Let me start by saying this….. Africa is a place like nowhere else in the world. There are so many factors that attribute to this, including the abundant variety of species, the remarkable variations in terrain, and the diversity in cultures. Due to these examples and so many more, trying to explain my experience is virtually impossible.
My entire family has participated in hunting; in the U.S. as far back as I can remember. I have enjoyed learning to hunt and experiencing all that comes with it. So naturally, when a few of my Dad’s friends, who had recently been to Africa, started to talk about how amazing their hunt was and how it was something he should add to his bucket list, I was ready to go. Due to their interesting accounts of their outages, my desire to explore grew quickly. When I turned sixteen, I was given the opportunity to go on my first African safari. We found our way to Namibia in June of 2014, where we began our adventure hunting African plains game. From that point, I was hooked on hunting in the African Bush. By the end of the hunt my dad and I were already planning our next African safari, in South Africa. This time we planned to head out in the summer of 2016, to hunt more of the plains game in the Limpopo region.
Africa has truly become a very special place for us. We have made so many friends and countless memories that we will cherish for a lifetime. Each and every country that we visit leaves a lasting impression and allows me to grow my appreciation for everything Africa has to offer. After two very successful safaris we began planning our third trip. The African safari for June of 2018 would prove to be our longest one yet. It had the potential to be our most exciting trip because I was finally getting the opportunity to hunt for one of the most dangerous game animals.
Feeling very adventurous, we planned to make two stops during this trip. We wanted to start the trip with Allan Schenk Safaris in the Eastern Cape and end it with a trip to the Kalahari Desert. We had hoped for the opportunity to hunt a variety of animals during this safari including the Red Hartebeest, Lechwe, Springbok, Warthog, Baboon, Kudu and a Lioness. After months of research, preparation, and planning; June finally arrived. Leaving DFW, we began our third journey to Africa. Our first flight took us through Germany to Johannesburg. This was exciting because neither of us had ever been to Germany. We did not get to see much more than the airport in Germany, but it was definitely a fascinating new experience.
Once we reached J’Berg, we boarded our final flight to Port Elizabeth, in the Eastern Cape. Just a short while later, arriving at the airport, we were met with a warm welcome. We loaded our luggage and guns into the truck, and embarked on a short drive to Allan’s place. We arrived at the lodge where we had the opportunity to meet the whole Allan Schenk Safaris team, for the first time. Allan personally gave us a tour of the lodge, and then helped us settle our belongings into our rooms. The facility was warm and inviting, showcasing trophy mounts from the region, and the staff was both accommodating and welcoming. The lodge also had an extravagant outdoor fire pit where we planned to spend a large portion of our lodge time, after the days hunting. Lucky for us, we were also able to coordinate our trip with the owner of ITZ Media and an excellent hunting videographer, Richard Leonard. We discussed some of his ideas for the footage he wanted to capture during my safari. We also discussed strategy with Allan for our impending hunting adventures. This was a necessary conversation to prepare us this type of free range hunting on such a large concession with the abundance of game that was available to harvest in the Eastern Cape. We then enjoyed a hearty dinner and settled into our rooms to rest and prepare for the hunt to begin the next morning. As you could imagine, I had a difficult time sleeping that night because I was so excited for the hunt to begin.
Early, the next morning we got up and ate breakfast. Here we had a little time to get updated on the plan for the day. Once we felt comfortable, we were off to hunt! The drive proved that Allan's concession was amazing. I was awestruck by the spectacular view of the mountains. This was a very different terrain than I experienced in Namibia or Limpopo, during my previous trips to Africa. Along the way, we stopped to check our rifles to make sure they were still on. I could not wait to start hunting. The first day was difficult because of the rough terrain and how high the elevation was. My body was not accustomed to these types of conditions. So we took it as slow as we could, but we had a big job to do.
One of the first species that we saw was the Lechwe. They were standing in a herd on the side of a mountain. Such beautiful creatures that can be best described as a medium size antelope that has this striking red coat, wide rippled horns that dramatically hook back, and striking black streaks flanking the front legs. We made our way to the top of the mountain and glassed the area to see if there was a good opportunity to stalk. Taking in the beautiful view of the mountains and terrain highlighted the utilization of free range and fair chase hunting, where the walking and stalking approach is used widely. Allan, our outfitter and PH, caught sight of the herd about halfway down the mountain and said there was an old bull that we should try to take. I was impressed with the outfitters dedication to finding the best specimen for me to harvest. We began working our way down slowly, trying to stay quiet and low. It took several hours to navigate our way down the mountain. At times, we had to crawl on our knees or attempt to slide down the hillside in a seated position, just to get in place for the shot. After all of the effort, we finally got settled, and of course, the Lechwe had bedded down so we needed to sit and wait for them to move. After about an hour, I could see that the oldest bull we had been stalking was moving towards and opening. I felt like this was my chance. So we prepared for the shot and coordinated with the camera men to capture the footage. Once the bull presented me with a clear opportunity, I carefully took aim and squeezed the trigger. We heard the sound of impact and knew the shot was true. The Lechwe ran approximately 30 yards and went down.
As soon as we were confident that he was down, we headed in his direction. Walking up on the old bull was so exciting because this was an animal I had wanted to hunt for years, but the opportunity never presented itself. But, now here he was, and what a beautiful animal! We began taking pictures, to document our experience. While taking pictures, my dad happened to look across a ridge, and spotted a nice Springbok ram about 200 yards away. He got Allan’s attention so that he could confirm his suspicion. Allan evaluated the Springbok and determined that it was a solid, mature ram. He felt that his was an excellent opportunity to harvest this ram because we might not see another one of his size. “This was a really good size trophy ram for the Eastern Cape”, Allan said. I have hunted for Springbok during both of my previous safaris, but never got the opportunity to actually take one. They are not very big animals, but this one had perfectly shaped horns. Allan and I located a spot where I could achieve the best prone position for the shot across the ridge. I extended the bi-pod, settled in with my cross-hairs lined up on the shoulder, and then slowly squeezed the trigger. The ram jumped straight up as we watched. We continued to observe in order to confirm the animal was down. After a few moments, Allan sent the trackers to retrieve the harvested Springbok. Vusumzi, the head tracker, personally carried the Springbok ram back to our location, where Allan and I had a chance to admire the size of the heart shaped horns. Allan then prompted me to smell the scent glands located in a white patch on the lower back region of the animal. What I noticed was a strong sweet smell, almost like honey. As I admired the beauty of the Springbok I reflected on how fortunate I was to have this experience. Richard and his team took photographs and managed to capture great footage of the hunt and final shot. We certainly had a busy morning and were getting hungry so we decided it was a good time to break for lunch. So we started our decent from the mountain.
Later that same afternoon, as we were driving through the hills, we spotted a lone Mountain Reedbuck ram standing at the top. Allan had mentioned several times in phone conversations, before we had arrived in Africa, about how special this animal is. So, as you can imagine, he was particularly pleased that the opportunity presented itself so early in our hunt. He examined the specimen closely, through his binoculars, and determined that it was a HUGE ram that I could not pass up. We changed direction, exited the vehicle, and made our way across the mountain. The ground was covered with loose rock, thorny bushes, areas with thick trees, and some wide open spaces. This region also had many steep inclines that we had to maneuver our way across. Once we found an ideal position for me to shoot. We used the range finder to determine that the shooting distance was approximately 165 yards. This was perfect. We stayed low and out of sight below the ram. Using the high winds to our advantage, we moved into position directly below the ram. As I squeezed off the shot, the animal buckled and rolled down in to the brush below. Allan and Vusumzi went up the steep incline to retrieve the animal. When they returned we had the opportunity to reflect on the hunt and appreciate the ram. Allan called it an ‘old warrior’ because of the amount of scars he had obtained from fighting. They are very agile animals with beautiful coats and horns that hook forward. These animals, typically, like to stand out of the wind on the side of the mountains. We took a little time to document the experience with photographs and then headed to the lodge for a well-earned dinner. We enjoyed some good food, spirits, and casual conversation around the fire pit, before retiring to bed.
Since we were so successful the day before, we decided to travel back to the same area to hunt for additional game. This time, I was scheduled to hunt with Nadine Eilerd, one of Allan’s top and most dedicated PH’s. We were impressed to learn that she was the recipient of the 2016 African Huntress award. Knowing this, I felt very confident as we set out to hunt for either a Kudu and/or a Red Hartebeest. We spent a few hours that morning traversing through the mountains, when suddenly we spotted a large herd of Red Hartebeest standing in an opening near the lower part of the mountain. This animal, sometimes called the “Harley Davidson” of antelope, had such interesting horn features. The horns curve slightly forward and then take a drastic curve rearward. It was cool to see them in such large numbers. We used our binoculars to glass the herd from a distance. We then, needed to see if there was an older bull that would be a good candidate to harvest. Since both sexes carry these very unique horns, we wanted to be certain of our choice. Typically, the bull's horns are much heavier at the base than the female counterpart. We spotted the one bull that really stood out due to the horn’s length and heavy mass. Once we found our trophy bull, Nadine and I began working our way across the bottom of the mountain to see if we could get an opportunity on this Red Hartebeest. We managed to work our way quietly through the trees nearest to the herd of Red Hartebeest. We were able to move within 100 yards of them. Once we got close, we needed to wait for them to move into a spot where my shot would be most effective, but while we were waiting three Warthogs started their way towards us. I have never been that close to an animal like the Warthog before, so I was a little nervous. They caught our scent right away and began frantically running in every direction, with their tails pointing towards the sky. They made lot of noise which, in turn, spooked the Red Hartebeest further back up the mountain.
Nadine and I looked at each other in disgust, but then she reminded me that the best way to hunt that Hartebeest would be to follow them back up the mountain. It was only about two miles to the top, no big deal, right? I was clearly discouraged after they ran off. I kept thinking that there would be no way that I would be able to actually pull this stalk off. As we began climbing back up the mountain, making it a little over halfway up, I was out already of breath. Nadine kept encouraging me to move forward. Pushing me to do what she knew I was capable of. With her insistence, I finished the grueling hike up the mountain. Reaching the top, we stopped for a moment to allow me to catch my breath. Once I had recovered, we searched for the best vantage point to see the herd of Red Hartebeest again. They were still about 300 yards from where we were, but I was confident that I could take my shot from here since we could not manage get any closer. As I settled in with my rifle resting on the bipod, I spotted the big bull in the scope. I attempted to control my breathing so that I could make a steady shot. I took my shot and the Hartebeest bull was hit and began to run. He finally stopped and stood there. He did not seem affected, so I knew I was going to have to make a second shot. Knowing this, I could feel the tension rising. I needed to calm myself down quickly, reset, and take another shot.
Subsequently, the feeling of relief set in because the second shot did the job! I was elated! I finally harvested an excellent Red Hartebeest bull, after failing to do so, on previous safaris.
As the trackers worked their way to the bull, we noticed that the cameramen had accompanied them on the trek. Suddenly I heard Dean say, “He is a Beast!” After they traveled down the mountain to our location, we inspected the bull and noticed the excellent mass that carried out through his horns. The Hartebeest was an animal I will never forget because of how impressive this animal was. The uniqueness of the horns and the deep red color of its coat really make it special. The stalk on this animal may have taken six hours but it was worth every minute. Thanks to Nadine for having faith and pushing me to finish. I really loved the whole experience.
The next morning Allan had planned on taking me to an area that was known for retaining the largest Kudu bulls. When we arrived at the location, I immediately knew this was “Kudu Country”. The area was mountainous, with thick trees, and heavy bush. These were ideal conditions for Kudu that provided plenty of places to bed. It was chilly in the morning and there wasn't much movement happening. When the sun came out, we used our binoculars to look in the openings in the trees to search for the right Kudu bull. This activity continued throughout the morning where we had the good fortune to see a large number of Kudu. They were mostly younger bulls, so we decided to take a break and eat a light lunch in the field. We took in the beautiful scenery while making a plan for the afternoon.
Allan had the idea of walking the edge of the mountain and checking the low areas to try to spot a Kudu. We drove to an area where he had previously seen big Kudu, and began walking along the edge of the mountain, stopping to glass frequently. As we advanced, we heard a large group of Baboons ahead of us. Baboons are seen as a pest to most of the farming community in Africa. They are destructive to crops and the farmers really appreciate hunters assisting with controlling their population. Allan told me that attempting to walk and stalk, when hunting Baboons, generally doesn’t work. He agreed to give it a try since I was interested. I was all in! I had never tried to take Baboon before. We gradually began working our way through the trees, trying to stay as quiet as possible, in order to not startle them. We knew that we were getting close to them because the noise from the Baboons was getting louder. We maneuvered our way out of the trees into the nearest opening. There, I finally saw the Baboons sitting on the edge of the mountain. We moved into a position to where I could get a clear view of Baboons. I lay on the ground and prepared for my shot. There was a Baboon sitting on the edge of a cliff facing us, this was the one that we agreed was best. Right before I pulled the trigger, another Baboon walked in and sat directly behind the one we had selected. I shot soon after that and I was able to get both Baboons in one shot. I took a chance to walk and stalk a Baboon, and it paid off. This was such a rare opportunity that I was thrilled to be a part of. After retrieving both Baboons, we took more photographs and documented the experience. We had a long walk back to the truck. As we moved in that direction, we watched one of the most beautiful sunsets I had ever seen. After getting back to the truck we headed to the lodge, where we had an excellent dinner consisting of Mountain Buck tenderloins and Kudu steaks. We sat by the fire pit and reflected on the day’s hunt.
They next day, Allan took us a region that was known for holding big Warthog, Bushbuck and Kudu. He added that the best way to hunt Warthog would be to check around water sources and the thick areas at the bottoms of the mountains. We used this strategy for basically the entire morning. We worked our way to an area where we could clearly see the bottom of the mountain. We remained in this spot for a while because Allan had been watching big Warthogs frequent this location. As we patiently waited, we continuously glassed the area until Allan noticed movement off in the trees, approximately 140 yards in the distance. We watched, anxiously, in order to get a glimpse of what was causing a stir. Slowing stepping in to view we could see that it was a Warthog. Allan continued to watch for a moment. He was able to assess that the Warthog was a sizable male with large ivory tusks. I prepared for the shot waiting for him to turn broadside, located him in the scope, as the crosshairs covered his shoulder. I squeezed the trigger; he whirled around on impact and headed for cover. We could tell that I had made a good shot, even though it managed to run into the thick trees. Allan wanted to be safe and insure that we found the Warthog; therefore, he chose to use the tracking dogs to assist in locating him. Once the dogs found him they began barking which made it known exactly where the Warthog was and allowed us to walk straight to it. We worked our way down the hill to the Warthog and when I first saw him I was delighted to see just how long and sharp the tusks were. These sturdy hogs are not the most aesthetically pleasing animals, with large, flat heads are covered with "warts," which are actually protective bumps. You cannot imagine how good it felt to finally have one of the most ferocious looking African animals. After loading up the Warthog, ‘High Fives’ we exchanged and we continued to hunt. We were on the hunt, for either a Cape Kudu or a Bushbuck. This proved to be one of the best Father’s day outings that I had shared with my dad.
Our last hunting day in the Eastern Cape, we were still on the lookout for a Cape Kudu. As we proceeded searching the mountainside for Kudu, we noticed a Congress of Baboons, in the distance across the ridge. Allan identified one of the male Baboons as the largest Baboon in the troop. We checked the distance in the range finder and determined that it was about 430 yards away. Our PH did not want to take a chance on losing him so he confirmed that I was comfortable with the distance and confident in my ability to take such a long shot. I told him that I was convinced that I could make the shot. I decided to use Allan’s .300 Win Mag because I felt like it was the right weapon to shoot this giant Baboon. Based off of the coaching that I received from Allan, I setup to make the longest shot of my hunting career. Using a bipod to support the rifle, I adjusted the height of the shot to account for the distance Then, I lay prone and found the Baboon in scope. Making sure I was steady, I squeezed the trigger, steadily controlling my breathing, and calmly listened for impact. From that distance, we could hear the other Baboons barking. These animals, by nature, are loud, dangerous, and viciously aggressive. Understanding this, we used extreme caution when setting out to retrieve the animal. We walked the long distance and my excitement grew with every step. When we reached the trees where the baboon was last sighted, we decided to send the dogs ahead, into the trees to track him down. Once we had finally reached the Baboon, we took a moment to look him over. Allan told me that on top of making such an impressive shot, that he had never seen a Baboon this size and it was something to be very proud of. We rounded up the harvest, the dogs, the trackers, and made our way back to the truck. From the mountainside, we watched the last sunset of our Safari. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Eastern Cape and cannot wait for the next opportunity to return to hunt with Allan Schenk Safaris. I would like to continue my hunt for Cape Kudu and Bushbuck. Allan would definitely be the man for the job.
We wanted to personally thank Allan for his time and attention to detail and for making this a great experience, the trackers for their hard work and dedication to making our Safari successful, and Richard and his crew from ITZ media for their efforts in capturing lasting memories from the Eastern Cape. We arrived as friends, but left as family. For our next leg of the journey we head to the Kalahari!