First Timers to South Africa.
Bow & Arrow Hunting Magazine - April 2004 issue.
On March 28, 2003, several friends and I attended a Safari Club International (SCI) dinner. Where outfitters from around the world donate hunting and fishing trips that are auctioned off to the highest bidder. The money raised goes towards supporting SCI endeavors.
Before the auction started, a long time hunting buddy (Jim Lemke) and I reviewed the donated hunts. The bidding started and before I new it, we purchased a seven day, Fur and Feathers hunt to South Africa (SA) with Peter Ruddle, the Professional Hunter (PH) with Zulu Afrika Safaris. The hunt included three species of planes game and shotguning for upland birds.
After discussing hunting in SA with a gracious and understand wife, plans were underway. I contacted our PH and introduced Jim and I. Our hunt was increased from seven to ten days of planes game bow hunting. We were asked to establish a list of animals we wanted to hunt and informed there was an opening from June 30th through July 9th. We agreed on the date and purchased airline tickets. Our wish list included: Kudu, Gemsbok, Wildebeest, Warthog, Zebra, Impala and Eland. We would be hunting in the Limpopo province that is Malaria free, however Hepatitis A and B shots were recommended.
As the weeks flew by, we focussed our attention on South Africa game. We purchased hunting videos, read books and visited taxidermy shops that work with African planes game.
Although we normally shoot archery year round, we both spent extra time honing our shooting skills. By the time our departure date arrived, we were shooting well and very confident.
After a tiring 30 hours of travel we arrived at Johannesburg and met by a representative who took us to a comfortable hotel. We were finally able to stretch out and be free of cramped airline seating.
At 8:30 am the next morning our PH arrived at our hotel along with his Zulu tracker (Vuzi) and his trusty tracking dog (Tombie), a Jack Russell.
Our gear was loaded into a truck and we headed north for a two hour drive to the Limpopo province. Upon arrival we were taken to a local taxidermy shop. Our PH showed us shoulder mounts of species we would be hunting and gave us a crash course on trophy judging. Although this proved to be helpful in field judging plains game, the task was difficult at best.
Our PH was born in Africa and has spent the majority of his work life as a game consultant for the SA Department of Natural Resources or in the hunting industry. He proved to be a true professional that went the extra mile to assure our hunt was a success. He was not only knowledgeable regarding SA game, he is versed on African culture, history, political and social issues. He is one of those individuals who was as interesting to talk to on the last day of our hunt as he was on the first.
The Zulu tracker, Vuzi has worked for our PH for several years. He proved to be very proficient in his tracking, skinning and game processing skills. His appearance was impeccable. He wore military type clothing and could stand a military honor guard inspection and pass with flying colors. He proved to be a variable addition to the staff.
Tombie, the Jack Russell was a 10# bundle of energy with a 20# heart. The dog is fearless and will take on anything that crossed her path. Many of the PH's in the area we hunted use Jack Russell's for tracking game. The dogs are trained to follow a blood spoor rather than hoof scent left by an animal. On more than one occasion, Tombie had proved herself to be a valuable member of the team. Without out her, game recovery would have been much more difficult.
We were shown our rooms, unpacked and checked our bows. All appeared to be in order and a few minutes of target practice erased any worries we had regarding equipment. We loaded broadhead tipped arrows into our quivers, dawned camo clothes and headed to the first area we would be hunting.
Virtually all non-resident hunting in SA is conducted on privately owned hunting concessions. The concessions range in size from 2,500 acres to literally thousands of acres, all of which are fenced. The fence is normally 8 feet tall, contains 21 horizontal wires and periodic vertical supports.
Unlike the US, the wild animals on privately owned land in SA belong to the owner. If the landowner meets land use specifications set forth by the government, he is free to conduct hunting and trapping.
I know many people are opposed to high fence hunting; but if you are going to hunt SA, large enclosed areas are the only game in town. Before you pass judgment on this type of hunting consider this. The first concession we hunting was 10,000 acres. Once past the entrance gate, we never saw a fence again. The animals were free to roam and were as wild as any I have hunted in the US and Canada. Nonetheless, hunting in SA is conducted on concessions and the choice is yours.
Before we were taken to our blinds, we were informed we could stay in the blind the entire day or be picked up at noon and taken back to the lodge for lunch. We elected to hunt all day. We were also given two-way radios to be used to contact the PH in the event we needed something or an animal was hit. We typically arrived at our blinds around 6:30am and were picked by 5:30pm.
The blinds we hunted had the bow hunter in mind when they were constructed. The elevated blinds were approximately 6x6x7. They were 13 feet high and placed approximately 20 yards from a water hole. They were large, comfortable and gave excellent shooting and viewing possibilities. The pit blinds were dug three feet deep, had concert floors, side walls and were covered with a camouflaged dome. The ten plus hours a day we spent in the blinds was pleasant and we hated to see each day end.
Our first full day of hunting started clear and cold. Early morning temperature was around 30 degrees. By noon however, 70 degrees was the norm. At first dawn the land came alive with sights and sounds like I have never experienced. This was SA and it was fantastic.
While engulfed in all that was going on around me I caught movement to my left. My binoculars were up and there stood four Blue Wildebeest; a 700# fearsome looking animal with black gleaming horns. The Blue Wildebeest is often called the poor mans Cape buffalo.
Wildebeest was on my wish list and I was ready for action. As I glassed these beautiful creatures, my mind raced back to the crash course our PH gave us on trophy evaluation. Two of the bulls appeared to be in the trophy category. As they headed for their morning drink, I felt intimidated by the sheer size of these animals. As the Wildebeest jockeyed for position at the waterhole, the largest of the four turned broadside. My 20 yard pin settled on an imaginary 10 ring on his fount shoulder and my arrow was on its way. It disappeared into the blue/gray hide and the ground exploded around me in a cloud of dust. When the dust settled, all was quiet and I saw my arrow on the ground. I glassed the arrow and the new red color brought joy to my heart. With trembling hands, I called the PH and sat back to savor the moment. Minutes later the PH, his tracker Vuzi and trusty dog Tombie arrive.
The process our PH used to track game is as follows: If the arrow is found, the PH and tracker inspected it for blood and discuss shot placement with the hunter. The tracker searches for blood and if found, starts tracking. The PH and dog move forward and the dog is put on the spoor. The dog is off and running like a mini bird dog on steroids. The hunter normally falls in behind with bow in hand.
Minutes later and approximately 125 yards, the four of us are standing over my first SA trophy. My Wildebeest was an excellent specimen. His horns are 28 ½ inches wide and had a final SCI score of 76. This is 16 inches over the minimum requirement to qualify for the SCI archery category and exceeded the firearm minimum by 6 inches. A true trophy that ended up the highest SCI scoring animal we harvested on the trip.
That same evening, my hunting buddy arrowed an Eland in the 1,500# class, with 27 inch horns that qualified for the archery category of SCI. What a first day, two animals down and both are record class.
The next several days brought many hours of sheer pleasure as we viewed numerous animals and had the good fortune to harvest Zebra, Impala, Warthog and Kudu.
The high and low point of my trip came on the seventh day of our hunt. While standing in a pit blind and watching the sun start to settle in the western sky, I caught movement in the bush. I was taken back when a beautiful Gemsbok bull stepped into view. I immediately stepped to the back of the blind, grabbed my bow and came to full draw.
When the bull entered my shooting lane, everything seamed to go into slow motion. As the bull quartered away, I recall my 20 yard pin line up with his far leg about a third of the way up from his mid section. My bow thumped and I saw a small hole open on the bulls side that inhaled my arrow and slammed shut. Everything appeared to be happing at 1/10 normal speed. It was like I was standing on the sideline watching the whole thing happen. The bull leaped directly away and I saw what appeared to be the full length of my arrow protruding from the opposite side gleaming a brilliant red. One more leap and the arrow did a lazy end over end and floated to the ground. Two more jumps and my bull disappeared into the SA bush. At this point everything came back to full speed. I looked at my watch and it was 4:15pm. It's normally dark at 5:30pm so we had plenty of time to recover my Gemsbok.
My first call to my PH on the two-way radio went out with no response. Several additional calls brought the same. I got out of the pit blind and called again from a higher ground - no response. An hour elapsed, the sun was fading fast and I was still unable to reach my PH.
I really became concerned when I heard a pack of Jackals howling from the direction my Gemsbok ran. My radio crackled and a voice of an unknown person asked if I needed help. I explained my situation. This person knew my PH and happened to have his cell phone number. He told me he would try to reach him and get back to me.
My radio came alive with the familiar voice of my PH. As luck would have it, he was sitting in his truck not more that half a mile from me all of this time. It appeared he was in a dead spot where my transmission could not reach him. In the interim, the Jackals continued to yodel and I became more and more concerned.
My PH and tracking team arrived as the last light of day was fading. I quickly explained the situation and the search was on. Vuzi picked up the blood trail and the PH and trusty dog were off. As I trailed behind the tracker, I heard the PH yell something back to him in Zulu. He turned to me with a bright smile and thumbs up. I ran to the PH and there lay a trophy class Gemsbok with a flawless coat and horns that measured nearly 36 inches with 8 inch bases. One more trophy made the book. What a hunt!
My PH congratulated me and asked if I would mind if he went to pick up my buddy who was still in his blind. In a flash he was off, while the tracker and I attempted to clear a path to my trophy.
Minutes later I saw headlights coming. The truck came to a halt and out steeped my long time hunting buddy with a big smile, a firm handshake and a job well done. It sure is great to share times like this with a friend.
On the second from last day of our hunt my hunting buddy arrowed a Kudu bull that ended up to be one of the most prized trophies of our hunt. It was an excellent specimen with horns in the 50 inch class with and 11 ½ inch bases. A true trophy class animal. Not only did his Kudu qualified for the SCI archery category, it exceed the firearm minimum by three inches.
All and all, we harvested 13 animals between us. And, all but three qualify for the SCI record book. A true trophy class experience.
Hunting South Africa is pricey and not for everyone. However, when you figure the cost per African animal as opposed to a quality Elk or Moose hunt, Africa is a great deal. Find yourself a quality outfitter and give it a whirl. You won't regret it.
Outfitter: Peter Ruddle
Zulu Afrika Safaris
P.O. Box 128, Hluhluwe
3960 South Africa.
Web Site: www.zuluafrikasafaris.co.za
Tel: =27 83 604 0723
Fax: +27 35 590 1172
Bow: Hoyt Deviator set at 66#
Sight: Cobra Eclipse
Quiver: PSE (8 arrow)
Arrows: 2413 xx78 SuperSlam (430 gr.)
Speed: 274 fps (71.7 foot pounds of Kinetic energy)
Broadheads: 100 gr. Muzzy
Binoculars: Zeiss 10x40
Range finder: Leica 800
Equipment: Author's Buddy (Jim Lemke)
Bow: PSE Nitro set at 72#
Sight: PSE RS Tri-Glo
Quiver: PSE (8 Arrow)
Arrows: 2413 X7 Eclipse (432gr.)
Speed: 280 fps (75.2 foot pounds of kinetic energy)
Broadheads: 100 gr. Muzzy
Binoculars: Sawarovski 10x42
Range finder: Leica 800
A word about equipment. Specifically, bow and arrow performance. My hunting partner and I both used Muzzy three blade 100 gr. tipped aluminum arrows in the 430gr range. Although our kinetic energy was high (low to mid seventies), the overall weight of our arrows is on the light side. I had concerns how the broadhead/arrow combination would hold up to heavy game.
The largest animal harvested was an Eland in the 1,500 class. The smallest was an Impala in the 100# range.
Of the 13 animals harvested, we experienced arrow pass-through on all but three. I define a pass-through as the arrow is either laying on the ground on the apposite side or penetrating completely were it is protruding from the opposed side and falls out within a jump or two.
The three animals we did not pass-through were a Warthog, Zebra and Kudu. I regret to note that all three animals were hit poorly due to errors made by the archer.
The Warthog was hit in the spine at 10 yards and dropped in his tracks. The spine was severed and the broadhead was intact with no damage. A Zebra was hit in the neck at 21 yards. The neck bone was severed and the animal also dropped in his tracks. The broadhead broke off at the treads, i.e., the threaded end of the broadhead was found in the insert when the arrow was removed. The broadhead was not recovered. Why the broadhead broke off is not known. The Kudu was shot at 19 yards and was hit directly on the front shoulder bone. It ran 350 yards and went down. Penetration was approximately 5 or 6 inches and one lung appeared to be cut. The shoulder bone was pulverized and although all three blades of the broadhead were badly bent and checked, the broadhead was intact and all three blades were in-place.
South African plains game does not have heavy thick hides like Moose and other cold climate critters, but many are very large and heavy boned. As with any animal, regardless of size, shot placement is the name of the game. However, when the unthinkable happens and our arrows go astray, we hope our bow, arrow and broadhead combination will do the job as ours did in fantastic South Africa.
4968 S. Labadie
Milford, Mi. 48380 (USA)
African Hunting Trip is Not an Impossible Dream
By Lee Kernen
Many Wisconsin hunters have made the trek north to caribou country to bag a fine arctic trophy. If they learned they could make a trip to South Africa and shoot 7 or 8 animals for approximately twice the price, would they get excited? I sure did.
Not including airfare, two hunters can hunt for 6 days on a huge, exclusive South African game ranch for about $6000 each, and, this includes beautiful accommodations and great food. Just in case some of you have a hankering to try something like this, I took the time from my hunt to sit down with my professional hunter, and guide, Peter Ruddle, and asked him some of the questions that a first-time African hunter should know the answers to.
Peter Ruddle is a 44 year old South African who makes his living not only as a professional hunter, but as a tour guide and wildlife expert. He lives with his wife, Lynn, on the huge Weenen Game Preserve that is famous for its herd of white rhinos. My wife, Janet, and I spent 16 days with Peter, and he had arranged everything; motels, meals, cocktails, wildlife tours, park entrance fees, hunting camps, skinners, trackers, hunting vehicles and a taxidermist. He and his Zulu tracker, Vuzi, led me through the bush and told me which animal to take and then they found it for me after the shot. They knew every bird and bird call and where the snakes lived. Having a man help you in an intimidating place like Africa can be, was, in a word, "Awesome".
Kernen How did you become a Professional Hunter?
Ruddle "I started it to subsidize my income in the years I worked for Parks. Before that, I grew up on a farm in the country of Zambia, where my Dad and I did a lot of hunting and fishing. Hunting is in my blood".
Kernen What is the best part of your job?
Ruddle "Customer satisfaction. I like to see a client take a trophy animal that he is happy with and excited about. There is no routine in a job like mine, no 8 to 5 job in a bank for me".
Kernen What is the biggest mistake American hunters make when hunting African game?
Ruddle "The average man tends to think he is a little better hunter than he actually is. If he has no experience in judging a game animal that is strange to him, he would do well to take the advice we give him. But some hunters have been told by their friends not to trust their PH, that he is just out for their money. This can muddy up the relationship between the hunter and the PH, and when you are pursuing game there is little time for debate".
Kernen Are most of your clients wealthy?
Ruddle "Most of my guys are not wealthy men, but people who have saved for a few years, like you did. They all say it is a once in a lifetime trip when they get here, but by the time they leave they are already talking about how they will start saving to come back again"!
Kernen I am renting your 30.06 from you because I am traveling a lot before and after the hunting and didn't want to be hassled by having a firearm in possession. Do you prefer hunters bring their own firearms? Is it difficult to get them into Africa? What calibers do you recommend?
Ruddle "Hunters should bring their own guns, the ones they are most familiar with. My clients who fly here from Atlanta have had very little hassle on the U.S. end, and in South Africa, it usually goes smoothly. I don't recommend flying from JFK airport in New York…some of my clients have been delayed there. For the plains game like impala which are whitetail deer size up to kudu which are as big as elk, a rifle like a 30.06 is fine. A .308 is acceptable and so is a .270. My recommendation for the perfect rifle for Africa would be a .375, but there are others as well. I am happy to give my clients help in preparing to travel to Africa with their rifles".
Kernen Is this a good time to travel to South Africa for a hunt?
Ruddle "Absolutely. Game preserves are thriving right now and the government here is stable. You never know what might come up in the future, look at the CWD in America. If some new disease pops up here which could restrict exports it could mean the end of hunting. Even hunting itself could come under criticism that could limit opportunity. I like to tell my clients that Alaska will always be there, you better come to Africa first!"
Kernen Is there any other message you would like to share with our hunters?
Ruddle "98% of African hunting is on private land and it is the game ranchers that have enhanced the wildlife in South African - both the viewing of wildlife and hunting. There is no public land to hunt on. We all speak English here, so you can feel at home. There are no hunting seasons or licenses required on these preserves and we can hunt all year if we wish. But it gets pretty hot here in our summer, so the most hunting is done during our winter, from April through September. June through August are the most sought-after dates.
Kernen What questions should a prospective hunter be asking to set up a hunt?
Ruddle "They should check references. Make it a point to talk with guys who have hunted with the PH recently. Spend some time at this to make sure you are getting the real truth. Also ask whether other hunters are in camp. (Ruddle had arranged for Kernen and his buddy, Rod Regal, to be the only hunters on a 25,000 acre area) Be careful of those cheap "packages" that are out there, you can get screwed at this game just like any other."
For the record, I booked my hunt through "Outdoor Connections", a local hunting and fishing agent out of Waunakee which is run by Rod Regal. Rod joined me for a week of hunting when my scheduled partner had to cancel. Rod can be reached at 608-849-9520 or via e-mail. Peter Ruddle will be in the United States this winter and attending several sport shows. He will be at the Green Bay Safari Club show if you would like to talk with him personally.
The Newsletter of Ourdoor Connection®
Pat Kelly's Hunt Report.
Hunting South Africa - Affordably
Pat Kelly, franchise owner from North Caroline with a nice trophy from his trip to Africa.
I recently had the opportunity to hunt South Africa with some clients and was pleasantly surprised at the value of this hunt! Although, I had always dreamed of hunting Plains Game in South Africa; I had put this trip off for a few years because of the assumed difficulty of the logistics and financing of such a venture.
In June 2003, I went to South Africa as a group of four hunters that were experiencing South Africa for the first time. As I began to plan this trip I was pleased at the quantity and quality information was available from the Outdoor Connection outfitter based near Durban on the East Coast of the province of Natal.
The flight was very affordable and a simple connection to Johannesburg from the states and then a short 1:15 flight on to Durban. Our outfitter took care of all of the details from Durban. Customs procedures for our firearms were simple and painless. We registered our rifles with U.S. Customs prior to our departure from the states and the South African police checked our rifles and ammo as we arrived in Johannesburg.
They were very courteous and professional in their efforts to register our rifles on the way in and out of South Africa.
Once arriving at the hunting lodge, we were pleasantly surprised to find a first class operation that provided quality accommodations that include full daily laundry service, gourmet meals, bar and a staff that took care of every possible detail including trips to town to have our photos developed and communications back to the states by phone and/or email. The hunting area was just as beautiful as any post card and was plentiful with game and wildlife that can only be seen in South Africa.
Our Professional Hunting staff included a Professional Hunter, Tracker and Skinner per every 2 hunters. Our hunting staff was very knowledgeable in determining the habitat, patterns and trophy quality In the News of the animals that we chose to pursue.
Our group of four hunters had great success in harvesting over 30 animals that were of trophy quality in a fair chase hunt. Our harvest included Blue Wildebeest, Greater Kudu, Zebra, Gray Duiker, Blesbok, Red Hartebeest, Impala, Reed Buck, Water Buck, Wart Hog and Baboon to name a few. Many other species, including Giraffe, Ostrich and Rhino were sighted, but not hunted by our group If there was a surprise on the trip, it was the fact that the winter months in South Africa (June, July, & August) can be quite cool in the mornings, with temperatures starting in the early morning below freezing, while warming into the mid 70's by mid morning.
This is a malaria free area and I did not even see an insect while on this trip. The pricing of these hunting packages are in line with that of a quality whitetail hunt, or an elk hunt in the states. The additional pleasure of experiencing the cultural and historical flavors of South Africa make this a great value, as well as, a desirable destination for individuals not wishing to hunt.
Put your dreams into action and contact your Outdoor Connection agent today for details on traveling to South Africa for the hunting experience of a life time!
Blind Bow Hunter shoots gold medal Nyala
By Karl Dedekind - Professional Hunter
James Meachem arrived in South Africa with his friend Keith Boswell on a donated hunt as part of the Safari Club's SCI Special Award Programme. The donation was for a seven day hunt including Nyala, Impala, Blesbok, Warthog and Steenbuck.
This was to be my first experience of guiding a blind hunter. James, a young man, lost his sight as a teenager. It was phenomenal to think how quickly he had adapted to overcome his disability. It was truly an unbelievable experience for me, as a PH. Keith and James had been hunting together for a number of years and this valuable hunting experience, combined with a lot of practice before the hunt, enabled them to achieve very satisfactory results during their hunt with us. First came the, so called, easy part of the hunt. James successfully managed to take an Impala (20 inch), a Warthog (bronze medal), a Steenbuck (silver medal) and a Blesbuck (gold medal). All these were single shots kills taken with a rifle. The Blesbuck was a perfect shot at 175 yards.
How does a blind person hunt? Keith would follow me holding a shooting stick at one end whilst James held the other. This enabled us to stalk animals through virtually any terrain and bush. When shooting James would use the shooting stick and Keith would help aim the rifle using a scope mounted on a bracket and slightly offset from the rifle. Amazing! Using a similar method, James decided to try something a little more difficult - a bow. We stalked a Nyala bull which we had seen just off the road. Fortunately, this slow stalk was made easier by the road but made us more visible, luckily the Nyala was more interested in browsing, offering us the opportunity to get into position close enough for James and Keith to put in a shot. The final result was a dandy 28 inch Nyala which would score in the top five of the record book. They really enjoyed their stay and were great friends with everyone in camp enjoying their company. It was amazing how quickly James made friends and in a couple of days knew everybody's names, identifying them by the sound of their voices or squeaky boots. He knew where everything was and would often bring us back to reality by asking for descriptions of things such as the weather. We often forgot that he was supposed to be disabled - he even whipped us at pool on the full sized table. He would feel where the white ball was, set himself up, we would help him aim his cue, tell him how far the other ball was and bang - in the pocket.
Considering James's disability, he is always cheerful and a pleasure to have on a hunt. As far as the hunting is concerned, he is unbelievable to watch, shooting well with a bow or rifle. James took some magnificent trophies and, if he can, so can you. James and Keith, you will always be in our memories.