gemsbok

By Gary Schiesz

In my mind, no other animal quite signifies Africa as fully as the gemsbok.  Their beauty, incredible markings and elongated dagger like horns spell AFRICA in capitol letters.  Therefore, this majestic antelope held the number one position on my first South African safari wish list. The remainder of the roll read, number two…blesbok, number three…kudu, number four…impala, number five…warthog and number six…blue wildebeest.  If I could be so lucky!

After months of research, pouring over anything that could be found pertaining to hunting South African plains game with bow and arrow, I very confidently chose a safari company.  Dries Visser Safaris, booked through Stick and String Outfitters of Pine Colorado, would host my nine day adventure.

Dries Visser Safaris has specialized in bow hunting for the last 12 years, in which time it has risen to be one of the top safari companies in all of South Africa. Citadel, the main hunting area encompasses 20,000 acres and is exclusively reserved for bow hunting.  With a variety of game that includes at least 27 different species, it looked to be a bow hunter’s paradise. The key strategy would be to hunt water holes from carefully placed permanent blinds, with the average shot being 15-20 yards. It sounded perfect.

It was October 2005 and with our booking for the middle of July 2006, we had nine months to ready ourselves and our gear.  By we, I mean that my son in law Al would be taking the trip also.  Al is a professional videographer and to have my safari on video would be priceless.   

I’m going to skip right over the travel from Seattle to the Visser ranch, except to say “it was looooonnnnnggggg”, and get right to day one in the blind.

Matt Burrows of Stick and String Outfitters and I would be sharing a Professional Hunter (PH) during the hunt, so on the first morning Al and I would be dropped off at a blind by ourselves.  Hein Lottering, the PH would sit with Matt in the A.M. and pick us up between two and three in the afternoon to switch blinds.

That morning we had a virtual parade of game come to water, animals we’d only seen in magazines, books and of course, on the internet.  Waterbuck, including two bulls in the 27 to 28 inch class, spent nearly three hours within bow range.  Several red hartebeest, both bulls and cows came to water.  A group of five impala ewes drank for several minutes before drifting back into the bush.  One lonely warthog came in to quench his thirst and everywhere we looked there were little gray Vervet monkeys.  Although on my list, Mr. Warthog had some growing up to do as his tusks would measure only about five or six inches in length.  No other animal on my wish list made an appearance and no shots were taken except with the cameras.

Just before 3:00 Hein called to say he was on his way in and I gave him the OK.  Al and I both heard the truck coming but only after several waterbuck rapidly vacated the waterhole leaving a heavy cloud of dust in their wake.

We were going to move to a different blind for the evening hunt and am I glad we did.  Nothing in the bushveld moved for the first hour as we sat, patiently waiting.  Only whispers were used by Hein to let both Al and I know there were two small warthogs approaching.  They came, watered and were gone as quickly and as silently as they had appeared.  Minutes later, Al looked over at his camera viewfinder and said “there’s a big animal coming” and just like that a beautiful kudu bull had stepped from the heavy cover and was standing a mere 14 yards away looking straight at the blind.  Take him right on the first white stripe mid body was all Hein had to say, but he did add “he’s a really good bull.”

The three of us must have telepathically willed the bull to turn broadside and when he did my arrow hit its mark.  Anxiously, we viewed the video and the shot looked good.  About ten minutes after the shot Hein spotted the bull still on its feet but looking very sick. It would be dark soon as the big orange African sun was falling fast and rather than taking to the trail right away Hein thought it best to let the huge bull be, go back to camp, eat dinner and come back in a couple hours.  We would return with extra help in the form of Jock the wonder Jack Russell tracking dog and a couple of the Visser staff professional trackers.

After a wonderful meal of kudu this and kudu that with kudu dessert we were back out looking for kudu.  My bull had gone down within 300 yards of the blind and took only minutes to locate.  Nothing could have prepared me for this experience.  Walking up to this regal animal brought tears to my eyes.  I could not believe what a truly magnificent first African trophy I had taken.  With fabulous, long, wide spreading horns, ivory tips and a below the neck mane that is 10 to 12 inches in length, it will occupy center stage on the Africa wall in my trophy room.  And, it’s all on film. 

 

Go to Dries Visser Safari Hunts

 

 


 

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