We both knew beforehand that hunting in summer in the Karoo was going to be gruelling, early mornings, late nights and very hot days. It was all that and more but we agreed that in the end all the discomforts we enjoyed out there was well worth the effort.
After meeting Dan at his hotel in Port Elizabeth, we spent some time on the range and had lunch before heading at 3pm out to look for a springbok. The day wasn't particularly hot but we found a herd grazing in a very "unstalkable position". We identified a ram that we wanted to get a closer look at and used a acacia lined wash as cover. On the stalk we came across a herd of impala and blesbok that we weren't able to flank and we had to abort the stalk. 6.30 pm kudu time and the trackers soon saw a herd of 6 bachelor bulls grazing on a ridge line 1000 yards or more away. Sunset was fast approaching and we didn't have the time to cover the distance so we headed back to camp to a delicious dinner of slow cooked impala shank and malva pudding, South African specialities.
4:30am the next morning we went in search of kudu and springbok (and maybe Cheetah!) at Boschfontein. We hiked up a wash and settled in at a good spot looking up at an open mountain slope. We spotted a herd of kudu bulls and 2 large herds of cows grazing up towards dense bush above them. Between us and the kudu was a herd of 10 springbok rams with a few excellent trophies amongst them. We stalked closer and got to within 200 yards. I erroneously passed on the shot as I wanted to get Dan closer on his first animal in Africa. Nothing builds confidence more than a clean kill on the first day. By pure sixth sense, a younger ram standing apart from the rest took an interest in our position and soon they were gone. We tried to cut them off but were unsuccessful. Later that day we staked a herd of 50 plus springbok but couldn't find the trophy ram we were looking for among them.
The next morning we set off specifically targeting gemsbok. We got into a stalkable position above a small herd and put in a good stalk. We had a look at them but couldn't find the kind of trophy we had hoped to take. A couple of them also had calves. We took a 4x4 road out a steep mountain and spent the rest of the morning looking for gemsbok. We saw 3 kudu bulls which we passed on and several herds of blue wildebeest before we saw another small herd of gemsbok with a big bull in it. They were restless and moved off downhill away from us. We tried to cut them off but the wind changed 180 degrees on the last part of the stalk and they sprinted up the mountain. We had lunch at the lodge and went out late that afternoon in search of kudu. We saw lots of kudu cows and a large herd of hartebeest with several trophy bulls in it. Dan was tempted but not swayed...
The next morning we hunted my brother in laws property in the Klipplaat area. We put in a stalk and it worked out well. Dan shot an excellent dry gemsbok cow. Plaudits to the trackers for picking the largest animal among the herd and ensuring that she didn't have a calf. This time of year the majority of the cows have calves. We got two flat tyres and the panic set in for a brief moment. Out of radio contact and no cell phone signal, 101 degrees Fahrenheit and in the middle of nowhere we were truly in trouble. After we had finished panicking, I realized that my cell phone had picked up a message at some point in the area. I retraced our steps until I picked up a couple of bars of signal on my phone and called my wife's cousin's wife (!?) who lives nearby. We were saved...by the grace of our extended family.
It rained and hailed that afternoon and it wasn't possible to hunt.
The next morning we set off at 4:30am in search of kudu. We saw a huge bull with 3 cows below us but they spotted us as we were approaching them from a difficult position above them. We saw a further 3 bulls but were unable to get closer without being seen. Luck didn't appear to be on our side but I had this feeling that all the heat and challenges we had experienced would be rewarded.
It was rewarded... that same afternoon. The last afternoon of Dan's hunt. He hadn't given up hope of that elusive kudu and as we approached a vantage point above a dam we saw a small herd of cows drinking. We settled in and waited patiently. A bull was grazing clowly towards us and we were taken totally by surprise by the old white-tipped bull that came into our field of view from the right. He walked into a thick acacia stand and stood there hidden for what seemed forever. Our nerves frayed now, he emerged and Dan put him down with a lung shot. He lunged and we herd a loud crash as he ran into a jacket plum tree. A gracious, old kudu bull. Returning to camp, we spotted a group of 3 impala rams and Dan downed one with 2 shots. The first ricocheted off a small twig in front of it. The second found the vitals on the shoulder. We feasted on blesbok fillet that night and toasted our success with a glass of fine scotch whiskey.
The next morning we decided to squeeze in a mornings hunting to try and get a springbok. Not long into the day, we spotted a large herd of springbok rams. Dan chose the largest and fired. They made straight towards a water course and out of sight. Thinking that the wounded ram was with the group we followed them until we were certain he wasn't and retraced our steps but found no blood. Thoroughly dejected we decided to have one last look and returned to the spot where Dan fired from. We found him no more than 100 yards away, partially hidden behind a "granaat" bush.
It was a perfectly scripted hunt, the challenge was set and there were many obstacles but in the very end....the last afternoon, we prevailed. It was a pleasure hunting and spending time with Dan. A more positive man and hunter you will not find and we hope someday he will return to hunt in South Africa again. I'm willing to bet kudu will be the first animal he writes on his wishlist...