Charles is on a quest to fulfill a dream instilled on him several years ago after listening to a talk by Craig Boddington. Craig is considered an authority on African hunting and specifically Cape buffalo hunting.
After the talk Charles told his wife that Cape buffalo would be high on his agenda for later years and so his quest began. It is always a good idea to do some plains game hunting before attempting a dangerous game hunt so you know what to expect in terms of hunting in Africa. Charles did this on 3 previous occasions accompanied by his wife before deciding to end his African hunting career with a Cape buffalo.
This is the story of Charles hunting in Africa with Hunting in Africa Safaris for a Cape buffalo. It must be said Charles had a number of ideas about what the Cape buffalo should look like.
On day of arrival we set out to Berg-en-Dal Camp (Mountain and Valley) in Kruger Park arriving in time for the afternoon drive. Within a few minutes we managed to see Cape buffalo in the distance so no dicsussion was held about which one would appeal to Charles.
The next round of Cape buffalo we found were resting on the side of the road and seeing it was a young bull we moved on. The kudu bull mildly attracted our attention so we stopped for a picture or two.
On the way back to camp we managed to see a very lazy lion full of sleep and not interested to have his picture taken so we headed out for a well-deserved nights rest.
The day did not start all too well. A flat was reached before we could reach the gas station. The obvious solution was to change the flat with the spare and if only the AA or enough staff were around it would have been way easier. This put us back about 25 minutes because we had to unhitch the trailer and then do the honors.
Soon after the wheel was changed we headed out and first thing we saw was a female honey badger with her kid. What a treat as this was the second time only I had seen a honey badger in Kruger in more than 20 years. The lions were a short distance ahead but did not offer any decent picture taking opportunities. We had a long way to go and did not waste too much time on something we could not see properly.
A number of animals presented themselves and we made most of the picture taking opportunities. Noteably an Egyptian goose gave us plenty of time for a number of pictures as did a hippo. Unfortunately the hippo was sleeping and did not open his mouth at all.
We were told to be report at reception at 5 am and promptly at 5 am we were ready to leave. It looked like we were going to be rather lucky in the sense that there was but one other couple who wanted to be on the walk. By 5:10 am our two guides collected the paperwork from us and quizzed us about walking shoes, foot injuries, health issues and such.
For a group of four we were seemingly very healthy and ready for the morning bush walk at Satara Rest Camp, Kruger Park. A short drive turned out to be a 20 minute drive along the paved road before we turned off on a road that was marked: no entry. Another 15 minutes later we pulled up in a dry river bed where we had to wait for enough sunlight before starting the walk. During the waiting perios we heard lions roar in the distance which was the answered by lions roaring from considerably closer.
The Spanish couple were talking excitedly to each other while Charles and I were looking forward to what seemed to be a great day. Finally the moment arrived and the guides got out of the truck, chambered a round each and said we could get off the truck. It was then that the couple looked at each other with a look that said: this is not happening is it? Then the closer lions roared again.
The husband needed no further motivation and tried to stay calm while he asked if we were on the morning drive or the morning walk. It was rather obvious we were on the morning walk I reckoned but said nothing. Charles found it amusing and also said nothing.
The husband insisted he booked for the drive so we had to drive back and let them get onto a regular sight seeing vehicle. By that time a lot of our walking time had been wasted so we took an alternative route and got out where we were closer to the lions than initially intended. That suited us just fine.
After the briefing the guide asked if there were any questions: Charles said he had two questions. Firstly, what caliber do you have and secondly, how accurate can you shoot?
Having known Charles for a long time I could not suppress a smile. However, our guide had a complete humor failure. We were forced to listen to a lecture of the training he and his co-worker had to undergo before obtaining permission to do guided bush walks. We were thankful at having two such well-qualified and experienced guides. Our day began very well indeed.
After a few minutes’ walk we stopped to have a look at a Spotted eagle owl. Indeed great to see.
The skull of a long gone Cape buffalo cow indicated we were going to have a great day. And then the lions roared. Great. Within a few paces we were graced to see a lioness about 100 yards from where we were. Being an experienced guide myself I positioned the two armed guards and Charles ahead of me to facilitate picture taking, and if need be, a hasty retreat. Nothing happened so nobody was the wiser about my stealth plan.
We stopped at a variety of tracks of which the lion tracks were very fresh. I knew they were fresh because we had seen the lions a few minutes earlier.
Very interestingly the guide showed us a few scorpion holes. He used some of our water to entice the scorpion to exit his hole which worked admirably. It was a cold night and with cold water up his hole he was in no mood for fighting.
The rest of the walk was very informative and we arrived at camp ready for breakfast. From there we headed out to Mopane Camp and had to visit the official site of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Charles specifically brought along a bottle of 18 year old Tullamore Scotch for the hunt but this night was just too great to pass up. So we tested the Tullamore. We were unable to decide if it was great, brilliant or better than that. So we tested it again. And numerous more times. I kid you not, it is a great Scotch.
Today is our last morning in Kruger before the Cape buffalo hunt commences. We scheduled at least five days to get the Cape buffalo and, time permitting, wanted to go for bushpig.
Both these species have an air of accomplishment about them and getting them on the same hunt would be fantastic.
We left at first light and on the way to Phalaborwa gate came across the resident hyena clan. They were out to treat us and from about 7 ft away we enjoyed their show.
A last look at some buffalo before we exited the park to start hunting. Of course we passed the holy grail of South African liquer manufacturers: Amarula. Yes we stopped. and yes we watched the promo.
We were more interested in hunting and did not stay for lunch.
Upon arrival at camp we had something to eat and sighted the rifle. My trusty Brno CZ 375 with hand loaded 300 gr Barnes TSX projectiles at 2390 fps. Before long we were hunting. Of the more interesting tracks we came across were leopard, lion and elephant. We also saw bushbuck, kudu, impala, waterbuck and several duiker before we dismounted to have a look at a herd of buffalo.
The wind was not in our favor so we got on the truck and did a huge detour before dismounting. A few minutes walk and we saw them again. Charles was in the sticks and then we saw one that fitted his description of a buffalo to the T. After many minutes on the sticks the buffalo turned around and walked away. At that time it was getting too dark so we called it a day. Silently I think we were all happy the hunt did not happen.
We had an early night
I cannot imagine there was a whole lot of sleep in camp so we were early even for coffee. After the traditional round of rusks we headed out the hunting area. From there it was another half hour travel on the property and en-route saw a couple hippos, bushbuck, waterbuck, kudu and inevitably, impala.
The previous day we dragged a tree behind the Cruiser so had a great start with fresh tracks from the night before. After an hour of checking the trackers were sent to a point to investigate possible buffalo activity. During that time our resident PH, Charles and I went for a walk.
Going down the ravine was not easy neither was it silent. About 40 minutes into the walk we stopped and listened when we heard something run. Closer inspection revealed very fresh buffalo dung and the hunt was on. The largest single problem we faced was a swirling, gusting wind.
20 minutes down the line and we saw our first glimpse of buffalo. If Charles’ heart was not in overdrive by then he should never have been on this hunt. My heart let me know we were facing Black Death.
Closer inspection with the binocular revealed the buffalo had Charles’ name written all over his ugly, gnarly forehead. It was only a matter of allowing for the correct position for Charles to take the shot. What seemed like many hours later I told Chalres to take the shot when ready.
Needless to say we studied the shot placement book page by page. Then we confirmed shot placement on all the buffalo we saw in Kruger, so finally when the shot rang out, the result was astonishing. I have never seen a buffalo fall down like this one in all my time of hunting. It was like you dropped a 10 lb bag of fresh crap. A more perfect shot on buffalo with a 375 I have never had the pleasure of experiencing. Congratulations man.
Knowing that it is the dead ones that kill you, we added two insurance shots. By now it was just about Castle time. Of course we took many pictures. Too many pictures? No, never.
After visiting the skinning shed we witnessed how well the buffalo served the local workforce. Every intestine and organ was divided into equal shares and soon as the skinner said it is time, every inch of the buffalo was utilised.
Of course we asked for a piece of the buffalo tender loins before heading home. What we were given must have been old tire tread of a 1965 Ford 10-tonne semi-truck on early re-tire-ment (no pun intended). Good grief, Gordon our Chef, could not make it tender. It was like chewing on old tread but you know what? we loved every bite. The left over raw meat was to accompany us to our next destination, Louis Trichardt, for bushpig.
Best shot on Cape buffalo ever, well done Charles.
After the hunt we were not going to have an afternoon siesta. Instead we opted to go to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center for a guided tour. Unfortunatey they were fully booked so we had dessert, listened to the presentation and took a few pictures of the cheetah we could see.
From there we made a dash to visit Jessica the world famous hippo. Jessica was raised as an orphan after a major flood. This is the only hippo in captivity in the world that allows interaction between humans and a hippo.
Tony, her owner, gave us the tour and Charles had the opportunity to feed her sweet potato while touching her nose. After the feeding session Jessica was bottle fed Rooibos tea – not too hot, not too cold, not too bitter and not too sweet.
Arriving back at the lodge we knew we faced a long day so we settled by the fire and continued our discussion about the values of Tullamore. Specifically the 18 year old version. We may (or may not have) made a distinct decision as to the true value of life while hunting in Africa. Just for the record: what happens in Africa stays right there by the fire.
While hunting my pick-up started with hick-ups. An electronic chip was added to assist with torque when drawing the heavey trailer. Some time ago a few problematic stops occured and during this hunt it became unbearable.
Fortunately Gravelotte and the baobab tree were between ourselves and Tzaneen for a picture taking session.
We stopped at Toyota in Tzaneen to have the chip removed. Toyota does not deal in chips so they referred me to Limpopo 4 X 4 who did a sterling job in getting rid of the root of my frustration.
From there we left for Louis Trichardt, the last larger city before Mussina, border town between South Africa and Zimbabwe at the Beit Bridge border post. Here we were treated to typical farmer hospitality in a spacious home of our own.
First day we went hunting for baboons that were a pest in the orchard and lucky for the big guy he started moving as Charles squeezed off the trigger of the 375. This helped him and his marauding gang onto the neighbors property where they were of less trouble to us. The first night in the blind yielded nothing and we spent quality time warming up at our residence. The lady of the house made good on her promise to cook the remaining buffalo meat and we had a scrumptious meal.
We were up rather early with a gusting wind and foggy weather conditions. The locals prepared us for a cold day that would in all likeliness last until the following day. Both Charles and I are extreme optimists so we knew we had to go to the city of Louis Trichardt to get a beanie for me and a few minor items for Charles. It also came to mins we should get a bag of molasses to add to the bait pile for the bushpig just so we knew we added a little extra.
Louis Trichardt was named after one of the early Pioneers who left the British Cape Colony to escape British rule. Trichardt and his family moved to the far northern parts of the country over many years suffering numerous set-backs and personal tragedy. Notably loss of childres lives due to fever . In those early days fever was ascribed to camping in the shade of a specific tree: Acacia xanthophloea. Due to the tree being associated with fever, the Pioneers named the tree the Fever tree. To this day it is still known as the Fever tree. Of course the fever was transmitted by the malaria mosquito and had nothing to do with the tree itself.
Nonetheless, we did our shopping and decided to take a small detour to have a look at the Hendrik Verwoerd tunnels North of Louis Trichardt. Unfortunately the walkways were seemingly closed but still managed a few pictures. Peter, our skinner, was most amazed at what was actually down there as he had only travelled past this region by bus and never had the opportunity to see the beautiful valley below.
We headed back to the hunting property, added the molasses to the bait pile and commenced to get ready for the evening hunt.
By 4:30 pm we were in the blind and much better prepared for the cold than the previous evening. The waiting game is always the most difficult part of any hunt but at least it allows time to think. It must be said all the thinking in the world does not solve issues it sometimes creates more problems.
By 9 pm we decided to call it a day and I had already switched my headlamp on to start packing when Charles said in a low serious voice: something is coming in. We were used to the bushbuck coming in but the first bushpig to arrive was welcome news indeed.
Quite silently I had to get the video camera and binocular out of my bag. Charles had to manoeuvre the rifle into position and reload while not sounding like a tornado in a tin house. Admirably we both got it done. One slight hick-up was Charles short-stroked the 375 which meant there was no round in the chamber. When he was sure he had a shot he managed a fine dry fire without jerking. That showed he was in control so he had to chamber the round this time.
Meanwhile the bushpig were in and out and all over and paid no attention to the dry fire. At one point we were likely to have had a shot on all three animals bu were only looking for a solitary animal.
Soon as the one we wanted stepped half a pace to our left Charles took the shot and the bushpig fell right to the ground. The one-way ticket to Texas was bought and paid for for the bushpig. We were both elated indeed.
We walked up to the fallen pig and took time appreciating the effort that went in to getting these very shy animals to the bait pile.
During the hunt I received a call from an old friend who wanted some black wildebeest and zebra culled. Good thing is we were willing and able to assist. Bad thing is we were more than 9 hours drive from where he was at.
After a very brief discussion we decided we had time and were willing to travel so we did. We broke the trip in half and spent the night in Pretoria before heading out to Clarens in the Eastern Free State. We arrived at about lunch time so we had something to eat. We exchanged the 375 for the trusty 30-06 and headed out as time was starting to become a premium.
Walk-and-stalk hunting in the Free State is rather difficult so we did it anyway. On our first stalk we were busted just as Charles was about to aim at a black wildebeest bull standing at the side of the herd in plain view. Of course, hunting is not always that easy so we watched their dust across the following hill.
The walk back to the truck at more than 7 000 ft above sealevel made us gasp for breath and a bottle of water. I took a bearing as to where I thought they were and snuck up over the rise where they should have been. It was the following hill so we walked up and with howling wind and a hint of altitude sickness Charles took the shot. Across the following hill is where Charles delivered the finishing shot. A great bull indeed and best of all we could drive to within loading distance without having to drag it all over the countryside.
We were aiming to have an easy start because we had a full day to hunt a zebra. With the Golden Gate National Park right on our doorstep we decided to have a look at this natural beautiful park. When I was employed by Peter Harris many years ago Peter had the concession to hunt that park. Driving there brought back great memories.
Seeing game from the national road made me smile as many years ago we would stop and hunt them. Of course, we did not have permission so we did not.
The Basotho Cultural Village, a tourist attraction, winked us over so we decided to visit. At 9 am in the morning we had a welcome swig of wheat brewed beer with the Chief, visited the local traditional healer (previously known as: witch doctor) and inspected a number of homes and tasted some of the produce. Peter, the tracker, volunteered to dress in traditional clothing and again volunteered to consult the traditional healer. It must be rated as of the best cultural villages in South Africa.
Returning to the lodge we were eager to get hunting again.
The lodge owner sent a text the zebra walked right by the lodge about 15 minutes before we arrived. Taking his directions we set off and found them about 20 minutes later. In fact, we were so well hidden from each other that by the time we saw them they saw us and by that time Charles was on the sticks. Picking a stallion is as difficult as retaining gas at the school play. I figured I had a 50% chance of being right so told Charles which one to shoot so he did it. The hand loaded 150 gr Barnes TTSX found the spot and the zebra took off.
He ran over the rise of the hill which meant we had to walk back to the truck to pick up the trail. Arriving at where I imagined it would be we soon found the stallion. Back-tracking revealed what a brilliant shot it was taking out both lungs. The stallion only just purchased a one-way ticket to Texas.
Another great shot from a great hunter and friend, hunting with us for the fourth time. Thank you indeed Charles, may your trophies bring you many happy memories in years to come.
Many of the pictures used in this update were taken by Charles. Thank you for allowing me to use them.
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