A Plains Game Paradise

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Have You Ever Hunted Africa?

I have been a whitetail deer hunter for the better part of my life. Throughout this journey I have seen many wonderful places. The United States and Canada certainly have an assortment of big game and offer some of the most scenic and breathtaking vistas in the Northern Hemisphere, but for my next hunt I was looking for something a little different. Actually, I was looking for something a lot different … an African Safari.

If I were asked to hunt the Dark Continent five years ago I would have had no interest. Over the years, however, I began to seriously consider Africa as a distinct possibility. Why not? I asked myself. Where can you go to hunt such a wide variety of game animals for the same price as a premium Canadian whitetail hunt?

Hunting Op Presents Itself

An opportunity arose two years ago when my friend Ron Reed and I traveled to the Eastern Sports and Outdoor Show in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. That is where we met outfitter Deon Cilliers and his lovely wife, Tersa. Deon owns Hunters Safaris. Hunters Safaris is located in the free state of South Africa and offers plains game hunts to hunters from all over the world. Deon is also one of only two outfitters in South Africa to offer lion hunts. Our hunt package would include Blue Wildebeest, Springbuck, Blesbuck, and Impala.

Other plains game species were available on a “trophy fee” basis. My goal on this hunt was to harvest two additional animals, a Gemsbuck, and the elusive “grey ghost,” better known as the Kudu.

After a grueling 17-hour flight from New York to Johannesburg, South Africa, Ron Reed, Charlie Deacon, and I were greeted by one of our guides named Kallie. Kallie was a big, burly guy with a classic South African dialect. A four-hour drive was still ahead of us, and we eventually arrived at base camp by four a.m.

We slept soundly and managed to drag ourselves out of bed by eight a.m. As I exited my bedroom door, I was greeted by the sounds of chirping birds and an unmistakable peacefulness. The sun was just beginning to crest the tip of the Korana Mountains. The only thing I could hear was the sound of “the wild.” Deon and Tersa had already arrived, and greeted our hunting party with a hearty handshake and a wonderful breakfast. A quick visit to the shooting range confirmed that we were ready to begin our safari.

To the Wild

The afternoon was hot and dry. Deon, Ron, and I spotted a herd of Blue Wildebeest, along with a scattered herd of both common and white blesbuck. We glassed the animals from an elevated bluff, always cognizant of the ever-shifting South African breezes. I focused my Canon GL2 video camera on the dominant male Wildebeest, and readied for Ron’s shot. As soon as the chosen quarry had separated itself from the rest of the herd, Ron fired. Two shots later our hunting party had its first Blue Wildebeest. Ron was also able to connect on a fine white blesbuck that same afternoon.

The second day was my turn. I was paired with my other friend and hunting partner, Charlie Deacon. The morning brought many sightings of Red Hartebeest, Eland, Black Wildebeest, and Zebra, but no shots. As we headed back to the camp for lunch, I looked back and noticed a lone Blue Wildebeest standing statuesque on the African landscape. I managed to get Deon to stop the truck, jumped out of the vehicle, and steadied myself for the 75-yard shot. With one shot from my Remington .270, I quickly claimed my first African prize. The Wildebeest was a true warrior, and I was extremely proud of myself. Lunch tasted much better that day!

Stalking Impala

The third day of the hunt we were looking for Impala. We managed to find a bachelor group of approximately eight to 10 animals early in the morning, and the stalk began. The Impala seemed to favor the densely vegetated areas of the mountainsides. The stalk was not easy, but we were able to get into position and I made a clean shot on a brilliant trophy.

On Tuesday, we decided to hunt a completely different area. The hunting concession held a large population of Gemsbuck and Kudu. Ron was able to connect on three species, a Mountain Reedbuck, Impala, and a 50-inch Kudu. We decided to sit and glass the mountainside for the last 90 minutes of the day. As the sun continued its daily descent toward the horizon, we began to glass various species emerging from the thick African tangle. Just before sunset, a band of Kudu appeared on the hillside. A stalk was planned. We crept along the parched earth careful not to step on a branch. We did not have much time, but we were fearful that a hasty approach would alert the Kudu to our presence. We readied the shooting sticks and I fired one shot from my reliable rifle. The well placed 140-grain Hornady bullet found its mark, and the Kudu went barely 50 yards. What a trophy! My aspiration of downing a trophy Kudu had materialized. After a brief photo session, and loading the 700-pound animal onto the truck, we headed home. Thank goodness for electric winches!

Gold-Medal Bucks

Day five was much the same as the previous four, blue skies and 80-degree weather. Unfortunately, on an early morning hunt I missed a wide open shot on a very respectable Springbuck. Luckily, the bands of Springbuck had left the field but were still visible, and were now very near an old dried-up river bottom. Deon and I planned a stalk that would take us down the old river bottom, and would bring us where the Springbuck were now bedded.

An hour or so later, our well-devised plan came together. As we peered over the bank of the dried-up river bottom, there they were! All we had to do was to get into position for the shot. The long stalk was worth the hard work as I connected on a gold medal Springbuck.

Later that day I was fortunate enough to score on a gold medal Blesbuck. Two trophy animals in one day! My goal had nearly been achieved. The only animal left on my wishlist would be the Gemsbuck (Oryx). We still had two days left in our seven-day safari and I felt confident about my chances of taking an Oryx. Our group of three hunters had killed 19 animals in five days. We decided to get up early the next day, and drive an hour or so back to the property that held our last piece of our hunting puzzle.

We glassed and stalked most of the day. We thought that the herd of Gemsbuck had eluded us, but fresh spoor was visible in the dry earth. We knew that they were close. The chase was back on! Fortunately, we re-located the group of Oryx and both Ron and I were able to make well-placed shots on two awesome specimens.

Plan Your Own Safari

The opportunity to see a different continent, learn about various cultures, and to hunt a plethora of truly amazing game species is something that will stay with me forever. If you are interested in a hunt that you’ll never forget, please contact Deon via e-mail @ safari@yebo.co.za, or you can visit his website @ www.hunterssafaris.com