SOUTH AFRICA: Trip With Cabassa Safaris 2

SOUTH AFRICA: Trip With Cabassa Safaris

A buddy Mark, his wife Kara, and I got back from our third RSA hunt on Aug. 23rd. It’s taken me a bit of time to gather my thoughts and put them on “paper”. All in all, it turned out to be a great trip though that was in question up until the last day due to my own poor performance.

We flew out of DFW to ATL then onto JNB. Being 6’4″ I was wedged into the seat for the first flight but given how short it was, I survived. On the 15 hr. flight to JNB, our seats were in the Comfort Coach section. Ah, legroom. Unfortunately, we had a screaming kid sitting up business section that carried on for a large portion of the flight plus I had the benefit of “Typhoid Mary” sitting behind me incessantly coughing up a lung and also poking the monitor screen trying to pull up a movie. Ugh, this flight couldn’t get over soon enough. Marginal sleep for me.

We flew into Jo’burg and over-nighted at the Aero lodge. A driver came picked us up (after SAP, etc.) and once we arrived we were welcomed by name, shown our rooms and given a tour of the property. Compared to the one and only time we stayed at Afton five years ago, this place was excellent. Several options for dinner were placed on the menu and beers in the frig were charged on the honor system. Just write down your room number and the number of beers one drank. Nice and welcoming. A group from Europe were in the main lodge dining room so we all sat outside next to the pool on the patio. Slightly cool but comforting coming from Texas in the summer heat. This was a great and convenient place to stay and I definitely recommend it.

We were up early the next morning to grab a small breakfast and get a ride to the airport for our 8a flight to Bloemfontein. Thanks to SAA, we got bumped from our flight to the next one at 9:30a. But have no fear, we were given a 70 rand voucher for breakfast….not for each of us but to cover all three of us. Yeah, we couldn’t even all get coffee at that price. To add to the aggravation, the 9:30a flight was late. Wheels up and the adventure continued.

Once in Bloemfontein, we were met by Johan Van Zyl, a friend from previous hunt. Once we got our guns, and luggage loaded, he was well supplied with beverages in the cooler for our trip. We drove up to near Kimberley to Heritage Safaris lodge. The place was very nice and first class. The lodges were very comfortable, Sam (the waiter) was always ready to provide “comfort” from the bar when we arrived after a long day of hunting, and Jaco (the chef) provided calories for the waistline. Ah, the fried ice cream got everyone’s attention.

My mission was to shoot a cape buffalo with my .480 Ruger revolver shooting 420 gr. hardcast gas-checked bullets over a full load of H110. We headed out on day one to try a stalk. We got within 18 yrds of a buff but he was staring right at us and that was that. No shot. Later that day as wandered back toward camp Mark got a nice steenbok.

Day 2 had us climbing a 100 ft. rock outcrop attempting to locate some buffalo. We located a pair so we climbed back down leaving a couple of spotters up top so that they could keep an eye on the animals. Five of us made the stalk, PH Hardus, PH Boetie, PH Johan w/ the camera, a tracker and myself. After stalking about ½ mile, we find the two buffalo bedded down under a bush about 50 yards away, within the range where I felt confident with the handgun. The sticks were set up and I had the gun ready to go. The camera was rolling which I found out wasn’t to record my “score” but rather to confirm whether or not the beast was hit and thus they’d cash my check, animal recovered or not.

The wind was in our favor coming straight from the buffalo to us. While I’m on the sticks, the guys are trying to make enough noise to get the buffalo up yet not scare them. Nothing worked until one of them finally let out a bellow. The two go up and one of them was huge with big bosses. That was the one. Initially broadside, I start to put pressure on the trigger. As the pressure builds and the trigger breaks, the buff turns slightly quartering toward me. The gun goes off and I could hear the bullet hit…… a bit too far back. Damn. The both run and there’s a chance to get another bullet into him but I get bound up in the sticks and miss high. So many coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’s run through my mind. Damn. Now the tracking begins after a peeved off buff that has a bullet in his midsection. Oh, for a drone. We track and we track and we track. Literally 10 miles. No buff. If I’d have hit him even marginally in the vitals, we’d have found him early on. Nothing. We go back to the lodge and discuss the plan for the next morning. No, I didn’t sleep much that night.

The next morning Boetie had the trackers climb up onto the outcrop in the pre-dawn in the hopes that they might find a pair of buffalo together with the hopes that one might be mine. We climb up and started glassing to see what we, too, can see. There were 7 bulls wandering amongst the brush and one tended to lag behind. Hmm, maybe my bull? Not sure as the side that the bullet had been put into was away from us. As they continued to walk we moved over next to where the trackers were watching. As we settled in a buffalo roar not unlike the infamous death bellow was heard in the distance. We just kind of looked at each other. Apparently, two bulls were fighting in the bush. One of the guys saw where the bushes had moved. We speculated that it was a battle between my injured bull and his former buddy. Not sure whether it was a dominance thing now that one was wounded or if it was trying to distance one from the injured. Regardless, we climbed down and started the stalk.

After covering the ground with direction from the observers on the outcrop, we slowed our approach. Given the instruction that those of us with the guns would go first into questionable areas, it was Hardus to the left, myself in the middle, and Boetie on the right and the tracker to the rear. The cover went from 30+ ft. visual distance to crawling through small holes in solid thorny bush. We stalked to near the area along some bush when Hardus warned “Guys, get back, get back!” As we stepped back and looked, there was a bull laying in the bush 30 ft. away. Hardus was down on a knee watching the buff. Since there were many buffalo on the property, Boetie was down looking at a still from the video of when I initially shot the buffalo trying to confirm that this was indeed my animal. I’m hunched over in the middle watching fo the go signal from Boetie when a grunt was heard and the charge was started. Immediately, Hardus shot. I turned my attention to Hardus, then Boetie shot. I quickly figured that that was my signal to shoot! I fired and then Boetie fires again. Fortunately, all of that activity broke the charge and he headed off to other parts in a big hurry.

After settling down a bit after the adrenaline rush, we evaluated our shots and the consensus was two shots in the front shoulders, mine felt like it was mid-body and Boetie’s last shot was in the rear. Checking out the tracks in the area showed that this was indeed the location where we heard the battle of the Titans going at it.

Taking up the tracks we slowly proceeded through the heavy bush. After a couple hours of tracking the guys on the outcrop saw the buffalo and directed us in. We followed along a dirt two-track path toward where he was last located. 500 yards ahead, 400, 300, …. Eventually, it was supposedly off to our right about 50 yards into the bush. Oh, what bush! Very slowly we made our way through small holes in the bush crawling, and crouching, and more crawling. Please don’t let it charge when I’m on the ground!We broke out into a bit more open area, meaning we were able to walk, with Boetie in the lead and the rest following. Suddenly we hear a shot. I step forward to see the buffalo running and I throw another round at it but the bullet falls short. Boetie said that as soon as he cleared the brush to his left that he heard the grunt of another charge coming and he fired. Unfortunately, we didn’t feel that either of us hit the bull again.

Tracking continued for a few more hours. The guys were called down from the outcrop for lunch. Lunch?! What? When the guys showed up they were surprised that we were breaking for lunch as we were 300 yards from where mine and another buffalo had bedded down! WTF!? Why didn’t they say? They claimed that they did say but with the radio traffic being in Afrikaans I sure couldn’t understand what was being said. We’re on the track of a wounded buffalo and in my mine an expensive wounded buffalo! Screw lunch. I was not a happy camper. Supposedly, Johan conveyed that same sentiment after he found out. If I have another opportunity in the future I will NOT be so complacent! Lesson learned.

We followed up on the location where the guys said they saw the bull lay down but with all of the vehicle traffic and noise of us going to lunch the bull didn’t stay bedded long. We followed the track for the next 3 hours until dark to no avail. Another 10 miles, measured, in the books and still no buffalo in the salt. The sense of frustration and disappointment builds. Where the last saw the track was in a high animal-traffic area and the thoughts of finding it again appears small. I marked the last track location on the GPS so we could find the area again in the morning.

Today is the last day to be on the property before moving on for the rest of the hunt. Following the GPS, we head to the area. The amazingly, skilled trackers locate the spoor from the previous night. We follow, slowly. After a while we find a location in the bush we the bull had bedded down and there was evidence of blood in the soil. My spirits raise a bit. Sure the track is probably 8 hrs. old but it’s positive evidence that we are again on the track. We follow very slowly as the ground is firm and there is some grass messing with the trackers. After probably 2-300 yards, the track is lost. Really?!? Once again, my heart sinks knowing that the odds of retrieving the bull are very low. Sure at some point in the future they’ll probably find the skull and horns which will eventually be returned to me for some sort of mount. But is this really the way that such a magnificent beast is to be remembered?

The desperate decision was made to hop in the vehicle and drive the are around the thickest patches we could find with the slight odds that the bull may be laying in the stuff. Covering the area, we saw nothing. As we came across a dirt road the guys got out and check for tracks. They ended up finding a long set wandering off in the direction that we were heading. We got out and started tracking again. The trail headed off to some heavy brush of a fairly large size. I felt a bit of hope and adrenalin rush through my veins. This could be it. We carefully entered the brushy area on alert. As we slowly proceeded, one of the guys put his hand up for us to stop. He heard something in front rustling the brush. As we slowly proceed guns at the ready, some noise in the brush a way ahead erupts. We see nothing. As we exit the brush and talk to the rest of the crew in the truck, it turned out that a great, old worn bull came running out and across the veld. They were all excited to see the great beast relatively close to them, within 150 yards for some great viewing.

Back into the truck we go. The sun is nearly set and we’re running out of daylight. Marchant, a PH on the property and who was driving at the time, noticed a dark animal out in the open on the horizon. All were looking with their binos, and by golly, the horns looked a lot like my bull! We hung on for dear life as we flew across the dirt paths to get to a better vantage point. Light was fading fast. He made the best time possible without putting us in too much danger. We get to near where the buffalo was spotted only to look over the grass to find three buffalo were actually there. Glassing the one did indeed show that he looked a lot like my bull but it was obviously not him. Dark was upon us and the day’s hunt and my quest for the buffalo were over as we were driving out the next morning.

The stern reality that I wouldn’t obtain my highly desirable beast set in. I tried to not let it ruin the mood too much that night because I was well aware that something like this could happen however all of the small mistakes over the past three days kept haunting my thoughts.

The next morning we had breakfast and gathered up to say our farewells. The guys had been told by the owner that they were supposed to search hard for my bull during the next two days. There was actually hope that a chopper was going to fly over the area after it had some earlier work to do. Anyway, we gathered up in the vehicle to travel toward Hoopstad to continue our hunt the next day. Unfortunately, later we found out that the wind was way to strong for a helicopter to get in the air so the buffalo wouldn’t be found that day.

After arriving at Hoopstad we confirmed out zero’s again the next day and headed out for some hunting. My hunting pal was after various versions of springbok and other fun stuff so I’ll encourage him to post his AAR after mine.

Going forward had us going after a waterbuck. We headed to a property on which we hunted in 2009. It was nicely sized and had plenty of animals on it. As we searched around we ended up finding 3 nice bulls. As they turned and ran away, one was particularly nice with his horns arching gracefully forward. Unfortunately for us the wind was really blowing which had everything all stirred up. Once one herd run, everything was running. First the zebra, then the impala, then the blesbok, then the eland and on and on. Of course, the waterbuck join in. We follow and follow and follow. The herd pass behind some brush and as we watch expecting the waterbuck to follow, except that we don’t see the one that we are after. We slowly wander around the brush and the sly old boy had laid down concealing himself except he couldn’t hide his telltale antlers. We slow with hopes for a shot when he rises and runs off. The trailing goes on for some time.

The waterbuck run off into some heavy brush and stop to turn and look at us. We’re way too far off for a shot as the plan is to use my T/C Encore in .308 Win for the shot. As we slowly close the distance, I hear from the cab of the truck “Warthog, shoot him!”. I’m focused on the waterbuck and don’t even see a warthog. As I scan the sides, I see a warthog running through the grass to my right. While on the bags over the roof, I find the hog in the scope and swing the gun with it and break the shot. The bullet hit it’s mark but wasn’t enough put it down. Two follow up shots ended the chase. The pig was fabulous as far as I”m concerned. He didn’t have big tusks but the warts were huge. His ears were torn up and had skin tags hanging around his eyes from previous fights. Awesome! The waterbuck will wait for another day as this day has finished on a great note!

SOUTH AFRICA: Trip With Cabassa Safaris 3

The next morning had us up early to see if we could shoot some ducks. Yup, there were certainly some flying and we managed to bag a few though my percentage was way less than my hunting buddy.

That afternoon we were back after the waterbuck. Once again, the wind was howling. As we worked to find the bull again the critters started running again. A large number of animal gathered together and run across the terrain. We followed for quite some time as they covered lots of ground. We noticed that the waterbuck weren’t with the big herd. We circled various pieces of the property with thick trees, brush, etc. We finally locate them back with the herd and approach for a shot. Surprisingly, the large group of animals stop to look back at us providing a shot. The T/C Venture .30-06 with 180 gr. TTSX Barnes bullets was successfully deployed and put the big boy down with one shot. What a glorious trophy! As I admired the bull, it seemed that his nose was out of whack. After the buck was skinned out back at camp the PH went to look the skull over and indeed the bull had a broken nose as the bones in his skull were skewed.

SOUTH AFRICA: Trip With Cabassa Safaris 4
SOUTH AFRICA: Trip With Cabassa Safaris 5

Our time in Hoopstad was over and the next morning we traveled to Sun City to go check out the game reserve in Pilanesburg. That trip turned out to be enjoyable as it allowed us to unwind a bit and relax before the trip back to DFW.

We had some time on our way to O. R. Tambo to stop at a local well-known curio shop to pick up some items for the folks back home. While we were wandering around Johan came in and gave us the news. Boetie had shot my buff!!!! He was heading toward the exit gate on the property taking the owner’s wife to the airport. He noticed a buffalo in the bush that didn’t lift his head as they drove by. This strange behavior caught his attention and took his rifle and bnos to investigate. As he approached, he pulled the binos up to get a look at the buffalo. At some point, the buffalo again charged him, this after being wounded for approximately 10 days!!!! What a tough beast.

Needless to say, I was elated. No, I wasn’t able to get pictures with the impressive animal but since it was still alive when shot vs. the thought of receiving a skull after the vultures had their turn, I was very happy. This great animal will get his due respect by being mounted and presented in a prominent location in my house. A fitting tribute to his tenacity.

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SOUTH AFRICA: Trip With Cabassa Safaris 7

Original Article By: RickP September 30, 2017 for Africa Hunting.

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