Lifetime dream and bucket list check off...

Discussion in 'Cast & Blast' started by Upton O, May 22, 2011.

  1. Upton O

    Upton O Blind hog fisherman

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    I've been reading and dreaming about hunting in Africa since I was ten years old. I've put it on and removed it from my bucket list many times due to the expense and not knowing where to go or whom to hunt with. A year and a half ago I was given first hand info on who, what, where and when to go and for how much. Four months ago I bit the big bullet, and along with my hunting buddy Joe, put a deposit down on a trip foru ten days in Northern Cape and four days in Eastern Cape, South Africa. We departed SeaTac on May 5th (my wedding anniversary: I have an incredibly supportive wife) and I returned yesterday (I think, the jet lag is brutal). Although I'm relieved to be home, I wish I was still there stalking game in the karoo and grassveld, trying to not get stick with the acacia while following close behind my PH. The expense was significant but a good friend said to me "We are in the fourth quarter of the game and we can't see how much time is on the clock. You had better go while you are physically able to make the trip and hunt well." So I did it. I upped my workout regime and I never made a better decision. Now I'm planning to make another trip even if it means getting a job to finance it. What a tremendous experience. The photos are of some of the animals I took (Kudu, gemsbok, rock pigeons, and Egyptian geese) plus photos of a good sized puff adder (released unharmed) and a herd of gemsbok on the grassveld to show some of the habitat hunted. I almost walked into a cow rhino with calf I didn't know was there which is funny now but not then, and had a close encounter with a puff adder in the grass chocked hills that was interesting, too. I've never hunted so hard, made so many stalks, crawled so far, and enjoyed myself so much. I have a hundred stories to go along with the 400+ photos I shot. I met and stayed with two South African families when not at our primary lodge and was treated like family at all three locations. My professional hunter is a 22 year old young man who has a B.A. in business administration and Robert Ruark would have highly approved of him and his skills. My primary tracker, gun bearer (in the afternoons when my arms were aching from toting the 300 Win Mag) was a 35 year old man who has the most uncanny ability to not only spot game at incredible distances in the bush and tall grass but to also evaluated it for species, gender and trophy quality in a couple of seconds will sitting in back of a moving, bouncing Land Cruiser. I'm going back.
     
  2. Ed Call

    Ed Call Mumbling Moderator Staff Member

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    Karl, welcome home. Great report and photos.
     
  3. ribka

    ribka Active Member

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    Very cool. And duck hunting in Africa too.

    On my bucket list too. Archery hunt in SA or Namibia in the next 5 years.

    Looking forward to some stories behind your photos
    Thanks for sharing
     
  4. Troutrageous

    Troutrageous Active Member

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    That looks amazing man... that wasn't on any bucket list of mine, but I might just have to add it now (though at 24 I think I can stick close to home for awhile).

    Were you able to bring back much meat, or what could you bring back?
     
  5. Upton O

    Upton O Blind hog fisherman

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    Thank you all for your comments. Please let me know if I can assist you with information on South Africa in general or specific resources I used. Ribka, as you are undoubtably aware, archery hunting is definitely growing in interest with hunting taking place in elevated and ground blinds. These plain's game animals are tougher than American big game species but the variety is unbelievable and the numbers amazing. They are also extremely wary and as the outfitter repeatedly told me "None of them are suicidal." You will have to work hard for your trophies in most cases, which is as it should be.

    One more note: if your spouse, partner, whatever has an interest in birding, game watching, travel, let them go with you. The variety of birds was amazing and I added at least 30 to my list. A good outfitter knows how to set up activities for family members while the hunter is chasing game. My outfitter says "If mamma is happy, the hunter is happy and then I'm happy."

    Thanks again for the comments and it is go to be home. Ed, you been catching any fish?

    As for bringing meat back, it is not allowed by U.S. Department of Agriculture. That is too bad, too. We ate game from four different species (eland, kudu, gemsbok, and springbok) and it was amazing, no gamey flavor whatsoever. They sell most of the meat taken on hunts and a lot of it ends up as biltong, their form of jerky. I much prefer biltong, too. It has a simple flavor, and I love chipped biltong on buttered bread for a snack or lunch. Can't bring that back either.

    The trophies (head/antlers and hides) go through a prolonged process of repeated cleaning, boiling, baths and so forth before they are ready for shipment back to the U.S. It typically takes six months minimum before you can expect to receive them and then they must pass inspection by U.S. Fish and Wildlife and, depending on species, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. You can find all of this info on the internet but it can be confusing.

    Travel with firearms can also be a hassle, they have a lot of controls and restrictions on types, including shotguns. Outfitters will help with the arrangements.

    Travel time from SeaTac was 28 hours to touch down in Johansburg and another hour and a half the next day to Kimmberly. Return trip was 34.5 hours due to layovers in J-burg and Dulles, D.C.

    One more item is the "if I only knew then what I know now". Don't wait until you are in your sixties and retiring to hunt Africa. Find whatever mechanism you can to hunt when you are younger, that way you can make more trips, see more areas, and have many more adventures. Most people wait until they are retired (like me) and it is a huge mistake. Beg, borrow, steal (not really), sell your body, whatever, just go. I used to be a bird hunter and not that interested in big game. I had planned to take a impala and warthog and then shoot pigeons, ducks, geese, sand grouse and guinea fowl. I shot seven big game animals, missed the impala, never got a shot at the warthog, didn't get to the ducks, sand grouse and guinea fowl and I was in country 14 days. Now I am an African big game hunter with an interest in shooting birds.
     
  6. seekm

    seekm chris

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    That looks awesome. It sounds like you had a great trip. Thanks for the posts and the pictures.
     
  7. Philster

    Philster Active Member

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    Wow. I grew up reading that stuff too. As a kid dreamed of a double barrel H&H "buffalo gun". You were smart to go. And not just because of your age. It may not be possible in the near future to do that trip! You are fortunate for it all to have come together!

    Not big on shooting mammals personally anymore. More of a bird guy. But Argentina Dove hunting has caught my eye. Funny thing is it'll probably cost as much as an african trip, but that'll be just the ammo! You can literally shoot as much as your body can handle.
     
  8. ganglyangler

    ganglyangler Bird Dogs and Fly Rods

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    Awesome trip Karl! Love the pics! Any dogs involved in the bird hunting? It's on my list along with some tiger fish over there...
     
  9. Steve Call

    Steve Call Active Member

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    Great report and pictures! Glad you were able to fulfill a lifetime dream. It doesn't get any better.
     
  10. Gary Thompson

    Gary Thompson dirty dog

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    Sweeeeeet!!!!!!
     
  11. Roper

    Roper Idiot Savant

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    Karl, congratulations on a great trip. I understand what you're saying, but I have a few places on my list that are a bit closer to burn down first. I also think I might hit South America before I think about Africa. But thanks for sharing your adventure.
     
  12. andrew

    andrew Active Member

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    At 35 I'd be happy with a chukar in my bag as part of my bucket list!

    My wife's uncle hit Africa... not sure where or with whom. However, I do know that he bought a 'spot' from a guy that booked an entire lodge at a reduced price. This gentlemen has a huge game preserve in Ohio and he might even somehow import game?

    Needless to say I'm with Roper...I'd love to hunt pardiz and dove in South America. But then again I have a few species here that are giving me the runaround - literally!

    Thanks for sharing your trip, I'm glad it was successful and most importantly you're back to share it with friends and family!
     
  13. Upton O

    Upton O Blind hog fisherman

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    Thanks again for all of the comments. It is interesting how many of you all responded to the bird hunting part of the hunt. Here are a few details: dogs are used for "rough" hunting which is how they refer to hunts like our walking up pheasants, chukar and quail using pointers or flushing dogs. The species for rough hunting in the areas I hunted are guinea fowl and franklin grouse. There are quail but they don't run in coveys, rather, they are singles and they are not much bigger than sparrows.

    I had originally planned my trip to focus on bird hunting but quickly got side tracked with the big game. I've often claimed I'm a bird hunter first and foremost and big game is not that interesting. Right. I never did get to the guinea fowl, franklin or sand grouse.

    As for dogs, I would have concern for using a pointer or Lab for rough hunting given the highly venomous nature of the cobra and puff adders. The dog would have to have had good aversion/avoidance training to work the large areas of grass lands and not get bit. There is little doubt that the bite will be fatal if it happens.

    Hunting is available for rough hunted guinea fowl, franklin grouse, , driven guinea fowl, and pass shooting for pigeons and doves. The geese and ducks in our area had never been shot over decoys as far as I could determine.

    In terms of pigeons and doves, South Africa has great numbers and they, like almost all of the birds, are not hunted much by the locals. On the pigeons, I had been warned that the rock pigeons, referred to as "rockies", were some of the fastest and most evasive birds on the planet, a claim I dismissed since I had shot pigeons here and in Mexico. Crow was on the platter five minutes into the hunt. If I didn't shoot the pigeons coming at me as they entered the field I could NOT catch up to it as it passed me. Damnedest things I've ever seen. They flew into the fields at an elevation of no more than 5-10 feet, dodging and diving at full speed the entire time. I will refuse, even under torture, to tell you the numbers of birds I missed. I have never shot so poorly. The outfitter apologized after the hunt because cool, rainy weather that day had greatly reduced that day's flight and I had only fired a little over a case of shells in five hours of hunting. The norm is three to four cases in a day (750-1000 shells).

    I was also shooting my 20 gauge against his recommendation which I won't do next time. The 20 gauge shells are 2 1/2 inch and 3/4oz of lead which makes it equivalent to a 28 ga. These birds are tough just like the plains game and a 12 gauge is definitely the bore of choice. (As I write this I'm thinking of all of the hunting available and it is unbelievable, my learning curve was extremely steep).

    The geese were taken in a carrot field where they were eating the newly sprouting carrots and causing significant damage to the crop. We didn't start hunting them until 2:30 p.m., again because we were chasing nyala and bush buck in the morning. We had knocked down ten birds by 5:30 and would have taken many more if we had started in the morning when the main flocks were coming into the field. These geese don't come to the decoys like Canada geese, or snows, or specks, there was no circling and gliding into the spread. No, they came down from altitude at full blast, whipping in like teal. They are also beautiful birds, one of which will be shipped back here for display if it passes the USFWS inspection standards. I saw one small flock of spur winged geese and knocked feathers out of one at forty yards. Steep learning curve here, too. These birds are huge and the 2 3/4 inch, #3 shot (lead) we were shooting was too small for those birds at that range. I'm not sure what shells and loads are available but I'll be better prepared next time.

    I fully understand the interest in shooting Argentina, I had originally had that plan, too. Not anymore, the variety of hunting, both bird and big game, far exceeds that of any location in South America. I'm trying to figure out how to finance a trip back to South Africa next year, it was that good.

    Since this is a fly fishing forum I guess I better mention the fishing. I had planned on taking my 6wt to fish for small mouth yellow fish, there aren't any tiger fish in this area. The fly rod would have been excess weight, there was no time to fish though the outfitter assured me he could arrange good fishing for yellow fish, largemouth bass and brown trout. I can do the trout and bass here, the yellow fish look like largemouth carp so I deferred for the present. I bought two South African fly fishing magazines home for Construer, you guys can bug him to loan them out after I give them to him. I had also hoped to do a great white shark cage dive but, there again, no time. There is just too, too much to do there. But next time...
     
  14. Rick Todd

    Rick Todd Active Member

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    Very cool trip report Karl! I have never hunted big game, the biggest being turkey. I love to read about hunts in Africa, and there are a lot of good stories in Sporting Classics and Grays Sporting journal-two of my favorite mags. Glad you had a great trip! Rick
     
  15. Islander

    Islander Steve

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    Wow, amazing trip and pics. Congrats on a great hunt.