December 2, 2021

Spotter Up

In Depth Tactical Solutions

Safari in South Africa, the Ultimate Hunting Experience – Safari diary (Part Three)

12 min read

The 15 hour nonstop flight from Newark deposited me in Johannesburg and after being met by representatives of Adansonia Safaris, I picked up my guns at the South African Police Station at O.R. Tambo Airport. After three hours of driving I arrived at the lodge at midnight and got a really nice room.  The first day of the hunt began with sighting in the rifle at 100 yards. This prevents any jostling by the baggage handlers that impacted the scope from ruining the hunt. It also demonstrates the hunter’s accuracy and gun handling skills to the professional hunter (PH) who will guide the hunt. This morning’s hunt was unsuccessful, but if it was easy it would not be hunting. I did see a leopard, which is a very rare sight. I only caught a glimpse as he ran through the bush.  After lunch we went back out to the bush. Mof, the owner of the farm, spotted a gemsbuck that we tried to ambush, but it got away from us. I never did see it. We tried for a nyala as well, but he too evaded us. A couple hours later, we were driving down the road when Gary Pleasants, Adansonia Safaris American representative, saw a sable grazing in the field next to the road. At 92 yards my first shot hit his spine and he dropped like a brick. He was not dead when we approached so I dispatched him with a second shot. I intend to do a pedestal mount as his horns are 39 inches long. This is two inches longer than the agreed upon horn size limit, thus it is worth more than I am paying for it. I saw the pedestal mount in Gary Pleasants, the trip leader’s house. It looked outstanding and did not take up much space. It is a nice corner piece.

Day Two

We were looking for zebras or gemsbuck and came across some zebra tracks. We drove around and around trying to find them. The Spanish cameraman, Manu, even launched a drone to aid in the effort. Mof Venter the owner of Adansonia Safaris finally figured out where they would come out of the woods and we set up an ambush. Out came several zebras and Mof selected the one he wanted me to hit, I aimed carefully and pulled the trigger, Click. The zebras took off running. I had not completely disengaged the safety. Mof moved us to a second place about fifty yards away. The lead zebra stood still for just a moment and I shot him square in the chest at 100 yards, he didn’t make it more than 20 yards and he was down. Nothing says Africa like a Zebra rug.

In the afternoon Mof decided to go after the Cape buffalo. There were three males on the property that were traveling together and he discovered that the oldest male had broken off from the other two. After much searching we were able to find the old bull. He was only 15 yards from the road. Mof approached him but couldn’t see him well through the bush. We literally ran down a parallel road to out flank him. I asked Manu the cameraman if he filmed me huffing and puffing behind Mof. He laughed and said no. I later learned that this was a lie. By this time the bull realized that we were stalking him. He ran across our front about 30 yards away. I dropped him with one shot to both lungs. He didn’t make it far before he went down. Mof estimated his weight at 1,700 to 1,800 pounds and horn length to be 40 inches. We did a video interview with Mof and Gary. I asked Mof if he was going to use it as an advertisement. He said yes if I agreed. I have seen a lot of these videos on YouTube. The hunter talks about how he was able to take the animal. I used my time to praise the staff’s professionalism, food, lodging, and affordability of the hunt. Mof thanked me afterward. It was no hyperbole, the staff treats the guests like kings. The food is excellent, we are having sable steaks tonight grilled over an open fire, plus salad and a potato dish. Lunch is just as good. If it weren’t for all the walking that I am doing I would gain back all the weight that I recently lost.

Day Three

Today we drove around in the morning looking for tracks of the gemsbuck that keeps eluding us. Manu launched a drone to check the area but it was to no avail. At around ten thirty we passed a large field with a lone blesbuck standing there. It was at the bottom of my list, however the opportunity was too great to pass. I fired at 100 yards without my glasses. This was a mistake.  The bullet aimed for the shoulder hit lower on the front leg. The blesbuck ran another 50 yards and stopped. He was quartering away, so I fired just behind the shoulder. This sent the bullet through his heart and brought him down after a short bolt. Mof was kidding me because I took two shots at the blesbuck after taking only one at the Cape buffalo, renown for being able to sustain numerous hits. We came in for lunch that was provided not in the dining hall as usual, but on a nearby mountain top. The one of the hunters proposed to his girlfriend there with the rest of us as witnesses. Very romantic setting. Lalane the cook outdid herself and Mof even provided champagne to toast the young couple.

The after lunch hunt was a bust, despite an additional launching of the drone after spotting a gemsbuck in the bush near the road. I let Louie, Gary Pleasant’s brother in law, go for the gemsbuck since he has not been able to get anything in the last three days. I had good intentions but he was never able to find the gemsbuck.

Day Four

Louie got up early and went out to get his gemsbuck. I did not go with him in order for him to have an exclusive opportunity. It took two shots but he brought it down. We spent the rest of the day walking in the morning and riding the truck in the afternoon trying for a waterbuck for him and my nyala. We saw a nyala briefly, and tried to track it, but as usual it got away. While the kudu is called “The grey ghost of Africa” due to its ability to elude hunters, the nyala is no slouch. We finally decided to set up an ambush near the lodge where the nyala had been seen. We were seated on the ground surrounded by brush and waited for him to appear. It was getting dark and even though the ambush site was illuminated, I did not feel comfortable taking a shot. I did not want to have to track an animal in the dark. The nyala had come close from the rear and smelled us, He made a barking noise much like that of a dog then left without entering the ambush site.   We waited well after dark for Louie’s waterbuck, and my back was killing me as I have never been able to sit on the ground without lower back support. The professional hunter called it quits thank God. I think that even Louie was getting uncomfortable after a while and agreed. Tomorrow we are to get up early and head to another farm to hunt. Perhaps we will have better luck there.

Day Five

Today we left at 0600 hrs. and went all the way to the border in the west with Botswana. The Limpopo River is the border, and there is a small lake next to it on the property of a friend of Gary’s. This guy spotted a crocodile for Gary to shoot. The guy told Gary that he had timed the croc at three seconds from when he pulled up in the truck the croc would go into the water. So Gary is under time pressure. He sees the croc and tries for a headshot. Gary hit the croc, but didn’t get him in the brain or spinal cord. The croc flailed for a second then hit the water and went under. A heart/lung shot would have taken him down, but he would have been sure to get in the water prior to his demise. Thus, Gary had attempted to hit the croc’s walnut sized brain instead. Gary’s friend said that the dead croc should float to the surface tomorrow. For me it was another day of riding around in the truck and not seeing any game that I was hunting. I did see a troop of monkeys, the kind that the traditional street organ grinders have. Small, white chested, grey back and with a black face. Toward evening we saw a herd of impala leaping through the bush. A beautiful sight. I also had a very quick stalk on a nyala that lasted all of 15 yards before the professional hunter called it off. The wind had changed and was not in our favor. Just as well, it was getting close to sundown.

What was the most interesting part of the day was the drive to the border. It was amazing to see the small towns along the way donkeys, goats, cattle and chickens running around without any fencing or supervision. There were even signs warning drivers to be careful of “Stray animals.” I saw donkey carts bring firewood in from the bush. Most of the clothing worn by the people were the type that is seen on construction workers, or T-shirts and jeans. All of the signage was in English. These were not white owned businesses as a sign would read “Mobutu’s Garage.” The large groups of young men just hanging around spoke to the 30 percent unemployment rate in South Africa.

There is another farm that we may go to this weekend that has more open spaces and will be more conducive to spotting game.

Day Six

We headed out for the new hunting area this morning. After driving for 45 minutes we arrived and began the hunt from the vehicle. We drove for no more than 15 minutes when we saw a nyala bull 20 or 25 yards away in the brush. The professional hunter (PH) pointed to the nyala who stood with three others who were more obscured by the foliage. He was broadside and offered the perfect shot opportunity, I put one in his shoulder (heart shot) and he dropped in his tracks. It was a mature bull, but the PH had wanted to wait and see if one of the others was larger. Due to my hearing protection I was unaware of his admonition. I am satisfied with what I got though. The hide is a beautiful light grey with a white stripe down the back. We returned to the lodge to drop the nyala off at the skinning shed. It took us longer to get there and get back than it did to hunt. I cleaned my rifle and took a rest prior to lunch. I have three more animals to go, gemsbuck, springbuck, and warthog. There do not appear to be many warthogs about, so I may go for an impala instead.  I thought that we are going out again in the afternoon, but our PH went into town Mof. This had to do with a facility maintenance concern.  After working on it for a while, we took off hunting again. We saw zebra, black wildebeest, and impala, but no gemsbuck.

Day Seven

Today started much better with warmer temperatures. This doesn’t mean run around in a loin cloth ala Johnny Weissmuller warm, but much better than the last two days. The PH and I walked the roads today in search of the gemsbuck. He spotted one with a group of three zebras but it got away. He lost the track and we just wandered around afterward. Walking three hours straight with the 10 pound rifle is not a lot of fun. Ten pounds doesn’t sound like much until I sling it on my shoulders. My old whiplash injury kicks in pretty quickly. This afternoon fared little better. The PH found an impala but it was too quick for me to get a shot in. At least we used the truck for the most part. The rest of the day was spent tracking a gemsbuck that another hunter wounded very late in the afternoon today. It was getting dark when Mof decided to call the search off. Tomorrow the plan is for me to go to another farm for springbuck.

Day Eight

I was up at 4:30 this morning. It felt like I was back in the Army. We travelled to another farm where gemsbuck are plentiful. The owner there forbids shooting from the vehicle, so we walked around to the various watering holes. Nothing. Then we set up a blind over a salt lick. The owner of the farm said that he was certain that a gemsbuck would come into the lick by 3:00 pm. It was 11:30. The PH and his assistant immediately went to sleep. Even I was starting to nod off around 2:00. No gemsbuck. We hit the road again and even though we saw some females, we were not able to get a bull. However an impala stood in the road about 50 yards away and I did him in with a single shot. He made only 20 yards before he went down. We didn’t get back to the lodge until 8:30. At least diner was still hot. Tomorrow we are going to get our COVID tests conducted at a hospital in Elliras, the nearest town. Luckily I don’t have to get up prior to 6:00 am.

Day Nine

Trump may have lied about some things, but I now realize that he was certainly not lying about the discomfort of his COVID testing. It would appear that the South Africans are using the same methodology that was employed on Trump where the swab is shoved up your nose so far it feels like it is going into the brain. It hurt. Nothing like the tests in the United States at CVS. At least it is over. I just hope that I can bring up the results on my phone tomorrow. So much for my morning.
Later we went to the other farm and stalked about the bush looking for gemsbuck. Mof and my PH were accompanied by Manu, the cameraman/drone pilot, Mof’s son and Gary the trip leader. The stalk failed and we took positions under trees that dotted an open field. At 240 yards I hit a gemsbuck that was walking along the edge of the field. It immediately went down and didn’t take another step. We then heard four shots in rapid succession, taken by a young man aged about 25. One of those shots hit a gemsbuck in a non-vital area. We spent until 4;00 pm looking for it. Finally it was found and the young hunter put a coup de grace shot into it. I felt sorry for him as he was visibly upset at having wounded the animal, unlike his brother who was responsible for the fiasco the day before. They found his animal dead yesterday morning. It had died shortly after Mof called off the search due to fading light.

Day Ten

The last day of hunting. This morning we again went to another farm in search of a springbuck, the national symbol of South Africa. The springbuck is much smaller than the other animals that I have hunted here. Smaller even than an average American deer. Thus, Gary advised me to carry my .30-06 rifle, a much smaller caliber. I brought it with me as a back-up in case my .375 H&H magnum malfunctioned. While good advice, this was a major error as the scope on the .30-06 was of poor quality. When firing at 200 yards the target appeared blurry. I increased the power on the scope and fired three shots that went into nowhere. So much for being a one shot hunter! Each one would have been a hit with the scope on the .375. The shot that I made yesterday that took down the gemsbuck was beyond 200 yards and was a piece of cake as the target was clear in the scope. I finally took a shot at a closer range and lesser power on the scope that put the animal down immediately. Had I not proven my ability on the gemsbuck, this would be a case of “Tis a poor craftsman who blames his tools.” Indeed, it may still be; perhaps a better marksman could have made the shots even with the unfocused scope.

The author may be contacted at drtimweber74@gmail.com, or you may meet him and Gary Pleasants at the Adansonia Safaris table at the Nations Gun Show in Chantilly, Virginia on 19-21 November 2021. Gary may be contacted at (434) 566-1444.

Edwards, P. (2016). All 512 Animals Teddy Roosevelt and his Son Killed on Safari. Retrieved

June 27, 2021 from https://www.vox.com/2015/7/29/9067587/theodore-roosevelt-safari

Palin, M. (2021). Hemingway Adventure. Retrieved June 27, 2021 from https://www.pbs.org/

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