A big failure and a great success


New member
Jun 21, 2001
Rural Wa. State/ Ellisras South Africa
On Thursday Morning we decide to leave early to drive to a ranch property which has lots of Blesbok, springbok, eland, black wildebeest etc. We
are at 8000-9000 ft elevation and it is still bitter cold. The snow from the previous day has all gone but it is so windy and cold that the clients
cannot ride in the back of the truck before they are frozen. The wind is howling across the plains and I doubt any of them would hit anything over
100 yards away and I doubt we could get closer then 250 yards to the game.

So the 6 hour drive to the mountains has taken us from the clouds and rain and brought us to the wind and cold.I just cannot catch a break with
the group this year! We must drive across a huge property to get to the one we are hunting on. We can hunt while we are travelling this horrible
bumpy, muddy and frozen gravel road. However the interest seems to be in seeing the sights not walking in the cold and wind? We arrive at the
guest house on the ranch property hungry and most of the clients need the bath room and some coffee. Surprisingly this huge canyon between
the mountains is calm and without the wind it feels like 65-70 degrees. What a difference the mountains make in blocking that wind. The sun has
warmed everyone up. Spirits are high and I'm feeling lucky today.

After a late breakfast we head out and look for game. By this time it is sunny and 80 degress! We see a herd of black wildebeest with some
absolute monster Bulls. I have no clients who want to shoot one but I am looking at the biggest bull I have ever seen. I am telling them this but I
guess they think it's a sales pitch because I have no takers. About the time I am done staring with my tongue hanging out they move away and
so do we. A while later we see a huge herd of Blesbok about 2-3 miles away, I glass them but we are too far to see anything more the species

We head that direction and spot about 20 Red Hartabeest which are just going over a ridge but not spooked. I take the client with who is shooting
one and we head up over the ridge and crawl on hands and knees. The warm weather has me concerned that the Puff adders will be out sunning
on this side of the ridge. They blend in so well and when cold hardly move except to hiss and bite when your too close. In warmer weather they
will sometimes move away from you but when the weather is like this they tend to bite before moving. I explain this to my client and tell him to
stay right behind me so I can watch the ground in front of me. I have been bitten before by a poisonous snake it can ruin your hunt, at a

Needless to say he( the client) was never more then an inch behind me the whole way. When we crest the ridge, the Red hartebeest are 390
yards away and in the wide open. we have lots of time as they are grazing and we have a rock solid rest in the cliffs. I used my Leica rangefinder
to tell him the exact distance and then found the biggest bull in the group. I said he was at aprox 380 yards. He says to me "no probelm I'm good
to 400 yards no problem"

I'm hoping so, there is no wind it is warm and sunny and he has a great rest. I need to make sure he knows for certain which bull, I say the one
in front eating head down and facing right at us. He says yeah I see it. When I look at his rifle he is about 60 degrees away from where he should
be looking. I grab the barrel and line it up and then give another description. He says "now I see him" I say he is facing left now and the rifle and
scope start swimming around looking for the Hartebeest again. He has a tough time walking any distance because he is very much over weight I
must often carry his rifle while My tracker carries mine, and he clearly cannot see very well either. Hmmmmm I keep trying to be certain he is
seeing the same one I want him to shoot.

Finally I think he's got it! First shot(yes there were plenty more), way over the back of the bull. Because of the recoil of the 300 mag he has now
lost sight of the correct bull again. Another minute or more goes by and now they have actually moved closer. He steadies and shoots and way
under the bull, 20 yards short of the target a cloud of dust rises. The Hartebeast walks over to look at the ground where the bullet hit! He gets
another shell in and shoots again, under the bull again and I say to him, I think it's a bit to far lets try and risk getting closer.

I find a way to sneak down between two ridges to another rock outcropping. I am doing the very low duck walk and he is bent over at the waist
not hidden at all? Best he can do I guess? We are now 220 yards away and they are eating peacfully again. The client gets ready to shoot and
has a nice solid rest. I'm right behind him looking down the scope and barrel to be certain he is shooting the correct Bull. At the pull of the trigger
the barrel rises and the shoulder comes back but there is only a click without a shot? Guess who's flinching big time!

Flinching, or "shot anticipation" almost always causes low shots. Every Red hartebeest is looking right at us now. He has brought along two
rifles and only has ammo for the 375HH with him? none for the 300 Mag, ...... Oh wait a minute he has found some in one of the 200 vest
pockets he has in this fancy hunting vest. We reload while laying behind the rocks. I feel at that very moment like I'm in an old western movie
with the Indians closing in and only a few bullets left. Funny how my brain works in the tense moments of an awfull stalk I'm way off someplace
thinking about an old movie? Guess it was better to allow my stress overload relief valve to open with this guy automatically.

After reloading the Bull has moved to 245 yards and is standing broadside all alone. Somebody must be watching over me up there! He settles in
and shoots, Bullet hits and the Bull is down, YESSS! no wait a minute he is up and one front leg is doing 360 deg cart wheels? Oh no not this
again with him! I suggest another shot in a hurry if possible, I'm trying to be as calm and polite as possible and even say to him

" could you please shoot another bullet, this time put it in his chest for me please"

The gun goes off at the same instant the bull stood still. I'm praying he is shooting at the correct one. You can hear the bullet Whack and the bull
is down again. Finally! No wait a minute he is running/ hopping but cannot get up completely. Oh what a mess this has turned into. He is
searching the ground for his brass and I'm politely suggesting another shot quickly please. He responds to me " He's not going anywhere I broke
both his front legs"

I asked for his rifle and when he handed it to me I unloaded it for him, while he was busy searching for the brass in the rocks. I handed it to my
Black tracker and he held it while I ran the 300 yards and finished the bull off myself with my rifle. The bull made several attempts to charge me
but was just a bit to broken up to make it happen. He spun and came for me twice but fell both times. My client managed to break one leg clean
and the other was damaged but not 100% usable. Had I arrived on site with a bit less damage to that second leg I would have been in for a real

Not every hunt goes as planned, this was one such hunt!

How about a great hunt success story? We leave the Transvaal and head to the lowveldt for buffalo near the park(kruger) The bush is very thick
this time of year and visibility will be very poor. We arrive in the afternoon becuase it is a long drive from the Transvaal. After lunch we decide to
verify the rifles are sighted in. I'm using a borrowed 458 Lott and the other PH is using a 500 jeffery. The two European clients are using a shared
rifle in some Metric caliber about the size of a 375HH. They are from Austria and speak German. One speaks English Ok the other understands
English for the most part but will not speak it.
The one who speaks some English is younger and very fit. The other one is an older uncle or family friend of his and is quite fat and not willing or
able to work very hard with us. We decide that since they have a shared rifle we will both take them together and all 4 of us will hunt for each
buffalo together.
The first day finds us right near the Park boundry which is very well marked. We see lots of buffalo sign and follow the tracks of many of them
burning up much of our time with no luck. This goes on for several days. The fourth evening we decide to drive and try to cover some ground so
we can spot and stalk them. We frequently smell them as we are driving, I feel like a hound on a truck trying to find a bear or mountain lion.

The bush is so thick we must hunt from foot. visibility is so poor we are going to have to bust them out of the bush into the open and try to size
them up when they run and stop to look back at us. The ticks are thick as well and we have to do a tick inspection when we shower each night.
The little buggers end up in the most awkward places! Hunting after mid April reduces the ticks by a lot.

This theory worked like a charm but we just could not get them sized up in time for a shot before they would move away again. We followed them
relentlessly through the bush for two days doing this. Our young fit client was Ok but the other guy was getting a bit burned out. To compound
things the weather was hot, really blistering hot! We see some buffalo across a ridge and decide to play a trick on them. I take both clients with
me and my partner takes the tracker with him. We sit in an open meadow with a few trees and big rocks in it. We are well hidden and will be able
to see the buffalo run to us if the plan works.
My partner takes the truck around the property and lets his scent blow across the herd. They hear the truck and stare in it's direction. We can
see the show perfectly. The buffalo are still, like statues and in a death like stare. The engine is quiet now and they stand staring straight away
from us. About 5 minutes go by but it seems like 30 minutes at least. Then they turn and start their trot towards us. They are about 1000 yards
away and up hill from us. They dissappear and reappear as they trot through the bush. Then they stop about 1/2 way between my partner and
us...............and nothing! We decide to stalk in closer, but unknown to us my partner is stalking in closer to them to get them moving again.
While we are slowly closing in thinking they are where we saw them last we see them much closer then intended. We have buffalo 75-100 yards
directly infront of us and they keep looking back, away from us. The wind is perfect to pull off this idea. I'm looking at the bulls to pick one out
that will be a nice big trophy.
Then I notice my partner about 400 yards away direct in line with the buffalo. This has now become a nightmare! We cannot shoot because I
don't know where the tracker is and I try to get the attention of my partner with the buffalo looking back to him and not at us. The clients do not
understand why I am waving like crazy at a heard of buffalo. I don't want to speak because nothing scares game more then a human voice. I sit
behind a tree with the clients about 30 yards to my right side. I can't even tell them what is going on. I did tell them not to shoot their gun for any
reason, just hoping they understood me. The guy who does not speak English has the gun though.
The one who does speak english leopard crawls to me and I tell him what is going on. I can hear buffalo getting very close when out of the corner
of my eye I see a buffalo in front of me walking straight away. The other Austrain is freeeking out, there is buffao 25 yards from him now. Then all
heck breaks loose and buffalo start running every which way. The dust is so thick and the noise from the pounding hooves is so loud I can't hear
anything. I and the English speaking guy are behind some acacia trees and we have no idea what caused this or where the older guy is at. As
quick as it started they are gone and way down in the vally where we started from. I yell for the other client praying he answers. Nothing!.........My
younger client starts calling him and my partner answers and says what are you guys doing up here? while I'm telling him what is going on the
dust settles and the older client shows up, he is shook up bad, stressed like nothing I have ever seen. He is pale as a ghost. It is almost funny
but I will admit to being scared myself. visibility was bad and the noise was like a jet engine roaring by.
We split up again and my partner takes the tracker and the older client with him to the truck. We stalk down to the herd in the flat by the dam.
We get 100 yards out after circling the herd to use the wind again. I can see the bull I want without the glasses now. We set up about 60 yards
away after a long leopard crawl. The client gets a steady rest and whacks the bull right throught the chest. They all run off and I struggle to keep
my focus on the one that is shot. It's like a real life shell game to keep your eyes on the correct shell. They run and move and go in and out of
the bush. Finally they stop and I'm pretty sure the one I followed is the correct one. We get about 100 yards away again and I tell him which one
to shoot. I'm prety sure it's the right one but keep looking for him to cough up blood or turn so I can see blood, Hmmm nothing visible. He hangs
his head down and sure enough he must be the right one, he is looking sick. I tell the client to shoot him again and he turns another chunk of
metric lead loose and this time I can see the bullet impact is perfect. The bull bucks like a rodeo bull and runs again but we can hear the
bellowing and run to catch up staying a safe distance from other possible buffalo in the bush.

Now this makes me nervous because what scares me is what I can't see not what I can see. We circle the herd and hear the truck in the
distance. Sounds like they are coming to the rescue(I hope) I see the bull down but he is hardly dead. He is rocking and trying to get up so I have
the client whack him with Number three and he really trys to get up now so he gives him another and the legs go stiff and the final bellowing
drowns out the sound of the truck which pulls up about 60 yards away from us.
Whew one bull down and one to go! They saw the heard run off about 2 miles from where we are now. The tracker stays with the buffalo and we
radio for more help. Once they arrive we decide to make another short go of the herd before dark. The drive takes us to a good area but it is
flooded with ankle to knee deep water. The buffalo are in the fringe area of this flooded temporary swamp. We stumble upon them much sooner
then I thought we would. There is an old broomed bull remaining in this group. Not as wide as the first but a more impressive trophy to me. I
cannot find it in this group yet, but I don't want to settle for just any bull. However this client may not be up to the chase in this swamp.
We finally see the big old bull and it's an easy shot. He walks out about 70-80 yards right in front of us in the open. I kneel down and have the
client rest the rifle barrel over my shoulder for a rest. He speaks no English, or Afrikaans but understands what I want of him thank goodness!
About 1 minute passes and it feels like a year. The blast of the gun shocks me as I was expecting to have the bull move away before this guy
shot. At the shot the bull freezes and hunches up. I say Please put another one in him right now. To bad the bull lunges out of sight before the
shot can be taken. We are now tracking in knee deep water. Ever follow a blood trail in water?
After about 15 minutes we are folloing the stired up mud from the bull running and the water is now only about a foot deep. My partner and I are
about 50 yards apart and I see a buffalo. I motion to Deon to stop. He cannot see anything. I look and see the bull standing and see the exit
wound which is too far back. I wave the client up and I duck walk to the nearest bush which is about 30 yards in front of me. My partner cannot
see where they are so he stays frozen. I'm at the bush and about 50 yards away. I stand to relieve the legs a bit and my client is duck-walking to
me slowly. I peek around the bush and the bull is standing alone with head down. With the client about 20 feet behind me I hear a huge splash
and turn to see the client under water and springing up gasping for air and then feeling around for his rifle. I look over at Deon and he motions to
just shoot this bull already. I peek around expecting it to be gone or ready to charge. He is standing facing me slightly to the right. I put the peep
sight of the 458 Lott on his spine and squeeze the trigger the recoil rocks me back but I see the bull go down like the rug was pulled out from
under him. The Austrian finds his gun and pours the water out of the barrel. I'm thinking he will be angry but he runs to me and hugs me kissing
me on the cheek too! What a good day of hunting eh! The second bull was an old monster Daga bull well past his prime. Not one you would want
to have a confrontation with.

So ends another day of Safari hunting with a hot shower, great meals and so many fun stories around the fire that night! I also took a bull of my
own from this place several days later.jj

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