Jim shot with his .300 Win Mag and after a couple of shots on the range that touched each other at 100 yards we were immediately satisfied that his rifle had held it's zero through the 28 hours of flying it took to travel from Anchorage to Port Elizabeth. We took it easy that first afternoon and had good sightings of kudu, impala, blesbuck and smaller antelope.
Early the next morning we set off in search of gemsbok. A cold wind was blowing and the animals had taken refuge in the thick bush below the mountains and in the river beds. We drove for some time and had a half chance to bag a nice impala ram. He had a whole harem of impala ewes to watch his back however and at their first grunt he was soon following them into the thick stuff. Further down a jeep track, Mitchell's keen eyes spotted a couple of gemsbok above the bushline taking shelter from the cold wind at the base of a mountain. We worked our way through the bush and emerged 150 yards or so below them. The oldest one was grazing behind an acacia tree and was partially visible to us. We waited for what what seemed an eternity for the gemsbok to graze into the open. Jim's first shot hit low in the leg but he soon followed it up with a heart/lung shot. Jim had taken an old gemsbok cow and we were elated that he had taken his first African animal. It was tough hunting conditions and Mitchell's keen senses had given us a positive start to the hunt.
We were hunting in the plains the next morning when we came across nyala. We parked the vehicle and stalked them using some "spekboom" as cover. The rising sun directly behind us gave us a moment of advantage which is all Jim needed to send a .300 bullet towards the biggest nyala bull in the group. The nyala crumbled and we ran towards it. Jim had taken a good nyala bull and we were pleased as punch for him. Although it wasn't the hard nyala hunt I was expecting we were happy to take the luck that was gifted to us. The Karoo is experiencing a seasonal drought at the moment and hunting the bush dwelling animals like kudu, nyala and bushbuck has been tough this year. With little food left on the plains, the animals have been finding what nourishment they can in the acacia and "spekboom" thickets, making them hard to locate and stalk.
Later we stalked some impala rams that we spotted but again the impala outsmarted us. Not so however for the warthog boar that Mitchell spotted foraging in a dry wash. As we were setting up on the shooting sticks he spotted us and made a dash for safety. We followed and Jim almost got a shot off on a few occasions. The boar was always ahead of us but made one error too many. Jim's rifle roared and he surged forward and then staggered, a large puff of dust marking the spot where he came to rest. He was an exceptional specimen of a warthog and we headed back to lodge for lunch all in good spirits. After a lunch and a short siesta we headed out in search of kudu but had no luck. We met up with Lindsay and Setsko back at the lodge who had returned from a day of elephant back riding in Addo.
The next two days were devoted to finding a kudu. We had time to be picky and passed on several shooters in search of something special. Jim was looking for a narrow horned bull with deep curls. Although we were unsuccessful we enjoyed the two days in the veld stalking kudu.
On the afternoon of the second day I did the unthinkable and missed a shot at a black backed jackal. We were sitting in the late afternoon waiting for kudu to emerge from the bush. Several younger bulls and cows had already moved past the open hill side and it didn't seem a big bull was going to come out anywhere near us. Out of nowehere a jackal came trotting past us. He paused briefly. Jim and Setsko were sitting a few yards behind me and his rifle was slung over the shooting sticks next to me. Instinctively I grabbed the rifle and pulled the trigger. Nothing, I fumbled with the safety this time yanking the trigger. The shot flew high! Full of self-loathing for my unforgiveable act of we returned to the lodge.
With the change in weather so our luck changed. It was a raining and we didn't fancy our chances. Mitchell rapped on the roof. Years of hunting with Mitchell told me this was a definitive rap, the kind that that he reserves when he needs to get my attention for something worthwhile. We killed the engine and walked quietly back down the road. We climbed out the side of a gentle hill to enable us to get a clearer view of the opposite hill. A big kudu eruped from the bush and ran up the hill away from us. We set up quickly and he paused briefly just below the ridgeline. He was facing almost directly away from us, quartered at the smallest of angles. Jim took the opportunity, his bullet flying 260 yards uphill and squeezing past the bull's right rump, hitting him behind the right hand side ribs and exiting in front of the opposite shoulder. The bull ran 50 yards and disappeared in a clump of bush. I scrambled up the hill with my rifle at the ready only to find the bull expired where we had last seen him disappear. What an incredible shot! We'd held out for two days, our patience and perseverance finally rewarded. We returned to the lodge that afternoon delighted with the mornings events. That afternoon we made a perfectly executed stalk on a herd of black wildebeest and Jim made another great shot to down a black wildebeest bull. Lindsay and Setsko had spent the day in Graaff Reinet and we recounted the day's stories around the campfire that evening.
It was the last day of Jim and Setsko's time with us and we set off in search of an impala ram. Jim had a difficult shot at a nice ram but the shot unfortunately flew high. The impala eluded us for the remainder of the day and would prove to be Jim's bogey animal. It didn't matter to me and didn't seem to bother Jim the slightest. We had a terrific hunt under trying conditions in the Eastern Cape and had some great hunting memories.
Jim and Setsko departed the next morning for the rest of their African trip. We enjoyed our time with our new friends and wish them the best of luck with their Zambian hunt.
Guest Comments -
We had a wonderful time during our stay with Victor and Lindsay Watson of Karoo Wild Safaris. The hospitality, chalets and lodge are first rate and so is the hunting and dinner conversation. We will always treasure our memories of our stay at Haaspoort Lodge and our friendship with the Watsons.
Victor and his tracker/assistant know hunting and habits of game. Both of them have a great game eye and often spotted game I couldn't see even after they pointed it out. Even when I could spot the game, it was only after they spotted it first.
Victor owns or has access to vast tracts of land that provide a variety of terrain and game animals. We saw blesbuck, duiker, hartebeest, kudu, nyala, springbuck, impala, eland, blue and black wildebeest, waterbuck, zebra, warthog, ostrich and giraffe and probably other species which I forget now, during our hunts.
Just don't let Victor take you on one of his mountain treks in his Mazda bakkie. Unless you're indifferent to heights and think it's fun to go up and down a trail that resembles an Alaskan mining road built a hundred years ago, and not since maintained. You realize that if you accidentally open the passenger door, you'll fall a hundred feet before you hit anything. And there sits Victor, driving with one hand and pointing to various species of game with the other.
Another caveat: if you see a jackal, don't let Victor near your rifle.