It was seven years since our last South African hunting trip to the Eastern Cape with Nick Bowker.
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.
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 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 we decided against shooting any animals; we would have seven days of hunting. And given the number of animals we saw, we felt very comfortable passing on some quality animals. Knowing we would have more opportunities.
Returning to the lodge, we enjoyed a fantastic steak dinner, 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 this morning.
They all proved skittish and jumpy, remaining on the high-ground running with Blesbuck, Springbuck, and Waterbuck.
A quality shot never did present itself on a lovely 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 spotted a large herd of about 70 animals on 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 of the sticks through the shoulder put the animal down in its track, and we had our 1st of 15 trophies of this trip.
We went after Kudu, Nyala, and Warthog for the evening hunt. 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 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 higher in the mountains near Bedford as we pursued Kudu. The drive up in these mountains is breathtaking. 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 and 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; 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 land area. Like the evening before, the Nyala bulls were out in astounding numbers.
Near the exact location 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 could closed in within 100 yards of many of these animals.
Nick’s ability to differentiate a very nice Nyala from a “Proper Nyala bull” was evident again. 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 of 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 returning 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 covered miles of highland. Nick put us on a hillside where he felt they would eventually move.
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 below 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, a nyala bull, was shot, and we returned to the lodge after another great day of hunting.
Day 5 Zebra hunt
This was a fantastic day 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 from looking 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 that 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 the herd would be moving through. An opportunity at the lead stallion presented itself at 548 yards.
I placed a shot just in front of the shoulder from a prone position, 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 impressive ivoryâ€¦.again, the stalk was on.
We moved into the area of the giant pig; he came out at 215 yards and was knocked down in the spot off the sticks.
We are not sure the trackers were thrilled with our success as they 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. Returning to the same area where we had previous Gemsbok success, the herd was actively 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 could 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 seen at least 10,000 different animals of numerous species.
One of the coolest things happened late this afternoon. While 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; 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 moved in on this impressive animal (sorry, this clarity 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, the Blue Wildebeest.
After another impressive drive through the mountainside, a herd of about a dozen Wildebeest was 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!!
We went after a Red Lechwe in a new area on a sweltering afternoon. 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 one. 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.
We succeeded within 90 minutes of sunrise as we spotted a few shooters.
A successful stalk quickly followed up one unsuccessful stalk on a big pig on a different pig, which was downed from 210 yards. Warthogsâ€¦.. 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 because they run in such large herds.
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 were 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 that time for gun transfer, International check-in, etc.
- Follow the recommended packing list Nick provides. On both trips I 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
- Anchoring an animal with one good shot makes everything so much better. You want to spend less than half a 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 is…trust their judgment.
- Start planning your next trip after you experience your first trip, as this is such an addicting experience.