After having spent the first three days of their hunt on the coast, the Arnette family embarked on the journey north to the Great Karoo. A planned hunt along the way came as a welcome break for all. It gave us a few hours to stretch our legs, while the hunters took full advantage of some excellent Black Springbuck hunting.
That afternoon we continued onto our Northern camp. The family settled into their rooms before meeting for dinner in the boma. An early night was in order; the following day would prove to be a big day for both Hunter and Shelly. Neither had experienced this age old hunting ground – they would be in for a treat.
The area boasted a high concentration of Hartebeest, scattered between family herds, bachelor groups and lone bulls. At mid morning the hunters found the kind of bull they were after. He was part of a bachelor herd consisting of 13 bulls. At first sight the bulls took off at a trot and dissappeared into an adjacent valley. We immediately set off after them.
Having reached the summit the Hartebeest had crossed, we started glassing the valley below us. At first we spotted nothing, so we continued in the general direction the herd had headed in. Suddenly two bulls appeared on our right flank, a quick glassing confirmed that both bulls were of exceptional quality. Hunter jumped at the opportunity – settled himself onto the sticks and waited for the “all clear”.
On the other side of the concession Greg and Shelly were having one heck of a day too. Having started off in search of Gemsbuck , the hunters soon spotted a great Impala feeding along a dried up river bed.
Eric in the meantime wasn’t planning on steering clear of the action either. Having witnessed Hunter’s inspiring hunt, he too set his sights on a Cape Hartebeest. It wasn’t long and a second group of Hartebeest was spotted. Carl and Eric set off on foot, while Hunter together with our tracker, Zwayi, headed off to the skinning shed with Hunter’s bull.
After opting to cover the distance between themselves and the Hartebeest in a hidden valley the hunters soon found the herd had actually moved up closer to their original starting position. A recovery in tactic soon gave Eric his opportunity and he squeezed off his 300 Weatherby. By all accounts the shot looked good, Eric’s bull started lagging behind as the herd disappeared over the edge to descend into the valley below us.
A follow up ensued, but after 5 hours and night fall upon us, a hungry and dejected team headed back to camp. The shot looked good and Eric indicated he felt solid, yet no blood was found. It was only right at sunset that one of our trackers found fresh blood. We’d be back the following morning.
As “Murphy” would have it, the heavens opened up that evening and drained away any hope we still had within us. Never the less we headed out at sunrise the following morning.
By that stage all involved were on cloud nine. Both Hunter and Shelly had enjoyed massive success the day before, and now Eric’s wounded bull was in the salt.
At midday we headed to our good friend, Niel Schoombee, for an afternoon like no other.
While it was cold it proved to be bearable, even with the occasional snowfall during the course of the afternoon. With over twenty years experience in the Springbuck world, Niel treated us to the best five hours we’ve shared to date. Hunting 3 Kalahari Springbuck of 15+” in the same afternoon doesn’t happen often, and most certainly won’t be topped anytime soon.
The following morning we said our farewells to the Great Karoo. We had been spoilt like so many before and walked away with more memories than we had hoped for. The final leg of our safari lay ahead and there was still so much to look forward to.
Arriving back south saw both hunting parties hard at it. Shelly and Greg were more determined than ever in finding an elusive Kudu bull, while Eric and family had a few more wishes of their own.
We set off towards to coast, where the cold of winter was not as harsh and the remaining green would still be intact. It was there that we hoped to spot our prized trophy.
During the course of the day activity proved to be slower than usual, the game was around, but the growing full moon was affecting their regular feeding habits. During the early afternoon we finally spotted a great Nyala bull resting in the shade of a Jacket Plum tree.
Kristie, Eric, and Carl set off immediately, leaving Hunter and Kasey with Zwayi, keeping a beady eye on our bull from a vantage position. The hunters crisscrossed a path down the valley, emerging +- 200 yards from where the bull had last been spotted. In the time that it took us to reach our predetermined position the bull had left his shady hide out and had started feeding for the afternoon.
We soon spotted our bull again, together with 3-4 females and 2 other bulls. We decided to setup and wait him out. The Nyala were feeding in and out of a heavily wooded area, sooner or later our bull would emerge, giving Kristie a shooting lane, and us the opportunity we were after.
Greg and Shelly were fairing pretty well themselves too. The weather had made a change for the good and Kudu could be seen in every sunny pocket scattered throughout the bush. Sooner or later an old bull would have to show itself.
At 10.00am they spotted a bull feeding in the distance. It was too far to tell if it was a shooter or not, a closer inspection was required. Approaching the clearing with caution, afraid to bump anything else that might be feeding in the vicinity, they edged forward.
With time running out, and day eight upon us, we set off on a mission in search of Hunter’s elusive Warthog. We had seen a number of boars up until that point, but something else always seemed to crop up.
One of Eric’s priorities on this trip was a Waterbuck. We had looked over a number of good bulls and passed over forty during the course of our safari. One particular bull had everything we’d hope for and more, but one thing led to another and we never got a shot.
On that second last day, with Eric’s entire family content and elated with what they’d achieved, we set off to a quiet hidden valley. The kind of place where you’d imagine the old Kudu bulls living out their final days, while weary Bushbuck snuck along the shadows and thrived in the dense undergrowth.
Carl had spotted a few lone Waterbuck bulls in the area during the course of the season, but had never seen more than a glimpsing body disappearing into the shadows. It was a shot in the dark, a long one at it, a gamble with time running out.
Approaching the valley with caution, heading along its east slope we spotted our bull. He was a long way off, a difficult shot, but one we were willing to risk. Eric took his time and sent his round on its way.
The bull lunged forward as the 300 Weatherby spent its full force on its chest, he turned and disappeared into cover. We immediately let the dogs go, we were sure the bull was hit well and would be lying dead within a 100 yards of the shot. At first Bongo took off at a wild pace with Foxy in close pursuit, within minutes they were back without the familiar commotion of a downed animal. At that point we all slowed down and returned to the bulls’ original location.
Zwayi picked up the tracks while Eric and Carl scanned the vegetation ahead for any sign of movement. Tracking was easy until the bull hit a few grassy patches where we started losing our track, things were becoming increasingly complicated.
We were about to resolve to walking blindly in the hope of finding a downed Waterbuck when Zwayi whistled us over. He’d spotted the bull. Eric hit him again. The bull took off, this time the dogs spotted him. Foxy took the lead with Bongo not far behind. Eric, Hunter, Zwayi, and Carl, all took off too. Within minutes the dogs had him bayed, a final finishing shot downed the bull, in so doing bringing an exciting hunt to an end.
Our final day saw us rise to an important occasion in the Arnette’s safari. Right from the start Eric and Kristie wanted to be a part of the John X Safaris Humanitarian Initiative. To date they have been the lead donors and supporters of this initative – we thank them and commend them for leading the way and giving hope where there was once none.
That final afternoon we headed back to camp, rewarded and enriched in our experiences.
To Eric, Kristie, Shelley, Candace, Hunter, and Kasey – It was a privilege having you; we hope you enjoyed your safari as much as we enjoyed being a part of your great adventure.
Until next time – the camp fires will be lit and ready to welcome you back again.
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