Hunting Safari 2017, Cape Buffalo hunt
May 2017 hunt report
2009, I remember it like it was yesterday. The excitement of planning my first African hunting safari. All the details, what outfitter to choose, the flight options, and equally important, what animals to harvest.
As with most hunters, I did my research, and settled on an outfitter in RSA. Stationed in Pretoria they had contacts with lodges in every huntable province. I had planned on a seven animal plains game hunt.
Kudu, Impala, Blesbok, Warthog, Blue and Black Wildebeest and last but not least the Springbok.
Subsequent to my booking, I was introduced to another outfitter at the Toronto, African Sporting Gazette show. One thing led to another and I was encouraged to take some time to visit and hunt with them. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity to split up my trip. After all, who knew if I would ever be able to go again. Breaking off the last four days of my two-week safari, I had the outfitter book a flight from Johannesburg to Kimberley, in the Northern Cape.
Hunting in the Limpopo region turned out to be a typical hunt of the day. We would hunt for a few days at one lodge, then travel to another. In the bushveld, the properties were not large, typically in the range of a few thousand acres. Needless to say, I saw a lot of high fences. Of all my memories from that hunt, I must say, this is really the only negative thing I remember.
Immediately after booking a friend indicated he would like to come with me, great, now I had company.
My hunting partner John and I split the first seven days between two lodges in the western Limpopo region. Then our travels included three days in the Free State. The Free State consisted of rolling hills with the occasional high plateau. Much different from the bushveld, much longer shots. Since the Black Wildebeest is not indigenous to the Limpopo bushveld we had to travel southward into the Free State where we harvested the Black Wildebeest and an Eland for John.
Breaking off the last four days of our two weeks, we hopped onto a South African Airlines passenger plane to Kimberley. In the Northern Cape we experienced a slightly different type of hunting. Large expanses of property, very flat and open. Again, much longer shots, Typically two hundred yards. Here the Red Hartebeest thrived, testing my skills at a distance of 280 yards. John managed to tag his Kudu and Blue wildebeest completing our hunt before we travelled home.
This may sound like a mixed up way to hunt, but, in actual fact it was perfect for me. I wanted to see as much of the country as our meager two weeks would allow. The camps were typical, the food was good, and we saw animals everywhere.
Well, it is now eight years later. I have travelled to Namibia and back again to the Limpopo province near Kruger Park.
November 2016, flights were booked and we were set for our safari to start May 18/2017 and return May 29th. The hunt was to be only seven days, but due to KLM cancelling the flight on the return day we requested, we had to extend our stay to nine days in camp. Our safari was now an eleven day adventure.
Five of our group were from central Ontario and two from Nova Scotia. We would all meet up in Toronto for our Twenty and one-half hours of travel to RSA.
May 18, 2017 finds myself and six others sitting at the Toronto Airport. All but myself and one other member were new to African hunting.
Since we were arriving at nine thirty pm, I planned a one night stay at the Afton Guest House. We were to be picked up early the next morning by our hosts.
Excitement was high as we greeted two of our hosts for the upcoming hunt. Head PH Louis DeBruyn and dangerous game PH, Wessel Scholman greeted us with smiles as they packed our gear into the trailer. In 3.5hours we would arrive at camp.
Being a taxidermist myself, I had no desire to have my clients trophies be put into the hands of a less than excellent South African taxidermist. So, I had requested that we visit the facility where our trophies were to be handled before they could be shipped back home. I had previously, had numerous experiencing with taxidermists in Limpopo, the Free State and the Northern Cape. Each time I was assured that the recommended taxidermist was good. Needless to say, the services seldom measured up to what I had been promised or expected.
Upon arriving at Trophy Solutions Africa in Polokwane ( Pietersburg ), I met with owner / general manager Johan van der Merwe. As we walked through his facility the thing that jumped out at me was the cleanliness and organization. Right from the receiving to the finished taxidermy area I could see the professionalism. Comfortable with the tour and the answers I had received, we departed, confident our trophies would be in good hands.
Since my youth, my heart had been set on hunting one animal. This trip I would hunt the dangerous and cagy Cape Buffalo.
By a stroke of luck, Iulian was an avid rifle collector and just happened to own a Ruger 450. Fortunately, once he knew I would be hunting a buffalo he offered up his prize rifle. He wanted to see how it would perform in a real life situation.
A few afternoons at the range and I was very comfortable shooting this single shot Ruger Number 1. Due mostly to the barrel weight, I was surprised to find that it had little more kick than my 30-06.
Zeroed in at 100 yards and equipped with a couple of dummy rounds I practiced rapid firing from my shooting sticks. Everything I read had told me that I would need to be able to send off a rapid second shot. Buffalo usually run, they are hard to knock down and extremely dangerous if wounded.
The remainder of our group would be hunting plains game and set out practicing with their rifles at 100 to 200 yards.
We would arrive late in the evening of May 19. With approximately 20.5 hours of travel time under our belts everyone agreed that our first night in RSA should be spent at the Afton Guest House, sleeping. Our pick up was scheduled for the following morning at 9am. On a previous trip, we had driven direct to camp before we went to bed, leaving us totally exhausted. I was not about to do that again.
Rested and fed, with my Nikon D90 on my lap, we headed out to Polokwane. A bit out of our way, the small town is home to Trophy Solutions Africa.
As we rolled up to the entrance to Trophy Solutions Africa, I was pleasantly surprised. The facility was clean, organized and virtually spotless. The purpose of my requested visit to the taxidermy facility was to ascertain if I would agree to leaving our trophies in the hands of who, to me was at that time, an unknown taxidermy shop. On previous visits to Africa our trophies had been handled by unknowns as well. Not all situations had turned out pleasantly.
Since the hides had to be dipped and Packed to meet our inspection authority requirements, I wanted to make sure they were prepared in such a way as to avoid any rework when they arrived.
The tanning industry in Canada leaves a lot to be desired. With no good facilities in Ontario, the hunter and taxidermists have no choice but to send their trophies to other provinces to be tanned, incurring additional cost, and further delays. Being a taxidermist myself and knowing the value of good tanning with quality chemicals, I knew there had to be a better and hopefully cheaper way to handle the trophies.
After a forty-five minute tour with Johan, my questions had all been answered to my satisfaction. My mind had been made up. Yes, we would leave our trophies in the hands of Johan at Trophy Solutions Africa.
Approximately two hours later we arrived camp. Tucked away in the bush, the lodge was a sight to behold. Beautifully decorated and adorned with walls of game heads. Settled into our rooms, we all met in the main lodge where the staff welcomed us in a true African manner.
Ralph, Alvin, Mike, Iulian and myself all gather around as we were introduced to our PH’s for the week. In the morning, we would be up for an early breakfast and then off to the bush. Having arrived late we would sight our rifles in before departing to hunt.
The bushveld had not yet dropped its leaves and visibility at ground level was restricted to fifty yards or less. Hunting the buffalo would be at close quarters.
Using spot and stalk, our plan would be to locate our quarry and then pursue him on foot until we could get within shooting distance. Place the bullet into the shoulder triangle and the old Dugga boy would drop. Well, that was the plan!
Our first day out, we checked some of the water holes roadways for Spoor (sign). In Africaans, Abel our tracker mentioned that a very large dugga boy had been seen frequenting a dense section of bush to the west of our location. So, off we headed looking for sign.
It didn’t take long to locate what was to be believed a very large bull. The track was large and very rounded on the front. A very distinct track, amoungst all the others it was very noticeable . A fresh dung pile splattered on the trail. Shinny and still warm, the pile gave us our first lead as to the direction, and where he might be. Two hours later we knew were close. Only once did we get a clear view of the animal. Heavy drooping horns, and wide in the boss this lone bull would be worth hunting.
Buffalo tend to make a lot of noise as they push their way through the thorn infested bush. We could occasionally hear him, but the bush was so thick we could not see him. As I would soon find out, in this part of Limpopo it is rare to find a bush, tree or plant without thorns.
By a sheer stroke of luck, we had to back track a few yards due to extra thick bush. There he stood, through one of the rare openings in the bush we could see him, ever so slowly walking away from us. The wind had been in our favor. Undetected, we stepped slowly into the opening between two bushes.
Wessel put up the shooting sticks. As I settled the cross hair onto the front shoulder, I heard Wessel say he is broad side, take him on the shoulder. At one hundred yards my typical grouping of two inches should provide a swift harvest of this monster dugga boy.
As the adrenalin pumped through my veins, the recoil from the Ruger 450 seemed non-existent. Squarely, the bullet hit the shoulder, and the buffalo lifted its front left leg. A good sign.
With all the rapid reloading I had practiced, I did not even have time to reach for the second shell before the big boy turned and disappeared into the thick bush on the opposite side of the clearing.
With the bull gone we stood discussing the events and waiting for a safe period of time before we followed him into the unknown. Excited, and relieved I was not yet able to acknowledge that the big boy was down. I had hunted many a year and for many species. Until I saw my animal laying on the ground, I assumed that the hunt was not over. Even with what appeared to be a solid hit, there was no blood, nothing except tracks to follow. I had read how tough these animals are and I was about to find out. Three hours of slow cautious tracking, then darkness settled in. We would have to abandon the search and come back in the morning.
As every hunter knows, when an animal is hit and not quickly recovered, the doubts start settling in. Was the shot good, too far forward, did the bull move, should I have used soft point bullets? Every possible scenario, right or wrong goes through your head.
Neels van Rensburg the hunting manager assured me we would find him in the morning.
So off to bed we went.
Tough, this dugga boy was. For two full days we followed him through some of the thickest crap you can imagine. Outfitted in shorts and short sleeve shirt my arms and legs took a beating. Scratched from top to bottom, both arms and legs were evidence of where we had been escorted. At times, I wondered if this old boy had taken us into the dense cover out of spite, he dragged us through the thickest terrain he could find.
Fortunately for us his track was so distinct that even in stony terrain we were able to find away to pick him up, when we thought he was lost that single distinct track would magically appear. Wessel and Abel with the persistence of pit bulls stayed determined.
On route toward one of the watering holes we finally spotted the black figure standing motionless about thirty yards away. Wessel glassed the buffalo, conforming it was the right bull we positioned ourselves for what we hoped would be the finale.
Wessel raised his Nitro 500 to his shoulder. Not wanting to take the opportunity away from me, he asked if I could see the bull. Lined up I asked if he was ready and fired. Immediately after he discharged the 500. Turning, the buffalo headed to his left, stopping concealed behind a bush. Slowly, we walked side by side toward the bush. Wessel, being the gentleman and quality PH he was asked if he should fire or did I want to do it. Again I accepted, and placed another 400 grain solid into the bulls spine. It was all but over as we waited for the death moan. Confident that he had expired, we approached.
To our amazement, the initial bullet hole, in only two days, had scabbed over. Except for the trail of blood leading down from the hole, little sign existed of him ever being hit.
Post-mortem investigation showed that the original 450, 400 grain solid, had entered the shoulder breaking two ribs and deflecting forward into the neck. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected that a bullet of that calibre and weight could be deflected. After all the events of this week, I am thankful to my PH, Wessel and tracker Abel, they have by far been the best team a hunter could wish for, and secondly, I stand in awe of this magnificent creature.
Day by day, the success stories of the other hunters were discussed over the dinner table. For Ralph and Eleanor, being chased from the bush by an irate buffalo made their highlight reel, Mike, Alvin and Iulian all successfully harvesting the animals of their dreams.
Thanks to the PH’s Louis, Wessel, Koos and Danni
The experiences and pleasure of hunting with this team will last in my memories for years to come.
As soon as my trophy Dugga Boy skin and horns arrive I will mount him up. He will hold the place of honor in my show room.
Farewell for now, we will return.
Your friends, The fun loving Canucks ( Canadians )
Avid hunter and Master Taxidermist.
Hunting Safaris 2013
Along with Mr. Dave ( John ) Walden we departed on March 30 for 16 glorious days in the north east corner of Limpopo Province of South Africa.
We started our safari in the Mbuyu bush camp located in the Maremani nature Conservancy. This wildlife refuge has 66,000acres of undisturbed terrain. With sole hunting rights to the area and the animals within we were assured sole access to animals ranging from Steinbok to Elephant provide constant excitement for the hunter, site seer or photographer.
The Mbuyu camp is set up to accommodate the hunter who wants more of a wilderness experience. Centrally located in the reserve with small single or double guest buildings this camp has all the comforts of home. The camp staff prepare all meals, do all the laundry ( daily ) and cater to all your needs.
The camp is well equipped with skinning and drying facilities with a camp fire enclosure for your evening relaxation.
After spending seven days in the camp we relocated to the main lodge outside of the conservancy where we were treated to five star service and delicious meals with all the local specialties.
John managed to harvest a Zebra, Nyala, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest, Impala and Steinbok.
Having been to Africa on two other occasions I chose only to harvested Impala, Duiker and Wildebeest. I wanted to harvest a Bushbuck or Waterbuck but they were very shy. Although we did have numerous sightings of females and subordinate males.
The last two days were spent on an excursion of Kruger national park and then off to Johannesburg for the flight home.
Avid hunter and Master Taxidermist.