Owner Nick Bowker Hunting. Passionate Hunter and Outdoorsman as well as full-time Rancher. Registered Outfitter and Professional Hunter (guide) for more than 25 years. Specialize in reasonably priced free-range plains game hunting.
Outfitter number HC 53 / 2018 EC Professional Hunter number PH 156 / 2018 EC Member of Safari Club International.
I always dreamt of an African plains game safari. My name is Sol Griffith, and I run Diamond Z Outdoors. We are a small (but growing) organization dedicated to wildlife conservation, promoting fair-chase hunting, preservation, and care of public land, and introducing the sportsman way of life to new hunters.
Growing up, I was an avid reader, and “Green Hills of Africa” by Ernest Hemingway and “African Game Trails” By Theodore Roosevelt was always my first choice. I read both ten times each. I had a deep passion for hunting from an early age, and hunting the Dark Continent has always been a dream.
When are you planning your African Plains Game Safari?
This last fall, I had the opportunity to make that dream a reality finally and booked an African plains game safari with Nick Bowker Hunting in South Africa.
I chose to hunt with Nick because, first and foremost, he runs a low-fence, free-range operation with no captive-bred or planted animals.
African shooting sticks are universal in Africa. This is because most hunting in Africa is from the standing position. This article combines some information on African shootings sticks. As well as a client’s recent experience as a first-time user of African shooting sticks.
We are currently using Rudolph quad sticks for our African shooting sticks. We find the quad sticks give significantly more stability and facilitate far longer shots. The preferred style of Rudolph is the one that has a flat forearm. This allows a little extra opportunity to move the rifle without having to move the sticks completely.
The quad sticks take some getting used to and, in particular, do not lend themselves to solo hunting. But remember, in Africa, your guide will be carrying the African shooting sticks and placing them for you. They can be purchased for $129, and we recommend buying some and practicing a lot with them. Set out below is a quick recap about shooting sticks in Africa
This trip was originally slated for July 2020, and I fitted the hunt in this year even with the uncertainty of traveling with Covid 19 issues.
I am happy to report it was not that difficult to have the RT-PCR test conducted before traveling and before I returned from SA.
More details a little further in this report. I’ll do a continuing report on a day-by-day happening.
I flew British Airways from Cincinnati to Washington, DC on a Saturday, then flew Ethiopian on the next Sunday to Addis Ababa, then on to Johannesburg, SA.
Monday evening was spent at Journeys in Africa, then flew to Port Elizabeth SA on Tuesday morning, where I was met by my PH, Ben, and driven to Olivefountain Ranch, near Bedford SA (about a 2-hour trip).
I got to meet everyone at the ranch, sight the rifle I would be using, and go out looking over a small part of the ranch for a bit.
I had a very nice two-room cottage with a big, comfortable bed and a huge bathroom for accommodations for my visit.
Evenings were spent with everyone over appetizers, then great dinners, drinks, and conversation. I really enjoyed Castle Lite and SA red wines. And no TV for almost 2 weeks was a big plus!
Rob Bowker had arrived the evening before and offered to be the Land Cruiser driver and help with spotting. This was a big plus.
Day 2 was my first full day at Olivefountain, and Impala ended up as the first animal of my eight animal safari (Impala, Kudu, Nyala, Black Wildebeest, Springbuck, Warthog, Blesbuck, and Mountain Reedbuck).
Ben set us off on a stalk along a scrubby hillside for impala. Several rams were visible but not what he wanted to find. I was able to see these animals up pretty close.
We moved to another area with thicker cover, and several more impala were spotted, and a stalk was set up. I followed Ben across a hillside, trying to be quiet. I realized more exercise should have been in my pre-hunt plans.
A young impala ram stepped out between the intended group of older rams and us. He stared at us for at least ten minutes before we could move around him. I thought for sure this would be the end of our stalk.
The group would appear then move behind other acacia trees. We had to keep cutting around trees and still keep an eye on the young ram.
A porcupine popped out in front of us and ran past. Fortunately not giving us away (but great to see one). Finally, we had a window to look over the older rams, and Ben told me which one I should take.
My First African Trophy
The rifle went up on the African shooting sticks. Man, I was nervous and tried to settle down for the shot. I fired, and the ram was hit and ran off in poor shape. I fired a second-round to no effect, and he fled into the brush. Ben assured me he was hard hit and wouldn’t travel far.
Lots of blood to track. Black-Jack, the terrier, and one of the beagles were let loose, and the impala was found quickly.
Thrilled to have my first African game (it was surreal, honestly). After shooting white-tailed deer for nearly all of my big game hunting experiences.
Using African Quad Shooting Sticks
This is probably a good spot to mention what equipment I was able to use on my trip, as I didn’t bring a rifle of my own (I really didn’t want the hassle with it, and the use of an outfitter rifle and ammo as part of the hunting package was pretty appealing).
Nick provided a Sako 85 chambered in 300 Winchester Magnum, with a Swarovski dS 5-25x52P range-finding scope. Handloaded rounds were Hornady 180 grain ELD-X bullets.
A big plus was having a suppressor, which took away the recoil and report; I loved shooting this rifle.
The African shooting sticks were Rudolph quad sticks, which I honestly didn’t like initially.
Still, after some serious and helpful constructive criticism on my shooting stance and shooting techniques by Ben and Rob, it really got me shooting at distances I would not have thought possible.
My average shooting distances on white-tailed deer in Kentucky are well under 100 yards, so this was new territory for me.
It’s probably helpful for your PH to know all this advance, a dumb error on my part.
I brought my Zeiss Victory T-fl 8x32 binos, good for birdwatching here in the US but definitely lacking for looking at the big game at long distance; 10x is much better. I’ll be better prepared next time.
Mountain Reedbuck hunt
Later in the afternoon, we were after Mountain Reedbuck, of which I saw plenty on the ranch. We had several big thunderstorms to work around after locating a ram with several ewes. A stalk was made, but little cover was to be had in a large field; the group leaped to the hooves and ran off but stopped several hundred yards away.
I tried a shot, but it ended up as a poor hit, missed the second shot, and off he ran. Searched until it was too dark to see. I was really disappointed not locating the ram that evening as well as the next morning. Pretty bummed about my shooting. It was tough not to think about. I should have passed on that shot.
After searching the next morning for the reedbuck, later in the 2nd day went searching for a Nyala…this was an animal I truly wanted to hunt (as well as Kudu). We traveled to the top of an escarpment overlooking a big floodplain that had a lot of trees and shrubs, as well as open grassy areas.
We had a baboon sentinel barking at us for quite a while until we moved out of sight on the hillside. Lots of kudu and nyala cows were moving around to view. In a large, dense thicket with some openings, suddenly, a group of four Nyala bulls emerged.
Several cows ran to this group, and some posturing with the bulls started happening, and the biggest bull stepped into the open, and I was told to take him. The first shot struck high in the spine, and when he was down, another shot put into him.
Beautiful animal to take home! I was excited to see and get my Nyala. Very scenic area to be able to hunt. We visited this valley later for another client’s Kudu.
After hunting the Nyala, an opportunity to hunt a property further away came up for Kudu (this was a large cattle and sheep ranch north of Bedford) through an acquaintance of Ben. So we hit the road about 430 am (2-hour drive) near the Winterberg Mountains (I think). Higher altitude for sure. Kyle Brown (property owned by Kenny Brown) accompanied Rob, Ben, and me with several trackers.
We had a bit of fog, so we waited for that to clear before moving off to view down into grassy and tree-covered valleys. Located a young Kudu bull with a cow but not much else, so we moved some distance away to another large grassy plain.
A real stud of a Kudu was seen chasing a cow a long ways off, and a stalk was planned and begun. I’m not sure how far, but when South Africans start walking, they really cover the ground. Made a big loop to come in behind this Kudu. Snuck through a few cattle which ignored us thankfully, and began approaching a thicket where the kudu had been seen earlier.
This was very slow and painstaking at this point. A kudu was in front of us, but it wasn’t the larger bull. We watched for a bit and started moving forward, when suddenly (of course) a young kudu bull that had been resting behind a bush stood up 50 yards in front of us and gave us the stinkeye. We waited, but the stalk was blown, and off he ran, as well as any other kudu nearby.
Afternoon Kudu Hunting and African shooting sticks
After this event, we took a quick lunch break and went off to another section of the ranch where we could walk ravine edges and view the bottoms. Immediately started seeing kudu cows on the far side of the valley and kudu bulls starting chasing them further down to a wooded section. There was Kudu everywhere!
Pretty exciting to see. I watched two bulls start sparring, and they really went at each other. A large bull began walking up the far side (450 yards away), but I was not confident for a good shot on that animal. We eventually moved off the hillside. I got my tutorial of proper use with the quad shooting sticks with the Sako and felt much better, practicing some dry fire shots.
It was pretty warm at that point, and it was not easy walking at all, rocks upon rocks, and my feet were pretty sore. We drove back to where we had seen the big Kudu bull on the grassy plain earlier in the day to scope the surrounding area.
My First Kudu
Ben and Rob had walked away from the truck to look at that area (I was still by the truck) when in the distance, there was a windmilling arm belonging to Ben urging us to meet them 200 yards distant. Trying to cover 200 yards quietly and quickly was not easy!
Sticks were already up, and I threw the rifle on them, and Ben was trying to tell me where the Kudu was and I arrived out of breath. I wasn’t seeing it (because it was much farther away than I realized).
A curse came from Ben, and Rob grabbed me and the African shooting sticks and dragged me several feet left and whispered where the Kudu was after moving farther away….these guys were calling out the distance to shoot.
I laid the crosshairs of the Sako 300 win mag reticle on the Kudu. I hit the rangefinding button on the scope…479 yards…a whisper in my left ear, “if you’re not comfortable, don’t shoot, we’ll find another,” but I don’t know what you call it (Zen?).
Still, that bull was broadside, a soft glow of the setting sun behind it, and something clicked in my head, and I brought the adjusted crosshair up the foreleg, and suddenly the trigger broke clean.
Lost the animal in the scope and heard Rob say, “He’s hit…and down!”.
What a relief
Ben took off running with two trackers to ensure all was good, and the shakes really started.
That was the longest walk of my life, seemingly took forever. Some backslapping and lots of handshakes all around.
Massive and magnificent animal! Many pics were taken, and thank the Lord, the Land Cruiser could be driven up to it.
The ELD-X bullet went through the leg, through the heart, and was just beneath the skin on the offside shoulder. We traveled back to the farmhouse to drop Kyle off and show his father.
I enjoyed a celebratory Castle Lite or 2 and headed back to Olivefountain. It was the longest 2-hour drive ever!
Met everyone when we got back, more celebration with dinner, beer, wine, and Gentleman Jack. I slept like a dead man that night (but a delighted one).
Duiker and Steenbok sightings
The day following the Kudu adventure, I felt a little rough from a long day, good drinks, and somewhat dehydrated.
Today we would look for a good warthog in the morning and see what could be found. Very foggy this morning. No big rush to get out and view hillsides.
There was a nice solitary Springbuck ram that frequented the head of a valley not far away from the lodge we visited first, started a stalk but were busted quickly as soon as we saw him, he was off for the races.
Springbuck are everywhere on this ranch.
The fog started lifting in the valleys, so we headed lower to scan the valleys. Saw a nice Common Duiker, but it wasn’t on my list (some regret later, there were numerous duiker and steenbuck sightings every day on the ranch, I didn’t consider them earlier).
A neat critter was found actually 2 on the road-the Karoo earthworm. 3-4 foot long!
African shooting sticks and Warthog Hunt
After the earthworm encounter, we found a good hillside to view from. I’m amazed at how similar the topography is to southeastern Arizona. We saw a flock of helmeted guineafowl first. Next, a sow warthog with several piglets. Warthog are here in good numbers.
Ben explained that good boars are always a target species, and I saw several big boars throughout my stay. Scanning the hillside with our binos, suddenly, a big boar ambled out of the brush in a clearing. I couldn’t tell how good the tusks were but could see them pretty well.
Ben thought we should pursue this one, so we moved down our hillside but were stymied with a thick band of trees and brush below us-the odds that other warthogs would be in there and we’d spook them was pretty high. Over 300 yards away.
He put the African shooting sticks up and asked me if I felt confident with the shot after the previous day with my Kudu. I felt very confident. The rifle went up, the hog was broadside, checked the range, and let the Sako loose. It sounded like a watermelon being thumped. He ran 20 yards and rolled over, kicking.
We threaded through the brush and soon were next to him. I’ll admit warthog was not a big “get” for me but after seeing him up close was happy I got him. They are odd animals. I think warthogs say “Africa” as much or more than most animals. Another super animal!
Blesbok Hunting Area
The afternoon was leisurely spent looking for an older Springbuck closer to home or another Mountain Reedbuck, but nothing suitable for a stalk. We saw a big Waterbuck keeping company with a cow that was on the other hunter-in-camps list. It was too late for him to make a stalk until the next day.
I tried to identify a few birds (saw a couple of Pale Chanting Goshawks being mobbed by Lapwings), lots of LBJ’s (Little Brown Jobs) flying around. Blue Cranes must like this habitat as we’ve seen several and would see many more. Their calls sound identical to our Sandhill Cranes here in the US.
My next day (starting to lose track now since every day was a new experience), we were going to Nick’s father’s sheep ranch located west of his ranch. This area was expansive grasslands with gently rolling hills, many termite/ant mounds, very few trees or shrubs.
Lots of springbuck and blesbuck here. We drove through numerous gates to get to areas to hunt blesbuck. I had been told these antelope were very wary. Shots would need to be made at longer distances with no cover on stalking approaches. The Land Cruiser was parked below the crest of a ridge, and Ben and I headed forth with rifle and sticks in hand.
Scanning the grasslands, we spotted two older white bulls, which Ben determined would be good first choices to put a stalk on. The first one was not having it and paced off out of range and stood watching us.
White Blesbok Hunt & African shooting sticks
The second bull had run off behind a dam embankment, and we had lost sight of him. As we walked downslope to look at other rams scattered over the grasslands, he appeared, headed in the direction of the first bull, 300 yards out parallel to us. Ben had the sticks ready quickly, and we watched as he trotted, then slowed, then trotted again,
Finally, he paused with a quartering on shot, and the Sako spoke, bullet punched through, short-run and down. These are very muscular antelope. Ben mentioned that a less than optimal strike on one would result in a long chase. These look more goat-like than any other antelope I looked at up close.
The blesbuck was field-dressed after photos were taken. We headed in the cruiser towards the top of a ridge to see what might be in the next grassy expanse when Ben pointed out the head of a snake above the grass, which was a Boomslang, we jumped out for a better look, but it retreated into a large clump of grass.
A little further on, we found a big Leopard Tortoise, pic attached. I hoped to see one of these, a very nice find! I tried a shot on a Common Blesbuck at 400+ yards at the crest but shot under. We watched a group of blesbuck and were not able able to find a wounding strike. We headed back to Olivefountain for lunch and a break to come back in the later afternoon.
Common Blesbok Hunt
After lunch and a relaxing break, we headed back to Nick’s father’s ranch for the afternoon to look for a Common Blesbuck. Typically the temps would be a little warm (no jackets needed) by early afternoon and then begin cooling off into enjoyable and dry conditions.
I had brought plenty of thermal undergarments and never wore any. April temperatures make for a wonderful month in this area.
The afternoon hunt was going to be a long stalk, as we did not see what was wanted for a Blesbuck, and we left the Land Cruiser far behind and started hiking up a long, gentle grassy slope to the horizon.
A blesbuck was sky-lit in the distance, but obviously not in an acceptable shooting position, and it ran off as we grew closer.
Once we reached the top of the rise, we startled a herd of sheep, which thundered off but surprisingly did not upset any blesbuck.
We could see multiple heads bobbing at each other over the rise, a big problem. There wasn’t any cover over knee-high.
Common Blesbok Stalk
I stayed directly behind Ben as we moved into the wind (always). We were in plain view with almost a semi-circle of blesbuck and more sheep around us.
Off to our right were a Common and a White Blesbuck about 300 yards away. Walking towards us, grazing as they walked.
A small group of sheep began closing a gap behind the blesbuck, so the decision was made to set up for a shot before they got too close.
I was waiting for the Common to stop and lift his head for a chest shot, but he never stopped grazing and walking.
I hit him in the neck before the shoulders, dropped at the shot. A beautiful animal, even with the Satan horns. Ben walked back to bring the truck.
I sat and enjoyed looking over the blesbuck and enjoying the quiet.
Incredible not to hear any human-made noises out here. After pics and loading the blesbuck, we looked briefly at the many springbok and went back to the lodge for another wonderful evening around the braai.
This was the time where I really started thinking about the end of my safari. Just a couple of animals left to hunt. The days had just seemed to transition smoothly from one day to the next. I really liked that. Since I had originally started looking into an African safari, the last two years had not been really great (except for the birth of my first grandson); my Mom passed away suddenly right before Christmas 2018.
Covid happened, we lost employees at work, so travel and workload became ridiculous and remains so, I was really determined to have this trip work out no matter what! I thought about this trip every day.
Happy to be here but a little solemn over having it end. 8 hunting days was not enough!
Earlier I had kidded Ben and Rob. It went something like them stating, “today will be a nice day to go find a (insert animal name here).” And it nearly always happened that way. Well, today, it was finally going to be a Black Wildebeest.
We had seen one or two earlier. It is a comical animal, spinning and gyrating around for no apparent reason. I like the appearance of the sweeping horns out in front of the bases and the long, flowing whitetail.
African shooting sticks and Black Wildebeest Hunt
We traveled nearby to a neighboring farm, which was very open grassland studded with termite mounds. Not long into our travel, a group of wildebeest was spotted a good distance away, watching us.
Sticks came out with the rifle, and we began moving towards the small herd, which appeared to be a bull with several cows.
They grew increasingly active as we began our approach, spinning around a bit. The cows seemed ready to vacate the area, but not the bull. I’d see why shortly.
We probably made it within 400 yards, and the group of cows ran off but still watching, while the bull faced us head-on, occasionally pacing off then returning to the same spot.
It didn’t look like he was going to offer a broadside shot, so at 375 yards, we put the rifle on the sticks, and as he held still watching us, pulled the trigger, and he was down in an instant.
Another long walk to see him up close, we found a big Mountain Tortoise on our way there. I was very pleased to see both of these animals up close.
Apparently, bull wildebeest have a spot in their territory where cows visit them, not vice-versa? Because the ground was pawed clear of grass and piles of scattered dung all around this spot.
The horns are pretty impressive. These were pretty rough and scarred up. Another great animal!
Mountain Reedbuck Hunt
I also got another opportunity to redeem myself on a Mountain Reedbuck later in the day after the Black Wildebeest was brought back for skinning; we traveled to a hilly, rocky area with shrubs and mixed grasses, where a ram and ewe reedbuck were soon spotted (and they spotted us), running down the hillside before the sticks could be put up.
We moved downslope to try to locate them, not seeing them, when they leaped out of a dip in the land before us and ran downhill further, but this time stopped to look back; first shot hit low, not fatal, but the follow-up shot was good, and the ram was down. The fluffy white tail reminds me of a cottontail rabbit as they run away. Pretty and delicate antelope, another nice trophy.
Birding while hunting
Besides wanting to hunt and see all of the spectacular antelope (plus warthog), I had high hopes to see lots of other wildlife, smaller stuff, birds, reptiles, all of it. On arrival day, after a brief rain, lots of winged termites began emerging, fluttering around.
We got to see an aardwolf running around in a field, catching them as dusk was approaching; we saw another on the gravel road back to camp another night.
I saw plenty of yellow mongooses, a pair of bat-eared foxes, and a banded mongoose (plus the porcupine when hunting the impala). Rock Hyraxes were commonly seen. I would have liked to have seen an aardvark, many hollowed-out termite mounds, and dug-out burrows. I liked seeing the Boomslang and the two tortoises, but I would have also enjoyed seeing a puff adder and Cape Cobra.
Birding was good, lots of Blue Cranes around, saw 4 Secretary Birds where we hunted the Blesbuck, having a territorial fight than an odd mating ritual (a pair would race side by side for a hundred yards or more, turn, the male would leap onto the females back, then off, then race off with wings outspread back to where they started…just guessing on the mating part.
Saw Kori Bustard (2), a group of Crested Kouran (I believe), lots of Ant-eating Chats on termite mounds. Rock Kestrels were common and very nice to have Fiery-winged Nightjars singing by our braai nearly every night.
We would hear Black-backed Jackals in the mornings—black-headed orioles around the house with Acacia Barbets and African Hoopoes.
Saw plenty of Glossy Starlings. What a beautiful bird in the sun, looking like it was plated in blue chrome, bright red eyes.
Springbok Hunting Area
Later in the afternoon, we went out looking for a nice ram Springbuck. Weather being calm and cooling off, starting to become somewhat overcast. We drove a bit and began glassing large grassy fields dotted with termite mounds. Well, Ben and Rob did, my 8x binos not being much help.
There were large draws that you could easily miss animals, so driving to all points was helpful. We ended up in an area where the land flattened out below a large and long ridge, lots of common springbuck, and saw white, black, and copper springbuck. Common was on my list, and I really wanted the real deal South African national animal. We just started walking to see what was out and about.
Seemingly every animal had a comfort level, and at 500 yards, they became very alert. At around 400 yards out, they started moving. We tried angling towards a good candidate, but off he went. The next one was a little more cooperative. We angled left but seemed to maintain the same distance, over 400 yards.
African shooting sticks and the Springbok Hunt
I tried the rifle on the sticks and constantly kept shifting the sticks. The ram would walk and pause briefly. As soon as I began to get set, he was on the move again. Finally, we decided just to stop to see what the ram would do next.
His little jaunts became shorter, and he would pause quarter facing on, finally anticipated him stopping and left fly the bullet. I think I accidentally ranged a termite mound in front of him, as Ben had him at over 400 yards while I had him at 340 yards. The bullet struck a little low, but after a short run, the ram was done.
I’ve seen videos where they talk about the smell of a Springbucks back, I tried it, and it reminded me of toasted marshmallows. Beautiful animal. I enjoyed seeing groups of them racing around all week. Last animal… trip is done. Happy but a little bummed out. And a nice sunset.
On my last full day, I was able to ride around as an observer/spotter for a father/daughter group hunting at Olivefountain, which was fun watching others stalk their game.
We were able to watch a long and successful stalk on a kudu bull, springbuck, and some blesbuck culls.
Early that morning, I had to go to Grahamstown, about a 45-minute drive, to have my Covid RT-PCR test done to be able to fly home the next morning.
So we arrived as the clinic opened (8 am), had the test sample taken (the deep nasal one, I think I left finger impressions in the chair arms), Ampath Labs did the analysis, and we had it emailed 12 hours later so it could be printed out that evening.
The only point that I had to show my Covid test results was when I arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. From what I remember, I didn’t have to show them when I arrived in Chicago. So I flew from Port Elizabeth, SA to Johannesburg, SA, filled out a Covid questionnaire to board my next flight to Ethiopia, then transited through Addis Ababa for the big leg to Chicago (brief stop to re-fuel in Dublin, Ireland).
Clearing Customs in the United States
I had a Customs form, and Covid questionnaire on the flight for Chicago, all that was requested to be turned in was the Customs declaration, I had a couple of questions regarding what I did in SA, was asked if I had any wildlife products (none), and that was it.
Going through the Covid testing process was not that difficult. I had easy access to get testing done near my home (plus a clinic at the Greater Cincinnati Airport with quick results) and easily done while at Nick’s ranch.
I wish I had known how straightforward it would be. If that is what might be holding up your decision to go this year or next year, I would reconsider it. I had a very satisfying trip. I’ve already booked a cull hunt plus a couple of larger antelope to hunt for July 2022.
Everyone at the ranch was enjoyable to spend time with. I certainly felt at home. Already missing the meals, loved having the daily cleaning and laundry service.
I have to do all of those things here at home, so nice to have a break from that. Feel free to contact me by PM if you have any questions about my trip. Thanks for reading my report and all of the welcome compliments on my animals.
It took me nearly 68 years to determine I could actually hunt in South Africa. And it didn’t require being a millionaire to make it happen. I took 8 trophies and was treated like a king. All this for less than a guided Montana Elk Hunt. a far lower percentage of taking just one trophy class bull.
I was accompanied by my wife Wendy, my son Daniel, and my daughter-in-law Jodi. Covid delayed our hunt by a year. We departed Billings, Montana, on March 29, 2021. Our flight took us to Denver; then, after 11 hours, to Frankfurt, Germany. Followed by a 13-hour layover, then on to Johannesburg for a 10+ hour flight, followed by a 4-hour layover in Joberg, then a short 1½ hour flight to Port, Elizabeth. Nick Bowker met at the airport himself, in his Land Cruiser. I need to own one someday.
Arrival in South Africa
Following a 90-minute drive to OliveFountain Farm, we were met by Ben, another PH. As well as Nick’s wife Elizabeth and their twin daughters. They were on holiday from school and were an absolute delight. I also hired a videographer company with Nick’s recommendation. Igala Productions were was very cost-effective and actually assisted in spotting game that I had trouble locating even with binoculars. Igala provided their regular video expert plus a trainee for only $2,600.
That figure was exceptional. I can’t recommend Igala enough if you can request Nadeen to be your videographer, although Steven and Purin were wonderful. Nadeen was such a wonderful addition to our hunt and has “eagle eyes” to locate animals.
Accommodation Review – Nick Bowker Hunting
The facilities at OliveFountain can only be described as “simply the best.” Homesteaded in the early 1800s, the complex has been in Nick’s family for 5 generations and has great updates. Hence, you experience all the modern amenities, including Wi-Fi, plenty of hot water, and private rooms with beds that will make you sleep like a baby.
Embarrassingly, on the first morning of our hunt, our kids were up and checking out rifles only about 5 yards from my cabin. They were firing .300 WM rounds downrange, and I did not wake up. Suddenly, I awoke to find the sun shining in my window and the Land Cruiser leaving with Ben at the wheel, and the kids loaded up. I quickly dressed, demonstrated I could at least hit a Barn Door off sticks, grabbed a coffee, and headed out for my first session of hunting. I might add my wife slept through my shooting as well.
Relaxed about my sleeping in, Nick just passed it off as jet lag. I made sure it didn’t happen again. We then loaded up with Nick, myself, and Nadeen in search of whatever presented itself that day. Our 3 Trackers plus “Bella” and “Black Jack” were in the back of the rig and anxiously awaiting what beast would present itself. Bella is a beagle with an incredible nose, and Black Jack is a Jack Russel Terrier that I have trouble describing. He is tough, fast, and yet when HE decides to snuggle you, he is laying on your lap and expecting a good scratch.
Session 1, Nick suggested we go on a walk-about and look for a warthog since it was a bit later in the morning. He spotted a great hog in the creek bottom before long that presented a broadside shot at a little over 200 yards. Here is where I learned my first lesson. I was using Nick’s Saco .300 WM with a top-end Swaro range finder scope. I ranged the “tusker,” then promptly used the cross-hairs instead of the red ranged cross and shot a few inches under the hog. Rule number one…pay attention to Nick’s explanation. I did not make that mistake again.
Rule number two, if Nick or Ben says it is a “photogenic animal,” shoot it. You will not be disappointed. On the other hand, if they tell you it needs another year or two to grow, listen, then come back another year to take that trophy when it has grown up. What I learned quickly was the eye-site of the PH, Videographer, and Trackers is better without binos than mine with them. At times I swear they pulled animals from underground for me to stalk.
Session 2: After a great brunch and a nap, we headed out for the afternoon and evening hunt. Although we saw hundreds of animals of all species literally, Nick kept informing me, “there are better ones to pursue. So, we headed back to the farm headquarters for an evening of getting better acquainted; having a glass of relaxing agent along with a dinner that exceeds anything you could find in New York; although I think New York Sucks…
Food Review – Nick Bowker Hunting
At this point, I need to interject a message about Elizabeth, Nick’s better half that spends hours in the kitchen with her assistants preparing side dishes and desserts that are nothing short of fabulous. Elizabeth also took Wendy and Jodi to Addo Elephant Park and Port Elizabeth to see elephants and for some shopping. She is a real “keeper.”
Session 3: I want you to know I was up in time for coffee and to catch my ride at 6:30 am. Nick promptly took me to a pasture with again hundreds of animals, and 2 Black Wildebeest appeared; junior and grandpa. By no means did Nick pressure me to shoot one, but he did say he would trade me out for other animals in my package since this beast was not on my list. So, how could I say no? I gave him the go-ahead, and he led my stalk into a reasonable distance for a shot.
Placed on sticks, I punched a hole in the beast, of which he reared up in the air and sold out for distance regions. Nick sent the trackers around the back of the beasts, at which time “grampa” and “Junior” started in our direction. At about 160 yards, I gave him a heart attack and put my first animal in the books.
Gemsbok hunt review – Nick Bowker Hunting
Session 4: Again, after a great brunch and rest, we were off again. This time, I had told Nick if a Gemsbok got in the way, I would certainly be interested, even though it was not on my package. So, I guess it was inevitable a herd of gemsbok appeared, and after a long stalk, Nick told me which one was a shooter. Off the sticks, I dumped a beautiful Gemsbok at 206 yards in its tracks. Score two…
Nyala hunt review – Nick Bowker Hunting
Session 5: In pursuit of a Kudu or Nyala, we got into a bachelor herd of Nyala Bulls, which Nick led me into a shooting position and again I dropped the bull at 244 yards in his tracks. He had no idea we were even there. Ironically, following my shot, a nice Kudu Bull blew out no more than 10 yards to my right; however, I had no time to get a shot off. By now, I was feeling like a great hunter when in actuality it was the leadership of Nick, our trackers, and videographers.
Session 6: After Coffee, Toast, and a bit of an attitude, we headed out for another day. We had not traveled more than a couple of miles from camp before we found a herd of Impala. Somehow, I was brought back to earth after missing a 150-yard shot-off stick. The moment I pulled the trigger, I knew my bullet would land in another time zone. Why? I simply sucked…So Nick took me on a short stalk and located where the herd of Impala went. I didn’t mess up this time at 260 yards, and we had another animal for the bag.
Session 7: Out we went, and I had a great opportunity to take a Springbok. I don’t know how I missed it as I swear it was nearly sitting on the barrel of the rifle. Possibly, it had nine lives like a cat because I will never know how I missed it. I blamed Nick for a faulty loaded bullet, and he just agreed and said we need to move on. His patience with me was beyond believable.
Session 8: Although we saw hundreds of animals, none of them met Nick’s standard., Again, I must say his knowledge and expertise far exceeded anyone I have hunted with. He is ethical, safety-minded, and patient with guys like me.
Session 9: So many animals, none meeting the standards Nick has set. Something I want to point out is it is not about trophy class animals; it is about taking animals that are over the hill. Nick won’t shoot breeding animals that have great genetics, he is only about taking out the old guys that likely would not make it through the winter, and yes, South Africa does have winter.
Session 10: Again, no trophy class animals. That wasn’t the case with my kids, as my son took an incredible Kudu and Sable. I’m jealous…
Session 11: we traveled north a bit and saw many good Kudu but not a great animal, according to Nick. He kept telling us there was a better trophy, so the other Land Cruiser brought us lunch; whereby, session 12 changed things completely.
We came upon a herd of 7 bulls, which three broke off. The remainder 4 made my blood pressure sky-rocket. There was a white-horned bull in front of the bull Nick told me to take. For the following 15 minutes, every time the white=horned bull would move, the one I was supposed to shoot moved with him. Finally, I had a few seconds, and Nick said to drop the hammer. He went down like a ton, then up he came, and I had to finish the job after he had covered about 50 yards.
Fallow Deer hunt review – Nick Bowker Hunting
Session 12: we pursued a Fallow Deer Buck but just didn’t find the big guy, although my interpretation and Nick’s differed. Fortunately, I had the sense to shut up and listen to Nick. We definitely saw several good bucks, but my slow preparation to shoot exceeded the bucks’ willingness to stay put. Again, Nick was calm and put up with my screw-up.
Session 13: We sought out a nice fallow deer, and I connected at 160 yards. It is a beautiful animal and will make an incredible mount. I am proud of the beast and owe my success to everyone else. I simply pulled the trigger.
Session 14: Understand, a short, fat English-Irishman, that is nearly 68 years old is not an outfitters/guide’s ideal candidate for a hunt. That describes me perfectly. That said, Nick and his crew did everything to make my (our) hunt exceptional in every way.
That afternoon, Nick spotted a trophy waterbuck above us along with several Kudu and waterbok Cows. He “nursed” me into position up a steep grade and at quite a distance. Yes, he somewhat kept telling me it was only another 100 yards when it was 600 yards, but I bought into it.
Finally, we arrived at a point where I would have a shot if and when the bull came out of the brush. After what seemed like a long wait, Nick said, don’t move and be silent; a cow had moved down within 10 yards of us. I could not see her, but I followed Nick’s lead, and when the bull stepped out at 286 yards, I put one in the boiler room. He went down, then back up, and I put another round a bit far back. He again went down, and I put another in his boiler room for good.
Session 15: Off to Grahamstown for a Covid Test. What a waste of a hunting session, although Nick never complained and worked it out.
Session16: The last two animals we pursued were a warthog for me and a Fallow Deer for my son. My son dropped a monster Fallow Deer thanks to Ben in the late hours of his last session, and I dropped a Warthog at 4:00 PM of our last session at 386 yards.
Everything else aside, it wasn’t about just getting our animals. It was about an experience getting to know people halfway around the world. I can’t say enough about the wonderful treatment we received but rather the friendships we gained. Before I cross over, I must go and spend time with our new friends…they are: “simply the best.”
Thank you, Nick, Ben, Elizabeth, Nadeen, Purin, Steven, and everyone else. God’s best blessings to you and yours…
Hunting with no fences or low fenced African hunting (meant to control sheep, not the wild game) was a priority. Nick’s hunting areas fit the bill. The numbers and variety of animals blew us away.
Hunting with Nick Bowker
This hunt was my first African hunt, but I’ve hunted with outfitters in the Midwest and the Western US. The outbreak of Corvid 19 made an extraordinary hunting trip surreal.
The world seemed to turn on its head during the 7 days we were in South Africa. Despite the fact COVID-19 was hanging over most of the hunt, I couldn’t be happier with how it all went.
The quick progressions of world events related to Covid-19 made the hunt a bit more surreal. We were not looking at our phones on purpose, but that didn’t last once we heard about the travel bans. Nick had clients start canceling because they couldn’t get to SA or faced a quarantine once they got home.
It was clearly a stressful time for both Nick and Benjamin, and while we could tell it was causing problems. They in no way let it impact our trip. We all did our best to have a great hunt despite the world seemingly grinding towards a halt.
We ended up leaving on schedule, two days before South Africa essentially closed its “airline” borders to foreign travelers. Our flight out of Johannesburg had 60+ open seats two days before we left. But it was loaded to the gills as people changed plans to get home once SA travel bans were announced.
Planning and Logistics for our Low fenced African Hunting Trip
She contacted a few Outfitters. Nick responded quickly and indicated he had a recent cancellation the week we were looking at.
We tossed a few hunting ideas around before settling on a package. The package included a Nyala, Impala, Kudu, Gemsbok, and Warthog for me. Since my fiancé wanted to be along on the hunts, we added a daily rate and Warthog for her.
We contacted Nick initially through BookYourHunt.com and used that as our primary communication source. We switched to using WhatsApp the day before our arrival.
Nick did a great job of keeping in touch and updated. In fact, he is the one that pointed out that South African airlines were having trouble. And suggested we might want to rebook on British Airways for the flight from JNB to Port Elizabeth.
Nick was standing outside the arrival doors when we got there, helped us with our bags, and then drove us to the lodge.
It was a great 2-hour drive, although it rained most of the way there. We were able to ask questions, understand the daily routine, and just get acquainted.
Nick was easy to talk to and didn’t seem the least bit bothered by getting peppered with questions by enthusiastic rookies!
Upon arrival, we met Benjamin, a PH that works with Nick.
Nick’s clients stay at his home, a sprawling group of separate and connected buildings. These include the main house, guest rooms, a cabin for 1-2 guests, a bar, braai/dinner area. As well as work sheds, and garages, staff quarters, etc.
We stayed in a separate cabin, which was amazing – small, rustic, and modern at the same time, and extremely comfortable. The bed was amazingly comfortable; there was a great walk-in shower, a huge tub, bathroom, and sink.
The house seems like it is an older farm/ranch house, with additions made to accommodate larger hunting parties.
Nick has WiFi that runs on power when it is on. (Sounds like consistent power in many parts of SA is tough to come by). When the power is off, Nick kicks on the generator.
The inconsistent power didn’t impact us at all. Nick made it relatively seamless with the generator. We loved the house and couldn’t have felt more comfortable.
Plus, we weren’t there to stay connected – we wanted the opposite. We were doing well with that until the news of COVID’s expansion started making it necessary for us to connect.
Nick has a great staff. The people preparing breakfast and cleaning the rooms were on top of it.
Our room was cleaned each time we left (in the morning and again in the afternoon), and our laundry was done every day. Nick’s hunting staff were also great.
Cheerful and helpful, they helped make each hunt better. Benjamin is also a great PH (more on that later) – easy to talk to, friendly, and always looking for ways to make your trip better.
As he often said while doing something for you, “Don’t worry about it, I’ll do it. You’re on holiday!”
Food and Routine
The food was incredible. There were always baked goods available, and we usually ate a muffin before heading out in the morning. We typically were back by 11 or 12 for brunch, which was also great.
Over the course of the 6 days of hunting, we had kudu sausage, eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, hamburgers, fries, pork, and probably 5 other things. Dinners were made by a woman Nick has hired only to handle dinners, and she crushes it.
Every dinner consisted of appetizers, a main dish often cooked by Nick or Benjamin over the Braai, and dessert.
We ate lots of wild game, beef, and lamb, and there was always at least one perfect side dish, often South African favorites.
We drank beer and wine each night (Nick asked what we liked to drink before we arrived) and had a blast at dinner-time by the fire.
We opted to use Nick’s rifles rather than bring our own. A great choice in light of all the airline issues and COVID 19. As a result, we could also travel light (only carry-ons)
We shot from a bench and sticks. After I shot, I went out with Benjamin to look around/hunt while my fiancé stayed back to make sure she was comfortable shooting from the sticks.
We had gone shooting before, but this allowed her to get comfortable with Nick’s guns and for him to get comfortable with her shooting.
Nick hunts on his land, his family’s land, and some other big tracts with the hunting rights. There is a great variety of land, and we didn’t see all of it by any means.
Nick has a big sheep operation and runs the hunting on his property, so there are some low fences for the sheep.
Hunting where there were no fences or low fenced African hunting (meant to control sheep, not the wild game) was a priority.
Nick’s hunting areas fit the bill. The numbers and variety of animals blew us away.
Rather than discuss each hunt, I wanted to pull out some of the things that stood out to me. Nick and Benjamin were very selective. This being my first-time hunting in Africa, I was excited.
I like to shoot nice trophies, but not at the expense of a good hunt. I’d rather shoot an average trophy on a great hunt than a great trophy on an average hunt. Everyone is different, but for me, the hunt is important.
That said, Benjamin and Nick didn’t want to compromise on either. The Nyala hunt was in an area that was pretty easy to get to (first day). However, we worked hard for all of the other trophies in the low fenced African hunting area.
Nick and Benjamin did their best to ensure we got the best of both worlds.
Both Nick and Benjamin worked their butts off, making sure we got the animals we came for. My impala hunt was amazing.
Benjamin kept getting us close to a large ram, but something always messed it up. Hogs busting out of the bush, an unforeseen Mountain Reedbuck, and skittish Springbok.
We chased it back and forth across the valley. We could get in a position for a great shot, and it had no idea where we were.
Benjamin did a great job keeping us on the ram, and it was an amazing hunt.
I made a shot that wasn’t ideal on my kudu hunt. The animal wasn’t going anywhere, but it needed another shot. Wound up, I pulled the trigger for the second shot. There was that loud “click” that only comes from not having reloaded.
Benjamin recognized I wasn’t squeezing the trigger but yanking it back in my excitement. He perfectly said, “Squeeze the trigger…” – just what I needed not only at that moment, but it stayed with me for the rest of the trip.
We spent the last couple of days chasing Warthogs. It sounded like they were normally shot during the pursuit of something else; that was not our situation.
Given the huge amount of rain (drought-ending, apparently) that had been falling in the area we were hunting, the hogs didn’t need to move much at all to get food and water.
Plus, we were early, and the boars weren’t really pushing the sows. All of this made it so that getting a big Warthog was the most challenging part of the hunt.
They did not give up, despite the weather not wanting to cooperate. We pushed hard for hogs, and it resulted in a gnarly old boy for my fiancé and great pig for me.
Nick and Benjamin did a great job with her – they put her in a great position, and she made a great shot (I think she is better off the sticks than I am)
Final Hunt on our low fenced African Hunting Safari
The last hunt (for my hog) really put Nick and Benjamin’s hunting skills on display – we saw good pigs from at least a mile away and then started the hunt.
Given the weather (some rain, but cool and overcast) and that it was the last day of our hunt, the pursuit of this boar seemed to be the last pig chase we were going to get.
We had a good strong wind, which helped a ton, but we knew it would be tough given the distance we had to travel. We ran into duiker, rabbits, mountain reedbuck, and impala on the way.
Each time I thought we were screwed, but Nick and Benjamin played it perfectly, and we were able to thread the needle and catch up to the hogs.
After the boar was down, we all started laughing. None of us could believe we made it through all those eyes, ears, and noses that seemed to threaten the hunt constantly.
We laughed a ton. Both Nick and Benjamin are a lot of fun – by the end of the trip, it felt like hunting with old friends. To me, that only adds to the hunting experience and memories and is exactly what I’m looking for in this type of trip – great hosts, smart and talented guides, and good people.
Business Wrap Up and Departure
After the hog hunt, and before dinner last night, Nick and I wrapped up and settled the bill. This was a painless process, and he walked me through the bill – absolutely no surprises (other than my bank not authorizing purchases in SA like they said they did on the phone and email). But we got that sorted out, and Nick made it easy.
The next day our flight out of Port Elizabeth didn’t leave until 3:30 pm, so Nick offered to drive us through Addo on our way to the airport.
He was an amazing Park guide as well – we had a blast, and we’re very thankful for his generosity with his time—a great way to end the trip. Since we left, Nick has texted to make sure we made it back alright, check how we deal with COVID, and keep me updated on taxidermy stuff.
I’m already trying to figure out when I can get back and which friends I can talk into joining me. Nick Bowker gets my highest recommendation – for the reasons I’ve mentioned (and probably 50 other smaller reasons I haven’t), he is better than any Outfitter I’ve ever used.
I’m an adventurous person and love meeting new people – however, because this trip was made so incredible by Nick and his PH Benjamin, I doubt I’ll ever hunt with anyone else in South Africa. We had a great hunt with great people. What else can you ask for
You know one thing leads to another, and a year later, Thomas and I are on an airplane to Africa. Wild! My first African hunt.
First off, Teresa and I were invited by our good friends, Mark and Dianne, to stay a week in the mountains of Colorado in my Dad’s favorite town, Pagosa Springs. Having just traded correspondence with my half-brother Thomas Audetat, also of Pagosa Springs, it seemed the perfect opportunity to catch up with friends and relatives in the clear, clean mountain air. And so it was.
Once we settled into the beautiful condo on the lake, hosted by Mark and Di. We were invited to dinner by Thomas. Sister Donna was as gracious as ever and cooked up a fabulous feast for the whole tribe and a good time had by all.
While touring their quaint log home–Teresa wants one–Thomas showed us the African trophies he and Donna had taken on their 2010 safari. You know one thing leads to another, and a year later, Thomas and I are on an airplane to Africa. Wild!
Since Thomas had already been, it was an excellent opportunity to go with an old hand arranging hunting dates with the professional hunter (PH), clothes, flights, customs, cartridges, and a whole lot more.
10 days was just perfect-plan
Ten days was just perfect-plan on spending two weeks with shooting, packing, travel, jet-lag, etc.
Then there is the list of animals we could to harvest. It is daunting. They run from small-hard to see and hit, to huge-easy to see and harder to kill. The diversity of habitat in the East Cape of South Africa is astonishing, from the low, dark, river bottom to high baldy mountain tops within an hour’s drive.
Our host, Nick Bowker, and his brother Rob, rugged 5th generation South African “farmers” of English descent, were most gracious and met us at the “Oliver Tambo” airport in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. A small airport on the order of Colorado Springs or Corpus Christi. Guns, ammo, luggage all right there, and a great relief after a nearly 24 hours of flight from Minneapolis, Houston, Atlanta, Johannesburg, and finally Port Elizabeth.
It took about two hours to the lodgings on in a new Toyota Land Cruiser. The main road was under construction, so we went through a more residential area. A government shantytown was peculiar with the one-room shacks and hydro-solar water heaters atop nearly everyone. The garbage along the road exiting the Port Elizabeth area was everywhere, but the further from town we went, the cleaner the road and surrounding area.
Finally, we approached the farmstead over a seemingly endless series of “speed bumps” engineered to divert the seldom, but intense, rain away from the unpaved gravel road. Up and down we went, after about a mile, Thomas noted there were 20 in all!
A couple of hours to the hunting lodge
The charming old single-story farmhouse could have been in Wisconsin was our lodgings for our African hunt. After we got everything sorted out and had a light lunch, we went off to find a warthog. As we drove down around the farm, the trackers, riding in the bed of the land cruiser, noticed some kudu cows but no shooters, and then a friendly warthog showed up on a distant hillside.
I was with my buddy for our second trip with Nick. In addition we wanted to go after some different animals this time.
We also wanted to hunt a few of the same animals as our first time in South Africa. We had previously had fantastic Kudu hunting with Nick.
In 2012, both of us took a Kudu, Mountain Reedbuck, Springbok, Impala, Warthog, and Blesbok. Nick has very appealing hunting packages available for the South African Plains Game.
Day 1 Arrival in South Africa
We arrived in Port Elizabeth mid-morning and were greeted at the airport by Nick Bowker and his brother Rob Bowker.
And made the 90 minute trip to OliveFountain Ranch, Port Elizabeth, South Africa, where we stayed for the following week.
We unpacked and dialed-in our rifles at the range on the property.
This day was a bit misty and rainy, but that didn’t stop us from going out for a great walk in the hills and valleys.
Even though the weather this day wasn’t the best, we still saw so many animals of trophy quality. But decided against shooting any given, we would have 7 days of hunting in front of us. And given the number of animals we saw, we felt very comfortable passing on some quality animals. Knowing we would have more opportunities.
Upon our return to the lodge, we enjoyed a fantastic steak dinner, along with some outstanding South African wine and a few beers/cocktails.
We sat by the fire reminiscing about our 2012 trip and catching up on the seven years since last being together.
Day 2 Gemsbok hunt
Zebra was the top animal on our list this year for our hunt in Africa, and we started the day going after these.
We spotted three separate herds of Zebra on this morning.
They all proved to be very skittish and jumpy, remaining on the high-ground running with Blesbuck, Springbuck, and Waterbuck.
A quality shot never did present itself on a nice stallion but was an exciting start to this day. Late morning, we headed back to the lodge for brunch.
Our mid-afternoon hunt focused on another new animal for us, the beautiful Gemsbok. We quickly came across a large herd of about 70 animals in the high plains.
Like the Zebra, they were very aware and loved to cover vast areas in a short period. This is where Nick’s expertise and knowledge came into play.
Rob and the trackers drove the Gemsbok into a valley. Nick set us up in an area he was confident they would eventually make their way through.
Our African Hunting Trip
After waiting them out, the herd began to cross back into the highlands between 200-250 yards out. Nick spotted a very impressive bull that presented itself broadside at 220 yards.
A shot off the sticks through the shoulder put the animal down in its track, and we had our 1st of 15 trophies of this trip.
For the evening hunt, we went after Kudu, Nyala, and Warthog. We spotted hundreds of animals within a few square miles.
And saw numerous Nyala (including 8 Nyala bulls) feeding out in a field.
After a stalk on the animals, Nick was able to get us in close to get a great look at these magnificent animals.
An extremely impressive Nyala presented itself broadside within 100 yards where it went down, again with a shot off the sticks.
We enjoyed a fantastic dinner, dessert, and drinks back at the lodge as we discussed day three plans.
Day 3 Impala hunt
We began the day by going up higher in the mountains near Bedford as we pursued Kudu. The drive up in these mountains is breath-taking. Rob showed his excellent driving skills high in these mountains with amazing views.
Again, we located numerous animals but decided against going after any. We enjoyed lunch in the field then moved to an area closer to OliveFountain Ranch, where we had a lot of success in 2012.
We shot a trophy Impala ram off the sticks from about 225 yards, and again, the area did not disappoint. This shot was a little far back in the Impala, and this is where the trackers and the two Jack Russell Terriers proved their skills.
Blackjack, a two-year-old Jack Russell, quickly found the ram a couple of hundred yards from the point of impact. Watching these dogs’ work is impressive. Their energy, instincts, and love of the hunt are so remarkable.
Our South African Hunting Trip
In the evening, we spent about an hour glassing over a vast area of land. Like the evening before, the Nyala bulls were out in astounding numbers.
Near the same location as the night before, we spotted 15 Nyala bulls in a field and numerous Kudu & Nyala cows. We put in a long stalk as the wind and sun were in our favor and were able to close in to within 100 yards of many of these animals.
Nick’s ability to differentiate a very nice Nyala from a “Proper Nyala bull” was again very evident. We continued to move down the field using large thorn trees as cover to identify the best animal.
We stayed until we finally got busted by some young Nyala hanging around in the thick brush as we came within 30 yards of them.
While we didn’t get anything this evening, the stalk on these animals was so impressive and rewarding in itself that we went back to the lodge with zero disappointment.
Day 4 Nyala hunt
We started the morning by going back to the area where we shot the impala the day before. As we were glassing from the top of a high ridge, we spotted several Kudu, Warthog & Impala.
A very impressive Impala came out at 270 yards and shot using the elevation to our advantage.
Following brunch, we were back on the Zebra. Again, they were very wary and covering miles of highland. Nick put us on a hillside where he felt they would eventually move to.
After watching the Zebra for over an hour, they moved into a comfortable range. A shot was taken at a beautiful stallion but was missed just low from about 350 yards.
We decided to let the Zebra settle down after this and left the area. Free-range hunting in Africa is like nowhere else in the world.
This evening we again went on to stalk the Nyala bulls in the same location they have been hanging out.
At last light, Nick spotted a beautiful shooter bull where we moved in on the unaware animal and closed the distance to within 150 yards.
A 2nd trophy, nyala bull, was shot, and we headed back to the lodge after another great day of hunting.
Day 5 Zebra hunt
This was a fantastic days hunting in Africa. We spotted a beautiful Kudu in the morning, among several Kudu cows.
We again went on the stalk. As we closed the distance, the valley came alive with the number of animals moving and startled the Kudu as they moved away from us.
The big bull stopped broadside to look back on the valley, and I dropped him in his tracks at 330 yards.
We dropped the Kudu off at the lodge for caping and headed back after the Zebra.
This time, they weren’t as active as the previous days, and we shot a beautiful Zebra stood broadside at 347 yards
Our South African Hunting Trip
We brought the zebra back to the lodge. Because of the heat, we thought it best to have the animal skinned and placed in the cold room.
And went back into the field, chasing another herd of Zebra about an hour later.
Nick set us up in an area he felt they herd would be moving through. An opportunity at the lead stallion presented itself at 548 yards.
From a prone position, I placed a shot just in front of the shoulder, and this Zebra went down on the spot.
We were thrilled that both of us had our No 1 animal successfully taken in a 3-hour time frame.
That evening we glassed a huge Warthog with very impressive ivory….again, the stalk was on.
We moved into the area of the big pig; he came out at 215 yards and was knocked down in the spot off the sticks.
We are not sure the trackers were too thrilled with our success as they certainly had their work cut out for them having to cape/skin all those trophies in a day, but we were undoubtedly thrilled.
What a day! And to top it all, South African hunting trip prices are very reasonable.
Day 6 The Kudu stalk
Gemsbok was the first thing on the menu for day 6. Going back into the same area where we had previous Gemsbok success, the herd was very active running about in the high plains.
After making several unsuccessful stalks due to the outstanding eyesight of these animals, we were able to position ourselves under a thick thorn bush to conceal ourselves.
Rob and the trackers were able to move behind the herd and redirect them back in our direction. As the herd began to settle down, they crossed in front of us single file at 180 yards.
Again, Nick picked out a beautiful bull among the large herd, and another trophy was down in its tracks after a long wait for the proper Gemsbok to come through.
Our South African Hunting Trip
We did not take any other animals that day, but it certainly wasn’t from a lack of seeing quality animals. By this time in the hunt, we have conservatively seen at least 10,000 different animals of numerous species.
One of the coolest things happened late this afternoon. While we were looking for a big Warthog, we spotted a nice Kudu that will be a shooter in another year or two.
We were within 300 yards of this, and it didn’t have a clue we were there. Just for the fun of it, we decided to stalk it to see how close we could get while the kudu was busy eating off some tree.
We slowly walked towards him, going into the wind, and got to within 35-40 yards of him before he finally spotted us. We have this stalk on video, and it was a moment we will never forget.
You could see the “Oh Shit” expression on the Kudu’s face before bolting off.
I included a snip from a screenshot of the video so you can see how close we ended up moving in on this impressive animal (sorry, the clarity of this isn’t the best due to pausing a video).
Day 7 Blue Wildebeest hunt
Again, we headed back into the mountain region near Bedford, going after another new species for us, the Blue Wildebeest.
After another impressive drive through the mountainside, a herd of about a dozen Wildebeest were spotted.
We stalked into a position getting an advantage from an elevated position. We shot a great bull from a prone position off a cliff, at 315 yards
What an impressive creature this animal is!!
On a sweltering afternoon, we went after a Red Lechwe in a new area. After spotting the herd in a thick thorn bush area, we were able to put in a long stalk and get ourselves into a position to get a shot as the herd moved through the thick brush.
Two “proper” Red Lechwe came through the opening, and Nick quickly identified the better of the two. A shot off the sticks put the Lechwe down at 230 yards.
Day 8 Warthog hunt
The only animal left on our list was another big warthog. The warthog was the focus of our final day of African hunting.
Well, we achieved success within 90 minutes of sunrise as we spotted a few shooters.
One unsuccessful stalk on a big pig was quickly followed up by a successful stalk on a different pig, which was downed from 210 yards. Warthogs…..they are so ugly they are beautiful!!!
Since we still had most of the day remaining to hunt, we decided to test our long-range hunting skills on the active and elusive White Blesbok.
Our African Hunting Trip
These animals love to run and can cover great distances in such a short period. Like many of the other species we went after, they are challenging due to the fact they run in such are a large herd.
Nick put us in position and identified a big shooter that stopped broadside at 608 yards. After using the G7BR2 rangefinder and setting the MOA on the Nightforce scope, this White Blesbuck was hit just in front of the shoulder and dropped in its tracks.
After gutting this animal and putting it in the shade, it was round 2 with the White Blesbuck.
Again, we set ourselves up in a similar location, and finally, the herd moved in front of us, and another trophy was hit hard behind the shoulder as it was strolling at 378 yards.
What a way to end a fantastic African hunt….two 18” White Blesbuck taken within a couple of hours of each other.
Finally, a few recommendations I would highly recommend for your South African hunting trip
Give yourself a MINIMUM of 3-4 hours for a layover between Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. We were delayed out of PLZ and barely made the plane back to the States. You will need all of that time for gun transfer, International check-in, etc…
Follow the recommended packing list Nick provides. Both trips I have over packed. You only need two sets of hunting stuff as they will wash and clean your clothes each day used the previous day.
Bring an excellent collection of optics! The eyesight of Nick and his crew is astonishing. They see stuff with their naked eye that is difficult to pick up with good binoculars. Great binoculars will make your experience much better with the amount of glassing you will be doing.
The majority of your shooting will be standing off of sticks. The first time I went over, I didn’t realize how much shooting would be done this way. Practice, A LOT, and be prepared to get a quality shot off in the standing position off sticks quickly.
Finally, a few recommendations
When you anchor an animal with one good shot, it makes everything so much better. You don’t want to spend a half-day or more tracking a trophy.
Bring quality bullets and know your ballistics…this will be valuable in preventing frustrating circumstances.
Listen to your Professional Hunter. Nick can quickly judge an excellent African animal from a great one. After two trips, every decent Kudu bull still looks enormous to me…he will promptly be able to tell you what is a shooter and what isn’t…trust their judgment.
Start planning your next trip after you experience your first trip as this is such an addicting experience.
I hope you enjoy the recap of another fantastic South African hunting trip experience with Nick. We have already started planning our 3rd trip over there, and we cannot wait for the next African hunting adventure to happen!
Rob Bowker collected us from the Port Elizabeth airport for Andre’s first African Safari. I was returning for my second African hunting Safari in South Africa with Nick Bowker.
Having had an excellent previous experience with Nick. I was keen to bring my friend Andre for some free-range hunting in South Africa.
Nick is an Outfitter with more than 25 years of professional experience. Both Andre and I were taking Nick’s seven animal package.
In addition to the hunting Safari, we were combining our trip to visit the Mountain Zebra Park and the Addo Elephant national parks.
Day one visit to Mountain Zebra Park start our African Safari
We set off for the Mountain Zebra National Park for some game viewing before beginning our African Safari. The accommodation is basic but very comfortable.
The first morning we set off for some cheetah tracking. One of the male cheetahs has a collar as well as one of the female cheetahs. Initially, we tried to find the male, but four hours later, the ranger could not get a signal. The cheetah probably was on the move and avoiding our efforts.
We changed tactics and tried to find the female. We located the signal quite quickly and set off on foot to try and locate her. About a 5km walk and we came upon the female cheetah with her half-grown cub. They had recently made a kill, and at about 10 meters, we could still see the blood on them.
A short photo opportunity, and then the ranger asked us to back out so as not to be too intrusive.
On the way back to the vehicle, we thought we had bumped into a black rhino.
The ranger was a bit unsettled, explaining that he had recently had a bad experience while cheetah tracking with a black rhino. We made an extensive birth and returned to the vehicle.
We returned to camp for a late brunch. Rested for a few hours and then did a self-drive around the park.
We completed a 4×4 trail in the park, which was a lot of fun.
We Saw some very impressive Eland amongst the typical array of Plains Game. Springbok, Gemsbok, Black Wildebeest and Red Hartebeest were plentiful. Just before sunset, we came upon several Buffalo feeding in the thick brush close to the camp.
A great ending to the first day of our African safari.
Day two Springbok hunt -African Hunting Safari
Lions on the Savanna
The following day we checked out of the camp to make our way back to Olivefountain ranch to begin our African hunting safari. But first to try and find the lions.
We had heard the lions roaring early in the morning from a great distance. Having determined the direction, we set off to try and find them. We drove to the Northern end of the park and found a pride of 15 lions, which had just finished drinking.
The pride made their way across the African savanna and parallel with the road for about 5km, and we followed them – what a great siting. We then exited the park and drove to Cradock for brunch.
On arrival at Olivefountain ranch, I found the lodge recently upgraded with very comfortable rooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. We settled in and began shooting in rifles. We used Nick’s 7mm Remington Magnum.
Andre had never used a sporting rifle
Andre had never used a sporting rifle or shot an animal, although he had completed some military service early on in life. Nick first had Andre on the bench with some dry firing and going through the necessary procedures.
After this, some live firing off the bench, followed by firing off shooting sticks (Tripods). Most African hunting is done off sticks because of the terrain. With Andre feeling good about the rifle and the basics mastered, we set off for an evening hunt.
After a 20 minute to mixed scrub and savanna area where impala and Springbuck are in great numbers, we began walking up a low valley and soon spotted a springbuck trophy ram.
We stalked the ram, and Andre made his shot. A little low. We spent a few hours following the trail, and Andre finished his Springbuck ram off. His first African Trophy. We returned to camp to enjoy dinner next to a blazing fire with a pleased first-time hunter
Day two Day Three Impala hunt hunt
Up early for coffee, and we set off just after first light. This time it was my turn.
We went back to the Savanna area and parked on a flat ridge overlooking a valley and began walking along the crest of the ridge glassing for animals.
This area has larger amounts of Impala. We soon spotted a suitable ram and started a stalk down into the valley. I set up on the tripods and was successful – a beautiful impala ram.
We continued our walk this time up the bottom of the long valley. Andre held the rifle and again not long before we spotted another good Impala. Andre took his shot and success.
A great morning. Two fantastic Impala Rams, and we set off back to camp for brunch.
In the afternoon, we went a little further afield along a long ridge interspersed with thickly bushed valleys. We were on the lookout for a good Kudu Bull.
We drove along the ridge, glassing into the valleys – lots of Kudu but no big Kudu bulls. About an hour before last light, we spotted a good bull.
We started a long walk over the ridge and, at some point, lost sight of him as slipped into the thick brush. We never saw him again. Not called the grey ghost for nothing.
Day Four Kudu hunt
We continued our quest for Kudu and headed up to a mountainous area about 45 minutes’ drive away.
This area was vast, with deep valleys stretching up the mountainside of a huge box canyon.
As we drove up the bottom of the valley, we would stop every few miles and glass the big valleys running up the side of the mountain.
There were plenty of Kudu to be seen. The bulls we spotted were to high up to launch a stalk without being spotted.
We enjoyed a packed lunch high up in the mountain overlooking a deep valley. The 4×4 tracks through the valleys and mountains were thrilling. But no luck, and we set off home.
Hunting Africa’s most elusive trophy is never easy. We enjoyed venison back straps from a Mountain Reedbuck over a blazing fire.
Day five Warthog hunt
Up early as usual and continued our quest for the elusive Kudu. No luck in the morning hunt for Kudu, but Andre had managed to shoot a good Warthog.
Andre held the rifle, and we moved into an area we had not previously visited.
We began a slow walk down a creek, glassing as we went. Midway way down the creek, we spotted a Kudu bull and started stalking him.
We got to about three hundred yards, and Andre took his shot. The familiar thud and Andre made his first shot count.
The Kudu, however, did not go down, and a second shot and Andre had his Kudu and was delighted.
We began the task of loading the Kudu and getting it back to camp. Finally, arrived at camp just before nightfall – success at last hunting Africa’s most elusive trophy.
Day Six Black Wildebeest hunt
The day was again looking for Kudu this time; I held the rifle. We spotted Kudu in a deep Valley not far from camp. We started a stalk, but some cows between us and the bull set him off down the valley.
On the way down the valley, we saw some Mountain Reedbuck. I had already shot a Mountain Reedbuck earlier, so Andre began a stalk with Nick and was successful.
That afternoon we went up higher on to the plains to look for Black Wildebeest. At first, we were unsuccessful with several ambushes not working out.
Towards evening we set up an ambush in a shallow valley. Andre and I both shot a Black Wildebeest in quick succession in the late afternoon.
Day Seven Blesbok hunt
We needed to shoot two White Blesbuck as part of our hunting package.
The Blesbuck are on the open plains and often require longer shots. So, we decided to use Nicks 300 Sako Winchester Magnum.
Mounted on the 300 are a Swarovski digital range finder and an automatic holdover for the required distance.
First, some practice at targets using the range finder. All went well with our long-range shooting practice.
We drove out on to the plains where there was a large herd of common and white Blesbuck.
We set up an ambush. Both Andre and I were successful at shooting a white Blesbok at around the six-hundred-yard range. Late that afternoon, I stalked and shot a Springbuck.
Day Eight of our African Safari
My only outstanding animal in the package was a Kudu. Nick offers very competitive all-inclusive packages.
The cost of an all-inclusive seven animal trophy hunt is comparable to shooting one Elk in the United States.
We spotted three Kudu Bulls against the hillside. On the sticks and I took my shot. Hit but not down.
We moved forward and set up an ambush alongside a ravine where we saw the Kudu bull enter.
The trackers began walking through, looking for blood. But quite suddenly the
Kudu came out against a steep embankment, and I was able to finish the job. A fantastic end to our hunting safari in Africa.
Day nine of our African Safari
We spent Sunday in the Addo Elephant park with some magnificent sightings of Elephant Lion and Buffalo before our departure back to Europe.
Armando was back with his wife Roberta for their fifth Safari hunting in Africa. Previously Armando had made hunting trips to Namibia, the Limpopo region, and the Eastern Cape.
Armando was looking for a high-quality Lechwe, Nyala, Waterbuck, and Bushbuck trophies in a free-range environment.
I was on hand to meet Armando and Roberta at the Port Elizabeth airport after their long trip from Italy to South Africa.
We made the one and hour trip back to Olivefountain lodge, where Armando and Roberta settled in. We had the traditional dinner around the fire discussing the coming hunting.
Day one Lechwe hunting in Africa
We set off on a cold misty September morning to a neighboring property higher up on the escarpment about 20 minutes’ drive away.
Upon arrival, we walked to a high point and began glassing and located three Lechwe bulls down in the valley.
The mist was, however, very thick, and they melted away into the bush behind the fog.
The trackers stayed behind to try and locate the three bulls. We drove on to the next valley and moved ourselves to a high point and began glassing again.
We spotted a herd of Lechwe, but there was no trophy bull in amongst the herd.
At around noon, the trackers radioed to say they had found the three bulls form early in the morning.
We joined up with the trackers and made about a mile-long stalk. The older bull was lying behind a tree, and so we had to wait around an hour before he moved.
We got into position, and Armando made a one-shot kill.
The late afternoon we went to look for a Bushbuck and spent the afternoon walking slowly down a river bed.
We encountered several females and young rams but no older rams.
Before the last light, we found a good ram, but before we could get into position, darkness descended, and we had to abandon the hunt and make our way home.
As always, we spent the evening in front of the fire discussing the hunt and making plans for the following day.
Day 2 Nyala hunting in Africa
We left early and returned to the river bed searching for the previous evening’s Bushbuck, but he was nowhere to be seen. We then went to try for a White Blesbok out on the plains. Conditions were, however, windy, and we did not manage to get closer enough for a shot.
On the way, back we spotted a big Nyala bull heading into a thicket at the bottom of a big valley. After glassing him at some length, we decided to leave the Nyala and return in the evening.
Later that evening, we returned to look for the Nyala at the bottom of the valley below a big dam.
We hid out in a dry creek to see if we could spot him. After some time, we were able to find the Nyala bull just below the dam wall, and we mounted a stalk.
Midway through the stalk, some kudu cows got in between the Nyala and us, and we had to wait until the kudu moved off. We finally got into shooting range, and Armando hit a little far back.
The follow-up shot was high on the front leg. The Nyala dashed the dam embankment, and his momentum took him straight into the water, where he collapsed.
Day three African Waterbuck hunting
In the morning, we descended into a deep valley in search of Waterbuck. Around mid-day, we spotted two Waterbuck bulls, with one being an excellent bull. We mounted a stalk.
Halfway into the stalk, we stumbled upon a sleeping Duiker, which alerted the Waterbuck bulls, and we returned to camp for brunch.
In the afternoon, we went into a new area and spotted a herd of Waterbuck with a nice bull. Again, we mounted a long stalk. Armando hit him high in the front leg.
The Waterbuck bull went over a hill, but a good blood spoor was evident.
We let Black Jack, the long-haired terrier go, pictured below catching an impala from our last hunt.
BlackJack is fitted with a GPS transmitter, also pictured above. Somebody can see his position on a handheld device showing the direction and how many yards away from you he is.
After 20 minutes or so, the transmitter showed Black Jack as stationary about a mile away. As we began getting closer, we could hear here BlackJack barking.
We arrived to find Black Jack having bayed the Waterbuck, which was exhausted. A well-placed shot finished the hunt.
Day 4 African Bushbuck hunting
We spent the morning looking for a Warthog. After some driving and glassing, we found an enormous boar having a mud bath. However, he up and moved shortly after we began our stalk.
We decided to move back to the area where we saw the large Bushbuck. Waiting patiently while carefully glassing the area he stepped out about 100 yards to our left.
A well-placed shot from Armando and we had a fantastic trophy. This was the last animal Armando needed to complete his fifth African hunting trip.
Armando, a master SCI measurer, was delighted as all his trophies made the SCI qualification with ease. I explained that this does not always happen while hunting in Africa.
On the final day, Armando and Roberta spent the day relaxing at Olivefountain lodge. They also accompanied me to the great Fish river about half an hour’s drive from the lodge. A rogue hippo was in one of the farmers land,s and I was setting up camera traps to ascertain the movements of the hippo
My wife and I decided to take our honeymoon to South Africa for two weeks and were considering a first-time African Hunt. We stumbled across Nick’s website while planning.
He was one of few Outfitters that offered single-day hunting outside of other excellent packages that he has advertised.
We decided to take the first few days of our honeymoon for a first-time African hunt.
Nick and his brother greeted us at the airport, and we took a short 1.5-hour drive to his family farm. While I was after Kudu, my wife had never shot a rifle outside of two rounds at a target range a decade ago.
Over the two days we were there, we finally convinced her to try some target practice with a .243 that Nick had.
After building some confidence in shooting sticks at the lodge, Nick took her on a bush hike to find Impala.
Nick could perfectly place my wife in a position to make her first kill. She looked like a natural with the shot from 143 yards.
Nick was there by her side to guide her as well as keep her calm. An unreal experience to be an observer and not the hunter on that day.
First Time African Hunt with Nick Bowker
His staff and accommodations were top notch as well as his fees were reasonable and competitive.
Return to Nick Bowker after my Honeymoon Hunting Trip
Travel and Covid Testing for a first time African hunt
I returned to hunt with Nick Bowker after my first time African hunt while on my honeymoon.
After arriving home from my 6-day hunt in South Africa last night, I couldn’t wait to post this report while catching up on work and fighting through some jet lag!
COVID Related: We had a negative test taken before we left from Charlotte, NC….they glazed over the page in Cape Town with no issues. To leave, we took a PCR test through a private company (AMPATH) in Grahamstown.
Results were back the next day. Qatar airways reps looked over it intently along with some scans of it that were attached to my check-in reservation for my departing flight. Nobody in the U.S. asked or required us to show a negative test.
SET-UP: We landed in Port Elizabeth last Wednesday, the 2nd. We hunted through Tuesday, the 8th. My buddy and I got to experience all of the excitement of big plains game hunting. We took a short trip north to capitalize on a relatively unhunted piece of property.
Hunting package & Taxidermy
I chose the Big Game Package that Nick and I worked out, including a Black Wildebeest, Nyala, Kudu, Waterbuck, and Gemsbuck. Nick was able to get me within 400 yards of each trophy for great shots through fantastic planning and stalking techniques.
I am elated to say I have 5 trophies being transferred to African Wildlife Artistry for taxidermy work. Please check out Austin Greenwood’s report. He and I hunted together, and our kudu was shot on the same day, around 5 hours apart. He took a 7 trophy package which included a blesbok on his first time African hunt.
A truly unforgettable trip. I will be booking a follow-up trip in a few years. After getting to see some amazing Sable and Eland while over there, adding them to the list! Please reach out to Nick Bowker via his website for any follow-up if you are considering a first-time African hunt.
He offers all-inclusive and ala carte options for any trip type you could imagine for the first time African hunt as repeat African hunters. He and his team made this trip the highlight of my year and something I will never forget.
A trip I am glad to have been a part of. Nick Bowker runs a quality operation. Laid back, easy-going, friendly accommodation, and great food.
From Day 1, it was Hakuna Matata. Morning coffee, to scanning the ever-changing landscape for trophies.
A grand brunch, a good nap, great company, back to surveying the countryside for more trophies.
My firsts African Hunting Safari
A Bless Buck at 550yards to a Wart Hog at 40yards. Sneaking on a trophy Nyala to be busted at 50yards, only to get a bigger one later. Stalking a springbuck to be spooked by pigs that came out of nowhere.
Wide-open spaces, areas with thousands of termite mounds, rolling hills, brushy valleys, rocky cliffs, and every bush have stickers.
Nick and his PH’s are knowledgeable of every animal and the country; not only are they working hard to find a good trophy, but they are also great teachers.
I learned a lot, the rich history of South Africa, the different qualities of each animal.
To top it off with stories and tall tales of the daily adventures, wine and dine and start all over the next day.
For having a routine, each day brought new adventures.
The trackers worked extremely hard to raise the success level and make the hunt more enjoyable.
I cannot thank Nick, his PH’s, and staff enough for the incredible experience and memories of my first African Hunting Safari.
I ended up with one more trophy than stated, for a total of eight incredible animals. A lot of self-preservation for I would have broken the bank, with all the different variety of animals that were available. I figure all for another trip.