WILL NELSONS AFRICA, 2012
July’s winter chill had its grip on the southern hemisphere. Snow slowly melted in the Stormberg Mountains of South Africa, water trickled downward. The diverse terrain created by endless years of erosion has made this place a [spot and stalk] hunter’s paradise. Not unlike the water, I cast my moving attention downward. Below me, 40 or so red hartebeest were making their way upward. Maintaining full awareness of every creature’s ascent was difficult. With so many eyes and noses within 80 yards, the moment could have been blown in an instant. It didn’t take me long to assess. I gave up my position for another further to the west. I reasoned my new position would island me in a river of animals streaming past. The plan worked. A 40 yard quartering away shot landed me a “Dugga boy” in the world of hartebeest, and ended my last day of hunting with Huntershill Safaris.
This was my sixth trip to Africa and my second bow hunt with Greg Harvey and his staff of professionals. It was such a delight to be back among friends in a setting fit for royalty-without argument, the way you are made to feel at HHS!
This trip began with high expectations-to the point where even the transit from Denver to Johannesburg seemed like a flash in the pan. My travel partners and I were well prepared for the ten days of hunting ahead. From Tambo International Airport, we drove five hours north to the Mpumalanga Province, South of Kruger National Park and very near the Mozambique Border. Five Cape buffalo females were sought on the morning of day one. Three were loaded into the cruiser by evening (not an easy job without the assistance of a winch).
The two remaining buffalo were being hunted by good friend Mark Thomas and me. It was our intentions to only use archery equipment in the pursuit. Thus, a tad more time was required and close proximity to these beasts kept things dicey. My professional hunter, Wentzel Coetzer (Rusty), and I spied a group of eight buffs early on day one. A single cow and calf were mixing positions with six good bulls. We approached downwind and stood motionless at forty yards. I felt the wind swirl and within seconds a wall of bulls were walking straight for Rusty and I. I heard the safety of Rusty’s 458 Lott “click”. My heart began to race, and my head began to do the math. We had three rounds in the rifle, a sharp stick and string and six swaggering swaying bulls closing ground fast. The math wasn’t right! Rusty said, “Keep an eye on the cow.” I thought, “Yeah right!” Focusing on a cow at the back of the pack was extremely difficult when 2500 pounds of black nasty and his gang of thugs were roughly 20 yards away. Moreover, there was nothing between us and certain death to stifle a charge. I questioned which group really had the other squarely in their sights.
As fate would have it, the calf peeled off and was quickly engulfed by thorn bush. It was followed by the cow and five of the six bulls. One bull held his ground and even followed Rusty and I for a distance as we retreated. The whole encounter left me invigorated! Not another cow was sighted for the remainder of the day. I was even beginning to doubt if more cows, more than the three taken, resided on this 40,000 acre concession…I was assured they were there.
Day two quelled all doubts. While approaching a waterhole, we were surprised by a group of 40-50 cows and calves. It was from this group that I was able to land a perfect double lung/heart shot on an unsuspecting buff. I buried a 1045 grain shaft and broadhead from an 80 pound PSE X-Force through both sides. The buffalo trotted 30 yards and collapsed. The game of cat and mouse was over in under a minute. There wasn’t enough air for me to even hear the typical death bellow associated with this bovine.
Mark Thomas had luck as well. But unfortunately, he arrowed his buffalo high and the beast was leveled with a follow up shot from Rusty’s 458-Mark being the shooter.
We used day three was for travel. My group left Mpumalanga and traveled 13 hours south towards Queensland in the East Cape. We arrived in time for dinner on the 55,000 acre Wildschutsberg Game Reserve-the home of Huntershill Safaris.
Breakfast came early on day four. My biological clock was still haywire and sleep wasn’t coming as I desired. The general consensus around dawn’s table was, ‘He’s not going to get a white springbok with his bow’. At least, this was the belief of those who had never seen a challenge dangled in front of me. My hunting peers were wagering differently. After two cups of the freshest most aromatic brewed coffee, a bowl of cereal with diced bananas and berry yogurt, it was game on!
I eased behind the rim of a dam, passing several sambar and hog deer en route to a herd of Springbok-totaling about 20 to 30 animals. I was forced to crawl on hands and knees for several hundred yards, and then my depression gave way to flat grassy savannah. If I were to get closer, it would have to come by way of belly crawling. 300 yards of flat real estate separated me from these wary antelope. Being picked off by incredible eyesight seemed inevitable. Slow deliberate motion with caution was essential to my course…
I hugged the ground as tightly as possible. I drug bow and body nearer. Twice I had to bring my trousers back to their belted hips. Closing within 50 yards was a two hour endeavor. Luckily the springbok were content feed and resting in the same location. I finally felt I was within range to make a strike. However, the problem, how was I going to go from flat out to upright and in a bow drawing position? I laid there watching and reasoning.
To my surprise and benefit, five bat eared fox trotted past me not more than ten yards to my left. Their direction of travel was towards the springbok. I watched as these big eared fur balls drifted more to the left. Every springbok raised its head and turn back to keep an eye on the fox. This was exactly the diversion I needed to make my move. I rose to my knees, drew my bow and settled my 50 yard pin on a previously ranged speedster. The shot was off! Luckily the arrow arrived in time to pierce through pure white. Bets were settled later.
I was teased for not shooting a “trophy” springbok, but the kidding around stopped when I reminded everyone, “He’ll never shoot a springbok with a bow”. There was never any mention of “trophy”. For me, my little white female antelope is a trophy of a lifetime! I wasn’t so fortunate chasing black springbok the following day (a good reason to return).
At lunchtime on day five and after a morning of spot and stalk hunting, I was picked up by PH Rusty, a tracker named William and hunter Jim Whipple. We were in the cruiser heading back to the lodge when Rusty and Jim sighted an enormous black wildebeest. His horns length and mass made this bull stand out from the rest, even from 500 yards away! A plan was devised. Rusty and Jim decided to give chase while William and I remained with the vehicle. Forty minutes passed-and so did the wildebeest-as William and I waited. Too bad Jim didn’t have the cat seat I had. He surely would have rifled the bull of his dreams. They passed William and I no more than 100 yards out. We sat there waiting for Jim and Rusty to return. We relayed what we had witnessed when they arrived. We pushed forward with another plan. Jim wasn’t going home without this bull!
Eventually, Jim got his yen after making three perfect running shots. We used William to flush the wildebeest back to our ambushing position. The same tactic was employed later on an old bull I arrowed-reassuring me that my Enigma Camouflage was still working.
I spent the remainder of the day resting in the comfort of a blind. Although I never drew my bow, the experience of having white rhinos, cape eland, sable, roan and lechwe within six yards was simply awesome!
I spent two more afternoons hunting from a blind over a waterhole. The net yield was a genet cat and a Burchell’s zebra. I fact that I saw a genet cat being chased by vervet monkeys during daylight hours had me reeling! Pinning him to the ground with a 34 yard shot was simply icing on the cake! And, I cannot wait to have my new zebra pedestal mount!
Early on the morning of day seven, Rusty, PH Boyce Frans, Sean Whipple, Mark Thomas and I set off for a day of hunting near East London . After roughly a three hour drive, our hunt commenced on another large game reserve. The veldt was thicker and much greener in this region of the East Cape. I immediately thought arrowing a cape bushbuck was going to be impossible. Several were spotted-mostly females- but they disappeared as quickly as they appeared.
The search was on and everything on my body which could be crossed was crossed. An hour into the hunt we round a corner in the road. A bushbuck was spotted at the edge of a clearing. I exited the vehicle solo and made my way closer. I made good use of the additional foliage. My rangefinder indicated 43 yards. I drew and launched an arrow at a quartering away bushbuck. On the shot the ram took a step forward. My arrow instantly severed his left femoral artery. A second shot through the boiler room secured my sixth spiral horn.
Two hours later, I watched as Mark Thomas made a stalk on an impala ram. His 22 yard shot [an arrow tipped with a scary wick sharp Ram Cat broadhead] zipped through with ease.
On the way back to Huntershill, Boyce and Sean anchored a 47” free range Kudu bull.
All in all, this safari ranks among my best. I absolutely love hunting the Stormberg Mountains and the spot and stalk challenge they present. At Huntershill, your hunt can be easy or as difficult as you desire-depending on your level of experience. Whether you hunt with bow or rifle, it really doesn’t matter. You will be successful! I would like to thank Greg Harvey and his lodge/hunting staff, Wentzel Coetzer (Rusty) and good friend Boyce Frans for making this another hunt of a lifetime. I look forward to returning in 2014!