Our 2021 season opens with a bang!
Tuesday, 23rd March 2021
It was at first light on the 5th day that our kudu hunting fortunes changed. We'd heard talk of a large kudu bull that liked to graze in a particular spot at the river in the early morning. We spotted him ambling away towards the thicker bush above the river edge and knew right away that he was a spectacular bull. He never saw the danger from behind until the last instant. Greg's first bullet him hit hard and the follow up shots sent him crumbling into the undergrowth. He truly was a magnificent beast with a large mane, thickset body and beautifully shaped horns. BANG - in an instant we'd made good on all our previous kudu hunting efforts.
Five days previously, Greg had travelled to us from Chicago, USA. Flying via Doha with Qatar Airways he had a trouble free trip. He obtained the mandatory Covid testing in the US, the day before departure and had no problems entering South Africa. Greg's previous efforts to hunt in South Africa had been thwarted by several travel bans and he booked flights at the first news that US citizens were allowed to travel to South Africa. Greg hunted mainly with my Sako .270 Win and top of his wishlist was a kudu, gemsbuck, black wildebeest and nyala.
We chose to hike from camp on the morning of the first day. We moved along the edge of a riverbed and made our way carefully around a bachelor herd of impala rams. Pausing to glass the adjacent hill, we spotted two dark nyala bulls browsing along a line of acacia trees. Slowly we stalked closer. The nyala browsed into thicker bush but we saw enough to be able to identify them both as mature animals. We followed, careful not to spook them, waiting for a clear shot. Our patience paid off as the largest bull stopped briefly to give us an unhindered view at his vitals. Careful postioning of the shooting sticks confirmed a clear path and Greg's shot was good. The nyala dived into the bush and disappeared. We marked the spot and soon followed droplets of blood, which soon turned into pools of blood. Fifty yards later we found the bull expired from a shot to the vitals.
The morning of day two found us searching for zebra sign. We saw a small herd in an open area with little cover and decided not to spook them with a busted stalk. Late in the afternoon, we spotted swathes of kudu emerging from the thick valley bushveld mountain side. They were grazing into the wind and an ambush was out of the question. We scrambled a mile around and above them and with the wind blowing above and past them we felt that we had a half chance of executing a stalk. Once they were directly below us, the wind allowed us to stalk slowly down towards them. There was no cover and we relied on slight undulations in the terrain to inch closer. We were close now, 100 yards out and each step was a calculated one. We identified beautiful bull and were setting up to shoot when an unseen kudu directly downwind barked. Instantly, the mountainside erupted in a cacophony of kudu barks and we were left high and dry. Kudu hunting at its best, even in complete failure...
Day three brought us better success with us spotting a small herd of zebra at around sunrise. Greg had to react quickly and his shot hit a little far back. We lost sight of the zebra over a blind rise but with Mitchell's help were soon able to spot the wounded zebra and Greg delivered the kill shot. While Mitchell skinned the zebra off, Greg and I used the opportunity to continue our search for a kudu bull. We spotted a springbuck herd with the common and black variety of buck mixed in the herd. Two rams grazed on the edge of the herd. Using some cover, Greg and I scrambled to a point in front of them and waited. It was the perfect ambush scenario. The first shot knocked the black springbuck down. Inexplicably he stood up and started back towards the herd. He spooked them and they made off in the opposite direction, across a plain and into a lightly wooded stream bed. We kept our eyes trained on the wounded ram, hoping he would lie down or give us an opportunity to break cover and get in closer for a shot. But he kept going, the adrenaline propelling him forward. We hiked to the point where he disappeared into the bush and spotted the wounded springbuck ram ambling 200 m away from us. We followed, hoping for a reasonable chance at a second shot but fearful of spooking him even more with a failed attempt. We were climbing out a steep hill when the ram whistled and jumped out in front of us. Greg made a remarkable off-hand shot to put an end to our 2 hour long game of cat and mouse.
Day four was outstanding in every sense. All our stalks were perfectly, patiently executed and Greg shot magnificently. An unsuspecting lone black wildebeest was the first animal to go down. Normally an exclusive lover of open plains, he made the fatal flaw of grazing to close to a dry riverbed with plenty of cover for us to sneak up on him. Thirty minutes into the day we had a beautiful wildebeest bull. We set off again around mid morning. The gemsbuck required a longer and more patient stalk. She was slowly climbing a mountain slope and we snuck in unseen below her field of vision. Moving slowly closer in the "dead" ground below her we were able to close the distance down to a couple of hundred yards. We slowly inched ourselves into sight and set up the shooting sticks for the shot. A short while later, she moved into full view and Greg made a great shot. She bolted sideways along the slope, and we followed scrambling quickly up the rocky terrain. Greg was quickly on the shooting sticks and made a second shot for good measure. Late that afternoon we came into contact with a large herd of elephant. Greg's first sighting of elephants in the wild. It was surreal to watch them cross the track directly in front of us. Eerily quiet in the fading light. The large fifty pound a side bull trailed the herd and posed for us as if modelling in a photoshoot. We gave them a wide berth and a short while later spotted a beautiful blesbuck ram in open sight. Another short stalk later, we were in prime position. The blesbuck had to move 30 yards to his right for an open shot. He obliged and we'd hunted our third animal for the day. It was a day of tremendous good fortune coupled with stalking skill. We made an effort to make every step a deliberate one and we were rewarded handsomely.
With a magnificent kudu hunted on day five, we were left with some time to focus on smaller things. We sneaked into a dry riverbed downwind from a herd of springbuck. The riverbed offered sparse cover but we were low enough to get within striking distance. They grazed through the riverbed directly ahead of us and we snuck up on them from the rear. Greg's shot hit on the shoulder and the springbuck ram crumbled on the spot. Later that day Greg and Mitchell hunted a steenbuck ram.
On the last day we drove to Ampath's covid testing centre for Greg's mandatory test for travel back to the US. As expected, the results were negative and available to us within 5 hours. We spent the remainder of the morning in the Addo Elephant National Park marvelling at the large herds of elephant we encountered on our game drive. We were also lucky to get good sighting of buffalo and other plains game. We enjoyed lunch at the reserve restaurant and returned to Port Elizabeth, where Greg spent his last night in Africa at the Beach Hotel before departing early the next morning.
Thank you Greg for your tremendous optimism and being brave enough to travel and hunt with us on moment's notice. It truly was epic. After a 14 month hiatus, a reminder of how much we love hosting and guiding clients on their African hunting adventures.
Guest Comments -
Victor made everything very simple and was easy to work with during the travel bans with rescheduling and I was made to feel very welcome. Had a great hunt with a lot of excitement and some nice trophies To hang up when they make it here.