Gorgeous S African sunset after a day of rest and dove hunting.
The First Day of Game Hunting on the South African Trails
For years I had heard stories about South African adventures and the game hunting in that region. It has been a dream of mine to go game hunting along the African trails for many years. That dream was realized in 2011, and I was able to test two Doubletap 375H&H loads on plains game. I brought one of our newest loads that uses the brand new Barnes 250gr TTSX bullet @ 2900fps, as well as our best selling load using the 260gr Nosler Accubond @ 2900fps. Both shot to within 1/4″ of each other at 100yds. Perfect for what I needed it for on this trip! Both loads grouped under an inch @ 100yds from my Winchester Model 70 Stainless Classic.
After flying twenty-two hours on the jet to Johannesburg, we hit the ground ready to hunt. What a beautiful country: Full of game and good people. I met up with Jacques from www.atmarulahunt.co.za, and we were good to go. We went in search of zebra and ran into a herd mid-morning. We were more than 400 meters away and wanted to get in closer, so we leopard crawled to 160 meters (about 185 yards). We peeked up from the long grass and found the one that I wanted. Then, I squeezed gently on the trigger….BOOM! The zebra was hit on the point of the shoulder, and the Barnes 250gr TTSX exited behind the far ribs. This was good way to start the hunt with finding genuinely beautiful animal.
Next up was the search for kudu, so we went on a long walk after lunch through the really thick thorns and brush. We saw some wildebeest in the distance as well as a few warthogs running around. All of them are really neat to look at for the first time. As the sun started to set, we saw two impala really going at it, ramming their horns together and wrestling to see who would be the top dog. They were about 125 yards out at first, but they fought their way to within 30 yards of us. They didn’t even know or care that we were there. Finally the larger one prevailed and drove off the smaller ram. My PH told me that he was a really good one so I hit him with a Doubletap 250gr Barnes TTSX load. He went right down with the shot. Those loads hit hard! The impala is similar in size to the antelope that I am used to in Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming, but the coloring is really striking. This impala’s horns measured at just about 23″.
Impala are not very large, but they are stunningly beautiful animals.
With the first full day of our hunt complete, we headed back to the lodge to get some well earned dinner and conversation. Africa. What a place.
Some Tense Times on the African Trails
The fourth day in South Africa brought even more surprises and excitement. We started out the day looking for gemsbok. As we got into the bush, my hunting partner Jesse Smith, shot a very nice zebra. He was happy to get off to a good start on this morning.
After tending to the zebra, we headed in a different direction to look for game hunting. As we crossed a huge field of tall (5-6ft) grass, we saw a lone blessbuck that looked a like a nice one to harvest. We got to within about 200 yards, and I setup for the shot. On this day of game hunting, the Doubletap 375H&H 260gr. Nosler Accubonds were going down range. I pressed the trigger, and the blessbuck went 8 feet in the air! I was pretty excited, and we went to where he was shot to find nothing but a blood trail in the long grass. Dang! He couldn’t be far, but it is really hard to see more than 10 feet away in the thick stuff along the African trails. We looked for at least two hours when our tracker, Jon, found it in the grass. We walked up on the antelope sized animal, and Jon bent down to grab the horn to move it…..Whoa! The blessbuck jumped up after him with his horns slashing at his backside! Jon was, for a short time, the fastest man alive! The blessbuck ran the other way to get away and was dispatched eventually with the 260gr Accubond load. The long grass that I had to shoot through moved the impact of the bullet more than 18 inches to the rear of the animal. The 260gr load that I used really hit it hard, or he would have been lost. A very tough animal that I will never forget (and neither will Jon)!
Me, Ruan, Jon(PH), and Jon(tracker). Tough animal the Blessbuck.
After taking pictures and getting the blessbuck to the lodge, we took to the African trails again for the elusive (to me at least) gemsbok. We hunted through some very thick brush and walked about 5 miles, trying to find a herd. The sun set, and we headed back toward the truck. Crossing the dirt track (pikey) in front of us at about 100 yards came some young warthogs, followed by a sow warthog. My PH, Jon Jacobs, told me to look for a boar following up the rear. BOOM! The warthog trotted onto the road, and it had big tusks–I was ready because of my PH’s advice. The 375 H&H Doubletap 260gr Nosler Accubond crossed the distance quickly and smacked him on the shoulder, exiting the far shoulder. He fell where he was shot. We headed back to the lodge tired and happy.
The African Trails and African Bush Pigs
Our hike started with us watching some ostrich clear out
We had searched the entire prior day for a proper Gemsbok, and we intended on doing the same again today. We watched some ostrich jump up and clear out right away. It was very surreal to see them walking not too far away. We dug into the grass and brush into which we found all types of wonderful plants that wanted to make you bleed. It was an education to say the least.
My hunting partners, Shane Adair and Jesse Smith, smacked a pair of warthogs to start the day! I was pretty excited; they were huge animals!
After lunch we walked 5 or 6 miles through the brush trying to catch some game in the open. No luck! We had a lot of fun seeing new things and animals though. There was always something new to look at and keep you on your toes.
Right after sunset, we turned back toward the truck (bucky in South Africa). Whoosh! Out of the brush darts a bush pig, running very close to the ground, but away from us. Jon tells me that it is a smaller one…..he spoke too soon. Whoosh. Another one jumped out 10 feet in front of our feet! He said, ” #&$% that one’s a big as$%*@!” The first one ran in a semi circle back toward the heavy brush, and the big one followed. There was a brief moment when it hit an opening. Boom! The Doubletap 375H&H 250gr. Barnes TTSX really smacked it! Jon let me know that a wounded bush pig (especially that size) would be vicious. We waited about ten minutes for it to settle, and then we walked to where it was hit. It was dark enough that we needed to use flashlights to see the pig’s tracks. We couldn’t miss the chunks that the 375HH had blown onto the dirt, as well as the four skid marks from where the hooves had dragged sideways 3 feet upon impact! I turned the quick releases on my scope and loaded it with Doubletap 350gr Woodleigh Weldcores. We turned on our headlamps and started into the bush. Right then we heard a truck coming down the trail. It was our outfitter and guide Jacques along with his little Jack Russell terrier named Milo. Milo led the way, followed by myself with my rifle ready. Within 25 feet we came upon the bush pig lying down and approached very carefully. He was dead, and we all sighed in relief.
Big bushpig hit hard by Doubletap 250gr. Barnes TTSX
As you can see, I did not lead him as he was sprinting through the grass and it hit him right through both kidneys. It was a humane shot, he expired very quickly. After the pictures were taken, we headed back to the lodge for dinner. By the time that we got there, we saw this:
Milo and his quarry resting peacefully after a long day.
Milo had cuddles up to the bush pig for its warmth. Another long and eventful day in the bush was finished.
Every day in South Africa is a Surprise
Starting out the day with a unique view of huge giraffes.
At first light we were treated with the view of these giraffes chewing on the tops of the trees. You can never get used to it. They are so tall, it is amazing. After we watched the show, we moved into the brush where we hoped that the oryx might be hiding. After only about a half of a mile, we saw 8 cows and a bull. My hunting partner Jesse was looking for oryx too, so I told him to take it. The PH, Jon Jacobs of said it was good, so Jesse lined up and gave it a 165gr 308Win at about 200yds. It broke its back, and he gave it another as we got closer to finish it. It was a beautiful animal, much larger than a mule deer and slightly smaller than a big bull elk. In my opinion, it is the most beautiful animal in Africa.
Jesse Smith’s oryx bull. They are beautiful.
To our surprise, after two shots and a lot of pictures, out pops another bull oryx from the bush about 100 yards away. None of us were prepared for it to be there (ain’t that always how it goes?), and by the time I had my rifle up and Jon told me it was a definite shooter, it was running like a race horse. At 125 yards, I took a broadside running shot. It immediately hunched up from the impact and ran into the bush. We immediately started to track it…..and track it……and track it, well you get the point. All day was spent trying to find that bull in the thick stuff. No luck! We had found blood, but no bull, and I was feeling really bad for the animal and myself. As the day ended, we made a plan to try again to look tomorrow. We started to head back toward the truck when we saw off in the distance a herd of wildebeest. My outfitter Jacques, who had joined to look for the wounded oryx, saw a big bull hanging around the edge of the group. His eyes got even bigger when he saw it through the binoculars. He said, “If you want a big blue wildebeest, this is it!” They were about 300 yards away, and I didn’t have to shoot through any long grass. I set up the shooting sticks, and took a deep breath (trying not to remember the shot earlier in the day). BOOM! The Doubletap 375 H&H 250gr. Barnes TTSX hit him hard. He went down and never got up.
He was later measured at 28.5″, which should put him in the Rowland Ward books. We admired his “war wounds” from other bulls that he had on his nose and shoulder, as well as the thoroughly worn horns from fighting. A fine animal and a fine shot, which followed by great bullet performance. The bullet broke both shoulders and exited.
After we took the pictures and shook hands, my thoughts wandered back to the oryx. This had been a truly bittersweet day in the African bush.
We started out the next morning looking for kudu. Jacques and I walked miles and miles trying to locate a big bull. Toward the end of the day as the sun set we saw a really large bull trotting off into the bush! Darn! I couldn’t get a clean shot. The hunting day was over, and it was time to head toward the campfire.
The next morning we set out with the intent of finding another big bull (or maybe even the same one). We hunted through the thick brush and thorns all morning with only a few kudu cows spotted. After a quick water break, we spotted a small bull with some cows. It didn’t seem probable that, that many cows would be with such a young bull, so we followed them through the thick stuff for about a mile. We were on the edge of a clearing looking at the cow kudus when a big bull silently moved into the clearing! He walked behind a tree and started to eat the leaves while we watched. I set up on the shooting sticks and ranged him at 250 yards, while my PH looked really hard at the size of his horns. Finally, he moved a little bit more to the side of the tree giving me a view of the vitals and Jacques a good view of the antlers. “Take him!” was all that I heard before I shot. BOOM! The Doubletap Barnes 250gr TTSX hit him right through both shoulders and anchored him. The bullet passed completely through him and took a chunk from his heart as well. It was a quick, clean kill on the biggest animal that we took on this South African safari. The kudu is as big or bigger than a huge elk but with another foot of height from its very long legs.
We were able to get the kudu loaded up and sent to get processed, then it was time for lunch! Once we were fed, we headed out to a local farmer’s field (8000acres of them) to try and cull some problem animals. Jacques and I sneaked up to the edge of the first field and immediately saw a good sized warthog walking in the sunflower field. He was about 90-100 yards away, and he offered me his head for a shot. I went ahead and aimed between his eyes and BOOM! The shot was about an inch and a half high striking his forehead, and the Doubletap 260gr. Nosler Accubond dropped him in his tracks. We collected his body and found him to be about 12″ each side. Not bad. He was an ugly bugger!
Later, we ended up hunting a couple of miles away in another field where my partner Shane took a steenbuck, Jesse took another warthog, and I was able to get a duiker. The duiker was really hammered by the 375H&H, unfortunately, but the meat was very good. All in all, it was a very good day along the South African trails game hunting!
The next day we enjoyed some needed rest in the morning followed by a scheduled bird hunt that afternoon. Shane, Jesse, and I shot a lot of doves. It was truly a good time had by all.
The Final Days of Our South African Adventure
This is what you walkthrough daily!!!
The next morning I went out with Jesse along with PH Ruan and Jan to try and get a wildebeest for Jesse. As we were making our way down the dirt track, out popped a really nice oryx/gemsbok! Dawn had just started to peak over the horizon, and the light was not great, but we tried really hard to see if it was the one that I had wounded four days prior. We couldn’t see anything indicating that it was the one. It was really odd that it was by itself, though. It really got me thinking about oryx again. I had already wounded one and would have to pay the trophy fee for it. Should I try for another? I decided to go for it and come home with one if at all possible.
Ruan and I hit the brush hard ALL DAY LONG for that one…or any other oryx that we could find. Jesse ended up sneaking up on a herd of wildebeest in the morning and getting a really nice one!
After lunch, Jesse and Shane both joined me in my quest to get an oryx. With six guys hitting the brush hard, we hoped to at least see some game, but it was not to be. We left and went back to the lodge for some needed rest. Tomorrow was the last day of our hunt.
We started out the last day of hunting beating the brush close to the same area where I had wounded the oryx last week. We hoped that they would want to hang around that area once again considering we had not been there for more than 5 days. Within a half mile we spotted a herd of oryx. Jan and I slowly made our way toward them trying to keep the element of surprise in our favor. We saw a couple of good looking bulls in the group, but none were the size of the one that I had wounded. We decided to glass for a while longer to make certain that we saw the whole herd. About 100 yards from the herd, Jan pointed out a large oryx that was as still as a stone under a tree. Through the binoculars he looked great, and my PH told me that he was easily as big as the one that I had wounded.
We stalked toward him, keeping the tree between us. I set up on the shooting stick at 211 yards. BOOM! The Doubletap 250gr. Barnes TTSX hit him square on the shoulder and he was down! We made our way toward him with care after a few minutes. They have been known to come at you if wounded, and we didn’t want that to happen today. He was still moving his head around when we got to within 25 yards, so I hit him again in the spine. We later recovered that bullet (the only one recovered the entire trip) after it had penetrated 5 feet of oryx while retaining 100% of its weight!
He is a beautiful animal that I really worked hard for on this hunt.
I told the skinner and Jan that I wanted a full mount on this animal, so the skinner took extra care with the hide. Thank goodness for that decision, because while he was doing his job, he found where I had wounded him 5 days prior! That is right, it was the same animal. I had initially hit him low. It had pierced the fatty skin below his ribcage and exited without doing any harm. He had a fresh wound from another oryx’s horn which explains why he was not with the herd. He was a tough old boy that will always have a place of honor with me.
There were many other amazing times on this African hunting trip. Game hunting on the African trails is an adventure that any avid hunter would enjoy, and it’s best to go with a professional guide to have and educational and varied hunting experience. If you are looking for a trip that will be like nothing you have ever experienced, South Africa is the place to go.