Welcome to the 2016 newsletter. As we mentioned in last year’s newsletter it took us a year to completely update the entire site as it contains over 360 pages. We are now in the process of making the entire site mobile phone friendly as well as lots of other functional updates and changes. We loved to hear what you think about Cruiser's new look.
In our area of South Africa we normally get almost all of our rainfall from November through February each year. This year the rains were late and we were afraid that a drought would play havoc on our animals. Luckily the rains finally came in February, everything greened up and the animals were feasting on the new vegetation. Our early hunters enjoyed excellent conditions and were able to obtain some excellent trophies.
Last September we were finally able to take our son John on his first African safari (we had tried for a long time to arrange this hunt but John was deployed 4 times overseas with the U.S. Army). Sharing a safari with your child is a high point in any parents’ life. Having the opportunity to accompany him as he hunted and to see his amazement at the country, its wildlife and fauna (naturally with tons of questions) made us very proud and made us appreciate the wonder of safari hunting and South Africa through fresh eyes. Of course, like so many others, John got bit by the “African Bug” and wants to go back as soon as he can, hopefully taking his family to share it with them.
In following my tradition of trying to give the reader of the newsletter the feeling of actually being on their safari with them, all of the stories that are included here are those actually written by our clients. These personal stories are enjoyed by everyone as they give the views of the hunter and non-hunter from their point of view. Every hunter that comes to Cruiser’s is included in our newsletter.
Included are where they are from and all of the animals that they take. Those trophies that qualify for the record book are indicated by a * and in the case of Kudu’s, their size is also listed. All trophy pictures that are sent to me are included as well. Thank you to those that have contributed their safari stories and I hope everyone enjoys this 2016 edition of Cruiser Safaris newsletter.
NOTE: The * behind the animal indicates that it qualified for the record book.
JOHN MANCHACA – Texas (observer)
ARIC BOULLION – Texas
Animals taken: Gemsbok*, Red Hartebeest*, Blesbok*, Waterbuck*
ANDY ROSE – Texas
Animals taken: Gemsbok*, kudu, Impala*, Red Hartebeest*
HARRISON GRAY – Texas
Animals taken: Red Hartebeest*, Blesbok*, Kudu*, Warthog, Gemsbok*
(John) - I think I could write a book on the trip experience but I am not much on writing books and stories. But I will say that for the whole experience, the cost was well worth it. I think that when I return and I fully intend to, I will want to make a few shots.
(Aric) - When we arrived in camp I told Sarel I wanted to harvest one exceptional animal. One day one we chased various animals and walked for miles. Andy shot a gemsbok in the morning and we tracked it for several hours. He was worn out and we took him back at lunch. While driving past the Sable area we noticed 4 shooter kudu. We went back to the lodge and got Andy out of bed. After entering the hunting area we found 4 more kudu bulls and one shooter. After about 30 minutes Andy took his shot. It was low and 2 more hours of tracking kudu, dead. After taking pictures and the light fading we headed back to camp. Everyone was in the truck and I took the pleasure of ridding in up the back alone. We happen to see a group of gemsbok. I asked Sarel to stop and we started debating if any were 40" gemsbok. One female raised her head and I grabbed the gun. We decided it was going to be close enough. The first shot was a dry fire, Andy unloaded the gun. I quickly chambered a round and she went down in her tracks at about 200 yards. When we approached her I notice she was huge compared to the 36" gemsbok from 2014. We took her to the lodge and started tape measure hunting. We finally found one. As the measurement past 43" Sarel said the tape was wrong and it could not be that big. Three tape measures later 45 1/4 gemsbok. Wow!
BOB & CAROL FACTEAU – South Carolina
Animals taken – Nyala*, Waterbuck*, Warthog*, Impala*, Blue Wildebeest*, Bushbuck*, Steenbok*, Eland (female)
JOHN RIGGE – New York
Animals taken – 2-Warthogs, Sable*, Eland (female), Impala*, Kudu, Steenbok*, Gemsbok*, Black Backed Jackal
In keeping with a previous promise from 2013, I returned to Cruiser’s for the third time. My previous hunting trips and experiences with Cruiser Safaris have transformed me. With much regret all around, I returned solo this year as my wife and two daughters; Amanda & Sarah could not join me. This is truly a treasured destination worthy of sharing with loved ones. This year, I was greeted at the airport by Sarel. He began as a PH back in 2013 during my previous trip. Very glad it has worked out well for him. He is very cordial and welcoming. We spent only a short time retrieving my rifles and receiving my temporary permit at SAPS before we set out to the Afton House to pick up other guests. They too were repeat clients of Cruisers. Following the obligatory stop at a market for fresh fruits and vegetables, we were then off to camp. We were received at the camp by Del Marie. She was waiting with a cold beverage and escorted us to our accommodations. Moments later, we were greeted by Pieter and other familiar faces, Johan, Aimee, Hans, and BP. It was nice to be back.
DAY 1 – Following some quick camp instructions and a brief settling period, it was off to the range. To my delight, I was to hunt with my old friend Hans again. He asked if I wanted to go out and look around and see what we could find. The thought of resting after the arduous journey never entered my mind so we set out. The previous month had brought rain on and off for a sustained period, so the bush was thicker and greener than my previous two hunting experiences. It was not long before we saw some action. I had what some would call "Miller time" on this first evening. This is a friend reference, not beer. With the bush very thick and grass unusually high & green, some species are nearly impossible to see. One of those species is a warthog. As we were driving, Hans detected a warthog but only by the tusks. It was about 60 yards in the thick stuff. He gestured to Frikkie, our driver, to stop and back up very slowly. As we did, Hans framed the picture I would see when we backed up. He said to shoot it right between the eyes as it was lying down facing us. Sure enough, all that could be seen was the smile of the upper large tusks. I drew aim and hit about 3" lower than I should have. I did hit him right where I aimed though. Hans started laughing and said “oh man, I think I saw a tusk fly.” The warthog went about 10 yards. Unfortunately, the hog did not expire expeditiously, so a final shot was delivered. My initial hit was right through the snout and blew both the large tusks off. One was right under him. The other was found about 20 feet away from where he was laying at the shot. The three of us spent the better part of 20 minutes to locate the other tusk – no pictures needless to say.
DAY 2 - Today was spent remembering that one of the complications in hunting in Africa is the vast amount of game willing to assist in your hunt or a Hans likes to say “Too many animals.” We certainly observed our fair share of game including black backed jackals, zebra, hartebeest, steenbok, impala, gemsbok, sable, eland, blesbok, buffalo, and wildebeest. With no real focus on what to hunt, our day was to be opportunistic. If we spotted a group of something, we stopped, stalked, assessed, and would have our stalk spoiled by another animal or animals. If other animals were not able to assist in our adventure, the swirling wind would become our nemesis. In those instances we were able to get into position to assess, we found the bulls to be too young. Late in the day we came across three bull sable. All three were exceptional with one just a little more pronounced in size. They would have nothing to do with us and bolted into the twilight. No time to oblige their challenge. We were out in the bush for a 12 hour + day. Doesn’t get any better – even if you come back empty handed.
DAY 3 – Today our sights were to be on sable after the previous late afternoon encounter. We left relatively early from camp to the same concession we had seen the three bulls. It was not long until we found the three bull sables and of course with the sound of the land cruiser, they escaped into the thick bush. We drove several hundred yards past them to get downwind. Frikkie slowed the truck for us to climb off while it was still moving. Frikkie kept going so as not to alarm the animals. Hans and I headed into the thorns and worked our way back to where the sable should be. We were very careful with every step. The wind was swirling some so we stopped now and then. We got back close to where we thought the sable should be and looked for any movement. Almost simultaneously, Hans and I saw something in a very dense area of bush/trees. There were two bulls that could only be made out by the shape of their horns. One was the bull we sought. He set up the sticks but there was no shot into the bush so we waited them out. The other bull was not to be seen. Hans had a hunch that the other was off to the left where we could not see him. If he was, it was likely they would move together based on the wind and we might get an opportunity. Since we could not see him, we could not move for fear of spooking them all. Hans had me sit down in the grass. He sat as well and we kept our attention on a small opening where they may cross. About 30 minutes after sitting, Hans told me to freeze as one bull came into the opening. It was the one we hadn't seen - Hans whispered to keep my head down. The bull slowly grazed through the opening. Hans said be ready, the other two may come as well. No sooner than finishing his sentence the next bull came through and Hans said "that is the one-take him." Just as the bull was exiting the small opening, I sent one into the top of the leg above the elbow. We could hear the sable tumble and crash almost instantly. He went about 20 yards and expired quickly. We loaded the sable onto the cruiser. Hans suggested that Frikkie take the sable back to the camp and we would check a good area for eland sign. We found eland sign and eland. We seemed to keep them moving just out of range for a shot with the assistance of zebra and impala. We spent about an hour and a 1/2 playing cat and mouse with them. Hans radioed Frikkie and had him pick us up. By now the eland had put a mile or two between us. We spent the next 30 minutes or so trying to locate them. We found everything else, hartebeest, impala, steenbok, and warthogs. Oh, and lots of zebra. One pack of zebra picked up with the eland and lead them for a while and kept them running and running and running. After a couple sightings of eland/zebra, they separated thankfully, increasing our chances. We set up in an opening waiting for the eland to cross. In short order, they did at a good clip. I was watching through the crosshairs as they came through one by one from right to left. Hans was calling them as they crossed. "Bull, female, female, big bull, young one, etc., etc., ......." I was after a female as part of a management hunt. Nothing came remotely close to stopping, so we headed up the road to the next area where we may have another opportunity. I set up for a shot just in case. I told Hans if they came through the opening one by one as they had before to repeat his “calling out” as to their sex as they entered the opening. I got comfortable on my rest and geared up for a potential shot. Hans readied the binoculars. Well, they came at a good clip through the opening left to right this time. Hans started calling them out one after the other. About eight to ten eland into the herd and the second or third "female" or as Hans said for this one, "big female," I managed to plant the crosshairs squarely on the front shoulder and tracked the female across the opening. All this occurred in a in a split second with the shot being delivered at the right side of the opening. The eland crashed instantly just out of sight in the opening - about 10 feet from the point of impact. It was a nice big female.
We took the eland back to the shed for processing. Hans and I agreed we would head out late afternoon for something. This would allow time for the outdoor temperature to subside a little. Pieter and Hans arranged to go where we might locate a decent impala. I changed out barrels at lunch on my rifle to try something different - .30-06 for the remainder of the hunting trip. Up until now, I was using a 9.3 x 62mm – old school with modern ammunition. It worked superbly. Hans and I met at the range around 2:30PM to make sure the rifle was on. All set for an afternoon impala hunt. We went close by to a concession with many open areas and large clusters of bush. Hans was concerned over what I would consider a good ram. My first trip I took a once in a lifetime size ram- 26 1/2". Hans and Pieter both said I could hunt for impala for the rest of my life and not take another equal or better. I was not worried about the size. I just told Hans that a good mature ram will do. I was there to hunt. We were not long finding impala on the property and found a lone ram. Hans immediately said that it was big one and we should go after him. He was surprised at how quickly we found an exceptional ram. We slowed and the impala bolted into the black thorns. We exited the land cruiser in pursuit. The wind was light and in our favor.
After a short and meticulous stalk, Hans spotted the horns of the ram through the brush. He was about 80 yards away and appeared to be fixated on us, so we froze. Hans had us slowly drop to a crouch. We had no shot in our current position as it was too thick. We moved to our right on all fours about 20 yards to possibly get a better opening for a shot. When we got to our position, we saw the ram from the chest to the top of his ears through an opening slightly larger than the thickness of the ram. Hans set up the sticks at their lowest possible level. I knelt up to the sticks and told Hans I had a small opening, but clear shot. He said if you feel comfortable, I will cover my ears. I told him to cover his ears. I steadied the crosshairs dead center on the ram and fired. Hans said "nice shot, he did not go anywhere," and congratulated me. We got up to the ram and sure enough, he was a very respectable ram – well above average.
DAY 4 – Today we set out to a new area in search of kudu. The concession was in excess of 15000 acres with diminished access - very few crossroads and very thick. There were an infinite number of locations the animals could hold up without ever being bothered. We kicked out our share of game throughout the day, but nothing to pursue – yet. Shortly before lunch, Hans spotted a small group of Kudu and by the tracks, it included a bull. We followed their tracks for a while as the wind was favorable. It wasn’t too long before we made visual contact. We could see a few females about 100 – 150 yards through the brush. At first, we were not able to view the bull. In a heartbeat, Hans caught a glimpse of the bull off to the right grazing. He was no more than 40 yards from us so we froze behind some thorns for observation. It was a good bull, but Hans felt we could do better. Never argue with your PH. After a hearty lunch on the Matlabas, we set up along the river near where we had seen tracks and others had spotted kudu. We sat for some time with no success. The wind changed, changed, and changed again. After about 90 minutes, Hans and I called our waiting game off and went back to the truck for new plan. The new plan meant a long drive to the opposite end of the property. By the time we would get there, the heat of the day would have diminished and maybe the animals would be out and moving. When we arrived at the far end of the property, we came across seven young gemsbok. They were in a high area by the power lines. They were all young bulls and cows so it was back in the land cruiser for more spotting. As we turned onto one of the few cross over roads, we spotted gemsbok in the opening about 300 yards away. Hans assessed quickly and said the front animal was really big. He had a long and wide rack. I laid the scope on him and he continued moving to my left. The shot was blocked by big tree. I needed another 3-4 feet of opening to access my target securely. Another gemsbok followed that was a shooter as well but it crossed the opening a little too quickly. By the time assessment was made, I was not able to get a steady rest on the shoulder. Again, I needed another 1/2 second for the inhale and hold. Any shot would have been foolish. I backed off the rest and said perhaps we can try to find them. Hans & I walked up to where the gemsbok crossed and followed them for a few hundred yards. Hans quickly determined that we would not be able to close the distance so we headed back. Perhaps we can find them again I said. Hans followed with the familiar, “you never know.”
DAY 5 - Today we went back to same large block. We were able to find much kudu sign and put on three stalks. Each time we found young bulls. As we did yesterday, we worked our way to the far end of the property where we spotted gemsbok. We worked our way up to open power lines for an assessment. Today = nothing. We headed back to camp to escape the midday heat and grab some lunch. Around 3:00 PM, Hans & I headed back to the concession for what would turn out to be a big afternoon. We had booted out a decent steenbok in a specific area a few times but had little chance or no shot on him. This time we were intent on bagging him if the opportunity presented itself. It did and this time the steenbok stopped broadside in the brush about 80 yards from our position. Previously, we were limited to the initial sighting and a brief view of him darting away. I got the crosshairs on him quickly and took him cleanly. We took the obligatory pictures and put the steenbok in cold storage as they lose hair quickly in the heat. We continued our pursuit in search for kudu again through the concession. We came up to a cross road and spotted two cows and a young bull. Hans thought they may be headed to a specific waterhole. He wanted to walk into waterhole to see if there was any additional sign of a mature bull with them or frequenting the waterhole but the wind was bad. We drove to other side and walked in to look for kudu tracks and possibility happen across a big bull. About 150 yards out we were almost busted by a very good male warthog with one broken tusk. We held and he went on his way. Nothing was apparent at the waterhole from our position. As we approached, we spotted an even larger male warthog. He was wallowing in the water when we first caught a glimpse and bolted away from us and to our right. He stopped once but there was no shot. He ran another 20 yards and stopped and stared back at us through two corrals (for the cattle) and a wooden post & rail fence about 120 yards away. Hans dropped the sticks and I drew aim. All I had was a “between the eyes shot” again and that did not work out so well back on Day 1. The hog was quartering toward us with his front right shoulder blocked by a fence post and his face framed between the two horizontal rails. I told Hans about the shot and we moved the sticks and us about six feet to the right. Hans said he was a big one and should shoot. I obliged now that I had a small opening with his front shoulder exposed. That was it for the warthog. With two animals down, we set back on our course in search of kudu. There was an extensive amount of property that we could not get near and would offer safe haven for the kudu. We spent the next couple of hours scouring for kudu in hopes they would move just a little and offer an opportunity. It was getting late and the sun was close to the horizon - about 6:15-6:20PM when we turned the corner in the most distant point on the property when Hans's attention peaked - "kudu - big bull.” He gestured quickly for Frikkie to kill the truck. Two bulls were about 500 yards away feeding in the twilight. We went behind the truck and into the bush for cover. We moved swiftly for the first part of the stalk to cut the distance between them and us. About 10 – 15 minutes into the hurried stalk, Hans carefully edged his way out to see if the kudu had stayed in the opening. They had not, but Frikkie was watching from the truck. Hans whispered to him on the radio to find out if they had headed back into the bush. They had so we made our way up the opening slow and attentive. Hans stopped abruptly and gave me the hand signal to do the same. We knelt down as one of the kudu could be seen through the thorns feeding. It was slowly headed back toward the opening. Hans tapped his shoulder to use it as a rest. "The bull is coming back, be ready." Hans then covered his ears and said "take him." Unfortunately, my challenged hearing came into play, so I tapped him in the shoulder quick and asked "take him?" He hastily said yes and I slammed the bull square in the shoulder. After a short walk, we found him buried in a large bush. The bull dove straight into the thorns I guess in an attempt to hide. It was a very nice bull - beautiful shape to the horns.
DAY 6 – We decided to take the morning off for some rest. Hans & I planned on searching for an exceptional gemsbok in the afternoon. Del Marie asked what I might want for lunch earlier. I told her to surprise me with something that included game meat. She whipped up a couple pita sandwiches with grilled eland, melted cheese, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and homemade guacamole – Nice! Later, we set out in pursuit of gemsbok in the late afternoon twilight. After trolling several blocks of the concession finding numerous other species, we came across fresh gemsbok tracks. Hans was confident we were close to locating them. We turned a quick corner into the wind and saw a single blesbok about 400 yards out and two gemsbok about 200 yards past the blesbok. Hans assessed the situation and said that we would not be able to stalk the gemsbok from our current location. We would need to get between the blesbok and our quarry. We hopped back on the truck and went to a location that should have flanked the gemsbok. From here, we could approach with a favorable wind. About 10 minutes and about 150 yards into our silent approach, we encountered a herd of zebra to our left and soon after, a group of hartebeest in front of us. Needless to say the zebra spooked the hartebeest and the dominos tumbled as they bumped impala into the gemsbok we were pursuing. We had our "oh s..." moment. We pressed on in the general direction of the train of animals in case, by some stroke of luck, they stopped. About another 200 yards into the pursuit, we ran unit the original lone blesbok we were attempting to avoid – priceless! Hans crouched to a kneeling position and directed me to do the same and look at the ground until further notice. After a few minutes, the blesbok worked its way along - not agitated at all. He never really factored into our stalk after all. We continued and ran into the gemsbok a couple times but could not keep up on foot. We called for Frikkie to meet us with the truck. Frikkie delivered us to a new position on the opposite side of the concession where we found the zebra, impala, et al, and eventually the gemsbok herd. The gemsbok were shuffling in and out of an opening about 250 yards away. We spotted one large tall female but I was unable to get a clean shot as she would move in and out of the opening. When she was available, she was either in front of one or two other gemsbok or the clear shot was obstructed by bush. After about 15 minutes of holding the crosshairs on the gemsbok, Hans reported that another very good trophy had entered the opening. She too shuffled in and out of the opening in front of and behind others. Finally, a clear shot presented itself. I took it and as Hans said "the shot did not sound good." It turned out it wasn't. We looked for any signs of a hit for quite some time and followed their tracks for a few hundred yards. It was a clean miss which is always better than a bad hit!
DAY 7 – Today we took off from hunting and went to the Pilanesburg Park. We were inundated with animals. Hans was our tour guide and we found it very beneficial to have a PH as a guide. They see everything. This park was far better than Marakele Park we visited in 2013. Animals were at almost every turn. We saw white rhinos of all sizes, hippos, elephants, crocodiles, a group of three young cheetahs, zebra, impala, springbok, wildebeest, hartebeest, warthogs, eagles, nyala, and kudu. Probably more, but I do not remember. Speaking of kudu, while Hans was taking and opportunistic picture with my camera on his side of the land cruiser, I spotted a large kudu bull exiting from behind a bush into the opening. It was in the direction he was looking. I told Hans and in a quick, uncharacteristic response, he (the PH) said, "Where?" I won't let him live that one down. After reports of elephant siting’s ahead to the "left" and eventually correcting our route to accommodate for the "directionally challenged" tourist, we found the elephants ahead and to the right. Not long after following the ill-advice of the park visitor, I suggested to Hans that their compass may have been inverted and we should go back to the right. It was. We found the herd of elephants and snapped up many pictures. We had a nice lunch just outside the park and headed back for a once around a nearby hunting concession where we had seen gemsbok. This started around 4:30PM. Frikkie took the wheel of the cruiser and Hans and I sat up in the back spotting. We happened across many animals. After much spotting, we turned into the wind and into the twilight. We were 15-20 minutes from sunset. Out on the left at about 120 yards, we simultaneously spotted gemsbok. They were in a very tight opening width-wise and further occluded by some low thorn bushes. The gemsbok were shuffling back and forth. Hans was in the binoculars and I was viewing through the scope. Hans knew I wanted a tall bull or cow. Hans said there was a very tall gemsbok in the thick to the right. I could make out the two vertical horns through the bush. No view of the body for a shot. When the gemsbok started to move slowly into the opening, Hans alerted me and I waited for the shot at the shoulder. The Gemsbok entered the opening with the neck and shoulder down to the chest clearly visible. I took the shot and hit her square in the shoulder. We went up to the point of impact and found the direction the animals scattered. About 20 yards from the point of impact, we started to find blood. It was drying very quickly on the ground. Soon the blood trail increased making the tracking a little easier. After about 80 yards, we found the expired gemsbok on the ground. The bullet had gone straight through the animal clean - shoulder to shoulder. The female measured 39.” It was my 7th one shot kill. On the way back, we were summoned to the Matlabas river edge where Cruiser's whipped up an eland filet barbecue at their new location in the river. Very nice!
DAY 8 – I lounged around the camp for the morning per our plan. This was to be my last day available to hunt so Hans & I coordinated some before lunch paperwork. After lunch, we set out for some afternoon opportunistic hunting. Our goal was a black backed jackal. We had seen one or two on occasion early in the morning and in the late afternoon in a few particular areas. We cruised the open areas of the hunting land for a short period and kicked up a waterbuck or two and zebra of course. We soon found a small heard of blesbok. One ram was at least 17" but no guarantee of 18" - but as Hans says "you never know." The ram presented itself a couple times. I looked long and hard at it through the riflescope. Hans ranged it at just under 300 yards. I decided not to take the ram and we went to a nearby waterhole for some pictures. There was little activity at the waterhole. One old broken tusked warthog happening by was the limit to the photo opportunities. We decided at 4:00 we would set out and find a jackal. We combed the concession in all the suspect locations and came back to the entrance to the hunting area. It was shortly after 5:00PM and we set out on a vehicle path that ran diagonal to the others. Within a few hundred yards, two jackals zipped across our path and up the road about 80 yards, then left into the bush. Hans spotted one of them in the tall grass. I had tracked them and was looking in the same general direction based on his gestures and put the scope on the area. Hans said the jackal had just moved its head. When he did, I picked up the jackal in the riflescope and put the crosshairs at the location of the jackal’s head. He bolted and I followed instantly and fired into the center mass of the jackal. Hans followed quickly with an "oh man – he’s done." We walked up and found the jackal in its tracks at the point of impact. He was done. It was a good ending to a good hunt and a great trip. It doesn’t make it any easier to leave, but you don’t have anything left unfinished.
DAY 9 – This is the day that no one wants to come; your last morning in camp. I have had this day three times now and it does not get any easier. Breakfast is very solemn and you have to say goodbye to your family of sort, all the time pondering if and when you will be back to see them again. (Already know the answer). So again, thank you to Pieter & Lizelle, Hans, BP, Del Marie, Johan, and Aimee. You continue to provide unparalleled hospitality and generosity. Be well!!
Special thanks to the other guests as well, Bob & Cheryl. It was good to share the experience with you.
CHRIS ROGERS & REBECCA FLANNIGON – California
Animals taken – Gemsbok*, Zebra, Rebecca - Blesbok*, Impala*, Kudu*, Blue Wildebeest*, Rebecca - Blue Wildebeest (F), Warthog
Day 1 in South Africa:
After 22 hours in the air, 7 hours of drivng, and an additional 10 hours spent inside of airports (since I left my home), the lodge was a sight for sore eyes and sore butts. I was immediately met by my PH, Hans, who asked us if we would like to start hunting right now. I said “of course”. After taking our luggage and gear to our beautiful room, Hans took us to the rifle range to verify our zeros. The 30-06 shot a tight group a half inch high at 100 yards; I left it alone. The 375 H&H put the bullets right in the middle of the bullseye; I also left that rifle alone. Hans asked me what I wanted to hunt and I replied “let’s go get a zebra”. Hans asked me to take the 375.
We loaded the Land Cruiser and headed for one of the properties across the Matlabas River. We hunted on foot for about 4 hours chasing a group of zebras but couldn’t get a jump on them in the super thick brush. The only exposed shot I had on one was at 425 yards, which I passed on. We were beat and ready for sleep. We had delicious Kudu steaks for dinner, and I slept like a baby all night long.
Monday morning, I drug myself out of bed and was rewarded with scrambled ostrich eggs and eland sausage. Then it was out to hunt zebras on a different property. We saw no sign of the striped donkeys, but found some nice Gemsbok tracks. We stalked up on a small group of gemsbok for hours, bumping them several times, but could not get a shot in the thick brush. Finally, we flushed them toward a huge open plain, and drove the Land Cruiser around to cut them off. As soon as the bakkie emerged from the thick foliage, we could see the gemsbok out far in the distance at the other end of the clearing. They were looking right at us and ready to run. I lasered the one Hans wanted me to shoot at 287 yards, turned my CDS dial to 1 click under 300, aimed for the center of the shoulder, and immediately took a shot. The 375 hit the old oryx with an audible “thud” causing it to rear up on its hind legs like a horse throwing its rider off, then coming down to the ground on its front knees. Remarkably, the gemsbok got right up and limped into the thick cover about 10 feet away from where it fell. There was blood everywhere, and an easy trail to follow. Unfortunately, Hans had to track this nearly indestructible animal for hours, before it finally limped across a clearing and I was able to ut a TTSX through the lungs at 200 yards. Upon inspection of the dead gemsbok, it was apparent that the first shot was 6 inches too far forward, right through the chest where it meets the neck. Then the truth hit me; darn, I forgot to compensate for the 15-20 MPH wind before making that 300 yard shot. In the excitement of shooting my first African animal, I dialed in my elevation and shot without holding for the significant wind. It was already 6pm, time to head back for dinner and to drop my gemsbok off at the skinning shed. I felt ashamed that I had wounded my first African animal and had to track the poor beast for so long before putting an end to its misery. I felt like I let Hans down and wasted way too much hunting time because of my mistake. I regretted that shot. I hoped I wouldn’t lose my mojo by second guessing future shot opportunities. I have been shooting for many years. I know I am better than that. Hans’s tracking abilities were otherworldly. There were many areas where the blood trail stopped and our gemsbok crossed tracks with many other gemsbok, but Hans was able to stay the correct course every time. I washed my fresh lamb chops down with plenty of Carling Black Label and sipped on some iced Amarula before slipping into my nightly coma.
Back to zebra hunting, this time on a bigger property. Within an hour of starting the day’s hunt, we spot a group of zebra from the bakkie. Hans and I jump off and begin a stalk. We walk and crawl for 2 hours, getting within 100 yards before a wildebeest appears out of nowhere and scares everything away. This was one of many instances where a wildebeest would ruin a good stalk on my animal. I didn’t plan on shooting a wildebeest before, but after several of these incidents, I couldn’t wait to kill one. Walking through the bush, the variety of animals that one stumbles upon is amazing. Late that morning while stalking in the thickets, an impala ram stood 25 feet in front of us grunting. Then, like a charging NFL safety, a second ram appeared out of nowhere and locked horns with the first ram. An epic battle between these wonderful beasts transpired before our very eyes. I was struck with awe, too paralyzed with amazement to think of shooting the second ram (which was estimated at close to 25”). I felt like an invisible observer to one of god’s private shows. At around noon, we find the group of zebra again and begin another stalk. We find ourselves about 40 yards from the group in thick cover. We are crawling on our hands and knees trying to get around a bush and prepare for a shot. While crawling on the ground, a big bug flies up from the grass and into my mouth. If I dare to cough or spit, the zebra will hear us and nullify hours of work to get this shot. So like a champ, I ate that darn bug and it didn’t taste half bad. On the edge of the bush, Hans sets up the sticks and I prepare to take a shot. Unfortunately, the stallion has a small nursing mare standing right in front of him blocking my shot. As fate would have it, another wildebeest runs through the area before a shot opens up and I never see this group of zebra again. After more searching, Hans finds fresh zebra tracks where one has recently crossed the road. A few minutes later Hans glasses a large old mare, alone, that seems to be having trouble walking. He asks me if I want to shoot it, and after glassing it, I decide that I really like the size and the condition of the skin. There is also something obviously wrong with this lone zebra, as evidenced by the way it was walking. We were about 120 yards from her and she exposed the front of her body from around a thick bush to look at us. Hans tells me to place my rifle on his shoulder and shoot if I am comfortable with the shot. Without thinking, I line up my reticle while Hans plugs his ears and put a TTSX right through the heart. The zebra instantly falls without taking a step. Upon closer inspection of this big lady, we solved the mystery of the “funny walk”. This zebra has severely overgrown hoofs, to the point of them looking like snow skis! In his decades of tracking/guiding, Hans has never seen anything like this. I am keeping these unique feet and making a gun rack out of them. After 3 days of zebra hunting, it was nice to finally get one. Zebra proved to be a very challenging and rewarding hunt. Just before the sun sets, we spook a group of blesbok into the trees. Rebecca grabs the 30-06 and jumps out of the bakkie with Hans in the lead. We hike a mile, cut the group off on a road downwind, and set up the sticks about 100 yards out. Hans picks the best animal and Rebecca puts one right through the heart. An excellent trophy and a great way to enjoy our 3rd African sunset. The owner of the establishment, Mr. Pieter Lamprecht, joins us for dinner. Pieter is a larger than life personality, with an infectious laugh and propensity towards concocting pranks at every opportunity. Even though he is always extremely busy managing his land holdings and business operations, he always finds time for personal interaction with the guests. Pieter instantly lets Rebecca know that he will be serenading her every evening to the tune of Worsie Visser’s “Rebecca”, which he did. That darn song is still in my head! We ended the night with horrifying tales of local legends like “Tripod” and the “Matlabas Monster”.
It was time to actively look for an impala. We had seen many nice looking impala rams in the last few days, but Hans would always determine that they were too young. We went to a property across the main road from the lodge and visited all of the clearings, water sources, and grasslands that the impala like to frequent. None were seen. As we were deciding whether or not to try a different area, a nice old ram stuck his head and neck above a bush. Hans whispered “shoot it if you get a shot”. I took the full-frontal shot off-hand at about 70 yards. The bullet entered the neck, broke the spine, and exited at 45 degrees to the back side of the neck. The old impala dropped on the spot without taking a step. He was a fine old ram with beautiful coloration and a robust build. These creatures are tenfold more beautiful to behold up-close, exhibiting intricate details not noticed from afar. They are the epitome of perfection in a plains game animal. It seems that I had recovered my mojo after the gemsbok incident. I was proud of myself for not letting that first bad shot on Monday affect my ability to make difficult shots at a moment’s notice. The shot on the zebra (off of Han’s shoulder) and this perfect off-hand frontal shot on the impala really boosted my confidence back up. After the impala hunt concluded, we decided to head back to the lodge for lunch before heading back out to try for a kudu. We saw several male kudu over the last few days that I was able to get my scope on. Those kudus looked huge to my virgin eyes, but Hans was always quick to point out that they were too young to shoot. This afternoon, we were going to work our butts off to find a good mature bull. Kudus hate vehicles and are one of the most skittish and elusive of the plains game animals. You can sit in a blind over a waterhole for many hours waiting for a nice one, or you can put many miles on your hiking books attempting to track one down in the bush and put an effective stalk on him. No sitting in a blind for me, I wanted to get my kudu on foot. After entering the hunting grounds, we parked the bakkie, loaded up enough gear for a long hike, and set off on foot in an area with good signs of kudu activity. Subsequent to about a mile of walking, we glassed a big male with a group of females that turned out to be too young. He caught scent of us and took off running. We crossed a large clearing to adjust for the changing wind and set out again. After another couple miles of walking, we glassed an old solitary bull that was worthy of shooting. Hans said it was very old and quite skinny, with a decent set of horns. We kept the wind in our faces and stalked to within 220 yards, setting up the sticks beside a thick bush at the edge of the tall grass. The kudu was standing in some very thick cover, so we were going to wait for him to present a shot. Surprisingly, the bull exited the thick cover and began to walk toward us, oblivious of our presence. I cranked my VX-6 up to 10 power to get a better look. At about 180 yards, the bull wedged himself between two trees facing us and stopped. The wind suddenly shifted and he had his nose up smelling the air. Hans whispered “he knows we are here”. Seemingly acting without thinking, I centered my reticle for a full frontal shot, let Hans know I was going to shoot, and slowly squeezed the trigger. With a BANG, my hat flew off my head, but I kept my composure, chambered a fresh round and followed the bull in my scope. It seemed like a good hit. The kudu stumbled backwards slowly for about 20 yards, then stopped quartering away from me as its legs wobbled and its neck swayed back and forth. I put another shot through the lungs and it stumbled to the left before flopping on its side, dead. I finally bagged my dream animal; the Gray Ghost of Africa. I don’t remember taking a breath during the whole ordeal. This was the perfect Kudu for me; his face and neck were full of scars from battles won and lost. His horns were well weathered with distinctive ivory tips. Even in death, he had a regal expression and a soul-piercing gaze. I was extremely proud of this trophy and honored by the hunt. I will never forget this kudu. On inspecting the old warrior, it was obvious than my first shot (frontal) was good and would have been a clean kill if I waited a few more seconds. The second shot (quartering away) was also perfect. A perfect ending to a perfect hunt. Yes, I did overuse the word “perfect” in this paragraph by design. Dinner was a fantastic outdoor barbeque with everyone in attendance. We drank and told stories of our exploits around the fire pit, as our ancestors did for thousands of years to celebrate a successful hunt. We consumed eland filets with all of the fixings. DelMarie’s delicious desserts put the entire meal over the top. It was primal with a touch of elegance. This was a feast to remember. Pieter, in his infinite quest for the perfect prank, was a genius of his craft this evening. When Rebecca went to our room to use the bathroom, Pieter rigged a long length of fishing line from his seat at the dinner table all the way to the door to my room, and tied it to a rubber snake. When I say he “rigged” the fishing line that is an understatement to this Rube Goldberg contraption that went around posts, though mounted kudu horns, and was intricately threaded through table legs. When Rebecca exited the room, Pieter pulled the string, and the prank was complete. Not one to let good fishing line go to waste, Pieter rigged it over the lamp above the table, through a set of elk horns, and tied it to a giant rubber grasshopper above the buffet line. When one of the guests went to make his plate, Pieter let the oversized rubber bug fall in front of his face. Yes, I know what you are thinking. Why does this guy have so many rubber creepy-crawlies? But isn’t that like asking Picasso why he has so many paint brushes?
After consuming large portions of DelMarie’s excellent sausage and eggs, we were off to hunt wildebeest. I was looking for a big male and Rebecca was going to hunt a big female. Hans knew that wildebeest were always out in the open in the early morning and late evening hours, so we started this morning’s hunt extra early. Our Driver, Frekky, parked the bakkie and we were on foot hunting before the sun crested the horizon. The plan was to stalk with the wind in our face to a road that runs along a fence on the far side of the property. From there, we would glass down the sendero and hopefully pick a good bull. Han’s plan worked to perfection. We snuck through the bush for about a mile and began glassing a group of 9 wildebeest. We picked a beautiful big bull out of the group as the animal we wanted to shoot. We were able to covertly get within 150 yards of the group and the wind was cooperating perfectly. Hans set up the sticks low under a bush on the side of the clearing for a sitting shot. I lasered the bull at 146 yards and set the gun up. The group of wildebeest was huddled together tight, so I couldn’t shoot until the bull separated from the group as I didn’t want the TTSX to hit any animals behind my target (firearms rule #4). My arms and eyes grew tired on the sticks waiting for what seemed like an eternity for my bull to present a clean shot. Perhaps finally sensing our presence, the group became skittish and separated out. With luck on my side or perhaps the hunting gods smiling upon me, my bull came perfectly broadside with no other animals obstructing the shot. I gently pulled the trigger straight back and the 375 cracked through the morning air and destroyed the vitals of that great bull like a bolt thrown from Zeus’s arm. He was a fantastic large bull with a great spread. His imposing Mohawk, long beard, and shaggy snout gave him the look of a warrior straight out of a Tolkien novel. Cruiser Safaris does it again. What a great hunt. We spent the rest of the morning looking for a shooter female for Rebecca, but could not locate one. We went back to the lodge to eat lunch, take a nap, and lounge around the pool for a couple hours. Later that afternoon, we would continue the hunt for a good female wildebeest. We continued the hunt at about 3:00 pm, this time on a larger property with a better population of wildebeest. We tried to sit over a waterhole for about an hour, but no animals showed, and to be honest, we didn’t like that style of hunting. We went back to the spot and stalk for the rest of the evening but could not find any shooter females. Ironically and surprisingly, female wildebeest are much harder to hunt than the bulls; they are much more skittish and tend to favor cover over open areas. Just before the sun set, I got a lucky break. Our hopes of getting a decent warthog on this trip were slim because of the extremely tall grass and thick bush. In an unexpected and welcome moment, a decent warthog was seen trotting across a clearing. Hans said “shoot it” and I took a quick snap-shot on it before my opportunity could disappear forever into the thick brushy abyss. The tusky pig was finally mine. The first and only shootable warthog we would see on the entire trip. Rebecca and I watched another amazing sunset unfold before us. The sky turns as red as the African soil and silhouettes the tree line making unrecognizable the things that lurk beyond the sun’s reach. Natures farewell finale to another perfect day. Back at the lodge, the guests were making good progress diminishing the bar’s beer supply. I flopped my exhausted bottom onto a leather couch in the lounge and Christian (Pieter’s son) served me a huge glass of iced Amarula. The whole camp went to bed early, hoping to recharge our bodies for another day in Africa.
This was a non-hunting day. We wanted to do a good photo safari on this trip, so Hans scheduled to take us to Pilanesberg National Park today. There were parks closer to the lodge than Pilanesberg, but Hans felt that the animal viewing opportunities were superior at this location. We really wanted to see elephants in the wild and Hans said that Pilanesberg was the place. We had Hans make a quick stop at an ATM in Thabazimbi so I could acquire some Rands. We passed several horrendous fatal vehicle accidents along the way, mainly head-on collisions from passing on the narrow 2-lane highways. After a 2-hour drive, we were at our destination. At the park entrance, Hans registered us to enter and I paid the visitor fees for Rebecca and I in rands. The park employee handed me my map and receipt, but did not give me my change. Hans had to argue with her in Afrikaans to recover it for me. Once inside the park, Hans headed down a dirt road to a remote area where he frequently sees elephants. About 5 miles in, we saw a big group of elephants close to the road. The group consisted of about 7 cows, most with calves, and a lone bull bringing up the rear. We took a great deal of excellent pictures and videos from the vehicle when the group suddenly turned toward the road we were on and began to cross in front of us. We watched these magnificent animals cross one by one. When the last elephant stepped into the road, it stopped and turned to look at us. Then it began to charge us. Hans quickly put the transmission of the vehicle in reverse and drove backward through the twisty narrow dirt road as fast as he could. The elephant picked up speed and committed to its pursuit of us, flaring its massive ears and trumpeting as it lumbered at the vehicle. The massive animal chased us for over 200 feet before slowing down and giving up, but Hans continued backing out of the area for an additional ¼ mile! He wasn’t taking any chances. We were scared while it was happening and even more scared after what had happened finally sunk in. We decided we had seen enough elephants. Our curiosity about seeing these animals in the wild has been completely satisfied. Rebecca and I made a crude attempt at taking pictures and video during the event, but being in fear of our lives makes for shaky film and off-center pictures. Although of poor quality, we did get pictures and video. We ventured throughout the park the rest of the day seeing rhino, giraffe, impala, springbok, crocodile, monkeys, baboons, hippos, wildebeest, waterbuck, kudu, turtles, warthog, zebra, and many stunningly beautiful birds. We had lunch at a great restaurant; 3 steak dinners with Heinekens for 277 Rands. Back at the lodge, we took a swim in the pool before taking a much needed shower and early-evening nap. We woke and found our way to the lounge area at about 5pm. We sipped down a few Black Labels and relaxed while waiting for the other hunters to return from their day’s activities. By 6:00, everybody was at the lodge except for Dean and his PH. Just after 6:00, a call came in stating that Dean had killed the buffalo bull he had been hunting for 5 days and they were on their way back to the lodge. When Dean and Sorel exited the bakkie and walked toward the lodge entrance, they were greeted by the entire staff and guests with a standing applause and a huge round of congratulatory hugs and hand-shakes. That night, we had a great barbeque consisting of gemsbok filets, zebra backstrap, and spicy eland sausage. Dean was a rock star among hunters that night. It was difficult to think about impala and warthogs with that big buffalo hanging in the skinning shed. Everyone fell asleep dreaming of a future buffalo hunt.
Up early, we gulped up our ham & eggs and headed to the hunting grounds. Hunting for a good female wildebeest had been tough on Friday, so we decided to get an early start and revisit the same property. We located several groups of animals, but none contained the female we were looking for. Late in the morning, we were blessed with a good wind and set up a stalk through some thick bush to a clearing on the other side. Hans gave us the hand signal for a sudden stop and immediately ducked behind a bush. He whispered to us that there was a good female in the bushes 100 yards ahead of us. I looked as hard as I could, but saw nothing. Hans insisted it was there and set up the sticks for Rebecca. Rebecca had to scan the brush ahead of us with the scope at 6 power for quite some time to find the hidden animal. Hans’s eyes are simply amazing. Through the scope, Rebecca found a hole in the bush that exposed the animals shoulder perfectly broadside. She took the shot and the animal went down. This was her first kill with the 375. If you gave Hans a marker and told him to draw a dot where he wanted Rebecca to shoot, that is where the bullet went. Right into the center of the shoulder 1/3 the way up. She said “this is my gun now”. We drove around for a while after that looking for an additional warthog or a jackal, but none cooperated. Almost out of cash from shooting several additional animals, we called an end to our hunt. DelMaries’s chicken dinner was fantastic, as was the company as we drank and told stories late into the night.
Rebecca and I napped, hiked around the beautiful property, and relaxed by the pool. This was our last full day in Africa and we were just going to enjoy it. DelMarie made an extraordinary wildebeest pie for dinner. I went back for seconds and thirds. It was incredible.
DEAN OPATZ – Minnesota
Animals taken – Cape Buffalo*, Nyala*
CHIP KARELS – Currently station in Germany with the US Army
Animals taken – Blue Wildebeest*, Kudu*, 2 – Warthog (1*), blesbok*, Gemsbok*, Nyala*, Waterbuck* Impala*
NATHAN KARELS – Germany
Animals taken – Blue Wildebeest*, Kudu, 2 – Warthog, Blesbok*, Gemsbok*, Zebra, Impala
TOM WILSON – Pennsylvania
Animals taken – Blue Wildebeest*, Gemsbok* 2 – Impala*, 2 – Zebra, Blesbok*, Eland*, Kudu* (54 ¼”), 2 – Warthog (1*), Waterbuck*
It was the last day, I had taken every animal on my package and also a few add ons, the night before I had told my PH BP that I wanted to hunt for a waterbuck my last day, also if I had the chance encounter with an big impala and a nice shooter warthog I would take that chance if it presented itself. In the morning we came across a not only a trophy impala but also a very nice warthog and I harvested both, after that we were strictly after Waterbuck. After having a BBQ in the bush we setup in a blind at a water hole, our plan was to sit for a nice bull and if we didn't connect with one at the water hole by 5:15 we would call the truck in and hit a field with our last half hour to see if we could find our bull. We had lots of activity at the water hole but no shooter Bulls came in. We got to the field at 5:30 and started walking thru using brush and trees as cover, we spotted a waterbuck cow around 200 yards away but she only had 2 calves with her. We kept walking thru the field and we spotted another herd of Waterbuck in the field about 300 yards away, BP put his binoculars up and said there were 3 Bulls in the herd and the biggest bull was to the far right and he was definitely a shooter. As we're glassing the 1 cow had spotted us and was looking in our direction, this was our last chance to take a waterbuck so we had to get creative. BP's plan was to crouch all the way down and make our way to a bush that was 25 yards in front of us to get some cover. We did and didn't get busted; there was 1 more bush between us and the big bull so we made our way for it. When we got there the bull was unaware that we were there then BP said it's a 250 yard shot and asked if I felt comfortable with a shot of that distance, I told him to set up the sticks and let's get to work. He set them up and I rested my rifle on it, he was watching with binoculars and I steadied on the Bulls top shoulder and let it rip, he dropped in his tracks. So on the last day of the hunt, last 20 minutes of shooting light, we not only found our target animal but put on a stalk and made a 250 yard shot and dropped him where he stood, Hollywood couldn't have thought of a better ending.
BRYAN, RITA & BREANNE MARR & BREANNE’S fiancé BRANDON – Ontario, Canada
Animals taken – Waterbuck, Kudu* (56”), Gemsbok*, Warthog*, Black Backed Jackal
TERRY GIBSON – New Brunswick, Canada
Animals taken – Blesbok*, 2 – Impala*, Impala (f), Zebra, 2 – Gemsbok*, Kudu* (51 ¾”), Blue Wildebeest*, Waterbuck*, Sable*, Eland*, Eland (f), Warthog*, Nyala*
RON HENSLEY – Wisconsin
Animals taken – Blue Wildebeest*, Kudu*, Blesbok*, Impala*, Gemsbok*, Steenbok*, 2 – Warthogs*
JIM HENSLEY – Wisconsin
Animals taken – Eland*, Warthog*
(Ron’s Gemsbok hunt) I hadn't even seen a gemsbok for the first couple of days. That changed when we stalked in on an impala ram we had spotted a few hundred yards out in a tree dotted, savannah-type area of nearly waist high blond grass. We circled to get the wind and began our approach using occasional bushes as cover. At about 150 yards we ran out of cover so Hans set up the sticks next to a small thorn tree. At the shot, the ram dropped, and a long-horned female gemsbok, along with a bunch red hartebeests, bolted out of some small trees on the right. We hadn't seen them previously, and had no idea they were there. Not knowing where the shot came from, she stopped not 20 yards to the right of my impala! I put the scope on her but the angle wasn't right and in the next instant she was gone. Had I pulled the trigger, it would have been anti-climactic and taken away from both animals.
No worries, Hans had an idea where the herd was headed. So after photos of my ram and loading him into the truck, off we went in search of a gemsbok. A mile or two away the terrain was much different. Thick brush limited visibility to maybe 20 yards on average with small twigs and crunchy leaves scattered throughout. Hans and I bailed off the Toyota and headed crosswind towards an oasis of taller trees in the distance. After maybe an hour of sneaking around and under the toothpick thorns, while avoiding most of the brittle litter on the ground, we neared the taller trees. The brush opened a bit giving us visibility out to maybe 50 yards with occasional gaps to 75 or 80. And wouldn't you know it, there in the shade stood a zebra! We hit the ground and glassed for several minutes as the stallion swatted flies and dozed. We located a couple more of his buddies in the shadows and decided to move downwind to our left to avoid them. Limited cover forced us to crawl on hands and knees at this point. We hadn't gone more than fifty feet when Hans signaled me to stop, then he motioned for me to ease up alongside him. He slowly pointed at the trees and there laying in the shade was a gemsbok chewing his cud! Unfortunately, we couldn't see the length of his horns, only the bases that had the thick look of a male. In addition, we couldn't shoot through the tangle either, so we shinnied on our butts further to our left. After several feet, as if by miracle, a possible shooting lane opened. As we both sat flat on the ground Hans carefully got the shooting sticks set and I put the scope on him, but we still hadn't seen his horns. A minute or two later, he obligingly stood and took a couple of steps to his right giving us a broadside. What a gorgeous creature! The bold black and white markings on that grey-blond body with long sweeping tail. God was certainly on His A-game when He fashioned a gemsbok. That sight was instantly and forever etched into my brain. Hans immediately whispered he was a good one but the cover might be too thick. I cranked the Leica up to 12x and centered the red dot on animal's shoulder. I nodded to Hans. He asked if I had a clear shot. I nodded again. He said if I thought I could get a bullet through, to give it a try. The 30-06 boomed and the gemsbok dropped. We jumped up and started running forward. Hans said something about reloading and putting the gun on safety. But I had already done that and was turning the scope down to the lowest setting as we zig-zagged towards a little dust cloud still hanging in the air. At 30 feet we slowed to a walk and then circled to get a better angle for a follow-up shot but it wasn't necessary. What a magnificent animal. I spent several minutes admiring him while Hans went for the truck. When he came back, along with my son Jim and Frekk the driver, we gawked some more at my beautiful antelope. I recounted the stalk to Jim as Hans and Frekk began the chore of clearing an area for photos. The hunt could have ended right then and I would have been content. It didn't, but that is another story!
GAIL BATZLOFF – Michigan
Animals taken – Warthog*, Impala*, Zebra, Kudu* (51 1/8”), Blesbok*, Blue Wildebeest*
ED DEUSER – Missouri
Animals taken – 2 – Impala*, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest*, Kudu, Blesbok*, Gemsbok*
DARREN DEUSER – Illinois
Animals taken – Gemsbok*, Blesbok*, Blue Wildebeest*, Kudu, Waterbuck*, Impala*
STEVE REDDING – Missouri
Animals taken – Zebra, Impala*, Warthog*, Kudu, Blue Wildebeest*
(Ed) It is the first evening of our hunt. Sarel has given us instructions on how we are to follow him and when he puts the shooting sticks up in front of him he will be using them to rest his binoculars on, but if he sets the sticks to the side, then we should get on the sticks and be ready to shoot. We hop of the truck and begin to made stalk through some medium thick brush. After a little while Sarel stops and says, "impala". Since I had shot my impala earlier in the day we knew this would be my son Darren's shot. We take cover behind a large bush as the impala graze on the savanna 80 yards away. The herd is working their way out from behind a little patch of trees and Sarel is trying to get Darren his shot on the largest buck. Darren is set up and waiting but the impala are not moving. Sarel moves Darren to the other side of the bush in hopes of getting the shot. At this point Sarel see some zebras start to move in with the impalas, he knows that I am looking for a zebra so he moves the sticks back again to the other side and I set up waiting for the zebra to move out. We keep bouncing back and forth from one side of the large bush to the other. Nothing is moving out into the clear. Sarel moves the sticks again to the other side of the bush and says get ready. Darren and I look at each other and ask, " for the zebra or for the impala?" Sarel says, "it's a zebra shot", so I move to the sticks. This time the animals cooperate and the zebra steps out into the clear at about 70 yards. "Do you have a shoulder?" asks Sarel. "Yes". I reply. "Take the shot" Bang! The zebra goes about 75 yards and we can see the dust fly. It's down. What a fun end to our first day of hunting.
HAYDEN ELSWORTHY – Australia
Animals taken – Impala*, Gemsbok*, Kudu* (52 ¼”), Sable*, Warthog*
(Hayden’s Sable hunt) Spent 3 days hunting this amazing animal. After lunch on day 5 of the hunt we went to an area of the property that was thick and had lots of signs of sable, fresh tracks, you could smell them. So we left the vehicle and followed one set of tracks, after about half hour we found that they belonged to a young bull. We knew there was another set of tracks to follow so we went and set about following those. This time we came in from a different area but still in the same block. The tracks were good as was the smell from the sable. This animal was smart. We walked right passed him when chasing the younger sable and didn't pick him up. He then backed tracked on us a few times but never showed himself. All we could do was here when he was running through the bush. We kept following the tracks knowing that this is a good animal. He crossed the road between blocks so the search continued. We jumped back on the vehicle to see if he had crossed any of the other tracks, and hopefully make it easier to find him. While driving the tracks we spotted the majestic animal just next to a thicket. Then the PH said we will go passed the animal and then stalk back to it. This took about 2 minutes till we had a good look at the sable, which was now feeding on the edge of the thicket. My PH said that he wanted to get a little bit closer and using a bush as cover we were able to get within about 70 yards of the animal. It was then time to wait and hoped the sable would present a shot, which it did shortly after. Clean shot through the shoulder. Great day hunting!
SOLON CARLSON – Idaho
Animals taken – Waterbuck*, Eland*, Blue Wildebeest*, Gemsbok*, Zebra, Bushbuck*, Impala*, Nyala*, Warthog*
BILL LOWE – Idaho
Animals taken - Kudu*, 2 – Impala*, Gemsbok*, 2 – Warthog*, Blesbok*, Blue Wildebeest*
ROLF CRICHTON – Idaho
Animals taken – Kudu, 2 – Blue Wildebeest*, 2 – Impala*, 2 – Blesbok*, 2 – Warthog, Gemsbok, Waterbuck*
MATTHEW SVETICH – Florida
(Solon) All of the hunts were special and seeing Hans track through the bush was a real treat. Everyone was extremely friendly and helpful. If I had to pick just one hunt though, it would be my bushbuck hunt.We hunted for the bushbuck for three mornings. We saw quite a few females and a few immature bucks which would drift in and out of the tall grass along the river bank, but no shooters. On the third morning Hans spotted what he thought was a good buck, but he was obscured by some heavy brush. It took a few minutes to confirm he was a shooter. By that time he was at a steep quartering angle feeding away. I squeezed off the shot and off he went. We ran to where he was and found good blood a few yards away. Hans turned to me and asked if I had a round in the chamber and then proceeded to say that bushbuck can be extremely dangerous when wounded. I double checked to confirm I had a round in the chamber. We proceeded to track him and jumped him right away. Hans then asked if I wanted to bring in a blood hound. I was not opposed as it was so thick and the shot had been through brush. We backed out so Hans could call for the dog. After that, we walked completely around the thicket and Hans set me up where I had a good vantage point. He went back to meet BP and Shadow the dog. 15 minutes later I could hear Shadow chasing the bushbuck. Moments later the bushbuck jumped out in the opening and had three different directions he could run and of course he chose right at me. He was 60 yards out charging full bore at me. I confirmed Shadow was out of the way and squeezed off a round. I hit him in the chest driving him back into the brush where he immediately fell. It turns out the first shot broke his shoulder, but missed his vitals. It was a complete rush and by far one of my most memorable hunts.
BOB FITZPATRICK – New Jersey
Animals taken – Warthog*, Impala*, Blesbok*, Gemsbok, Kudu* (53”)
BOB DAYMON – Michigan
Animals taken – Impala*, Warthog*, Kudu, Gemsbok, Blesbok*
JACK & CAROLYN LEGGETT – Nevada
Animals taken – Eland*, Blesbok*, Nyala*, Bushbuck*, Warthog*, Impala*
ALBERT SCHWEIKERT – Nevada
Animals taken – Impala*, Blue Wildebeest*, Ostrich, Kudu
HOWARD MATHIS – California
Animals taken – Impala*, 2 – Warthogs*, Blue Wildebeest*, Kudu*, Zebra
(Howard) On May 24, 2016 myself and my nephew Albert Schweikert along with friends Carolyn & Jack Leggett left Reno, Nevada at 6 AM local time on the first stage of a 3 stage flight to Johannesburg, South Africa. We Changed planes in Salt Lake City and then on to Atlanta were we changed planes again on the last leg of our trip. This was the longest part, a 14 ½ hour flight.
MAY 25: We arrived in Johannesburg at 5:45 PM, local time. After arriving we went through customs and then we were met by a representative of Cruiser Safaris who escorted us on to the police station in the airport complex to collect our guns and ammunition. We were then picked up by a driver from the Afton Guest House where we spent the next 3 nights.
MAY 26: It was cold, windy and overcast and we all spent the day just resting and visiting and having the best steak dinner I have ever had.
MAY 27: We toured caves, museums and a game park. Had lunch at the famous restaurant “Carnivores” where I sampled Crocodile, Kudu, Zebra, Impala and pork. This was my 2nd trip to “Carnivores” as I had been to the one in Nairobi, Kenya. They were both a great dining experience.
MAY 28: We left the Afton Guest House in the Cruiser Safaris van along with 2 other hunters both named Bob. We called the Michigan Bob and New Jersey Bob for the state they were each from to distinguish between them. We took a nice little bonus side tour of the area as the van driver had to pick up supplies for the camp. One of the stops was at Hartebeest Port farmers market where we were able to mingle with the locals. From there we drove towards camp stopping in Thabazimbi for lunch. This is where I met our hunting guide or PH, BP. The guide is referred to as a PH (professional hunter). I rode on to camp with him. During the ride BP told me a lot about South Africa. I really enjoyed talking to him. After the 3 ½ hour ride from Johannesburg to the camp we were met by the host and outfitter Pieter Lamprecht and camp cook DelMarie and staff. After settling in we went to the shooting range to sight in our rifles.
MAY 29: We had breakfast where among other things they served scrambled Ostrich eggs. The cook DelMarie told me that one Ostrich egg equals 2 dozen chicken eggs. After breakfast Albert, myself and our PH, BP and driver left for our first day of hunting. I shot my Impala that morning. We stopped along the way for lunch. We had BBQ Kudu sausage on hot dog buns. I thought they were very good. Albert said they gave him heart burn. After lunch we continued hunting and I got my first Warthog. I was the only one to get animals that day.
MAY 30: We both sot a Blue Wildebeest that morning. We returned to the camp for lunch. Went back out that afternoon and Albert shot an Ostrich. He wants the hide made into a pair of boots.
MAY 31: Albert shot his Impala that morning. Then we went looking for the one horn Kudu. We saw him but then lost him. About an hour later BP spotted a nice Kudu bull with 2 great horns. I took aim at what I thought was a good shot placement. I don’t know what went wrong, I must have jerked. The shot hit the bull in the neck severing a main artery. He ran about 80 yards and bled out. This worked out better than the heart or lung shot I was going after. Luck was on my side that day.
JUNE 1: We left camp around 6:30 AM, We were out a couple of hours seeing Zebra’s in the distance. We finally spotted a Zebra close enough to possibly make a kill shot. I wounded it and it took off so we looked for the blood trail. We could hear it calling to the herd but couldn’t find it. Albert and I went back to the truck while the PH and the tracker/driver looked for it. They finally found it and finished it off. We went back to camp and they took a tractor back out to get it out of the dense brush. If BP and the tracker were not good at their jobs I would have lost my Zebra. Later that same day we went back out so Albert could find a Kudu. No luck.
JUNE 2: We again went looking for Kudu. Saw lots of tracks and one Kudu but he got away in the brush. With that we decided to go sit at a water hole. Finally after several hours a large Warthog came in. I used Albert’s new Weatherby Mark 5 30-06 rifle and shot the hog right between the eyes about 60 yards away. That gun made me look like a crack shot.
JUNE 3: I stayed in camp that morning while Albert and BP went looking for Kudu. They returned to the same water hole and stayed for a few hours. When no Kudu showed up they headed back to camp. While driving they spotted a nice large Kudu. Albert finally got his. Later that morning I went out with our friend Jack Leggett and his PH, I just rode with them while Jack got an Impala for his wife Caroline. It was her birthday and we all sang “Happy Birthday” and DelMarie made her a cake.
JUNE 4: Again Albert and I went out looking for a Warthog for Albert, no luck. When we returned to camp and before we could go back out hunting Pieter came and said he had something to show all of us later in the afternoon. He took us down by the river where they had a great BBQ set up. It was first rate and an enjoyable time was had by all of us. The food and drink was top notch.
JUNE 5: With all our animals taken we stayed in camp and rested. That evening we all went out to watch the feeding of the Sables. The Sables are part of their breeding program to build up the herd.
JUNE 6: Got up that morning, had breakfast then finished packing for the start of our trip home. Said our thank you and good-bye’s to everyone and loaded up and left for Johannesburg. Before arriving in Johannesburg we went to Highveld Taxidermists to give our instructions for our trophies. From there we went to the airport and departed for home.
JUNE 7: Arrived back in Reno and were met by my wife and my sister, Albert’s mother. From Reno my wife and I went on to our home in California.
I want to thank Cruiser Safaris for making this one of the best times of my life. Everyone from Pieter, BP my PH and the tracker, plus the camp staff and DelMarie made this a trip of a lifetime for me. If life and my health permit I would like to return in a couple of years. I highly recommend Cruiser Safaris to anyone who wants to hunt in Africa.
JASON WHITAKER – Texas
Animals taken – 2 – Impala*, Gemsbok, Blesbok*, Warthog*, Kudu*, Blue Wildebeest*
CARL & MYRA STEPHENS – Florida
Animals taken – Impala*, Blue Wildebeest*, Gemsbok*, 2 – Warthogs*, Kudu*
ASHLEY STEPHENS – Florida
Animals taken – Blesbok*, Eland
NIKOLE STEPHENS – Florida
Animals taken – Gemsbok*, Blesbok*
STEVE & BELINDA BRASHIER – Bahrain, CORY SUPERIOR: DAD AND Steve & Belinda’s daughter KATHRYN
Animals taken – Impala*, Nyala*, 2 – Warthogs*, Eland*, Bushbuck, Sable*
MIKE BOBROSKI – Florida
Animals taken – Warthog, Red Hartebeest, Zebra, Impala*, Kudu* (51 ¾”), Gemsbok
No Hunt Photos Available
ELLIS & MARTHA MARKHAM – Virginia
Animals taken – Eland (F), Nyala*, Waterbuck*
No Hunt Photos Available
As this is our third safari with Cruiser Safari’s we are beginning to understand what to expect and how to work with the customs personnel. We departed from home at 10:51 AM on June 22, 2016 for Dulles International Airport. The drive took two hours and twenty minutes. Then another hour and a half to be bussed to the terminal, check-in with South African Airways, register the firearms, go through customs, and walk to the departure gate. With three hours before the flight departs we purchased a sub sandwich and soft drink before pulling out our tablets to read a book. Boarding the plane went smoothly and flight took off as scheduled at 5:45 PM. The airlines only stop was for an hour in Dakar to refuel and allow for departing passengers to exit and new passengers to board. The plane departed Dakar about 5:00 AM (Dakar time). Arrival in Johannesburg was around 5:45 PM (local time) for a total flight time of about eighteen hours. Martha seemed to sleep quite a bit, but as usual only slept a little after departing Dakar. Checking through customs and SAPS didn’t present any problems and only took about one and a half hours. As we were spending the night at Afton Guest House their representative met us outside of the customs gates and assisted us in registering the firearms with SAPS. After checking into our room and cleaning up a bit we had a lovely chat with Annelise, the owner of the B&B, met another couple and their two sons (who were also on a hunting safari), and had a wonderful barbequed steak dinner that was cooked by Annelise’s son-in-law.
The alarm woke us at 6:00 AM (local time) allowing us plenty of time to clean-up, have breakfast, repack a few things, take pictures of the B&B, and say our good-bye’s. Frank, the driver from Cruiser Safaris picked us up at about 9:00 AM for a little less than a four hour drive to Cruiser Safaris ranch. Del Marie and Aimee met us in the parking lot with fruit drinks, smiles and hugs. Feels like old home week. By 3:30 PM we had unpacked all of the luggage, shot the rifles, and met Han’s (our PH this year). Han’s has been a PH at Cruiser Safaris since our first trip in 2007 and likely even before then. From discussing with other hunters during our previous trips, I know Han’s is one of the better PH’s. However, he has lots of energy, and I hope he doesn’t walk our legs off. Before dinner we met two other hunters, Steve and Mike (longtime friends). Steve brought his wife (Belinda), three year old daughter (Katie), and sister-in-law (Corie).
For the first day of hunting we arose at 5:00 AM, breakfast at 5:30 and off hunting by 6:00. The drive took about forty minutes on rough dirt roads. As usual there were lots of animals. We sighted Impala, Warthogs, Wildebeests, Giraffes, Waterbuck (of course a female) and Eland. Han’s and I stalked the second herd of Eland for at least forty-five minutes. Moving very slowly and standing still or kneeling a lot the herd moved around in front of us. As the wind was blowing from the herd to us this was ideal. There were two nice bulls in the herd that I had shots at, but I was after a cow. Finally a cow came out in a small clearing about fifty yards away. Even then there was some brush to shoot through. It was a quick shot and the cow loped away for maybe twenty-five yards before dropping. The bullet had entered just above the heart and was found under the skin on the other side of the animal. We were back at the lodge by noon for a wonderful quiche lunch. The afternoon hunt was for Martha’s Waterbuck at the same property. There was a good stalk on a herd of Waterbuck that had a nice male, but they busted the group. A few other Waterbuck were spotted but the males were too young.
Day two, Just after daylight we went to Pieter’s property across the main dirt road from the lodge. As it was cooler this morning we stayed inside the truck for a while and slowly drove around the lanes. There were lots of game and a few Waterbuck (females and a male with a crooked horn). In the afternoon we hunted the same property until dark. There was one large male Waterbuck but its horns were broken off near the tips. That evening Pieter told us that the horns had been broken off years ago. Then he showed us one of his horns that they had found that was at least twelve inches long. Still the Waterbuck remains the dominant male in that area.
Day three, or maybe two and a half as I took up the first morning hunting Eland, and we are off at 6:30 AM for Martha’s Waterbuck. We only drove a few miles east from the lodge to a large ranch, probably six to ten thousand acres. It always amazes me that we were on such a large ranch and were the only hunters. Impala were everywhere, and there were also Kudu, Oryx, Wildebeest, Warthog, Bushbuck, and Monkeys. We located several female Waterbuck and a couple of young males, but nothing with a large set of horns. Lunch was served at the lodge. About 1:00 PM we left to hunt for the afternoon at the same ranch as we hunted in the morning. Han’s suggested to Martha that they sit at a waterhole as the game seemed to be drinking during the mid-day. When approaching the water hole a good Waterbuck was spotted behind some brush. Han’s and Martha knelt down hoping the Waterbuck would move into a clearing. When the Waterbuck moved to the right Han’s told Martha to move with him, but Martha’s knee was too stiff to move. By the time she got the crosshairs on the Waterbuck he was walking straight away. No shot! A little later, we were in the back of the truck driving slowly around the lanes when Han’s spotted two Waterbucks under some trees. One was a good male. Martha setup quickly and on the first shot the Waterbuck went down only to jump right back up. She shot a second time but the Waterbuck went about fifty yards and lay down. Han’s and Martha stalked to where the Waterbuck was first shot. They saw the Waterbuck attempt to get up but it went back down. After several minutes Martha took a third shot. The Waterbuck moved a little and then expired. While we took a couple of pictures of the Waterbuck where it expired the brush was too thick for group pictures. Thus the Waterbuck was moved to a nearby field. The horns both measured about 25”. Just made the record book, very nice. Now it was time to clean-up, sip some good South African wine, and up-date our Journals.
It’s now Tuesday (June 28, 2016) and I’m off to hunt Nyala and Martha gets to sleep-in. Today we are hunting behind Johan’s house. We walked a lot of lanes at first and then through the brush. There was lots of game. We saw Impala, kudu (a bull of over 50”), Nyala, and a rabbit. The Nyala was a bull with nice horns, but there was too much brush to shoot through. Martha awoke around 8:00 AM, had a light breakfast, and sat by the outside fire pit to soak up the sun as the temperature was only 52 degrees. Today we ate lunch at the lodge and rested until around 2:20 PM before returning to where we hunted in the morning. Only five minutes after exiting the last gate Han’s spotted a nice Nyala bull. The gun came up and barked. I knew immediately that the Nyala was hit as it lunged forward hitting a tree with its head. However, it jumped up and ran back the way it had come from. The run was only thirty yards before it piled up. The Nyala hunt was over. I’ll always take luck over skill. On the way back to the lodge we came upon Pieter, Martha, Corie and Katie. They were going to feed the breeding stock. At least Martha saw the whole Nyala not just a picture.
While both of us had harvested the animals we wanted on this safari there were still three more days at the lodge. Martha was happy to relax and enjoy the company of our new friends. I needed to hunt some more, maybe it’s just a man thing. So for the next three days Han’s guided me through three very nice properties in search of a large horned Kudu. Lots of driving, walking and hoping. I enjoyed seeing all of the game even without shooting. Han’s did spot two Kudu bulls, but this city-boy didn’t. On one of the days Pieter asked Martha and Mike to go with him to dart an Oryx that had been injured. Lizelle piloted their helicopter locating the Oryx. They located, darted, and treated the Oryx. Then Lizelle flew Martha and Mike back to the lodge showing them what the land looked like from the air. The view was totally different than from the ground. On the way back to the lodge they spotted a white Impala and a herd of Cape Buffalo.
We left the lodge with the entire group of hunters on aturday, July 2, 2016, after having a wonderful breakfast. As the other parties were having their animals’ taxidermy done at Highveld we visited them before being dropped off at the airport. Time for the check-in process was getting tight, but thankfully the planes departure was delayed by an hour. The flight home was uneventful, but I never slept. We arrived home before noon on Sunday, July 3, 2016. I stayed awake until about 7:00 PM, no sleep for about forty-four hours, before dying.
We hope to return to Cruiser Safaris to enjoy another African safari and would encourage any hunter and their family to do so also. The pace of life on the safari is very relaxing and most enjoyable. The animals seen and the abundance of the game is nothing like one would ever see in the USA. Just drool and plan!
GEOFF POSTLE – British Columbia, Canada
Animals taken – Kudu* (53”), Impala*, Warthog*, Gemsbok*, Blue Wildebeest (F)
ANTONIE LOOTS – Australia
Animals taken – Blue Wildebeest*, Gemsbok*, Zebra, Impala*, Waterbuck (F)
JOHN READING – Australia
Animals taken – Blesbok*, Impala*, Waterbuck*
(Antonie’s Zebra hunt): They are very smart animals, took us 2 days to outsmart them. Hans and I kept tracking them but they were just to alert, as soon as they would smell or hear us they would take off and run for kilometers before they stopped. Hans knew where the zebras where heading to so he told me we will try and flank them, we had the wind in our favor for once and we found them. They were very spooky but not aware of us. Hans and I hide behind a small bush and we could spot them about 80meters from us. They started moving off, as I saw a huge mare walking past at 80meters I let it rip. Shot the mare on shoulder straight through the heart and lungs and she ran off. 300m later we found her dead. Great hunt, Great shot.
JON CAULFIELD – Georgia
Animals taken – Impala*, Waterbuck*, Blue Wildebeest*, Eland*, Bushbuck*
JIM GENT – Florida
Animals taken – Blue Wildebeest*, Waterbuck*
(Jon) My buddy Jim and I made our second trip to Cruisers this year. The 2014 hunt was so outstanding it was hard to imagine a better one. Okay, I was wrong.
Pietdrie (‘Peter the 3rd’ in Afrikaans after his father and grandfather), picks us up at Afton the morning after we arrive. Great guy and is Jim’s PH for the week. Tim and Patricia from Canada are fellow hunters and good folks to spend the week with. Arriving at Cruiser’s we’re greeted by DelMarie, the best chef in Africa and maybe some other continents. I demand a drukkie (hug), which she graciously grants. Meals at Cruisers are delicious with lots of game and local recipes. They are also fun (see below). Craig is my PH this year and Samuel is racking. On day one I realize Craig is a hunting machine. He’s extremely focused and great to hunt with. His ability to figure out what game will do is uncanny. He could find a mouse a month after it farted while crossing a highway. We walk a lot, averaging about 10 miles a day and sometimes almost twice that. I’m pleased to be able to keep with two guys half my age….….or at least they’re polite enough to say I can. The second guy is Frank, a newly graduated PH who Craig is introducing to the properties he’ll be guiding on. Frank is a big guy. One evening at the skinning shed Pieter tapes him at 199 cm (6’7”). Each day it’s like walking behind a giraffe because for each step Frank takes I need 3. He often blocks the sun. Aside from that he’s great to hunt with. Seriously, during the week I discover that Frank has an eye for game spotting that would make an eagle jealous. One night at dinner we discover Frank doesn’t like garlic. This is after DelMarie puts a bunch of it in his fruit salad before serving him. Others at the table who’d previously been on the receiving end of a Cruisers practical joke (all the rest of us) think this is very funny. Frank not so much. Like I said, meals at Cruisers are fun.
In 2014 I was successful far beyond what I expected. My intent this year is to do the same 7-day package with the hope of taking either an exceptional kudu or impala. I’m in no hurry. That plan goes out the window after day 2. On day 1 we walk the river property, where last time I took a fine kudu. This year early in the day we see young bulls, some good warthogs and many impalas. Later in the morning we come off the river bottoms to hunt higher ground. Soon after Craig spots a good impala in a large group; but he also sees us and leaves his lady friends to fend for themselves. Craig motions we must follow. After slowly stalking then crawling to 150 m of the ram, Craig says set up the sticks. The bush is thick, the shooting window small and I’m not comfortable with the shot. I ask if we can move up. With the patience of a saint Craig agrees. After we eventually crawl within 120 m he whispers ‘This is as close as we can get,’ so I again set up. The bush is still thick but with somewhat better visibility. The ram is twitchy. I line up and shoot. He runs off but piles up nearby. The impala of a lifetime with beautiful long, lyre-shaped symmetrical horns and fat bases. On day one I’m able to do something I’ve dreamed about for the last 2 years. Thank you, Craig!
On day 2 we again hunt the river property for kudu. The wind had flipped overnight so this morning we begin on the opposite bank. Today we also see young kudu bulls, cows and some good warthog. But the real story today turns out to be eland. To put this in perspective, my wife and I lived in SA near Kruger Park the first three years of our marriage, over 40 years ago. We spent much time there and at other National and Provincial Parks. After returning to the US, we’ve since visited SA a number of times and I’ve come here frequently for work. The point is, I’ve seen a good number of eland. But until this trip I’d never considered hunting for one. Today is different. Soon after sunrise, while slowly still hunting toward the river for kudu, we stop and watch 10 lovely eland cows easily hop over a fence and stroll past within 75 m. They are followed by a majestic smiling bull (he was smiling, I’m not making this up). An hour later when we get to the river itself, we stop and watch the herd cross the dry bed. Then we cross but on the opposite bank go off in another direction. Some hours later and far from the river Craig stops short and says “There’s a herd!” It’s unclear if it’s the same group. We’re within 100 m, it’s a clear shot and we haven’t been spotted. This is when Craig and Frank realizethey have received a sign. We are meant to hunt eland. So, in the quiet, restrained way so typical to South Africa (and a reason I’m so fond of this country) they gently suggest I take the bull. They whisper to me:
SKIET OOM JON!!!!
SKIET DIE ELAND!!!!
SKIET!! SKIET!! SKIET DIE ELAND, DAMMIT, U DONDER OU BLIKSEM!!!!!!”
I’m exaggerating but this was the gist of it. And hey, it’s my hunting story. Despite their subtle encouragement, I haven’t yet received the same divine revelation and do not shoot. But all day I keep thinking……….…Wow, what a magnificent animal. Maybe I should reconsider. That evening I tell Pieter and Craig I’d like to try and add a waterbuck and/or a wildebeest, and not focus so much on a kudu.
On day 3 we hunt two properties. Both are extremely well-managed for game but very different in terms of topography and vegetation. In the morning we hunt a farm that is low and wet (or wet for this part of Limpopo). Late morning, we come across a good waterbuck that surprises all of us as we round a bend. Craig says “Shoot!” and this time I need no extra encouragement. The bull bounds off into the bush. Now I’m concerned about the shot because of how fast he took off, but we all agree it seemed good. When we get to him a few minutes later that assessment is correct. He’s an old, old, beautiful bull. Late that afternoon on the second farm which is higher and drier, Craig spots a wildebeest. Craig says ‘Shoot!’, I do and the wildebeest goes down quickly, within sight. When we get up to him all three of us get real excited. This is a fantastic wildebeest. By the time we arrive back at camp that evening I have received the same revelation that came to Craig and Frank on day 2. After dinner, I tell Pieter I’d like to try for an eland bull.
The next morning, I discover why hunters consider eland so challenging. On day 4 we go to another property. Today there is no casually strolling up to a herd with a smiling bull. Just after sunrise while still on the Land Cruiser we see a group of eland. The instant they spot us they take off like they’re being stung by bees. This sets the tone for the day. We dismount and we follow through very thick bush. After a couple miles, Craig pulls up, motions for us to stop and indicates the eland are nearby. Then we step very, very, slowly. Craig is right, the eland are close. But the veld here is extremely thick and it’s a big herd. They are totally alert, standing totally still and spread way out, watching. We get busted. The eland take off and trot away for miles in a straight line. By mid-afternoon this has happened 5 times. Now we must make a wide circle around some gemsbok that we walk up within 70 m of. They don’t see us, have no interest in moving, and Craig doesn’t want to alarm them. So, we circle the group. When we finally get around them, it’s a problem finding the eland because the herd has dispersed, with tracks going off in many directions. We follow what Craig figures is the likeliest set of tracks until after sundown. In Africa, you lose light much faster than in temperate latitudes. Finally, the hunting day seems to be over and we board the Land Cruiser to return to camp. As we get to the gate and are about to open it to leave, Craig has a hunch…….He asks Samuel to make one more circuit of the last area we’d walked. Samuel drives slowly and deliberately. Several minutes later he turns the Land Cruiser onto the road that parallels the farm boundary. The herd we’ve tracked in the veld for the last 10 hours is standing 200 m directly in front of us. Craig immediately points to the bull and says “Shoot,” as the eland starts back to the safety of the bush. The shot must be quick. I shoot and it hits, but the bull is almost facing us so the round enters his chest at an acute angle. He bolts off the road. When we get to where he left the road we all start searching. About 15 minutes later Samuel finds the bull, who is about 400 m off the road. He is still standing, but not in good shape. It is nearly dark. We get close to the bull and he doesn’t try to run. Craig yells “SHOOT!!” which Frank pulls up and does first. The eland goes down and gets back up. Then I shoot and he does the same. I shoot again and this time he stays down. This day and this animal are incredible. Hunting with these guys is like nothing else.
After an experience like this what do you do?
You hunt bushbuck.
On day 5 we go to another property along a river – but since its winter and SA is in a drought it’s really just a sand bed. Nonetheless, in Africa, like anywhere in the world, rivers are where you find the thickest vegetation which means bushbuck. They are solitary, nervous and secretive like North America whitetails. Craig emphasizes that it’s unusual to have much time to shoot and have a clear shot.
We leave the Land Cruiser and still hunt on a road along the river bed. About 20 minutes later we ease around a bend. A good ram is 50 m away, directly in front of us and offers a perfectly clear shot – for about 3 seconds. As I set up and Craig whispers “Shoot!” the ram takes off like the French Army. Craig’s earlier advice is spot on.
The rest of that day, on day 6 and into day 7 we walk a lot, drive a bit and see a good number of bushbuck. Most are ewes, some are young males but several are mature rams. All potential shooters take off quickly. To give an idea of how slowly we hunt, in addition to the bushbuck we see we also walk up within 30 to 75 m of numerous trophy warthogs. Henry Kissinger once said “Paranoids have enemies too.” Historians say he was talking about the Russians. I believe he was talking about warthogs.
Late morning on day 7 we’re again walking along the river bed. Frank stops abruptly and grabs my shoulder with a hand the size and weight of a Volkswagen. As I’m pulled up off my feet he whispers “There’s a nice bosbok on the other side!” As mentioned earlier, in addition to being big, Frank has an amazing game eye. After he puts me down and we get my arm back into the shoulder socket, Craig agrees it’s a good bushbuck and we set up. The ram is hanging in the bush but then slowly starts heading down to the river bed itself. He’s quartering away but eventually offers a decent shot. He goes down kicking. Craig says to follow up and I do. It is fantastic bosbok. Craig and Frank are sure he’s the same one we saw the first morning. It’s 11 am on day 7. This year’s hunt is over.
When we return to camp, Craig’s wife and two of their youngsters (Liam and ‘Batgirl’) are visiting with Pieter and Lizelle for the weekend. It’s a pleasure to meet his lovely family. I especially enjoy talking with his son Liam who is fluent in English and Afrikaans. The two of us hit off well, which may be because Liam is one of the few South Africans who seems to understand my bad Afrikaans. But since he’s 3 years old it’s also possible that we have a similar vocabulary. Or maybe he’s just being polite. Not that it matters in an already very comfortable camp, Pieter continues to make improvements both big and less big. On the big side, the water pressure in the client rooms is much improved and anyone who’s been here before will notice this immediately (assuming they use the shower). Less big, but also noticeable and impressive, the barbecue area (braaiplek) which was comfortable to begin with has been beautifully redone.
Does hunting get better than this? As a foreigner who has spent a lot of time in SA I’m very biased. But apart from the hunting, Cruisers offers something tough to describe if you haven’t been here. South African hospitality, fun, genuineness and ‘wildness’ is unique. I think it’s captured in the Afrikaans word, ‘gees’. In English, ‘gees’ literally translates as ‘spirit,’ but that is not an adequate description. You need to spend some time here to understand it. Come to South Africa, hunt with Cruisers, then visit other parts of this beautiful country and be willing to take it as it comes. Then you will begin to understand ‘gees.’ Looking forward to returning to Cruisers in 2018. Wag ‘n bietjie, Pieter!
TIM & PATRICIA THERRIAULT – Ontario, Canada
Animals taken – Eland (F), Gemsbok*, Red Hartebeest*, Blesbok*, Kudu* (53”), Zebra, Impala*, Warthog*, Blue Wildebeest (F)
MIKE & BRENDA KENTNER – Wyoming
Animals taken – Kudu, 2 – Impala* (1 Brenda), Warthog*(Brenda), Blesbok*, Ostrich, Blue Wildebeest*
It had been a long day hunting with little movement of animals unlike the first day at Cruiser Safaris South Africa, spending the morning in a ground blind on a water hole looking for whatever came in. In the mid-day after only having one Impala ram came in to water we took a short break and dropped my wife off at camp for some much needed rest after days of travel and hunting. Johan my PH and I took a Short drive from camp to set the afternoon in a tree blind on a water hole just behind camp, after being dropped off at the water hole we climbed in and settled down for the afternoon. The afternoon was passing slowly with only a sow warthog and piglets coming in, as dark was approaching a good warthog boar came in I slowly stepped back to draw and hit the chair with my big feet spooking him away. Disappointed and a little depressed my thoughts went to cursing myself for blowing the only opportunity for the day and little time remaining before dark. As I was pouting in the corner and moving the chair around in the blind Johan said there was a small group of Wildebeest coming this way, my spirits lifted again with hopes for a shot. Johan says they are all good bulls and to shoot anyone if they come in. As the small heard walks past the water hole at 100 yard my spirit sank again thinking this was not going to happen when the bulls turned around walking past again and coming in to water were I had no shot. Darkness was approaching fast light was fading and the Bulls were drinking were I had no shooting lane again thinking this is not going to happen Johan whispers get ready they will move to the salt after they water. As if on command one bull walked through the water, I came to full draw as he approached my shooting lane. I mentally went through the shot sequence and placement picked a spot, at 17 yards the bull stopped broadside and the arrow was gone. I watched as it disappeared through the Bulls chest on the mark, he turned and ran away with the others. Johan having a slightly higher platform than myself was watching them run as I was trying to compose myself climbing higher to see and not fall over from shaking so bad. Just as I got a view of the bull he turned to leave the herd and we watched him go down behind a tree. After calming down enough to climb out of the tree without falling we made our way down and went to find the blood covered arrow. As we approached the bull I realized the beauty of hunting and the rush that keeps us going, on the slowest day of our 8 day Safari that was full of hope and disappointment I killed the best trophy of my life.
This was my second African animal and our third in two days, I harvested a nice Kudu bull on day one and my wife Brenda took a great Warthog the same day. My Wildebeest bull will be special as it fulfilled a dream to harvest a true trophy animal, through over 30 years of bow hunting I have taken many animals but never one with a true wow factor. This was it for me, my first big trophy with a green score that will place him in the top 25 ever taken with a bow, a hunt I will never forget and to experience Africa in its fullest.
Our trip to Limpopo South Africa, Cruiser Safaris began 2 years before with my wife and I going to an outdoor show and talking with several safari outfitters and bringing the passion for a trip I thought I would never make to a driven passion to make it happen. This began the search online for the outfitter to meet my needs for our safari. After months of research on where to hunt, what animals were available and how much it would cost the realization that we could make this happen and soon. In January 2016 after discussing our options with Brenda I sent the booking agent for Cruiser safaris (Bob Clark) an E mail and got the details for making the deposit and commitment to go on a real adventure hunt. The next week the deposit was paid and dates were set for our trip now we were all set and the excitement was starting. I began to watch every YouTube video available learning the animals and shot placement. My wife said I became obsessed with Africa, I say I was just doing research to make sure I knew what to expect it just consumed my every waking hour. In April we booked our flight on South African Air and the excitement doubled knowing this was going to happen now as I booked our airfare nonrefundable. My video research increased and was expanded into African Bowhunting Magazine I was now obsessed I could not focus on anything else I had been consumed by anticipation of Africa. In June we paid the remainder of the balance for the hunt and was set to go, I had been shooting around 500 arrows a week for months getting ready I knew the shot placement and felt as if I was shooting better than ever.
July 27 came slow the days dragged on as the day of departure grew closer and then finally we were off everything packed over and over checked and double checked. We were driving to the Salt lake airport (a 5 hour drive from Wyoming). Our journey started mid-day on Wednesday and after driving, flying, layovers and flying again we arrived in South Africa at 8 AM on Friday morning. 2 hours through customs and we were met at the airport by BP and Frank two of the PH’s with Cruiser Safaris. Finally we were off for the last leg of our trip a 4 hour drive to the lodge. We were met at the lodge by DelMarie the camp chief with cold drinks and were shown our room. After unpacking our essentials (the bows) we were out to shoot and make sure the bows were on target after a long trip. This is where I first was introduced to Johan our PH for the week. The PH’s watched as we shot, reassuring themselves we could hit an animal and we discussed the plans for the morning. After some good food and conversation we were off to bed for the first time in 3 days.
The hunting at Cruiser safaris was unbelievable with more game than anywhere I have ever been, the trophy quality here is excellent with all the animals we took making SCI record books, and please note we did not come here for record book animals we came to have fun the trophy animals were just a bonus. On day one I harvested a Kudu bull and Brenda a Warthog boar, day two A Blue Wildebeest, day three we hunted all day with lots of game but no kills, day four I took a Blesbok and an Impala, day five Brenda took an Impala, day six we want to stalk a Warthog and ended up shooting an Ostrich (the first harvested at Cruiser safaris with a bow). At his point we had taken more than we came for and decided to stop within budget. Day seven we went out with the crew and watched them dart some Sable from a helicopter and load them up to be moved to another area. This was an opportunity of a life time to see game management in action. After the darting was over Pieter the owner of Cruiser Safaris asked if we would like to ride back to the lodge in the helicopter, after a quick heck yes we were in the helicopter with Pieter’s wife and pilot Lizelle and off over the bush for a great ride back to the lodge seeing the bush-veld as few will ever get to. Day eight we went to the Pilanesburg National Park with BP as our guide to experience the other African wildlife. Here we saw lots of wildlife, including elephant rhino and hippopotamus. Had a flat tire, chased a monkey from the van and had a great lunch in the park.
A few notes to close with, Africa is a great adventure and hunting Africa is even better but hunting with an outfitter that does not offer everything they advertise is a huge disappointment, with this in mind there was no disappointment with Cruiser safaris. We were treated like kings, the hunting was first class the crew was excellent, knowledgeable, and best of all they make you feel at home. I hear this over and over about Cruiser safaris and it is fact you arrive as a guest and leave as friends. After 10 days with them I would invite all the staff into my house and feel comfortable calling them friends and if they are ever in Wyoming I would hope they will look me up. It has not been a week home yet after our trip and I am planning our return to Cruiser Safaris. What animals I would like to go after upon my return to the Dark Continent, and most of all the greatest of all trophies setting around the lodge in the evening having a great dinner and swapping tall adventures of the day's events over a cold beer with good friends.
Until next time thank you to all the staff at Cruiser Safaris
BRYAN & OLIVIA ROUSSELLE – Kansas
Animals taken – Kudu*, Impala*, Waterbuck* (Olivia), 2 – Warthogs, Blue Wildebeest
JOE & MELISSA HENRY – Oklahoma
Animals taken – 3 – Impala* (1- Melissa), Warthog, Blue Wildebeest*, Gemsbok*, Kudu*, Zebra
(Bryan) My wife and I planned a 10 day stay for our belated honeymoon and vacation. No amount of words can do justice for hunting in Africa nor for the entire staff at Cruiser Safaris. Everything was beyond all expectations. Within 15 minutes of being in the blind on the first morning I knew I'd have to come back and I hadn't even seen a single animal. Within the hour I had my first animal. Shortly after lunch I had my second. Impala and kudu on the first day. How do you top that? Simple.....day 2 included 2 warthog and my wife's waterbuck. I could go on and on but it still wouldn't do justice to the animals, staff, meals, and overwhelming experience. Thanks to everyone at Cruiser Safaris for my first of many trips of a lifetime with you.
NEVILLE ANDERSON – Australia
Animals taken – Bushbuck*, Steenbok*, Duiker*, Klipspringer*, Eland*, Warthog*
It had been two long years since I last hunted with cruiser safaris but arriving at the lodge seemed like coming home.
Days one, two and three were spent hunting Bushbuck down along the river in very thick riverine forest with my best friend / PH Hans. After passing up several smaller bucks and lot of other trophy
animals we finally got a very nice sixteen inch model, than latter in the day a Steenbok.
Day four saw a very early start with a drive to one of the mountain properties where I was able to shoot a Grey Duiker just on daylight than a beautiful Klipspringer way up in the mountain before lunch
Days five, six and seven we hunted Eland in and out of thick thorn bush in some of the most enjoyable hunting I have ever had, than finally it all came together with a shot opportunity at close range.
Day eight, P3 drove us all to Pilanesberg National Park where we saw hundreds of animals of all kinds including close encounters with Rhino, Hippo and Elephant ( a day trip I highly recommend]
Day nine, hunted Warthog as this was the last animal on my wish list for this hunt, saw lots but Hans thought we could do better.
Day ten, sat on a waterhole most of the day photographing and filming game and birds than on the way out spotted a nice Warthog so put in a stalk and got a ripper of a hog.
I had a wonderful time again, met three top couples from the states [hope our paths cross again someday]. It is always hard to say goodbye, I prefer to think of it as "‘til next time" Thanks again.
ART LAMBERT – Michigan
Animals taken – Blesbok*, Impala*, Waterbuck, Blue Wildebeest*, Gemsbok*, Warthog*, Eland (F)
ART LAMBERT II – Missouri
Animals taken – Zebra, Blue Wildebeest* Gemsbok*, Impala*, 2 – Warthog*, Kudu*, Blesbok*
KURT LAMBERT – Michigan
Animals taken – Impala*, Kudu, Red Hartebeest, Blesbok*, Gemsbok*, Warthog*, Blue Wildebeest (F)
BRIAN WITT – Missouri
Animals taken – Zebra, Blue Wildebeest*, Red Hartebeest (F), Warthog*, Blesbok*, Impala*, Kudu* (52 5/8”)
I believe that all of the major events that people dread happening on their trip happened to me! First, I was caught in the world wide shut down of all Delta flights during a computer glitch. This delayed me by a full day. No matter, Cruiser's picked me up the night I arrived and I didn't miss any hunt time, only a bit of sleep. I was even greeted with a welcome drink in the middle of the night when I arrived at camp!
Next, I went to check my gun, which was several inches off. So there is #2, baggage handlers upset the rifle sights. We got it to shoot again, and went hunting. I was able to take a nice zebra in the first couple of hours hunting. After some lunch, we went out again, and found a nice impala. We made a set up about 80 yards away, with me sitting and the gun on a tree. This should be an easy shot, but after I took the shot, the impala hit the ground twisting and turning. Johan immediately said "something's wrong, get ready!". The impala stood again, and I missed him twice! I couldn't believe it. We looked for him till dark, and half the next day. I didn't sleep that night, and was devastated. I'm a better shot than that, but just decided that these things happen, and had to move on. Number 3 dreaded thing complete, I wounded and lost an animal.
That afternoon we had a great hunt for wildebeest, and I was able to take a record book animal with one clean shot. Back on track.....so I thought! The next hunt was for blesbok. We set up under a tree, very relaxed and calm. My gun is steady, and the blesbok is 200 yards exactly. No sweat, I can make that shot easily. I squeezed the trigger, and felt good about it. The animal reacted to the shot and darted off into the tree line. Johan said it looked good. We congratulate each other, and walk over to find no blesbok. After tracking for what seemed like an eternity, Johan picks something up and hands it to me. It was a large fragment of bone from the leg. I have now wounded a second animal! I can't understand it, I'm a better shot than that, and I'm just sick. The rest of the morning is spent tracking. By this time, I have already gained a great deal of respect and admiration for Pieter. One of the worst moments I experienced was actually having to tell him I had wounded another animal. True to form, he was reassuring and positive. After lunch we picked up more trackers and a dog for the afternoon. A group effort and some well-placed snap shots by Johan got my blesbok. I was never so relieved! During this whole episode, Johan says he wants me to shoot the gun on the range again. "Something's not right with it" he says. I'm sure the something is just me, but I'll do it. The first shot was 4-5 inches low and about the same to the right! He shot it as well, and it grouped in the same spot. After some investigating, we found a mounting screw that was near broken, and did break when we tried to tighten it. At least now we know why I'm shooting so poorly. While this did nothing to help the wounded animals, it restored my confidence. Number 4 & 5 horrible things, rifle sights broken, and I wounded yet another animal. I rented Johan's rifle and got back in the hunt. From that point on, it was one shot kills.
My last hunt was for kudu. We found their hang out the night before but wasn't able to connect. Johan thought they would be there again the next night, so we made a plan for being there at last light. We stalked in, and sure enough there they were. I remember thinking, "is this really going to be this easy?" While trying to belly crawl into a position I could shoot from, I was spotted and everything headed for the trees. Busted! They stopped at the safety of the tree line, so we let them calm down a bit and then crawled into the open behind a short termite mound. After lying on a termite mound for almost an hour in the African sun, and providing the flies and bugs with a buffet to chew on, the kudu started to come out into the grass again. After another ten minutes of watching them eat, and the herd bull fight and chase everyone, Johan tells me "that's him!" The herd bull was slipping away, but I had a small shooting lane thru a gap in the trees. Johan confirmed I was ready, and gave a shout to stop him. One well-placed shot later, I had a very old, very wide and near 53" kudu! What a great end to a great hunt.
To finish off the trip in style, the last most dreaded thing to happen was the plane food on the way home gave me some kind of horrible intestinal bug that required antibiotics to fix!
Now I've told about all the horrible things that happened on my trip, not because the trip was horrible. Everyone tells about their great hunts, and the food, and how beautiful Africa is. All of these things are true. The hunting IS spectacular, with more animals and quality animals than anyone who hasn't been can imagine. DelMarie's food is plentiful, and better than you will find in any camp, anywhere! Africa is really as beautiful as everyone says. What sets Cruiser's apart is the people. Even with all that went wrong on my trip, I had the most wonderful experience. Pieter and his staff treated me as if I were family. I felt like I had been there for a long time and that I was welcome not only as a client but a friend. I've traveled all over the world, and can't remember meeting people who were as warm and genuine as I have met here. The people are what make this place special, and they are reason I can't wait to return. I was able to take a Zebra, Wildebeest, Impala, Red Hartebeest (cow), Warthog, Kudu, and a Blesbok. I will be in touch soon to start planning my next trip!
DENNIS & JANET RACH – Montana
Animals taken – Blesbok*, Gemsbok*, Impala*, Blue Wildebeest*, Kudu, Warthog* Red Hartebeest (F)
(Janet) We cannot say enough about this fabulous adventure. From the beginning. The information on the website to that which was mailed to us once we booked our safari. We had not traveled abroad before and of course had some concerns. But everything went extremely smooth. We were met promptly at the airport, getting our rifle through SAPS was easy with Mr."X" from Afton House. The staff at Afton House was very friendly and accommodating. Then on to "Cruiser Safaris". Upon our arrival we were warmly greeted by Delmarie. We were shown our room and given a few moments to freshen up. A nice lunch was served and then we met Hans who would be our PH. The next 6 days were filled with early mornings, driving thru different sections of property looking for animals. Dennis and Hans would do some spot and stalk. Sometimes we sat In a blind at a water hole waiting for the right animal to show up. No matter what or how our days progressed I found myself, as the observer, fascinated with the movement of so many different species. I never tired of it, which was surprising because I am not a person who likes to sit still for long!! Hans was not only an amazing PH and tracker but a great person to get to know. The entire staff at Cruisers was first class, starting with Pieter, (the practical joker), Delmarie, Aimee, Hans, BP, Johan, and Christiaan (Pieter's son), were friendly, down to earth and we felt like family by the time we left. We learned a lot, experienced unforgettable moments, and highly recommend this to anyone. We ended up with 7 animals in 6 days and then had a couple of days to do other excursions. Another part of this whole experience was meeting other travelers/ hunters at Cruisers and Afton House and sharing dreams and stories of hunts completed or yet to happen. If you are reading this and just dreaming about going on such an adventure, make it happen. Don't wait. Life is short!
JONATHON FAY – Australia
Animals taken (sizes not know at press time) – Kudu, Impala, Warthog, Blue Wildebeest
NO HUNT PHOTOS AVAILABLE
MALCOLM JOHNSON – Alabama
Animals taken – Blesbok*, Gemsbok, Warthog*, Red Hartebeest, Steenbok*, Impala*, Eland*
NO HUNT PHOTOS AVAILABLE
MIKE & VERENE SANDOZ – Washington
Animals taken – Gemsbok*, Kudu* (51 ¼”), Waterbuck*, Warthog*, Nyala*, Impala*, Eland*, Bushbuck*, Blue Wildebeest*
Hunting Cruiser Safaris was a unique experience for this old hunter. Hunting in Limpopo province of South Africa on lowland bushveld was challenging. Desert like conditions with thick bush reminds one of parts of the southwest United States. It's hard to imagine how wildlife can make a living there, but they do in great numbers. Most waterholes are man-made which with the growth spurt of forage during the rainy season, allows all manner of wild critters to thrive. The quality of animals is good as most all my trophies were mature old specimens. The following is an account of my daily hunting experiences.
Day 1. Shot a beautiful 34" bull gemsbok. Spent all day chasing these elusive antelope through thick cover. Had over a half dozen close encounters but cover was too thick for a clear shot. Late in the afternoon about an hour before dark this gemsbok seemed more interested in eating than being wary. His shoulder passed through a small opening and I took him from a sitting position shooting under the brush at about 50 yards. Tough hunt in 90 degree weather. Hot tub to soothe tired muscles and kudu steaks for supper. Gemsbok steaks tomorrow. Delicious. Sunny and dry for next ten days. Beautiful country for hunting plains game. Saw over ten species today.
Nice 51" kudu to start day 2 at Cruiser Safaris. Very interesting hunt this particular property as the heavy cover hides the animals body very well but the cover is short revealing the kudu's horns as he travels through. Spot a nice set of horns from the bakkie and stalk close enough for a shot is how we took this guy. He had bedded down by the time we found him with only horns visible in the brush. At about 75 yards Hans and I rose from our knees simultaneously, rifle resting on Hans' shoulder. Kudu was unaware until Hans whistled. He rose to his feet facing us. Crosshairs on his chest and a quiet trigger pull drove the 180 grain Nosler Partition into his heart. He reared back on his hind legs with his horns seemingly 20 eet off the ground before crashing down to earth. Impressive sight. Day 2 afternoon. It just keeps getting better. Professional Hunter (PH) Hans keeps getting it done when he found an old 26" bull Waterbuck with his harem of a dozen cows. One of the easiest 125 yard shots as they were in the open after hitting a nearby waterhole. Another hot tub night for this sweaty old Hunter. Spending lots of time on my knees getting close to these animals.
Day 3 was on the slow side, hot and dry. Trying for bushbuck along the Matlabas River on nearby property but happened upon this old 12.5" warthog. A beautiful trophy don't you think? (see photos) Hunting Africa is a matter of opportunity. Take what's presented. Four to go with seven days left. The tough ones are to come.
Days 4 and 5. Two very similar days hunting. Very hot 95+. Chased eland both days with the same results. Eland 10 Hunters 0. Each close opportunity was thwarted be heavy cover, Impala and/or Blesbok in the way, and bulls that would not be found. Very much like hunting whitetail on foot but when spooked the eland run like elk for a long distance before slowing and finding another thick bush to hide in. They are the size of domestic cattle having the nature of whitetail. Will try again tomorrow. Encounters with Nyala, Impala and Bushbuck still need settling.
Day 6 Started hunting Eland again today. Took a nice 24" Impala just to break the discouragement of more failed Eland opportunities. Hundreds of them around. Spooky critters. Guardians of the eland. Our revenge for messing up multiple eland stalks.
Day 7. The usual 6:15 start ended abruptly when a very nice Nyala ram got in the way of a 180 grain Nosler Partition from my 30-06. We pushed him off the river bottom at first light. He headed for higher elevations inland where we lost sight of him. After working the property further upriver we came back to where we had originally seen him and wouldn't you know it there he was. He apparently circled back thinking he gave us the slip but didn't quite make it to his hidey hole. We're back in camp for coffee at 8:30. Still living the good life. Six down two to go.
Day 8. The most difficult trophy to date on this safari. Finally caught up with this guy at last light where he was feeding with his younger brother and mistress. Put the first round from 250 yards a bit back of his vitals. He spun around facing the opposite direction while his fellow grazers deserted him. My 2nd shot looked like it spines him as he dropped immediately. Hans was saying "he's down, he's down" while shaking my hand and giving me a big bear hug. As we were celebrating we looked back to find him on his feet walking away. Joy turned to worry as we formed a plan. Hans would take his rifle on foot following the spoor while Frekkie and I took the bakkie around the brush pile to intercept him. About 200 yards distance in the bakkie with me in the back unaware that Hans and Freckkie were in communication, we came to a stop. We turned around and drove back to Hans location. Hans had taken a Texas heart shot at the Eland some 200 yards distant but only managed to break the back left leg. The Eland stopped forward movement. Frekkie with the sticks and I circled around to our right to find an opening hoping to end this hunt. It was obvious the Eland wasn't going anywhere as he watched us move closer to his location. At 100 yards I found an opening and put the rifle on the sticks. First shot just behind the shoulder---nothing. No reaction whatsoever. Second shot the same--nothing. I was thinking, what do I have to do to put him on the ground. Third shot was a try for the spine, but it hit a little high on the shoulder. The previous two chest shots must have done the job as you could hear the labored breathing and gurgling and in a moment it was over. We spent the last 4 1/2 days trying for this magnificent 34" Eland. He represents the 3rd leg of the spiral slam. Kudu, Nyala and Eland are on the salt with the elusive and secretive Bushbuck remaining. Two more hunting days and one tour day remains for our most excellent African Safari.
Completion of the spiral slam and the hunt was achieved this morning of day 9 when I shot an old 12.5" bushbuck. Shot him on a return trip through an earlier hunted area. We had just been through a tall grassy area not 30 minutes previous. He poked his head up just long enough for the '06 to bark. Another old mature animal. All 8 animals we came for are harvested and waiting for the taxidermist. All qualify for SCI record book for those counting. Sitting by the pool waiting for eland burgers to arrive for lunch. Tomorrow we travel two hours to Pilanesburg National Park to view more animals.
Day 10. Driving tour of Pilanesberg Wildlife Park. Enjoyed seeing elephant, white rhinos, hippos, crocs and all manner of plains game antelope.
Day 11. Well, after saying No Mas after the previous 8, I had a change of mind regarding the hunting on our final full day here in SA. The call of the wildebeest was working on me after awakening to a cooler windy day on the bush veld. Knowing the beast would be hunkered down in the bush my PH Hans and driver/tracker/skinner Freckie made the 30 minute run at first light to my favorite property. After driving the bakkie through the bush looking for tracks we grabbed the rifle and shooting sticks and tracked the herd of wildebeest about 2 miles before jumping a couple of old bulls from their beds. With the wind in our favor we had them wondering what had awoken them. The oldest and best bull to our left made the mistake of walking into an opening just large enough for my hand loaded 180 grain Nosler partition to find a path into his vitals. After a 200 yard trail of frothy bright blood laden spoor that even I could follow, the expired bull was found. It was game over at 0715 hrs. and after pictures and loading the bakkie with blue wildebeest fillets in their original packaging we were back in camp before the early morning coffee got cold
Eight for nine one shot kills with one 5 shot lead laden Eland bull is not a bad testimony to all that time at the rifle range. What more can I say. My dream Safari is now complete and I am looking forward to getting back home. Thanks to Pieter and Lizelle for providing the opportunity to experience a most enjoyable plains game hunt. PH Hans did an amazing job of finding good animals to hunt and along with driver/tracker/skinner Frekkie made the daily hunting experiences memorable. It's entertaining listening to them pattering on in Afrikaans. It's such a lyrical language. We kept our cook Amy busy by consuming all her wonderful creations. Don't know how she does it, getting up before 0430 to fix breakfast and staying up past 2100 hours cleaning up after dinner. The maids and grounds crew kept the place neat and tidy for our enjoyment. Overall a great place to be in the African Bush.
JOHN GUNNELS – Alabama
Animals taken – Gemsbok*, Sable*, 2 - Warthog*, Waterbuck*, Zebra
Finally, in September of this year it was time for my Sable hunt. I booked this hunt after missing a chance at a Sable in April 2015. Hans had me on five Sables at about 25 to 30 yards, but they were in really thick bush. We could only make out parts of bodies and parts of horns. It was so thick Hans could not judge the horn size. So, after about 20 minutes we slowly backed out. No shot. Now, after a long year wait, I was back in the Limpopo once again to try for Sable.
This was my fourth Safari with Cruiser's. My previous trips were March 2009, May 2011, April 2015, and this Sable hunt in September 2016. After three previous trips, I knew what to expect. I knew the joy that I was about to experience. I knew that hunting Sable was going to be the ultimate hunting trip. And I could not wait to make this hunt with Hans.
On this trip, I was fortunate to take six animals. A magnificent Sable Antelope, a male Gemsbok, a beautiful Waterbuck, two Warthogs, and a big Zebra stallion. Hans and I have now hunted the bush of the Limpopo together for thirty-six days. We have a total of seventeen SCI Record Book animals, three photo entries that did not make the book, and three Zebra stallions. Not a bad record for thirty-six days of hunting.
It was very good to see Pieter and Johan again. It was as if I never left Cruiser's. I love the outdoor cooking area. As usual food was great, laundry washed daily, rooms were nice, and the service that Pieter gives every hunter is outstanding. I'm sure Nate (the other hunter) would say the same. Cruiser Safaris is the best. Finally, I would like to use the format from a very good friend and past hunter with Cruiser's (Steve Klotz) to list some memories I have from four hunting trips with Cruiser Safaris.
** Seeing a Honey Badger, an African Owl, and a BIG Monitor Lizard all on my fourth hunting trip with Cruiser's.
** Hearing all the African birds.
** Seeing a pack of around 50 mongoose along the bank of the river at a distance of about 10 for over two minutes
** Missing a chance at a 17 inch Bushbuck because the grass was taller than he was.
** The look on Han's face when I didn't take the shot.
** Just having to watch a 59 or 60 inch Kudu on the other side of the river because we could not hunt Kudu on that property.
** The back of the truck going off the bank of the river pulling my Waterbuck through the sand with the wench.
** The look on Pieter's face when he had to come and pull us out of the river.
** Pieter's laugh.
** DelMarie's wonderful food.
** Han's smile that greeted me at the beginning of each day.
** The rooster crowing at 4:00AM.
** Wanting to kill that rooster.
** The rain storms in the bush.
** Pieter's jokes.
** The African sunrises and sunsets
** How large the spider webs are in Africa and how really big the spiders are.
** You can stay still on a stalk with ants biting you.
** How bright the African moon really is.
** Getting hit by the tree branch that you didn't see on the back of the truck.
** Learning how to duck.
** Tick's love company.
** The BBQ's at night at the lodge.
** How warm the fire at camp feels on a cold morning.
** The feeling I had the first time I arrived at the Lodge.
** Having friends that I will never forget.
** The feeling that I had when it was time to leave each Safari.
** The feeling I had when I returned home.
** I can drive a truck when everything on it is backwards.
** Grace given by Pieter every evening.
** Bob Clark willing to listen to a thousand questions.
** Being Blessed just to get to go to Africa !!!!
** The silence in the truck going back to the lodge after Han's and I had walked 12 to 15 miles.
** Hunting 36 days with Hans.
** How I wanted to hunt a Sable
** Tears of joy falling with Johan after getting my Sable.
** Getting to ride in Cruiser's helicopter.
** The feeling of getting my Nyala.
** Pieter's hunting tales from Safaris past.
** Not wanting to sit at a waterhole. Then enjoying it.
** Thinking the first trip. WOW. I'm really in Africa.
** This plane trip is really long. So what !!!
** Missing Hans and Frankie before I left the gate at the Lodge to go home.
** Africa stealing my heart.
** My wife going with me to Africa.
** Crossing an African river barefoot twice to get my Bushbuck.
** The sound of the African wind.
** Hearing the sounds along the river in the late afternoon.
** Missing Pieter after every trip.
** Wanting to go back.
** Praying to God to keep all my friends here safe.
** Praying that I may someday return.
NATE BLACK – Nevada
Animals taken – Kudu*, Impala*, Warthog (f), Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest*
The first thing to consider when writing something like this is not to make it so long that nobody reads it. I’ll do my best.
I lost my wife to cancer in June 2015. For a long time, I was lost and didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. In January 2016, I was at the SHOT Show and came up with the idea of going to South Africa after Plains Game. Caeli knew that was my dream. While she was not a hunter, she would have been with me every minute of my hunt. The idea of hunting in South Africa grew and eventually became a reality. As anyone who has spent time researching this, you find that there are a lot of options. After much research, I settled on Cruiser Safaris in the Limpopo province of South Africa. I contacted Cruiser’s American booking agent, Bob Clark. He was of great assistance. I went with a variation of the Seven Day Package and purchased tags for Kudu, Gemsbok, Blue Wildebeest, Warthog with the understanding that I hoped to take an Impala ram if one presented itself. By April, I had a package secured for September.
The time flew by and I found myself boarding a Delta flight bound for Atlanta in the early morning of 14 September. After a seven hour layover in the ATL, I boarded the 777 bound for Johannesburg. I was surprised by the substantial number of hunters on my flight. After what seemed like much longer than 15.5 hours, we landed in Johannesburg. I collected my luggage and made my way to the SAPS office to collect my rifle. I had utilized the Afton Guest House’s assistance with getting a pre-approved temporary firearms permit. A female lead officer verified my identity and rifle’s serial number and I was on my way with Mr. X, Afton’s intrepid concierge. The Afton House was clean. Three other hunters from my flight stayed at Afton as well that night. Two were going on to Kimberly and one to Namibia. The steak barbecue was good and after a couple Carling Black Labels and some Black Tie red, I went to bed. I had been up for 32 hours. I promptly woke up at 0345 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I got up, dressed and walked around the compound until Annelise (the owner) made breakfast.
My professional Hunter, Carel, picked me up that morning and we headed to the Cruiser compound near Lephalale. During the drive, we discussed what I was looking for in the way of trophies. I explained that I hadn’t come to Africa obsessed with making the book. I wanted mature, good quality trophies. We arrived at Cruiser and were met by the stunning young Acting Executive Chef, Aimee Smith, who brought us juice. After settling into my room, I assembled my Forbes 24B .30-06 for zeroing by the crocodile pond. I had brought hand loads of Nosler 200-grain Accubonds propelled by 56.0 grains of RL-22 at a velocity of approximately 2,700. After zeroing, Carel and I took a ride around one of the concessions. I was amazed at the abundance of game, but knew how animals make themselves scarce when you are actually hunting them.
Carel used a phrase that stays with me. “We’ll let the bush decide what we hunt”. We picked up the trail of some Gemsbok (my main priority), but they eluded us. We came to a clearing where we encountered a large Giraffe bull. I was busy taking a picture when Carel advised me that there was a nice Impala ram about 300 yards in front of us. I had never fired off sticks before. One round struck the Impala in the left stomach and exited his right shoulder. He rapidly left the scene. Carel and I found hair and stomach content, but no blood. We never found any blood. After tracking him for a few minutes in a sea of tracks, Carel went to get the tracker/driver, Muntzu. Muntzu worked his magic and we found the impala dead 150 yards from where he was shot. I was advised later that he had missed SCI Gold by a 1/4 “. Nice to know and be able to tell people.
We enjoyed a bush barbecue of Kudu sausage and fresh-baked hotdog buns by a waterhole. In the later afternoon, we encountered a solitary Blue Wildebeest bull at approximately 150 yards. We jumped off the Toyota Land Cruiser and I lined up the shot. Wildebeest are tough. I deeply respect the individuals who put them down with one shot. I needed five, the fourth with him down and getting back up and the fifth from about a foot away and into his heart. It still took three minutes for him to die. Yeah, I felt terrible about that. Dinner: Kudu roll with Gemsbok Kabobs.
Carel and I spent the day chasing Gemsbok, but were not able to connect with one. I was in awe of how beautiful they are, even when running away from me. We saw some Red Hartebeest and tracked them for a while, as well.
Lunch: Eland burgers. Pretty awesome.
Breakfast: Beef sausage and hard-boiled eggs.
While trailing gemsbok on foot, we encountered a large old female Warthog with thick tusks. One round from 50 yards and she was down, not taking a step.
Dinner: Bacon wrapped Impala kabobs and pork short ribs.
Carel and I hunted a different property and encountered a male and female Gemsbok in a clearing. We stalked within 150 yards and prepared to take a shot. Unbeknownst to us, we had settled down in front of a warthog burrow about ten feet to our front. We heard a strange rumbling and a warthog shot out of the ground. Fortunately, this didn’t disturb the Gemsbok bull. I settled into a somewhat awkward seated positon and fired one round which hit high shoulder and broke the bull’s neck. He dropped and was finished with one shot to the heart upon approach. The Gemsbok was the single most important trophy to me. I had told Carel that my main focus was on it being male (given how many females are shot due to longer horns) and thick bases. While not especially long in horn, the Gemsbok was perfect. We utilized my camera’s time to take a group photo. Lunch: Beef and Gemsbok stir fry.
I was advised that a friend of Pieter Lamprecht (Cruiser safaris owner and all-around prankster) had a herd of Kudu on his farm and one particularly old and big bull was struggling. Carel suggested that we at least go and look at him. After lunch, we drove to a property about an hour away. Upon arrival, we met with owner who sent one of his farmhands (Cedric) with us to help locate the herd. Apparently, Cedric felt that we needed some adventure for the hunt, so we climbed a boulder-strewn hill and made our way through trees. We wound up bumping a herd of kudu who immediately took off. Not letting this sway us, we set up in a small grove of trees and waited. After about ninety minutes, Kudu began trickling back in. The bull in question was obvious. 50” horns with white tips and a wide spread and very skinny. We later estimated his age at about ten years. I took a firm seated position and sent one round through his heart from about 120 yards. He dropped and didn’t move a muscle. I realized quite profoundly how hard the dry season can be on animals. That was ultimately the last shot I would take on game for this trip. Dinner: Fried chicken, pumpkin puffs and strawberry shortcake. Did I mention that Aimee is an amazing chef?
Continued our search for a big Red Hartebeest. Lunch: Pork Chops
Set up near a waterhole and observed a young Warthog boar and a slightly older come in and wallow in the mud. This remains one of the many funniest things I saw in South Africa. Dinner: Beef sausage and Wildebeest kabobs.
We spent the early part of the day looking for a large, mature Red Hartebeest and Blesbok.; Got close, but our stalk was blown. The Blesbok weren’t planning to cooperate. Gemsbok repeatedly inserted themselves between us and the Blesbok. We worked our way into a decent position near a waterhole where we checked out a group of Red Hartebeest, but didn’t see anything that we wanted. We eventually set up in a blind by and another waterhole where we were stalked by an inquisitive Giraffe cow. While hidden, we observed a small group of five Sables come in to drink. One bull saw us and snorted at us for the better part of an hour. We also observed a herd of approximately 18 Waterbuck come in to drink and the herd bull attempted to find a female who shared his romantic vision. It was actually pretty entertaining. Dinner: Formal barbecue of New York steaks and Sable down by the dry riverbed.
Carel and set up in a blind by a waterhole frequented by a group of Red Hartebeest that we had tracked several times. While there, we observed a large herd of Impala with some outstanding rams come in to drink. A herd of Blesbok made and appearance and Carel advised me that there was a really good ram. Being convinced the Hartebeest had to be nearby, I passed on the opportunity. I would come to regret that. However, while in our hide, we observed a group of obnoxious monkeys that were well aware of our presence. They were pretty entertaining to watch. At one point, a large bull giraffe came in. I made enough movement where he stared at us for an hour. Eventually, he figured out we weren’t leopards, drank and left. As the light was dimming, we called it a day and headed back to the Lodge.
My hunt with Cruiser was great. While I would have liked to put something else in the salt, I am all too aware that this is hunting. There is nothing guaranteed. This was absolutely fair chase. I enjoyed talking to the other hunter in camp, John Gunnels. John was on his fourth trip with Cruiser and hunted with the great PH Hans. I am deeply indebted to Carel for all that he taught me and for his patience and instincts. I look forward to my next hunt with Cruiser’s and hope Carelis my PH for that one as well