On Safari in South Africa – Part IV
As usual, I am up plenty early. I go out to enjoy the South African sunrise by the fire. Chef Seeba stops by to greet me and offers good luck wishes on my hunt today. After breakfast, we pile in and on the Landcruiser Double Cab and head out. We pick up Ann, the Game Scout responsible for identifying the giraffe to make sure it’s one we’re allowed to hunt. As we drive back by the mountains, we spot the herd with one of the bulls we are after. We drive around to position ourselves so the wind does not carry our scent to them. Charl and I take off with Gawie bringing up the rear with camera in hand. We go as quickly as we can on the rough, rock-hewn ground. There they are! Down a ravine we go and up the other side, sticking to the trees for cover. Most of this time we cannot see the giraffe. Hopefully, this means they can’t see us! We creep to the top of the ravine to take a peek. The giraffe should be right here… Yep, you guessed it. They are about 300 yards away now! Back to the truck we go.
We drive to the other end of the property and locate the second Bull, who is in a group of about 20 giraffes. This is the one I want, as he is bigger than the other one. We head into the bush, in an effort to work our way around and get in front of them. Instead, we end up in the middle of the herd, with us hiding under a small bunch of thorn trees. The bull is 52 yards away. If he will just come a bit closer…
He does not, and we can’t move in on him because we have no cover. The bull ends up walking away from the herd with two of the cows. We hurry back to the truck and drive ahead of them to try it again. Now we only have three sets of eyes and noses to fool. We position ourselves so we can make a move to get between the bull and his cows, staying parallel to them until the opportunity to cut in between them presents itself. When the cows get about 200 yards ahead of the bull, we dart into the gap.
Here he comes! Crap! Now he sees us and begins to move parallel to our position. As he passes us, I calculate a range of 42 yards. I can do that. I come to full draw. He stops. I settle the pin a bit high on the shoulder and touch the trigger! The arrow is off!
Oh, CRAP (that’s not really what I said)! The hit is too far back, as the bull had taken a step while my arrow was in flight. As is protocol in South Africa, Charl shoulders his .458 and puts the giraffe down. Not the way I wanted it to happen, but it is what it is and yes, it does happen. This time it was to me. We walk up to the Bull. He is massive!
Now the real work begins. We head back to camp for Solly’s crew of skinners and an additional truck. Thirty minutes later with full crew in tow, we are back to the Bull. Solly takes over, and with the help of four other men , the other Landcruiser and tow strap, they position the Bull for photos. With that completed they get to work skinning and quartering. The meat fills the back end of the truck.
When we get back to camp, we weigh all the huge quarters and come up with about 1,860 lbs. This puts the total weight of the Bull at about 3,300 lbs. Even though it did not go as planned, it is still a hunt I will always remember. Because Charl and I are always busy with the other client/hunters in camp, we rarely get to hunt together. On this trip, we had a great two-day hunt and got a very hard to pin down animal. A special thanks goes to Gawie. We drug that poor kid through some of the nastiest terrain I have ever hunted, all just to run the camera for us.
So, the hunt is over. I have three awesome trophies and the meat from them will feed a bunch of people, including the kids at the school. We kick back at the bar for the rest of the afternoon, waiting for Erika to return with Ben and Becky. It’s almost dark when they arrive, I can’t wait to hear about their trip. They had a blast! Saw a ton of animals and watched hyenas eat a fresh kill.
Back at camp, we linger at the fire later than usual, soaking it all in, one last time. We talk of our days here, with Ben and Becky already making plans to return. Too soon, it is time to head for bed. I really don’t want to sleep, as I prefer to get on the plane dog tired! I work for a while and pack up some of my stuff. At around 2 AM, I finally drift off to sleep.
5:30 AM and I am wide awake. Quick shower, get dressed and out to the fire for my last sunrise til next year. One by one, the camp comes to life. No hurry this morning. We don’t have to leave for the airport until about noon. One last great breakfast of eggs, sausage, bacon and toast. We go figure out the luggage situation and good news! Becky can fit all her stuff! They brought a bunch of books, crayons pencils etc with them and dropped them off at the school, leaving room for the additional stuff they bought. I did have to fit Ben’s spare arrow tube into my big bag but that was the only issue.
Erika’s Dad, Lawrence, is going to stop by this morning so I can give his bow it’s yearly check up. I also need to get Charl and Gawie shooting their new bows. Lawrence arrives, so I go to work on his bow first. Nothing major, just a couple adjustments and soon he’s drilling the x rings. Next up is Gawie. He takes to his new bow real quick and with just a couple sight adjustments, he is in the x ring as well. Now to Charl. He has already shot his bow back at Double Lung Archery in February when he bought it. So, a couple arrows later and he is good to go as well. I think they like having their own personal bow guy that makes yearly “house calls.” I need to get a bow press over there. Then I could take appointments and really tune some bows!
Now that we have the bows squared away, it is time for Charl and I to sit down and tally everything! We go through each hunter’s hunt quote, animals, etc. and calculate the balance due. Erika prepares the trophy paperwork for each hunter. After that is done, we gather our bags and wait for the driver to come take us to the Johannesburg airport. Chef Seeba sneaks in one last meal, just before noon, of Impala meat, fried bread sandwiches. Yummmmm! Be the last real food we have until we are back in Atlanta. Yep, already thinking Five Guys Burgers for breakfast tomorrow morning! Our driver arrives and it is time for goodbyes, the hardest part! We gather out front with handshakes and hugs all around.
We get dropped off at the airport, unload our bags onto a couple push carts and proceed to the check-in counter. With our tickets confirmed and bags checked, we head to the first security line. Wow! It is backed up to just behind the check-in counters! I have never seen it this busy. I hope we make it in time. The line moves like a snail! Over an hour later, we are all through, with just 31 minutes to make our flight! Better hurry! Our gate is what seems like a mile away, but we make it and I have time to grab a bottle of Diet Coke (ick, but it’s all they have), make a bathroom stop, and get in line to board the plane.
Meanwhile, Ben gets pulled aside for some “additional” security screening. Hahahaa! I have to stop traveling with such shady looking characters! I wait til he clears and we all get on the plane. Oh great, middle seat of the middle isle. I have to start checking these beforehand. Oh well, make the best of it. I get settled in and pretty soon we are blasting down the runway and into the sky. The flight was pretty much the same as all of them- watch a movie, sleep, eat some crappy food, watch a movie, sleep, repeat, repeat, repeat.
Sixteen hours later, we are landing in Atlanta. We head to customs and baggage claim before rechecking our bags and going through one more security check. Ben and Becky got held up for even more “additional screening,” so David and I go on ahead. Good thing we did too, as we only have about 40 minutes to get David to his gate! This is going to be close, clear across the huge Atlanta airport! He makes it with a few minutes to spare.
I spied some Monster on the way over to David’s gate, so I grab one on my way back to find Ben and Becky, who were at Five Guys waiting for me. It’s 7:30 AM and we are feasting on double bacon cheeseburgers! We have a couple hours before our flight leaves, so we take our time eating and talking. We are taking different flights home so I walk Ben and Becky to their gate and we say our goodbyes.
After a quick flight back to Cedar Rapids, I finally get to walk out to my own truck and once again be in charge! I absolutely HATE being at the mercy of the airlines. Good thing the hunting in South Africa is so awesome! Makes it worth the trip. On my drive back to La Porte City I call my Mom and let her know I made it back safe. She still worries about me (as she probably should, lol). She is not a hunter but still seems to enjoy hearing about my adventures. With another trip is in the books, it’s back to work. Deer season for bowhunters opens October 1st and the coming weeks will the busiest time of the year at Double Lung Archery!
Dave Stueve will make his annual trek to hunt South Africa in June 2016, with open slots still available. Hunters can also book a trip in August, as well. For additional information about hunting in South Africa, contact Dave at Double Lung Archery at 342-4550 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.