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Blue-collar "mountain" nyala and Moby Dick
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I recently returned from my 26th African safari (That started out with two groups of clients/friends to Botswana- will be another post), but admittedly, I don’t have a lot of experience in the country of South Africa. My first safari, as with most Africa hunters, was there, but since then, I have mainly concentrated on “wilder” areas of the continent such as Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Uganda, Burkina Faso, etc. We are never too old or experienced to learn, and my recent trip really opened my eyes to a new experience that can be had in the Umkomass Valley of KwaZula Natal.

This is a very mountainous region near the coast about an hour and a half south of the city of Durban, and my outfitter, Andrew Pringle owner of Crusader Safaris, has put together a conservancy of around 100,000 acres of 100% free-range hunting property that has superb game numbers. The big draw is nyala, but you can also hunt southern greater kudu, Cape bushbuck, bushpig, Burchell’s zebra, blesbok, blue wildebeest, blue duiker, common reedbuck and a host of other plainsgame in the picturesque mountains and valleys near his comfortable tent camp.




I was on a fairly short hunt looking for nyala, bushbuck and bushpig, and I quickly drew parallels between this modestly priced (around $8,000) adventure, and the very expensive hunt for mountain nyala, Menelik’s bushbuck, and giant forest hog in Ethiopia. Of course the species I hunted are not nearly as glamorous as those of the Ethiopian Highlands (nor the country as remote or demanding), but they provide a wonderful mountain hunting experience in Africa for the price of a medium range elk hunt.

I am not an “inches” kind of guy when it comes to trophies, but I do like to go after quality animals, and I do put an emphasis on age. When I arrived in camp, I told Andrew I wanted to find an old nyala bull, and preferably one that had flared horns. He told me we would see a good number of mature bulls, and we would be picky.

The first morning was extremely foggy in the mountains and really hampered visibility until after 9:00 AM, but we did see a few bulls, and one very nice bushbuck we just couldn’t get a shot at in the thick tangle of lush vegetation that covered much of the area.

That afternoon we went out on a point to watch a large valley where a couple of PH’s had seen a huge nyala bull in previous weeks that they thought would go around 30”. I thoroughly enjoyed sitting and glassing as we saw kudu, zebra, impala, and nyala bulls and cows in many locations. An hour and a half before dark, we spotted two bulls a mile away and both looked very good. We made a move as quickly as we could, and we eventually ended up 165 yards from the herd bull.

He was magnificent with very long horns. Andrew said he would be a solid 29”, and might touch 30”, but he didn’t flare at all, and he was in his prime and not a super old bull. I could have easily been persuaded to shoot, and Andrew said if he looked over the bull too long, he might talk himself into it. Again, I wasn’t all about inches, so we decided to pass. We probably saw 12-15 bulls that afternoon, so it was great fun, and I certainly wasn’t ready for it to end.




The second morning, we did some spotting and took a walk for a couple of miles, but we didn’t see anything exceptional. Andrew was disappointed that we only saw about 10 bulls. It was a full moon, but I thought we saw plenty. In the afternoon, we went back to our glassing point, and had a lot of movement. We probably looked at 15 more bulls, but no giants. I also noticed very few of the bulls flared, so maybe it is a genetic trait of the area.


The next morning, we hunted the same general area, and by mid-morning we had see a number of bulls, but again, nothing outstanding. We were driving down a steep road a couple of valleys over from our glassing point, when “Tool Bag”, our tracker, tapped on the roof of the cruiser. We got out, and he pointed to a partially open hillside some 700 yards away where we glassed a lone nyala bull feeding. Immediately Andrew said, “We need to try to take that bull. He is what we are looking for!”

That was what I was waiting to hear. When a PH’s first reaction is that an animal is a shooter and he doesn’t have to study it and take time to make a decision, you don’t question it. We parked the Cruiser and trekked closer, and when we stopped about 350-400 yards away, I glassed the bull and got a really good look. His horns had excellent mass, and I cold tell by Andrew’s immediate assessment of the bull that he was a dandy, I was fine to try to make a stalk and shot.

We were able to utilize an old roadway to cut the distance, but the bull was feeding toward a very thick draw that we figured he would lie up in until late afternoon. We decided to try to get a shot from where we were, so I ranged the bull at 265 yards. I collapsed my BOGPOD shooting sticks to a length where I could shoot sitting down, and we waited for the bull to step out from behind some tree branches that prevented a clear shot.
He turned uphill and straight away, and it was over 10 minutes before his head emerged in my opening.

I clicked the safety off of the .300 Win Mag, and when he took another step and his shoulder cleared, I touched the trigger. Andrew and Tool Bag both said it looked like a good hit, but the bull got into the thick stuff. When we climbed the steep slope to where he had been, we found plenty of blood, but no Nyala.

Tool bag did an incredible job of tracking the bull through the thickest stuff I have ever been through in Africa. Everything was thorny, and the tangled mess found us literally on hands and knees half the time. Finally, we caught up to the nyala after about 300 yards that took an hour to cover, and he was on his feet but obviously finished. A quick shot to put him down for good was administered, and we had our bull.

Turns out my original shot was about four inches back and had hit liver, so it was lethal but not nearly as quick acting as I had planned. The bull was just fantastic. He was definitely heavy, and his ivory-tipped horns were super long, even to my untrained eyes. He was obviously old, and Andrew said he was 2-3 years older than the big bull we passed the first afternoon. I was just ecstatic with him, and his beauty up close proved why nyala are one of the most handsome animals in all the world.




That evening as we were having a celebratory Castle beer, Andrew told me that he had slipped down to the skinning shed and measured our bull. He was 29.5-inches, and although I was impressed as I know 30” is equal to a 200” whitetail or a 60” kudu, but the score didn’t make me appreciate the bull one bit more. It wouldn’t have mattered if he had been 27”, he was mine and magnificent.

My last day I went out with one of Crusader’s other PH’s, Shaun Higgs, to look for a Cape bushbuck. I have always had a softspot for bushbuck, as I love their secretive nature, and they are such beautiful little antelope. I have successfully hunted a number of Chobe, Limpopo and Nile bushbuck, but I had never hunted where Cape bushbuck live.


Shaun, Tool Bag and I walked the edge of a thick draw glassing the edges and openings. Early on we jumped a very nice ram, but he never stopped long enough for me to get a shot. We walked a coupe of hours, but we only saw a couple of ewes. We drove through the mountains for another hour or more, and I enjoyed seeing more nyala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu, warthog, impala, blesbok along the way. We were headed to check a bushpig bait site that Shaun had been running for months where he infrequently got trail cam pics of a sow and giant boar. The most unique part was that the boar was white.


Shaun explained to me that to a serious bushpig hunter, and there are many in South Africa, a white boar is the Holy Grail of their sport. He had been after this big white pig for months, but it was so inconsistent in its feeding and never showed when they sat for it, the boar had sort of become his Moby Dick.

We glassed a few areas as we made our way closer to the bait, but in late morning, I didn’t have much hope of finding a bushbuck. They are usually bedded up an hour or two after daylight.

To my complete surprise, Shawn pointed out a bushbuck ram feeding on a mostly grassy slope with scattered trees over a half mile away. Through my binos, I could see horns, so I knew he had to be a good one. The ram, like my nyala, was slowly feeding toward a very thick area, and we knew we had no time to waste if we were to get a shot.

Shaun did a superb job of guiding me down a trail that led us under a small bank so we could get below the bushbuck. He would have to either cross in front of us to get to the thick stuff, or we would hopefully be able to spot him above us.

That’s just what happened. Shaun peaked over the bank and spotted the ram less than 60 yards away in tall grass. We backed up a couple of steps so I could clear the bank, and the sticks went up. I quickly took aim, and just as the ram raised his head in our direction, I squeezed the trigger. The bushbuck dropped on the spot, and we hustled up the bank. Shaun beat me there, and I could tell by his initial reaction that we had scored on a great ram. I had seen long horns as he raised his head before the shot, but I didn’t take time to look him over. He was the equivalent of my nyala. He was old, heavy, and had long horns that did flare out a bit at the tips. Out of all my bushbucks, he is the best. What a great bonus to an already superb hunt.



After photos we went on and checked the bushpig bait, that had not been hit at all the night before, and then headed back to camp for lunch. Shaun and I talked and decided we would give a pig hunt after dark a shot that evening, but I wasn’t at all hopeful on the bait we had just checked. Shaun said he had another bait that was getting hit consistently, so I figured we would go there.

When we headed out in late afternoon, Shaun said he really wanted to sit for the white boar for a couple of hours, and if we didn’t have any action, then we would try to do a walkup on the other bait. I was good with whatever, so up the mountain we went. The bait was about three quarters of the way to the top of a big mountain, and it was situated right off one of the hunting vehicle roads. He had out corn, sugar, meal and a few other secret ingredients out about 50 yards from a well constructed blind. The whole hillside was very dense brush.


These hunts are typically conducted at night with lights, night vision or thermal scopes. Shaun had me setup with a .308 with a night vision scope. I had only used night vision one other time in Estonia, so I consider myself a novice. Shaun had a night vision monocular.

He told me there would likely be a porcupine or two that would feed early, and then we hoped to have luck with the pigs. As a beautiful pink sunset faded into complete darkness, I thought how similar this was to a number of the leopard hunts I had been on where all your senses are on full alert, but really only your hearing is useful.

Not long after dark I could hear crunching, and Shaun whispered it was a porcupine. A few minutes later, we could hear movement on the brush straight out to the left of the blind, a stick broke, and all went silent. Twenty minutes passed, and then beyond the blind we heard a loud grunt that sounded very pig like to me. We had only planned to stay an hour or two, but after that, I was willing to sit until midnight.

I didn’t have to wait nearly that long because when Shaun checked the bait with his monocular, he whispered that the boar was at the bait. On came my night vision scope, I located the bait and saw two glowing eyes. I couldn’t make the hog out, but being inexperienced with the night vision, I decided to just put the crosshairs between the eyes and anchor the boar.

When I squeezed the trigger, nothing happened. I squeezed harder, and still nothing. I pushed forward on the safety, but t was on FIRE, and I tried again. I knew I put a round in the chamber, so I was completely perplexed, and then Shaun whispered, “he’s gone.” I felt like a complete amateur that had just blown a chance at an animal the PH had worked very hard to put in front of me, and I apologized.
I asked Shaun if FIRE on his safety was forward like virtually every two position safety I had ever shot was, and he said, NO, it’s back to fire.” Uhhhhh...I was just sick.

Shaun said we would stay a while, and to my complete dismay, he whispered that the boar was back about five minutes later. He said that the boar and sow were feeding side by side, and the boar was on the right. When I found the bait, I saw one set of eyes there, and then scanned and saw the two pigs a bit to the right. The porcupine was on the bait, and in that instant, I realized when I tried to shoot the first time, I was on him and not the boar. What a disaster that would have been! Porcupines are legal, but I am pretty sure Shaun would have wanted to make me part of the bait pile.

The two pigs were facing straight on, and again, I decided to take a head shot. I pulled the safety back this time, and when I squeezed the trigger, I saw the boar just collapse. Shaun and I burst out in celebration, and then got out of the blind. I told him about the porcupine as we walked up to the boar, and we both had a good laugh, that ended abruptly when we saw the size of our giant boar.

He was simply huge with a massive body, his warts were bigger than anything I had ever seen even in photos, and then he was almost solid white. He was an unbelievably ancient animal with broken and jagged teeth, and Shaun estimated him at over 15 years-old. He was beside himself, and his enthusiasm and sheer joy were contagious.




When we got back to camp, Andrew was as impressed as we were, and both the guys began texting photos to every hunter they knew. They said the boar would go viral with all the South African hunters by the next day. I learned more and more how special this animal was.

We decided over dinner that the old warrior would be full mounted and positioned in a place of honor in the camp’s lounge, and after telling Andrew the full story, he decided he would have a porcupine mounted beside the boar.

I thought the bushbuck was a great way to end my hunt there, I had no idea I would end up with a monster 110KG white bushpig on my last night. It really topped off my hunt in a fashion I am not accustomed to. I am rarely the lucky hunter in camp, but it sure felt good to be that guy that night.

My hunt wasn’t for mountain nyala, Menelik’s bushbuck, and giant forest hog in Ethiopia, but it was certainly a fine mountain safari in a great free range area that produced some wonderful animals that parallel the more expensive hunt. It certainly opened my eyes to hunting opportunities I did not know about, and I definitely am planning a return trip to hunt with Crusader Safaris on one of their top notch conservancies. We have booked a lot of hunts for Crusader, this was just my first time to go personally,


Good Hunting,

Tim Herald
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Posts: 2919 | Location: Lexington, KY | Registered: 13 January 2005Reply With Quote
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Tim those are some spectacular trophies. As you well know a hunter could spend a very long time trying to equal those fine animals. Thanks for sharing with us. Love that Nyala and Bushbuck. Well done.
Bruce
 
Posts: 320 | Location: Gillette, Wy USA | Registered: 11 May 2012Reply With Quote
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Tim,
Great hunt and report. Nyala are fantastic and that's simply the best area for them. Truly unique and special Bushpig hunt too.
Fantastic are, fantastic trophies...
 
Posts: 931 | Location: Music City USA | Registered: 09 April 2013Reply With Quote
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Enjoyable read, great bag of fine animals.

Thanks for sharing your hunt,

George


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Posts: 5119 | Location: Pueblo, CO | Registered: 31 January 2006Reply With Quote
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What a great trophies!, many congrats for good hunt and well write-up.
 
Posts: 192 | Location: Pakistan | Registered: 14 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Tim, those are some studs! A full moon can be poison when hunting Nyala but you made it work.

Great write up, as usual.
 
Posts: 1440 | Location: Sinton, Texas | Registered: 08 November 2006Reply With Quote
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no doubt, a great bag of trophies, congrats to all involved.
 
Posts: 4962 | Registered: 30 July 2007Reply With Quote
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Tim, I really enjoyed reading your report..
Thanks, and Congratulations on some fine animals.
 
Posts: 1660 | Location: Winston,Georgia | Registered: 07 July 2007Reply With Quote
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Spectacular bush pig and very unusual.

Heard lots of good things about Andrew and Crusader.


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Posts: 8743 | Location: Zambia | Registered: 10 April 2009Reply With Quote
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Tim, well laid plans that all came to fruition, well done and congrats! That shape on your Nyala is awesome, not the ancient lyre shape but reminds me of a numbers of juice harps I've dug in civil war camps, and a unique shape that is very appealing. The Bushbuck is a boss and like you, one of my favorites to hunt anywhere in Africa. My personal nemesis is the Bushpig. Multiple sets on multiple areas has failed me production. We currently have a white sow that a number of archers have failed to connect on but maybe she has a boyfriend in the bush that will provide me with chops next year. Good report that was an enjoyable read. Cheers, David


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Posts: 6620 | Location: Tennessee | Registered: 18 December 2006Reply With Quote
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Great report and super trophies. Thank you for sharing!
 
Posts: 48 | Location: Central Florida | Registered: 15 July 2011Reply With Quote
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Tim,

Well done! Nice trophies all round but that bushpig is a toad. Took me years to get one but nothing like yours. Hunted all of Andrew's areas in '15. Lots of great unfenced hunting for about any South African species.

Mark


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Posts: 12010 | Location: LAS VEGAS, NV USA | Registered: 04 August 2002Reply With Quote
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Thanks for the report! Hunted the Umkomaas with Crusader last year for my first ever trip to Africa. Great place.
 
Posts: 108 | Registered: 07 January 2007Reply With Quote
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Fantastic trophies, thanks for posting this report.


Frank



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Posts: 11960 | Location: Bakersfield CA. USA | Registered: 30 December 2002Reply With Quote
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Well done Tim. Solid trophies. Thanks for sharing. Awesome area to hunt.

,


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Posts: 1695 | Location: South Africa & Europe | Registered: 10 February 2014Reply With Quote
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Good stuff Tim!!!


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Posts: 4849 | Location: Boise, Idaho | Registered: 05 March 2009Reply With Quote
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A huge congrats on the awesome trophies! Great read!


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Posts: 513 | Location: SouthEast, KY | Registered: 09 May 2010Reply With Quote
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Tim, my friend: Simply OUTSTANDING!!! tu2 tu2 tu2
 
Posts: 16151 | Registered: 04 April 2005Reply With Quote
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Congrats Tim,

Outstanding on the spiral horns. The pig is unique for sure.


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Posts: 792 | Location: In the shadow of Currahee | Registered: 29 January 2009Reply With Quote
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Great trophies, and a nice read. Thanks for sharing your hunt.
This looks like a really good, cost effective destination.
 
Posts: 1914 | Location: South Dakota | Registered: 22 August 2004Reply With Quote
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Originally posted by Skip Nantz:
A huge congrats on the awesome trophies! Great read!


+1 tu2
 
Posts: 722 | Location: Australia  | Registered: 31 October 2012Reply With Quote
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Awesome Trophies!!


Go Duke!!
 
Posts: 1163 | Location: Texas | Registered: 25 January 2009Reply With Quote
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Wonderful Trophies!!! Congrats


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Posts: 2205 | Location: East Wenatchee | Registered: 18 August 2008Reply With Quote
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Thanks for sharing the wonderful hunting story and the great photos. Also, excellent animals. Awesome country. I would like to hunt there. Brian
 
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Posts: 2267 | Registered: 17 July 2003Reply With Quote
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One good friend of mine has been there three times with number four planned and two others have been as well. They love the various camps, species, terrain, etc. Always a good safari with Andrew. I hope to make it there someday.
 
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