Our First Africa Trip
2017 - Ron and Michelle Carter
By Ron Carter
2017 started out with my wife Michelle and me talking about taking an African Safari. I have always wanted to go on Safari and Michelle is usually willing to follow my lead. We decided to see what was offered at the Annual SCI NW Banquet. There were some good choices but we had some questions. Where do we go on our first trip? How long should we plan to stay? How many Trophy's should we plan for and which ones? Should we go with someone that's been before? With that start to the list we decided to wait for
next year and get more info. Michelle actually said she didn’t want to hunt but would go along. I knew that would change as the planning progressed.
I had been thinking what fun it would be to win a contest to get to go on a hunt with Some Hunting Show host like Jim Shockey or Michael Waddell. Well imagine my surprise when in March J Alain Smith put an invite on his Rugged Expeditions newsletter and You Tube to for a hunt in South Africa with Comre Safaris. Ok I didn’t win a contest but heck I’m going to Africa hunting with J Alain Smith in Camp. As a self-guided only Archery hunter, I was a bit apprehensive about the cost and not being in control of my own destiny. Michelle brought me back to reality and said why worry about those details just go with an expert, you like Alain and enjoy his shows just start planning. So, I gave Nancy at Comre Safaris a call to get some details. After several phone calls and emails we decided to take the week trip at the Bonwa Phala Game Lodge in the Limpopo region for an Archery hunt the first week of June with the Rugged X Crew. They did offer a Rifle hunt also the week preceding but because we are newbie’s to Safari and world travel we thought one week would be plenty and didn’t realize the trip was intended to be 2 weeks. Plus, we needed to come up with a budget fast. In Hindsight Boy were we wrong next time 2 weeks minimum. We decided to fly Virgin Atlantic the route vacated by Delta, Seattle - London - Johannesburg they had the shortest layovers 9 hrs on the way over and 5hrs on the way back and the best price. We had a good flight over but no rest on those flights and layovers. We arrived a day early and stayed at the Afton House in Jo'burg ('ha ha' me trying to sound like a seasoned traveler) this was our first trip out of the USA.
We were met at the airport by the Afton House driver with the little Welcome the Carters sign, Michelle liked that touch. I was pleasantly surprised by all the attentive service in South Africa; other people are always carrying your stuff. Johannesburg is a very modern looking busy city but it’s still a city and I wanted to see the Veldt. At the Afton Guest House we met several other groups of Hunters. I think that's where we caught our colds; I really enjoyed all the stories from returning hunters especially the ones from first timers like us. I was getting more excited to get started. We arranged a quick trip to the Apartheid museum and tour of Soweto from a local travel guide service which turned out to be a bad decision we were too tired to enjoy it (And I could have saved that money for another Trophy). I nearly fell asleep in the museum standing up reading an exhibit. Back at the Afton House we had a quick dinner and then 8hrs of rest I hoped, before our ride out to the Game lodge. Morning came too quickly. I didn't sleep great, excited as a little kid to get going. A quick breakfast and then settle the bill. Then I heard a voice I recognized from You Tube in the foyer. It was Rudolph Stephan the Comre Safaris PH I hoped we would be using. He is just as fun in person as seen on TV. Rudy and the trackers got our gear loaded in the Safari truck then we started our 2 hr + drive to the lodge. Conversation with Rudy on the way was very informative and fun I knew then we had made the right decision. Once at the Lodge Rudy said get settled and get your gear together so we could start hunting that afternoon. After settling in and taking a few practice shots to check our gear we were off for the first evening in the Blind. We got to see several Kudu Bulls and one very large bodied Blue wildebeest with very average horns but no Trophy quality animals.
This morning we went to a different Blind where we saw some smaller Kudu Bulls, a few Juvenile Sable and a couple of Wildebeest. The Wildebeest didn’t offer much of a shot for Michelle who like me was in spectator mode instead of getting ready and shooting mode. I wondered if everyone does this on the first day of their first Safari. On the way back to the Lodge after the morning hunt I spotted a Steenbok it was on my list but Rudy had been skeptical of my getting a shot at one with a Bow. This one however stood around a second too long. Michelle said its 35 yds. I let the arrow fly and connected with my first Trophy in Africa. The funny thing is I just thought how cool it was to get one of the Tiny Ten. Rudy was very excited slapping me on the back and saying “You got a Monster!” I was just happy to get one. Turns out it was very a nice one. 5.5 On one side and 5.75 on the other.
The Evening hunt was very uneventful until just before dark when a
herd of Kudu bulls came in and began milling about the water and the salt. We were franticly looking at them all to find a suitable Trophy. I of course not knowing how to judge them would have shot any one of them. But Rudy made me wait until he had surveyed the whole group and decided on the best one. Seemed like half an hour but it was probably 2 min. When we decided which one I was going to take. I drew
aimed and let the arrow fly. The Kudu jumped in the air from the impact and sprinted away. I knew I had made a good shot which Rudy confirmed with his usual happy “Good, Good, Very Good”. I wish I could insert audio here Rudy’s Africans accent makes all the difference. It was a well-placed carbon fiber missile a complete pass thru and he didn’t go far. They really know how to setup for a proper photo but I felt a little out of place being directed to stand here pose there. That’s usually my job. Kudu on the Braai this week.
The morning began with a Nice Eland coming in. Which for some reason I didn’t want to shoot. More hindsight, if it’s a nice Trophy shoot it! Figure the money out later you already paid the plane fare LOL.
A Big Cape Buffalo came in and took over the place for most of the Morning. It’s amazing how agile and fast they are. I really want to spot and stalk one with my Bow someday. After lunch we came back to the same blind. After a while a herd of Giraffe came in and scattered the obnoxious Juvenile Sable that kept hanging around. No more action today after my uncontrolled sneeze scared everything away within earshot. I think in 2 days I used a whole box of the Lodges Kleenex in the blind alone. Did some spot and stalk on Red Hartebeest but I was in looking mode not shooting mode and missed an opportunity. Made some more attempts on Impala but no luck they are much harder than we thought with a Bow. Saw a nice Warthog and was making a stalk
when some Giraffes stepped out from behind the tree I was using for cover and spooked them away. I was quite surprised I didn’t notice them from the start. They are much larger when you’re standing 20 yds from them in the open.
A Big Cape Buffalo came in and took over the place for most of the Morning. It’s amazing how agile and fast they are. I really want to spot and stalk one with my Bow someday. After lunch we came back to the same blind. After a while a herd of Giraffe came in and scattered the obnoxious Juvenile Sable that kept hanging around. No more action today after my uncontrolled sneeze scared everything away within earshot. I think in 2 days I used a whole box of the Lodges Kleenex in the blind alone. Did some spot and stalk on Red Hartebeest but I was in looking mode not shooting mode and missed an opportunity. Made some more attempts on Impala but no luck they are much harder than we thought with a Bow. Saw a nice Warthog and was making a stalk when some Giraffes stepped out from behind the tree I was using for cover and spooked them away. I was quite surprised I didn’t notice them from the start. They are much larger when you’re standing 20 yds from them in the open.
Back to the original blind after a quick English breakfast. Not long after getting settled in some Wildebeest started coming in with a couple of nice bulls Rudy quickly surveyed the group and suggested a couple for Michelle to shoot. They were milling about and none standing still long enough for a good shot when some Juvenile Sable came in and interrupted their feeding making it even harder to get a proper shot. Michelle had her eye on the one she wanted so she waited for a nice broadside shot. She made a great shot. All the wildebeest took off after the one she shot on a dead run. It was fun getting to watch her and not being the guide. She was worried about the shot and second guessing herself. Rudy told her it was a perfect shot and said don’t get stressed they will run along way even with a well-placed shot. The trackers showed up and it was amazing to see them find the tracks of the one she shot amongst all the other indistinguishable ones I was looking at. After a
couple hundred yards I was getting worried but Rudy motioned for us to come forward and Michelle was really pumped about getting her first African Trophy. It’s hard to tell from the picture how excited she was.
On the way back to the lodge we spotted a Red Hartebeest we had seen the day before but it was too far off and skittish to get close to. This time we got within 60 yards and I let another carbon missile fly and connected with another complete pass thru. It didn’t go far and I had my 3rd Trophy of the trip and 2 in one morning, we haven’t done that before.
For the evening hunt it was spot and stalk some more, but couldn’t get close to anything we did saw allot of Impala and a few Zebra and a Grey Duiker too small to shoot.
Today it was drive around spot and stalk day Michelle finally got a shot at an Impala but got bushes instead. Got to see some Black wildebeest this trip and now of course I want one they are so strange. Made a stalk on a Blesbok but no chance for a shot. Lots of other game today Nyala gave us the slip on several stalks. Missed a Blesbok on the evening hunt at 80yds. I think that’s the average shot presented to us on this hunt.
Rudy had to go to another Concession to prepare for another hunt so today we were hunting with PH Dani what a great guy. Started the morning in a Blind but no action all morning just birds and Monkeys nothing to shoot at except with the camera. For the afternoon we drove around for some spot and stalk action made a Stalk on some Black wildebeest I’m sure they knew I had my bow and stayed just out of range. Tried a stalk on some Blesbok but got busted at 80yds.
Last morning need to get something before 2 pm our departure time to Jo-berg. Started out sitting in a high blind. Nothing came in front of the blind but we heard some Baboon, Ostrich and Bellowing Impala behind us. At ten we headed back to the lodge. Alain asked me if I wanted to give his Rifle a try for some more game and I have a policy. If someone who knows what they’re doing offers his weapon take it and shoot something. After a short drive again we spotted some Waterbuck and I stalked to within 45 yds but hesitated on my draw and off they went. They are much bigger that I imagined. Still on the future list. Saw another warthog made a great Stalk but it disappeared into a den and that was over. On the drive back to the lodge we spotted another Warthog and I decided to give Alain rifle a try and took this one at 200yds.
It was a fun adventure and have another Hunt booked for 2019.