I had the privilege and honour to hunt with Wayne Howlett. Wayne was accompanied by his cousin Hop Howlett who was joining him on his adventure. Hop had hunted with my outfit a couple of times before and was hunting with my good friend and very experienced PH Mark Hudson. Hop wanted to share Wayne’s 1st African hunting experience with him.
We were to start our hunting in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Wayne was after Gemsbuck and Common Springbuck which were his main animals and Hop was after Copper Springbuck, Lechwe and Klipspringer.
Our first day had us after Gemsbuck and Copper Springbuck. Over the hill Wayne and I heard a shot and we were sure Hop had shot his Springbuck. I radioed Mark and sure enough they had shot a great trophy Copper Springbuck. It was our turn for a bit of luck. We set ourselves up in a good ambush position and waited for the herd of Gemsbuck to move in our direction to pick out a good trophy bull. We spotted them feeding towards us and Wayne got quite excited, was this to be his first African trophy animal if all worked out for us?
The herd came within 190 yards of us and the perfect trophy bull stepped out and presented Wayne with a perfect broadside shot. BANG!! Down he went. I asked Wayne to quickly reload in case he jumped up, but he did not. By the time we reached him he had expired. What a wonderful trophy to start off your African experience. Wow!
Mark and Hop decided to look for Mountain Reedbuck the rest of the day and we took off after Common Blesbuck. The wind had picked up and it made all the animals very wary. We stalked a group of 4 rams (bucks), but they knew something was up. We kept closing the gap without them seen us and with the sun setting I knew they would settle down and give us our chance. Wayne soon got his chance and shot a great trophy Blesbuck. An excellent first day in our wonderful Karoo!
Our second day had us up at sunrise and after a hearty breakfast we were back in the field looking for Common Springbuck. Mark and Hop were after Mountain Reedbuck. There was a sudden change in the weather and we were all soon back in camp and sitting around a warm fire and there we were for the rest of the day.
Hop wanted to check his rifle the next day and when there was a break in the weather he quickly went out and made sure all was ok. Sadly the weather did not play in our favour and there was to be no hunting that day. Another day around the camp fire had us eager to head out the next day.
Mark and Hop went after Klipspringer and Wayne and I after Common Springbuck. The ground was very wet so we dared not to go off the roads. We then spotted him a wonderful Springbuck trophy. He was not worried about us and was moving past us without any hurry. He made the mistake by stopping and Wayne dropped him in his tracks. This was to be the biggest Common Springbuck I had taken for the season. A fantastic trophy for Wayne to put up on his wall! The day was not to end there.
Wayne decided he would like to try and get a Black Wildebeest as we had seen some wonderful trophies. If anyone knows anything about Black Wildebeest you will know they wind themselves up by the tail and can run all day. The Wildebeest had winded us and knew where we had set up for the perfect ambush. What to do now! We decided to stick it out as they would soon forget and after an hour or so we got our chance. Wayne shot another spectacular trophy animal. He could not believe our luck. Luck! Come on what about skill? This was to be pure luck to get them to us, but skill to find the trophy. Pat pat! Nothing like honking one’s own horn!
Mark and Hop were not to be out done and after a couple of hours on the stalk for Klipspringer , Hop mad a perfect shot on a great trophy. Great going guys!
The next day the sun was out, but still quite chilly. Mark and Hop were after Lechwe. We decided to try for an Impala ram. We found a bachelor heard but could not get onto them. We then found another group with a great ram in it. As he cleared the others Wayne dropped him in his tracks. Another great shot by Wayne!
Mark and Hop had no luck the previous day so they wanted to say on for another day to try and find a trophy Lechwe. We on the other hand wanted to get to our other area to hunt for Kudu, Nyala and Warthog. So we set off for a day’s drive. During our trip Wayne and I got a message that Mark and Hop had shot a great trophy Lechwe and would leave the next day to join us. Wary and tired from the long trip we settled in for the night after a wonderful dinner.
The next day had us up early as we were excited to be hunting another area for different species. We were after Kudu the Grey Ghost. We spotted a couple of young bull and a few cows, but nothing we were after. We had seen many great Nyala bulls and then there he was. Just the bull we were looking. He had everything in a trophy bull one looks for. He was with 8 other bulls so we needed to keep our focus and make sure both Wayne and I were on the same animal. The Nyala then made the fatal mistake by crossing an opening in which I had intercepted he may cross. Yes Sir he did. Wayne made a perfect shot on him. He leaped into the air to the shot and I knew it was a good shot. We searched and searched but could not find him. With no blood on the ground we decided to retrace our foot steps for the 5th or 6th time and found the right set of running tracks. I caught a glimpse of something shining inside a dead Acacia tree and there he was stone dead. We dragged him out with a great sigh of relief from all of us. A true trophy Nyala! Wow!
Mark and Hop joined us the next day on this Big 5 Nature reserve of over a 100 000 aces. Hop was to be next. We spotted the really good Red Duiker walking down the trail straight to us. Was this going to be that easy? You walked and fed on leaves and kept coming. He turned and gave Hope the perfect shot. What a wonderful trophy. That was not to be the end of the day.
We had a break for lunch, light a fire and had a great braai out in the field under the wonderful indigenous trees. After lunch we moved out into an open area that had been burnt and were hoping to spot a good trophy Warthog for Wayne. There were quite a lot of Impala out in this open area and Wayne decided he would like to try and get another Impala. With a short stalk and a great shot down he went to the shot.
We loaded him and we were heading back when we spotted this huge old Warthog heading down the road. We jumped out of the vehicle and set off after him. Wow! He just kept on going as if he was on a mission. We finally caught up to him, but we could not get a shot on him. He had sensed that we were there and started to head back towards the bush as luck would have it he passed 60 yards in front of us and gave Wayne a frontal shot. Bang! Down he went to the shot chest shot. A great old boar!
We set him up for pictures and we reminiscence on the long stalk after him. We had decided that he was heading to water, but could not work out why he had gone so far for water. Sneaky old bugger, but then again he did not get that big for been silly.
Hop was there to share the whole experience with Wayne and that is what friend and family do. Good memories guys!
Our third last day and we had still not found a trophy Kudu. Kudu was the no 1 trophy on Wayne’s list and we had still not seen any good bulls. I was starting to worry, but knew it was just a matter of time before we would run into a good bull. Musa our parks guide got a call from the anti-poaching guys to let us know that they had seen 3 big Kudu bulls together. We set off like a jet and flew across the park. We were hoping that they would still be there as this was about 45 minute drive through the brush. Luck was still to be on our side and there they were, but that did not mean we were going to get one. They gave us the slip and we were very disappointed, but we knew were they hung out. We will return tomorrow. On our way back I spotted a loan bull and the stalk was on. He gave Wayne a small window through some brush and Wayne treaded it perfectly through the gap. He reacted to the shot and was off. I suggested that we give the bull some time before we followed suit, as I was not sure where Wayne had hit him.
No blood! This was worrying we followed what I thought was his tracks and them lost them. Oh no! After all that were we going to lose him? I saw a small brush pile and went to look through it as it looked like the perfect place a wounded animal would seek cover. There he was what a huge relief. I called to Wayne and they were there in no time. We got Wayne’s no 1 dream trophy Africa’s grey ghost. A huge old bull! Wow!
We had 2 days left of the hunt and decided to take the day off and visit some of the great areas around. We were fortunate to see 3 of the big 5 and the wonderful Indian Ocean. To end off the day we did a sunset cruise on Lake St Lucia. We spotted Hippo and Croc with plenty of beautiful birds found in the wetlands. We were even treated to a Hippo fight. Huge noise and great action!
On our last hunting day Wayne and I were after a Waterbuck bull. On the ranch we were staying on, had an old Waterbuck bull and it was good to take him out and make way for a new bull and new bloodline. Given that there was only one bull we were concerned about what the chances would be to find him. After a few hours we spotted a couple of females and there he was. We made our stalk and waited for him to get up. I whistled and he stood up. Wayne dropped him in his tracks. A really good old bull! What a wonderful end to a legendary safari for a first time comer to the Dark Continent. Well done Wayne! And that my friend is how legendary experiences are made with us.