SOUTH AFRICA: 125 Mile Cape Buffalo with Authentic African Adventures
Let me start by stating up front that this was as perfect a trip as you could possibly have!
As I sat on the plane headed out of Johannesburg my thoughts are where do I start writing on an lives goal adventure? Well duh knucklehead at the beginning and the major steps along the way. I was 9 years old and reading my dad's Outdoor life and came across a story about hunting Cape Buffalo in Africa. It was very exciting and the thought of going somewhere far away and hunting something dangerous was just running amok in my little brain. Where in I promptly told my dad I would hunt this creature some day. Like most fathers my dad humored me and then gave a short speech on how dangerous it was and that I should just forget the idea. Now fast forward a couple decades and I meet my best buddy and brother Scott, we are both in the military and stationed together and starting talking about family, background and hobbies. Soon shooting and hunting came up and talked about where we had hunted where and what we wanted to hunt. Alaska and Africa came to the forefront of the conversation with Grizzly and Cape Buffalo at the top of our dream list. Fast forward a number of years, different assignment and we always kept in touch. We retired from service with me in Arizona and Scott in Alaska. We made a nice self guided black bear hunt in Prince Of Wales Island AK and Cape Buff kept coming up whenever we talked. In 2013 we made our first trip to Africa with a plains game hunt on the Eastern Cape that was great; Scott's son Scotty and his wife went with me and my better half. We also did a 4 day photo Safari at Jock Lodge in Kruger National Park. Again we had a great time and the first time we sighted Cape Buffalo you can only imagine how it sparked our interest to make this trip back at some point. We had a long term plan of a fly and ride motorcycle ride in New Zealand in 2015. So here we are standing in line to get on the plane back home in 2013 and the ladies walk up to us and state that the motorcycle ride is off for 2015 as we are coming back so you two can hunt your cape buffalo and we are hunting plains game. We we look at each other and almost simultaneously stated that well if that is their wish we guess we can put the ride off for a couple years. We are both graced with very special ladies in our lives.
SCI 2014 finds us in Vegas starting the process of finding a outfitter and PH that we are comfortable with and that can give us the truly great old fashion tracking and stalking hunt. We lay out budgets, our wants, and wishes and start walking around asking questions trying to narrow down the who will be the best fit for us. I stated that I am willing to walk 150 miles to get my buffalo and that I don't give a crap about a tape measure just want a old hard boss bull. 4 days later we have the list down to 3 outfits, we go home and start calling and emailing references, doing Internet searches etc. Without going into all the details we decide that we are going to book With Hanno (Owner/outfitter) and Kyne (Head PH) at Authentic African Adventures outside Baltimore South Africa, in May 2015 during the dark phase of the moon. Now the planning really starts. Rifle's, loads, bino's etc all checked and rechecked. I settle on a 450 NE Sabatti Double for my buffalo medicine with 500 gr swift Aframes and CEB 480gr Solids. and My Chapuis 9.3x74R 300gr with A-frames for Cape Eland and Sable. My better half is going to be hunting Nayala, Gemsbok, Red Heartebeest, and warthog she is using a 338 Ruger Compact Mag that I restocked the same as her 7x57 bruno. DSC 2015 I am making final arrangements with Hanno, adding a couple animals setting up a nice birthday surprise for my better half since it will be her 29 step 21 birthday. We gents know no woman is older that 29. The days to fly countdown keeps rolling along and before you know it we are meeting Scott and Mary Jo in Atlanta. Also one note that the night before we left my dad still asked are you really sure you want to hunt a Cape Buffalo, yes dad I am fully aware of what I am getting into The flight over is smooth and Gracy travel meet and greet service whisks us through customs and SAP 520 process and hands us off the Kyne, who will be mine and Sonya's PH for the next two weeks. Get the gear loaded in the truck and head out on a 5 hour drive to AAA headquarters we make a brief stop under a overpass to tarp down all the gear to keep the rain that is now falling from soaking everything. We arrive and finally get the chance to lay down and get some sleep.
Kyne emailed me the week before that they at got access to a new concession to that that he would like to try for the first 3 days. I talk to Scott and email back that sure sounds good to us. We get up and pack enough stuff for 3 days and head out about 2 hours south to Blauberg reserve. The camp is nice and comfortable and we head down to the range to check our rifles after the flight. We are both shooting the same model double so a right and left each and everything checks. So we eat lunch and prepare for the afternoons hunt. Scott is hunting with PH Chris and they are going on the far side of the ridge and we are staying on the camp side. So off we go to get familiar with the area and look for fresh spoor. We check the water points and while driving bump into a couple cows and a small soft boss bull that was trying to give us “THE LOOK” but he didn't quite manage it yet. We checked tracks and there were some promising larger track so off the truck and start following the tracker and PH. WE get into some very thick bush and can smell Buffalo and the wind swirls and two big bulls launch not 25 yards away. Just amazing how close they were but we couldn't see them. Continued to track and just couldn't close the distance before night fell. Back at camp talking with Scott and Chris they had also got into buffalo on their side of the mountain. So sitting by the fire with a cold one in hand looking up at the southern cross we salute my friend Edward Pape who would love to be here and LIFE is GOOD.
Find fresh spoor at a water hole and back on the hunt. On track for about a hour and bump a herd that the 4 track we were following joined. We wait a few as the tracker works out where everything went. Kyne give us a little lesson on the local history, this area had been a dairy farm at one point and due to over grazing the first species of plant to grow is the sticker thickets that the buffalo now call home. Man is this stuff thick. We get back on the track and about 2 hours later we get right into the herd in the thicket. Have a cow at 7 yards another we can see at 20 in a small opening. We hear and see black forms that you can't see for the bush all around us. This is the only time my sweet Sonya said she would rather no have closed in quite that close. Don't know if they smelled or saw us but about 80 buffalo launched presenting no shot on a bull we could identify. Now if you have never been in a buffalo herd when they decide to go somewhere else fast, lets just say the pucker factor goes off the chart. The majority of the herd goes right and what looks like three really big bodies along with a few cow's and calves. So after we regroup have a little water we head left following tracks. Get back in on them and see a nice hard boss bull at 25yards, but the only thing I can see is the top of his head need him to walk 3 steps right or left and there will be a clear shooting lane. So he turns and walks straight away. This is the last time we see this boy. Time to call it a morning and go get some lunch. The afternoon we start in the thickets at the far end of the reserve, put up a couple game cameras on the water holes and get back on the tracks. The back is starting to think that we are never going to stand up straight. We close on several bulls but the wind just isn't doing us any favors and just keeps busting us. However we have been into animals and covered 35+ K worth of walking today and it has been everything I ever dreamed of in a buffalo hunt.
We find FRESH! Track and the water is still running off the fresh dung so off we go. The 3 tracks joining up with 4 more as we skirt the base of the mountain. They take a trail that starts up a small valley, at this point I am picturing a small herd charging us down the hill Well I needn't have worried about that these buff just keep climbing and we are on what looks like a elk trail on the mountain side and with big ass tracks and fresh dung. I look across the small V canyon to the rock face 100yards away and there is a male and female Klipspringer bounding around the rocks. Kyne just smiles and says” Bet you didn't expect to see them while hunting buff?” Finally top out and now start down the other side of the mountain and get Chris and Scott on the radio as we crossed into their area but they are 30 K away and we keep tracking. And get down really close can see two bull and have a solid window to shoot through at 30yards however both bulls are young soft boss bulls and our old friend the wind shows back up and don't get a look at any other bulls as they head back over the mountain by a different trail. Time for the long hike back to the truck and head to lunch. The afternoon we cut fresh tracks and back into the thickets we go over the hill and through the woods and bump the a group that blasts out about a 100 yards ahead of us and they keep running all the way to grandma's house and we never caught back up to them. On the way back to the truck had a wonderful experience of see a Kori Bustard at about 50 yards and it was taking off. VERY COOL. The we also came across 2 poacher snares and ripped them out. Today was good, saw buffalo and bustard. Also learned about pepper ticks. Back getting a shower when my better half calls in that Scott got a bull and to get out outside ASAP. Scott got a NICE bull; Scott and Chris walked us through the tracking and stalk and shots fired at the camp fire while being toasted with Amarula. But that is his story to tell.
Most special day!
Everyone is headed back to main camp, I am hunting a couple hours this morning and then heading back. My better half tells Kyne “Don't you be late for tonights dinner OR ELSE” .
We find fresh track on the water hole but it is mostly cows and calves, keep looking and find 4 big tracks heading into the thickest crap we have been in so far can hardly see 5 yards. We can hear ox pecker smell buffalo and a 4 bull freight train blasts out at 15 yards and I will never forget the sight. For about 20 yards there is this perfect tunnel in the sticker bush thicket. Completely covered over the top and the underbrush just hammered flat then for the next 200yards looks like a front end loader with the bucket 6 in off the ground just plowed trough the bush. Well the last 3 days has been a great introduction to buffalo hunting, time to load up and head back to the main camp. The 2 hours pass with pleasant conversation and good company. Kyne is a wealth of knowledge and just an enjoyable man to hunt with. We are have a special dinner at Shelanti Game Reserve on Pride Rock for this evening. We now get to surprise our friends with the real reason we needed to get back earlier in the day. Sonya and I got the pleasure of letting our friend know that we would require their services and Best Man, Maid Of Honor, and witnesses at our wedding to be held this evening. The surprise was complete Hanno and his staff kept it a secret the whole time. THANK YOU!!! Make note here that on our wedding day my wonderful wife had me hunt the morning with her complete approval. Just make sure your not late is all the final direction was in the morning. I had been coordinating this with Hanno and his staff for 8 months. To get all the paper work in order, for them to get a pastor, stet up the dinner etc. True professionalism in all they do. Time to get cleaned up and ride over to the reserve. The funniness comment was made by Mary Jo when she said “this is first wedding that I ever had to sign an Indemnity form that I might get trampled or eaten by the wildlife that might be in the area” The setting for our wedding was perfect and just what we wanted.
Up early and out looking for buffalo tracks and get acquainted with the main AAA property. No fresh tracks but see several REALLY NICE Kudu this will be a common occurrence and they are in full rut mode. They must of got the note that neither my wife or myself were hunting kudu this trip. The highlight of the morning is I almost get a shot on a Jackal with my 9.3 double. After lunch we get Sonya to the range to check the scope on both her rifles. The Tracker spots a nice Black Wildebeest and Kyne and Sonya are off on a stalk. She is on the sticks for 20 minutes and the shot just doesn't develop. Eland, impala, and donkeys keep spoiling the show. So back in the truck and a bit later a nice Nayala is spotted a quite exit of the truck and the stalk in on. About a mile later the wind swirls... We are having a blast just riding around seeing all the game and just enjoying life.
Kyne spots two Nayala bulls fighting in the bush and he gets Sonya into position to shoot and just as he sets the sticks and warthog just rockets from underfoot and off the bulls go. My wife's list of critters that are slowly getting on her bad side is growing. However she is just smiling and enjoying to experience and the hard work makes the trophy all that more special. The Tracker Stephen spots a nice Gemsbok and out of the truck she goes gets in close on the sticks, safety off and rutting Impala just bump everything in the area. Rifles back in the rack and headed to lunch. When the truck stops and there is a herd of eland crossing the road about 500 yards up. So Kyne and I ninja out the back of the truck and into the bush and start up their direction as there is a really nice old blue bull that is the herd bull. We are starting to angle to try and intercept them and for once the wind is in our favor. The bull is just standing in the sand track staring at the truck so we keep advancing till be get to about 85 yards, Kyne sets up the sticks and tells me to please just hammer him through the shoulder about a 1/3 of the way up please. Well a 300gr A-frame is on it's way, right where I was asked to shoot the bull jumps straight up and heads into the bush, I want to get off a second shot but a second eland steps on the sand road in front. All is well though the bull goes about 10 yards into the bush come back the 10 and falls right there. Perfect performance by the aframe, broke both shoulders, heart, and lungs. Was right under the skin on the far side, recovered weight -298gr. I really liked the 2 pulley over the cab winch recovery system pulled that big bull into the truck just slick as can be. The afternoon a nice Gemsbok was spotted bedded under a tree and long stalk to get the wind right ensued. My wifes field and bush craft is improving by the day, she is learning so much. Later in the early evening they are off after a truly huge gemsbok. It is about a 2 mile constant movement stalk and she is on stick at 50 but is just to dark to shoot. She hikes back to the truck and the smile on her face in priceless.
The morning starts off with attempted stalks on Nayala and Gemsbok. Both times the Blesbok come running through the area spooking everything in sight. So back in the bakkie and off to look for buffalo. Get on some fresh tracks and they are just meandering along feeding and we get in close and have a nice wide bull that is still a little soft. His big brother is standing behind him and just doesn't present a shot. These old guys didn't get old by being stupid. We cover allot of ground and bump them several more times this morning before they have had enough and decide to go visit another zip code. We just can't seem to catch a break with the wind. That's buffalo hunting for you. Tracker spots some Black Wildebeest and Sonya and Kyne are back on their trail. They get in close on Kudu, little Red Heartebeest, and impala but the wildebeest have pulled a Houdini. Sonya climbs into the truck and just smiles as says we will see some on the way back to lunch. Just riding along enjoying being in Africa and my hat blows off. So Steven stops the truck and Kyne jumps off to grab it and about half way back to the truck he freezes and looks through his bino's and very quietly tells Sonya to grab her rifle and follow him. They head about 50 yards to the right and start forward. Kyne spotted the really nice Nayala bedded under a tree that she tried to stalk first thing this morning. I have a ring side seat sitting in the truck watching the stalk unfold. As they get close Kyne sets the sticks first on one side of the tree then to the other and back. The wind is good the bull stands up and bang-flop she has her first animal of the trip. Her smile says it all. My thanks and compliments to Kyne for getting her in place and ready for the shot. We get setup for pictures, I am impressed with the care and time they take to get the pose and pics just right to honor the animal and pay our respects for Gods creations. After lunch the wind is up but at least steady in one direction for a change. While looking for buff tracks we get the rare opportunity to see a young Ardvark in the daylight. Our PH says it is the first time he has ever seen one in the day. Feel very privileged to see such a sight. Check several places for fresh buffalo tracks but everything this morning or yesterday. A nice gemsbok is spotted and the wind is good so the stalk is on. Sonya makes a good quartering frontal shot and a short follow-up and she has her second animal just as the sun is starting to dip below the horizon. Dinner is Scott's cape buffalo back straps. We go out for a evening in a Honey Badger blind. This is the first time Sonya has ever hunted out of a blind. It is the first time I have sat in the dark just trying to be quite so she may possibly get a chance. After a couple hours she decides that this isn't her cup of tea so we start packing up gear and when the red light is turned on at the bait we can see the badger beat a retreat.
First we find fresh tracks for 5 buffalo and get on the hunt. The mornings are starting to be a little crisper and just feels good to be out. We move steady for a couple hours and hear them moving through the bush just a short distance ahead and the wind isn't our friend and off they crash but the cross a small clearing and we finally get a good quick look at them and there are 3 shooters in the group. The get almost in on them and get busted by the wind is repeated the rest of the morning The wind gods are having fun at our expense. The afternoon is spent looking for fresh track and no avail. Sonya is still looking for a Black Wildebeest, Red Heartebeest and warthog but unable to get on a shoot-able bull. The highlight of the afternoon is I get a running shot on a Jackal with my 9.3 at about 100yards my east and west was perfect but shot about 6in high. One day would like to really sit and try to call those little buggers in like coyotes. At Dinner Hanno gets a call they there is a Cape Buffalo way out on the Tar road and that someone almost his it in a car. So that will be a mystery for tomorrow.
Sonya is riding with Hanno and a couple trackers on the outside of the fence and I am with Kyne on the inside and we are looking for a place that a buff could have got out. We find a small spot on a corner that he has just ripped apart a tree and hole in the fence. So Hanno and crew start off to track and see where this now rouge buffalo has gone. We precede on looking for spoor and 10 minutes later we come across 3 bulls and bail out of the truck and get on the tracks and have two soft boss bulls in the open just asking to be shot. The old boy in the back is looking at us and try to make the 4 or 5 steps to my left that will give and open shot but he melts into the bush and take the others with him. Not a crashing departure just walked away. So we get on the track that we now know for sure are fresh and spend the next 3 hours play cat and mouse with them but can never get a clear shot. While we are headed back to the truck Kyne gets a call from Hanno that the bulls has crossed into a neighbors cattle ranch and was knocking down fences and we switch gears and head over to the neighbors ranch. Steven confirms that it is the track of a bull they have been watching that is wanting to fight with everything. So we get on the track and start following and we come across a 5ft high straight up rock layer and the tracker shows me where the buff put his hoof's and just went straight up and over even showed me the spot that some ticks were scraped off on his way up. I am struck but two thoughts. One that these buffalo go most anywhere they darn well please. Two that our tracker is all you hear a African tracker is. If Steven tells me that the buff climbed a tree I am just going to ask Which one? And am I climbing up after him first or second. We get in on him but he spooks before I can get a shot off and he runs right through a cattle fence and scatters a heard of about 50 cows. When we come up on the fence the cows are all kinda standing there shaking. Gotta wonder what they thought when the buff came through and Mach 2. We take a short break to kinda decide and a strategy of how to get in front of him as he keeps circling back. At some point he is going to get annoyed enough to stand his ground. So Kyne and I make a 3K force march to make a circle around where we think he is going to head as the tracker keeps to his trail. The wind is in our faces and we set in a spot where he will come out at 30, 20, or 15 yards. It is about to get interesting. We when I comes out it is at 20 and would have walked right between me and Kyne but instead of charging he makes a right and really accelerates well old bird hunting instincts took over Kyne is yelling shoot and I put the soft right behind the shoulder and out the front of the chest by way of the heart. The second was about 3 inches farther back and up through the lungs. Kyne and I are now running behind 6the buffalo as I reload stop and put a 3rd in the departing backside and Kyne said he saw it go through and hit about 50 yards in front. The buffalo is now standing behind a tree and looking at us. As I reload the one empty chamber Kyne says “He's waiting for us up there” I reply that he looks a tad miffed. Kyne is just very calm as states that we need to go sort him out. So we form a 2 man skirmish line and start forward on high alert. Expecting him to charge at any second but about 10 steps along our way he falls over. We approach from behind and put 2 through the spine and he is down for good. Lots of back slapping congratulations and we wait for the adrenaline to back off and hands to quit shaking and admire this great beast. Sonya arrives with Hanno and we get pictures and the buffalo loaded. My childhood dream is now a reality. Time for a silent prayer of thanks. The swift A-frame and CEB solids did their job. Would like to have recovered at least one but they were all pass trough’s. In the afternoon we head over to a concession that has some nice pigs and hartebeest. Sonya gets a couple chances at a truly huge warthog but the shot doesn't quite setup right. Kyne gets her on a stalk for a really nice hartebeest and she makes a nice shot and a short follow-up. The setting sun reflecting of the red cape is beautiful.
We start off back at the same ranch and They get after a huge warthog that crosses the road into high grass. I can't see anything from where we are parked but about a kilometre away we hear a shot I hear Kyne tell Steven over the radio that Sonya shot what looks like a little rhino. She said that they made a good stalk and that all she had to shoot at was the top part of the warthog's head that was above the grass. Kyne laughed and said she was on her tip toes on the sticks and he was holding her jacket to get a steady shot and one shot through the brain housing group and big pig down. Her smile lit up the morning. The afternoon we are back on the main ranch and I wanted to save my Sable for last. We have been seeing a group of three bulls in one area the whole time we have been here. So we head to that area and start following track's there are two shooters and we spend the afternoon walking along and just don't get a shot but don't spook them either. So move back to the truck and look for track's on the far side of the block and see where they came out. No tracks are found so we have the wind in our favor and just start moving slowly back towards where we saw them last from about a mile on the other side. The tracker spots some black moving through the bush and we get a stalk on. Finally get a quartering away shot form 85yards and he rears up like a horse and takes off. On the follow-up he went about 50yards and I get one into him on the right haunch and he dips down as I send the third shot and it makes a proper 9.3 hole in the left ear. He goes about 20 and is down but not completely out and Kyne's dog jumps into the fray and trying to get a last shot on the bull and as the dog is up by the head he jumps the the side as I shoot. So again a prayer of thanks for wildmen and crazy dogs for protection from our own selves. The bullet passes through the sable hits between the dogs feet and off into the bush.
The only animal still on the list is a Black wildebeest and lost of sweat and looking but no joy. Spent the morning having an enjoyable day just searching. We take a longer lunch and check the game camera and the Honey badger has been coming into the bait along with a Genet, couple of Civets and one nice tom leopard. Take a little longer rest break at lunch and go back out to give a try for the elusive Black wildebeest. The blue ones are all over but no joy this evening. They made one stalk and the shot clipped a branch on the way and was a complete miss.
Headed to Pietersburg to see the taxidermist and curio shop. Along the way Kyne talks Sonya into trying one last time for the Honey Badger. We have a great visit with the taxidermist and get a tour of the facilities, make plans on what we want them to do with our trophies and get some lunch. Then run a chores that Kyne has for Liza. Hit the curio shop to buy the small trinkets for everyone at home. And back on the road. Get settled into the blind and wait. The badger show's up early and I Kyne has Sonya prepped on what to look for when he turns the red light on, she see the badger but he is backing down the tree and all is quite again but not 5 min later he is back and Sonya makes a great shot that spines the badger and down he comes. We went up and boy did the little bugger are they a smell. Was to late to get pictures tonight so will take care of that in the Morning
It is Sonya's birthday and she gets to take some nice honey badger pics in the daylight and just have a nice relaxing day. We head to the range in the early afternoon to let everyone shoot the doubles and just have good camaraderie. Liza has prepared some of Sonya's Nayala for her birthday dinner and just made a wonderful meal, decorated the table and made Sonya's birthday very special. Kyne and Liza gave Sonya a nice bouquet of flowers. She stated that she had a wonderful birthday.
Today we leave to head home give some gifts we brought with us to Hanno and his family and Kyne and Liza. Settle up the final bills and say our good byes to new friends. The long flight home and now back putting my thoughts down.
This was about as perfect a trip as can possibly be done. Kyne asked me if I could change anything what would it be. I thought hard and told him I wouldn't change a second! shorten any of the steps in the journey of are safari with Authentic African Adventures. Hanno runs a great camp that is family style dining and his family is involved in everything and make the visit all the more special. Kyne is a fantastic PH he was able to switch gears on the fly between hunting dangerous game with a very experienced hunter to helping a novice hunter on her second hunt ever get prepared and be ready to hunt. She learned a tone of bush craft while here without even realizing what she was learning from the PH and tracker. She is going to write her impressions at some point and I will post it. The game was in top shape, saw some truly exceptional, Kudu, Waterbuck, and sable. When I looked at the log of miles covered, we covered 125miles on track to get my buffalo and it was worth every step. Hanno and Kyne listened to Scott and myself on the type of hunt we were looking for and they delivered exactly what we asked for. My favorite typed of rifle is a double so it was very rewarding to hunt all of my animals with a double. The 450NE performed very well with the shortest shot being 30 yards and longest being 75. The 9,.3 first shots were 85 and 90 yards the A-frames do what they were designed for. A good premium bullet that is worth the cost. Sonya's 338 RCM just plain flat got the job done and only had one of the hornaday GMX recovered. And it looked like and advertisement and only lost 5 gr when I weighed it.
I would recommend hunting with this company at any time for dangerous and plains game.
Last I want to compliment my Wife, as Kyne put it she is one tough cookie. IE She is tougher than woodpecker lips. She walked, stalked and tracked on everything; She enjoyed every second, looked at each day as a gift. I am truly bless to have this lady in my life.