Busy year in South Africa

BallisticsGuy

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Just about the minute they opened up I was scheduling a flight. Spent a month over there hanging with the homies, doing farm work and hunting. None of the hunts I go on are the drive up and shoot type. We will drive to an area but then it's get out and do a proper walk and stalk which may include protracted periods of time sitting under a bush or in a ditch or on a rock.

While in the Karoo at a friends house I got my black wildebeest on a meat hunt. The mission was to pull a specific bull out of the neighbors herd that was stopping a really stunning bull with much superior genetics from taking over the herd. Taken at ~200m with a .308win running 178gr ELD's from an Accuracy International rifle. Gave it the old noggin pop and after a couple days to hang and let the meat firm up we got some amazing sirloin and tenderloin as well as a good amount of droewors and biltong. Wildebeest are built for running and that's just what they love to do. After I shot this guy the herd ran like it was on fire, directly over to the stunner bull. So, mission accomplished there. I hear tell (with the mild sarcasm light on) that it's folly to shoot wildebeest in the body as all you'll do is provide them more air to run on. From what I can tell after a this hunt and a subsequent blue wildebeest hunt that I did in the Free State, it's something approaching true. I didn't get pics of the blue because, well, we forgot. Yeah I know it seems like something you'd remember but it was a tough hunt and I was tuckered after the whole excursion and doing farm work and we needed to get the day's take ready to head to a local butchery. In any event the blue wasn't very large for a blue nor was it a bull but I got it at 325m with a .375Ruger while off by myself as the herd was busy busting me. The head will certainly end up European mounted and on the wall. It was my first blue and a memorable hunt. The black wildebeest head will also end up European mounted on the wall. It was my first black wildebeest, a good example of the species and a super fun hunt that took quite a bit more work than I'd thought it might which only added to the fun.
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After the black wildebeest I went off for a proper roughing-it hunt for blesbok in the Free State. No going back to the farmhouse at the end of the day, no showers, none of that jazz. This was camping in tents in very cold conditions and doing it the hard way whenever there was an option. Blessies are very energetic runners. They like to run to a spot, circle about in a tight group and then run to another spot. They're really bad at giving you clean shots that last for more than a second or two and they like to stay pretty far away. I took this one with a Winchester M70 CRF in a nice chassis running 105gr RDF's that had, of all things, been pointed. I was a little dubious about them expanding or doing anything but pencil'ing but it all worked out for me. When the herd stopped 500m away this really quite nice ram popped out near the of the edge of the herd and gave me about 3 seconds to figure out the wind and drill him. Shot distance was 490m and I poked him clean through both shoulders with a light but variable wind from left to right. Normally I don't take shots on game that are that far but I knew what the rifle was capable of and what I was capable of and all I had to do was get it in the engine room. One shot and he poked around a bit before falling down and joining the choir invisible. It's got some nice thick bases and will make an excellent addition to the wall as (you should predict this by now) a European mount.
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After the open grasslands version of the Free State (seriously, it's like the mid-west with never ending grasslands) I headed a bit further toward Lesotho but still in the Free State for a little time with another friend and while tending the cows one day he decides to take me to his honey hole. This is not a game farm, it's a beef farm so you catch as catch can as far as hunting goes and his spot paid off bigtime.
As we walk up there's a beast of a warthog milling around but we decided to wait on that till we hit the top of the overlook and what do you know, there's a nice size eland standing there at 230m and a big bodied waterbuck with something of short pair of horns at 260m a bit off to the right while the warthog is still 200m behind me. I get the word from my friend to take the eland and so I put one in the back of the thinker with a TC Compass rifle in .308win running 150gr Game Kings. The rifle was a laser and my rest on top of a rock held steady enough for long enough to drop the fella like it was hot. Then my buddy says, "Now the waterbuck." as I'm shucking another round in. So, I line up on the waterbuck's head and let fly which drops him like a used condom. I flick the bolt open stand up and run a few paces to another rock as my buddy is telling me to get the warthog and after a rough and ready rest on the rock is established I zero in on the ear and put that bad boy down in his tracks. Just as I'm finishing the pig off a red hartebeest pops its head out and we spent a while trying to get a shot on it but it was bullet shy and I couldn't get a clean shot so we passed on it and it passed on us around the same time. This, like all my hunting in ZA was a meat hunt. We're not out looking for massive trophies that'll make the news. Trophies to me are whatever you bring back anyway. Something that when you see them you remember the hunt and the trip and the people. They're not supposed to be what you measure wang size against other hunters with. Besides, it's simple to find giant trophy editions if you want them. It just costs more and ends up being less fun. Nonetheless, the eland and the warthog both ended up qualifying under SCI trophy rules and you can bet they're going to be on the wall as Euro mounts too. The warthog I'm having done with the lower jaw in place because it just seems like the right way to go. We took a pic of the warthog right away after loading the eland and the waterbuck into a truck. When we got back to the farmhouse and knocked them all off of the truck I felt the energy to arrange the 3 and get a snap of the group. All said and done, for all 3 shots it took less than 30 seconds which even in Africa is a pretty rare sort of buffet hunting experience and on an open farm really less common yet.
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I also finally was able to bring home my zebra skin and kudu skull from my 2019 trip. The kudu is on the wall already but the zebra skin, being something like 12 feet long and quite wide too, has become a discussion point between the bride and myself. I want it on the wall behind my spiral horns and she doesn't really know where she can put up with it.

Adding a kudu to my existing eland skull and springbok skull (along with my assorted relics from hunts in America) helped fill in the Africa wall but also found my wife's limits: 3 skulls per wall. We'll have to work on that for sure. When I bring back the 2 wildebeest, the blesbok, the eland and the warthog from this year (along with a pelt from my first black backed jackal) I'd like them all to go on the same wall. Next year I'm hoping to arrange for a nyala and an oryx and maybe a bull blue wildebeest.

The most amazing things also happened to me on my way out of the country:

The first was a SAPS cop at a very small airport thinking my kudu horns were rhino horn (education there is not what it should be) and inviting me into a very small room to explain myself. When I produced my export documentation this seemed only to confuse him and his associates so he called in a lady who works the ticket counter and is apparently much better educated in the country's export laws. She said a few things about how it was a kudu not a rhino skull and horns and that it'd been treated properly for being in my luggage and being exported which they didn't respond to at all and then she said the magic words, "It's fine." and then it immediately was and I was allowed to get on the plane.

The second was being able to get an avocado cheeseburger which was quite good and not even classifiable as a war crime; there are no cheeseburgers in the whole country at takeaways that are anything less than a crime against humanity, as well as a 500ml beer which actually contained closer to 650ml of a wonderful IPA and a round of fried calamari at a fine dining restaurant INSIDE AN AIRPORT for a grand total of $18 US. When they brought the bill it just said "245.00" on the total line which included the tip and I, figuring they'd caught on to my accent, assumed it might just be in dollars but no, it was in Rand. The beer alone, and I have tested this, would be $18 at any major airport in the USA and the burger and appetizer would have cost similar amounts. I briefly considered trying to find a movie theater in the airport so I could see how much popcorn could be had for $10 but I quickly discarded that notion as I was afraid I would not be able to carry that much weight after the whole burger and beer experience.

Now I have to run off to the store and buy some spices for biltong. Once you try biltong you'll end up needing to have a supply of it on hand for the rest of your life. Since it's very hard to find in the USA and horribly expensive and I know how to make it now, I'll just make my own.

If you haven't thought you could hunt in South Africa, you can and it's still cheaper than most hunting in the USA when you add it all up. So much so that I've decided to buy a nice little ~850 hectare (2100 acre) game farm there because it's not that expensive to do and I have just the perfect one lined up already. Then I can go to my own place and hunt and I can bring my friends and give them a proper boere style hunt so they'll get addicted and have to go every year.
 
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Trogon

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Great story and fine animals! I had my first trip in April to Eastern Cape. Going back in 2022. Reading your story just made it that much harder to wait. Congrats!
 

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