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by Bill Aurand a.k.a. billa Last updated: 2015-02-22 14:13:54
As I packed my gear into my Toyota Land Cruiser for the drive to the Harrisburg, PA airport I could hardly believe that the day I had been dreaming about for over 30 years had finally arrived. I was heading for Africa!
(May 29, 2014)
Upon arrival at the airport, my check in went smoothly. The TSA gentleman that checked my guns in was quite polite and friendly. My connecting flight was through Dulles where I had about a 5 hour layover before the 18 hour flight to Johannesburg. During the layover in Dulles, I was about as patient as a little boy on Christmas Eve that has already seen the pile of gifts under the tree! I walked the terminal for a couple of miles with my full pack and camera bag to burn off some impatient energy plus I passed some time by writing in my journal and reading a few chapters of a Peter Hathaway Capstick book that I had with me. Finally, the boarding call came and we were off.
Many people complain about the long, overseas trip in coach but trips like this really are a frame of mind. I was already in hunt mode when I boarded and I considered the plane ride part of the hunt. When I got restless I reminded myself of the many sunrise to sunset waits I have spent motionless in the cold rain or snow while on a whitetail stand. I passed the time on the plane by reading, sleeping, reviewing every scrap of information and email that my outfitter (Ed Rymut at EAI Outdoors) had sent me along with watching a few African animal documentaries on the plane’s movie system. One other important tidbit that helped me get through the trip unscathed was the advice from my wife to wear knee high compression socks and to get up and move around or stand as much as possible.
(May 30, 2014)
Upon arrival in Johannesburg I worked my way through the customs line and picked up my gear bag. I was met in the main terminal by my representative from riflepermits.com. I contracted with riflepermits.com to pre-register my handguns with the Johannesburg police so that my South Africa gun permits would be ready for me upon arrival. He took me right inside the police station where he picked up my Doskocil travel case from amongst 20 or so rifle cases and sat it on an empty table. He had me unlock it and open it up. One of the policemen on duty checked the serial numbers on my guns and finalized my permits. Just like that we were done and out the door! The hunters that did not pre-register were still in the lobby filling out their 12 page permit forms. It was well worth the $100 fee to avoid delays or possible “complications” in getting my guns. My case uses padlocks and I used the combination locks with thumb wheels instead of worrying about keeping track of a key.
I stayed at the Safari Club Lodge in Johannesburg overnight and caught my 2 hour flight to East London the next morning. The lodge meets you at the terminal and runs a shuttle to and from the airport. They specialize in layovers for hunters.
(May 31, 2014)
At the East London airport I was met at the terminal by my Professional Hunter (PH). After a brief greeting and introduction, Themba and I went down the hall to the police facility to collect my gun case. The ride to the Glen Boyd ranch was typically 2 hours but Themba did it in about 1 hour 40 minutes in his Toyota pickup. I am sure that Themba and the other PHs’ could do quite nicely driving the NASCAR circuit. These guys all love to hunt and they do not believe in wasting time on the road! We arrived at Glen Boyd’s lakeside tent camp around 2:00 PM. The safari camp is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by very rugged but very lush mountains that go on for miles. I asked Themba where we can hunt and he said “everything you can see and beyond”. Glen Boyd was originally a traditional, old world style plantation dating back to 1858. Much of the land at Glen Boyd is very lush and green due to the abundance of spring fed streams coming from the mountains. There is a well-developed canal and irrigation system on the property. This abundance of water and the associated greenery makes for a real haven to support the local wildlife populations. At the camp’s dining hall we were greeted by the camp staff with a lunch of Warthog sausage, grilled onions and a garden salad.
After lunch I quickly drop my gear at my tent and we head off to the shooting range to confirm the zero on my guns after the long flight.
My primary weapon for the safari is my vintage, TC Contender “hand cannon” with a 14” SSK 358JDJ barrel (circa 1981) topped with a Bushnell Elite 3200, 2x–6x scope on a 3 ring, SSK T’SOB mount. My ammo is loaded with 46.5 grains of H4895 topped with a 250 grain Hornady Interlock spire point bullet. I carry my Contender on an X long Uncle Mike's nylon sling. This has been my go to hunting gun for many tough hunts over the years and the dream of a trip to Africa was one of the reasons that I bought the 358JDJ so many years ago. My second gun is a Ruger Redhawk in 44 Magnum topped with a 4x B&L scope in QD mounts so that I can also use iron sights if the opportunity arises.
The shooting range at Glen Boyd consisted of a concrete block bench and a 6 inch steel plate swinger at 100M. I felt a little pressure to make the shot as Themba and my tracker, Bhuti looked on. Using my pack for a rest I center punched the steel with 2 straight shots. I take a 3rd shot from Themba’s wooden shooting sticks and also connect with a solid hit. Themba says “looks good, let’s take a ride.” We climb into the truck and head for the mountains. My safari begins.
The plan was to scout for Kudu bulls and to get a feel for the lay of the land for the next days hunt. Some hunters spend all week pursuing a good Kudu bull so most of the Kubusi Professional Hunters like to go after them early in the safari. Themba did have some reservations about me getting a shot at a good Bull as my preferred shooting distance was 100 yards or less. The longest shot I said I would take, if the conditions were right, was 200 yards. Many of the Kudu taken at Glen Boyd are killed with rifles at 200 to 300 yards or more.
Within the next hour, we see several far off herds of Impala and Springbok. When we get to the mountains we start glassing the far off slopes for Kudu. In 2 hours time we see dozens of Kudu including 5 bulls, 2 of which are shooters. The biggest one is a real giant but he is in open country with 5 or 6 cows and we cannot get to within 800 yards without being seen. We watch him for a while but he moves off into the bush. We drive to the top of the next mountain and park the truck. We walk over the summit to the next valley. There we spotted a nice bull with 3 cows and a smaller bull down in the valley about 500 yards away. Themba determines that we should stalk the big bull to see how close we can get. We circle around to get the wind in our favor and slowly begin the stalk. There is a lot of open ground between us and the Kudu so we carefully pick our way from bush to bush. We closed the distance to about 300 yards and were paused behind a bush glassing the group to confirm the size of the Kudu bull. The sun was getting low and time was growing short. We were about to make a move on the Kudu when a group of Impala came out of the bush and ended up between us and the Kudu. Just like that our stalk was stalled. If we spooked the Impala the Kudu would also be gone. The lead Impala was a big ram, so we decided to forget about the Kudu and shift our attention to the group of Impala. As the last ribbon of the setting sun dissolved behind the mountains, I settled into the sticks for a 70 yard shot. I found the Impala ram’s shoulder in the scope and squeezed the trigger. Instantly the big ram collapsed without a twitch at the impact of the 250 grain Hornady Interlock SP bullet. The shot was a high broadside shoulder shot with a thumb sized exit wound similar to the results I have seen on many Whitetails back in the USA. Truly a textbook kill. Wow, I am on safari less than 3 hours and I already have my first African trophy on the ground! The hunt isn’t even scheduled to start until tomorrow morning and my gear isn’t even unpacked yet! Themba congratulates me on the good shot and is happy to have a nice trophy in the truck. When planning the safari a good Impala was #2 on my want list just behind a Kudu bull. The ram will make a great mount for my den wall. Back at the tent camp we are treated to a great dinner of Impala stew over seasoned rice from a ram that was taken the day before. The meat is very tasty and is melt in your mouth tender. I was the only hunter in the lakeside tent camp as the other hunters on the ranch were staying in the cabins near the ranch headquarters a good ½ mile away. After dinner (and to my surprise) the kitchen staff and Themba wished me good night and headed off to their quarters at the main camp. There I was, all alone in the African bush on my first night of safari (in a canvas tent!) Let me tell you, when all of the lights were out it was really dark! The stars were amazing - as were the many animal noises coming from the bush just behind my tent! My BFFs around the camp for the evening were my fully loaded Redhawk 44 and my Mag-lite XL50. Needless to say, I did not wander far from the campfire. But it was an awesome experience.
(June 1, 2014)
Themba meets me at 6:00 AM for a quick breakfast and we head to the mountains in search of Kudu. He is very efficient at traveling the ranch’s dirt roads to get us back to the Kudu hills at sunrise for the first full day of the hunt. We drive to a spot where several valleys come together like fingers on a giant hand. We glass the mountaintops for a mile in all directions and it isn’t very long until we start spotting small groups of Kudu in the distance. Before long we had 3 bulls identified and Themba determined that the one mature bull had nicely spiraled, thick horns and was in a location where we could possibly get close enough for a shot. We carefully plan out our stalk considering the wind and the available cover that will allow us to approach the group of animals without spooking them. For the next 45 minutes we slowly walked and crawled across the mountaintop until we reached a point where we were directly across the valley from the big Bull and his cows. The 3 cows were out in the open eating but the bull was under a group of larger trees where I could not see him. My Bushnell rangefinder reads 325 yards to the closest cow so the hidden bull was probably at 350 yards. Still too far for me with my Contender. At this point we were directly across a valley with nothing but air between us and the Kudu. We decided to go on our hands and knees into and under the bushes to slowly work our way down the slope of the valley to cut the distance. There was no wind at the moment and it was so quiet that we could hear the Kudu pulling and chewing the tree leaves. Hopefully, they would not hear us as we made our way through the thick, thorny bush. It took nearly 15 minutes to go just a 100 yards or so through the bushes to a small group of larger trees where we stopped and set up. Did I mention that virtually all of the plant life has some sort of thorn on it that is capable of drawing blood - which they did from my forearms and shins? In the meantime, the cows had worked down the far slope a bit but were still above us. The one cow kept looking directly at us as we assume she heard us but did not know what we were. This was as far as we could go without spooking the cows and blowing the stalk. The closest cow was right around 200 yards and hopefully would continue to descend the slope as the day went on. I still could not get a good look at the bull as he was in the trees at about 235 yards. Every so often I would see a leg or his face but that’s it. I set up an improvised shooting rest that consisted of laying the bamboo shooting tripod across a thick branch on one of the bushes where I could get a good hold from the sitting position. We sat there for almost an hour as the Kudu cows slowly worked their way down the slope. The wait time was good for me as it allowed me to settle down and collect my emotions and really prepare for what might be a long, difficult shot. Finally the bull stepped out from under the trees and I could get a good look at his horns through my Leupold 10x42 binoculars. They were perfectly shaped and looked thick and heavy. Just the way I had imagined. He certainly looked like a great trophy. The distance to the bull was still about 225 yards but the cows were now at 180 yards. Within the next 10 minutes or so the bull began to work his way down the slope to a tree at 190 yards where he began eating again. Boy did he look huge across the open valley! The cows were still looking our way and seemed to be getting a bit nervous. It was show time! I did my best to stay calm and really dig in to the branch while sitting with my elbows on my knees. The bull was full broadside facing left with just a very light crossing breeze blowing from left to right. I knew at that distance my bullet would be about 5 to 6 inches low so I did my best to hold center on the upper 1/3 of the shoulder. I kept telling myself that “it’s a big shoulder – you can do it.” The sight picture looked perfect through the 6x scope as the trigger broke clean. As if in slow motion I could clearly see the big Bull’s knees buckle at the shot and hear the distinctive “whack” as the 250 grain Hornady Interlock bullet found its mark. The Bull did a 180 degree turn and headed out the mountainside. I reached to my wristband for another round but before I could reload, the bull crashed to the ground. Themba said excitedly, “he’s down, he’s down!” I believe that he was as excited as I was that I had made the shot! My 30 year dream to bag a Kudu with a handgun has finally been fulfilled. What an emotional thrill it was to make that challenging, long shot after such a wait. That’s exactly what I came to Africa for. I could not have scripted it better even if I had written the story before the hunt!
As we headed across the valley to the downed Kudu, Themba really opened up and began to talk. He probably said more during that 15 minute walk than he did in the 5 or 6 hours that we were together the day before. I could tell by the smile on his face that we did well. He told me that getting close enough for a handgun shot on a nice Kudu was his biggest concern of the safari and he was delighted and very relieved that we had a nice one down on the first full day of the hunt. Themba complimented me on how well I knew my gun and ballistics and on how I patiently waited for the shot.
It was such a great feeling to see the bull up close and actually hold the horns in my hands. What a magnificent, beautiful animal. Now I really felt like a little boy on Christmas morning!
The 250 grain Interlock bullet performed perfectly with a very impressive wound channel. The bullet entered square on the left shoulder about 1/3rd of the way up, breaking the shoulder. It passed through both lungs, damaged several major arteries and exited behind the shoulder on the off side leaving a thumb sized exit hole. What impressed me the most about the 358JDJ performance on the big Kudu was the fact that two of the other hunters in camp took Kudu with similar shots from a 300 Win Mag and they both found their 180 grain bullets on the off side of their bulls just under the hide. Full penetration with an expanding bullet on an animal this size is no small task.
That evening we dined on fresh roasted, Kudu loin and it was without a doubt the most enjoyable meal that I have ever eaten. What a feast!
Oh and one more thing… There are six more days to hunt and I still have several animals on my trophy list.
Yeah, this is indeed Africa!
This is part 1 of my South African safari adventure. Watch for part 2 in the near future.
Important information and links
My personal gear consisted of the following:
Firearm: TC Contender in SSK 358JDJ - carried on a Uncle Mike's nylon sling, Pachmayer Gripper grips and forend.
Scope : Bushnell Elite 3200, 2x–6x scope on a 3 ring, SSK T’SOB mount.
Ammo: 46.5 grains of H4895 topped with a 250 grain Hornady Interlock spire point bullet, CCI 250 primer. This load chronos at 2000fps. I produce my own, custom fit ammo bands from commercial grade black elastic. I always wear it on my gun hand to make for a quick reload.
Firearm: For a 2nd gun I took my 44 Magnun Redhawk loaded with 300gr Hornady XTPs over 21.5gr H110 – 1250fps muzzle velocity. Removable scope mount with a 4x B & L scope. I carried the Redhawk iron sighted in a Bianchi 111 belt holster for most of the safari but the situations of the stalks and the open country distances were better suited for the precision of the scoped 358JDJ.
Binoculars: Leupold 10x42 BX2 Acadia. For the price these binoculars are amazing. If you are looking for a pair of binoculars in the under $300 price range I believe these are the best you will find without spending a lot more. FYI – practically every one of the PHs carried either Swarovski or Leica.
Shooting glasses: Radians Eclipse photochromic glasses. I wore these glasses every day to protect my eyes from the wind and the brush. I am a contact lens wearer and the hours of constant wind is tough without a close fitting glasses.The glasses were great for shooting too They are yellow in the shade and they darken to brown in the sunlight. A great pair of glasses.
Rangefinder: an aging Bushnell Yardage pro 400. It served me well on the 190 yard Kudu shot and does everything I need as I had determined ahead of time that I would not shoot beyond 200 yards on a trophy animal.
The US contact and booking agent for Kubusi Safaris is EAI Outdoors www.eaioutdoors.com Ed Rymut owner
If you contact Ed please use me as a reference. We are considering putting together a group handgun safari in 2016 or 2017.
The South African outfitter is James Williamson at Kubusi Safaris - www.kubusisafaris.co.za
Firearms pre-registration at Johannesburg – www.riflepermits.com
SSK Industries - Custom TC barrels, accessories, gunsmithing – www.sskindustries.com
SSK is also the home of HHI - Handgun Hunters International
Cost of the safari: EAI offers package deals or daily rate plus trophy fee hunts. I did a package hunt and added my Wildebeest and 2nd Warthog. I spent about $4600 on the hunt itself and 6 animals. $1700 on air travel/trip insurance and $100 for gun permit preregistration. I probably gave out another $500 in tips to my PH, tracker/skinner and the camp staff but that's totally optional.
Taxidermy: Kubusi has their own taxidermist on site at the Glen Boyd plantation and I decided to have them mount my animals and ship to me completed. The price list is on the EAI website but as an example a Kudu shoulder mount is $700 an Impala is $400. The crating and shipping will likely be $1000+ for the shipment but I am having 4 shoulder mounts, a skull and a rug done.
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