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Back from first trip to Africa
one of us
I returned from my first trip to Africa over the Labor Day weekend and thought I would tell you how it went. There were good parts and bad parts; I’ll let you know everything.

I set up the trip through Neil Summers Bowhunter Safari Consultants. I went to Allen Cilliers Hunting Safari, formerly known as Ha Nore. I went for a 10 day hunt with one other hunter in camp.

I was set up to leave on Sep 21, the first day of the low (cheaper) season on SAA. I found out a month before my trip from Neil that I had to change my dates to leave on day earlier, raising my ticket price by 350.00, and I would need to overnight in Windhoek adding a bit more. The upside was that I and Garry, the other hunter, went to Joe’s Beer House in Windhoek and had a great meal of gemsbok filet and ribs.

The next morning we left for the 5 or so hour drive to Allen’s place. We stopped at a woodcarvers market and bought some great stuff. After 4 hours we switched to a Toyota Land Cruiser with Jacqui, Allen’s wife for the remaining trip to the camp. We passed through Eden, another concession which allows rifle hunting, on the way there. We saw lots of animals on the way to camp, so it was very exciting.

We settled into camp and sighted our bows in. Mine was packed in a SKB 4114A case, yet somehow the airlines managed to crush the pin guard and pop the level out on my Cobra Sidewinder 5 pin sight. The harmonic dampers were also popped out of my Mathews bow. They must be awful hard on luggage at SAA.

We had a great meal of Eland steaks, sat by the fire for awhile and headed to bed. Both Garry and I had our own spacious tent, which had beds, tables and chairs, dressers and bathroom with toilet, sink and shower. The water was heated each evening with a boiler out back so we had a hot shower every night when we returned to camp. It was very comfortable, and I slept well with the sounds of the African night all around us.

The next morning we got up, had breakfast of eggs and cereal, juice and toast, and headed out to hunt. Garry’s bow had yet to show up, so both of us hunted with Wayne Cilliers, Allen’s son. He is 20 years old and got his PH license when he was 19. He was quiet and reserved, but very knowledgeable.

We drove to one of the sunken blinds on the property, known as the Cobra Blind. Wayne told us all the blinds were named after the first animal seen when they were first put up. This was interesting. It got more interesting when Wayne told us that said cobra still resided in the branches and brush piled on top of the blind. We hoped to not meet up with our blinds primary occupant!

The first day was slow and we didn’t see much, but it was just amazing to be in Africa. The sand, the sounds, everything seemed amazing. Wayne told us that it was too cold and the wind was wrong for their blinds, so we weren’t likely to see much. Some kudu cows and small bulls came in, and at dark a male wildebeest came in, but it was too dark and I couldn’t even see my pins. That night was another delicious meal of gemsbok stroganoff, then off to bed.

I hunted with John, one of the Bushmen trackers the next day. John was about 5 feet tall, thin and wiry and smiled and nodded a lot. This is because he only spoke about 10 words of English. Irregardless he seemed like a nice guy. Wayne said he would give me the thumbs up or thumbs down on any animal if I wanted to shoot. He seemed like a great guy, and I hoped I wouldn’t need his legendary Bushman tracking skills.

We didn’t see much the next day until early afternoon, just some small gemsbok, kudu cows and such, mostly because we still faced the same wind and cold as the day before. Then a nice old kudu came in to the waterhole. We had seen some nice ones the last couple days, but they were either too small to shoot, or they were nice sized (50+inches) but they didn’t want you to shoot them because they were young and would get even bigger.

I told John I wanted a 50 inch or bigger kudu, which is very possible at this place. He gave me the thumbs up on this one, and I got a great broadside shot at 15 yards while he drank at the waterhole. I had a complete pass through and my arrow went 20 more yards and hit the sand. The Kudu bucked up, almost jumping over a kudu cow behind him and ran off with a double lung shot.

I was so glad to finally have an opportunity at an African animal. We waited 20 minutes, which as any bow hunter knows, seemed like hours, then went and found my kudu 100 yards away in the brush. His arrow wounds had plugged with lung tissue and there was almost no blood, but John trailed him by looking at his poorly defined footprints in the sand. Amazing.

We called the truck, loaded up my kudu and sat in the blind until dark, but saw little else. A nice female gemsbok came in at dusk, and although I really wanted a bull, I thought I would take her, but just then the Land Cruiser came to pick us up with shooting light still available. Both Garry and I faced this same situation a couple times; finally we had to tell Wayne and the driver to not come get us until after dark.

The third day John and I sat in an elevated blind, known as Vulture blind, and saw very little other than a large troop of baboons. They are not as cuddly as one might think. They also don’t like people, and they made quite a ruckus once they found out we were inside the blind. Garry had got his bow equipment the first night in camp from the airline, and had wounded a gemsbok the day before, so Wayne and he took some trackers to try to locate it early that morning.

The next day we hunted at Cheetah blind and I got my Gemsbok. A group of 4 came in, two males, two females. I told John to point out the best male to me. Both sexes of gemsbok have horns, with the males being thicker, but usually shorter. Females can score higher in SCI due to this.

It is not as easy to differentiate between the sexes as I thought. They look very similar, and when there are a few milling around, it gets tougher. I was glad to have John around. However, after watching them drink and wander about the water hole for 10 minutes, he pointed out a nice gemsbok 20 yards away, steeply quartering away. It was unaware, and I felt I had a good shot. My arrow zipped in behind the ribs on the left, and out the right shoulder, skipping across the sand beyond.

The gemsbok took off in a death run and piled up less than 100 yards away. When we walked up to it, we discovered it was a cow not a bull. Johns English increased a little and he now kept saying “No good, No good!†I am not sure if he thought it was a bull, or if he thought I wanted a cow. Either way, I had harvested my second African animal. It was gorgeous, with long shiny black horns, and that distinctive diamond pattern on the face. We decided we would talk to Wayne about it later. We loaded up the beautiful gemsbok and went back into the blind.

The fifth day I hunted with Wayne again and we went to the Eland blind. There are more eland than any other species of animal on this property, however seeing a nice bull is not that common, as they feed mostly at night. So far I had yet to see any eland, bull, cow or calf. This particular blind had eland in the area regularly, and my hopes were high. A large tree right behind the waterhole was deeply scarred from where bull eland had sharpened their horns. I had two nice animals so far, but was disappointed that I not yet even seen a zebra, male warthog, or had a daylight sighting of a male blue wildebeest.

We had some action throughout the day, seeing the ever present kudu cows, some gemsbok, and a nice bachelor herd of young kudu bulls with horns in the low 50’s which were to young to shoot. They playfully sparred back and forth which was fun to watch.

About an hour before dark, Wayne saw some eland back in the brush. They were far away, but you could make them out. We could see them pulling down branches with their horns to get to the tender leaves up top, or rather we could see tree limbs cracking and disappearing from view as they tore them down.

It was a very exciting hour as we waited for them to come in. Wayne was looking through his binoculars and whispered, “There’s three bulls in there, shootersâ€. I got my bow ready and waited.

I could now see them in the distance and they were huge. I have killed Alaska moose, and they didn’t seem as big as these animals. It was a waiting game as daylight was fading and the animals slowly came in. You could hear the clicking noise the tendons of the old bulls made as they walked. Finally right at dusk, one walked by at 25 yards and I came to full draw, but Wayne said not to shoot that far. I let down and waited as the bull walked by, turned and came into the water hole at 15 yards. He began to drink, almost broadside, just slightly quartering to me. I drew back, settled my pin and let the German Kinetic 125 grain broad head fly. At the crack of the impact, the eland jumped over the water hole and charged out of sight his front right leg useless and dragging. Wayne put his ear to the blind window, listened for a few seconds, turned to me, held out his hand and said “congratulations on your elandâ€. I asked if he was sure, and he said he heard it go down. It was apparent I shot too far forward as I hit its leg, but it was enough.

We waited 10 minutes, and then slowly climbed from the blind. It was now dark. Once we got out I could smell it; a sickening sweet smell Wayne told me was my eland. Just then we heard a low bellowing noise off in the brush, the sound of my eland expiring. We turned on the flashlights and headed to where we last saw him run off in the fading light. He was no more than 60 yards away. My arrow had struck his foreleg, shattering the shoulder and went on into the top of the heart. I was told the German Kinetic broad heads were overkill for plains game, but right then I was sure glad I had chose them. Wayne said any other broad head would not have likely broken the leg.

I was ecstatic! I had really wanted an opportunity at an eland since I saw my friend Frank’s mount at his house back home, and I had succeeded. What an awesome experience with an equally awesome animal. He was an old bull with a thick brown mat of hair between his horns. We called the truck, cleared some brush and began taking video and pictures. When the truck arrived they had to dig a hole in the sand and back the truck into it to lower the bed enough to winch the animal in. Another great day in Africa ended.

The next day I was back with John searching for another trophy. We saw a decent red hartebeest early in the afternoon, and since it was the first one I had seen long enough to get a shot at, I decided to try for it. I drew back while John worked the camera, now having had some time to familiarize himself with it. I was waiting at full draw with the hartebeest slightly quartering to me, and John was hissing ‘Shoot! Shoot! Shoot!’

‘I can’t’ I said, ‘I have to wait until he is quartering away’, I hissed back.

‘Shot back, Shoot back!’

I thought, ‘What is he talking about, shoot back’. I thought ‘does he know something about hartebeest anatomy that I don’t?’ So I held tight to the shoulder and released.

The arrow zipped right through him, entering just behind the shoulder and exiting in front of the opposite ham. The bull jumped up and trotted about twenty yards away and just stood there for a moment, then wandered around. I could see the entry and exit wounds as he walked away, and blood was running down his flanks. I fully expected him to fall over at any time. Unfortunately he didn’t. He walked slowly over to the edge of the clearing and laid down behind some brush at around 52 yards. I couldn’t get an arrow in due to the brushy cover, so we had to wait. I kept second guessing myself and wishing I had taken another shot as he walked away. I was just so afraid of spooking him and having him run off if I had tried to hit him again.

For two hours we watched him lay there in the brush, with other animals, mostly kudu cows, milling around the water hole. He picked his head up several times, once he got up and stood, only to lie back down again. During this time, and with great difficulty, John explained he was trying to tell me to ‘Shoot black’. The hartebeest has a black patch on his chest above the legs and John wanted me to aim there, shooting in front of the leg, through the chest and out the opposite rib. I was getting very frustrated at our lack of communication. When we thought he was dead and could stand it no longer, we crept out of the blind.

The kudu saw us and ran off, making the peculiar barking noise that they sound when alarmed. My hartebeest jumped up and ran off like he had never been hit! We followed his tracks a short while, and John motioned he was ahead of me in the brush, but I couldn’t see him until he jumped up thirty yards away and ran off. There was no blood and just a jumble of tracks in the sand, so John recommended going back to the blind and waiting until evening to go and look for him again.

As we waited in the blind, John sat and napped while I stood looking out the window reading a book and berating myself for not shooting again or waiting for a better shot, or speaking fluent Bushman. I looked up between pages and saw a male and female warthog drinking at the waterhole. The sand muffles any sound of footsteps, and it was like they just appeared. I whispered to John and made a face with my fingers at the side of my mouth like tusks. John got up, looked them over and said I should take the male. It was the first mature male we had seen in our six days there, and I was thrilled to finally see a good one.

John got the camera ready, I drew the Switchback and let loose. My arrow broke the front shoulder and went through both lungs. The warthog jumped back, took a few steps, looked around wondering what happened, them took off at full speed, his snout plowing great plumes of sand up as his broken leg couldn’t hold his head up. We waited a few minutes, then went out and recovered my animal only 50 yards away, in sight of the blind.

He wasn’t huge by any means, but he was an African warthog, and I was grateful to have had the opportunity to harvest him. They are such a strange looking animal, so ugly you are drawn to them. A great moment, but there was still a wounded hartebeest out there.

Later the truck came and another Bushman tracker joined John and I. Together the three of us went to track my hartebeest. I can’t describe how amazing it was to watch these guys. With no blood and literally thousands of ill defined tracks in the sand, they tracked my bull for over a mile, as it circled back and forth to keep the wind in its favor. They pointed where it lay down in the sand by noticing small indentations from its legs. They moved along as fast as I could walk talking to each other in their native tongue, characterized by a lot of clicking noises made by the tongue.

Finally, they pointed it out to me, lying dead in the sand. What an incredible moment. I never could have found it without them. Their tracking skills were excellent and it was an experience to watch them work.

That night we relaxed after another wonderful meal. The hot showers felt great after sweating through the bush that day. I looked forward to what awaited us the next day.

John and I were sitting in the Cheetah blind the next evening when John looked up and shook his head in despair and said ‘no animals now’. I looked up and saw a large black rhinoceros making its way to the water hole. Apparently there are three breeding pairs of black rhinos on the property and we had just made the acquaintance of one of the males. He was huge! Even in the sand you could feel his footsteps as he came closer. His large face was scarred up and caked with dirt, his horn looked broken off at the top, and his large ears constantly swiveled back and forth, catching sounds.

I understood from John that this one was the aggressive one, and not only would most other animals avoid the water hole while he was there, he also would not enjoy our presence near him either. I had seen some of his work at another blind where his horn had ripped through the front of the blind, shredding it. John made it clear we needed to be quiet around this particular rhino.

I quietly video filmed him, afraid to us my photo camera for fear of the noise. He slurped water in large draughts, raising his head to look around now and again. Finally he walked right in front of the water hole, five yards from the blind. As he had almost walked by, he heard my video camera whirring and stopped in mid step. I saw his ear pivot back and focus on us, then his mighty head swung around and he came toward the blind. John whispered ‘Duck!’ and we crouched down out of sight as the rhino walked up to the blind, stopped, and then headed around to the back. We crouched and could hear his footsteps in the brush right outside. He circled the back of the blind and walked away. Our hearts were pounding after that! What an amazing experience. I couldn’t believe I had just been within feet of an animal most of the world had never had the chance to see in person. It was a great privilege.

The rest of our trip was relatively benign. We hunted the last few days hoping for a zebra or wildebeest, but it was not to be. We saw a lot of huge kudu and twice were surrounded by herds of eland with over 100 animals each. They rolled in, kicking up clouds of sand and noisily drank the water hole dry before moving off. The last day we saw two old kudu bulls come in, both with their scarred horns broken off near the bases; it was a pleasant end to an exciting week.

The plane trip home was long and although I was glad to be back, I look forward to returning to Africa. My trophies will hopefully be measured and the results sent to me, and soon the mounts will be on my wall, but in reality, that is not what’s important. I was able to take the trip of a lifetime to a place many have never been to, one I had always dreamed of going to.

Overall, a great hunt. I am disappointed that I didn’t spend more time with Wayne, a lot of questions about the animals, etc, that he could have answered. Also when Garry and I checked out, we found out the trophy fees were higher than the sheet that Neil from Bowhunting Safari had given us. We had gotten these sheets recently so I chalk it up to lack of communication between Neil and the Cilliers, similar to what made me have to change my arrival schedule, adding 600 bucks to my trip. Jacqui Cillier wouldn’t budge and although it wasn’t out fault we had to pay the higher rates.

Now, how to get some photos up……
Posts: 62 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With Quote
one of us
Picture of Don_G
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Fantastic hunt.

Breaking an eland's leg is no mean feat for a bow! What was the total arrow weight and type?


...from Texas, by way of Mason, Ohio and Aurora, Colorado!
Posts: 1645 | Location: Elizabeth, Colorado | Registered: 13 February 2004Reply With Quote
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Picture of Hughiam
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Great Post!!!

When will you post the pics?

Hugh clap

Pro Staff for:
In Natures Image Taxidermy
Posts: 443 | Location: Palmer, AK | Registered: 17 August 2005Reply With Quote
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Can someone help me out here with the pics. I am computer unsavvy, and will not take the time to learn. I read Terry's instructions on how to post, but was once again foiled by becoming easily confused.
Posts: 62 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With Quote
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I used a Mathews Switchback set at 65#, with Easton Axis arrows, 125 grain German Kinetic silverflame broadheads. Total arrow weight was 430 grains, speed was 255 fps. I credit the broadheads for most of the damage. They were wicked.
Posts: 62 | Registered: 01 June 2006Reply With Quote
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Picture of Don_G
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PM me spinedoc, and I will try to help you out with the pics.


...from Texas, by way of Mason, Ohio and Aurora, Colorado!
Posts: 1645 | Location: Elizabeth, Colorado | Registered: 13 February 2004Reply With Quote
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