Jack had the correct one. He than told Jack to relax and take his time, and to take the shot when he was ready.

    Chris and Jack watching the Impala as the ITZ crew set up behind them.

    Everyone is set, Chris is confirming with Jack which animal to take.

    Everyone in position ready to take the shot.
    I could not see the Impala from my viewpoint so I never saw what happened, but after the shot I never heard the sound of a solid hit, I herd Chris telling Jack to reload quickly . Jack had missed and the Impala were now running towards the Jungle. Jack reloaded and followed them as they ran, and about 100 meters from the edge of the bush they stopped for a last look back, Jack made up for his earlier miss and put a perfect double lung shot into the Ram. It ran again at the hit but started to stumble within a few meters and was quickly down. We sat quietly and watched for a few minutes to take in what had just transpired and Chris congratulated Jack on making up for his miss and securing a fine Impala Ram.

    Jack with the downed Impala Ram in the distance.
    Chris had a big smile on his face as he led us down the hill to the downed Ram, as we got closer he said "see the shape of the horn tips, that's what makes these Impala so unique" he was so pleased to see Jack secure such a distinctive and uniquely shaped trophy.

    Chris explaining to Jack and I that the outward curve of the horn tips makes the Impala from this area unique.

    Jack with his Impala notice the outward curve of the horn tips.

    We called Toni and Lionel on the radio and while they were coming we took a ton of pictures. Greg took the opportunity to put a camera on a drone and Richard flew it to capture some extra footage and stills. The aerial footage really demonstrated to us how effective the proper use of ground contours was when stalking open spaces like this.

    Greg playing with toy's.
    Drone footage of the area, notice how deceptively contoured the ground is.

    The open space made us use the contours of the ground when stalking, making a relatively short distance into a long stalk.

    Jack was absolutely ecstatic having secured such a wonderful trophy in such an amazing and picturesque place, it wasn't long and Toni and Lionel arrived with the vehicle and as we loaded the Impala into the back we noticed three Giraffe watching us from a nearby hill. How long they had been watching we didn't know but how amazing it was to be treated to such a variety of animals in one place.

    Giraffe watching the proceedings from a nearby hill.
    We drove back to the Farmhouse and Lionel caped the Impala in the shade while we packed up our gear and ate a little lunch. We then loaded the Landy once again and prepared to drive back out, thinking we had seen pretty much all there was to see we nearly put our camera gear away, fortunately we decided to keep it handy. We hadn't gone more than a few hundred meters when a huge Lechwe Bull stepped out into the open and watched us for a few minutes as we excitedly filmed him and took his photo.

    A really impressive Lechwe Bull out in the open.

    Our next treat wasn't far away either, after leaving the Lechwe Bull we traveled a little further and out of nowhere a Grysbok ran across the track and stopped just inside the brush line watching us. There was no way we could pass up this opportunity, so once again out came the cameras for another quick film and photo session. It is not very often you get a chance to photograph one of these tiny Antelope at such close range. Being so small and secretive they are not often seen, and when they are it is so often just a fleeting glance as they disappear into the bush.

    It's not often you get the chance to photograph one of these guy's a beautiful Grysbok.
    This was the final treat this place was to show us and we were soon on our way again, arriving back at the lodge some 2 hours later after an uneventful drive. As we unpacked our gear Chris suggested that as there were still a few hours of usable daylight remaining we should take the opportunity to try one last time for Kudu. He told us he often sees them late in the afternoon in a particular area up in the mountains near where Jack took his Wildebeest. We jumped at the chance to be back up in that spectacular mountain country, how could we refuse such a chance. We drove to some really exceptional vantage points and glassed for ages but saw nothing but Kudu Cows and Calves. Chris suggested we walk along a semi open ridge and glass down each side and as we stalked we found ourselves surrounded by a herd of Eland.

    The herd of Eland just before the Bulls started fighting.
    Then two massive Bulls suddenly emerged from the bush and began fighting and we had a ringside seat to the action, the sound of their heads clashing and the clatter of their horns was incredible. I swear you could feel the ground shaking as they fought each other, then just as suddenly they stopped and ran off, Wow what an amazing a spectacle we had just witnessed. Chris said they must have somehow scented us in the fickle winds that swirl over the mountain tops at this time of day. By this time we had run out of light and unfortunately we had to return to the lodge empty handed, but still what an experience to see Eland fighting like that!!!

    As the sun set on our final day in the East Cape we reflected on some of the amazing things we had seen.
    Our last day in this East Cape location had really turned it on for us and even though we were leaving without a Kudu, we would be leaving with some amazing memories, and we still had the Karoo and Kalahari to look forward to.
    We ate another wonderful meal that night and relived some the past couple of days events over a few drinks before retiring for the night. As I lay in bed listening to the frogs and crickets I knew I was going to miss the evening sounds of this place when we in the morning.

    We were up early once again and as Greg, Jack and I packed all our gear into the Landy, Richard and Jacu took the opportunity to shoot some sunrise footage and some of the scenery around the lodge. Richard and I then did some short interviews before Chris and I completed all the paperwork associated with the hunt. With all the formalities completed it was time for us to depart on our way to the Karoo for the next chapter in our African Adventure. We thanked Chris and Toni for their hospitality and after saying our goodbyes we departed just as
    we had arrived, in a cloud of dust and barking dogs.

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