As long time friends and hunting buddies, Wendell Daniel, Bob McDonald and I decided to make an African Plains game hunt. After checking around we booked a hunt with Nathan Askew of Bullet Safaris.
We arrived at Johannesburg on April 29th, meeting Nathan at the airport. After retrieving our luggage and rifles and going through all of the formalities such as obtaining our gun permits, etc., we were ready to depart for parts unknown with Nathan.
We left the airport at approximately 7 to 7:30 pm with Nathan driving us to the first hunting area, arriving there at 12:00 pm. Since there were three of us, Nathan had a friend of his and professional hunter Andre Koornhof helping. To our surprise Andre's girlfriend, Rena, and her helpers had a full course meal ready. The next surprise for the three of us, who were accustomed to roughing it in Alaska and other hunting areas, were the accommodations. We were hunting on very large game ranches and found that this particular ranch had several small cabins constructed of brick with thatched roofs. Each consisted of a duplex-like structure with a bedroom and bath on each side. In addition, there was a mess hall, open on two sides and also constructed o brick with a thatched roof. Everything was much more comfortable than we expected and Rena fed us much too well.
Although we were hunting on high fenced fame ranches these ranches were so big that it was certainly not like shooting in a pen. We did a lot of driving, walking, tracking and stalking game just as you would in a wilderness area. Although we headquartered on this ranch, we hunted several other ranches in the area. All of this part of the country was similar to South Texas brush country.
April 30th – Up at 5:45 am, had breakfast and went hunting. Bob and Wendell went with Andre and his tracker David, and I went with Nathan and his tracker John. Wendell killed a blesbok. We all met again at noon and had lunch. In the afternoon, Bob and I went with Nathan and Wendell went with Andre. Bob wanted to sit on a stand at a waterhole and try for a good warthog. Left John with Bob and Nathan and I continued hunting, with no luck. Upon picking up Bob and John in late afternoon, we found that Bob had killed a very good waterbuck. He had made a one shot kill and had a fine trophy. Wendell came in late with a long face and we learned that he had missed a gemsbok.
May 1st – Up at 5:45 am and had breakfast. Wendell went with Andre. Bob and I went with Nathan. I got an impala with a one shot kill at about 75 yards after having to crawl around under brush and shoot from an unnatural position on my knees and leaning outward. I hit the impala in the breast as it was facing me and down it went. We returned to camp and had lunch. After lunch Bob went with Nathan and me and sat over a waterhole with no luck. Nathan, John and I continued hunting. We flushed some gemsbok but didn't get a shot. John got on the tracks and tracked for a considerable distance, finally catching up with them. I rested on a small forked tree and made a one shot kill at about 75 yards, broadside shot. Bob killed nothing that afternoon and Wendel came into camp later and was empty handed.
May 2nd – Up at 5:45 am and had breakfast. Bob and I went with Nathan and Wendell went with Andre. I got a zebra early. The zebra was standing broadside at about 200 yards. I shot off the sticks. Just as I shot the zebra jumped forward which resulted in a hit too far back. The zebra ran a short distance and laid down, where upon I ran forward and finished it. Bob sat on a waterhole the remainder of the morning with no luck. Nathan, John and I climbed a high rocky area and sat for the remainder of the morning. A red hartebeest at about 300 yards and on a downhill angle tempted me a little too much and I took a shot at it and missed. We returned to camp for lunch. Wendell came in with a gemsbok, redeeming himself for missing the first one. After noon, Wendell left with Andre and Bob and I with Nathan. We rode over the country and hunted all afternoon. Bob shot a blesbok at about 70 yards. Back at camp that night Wendell came in with a long face again. He had shot an impala and as the brush in that area was impossibly thick, they were unable to find it. They searched until night fall with no success. Wendell had hopes of finding it in the morning in spite of the jackals, cats, etc.
May 3rd – Up early and breakfast as usual. Wendell hunted with Andre on another ranch and killed a nice kudu. Bob and I hunted with Nathan and we got on the tracks of eland after sighting them running away. We tracked for a while and the wind changed. They got our scent and ran. Meanwhile, we had intercepted the tracks of kudu so we got on their track for quite some time. We finally got close enough for a shot through an opening in the brush; however, there were kudu females in the way and I did not risk a shot. I did kill a blesbok late that morning. We returned to camp for lunch. Bob has not contacted "kudu fever" and hunted with Andre. Wendell went with Nathan and me and sat on a waterhole, having no luck. Nathan, John and I came upon a very good kudu, being the same one that we tracked and saw that morning. I had to make a quick off hand shot at about 70 yards through an opening in the brush and got the kudu. Bob came in that night having seen kudu but nothing shootable.
May 4th – Up and breakfast as usual. Bob's "kudu fever" was getting critical. Bob and Andre left to hunt kudu. Wendell went with Nathan and me and sat on a waterhole all morning. He saw game but shot nothing. Nathan, John and I spotted two good waterbucks and got on their tracks for most of the morning but finally lost them. We returned to camp for lunch. In the afternoon, Wendel, Nathan and I went off again. We stopped by a large tower stand overlooking a great deal of country to try and spot some nyala that Wendell had seen in that area on the previous day. We glassed a while and saw nothing. John, the tracker, sat out to walk a big circle, attempting to push game out so we could locate it. Meanwhile we spotted a great kudu. John circled far enough away from the kudu that it stood quite still in the brush and never moved. It was too far away to shoot and too much brush in the way had a shot been attempted. John got back to the tower and commenced another circle still attempting to locate nyala. In this walk John spotted a good waterbuck and a nyala. Long story short – we got on the track of the nyala with darkness ending out attempt. Back at camp, Bob came in without a kudu. Had he been with us he could have collected a very good kudu. Such is the hunter's luck.
May 5th – Up, ate breakfast. Bob went off with Andre on his kudu quest. Wendell rode with Bob. Bob killed a good blue wildebeest. He made a good shot off the sticks and broke its neck, dropping it in its tracks. I went with Nathan. We were still in search of eland. We got on the tracks of eland early and tracked them for quite some time, finally giving up. We rode the truck a good part of the morning, not seeing any game until around midday when we got into a honey hole. We spotted a zebra off toward our front at about 250 yards. While sitting there admiring the zebra we spotted gemsbok off to our left in the brush and were getting down to make a stalk when John spotted eland off to our right. We commenced a stalk on the eland and encountered several warthogs, one being a nice big tusked animal. We had to wait for the warthogs to move on before resuming our eland stalk. We couldn't shoot the warthog without scaring off the eland. We finally got to a suitable opening through the brush for a shot. The eland was broadside at about 80 yards. I shot from the sticks and made a perfect hit. The eland sat back a little, regained his footing, turned tail to us and ran. I then tried to angle a shot through the brush and through his ribs into his vitals, but missed. I did not want to shoot him in the behind. The eland ran about 60 or 70 yards and lay down. I ran up to where I could get another clear shot and broke his neck. Upon dressing the eland, we found that the first shot had centered his heart. Nathan said that this was the biggest bodied eland that he had ever seen killed. He weighed approximately 1800 pounds. We went back to camp for lunch and to dress my eland. Bob had his wildebeest dressed when we got there. In the afternoon, Bob went with Andre looking for kudu. Almost had a shot at a good one but lost the opportunity. Wendell went with Nathan and me and we both sat on different waterholes. We both saw various game but neither of us chose to shoot anything.
May 6th – Up and ate breakfast. Wendell and I went with Nathan. We got on nyala twice and tracked them for a while with no success. About midday I killed another zebra that was facing me at about 125 yards. I shot it in the breast, dropping it in its tracks. Bob had gone with Andre still looking for kudu. After noon, I rode with Bob and Andre trying for Bob's kudu. Wendell went with Nathan trying for an impala. It was an unsuccessful afternoon for all.
May 7th – Up, ate and out. Wendell and I went with Nathan trying for an impala for Wendell. We got into a herd of 40 or 50 impala. Nathan, John and Wendell went downwind and circled for a long time but shot nothing. I stayed with the truck and picked them up further along. Bob had gone with Andre hoping to find his elusive kudu. We all got back to camp for lunch. In the afternoon, Nathan, Wendell and I went with Bob and Andre - Wendell needing an impala and Bob, a kudu. No success. This was the last day at this camp.
May 8th – We all packed up and left for the second camp and hunting area further north. We spent a good part of the day seeing Kruger National Park. We arrived late in the day to the second camp which had facilities much like the first camp. Bob's "kudu fever" was raging so we all went with him to try for a kudu. The country was different from the first area. There was less thorn brush and more trees which reminded me of our Texas post oak country - small tress with underbrush, but fewer thorns than the first area. After hunting Bob's kudu for a while, Wendell killed a good warthog and upon continuing the hunt, I killed a very nice waterbuck. All of this action took place on Bob's kudu quest. We returned to camp about dark and had another of Rena's big meals. After eating we retired to our cabins and listened to lions roar most the night.
May 9th – The lions woke me up at about 4 am. Wendell and I went with Nathan and John, with Wendell trying for an impala. I was just tagging along. We had a pretty dull morning, not seeing much game until we sighted about 50 impala. Wendell, Nathan and John circled downwind and slipped up to where they had a good view of the herd. They stayed gone a long time while I waited on them. There were some average bucks in the herd; however, Wendell wanted to try for a better one. Upon returning to camp for lunch, Bob came in with a good kudu – finally. In the afternoon we hunted a little but did not make much effort.
May 10th – Up and out. We all went out together and made a little effort at hunting but not much effort as had all gotten about all we wanted. We returned to camp and had lunch. The ranch manager informed us that he needed meat for his ranch hands. We all went out together. Wendel made a difficult shot at about 175 to 200 yards on an impala and downed it. A little later, upon getting into more impala, I shot two for the hands, one to my left and another ahead of me. We got back to the camp about dark, had a drink by the fire and once again ate too much of Rena's good cooking. It was a good ending to the last day in the field. Very fine people and a good time was had by all and we all intend to go back with Nathan one day.
Footnote: Gary Calfee killed 1 kudu, 1 eland, 1 waterbuck, 2 zebra, 1 blesbok, 3 impala (2 for ranch hands), and 1 gemsbok – using a 375 H&H. Bob McDonald killed 1 kudu, 1 blesbok, 1 warthog, 1 blue wildebeest, using a 330 Winchester. Wendel Daniel killed 1 kudu, 1 gemsbok, 1 blesbok, 1 warthog and 1 impala, using a 338 Winchester.
Written by: Gary Calfee, Client