The collusion and conniving had begun the evening before and plans had been set in motion. Jake, his girlfriend, Lauren and I set out in search of "a monster kudu'' Mitchell and Nibbs had seen on a far mountain. We drove up the steep jeep track and at a pre-determined spot we stopped the vehicle and continued on foot. If Jake was nervous, he wasn't showing it and went about the whole business in his normal calm way.
We continued on foot and at another pre-determined spot I made the excuse that I needed to climb to a higher spot to see the kudu, handed the rifle to Lauren and urged them to continue along the track until they reached the place where Nibbs and Mitchell where waiting. Jake and Lauren set off down the track and at the spot where the picnic and champagne was laid out, with 360 degree panoramic views of the karoo, Jake got down on bended knee and asked Lauren to be his wife. She said yes! After some time alone on the mountain the happy couple and all the co-conspirators returned to the lapa which Lindsay had decorated for the engagement party. It was a fun evening of celebration and a great day for Jake, Lauren, Keith and the De Haan family. Lindsay and I felt honoured to be part of such a special occasion.
Keith and his son, Jake from Indianapolis had hunted with us in 2014 and we were super excited that our friends were planning a return trip this time with Lauren. We were even more excited when Keith filled us in on "Operation Kickpad'', Jake was to pop the big question to his longtime sweetheart, Lauren on the trip.
Jake shot with my Sako .270, Lauren with my Brno .243 and Keith used my new CZ 7x64. I hunted with Jake and Lauren the first few days and that afternoon we bumped into a waterbuck near the camp. We got out of the vehicle quietly, walked a very short distance and Lauren wasted no time in taking her first african animal, a waterbuck bull. Nibbs and Keith set themselves up in a good spot and waited patiently before Keith made a great shot to take a cape springbuck. We returned to camp for a delicious meal of springbuck shanks and malva pudding.
Day two proved to be an eventful day for Lauren and was in complete contrast to the relatively easy hunt of the previous day. We'd spotted some blesbok grazing across a plain and quickly hiked to place ourselves a few hundred yards in front of their line of grazing. They grazed slowly towards us and things were looking good when they suddenly changed course and moved slowly away from us up a mountain. Out of range now we we stalked closer and Lauren's first shot was a long one and flew low. We continued after them and the blesbok slowed as they climbed the steep slope. Lauren's next shot hit and we followed the ram as he scrambled further up the slope. We kept up with him but at this point were falling out of range and it took an enormous physical effort to keep up with him. We eventually got to a position where we could shoot from and a volley of shots later the blesbok ram was down. Hunting in africa isn't always the perfect walk and stalk and shot that hunters imagine it to be, it can get ugly at times and when it does it's important that a hunter stays positive and sees the kill through to the end. I appreciated this about Lauren, she took the good with the bad and stayed the course even when it was physically and emotionally tough to do so. Keith also took a beautiful blesbok ram on their hunt on the other side of the mountain.
The next day we were up early in search of nyala. We hiked through some thick bush and spotted some younger nyala bulls. We were just about to stop for brunch when we spotted a large warthog boar forraging next to a dam. We started stalking him when we saw a nice nyala ram feeding on the slope to our left. He'd spotted us and there was no getting nearer. At 220 yards Jake shot him with a perfect lung shot. Great marksmanship and a good mornings hunting. Soon after lunch we put in a stalk on some black springbok rams. It was the perfect stalk and Lauren made a short shot to take her first springbok. Keith and Nibbs had an opportunity on a big nyala but he gave them the slip. They soon put their disappointment behind them when Keith got a world class impala ram! Another fine day of hunting in the Karoo.
Day four was the day of the engagement and Jake pulled the trigger on his finest trophy ever. The man could now breathe again and enjoy his holiday. He was all smiles from that point onwards.
The next morning under the cover of darkness Keith and I slipped into a blind to wait for baboons. At 10am we spooted a troop of baboons moving across the mountain but they had no intention of coming down towards up so we packed it up for the morning. That evening we sat on a mountain slope waiting for kudu to graze out of the thick bush. A number of young bulls and cows grazed past our position before the wide horned type of kudu Keith wanted finally appeared. Keith knocked him down with the first shot and we moved closer and put him down with the second shot. Jake took a good blesbok ram that afternoon and that evening Lauren shot a big old bushpig boar from Pinelands blind.
Early the next morning we all set off together in search of nyala and sable. After a morning of hiking and searching, Nibbs, Jake and Lauren were able to connect with some sable and Jake took a great sable bull. For Keith and I the cupboard was bare and we searched for nyala all morning without a single sighting. The afternoon was more of the same and we were heading back to the lodge when spotted several nyala and kudu bulls grazing an open stretch of veld. We stalked along the edge of the bush line and had to halt our advance on several occasions as kudu moved across our path. The nyala we had targeted was following some ewes into thick bush and with our narrow window of opportunity about to come to an abrupt end we set up the sticks at 200 yards and Keith made a great shot under difficult circumstances to bag a beautiful nyala bull. World class stuff! Jake bagged a warthog boar that afternoon and in near darkness Keith and I made a short stalk from the lodge on a bushbuck ram. He was a good one but Keith wisely decided to pass on him. The day couldn't get any better.
We headed north the next morning for three days hunting at one of our concessions near Graaff Reinet. Keith took his first warthog that morning. He was a target of opportunity and made the mistake of pausing in an open gap in the bush he was passing behind. Keith wasted no time in claiming his "practice hog'' for his tusk carving exercise. We had some close encounters with a herd of buffalo and Nibbs, Lauren and Keith bumped into a herd of elephant. The next day Lauren shot a beautiful lechwe. Keith was hard on the warthogs on day three. We stalked up on warthog number two when he snuck uninvited into the garden of one of the homeowners on the game reserve. After manouvering the front door of the house out of the firing line, we had a close shot forced upon us and Keith shot him off-hand as he was fleeing the scene. A world class boar! A moment of luck allowed Keith to shoot a female baboon before we went in search of warthog number three. Number three proved elusive until we headed to the north bank of the small river running through the property. We walked in on hog heaven and we waited for number three to forage clear of the bush in our firing line before Keith made another great shot. Lindsay, Jake and Lauren spent the day in Graaff Reinet. They visited Karoo Taxidermy, the local museums, the Valley of Desolation and had lunch at the historic Drostdy Hotel. That afternoon we all returned to the lodge and Lauren, Jake and Nibbs decided to go for an afternoon drive. They bumped into bachelor herd of red hartebeest and Lauren made another good shot on a beautiful red hartebeest bull.
The baboons again avoided Keith and I at Rooiberg Blind the next morning. Early in the afternoon Keith got a black springbok ram after the shortest stalk in hunting history. Lauren made the most of the day, finally getting the impala bogey off her back by taking an impala ram in the morning and a gemsbok bull in the afternoon. The gemsbok was wounded on the first shot and ran up a mountain slope. Nibbs and Lauren pursued it and the second shot sent it crashing down the mountain slope unfortunately damaging its horn in the process.
A warm berg wind was blowing the next day and hunting was difficult under these conditions. Keith and I spotted a beautiful waterbuck bull with some cows on top of a mountain. The wind direction was wrong and we tried unsuccessfully to get downwind of the herd. We saw a number of waterbuck bulls later that morning but we decided not to settle for less than the bull we'd seen earlier that morning. For Nibbs, Jake and Lauren the day was also bare.
Kudu was high on Lauren's wish list, a hunting trip to Africa feels incomplete without one. That last afternoon, Nibbs, Jake, Lauren and I spotted some kudu bulls moving in thick bush below us from our vantage point high in a mountain. We left Mitchell on the mountain to guide us to their position and we descended down into the riverine thicket below us. Moving a few feet at a time, stopping and listening, Mitchell guided us into their position with a two way radio. We could hear the branches snap as they browsed somewhere ahead of us. A shuffle to the right and there Lauren's bull was, 80 yards ahead of us. We moved Lauren to the front and with only the bull's head and neck showing she dropped her bull on the spot. A fitting end to a fortnight of hunting.
The De Haans headed out the next morning on the second leg of their African adventure. They were to spend two weeks touring Namibia, visiting Windhoek, Swakopmund, the Skeleton Coast and Etosha Game Reserve.
We had an epic time hunting with our friends.The fortnight had a feel of "Out of Africa" to it, lots of hunting and romance with a dash of colonial decadence. We were sad to say goodbye but as always are incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to meet the most amazing people and share in their African adventures.
Guest Comments -
Thank you again for the wonderful stay we had. The outstanding hunting opportunities and the amazing extras you put into the trip will forever be special to us. Lindsay, what an outstanding effort you gave to make Jake and Lauren's marriage proposal. This will be something they remember for the rest of their lives. I cannot express how much it meant to them, all the little extras just made it that more special.
Victor, the hunting was outstanding. All the bucket lists and wish lists were made by you and your staff, the effort is very much recognized. This was the hunt of a lifetime. All three of us are amazed by quality and number of trophies we had the oppotunity to take. Each and every day there was top notch plains game to be had with you and with Nibbs (our second PH). The attention to detail made each hunt, one after another, the chance to take trophies we can be proud of and not settle just for a trigger pull. The areas you hunt are wonders to the eye, soul and mind. Each with stunning views.
The side trips to town and Addo were just as special as the hunting. If I can make a recommendation to all who come and hunt with you, it would be GO! To have elephants, lions and other animals just yards outside the vehicles window is amazing. The knowledge of the local flora and fauna must be recognized - outstanding!
Again, what a grand time we had with you, the entire Watson family and the staff at Karoo Wild Safaris. We are already making plans for the next trip.