Due to an overlap of another hunter who extended 1 more day to try and finish up a cape buffalo hunt my PH - Nico - was not available the first day of my hunt so I was set up with Ben, another PH in camp for the 1st day.
Sitting in my 1st blind of the day, I really couldn't quite believe where I was. The morning was a little slow, our first visitors to water were some young eland, then a female warthog and her young. But about noon, the animals started coming in. A few more immature males and female animals came through then finally an impala ram that my PH estimated at 22" was working into the blind. He was only a few steps from being in my shooting window when my PH said "wait, BIG PIG". Now, I had not really planned to shoot a warthog on this trip so I told Ben that I would rather wait for the impala, but he was quite insistent that this was a big Warthog and that I would have several opportunities on an impala but would probably never see another warthog quite this big. Once it came into view I changed my mind and decided to take him.
The shot was about 15 yards, hit behind the shoulder and angled out just inside of the V on the opposite side. He ran about 50 yards in a circle and died running right back into the blind.
The warthog wound up measuring 11 1/4" x 12" outside of the skull. Apparently they estimate 1 1/2" left in the skull so rough guestimate he should measure 12 3/4" x 13 1/2"?
The bull circled the waterhole before finally walking into a position where I could take the 17 yard shot. The arrow hit exactly where I was holding the pin 1/3 the way up the body directly up the leg, he ran only about 70 yards before going down.
The bull officially taped out at 49" x 49 1/2" - not a huge kudu but this was my #1 animal that I had dreamed about for the 5 years that I had been planning for this trip. To have the opportunity to take a good bull on my first day was more than I could have ever asked for or imagined!
It took several minutes for the bull to finally commit, when he came in to lick a salt block he offered a 15 yard perfectly broadside shot. The arrow went squarely through both lungs and the Gemsbuck ran flat out for about 80 yards before crashing and sliding to a stop. The blood trail was sparse but Nico's dog General found the bull quickly.
Before I left for this trip, I had always said that if I made it home with my Kudu and Gemsbuck, I would have considered the trip a resounding success. I had done that by early afternoon on day 2 - I couln't wait to see what the rest of the week would bring!!!
We started out in a treestand however looking to intercept Red Hartebeest heading for heavier cover first thing in the morning. We found the herd, but unfortunately they were coming in with their noses directly into the wind. They picked us off and it surprised me how much a spooked red hartebeest sounds like a whitetail when it blows!
Once the hartebeest spooked, Nico chose a blind with the wind was blowing 90deg to the water, so any animal that came in from up wind and made it into the water would be in a good position. Late morning we had impala, kudu, warthog, eland, and waterbuck all visiting the waterhole and the wind and the animals were cooperating with us. Right around noon I looked up and saw a blue wildebeest heading towards the water. Nico confirmed that it was a good, mature bull. He came in to the water and I was able to take a slightly quartering away shot at 16 yards. The arrow flew true and we watched the animal run about 50 yards, stop, then tip over all within sight of the blind.
The bull was an old warrior and had been rubbing on a fence post that had worn a couple of grooves that are visible on his left horn. He was not the widest Blue wildebeest with a 26" outside spread but he had well worn bosses, 13" bases and his hide was in beautiful condition.
I have seen a lot of pictures of blue wildebeest preparing for my trip, but until I was standing over one I never realized how distinct the the blue/gray striping on the hide is. So much so, that I decided there to have the animal skun for a flatskin instead of a shoulder mount and losing much of that coloration.
A rutting impala ram never quite gave us a shot but we were entertained by his antics chasing an ewe around and roaring, making a sound that I can best describe as a lions roar crossed with a pig? It was an amazing sound coming from such a small animal.
After the morning on the stand we set up in another new blind. We were covered up in animals all day long. No less than 20 different warthogs visited blind, along with several kudu, gemsbuck, waterbuck, and a single impala ram with a small band of ewes.
From here, I also saw my first vervet monkey. At first I was excited, but once he spotted us in the blind, ran to the window and proceeded to scream and display for the next 20 minutes I could see why people want to shoot these animals. Nico finally chased him off by flinging zebra dung at him out of the blind window!
Towards evening, we headed back to the treestand, but when we arrived we could see almost no new tracks around the salt block located near the stand so we headed over to yet another blind that I would get to know well over the rest of the week. Here, we had a jackal into the waterhole, and although I tried to get a shot off the jackal heard/winded/saw? us and did not stick around for a shot.
I never did get an animal on day 4, but we rarely went 20 minutes all day long without having animals in front of us - and I needed to slow down anyways, I only had 7 animals on my wish list and with 2 on the first day I needed to not shoot something!
Day 5 turned out to be a pretty rough day for me, I had a very large impala ram in to the water who offered be a 17-18 yard shot. I was well aware of the impala’s ability to string jump, and Nico reminded me of it as well just before the shot. I aimed low, attempting to compensate for it but not so low that if he didn't jump I would miss him. Unfortunately, this one did not jump the string. Near as I can figure, I must have dropped my arm trying to get a look at what was going on and I managed to shoot even lower hitting the impala through the leg just clipping the bottom of the brisket and then the far leg.
We spent several hours looking through some very thick cover looking for any possible sign, and eventually called in assistance and lined up walking a grid pattern through the area hoping that I had gotten high enough in the brisket to maybe clip a lung. But, all to no avail. I had made a poor shot, but had no one but myself to blame.
Several hours later, just before evening I had another ram come in to water. This time, my shot was good, but the ram dropped and began to roll away before the arrow got there and I struck him high and too far forward. Once again we followed the same procedure on the trail and again, we came up with the same result.
I am not incredibly proud of my day 5, but I guess to be fair about the story of my trip I needed to include it. The following day, our tracker spent the better part of the day continuing to look for any sign of these animals and came up cold. On the plus side, I suspect and hope that both of those hits will prove to have been non lethal shots and that those incredibly tough and resilient animals will recover from them.
Once again we were covered up in animals, Kudu, waterbuck, blue wildebeest and warthog were all in early. Late morning, a large herd of cape buffalo came in to the blind and bringing up the rear of the herd were 4 zebra. I had decided prior to the hunt that a zebra was not on my list, but I will admit that idea was challenged several times this day as the zebra returned to the waterhole 4 different times the stallion in the herd offering at least 1 shot each time.
We never did see a red hartebeest from this blind but eventually we did have a large herd of blesbok in to the water and they were definitely on my list. After the previous days difficult experiences I was waiting for the perfect shot opportunity, but with 25-30 animals at the blind I was never quite presented with the shot I wanted as there was always another animal moving in front of or behind the ram and although there were a few times I might have been able to slip an arrow through traffic I just never quite felt comfortable with it.
Later that evening, we moved back to a blind I had sat earlier in the week looking for blesbok and red hartebeest. For the 5th time on day 6 I had Zebra in to the water in front of me - I had to needle Nico just a bit and ask him "I thought you said these Zebra were so hard to get???". He told me I was luckiest guy he'd ever had in the blind when it came to the Zebra ... although Luck is not usually a word that people use when describing me!?!
We did have a mature, but small blesbok ram come into water but Nico felt we would have the opportunity later at a better ram so we passed up the opportunity.
I was sitting in my chair, reading when I heard foot steps on the rocks around the blind. We had been hearing the buffalo all morning so I didn't pay it much attention. I looked up and saw nothing and went back to my book. A few seconds later I heard the noise again, looked up and there they were - FINALLY - a cow and a calf red hartebeest standing at the water! I grabbed my bow as the herd started to make their way into the water. Once I was set up, we noticed the bull was hung up in the bush behind the water. After several minutes the bull finally made his way to the water, turned quartering away at about 12 yards. The shot was good, entering just behind the crease and burying in the off side shoulder. The bull ran about 100 yards before going down!
After all of the hours we had spent in the blind looking for a red hartebeest - and for it all finally to come together that red hartebeest will prove to be one of my favorite trophies and memories of the trip!
He was an old bull, with a TON of mass and 22 1/4" long horns - a truly beautiful animal.
Lets try that again!
With my red hartebeest on the ground, I was finally able to sleep in! We left camp for the blind around 7:00am. The morning was a little slow with a small band of warthog, an impala, and 1 small kudu coming in.
At 10:00am however, we looked out and a lone blesbok ram was coming into the water. A lone ram Nico said would be very wary and he was correct - he took forever to finally commit to coming in to the water. I took what I thought was a broadside shot and hit where I thought was a perfect shot. The blesbok ran about 50 yards and I thought he was going to fall, however he finally walked out of sight?
Nico reviewed the footage and said it was OK but might have been just a touch far back. To make what has turned into a long story a bit shorter - any of you who have seen Dries's videos Nico is the man known to trick his clients into tripping over their animals, I knew it was coming, but he sold it all so well that I fell for it too! The shot was perfect, Nico said he almost spoiled it by tipping over in sight of the blind, but luckily for his trick the blesbok walked just out of sight before going down!
I was glad we held out from shooting the smaller blesbok ram that we had seen earlier in the week - this ram measured 15 1/2" with 10" bases. My final animal of the trip!
For anyone planning, or thinking about a trip to South Africa - Ive only been to Dries Visser Safaris, but I cannot really see how you could do better. During our hunt I met PHs Antonie, Hein, Stian, Ben and Nico. All of them were great guys - and darn fine pool players. Nico did a stand-up job, he is a great PH, tracker, and when I was melting down after my impala experience he was a qualified therapist as well!
Animals were literally everywhere, I think trophy quality was high and between the Citadel camp and each of the PHs additional properties there was a nearly endless supply of property to hunt. Food in camp was unbelieveable as well - Duane the camp chef outdid himself every night.
Thanks one last time to nd, tinpt, and Mrs. tinpt, Nico, Dries and all of his staff for making this an unbelieveable experience, and one that I hope to do again!
For anyone that took the time to actually read all of this, thanks to you too for your patience and your time!!!
happy hunting, dv
As I mentioned in another thread, I'm headed over to hunt with Dries in a few weekes......the anticipation is already so high and only grows with great stories and pics like these.