We were keen to hunt again! I've shared some memorable hunts with Redgie but this would turn out to be the greatest of them all.
Redgie brought his favourite hunting rifle on this trip, his Browning 7mm Remington Magnum. Paul Ruschenbaum of Hunting Videos South Africa accompanied us as videographer.
The beginning part of adventure found us focusing on a giant sable we spotted on the first day. Our first stalking attempt was unsuccessful and we spent the afternoon trying to locate him again. Mid-morning of the 2nd day, we found him sheltering in a stalkable position. Leopard crawling the last 300 yards and attracting numerous thorns in the process, we were convinced he was ours when a couple of kudu cows barked and broke through the brush ahead of us. The sable spooked and fled across a mountain plateau, disappearing into some thick bush. On the way to the lodge, we stalked the edge of an open plain frequented by eland. We were luckier this time. There was a good bull among them and Redgie made a great shot.
The following day we were hunting plains game, when a small herd of waterbuck disappeared in the "blinkblaar" brush 50 yards ahead of us. The dominant waterbuck paused for a moment later in an clearing and Redgie was on the shooting sticks, ready to shoot. He was halfway through his trigger squeeze when I stopped him. He just didn't seem as big a trophy as we first thought. There was some ernest discussion amongst the hunting party of hunter, guide, trackers and videographer but I still believe the correct decision was made. Video replay of the hunt that evening would remain inconclusive. It was a windy day and a cold winter storm rolled in that afternoon, persevering throughout the night.
The african sun was finally showing itself the next morning and our african hunting adventure took a positive turn. Driving out a steep slope in low-range 4x4 the trackers spotted three dark eland bulls on the adjacent slope across from a river bed. We hid the vehicle in a clump of trees and hiked slowly closer. Setting up the shooting sticks, we waited for them to continue a little closer. I glassed them again. Redgie loves eland hunting and I knew what I saw would make him a very happy hunter. The two lead bulls were exceptional trophies but the one lagging slightly behind was the eland of a lifetime. He was heavier than his two fellow eland, had a large dewlap and his hornd were long and not nearly as word down as eland his age normally are. Redgie needed no encouragement and his shot sent the bull crashing down the slope. A large tree thankfully putting an end to to the 1500 pounds of meat rolling end on end down the mountain slope. Redgie was elated and I can fully agree that this one of my favourite South African eland hunts. With the assistance of 8 other men, we photographed and loaded the eland.
Our hunting fortune was on the increase and we continued on our way. Soon there was an urgent tap on the roof. The trackers had spotted waterbuck. We stalked a short distance and set up 180 yards out. There were a few good bulls in the herd but they were walking directly away from us and about to disappear entirely from our sight. The targeted bull quartered ever so slightly to his right. Redgie squeezed off a shot and I could hear the resounding thud of metal hitting solid flesh. We found dark blood and followed it for 80 yards to find the waterbuck bull expired from a lung shot that had entered just in front of his right hip and continued along it's wrecking path to lodge behind the front left shoulder. An amazingly instinctive shot and a perfect end to a morning hunting africa's finest beasts.
We searched for elephant that afternoon and bumped unexpectantly into them grazing in an acacia thicket along the edge of the track. We were too close and a sub adult bull on musth was trumpheting and flapping his ears at us. We backed up and he calmed down enough for Paul to get some video footage. Sipping a cold drink watching these pre-historic beasts browse and roam peacefully, 50 yards ahead of us, I couldn't help but appreciate how extraordinary blessed we are to live and interact amongst these animals in our ordinary lives.
The next morning we travelled further north and settled into our new lodgings. After lunch we searched for sable on the 40,000 acre reserve. We passed on a solitary sable bull grazing the karoo plains and headed closer to the river. Glassing the smaller plains from hilltops, we spotted 3 dark shapes and we knew they were mature sable bulls. We hid the vehicle and hiked closer, using the bush adjoining the plains as cover. The wind was blowing gently into our faces and we inched closer, trying to get into shooting range before they spotted us. Two of the bulls were off to the left with the third lying down 150 yards from the plains edge. The two bulls spotted us and began walking rapidly to the centre of the open plain. The third bull was slow to react and was standing now, looking around trying to identify where the danger was. Redgie's 7mm roared and the bull ran a few steps before swaying unsteadily. A second shot for good measure put him down. He was a beast of a sable bull with exceptionally long and wide horns. This was South African hunting at it's very best. We returned to the lodge and enjoyed a few drinks and dinner around the fireplace.
We were up at first light the next morning, determined to find a kudu. Redgie has hunted a number of kudu with Karoo Wild Safaris over the years, but like eland hunting he's developed an addiction for the sheer challenge and adrenaline in involved in hunting these elusive animals. Kudu hunting in the Eastern Cape, South Africa is the pinnacle of hunting excitement. You never know how the stalk will evolve and you better be on your best stalking game. We glassed from a ridge and identified a good bull with a small herd of cows. The sun was beginning to warm the earth and the wind was in a state of constant change, sporadically blowing from the east and then west. We decided to outflank the kudu and approach from a more favourable position. We were closing in on their position when a waterbuck cow gave away our position spooking the kudu in the process. First kudu stalkj of the day busted.
Around 11am we spotted a larger herd of kudu. We identified a bull sunning himself on the edge of the herd. There was dead ground to stalk them but we would ultimately emerge from cover almost on top of the kudu bull, too close to have control of the stalk. We decided to attempt it and spent the last few hundered yards of the stalk inching closer and making sure we identified any kudu cows that could bark and bust our stalk. Each time we spotted another cow, we'd bunker down and wait for an opportunity to inch closer. It was painstakingly slow work but we were close now. We knew the bull must be within 50 yards, just below our field of view. We could see all the cows, but no bull. We waited. An hour passed and we began to question if he was still there. We'd bumped into some blue wildebeest and perhaps theyd spooked him. The lingering doubts were creeping in our minds. How much time did we commit to this? Another twenty minutes passed by and the kudu had barely moved. We decided to make the first move and inched closer, bush to bush. We were within 20 yards from where we first spotted the kudu bull. Nothing. A cow barked and chaos erupted. Cows and calves everywhere barking and running diagonally away from us. A clump of bush stirred directly in front of us and two kudu bulls broke from it, following the cows in their escape. Redgie chamnered a round but there was no shot opportunity. The bulls were trailing the cows in their escape, the largest one at the back. About to disappear from view now, the trailing bull hesitated for a second, slowed and turned to his left, presenting his vitals. Redgie's shot hit the kudu bull hard. We hiked closer. We were impressed. He was magnificent. An old bull with wide, worn down horns.
We returned to the lodge for lunch and spent the afternoon on a cliffside, overlooking the river. We sipped on a few beers, marvelling at the scenery as Paul took some drone footage. We returned to the lodge at sunset and had a sighting of a herd of cape buffalo. Some truly magnificent buffalo bulls were glaring at us from within the herd.
We spent the next couple of days hunting some management animals on our reserve. Ten days had passed by in a flash. It had been an epic hunting adventure. We'd experienced the best of what South Africa has to offer hunters and adventurers. We were sad to bid farewell to our family friend but the memories will last a lifetime.
This was my third hunting trip with Karoo Wild Safaris and what a time we had. For those who haven't used Victor's camera man, Paul Ruschenbaum, who will video your every hunt, at a very reasonable price I might add, you may want to get the details from Victor. After watching hundreds of hours of Africa Hunting Videos, in my opinion he's the best of the top 4. Watching the videos on my TV at home, brings back all the memories over and over again.
It was a 9 day action packed hunt, stalking, crawling, butt-sliding, nerve rattling trip I won't easily forget. We were able to shoot a huge Sable, 2 Elands, Waterbuck, Springbucks and a kudu on the run. The camraderie between Victor the PH, Paul the cameraman, Mitchell the tracker and myself was fun. We laughed, we told hunting stories and had a heck of a good time.
For those concerned about getting to South Africa, my flight on Qatar Airways felt like a step up from first class, from other airlines I've flown in the past. They handled my gun transfer with a personal assistant, making it almost effortless on my part. They are a first class airline and I suspect the airports, along with the security personnel are instructed to not disappoint them. In future I'll go out of my way to fly Qatar, even if the flight is longer.
Lindsey's cooking was phenomenal and the lodge that they always let me stay in, is very roomy and makes me feel like I'm in Africa.
Thanks again to Victor and Lindsey for such a great hunt and a great time, and thanks for letting me share all my hunting stories in a short 10 days!