Florin and his father, Vio, arrived on a sunny, yet chilly morning at the Johannesburg international airport after a long overnight flight from the UK.
Tian, a family friend, was on hand to collect them and transport the father-and-son hunting in Africa duo to our hunting concession about 3 hours from the airport. Upon arriving in the bustling border town of Zeerust, they waited about 15 minutes after we collected much needed supplies from the local grocery store.
Since Florin and I had been communicating via email for a few months it was like meeting an old friend while exchanging pleasantries en-route to the hunting concession. Vio does not speak a word of English and I not a word of Romanian. However, hunting is an international language that bonds us together and so our hunt for the next few days commenced. It was Vio’s first African hunting safari trip and it was clear he was looking forward to being here.
Upon arrival they were shown their room before we had some refreshments and headed out to the shooting range where Vio was introduced to a Marlin 243, shooting factory ammunition in Winchester with 100 gr projectiles. His next best friend was a Mauser in 30-06 using factory Barnes 165 gr projectiles. Vio decided that the 30-06 was his caliber of choice and I appreciated his choice.
With only limited time available before dark we set out hunting for any one of the following: blue wildebeest, blesbok, impala or warthog. On the initial spot-and-stalk drive we did not see anything of interest and about a mile from camp Peter, our trusty skinner, saw a herd of blue wildebeest. We dismounted and with only a few minutes left of a fading day, commenced a slow stalk. My initial look at the herd from about 150 yards out revealed that the fading daylight made it a risky choice to call the correct animal to be hunted. Vio, with many years’ hunting experience, suggested we move closer for a better view. I have to admit I had my doubts and agreed to proceed. Amazingly we could move to within 100 yards from the snorting herd when a huge wildebeest bull stepped a few yards outside his personal safety zone presenting a quartering-to shot.
In the hands of a novice the 30-06 is a great tool, but in the hands of an experienced hunter like Vio, it is a killing machine! Laying the rifle across my shoulder it took the better part of a few seconds for Vio to squeeze the trigger unleashing more than 2 000 feet per second fury from the Barnes projectile straight to the bang-flop zone of the huge wildebeest. After the bang of the 30-06, the wildebeest flopped down to terra firma. It fell right between its own hooves. This was the best shot on a wildebeest I have experienced in three years from any hunter from any part of the world.
We approached carefully just to make sure it was actually departed before many congratulations we exchanged. The usual picture taking ceremony was done and we had a cold Miller before taking the victory lap to the skinning shed. New friendships were cemented right there.
An item of minor concern pushed its ugly head to the surface when Vio produced two bottles of home brew. We were informed it was distilled from plums and was immensely traditional Romanian.
With some trepidation, I took a small swig and almost dropped my rear end to the ground. It was as if a steam locomotive parked in reverse on my chest. Gulping for fresh air like a halibut on shore, I took an oath not to have more of the fire water. Other members present continued the conversation as if nothing happened!
Above: Vio and Florin
Early morning Vio and son Florin were ready to tackle the day by the horns while I still thought about the home brew. Michael presented us with an array of early morning rusks (traditional South African fare) before we headed out for a full day of hunting.
15 minutes into the hunt we took a small detour and in an open field spotted a slow-moving herd of impala females. At the end of the rut we knew there had to be a male and were watching the impala intently when Vio motioned in Romanian that he saw something else. Of course, it happens many times that a novice African hunter points out the obvious and with all due respect, it was only then I saw a group of warthog. Well done Vio.
Between watching the impala and the warthogs, a big boar soon showed himself and the hunt was on. At slightly more than 200 yards the shot was too risky so we moved forward trying to close the gap. As if on que the warthogs decided to walk towards us. From about 70 yards out we took the shot and saw the warthog run a few circles before heading towards cover. After a short follow-up, the coup-de-grace was administered with the end result visible below.
We got up bright and early to take a 90-minute drive to a property where we could hunt blesbok. 5 am is bright and early and we were all on board for the journey. At 06:45 we watched local ladies start preparing a huge Dutch oven for stew and pap. Pap is the local staple diet, a thick porridge made from maize meal. I promised Vio and Florin we would stop by on the way back of the ladies were still there.
After meeting up with the owner he sent us off to the 6 500-hectare (16 900 acre) property to hunt blesbok. It was a windy and chilly morning but we were optimistic about our chances.
By about lunch time we were able to get a good blesbok on the ground.
One thing about hunting and hunters with passion that never ceases to amaze me is that you never need to worry about timing. When a time of departure is agreed upon hunters are never late. Such was the timing again this morning.
After a light breakfast, we headed out to an area where we were positive we would find impala. However, we were side-tracked by our curiosity in the open field where we came across the warthog, so stopped there again. The open field was quite empty apart from a few female impala who were already heading for cover.
This is the time of year we are heading toward the end of the rut meaning there could still be a male impala or two not knowing the rut was at an end. And so it turned out that a lone impala male was on his way to reprimand a junior companion for trying to interfere with the harem when he passed us at about 80 meters (88 yards). I whistled but he was preoccupied. I whistled again but nothing happened so I called him and he stopped, possibly wondering who was calling him at such an inopportune time.
When he stopped broadside, it was all Vio needed. The 30 – 06 needed but a single invitation and felled the impala to the ground. What a shot.
Florin and his father are set to get back home.
Thank you Vio and Florin for your visit. We appreciate your visit and will hopefully have you back for another visit soon.
Until next time!