It will be partially incomplete, as there was a rifle involved in a lot of animals, and one of the bow stories, I'm trying to have published. . .
My wife and I began planning this trip for our 10 year wedding anniversary on our 8 year wedding anniversary. We actually discussed options for places where we could tour, and I could hunt, at dinner on the night of our 8 year anniversary.
After much discussion, we decided on South Africa
Inquiring minds want all the details.
As this was an anniversary trip, I only booked 6 full days of hunting. I mainly wanted to take a kudu and a bushbuck with my bow. . . anything else would be a bonus.
After the hunt, we booked 3 full days in Cape Town, and then 4 days in London on our return.
As the hunt was short, and my goals with a bow were few, I knew that a rifle would be used quite a little bit, as we were not hunting a blind type operation. I knew this at booking, and it was the way I wanted it.
I'll mostly skip over the rifle parts in this, except for a few notes
I believe this saved us money to stay with the same carrier. Something like that.
Anyways, two full days of travel to arrive at Port Elizabeth, South Africa.
We were met at the airport by Andrew Pringle, of Crusader safaris, and his dope ride :)
We arrived early evening, and were mainly concerned with getting settled, and showered, after two full days of travel.
I'll show some pictures here of camp, and our accomadations
We spotted impala, springbok, giraffe, baboons, red lechwe, and warthog on the drive in.
The first morning we awoke to a leisurely breakfast, and I shot my bow a few times to make sure it was on. That was good
Then we headed to a small range to check my shooting with Paul's 7mm, and Andrew's 30-06. Seemed good there too, but apparently, rifle shooting is a perishable skill, that I haven't practiced much in the last 5 years, as I would learn to my chagrin :)
We kept on driving well past, then planned and tried to execute a stalk, which failed pretty quickly.
Wary little guys. They busted us quickly, but I was thrilled to have a short stalk so quickly in the hunt, and to see some animals up close
That first morning, I learned why. Man those things are switched on!
But I began my African career with black wildebeest and blesbok with a rifle.
If a guy wanted to dedicate the time, I am very confident they could get a lot of stalks on blesbok here, and get one killed with a bow.
The first evening, we sat a blind for kudu. . .
I think I exasperated him a time or two. Which is perfectly normal for an eccentric American :)
As a native SA bowhunter, growing up on a farm, it's safe to say that while he was almost 10 years younger than me, he had a lot more experience stalking stuff.
As a Midwest tree hunter, I learned a lot about stalking from him. I'm sure it will help me in future hunts for sure.
I don't have a single bad thing to say about Paul. He put up well with me for 6 days, something that's not always easy for people to do :)
I should mention the other PH in camp, so he won't feel left out if he reads this. Rad was another PH in camp, guiding some Swedish hunters. We never hunted with Rad, but he was definitely entertaining at meal times.
As always, part of the fun about traveling to hunt is meeting the locals. Paul, Andrew and Rad kept us entertained in camp, and made the mealtimes and the fireside stories a lot of fun
As he knew he had a bowhunter coming in that wanted a kudu, Andrew had been pre-baiting a couple of blinds with oranges and alfalfa for a couple of weeks.
When I arrived, he had two mature kudu bulls using his baits.
The first night, the wind was right for one blind, wrong for the other, so we sat a blind that had a smaller, but still mature bull, coming in fairly regularly.
As the Baviaansriver flows right through this area, waterholes are not a big draw for animals. There was water at this blind, but none of the kudu that visited that evening used the water at all.
We saw 6 cows and calves that first evening, and were treated to a baboon male roaring on the hillside above us for a couple hours. But the bull never showed up. We did hear a kudu spook about an hour before dark, but never saw it. And figured it was a cow.
When we arrived back at the lodge, Andrew had been sitting some distance away, glassing us in the blind, and had seen the bull approach from an unexpected direction, get to within 20 yards, and then spook. . .
Such is hunting :)
Our goal was bushbuck and warthog.
And now Zebra. . . although I didn't want one that badly, after seeing the zebra rugs, my wife needed one. So it became a priority. . .
Didn't take long glassing that morning to find several zebra and a couple warthog feeding in the same area on a hillside about 800 yards across a drainage.
We planned a stalk and headed their way, spooking a mountain reedbuck on the way. But fortunately not towards the zebra and warthog
As often happens in area with a lot of relief, the wind got us . . .
While it appeared to be blowing consistently on the hillside where we glassed, 800 yards away and lower, it got squirrelly. We did get to see the warthogs, but all we got from the zebra was pounding hooves as they raced away
But, we spotted a warthog feeding on the hillside where we had been glassing, so we reversed course for another stalk.
Long stalk, crawled for quite a while, and got to 35 yards, where I managed to miss a nice boar with my bow not once, but twice.
As my friend JTreeman would say, "Warthogs are bastards."
Paul called Andrew, and Andrew told us to get our butts back to the lodge area, as he'd glassed a really nice kudu bull at the other blind location that morning. He said we must be into the blind by 2 p.m. And he suggested that my wife not go, as it would add more scent.
Andrew had a valid concern here. This blind did not have water, and was not necessary for anything to visit. Andrew believed, and I'm sure he was correct, that if the big kudu bull winded us, he wouldn't come back to this blind during my hunt.
Well, my wife wanted to go. So she did :) I wanted her there, whether that meant we ruined the chance or not. And to their credit, Andrew and Paul didn't even question it, or try to talk me out of it. They just made it happen.
Andrew emailed me some trail cam pics of the bull, but of course, they're not on this computer.
These are crummy cell phone pics
Did I mention I hate warthogs?
We got to 8 yards, the bastard was about to step into the open, and I was almost fully drawn, and he saw his shadow and was gone.
We get settled in promptly at 2 p.m. Not too long, and the parade to the oranges begins. . .
It started with vervet monkeys. They also liked to visit my wife on the porch of our bungalow most days when she stayed at the lodge. . .
These particular vervets even had the audacity to copulate (as Sheldon Cooper would say), right in front of the blind
Then the parade of kudu began. Cows and calves at first. Then some young bulls. Even seemed to have a cow in estrus, but no big bull showed up
Prime time came, about an hour before dark, and a cow started to work her way in. I was sure she had a bull behind her, so I started to get ready, and get into a shooting position
Rookie mistake, as my wife was seated a little in front of and to my right, when I raised my bow, I bumped a limb against the back of her chair, making an audible metallic sound.
Paul's shoulders visibly slumped.
My wife read her book, unperturbed
Paul was cussing me in his head I'm sure.
My wife looked over at me, and said, "Is that a kudu?"
I interrupted my angry floor staring to peer through the blind window, just in time to see a kudu cow walk in, immediately followed by a mature bull
Paul said "There's your bull, Blane."
Calmly. Kinda like I do this every day and might actually be good at it, I centered the pin at 28 yards and lovingly caressed my release trigger, sending an arrow dead center, a little behind his leg, angling forward to strike and stop in his off-side shoulder.
Joy quickly turned to disbelief, as after a short sprint, instead of being a good kudu and falling over dead. . . the bull proceeded to calmly walk off with his cows, up and over a mountainside, as the sun set behind us.
I'll spare you the frantic rushing to keep him in sight, finally losing sight of him and then turning the dog loose, second guessing, etc. . .
I knew my broadhead was sharp.
I knew he was dead on that mountainside. We just had to find him.
Fortunately, as morning dawned on day 3, we quickly followed a decent blood trail, right to the bull.
Unbelievably to me, he'd walked over half a mile before laying down and giving it up
You dream and dream of Africa. For me, since I was literally 12 years old. This was the culmination of that dream, right here.
Even though I'd already shot a couple animals, it now seemed real.
My wife was amazed at the amount of time we spent with the cameras at this kill site
It took a load off of me.
Gone were the misses, for now. The mistakes.
The kudu was in the salt, literally, and the pressure was off. Although we saw several more big bulls throughout the hunt, 2 of which would be close to the size of mine, if not a hair bigger, I was and am very satisfied with this bull.
At 43 inches, they assure me that he's one hell of a Eastern Cape Greater Kudu. I don't really care. He's mine.
No rest for the wicked of course, we immediately went back to hunting and stalking. I think we blew 3 more stalks that morning before 11 a.m., before finally connecting. . . But that's a story I'll save
As I said, I wasn't really that excited about zebra, but my wife needed one, so that became a priority.
I'd shoot every zebra I could now. Those things are fun!
We found some zebra, in particular a small group of stallions, and we bumped them a few times, but not too badly, and they finally meandered down into a creek bottom, and settled down.
Paul and I circled way around, and got down into the creek bottom, and started slowly moving in.
We ended up 35 to 40 yards from the group of 6 or 7 stallions.
Some mares and foals were up the hillside, watching us, about 400 yards away, but thankfully, did not spook.
We ended up a little exposed. And the zebra started to get nervous. One stallion stared holes in us for quite a while. He tried to catch us. He'd stare at us, then put his head down like he was feeding, then jerk it up quickly.
He was the closest, and ultimately he moved down into the creek, out of sight.
I don't know if it was the wind, or our slight movements trying to find all the zebra. . . but they eventually spooked without offering a shot, and ran up hill
As the group spooked, I drew, because the stallion that went down in the creek would have to go in front of us to join his group in flight.
He stepped out at 35 yards, Paul whistled him to stop, and I made the worst shot of my life, that actually worked.
I'm not going to tell you where I hit him. It was a BAD shot. No excuses, I flinched. I knew it was bad
The stallion ran up hill, and I asked Paul to try to get to the truck and retrieve a rifle, while I tried to keep track of the stallion, who had run onto the opposite hillside. At this point, it stopped being a hunt. And my main concern was to get the zebra down as quickly as possible. The hillside was too open to stalk and finish with a bow. Ending it with a rifle was the right thing to do.
Fortunately for the stallion, I hit an artery, and he laid down and died pretty quickly. Before Paul got back with the rifle.
So I got to see the winch in action. Pretty neat how it worked. . .
So we prepared, as a first for me, to hunt behind a high fence :)
This little alfalfa field, probably 15 acres or so, is behind a high "game-proof" fence, to try and reserve the alfalfa for the farmer.
Of course, the bloody warthog never got this message that it was a game-proof fence, and he'd burrowed holes underneath, and was stuffing his face with tender, irrigated alfalfa.
Paul and I decided to end his reign of fence-burrowing.
But, since it was a warthog, and warthogs and I hate one another, as we stalked close, and were trying to figure out a way to shoot through, or get into the high fenced field, a farm worker drove a "motorbike" down to shut down the irrigation.
Bastard warthog cleared the field and shimmied under the fence in a flash.
So my high fence hunting days were brief :)
Warthogs are bastards
But the really cool thing was the chance encounter we had after the red hartebeest.
Paul and Andrew both kept telling me how lucky it was that we chanced onto a caracal, or lynx as they called it.
Yes it was a rifle kill. But I'm dang happy to have had the chance with any weapon :)
We headed back to Cowie, to try and take the last 2 animals on my wishlist. . . a warthog and a bushbuck.
The weather had turned a little, for the better. We'd been experiencing colder and wetter weather, with some wind at times. This had hurt our warthog sightings, and we hadn't even seen a bushbuck yet.
It didn't take long at Cowie until we saw my first bushbuck.
The sun had come out, and there were 2 or 3 rams hanging around a female. We put on a stalk, and got close, but eventually were busted.
Bushbuck bark. It's a dreaded sound actually.
They were within 20 yards of some sheep, and the sheep were different colors, and we just dismissed them during the stalk.
A short wait, and I got yet another shot at a warthog.
No excuses. I blew it. I didn't rush. I didn't flinch. I just missed the sweet spot, and wounded the warthog.
Cruizer the beagle eventually bayed the warthog in some thick stuff, but before we could get there, the warthog took off again.
Never to be seen again.
Most of us have been there. It's not a good feeling.
I was at a low-point, mentally.
But we kept on.
As the day wore on, it warmed up. Sun came out.
And so did the warthogs. . .
We spent parts of 3 days at Cowie. I bet we saw well over 200 warthogs.
It was a target rich environment.
We still-hunted through a bottom area, and hadn't gone far when a good warthog boar was spotted, in a stalkable location.
28 yards. I shot right over him.
I don't know what happened. I didn't rush. I didn't flinch. My bow was on (I know for a fact). I just muffed it.
Paul insisted we keep going. We kept still hunting, and spotted yet more hogs.
As we were planning a stalk, several young boars exited a little creek, and ran right at us.
Beggars can't be choosers. . .
I drew and the lead boar spotted me and ran off a short distance. 20 yards. Gimme shot. Right?
Pulled it. But he went down, and I quickly put a finisher into him.
I've never shot this badly. I wish I could think of a good excuse.
We had a little light left. But I raised the white flag. At this point, I was so mentally shaky, that I had no right to keep firing arrows at living animals.
We headed back to the lodge. But not before a young bushbuck ram walked right to us, and watched us from 8 or 9 yards in a thick creek bottom.
I managed to get a few cell camera pics.
For one thing, I was not shooting well enough to trust myself to shoot at anything.
For another, bushbuck was the last animal I really wanted, and they can be dangerous when wounded.
I also had no right to put Paul, Whitie, or Akuna in any danger with poor shooting.
So I took a rifle.
We set out with the intent of taking a bushbuck ram, and we accomplished our desire early in the 6th morning.
I have a lot of confidence that given another day or two, and with better shooting, that I could have killed a bushbuck ram with a bow.
Cowie was mountainous, thick, and great bushbuck cover. There were a lot of them, and I feel confident we could have taken one with a bow.
We also tried a stalk on a huge warthog with a rifle, but swirling winds gave us away, and he took off. Warthogs are bastards. I might be one as well
We ended the fantastic hunt with a nice impala ram with a rifle. Again, lots of impala. Given more time and the desire to really hunt them on foot, I feel like a bowkill would have been possible.
Other than that, it was a fantastic trip. I wish I'd had more days, but it just wasn't in the cards for our anniversary trip. And I'm okay with that.
I highly recommend Crusader Safaris, and my PH, Paul Kruger.
I have nothing but good things to say
I will be back. For sure. Maybe not 2017, but at some point, I'll definitely be back.
I could happily spend 5 or 6 days at Cowie, doing nothing but stalking hogs and bushbuck. And that may be what I plan next :)
I gotta get this mental shooting demon under control before then, for sure :)
She had a magnificent time.
I'll post some of her pictures, and I'll end the story, eventually, with some Cape Town sight seeing pictures as well
Lots of kudu, Impala, red lechwe, bushbuck, black wildebeest, blue wildebeest, giraffe, steenbok, duiker, warthogs, eland, red hartebeest, zebra, blesbok, waterbuck, caracal, bat eared fox, mountain reedbuck, common reedbuck, Vaal rhebuck, mongoose, baboon, vervet monkeys, nyala, springbok, fallow deer.
Didn't see any lions, unfortunately
I recommend it. We had a good time. Weather was a bit bad while we were there. The locals were freezing, as it was in the 50s.
My wife and I thought it was perfect. The bigger issue was rain and wind.
But we still managed to have a good time.
We stayed at the Cape Grace. An unnecessary luxury, but a good one. Without a doubt the finest hotel I've ever stayed at.
Saw Ethan Hawke in the elevator.
That hotel was WAY too nice for this Missouri hillbilly
We really enjoyed the trip. Had a lot of fun in South Africa.
I for one, cannot wait to go back :)
Fantastic job of telling your story! Thank you.
I did notice one minor error in your story, however.
"These particular vervets even had the audacity to copulate (as Sheldon Cooper would say), right in front of the blind"
Being a BBT-aphile, I think Sheldon would have said that they had "the audacity to perform coitus right in front of the blind"...
WOW- what and adventure Bake. And, you did a great job of making us feel that we were right there with you with the excitement and the pain. You can sure help bring back some great memories (good and bad) of my previous African hunts.
Congrats on some great trophies.
I told you before you went over- you would be figuring out how you were going to get back ASAP. Africa is truly and addiction.
Loved the pics of of your kudu! Beautiful caracal as well. They were high on my wish list.
Congrats on your Anniversary and Safari.
Good luck, Robb
I think we are treading in each other's footsteps in the Eastern Cape. This is my wife Emma Lee. We were married a year ago but took our "hunting moon" in RSA. We were in Addo around May 20.
On day 5, Andrew had arranged for my wife to tour Addo on day 6, then Port Elizabeth. . . I told Paul that if I got a bushbuck on day 5, I'd do Addo with my wife the next day. . .
But we didn't get the bushbuck on day 5. And I REALLY wanted a bushbuck.
It worked out, as we got the bushbuck on day 6, the impala, and got some more stalks on big warthogs. . . And I got to see a lot more of the Cowie area on day 6. Enough more to convince me that I NEED to go back :) I NEED a bushbuck with a bow :)
I flat out love stalking bushbuck. I have a Cape bb and a Limpopo bb, but both are rifle kills. I STILL love chasing them around in the thick stuff though...
The place I go in the Eastern Cape is between Grahamstown and Bedford. I went through Bedford again this past May on my way to hunt eland on another property.
Then the main lodge is not that far from Grahamstown, I don't think.
Love that country, that's for sure. Your pic looks just like the areas we were hunting
Meant to post bb photo instead... Trying again.
I thought you & JTreeman might soften on the warthogs a bit;>)
I see a few trophies in your pile not mentioned in your story. Black wildebeest and I think it's a waterbuck. Possibly Lechwe?
The red lechwe however, I wanted to try and see if I could have a story published. None of the editors I contacted even took the time to reply, so I guess I can add the red lechwe story. . . .
We started stalks on red lechwe on the 2nd day. We busted several bulls. Bulls in groups with cows. Bulls alone. Bulls with other bulls. The wind got us on one, a jackrabbit that we spooked ran under a bull's nose at one point, and he walked off, etc.
We had 4 unsuccessful stalks under our belts by the 4th day.
That morning, we checked a drainage for an old big bull that we had already stalked and blown out, and sure enough, there he was. And further up the hill, a big group of bulls.
So we made a plan and began a stalk. Paul maneuvered us finally within 40 yards of the group, which the big bull had joined. Again, my shooting was not up to snuff. . .
I just shanked my shot. Hit him really far back. I knew it immediately, and was disgusted. But as fortune smiles on the idiotic and inept, the bull ran a short semi-circle and stopped 40 yards away. I was able to get a frontal shot, and get another arrow into him. This shot was better, but still a little off.
They all ran off at that point, and we were able to see most of them cross the river, and head down river. But not the big bull.
So we snuck down the little bluff, and watched the bull bed down on the riverbank. As we had walked that way, we had picked up the first arrow I'd shot at the bull. At 50 yards, I missed him while bedded with that already used arrow. Then I 12 ringed him twice with two follow up shots at 50.
I don't know how I can shank a shot so badly on the first arrow, then make 2 perfect shots at 50. . . But that's what happened
Fortunately, this all transpired in a matter of minutes. Probably easily less than 5 minutes, so the bull didn't have to put up with my ineptitude for very long. For which I'm glad. I HATE to make stuff suffer any longer than necessary.
I'm super proud of this bull. Even though his death screwed my budget and knocked eland off the list :) :)
Target panic? Rushing the shot?
I think it is a form of target panic. It was like flinching at the shot. Like when you shoot a big gun and flinch like a little girl in anticipation of the recoil. I was rushing, and then anticipating the trigger on my release.
Strangely, this seemed to start last year on an elk hunt when I did the same thing on a HUGE bull elk. But it hasn't seemed to affect me on "set" shots. Like from a treestand or a blind
My kudu shot on this hunt was perfectly placed, it just didn't put him down as quickly as we thought. I've shot a couple whitetails before or since, from treestands, with none of these issues.
Just seems like you put me on the ground in a stalk situation, and I mentally panic, and think I have to shoot quick, so I rush, then flinch in anticipation of the release.
I hope I can get it under control. That's for sure. I've been debating a back tension release, but hate to make changes during deer season. . . .
Sure would like to see your wildebeest pics. Whoever it offends, they can get over it!
The second cow was shot by me when trying to finish the first cow. Shot the wrong one. All my fault.
Outfitter was not going to charge me at all for black wildebeest. But I didn't think that was fair. I pulled the trigger. So I paid for one bull
The biggest problem with Africa is the "addiction" which it creates in the bowhunting soul. Till one goes and experiences, he/she will never understand the yearning to return for infinity times.