By Todd Bromley
With a gentle shake, I felt the plane bank sharply to the left. Excitement quickly chased the sleep from my eyes. I struggled to see out the window as the plane descended rapidly and broke through the clouds. There before me lay the pristine coast line of the Indian Ocean. Kissing its shores was the culmination of a life long dream. Africa!
Whether hunting Africa for the first time or as an experienced hunter, the Dark Continent's impact on one’s life never seems to fade. Africa gets born inside of us all. She is majestic. She is beautiful. She can be dangerous, yet she calls out to every hunter.
As we cleared customs and gathered our equipment, we were met by our host and Professional Hunter Marius Goosen. Marius is the owner/outfitter of KMG Hunting Safaris located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
Marius was born and raised in the Eastern Cape and is very active in his operation. He started hunting at a young age, and after realizing hunting was his life’s passion, he made it his livelihood. After obtaining his license from the Academy of Professional hunting and numerous years of freelance guiding, Marius decided that it was time to take control of his own destiny. Hence KMG Hunting Safaris was born.
After securing our gear in the “bucky” (truck), we traveled north for several hours absorbing the breathtaking scenery and wildlife along the way. Zebra, antelope, wildebeests, giraffes and a host of other animals were spotted along our route. At one point several baboons crossed the highway in front of us. At last we reached our final destination: the MPUNZI Lodge (translation Duiker Lodge) and its five star accommodations.
After quickly unpacking, the first order of business was to send some arrows down range to make sure our equipment was still intact after the twenty-three hour flight. The TenPoint Stealth FX4 was none the worse for wear, and no adjustments were necessary. We were then treated to world class African cuisine and introduced to the rest of the staff at the lodge.
During dinner Marius discussed the details of the upcoming week and particularly what tomorrow had in store for us. It was mid-October which is the spring season in Africa, and mother nature was not going to be kind to us. Temperatures pushing the mercury to 97 degrees Fahrenheit with rain and gusty winds were the predicted forecast for the duration of our hunt.
Essentially that meant that every nook and cranny in the thick African bush would be holding water, and animal activity around established water holes would be sporadic at best. Throw the gusty winds into the equation, and our effective killing range would be cut in half. Not to be deterred, Marius laid out the game plan for the following day’s hunt after which we retired to our sleeping quarters.
Dawn found us trudging along a stony two track that led to a reservoir blind which would be our hideout overlooking a centuries old water hole. The stars above us were breath taking and appeared to be closer than at any other time of my existence. The air was thick and heavy, causing perspiration to flow easily. Dust bellowed under foot at every step. After several kilometers, we arrived at the stone built blind and settled in for our first hunt.
Soon after we were situated, two distinct low guttural RRROOAARRRS could be heard in the distance. “Lions!” Marius reported. “They're about three quarters of a mile away.” How awesome is that I thought?
Marius then went on to explain that they'd been watching several exceptional kudus frequenting this particular water hole, but any animal could show up at any time. As the sun began to climb, the temperature inside the blind began to rise and activity at the water hole started to pick up.
The first animal to arrive on the scene was a bushbuk, a small deer like animal, but it skirted the water hole going into the thick bush on our left without offering a shot. An hour later I caught movement again where I'd last spotted the bushbuk; but this time a warthog came charging out of the bush and vanished as suddenly as it appeared.
Ten minutes later the warthog was back on the scene; this time he was in a much calmer state. He was headed for the water hole directly in front of us. When he reached the water’s edge at twenty-five yards, I sent the RamCat tipped arrow through him, and he exploded into the water and out of our view.
Confident in the shot placement, I was ecstatic to have taken my first African animal less than three hours into the hunt. Marius radioed for the trackers to come up as we went to examine the blood soaked arrow.
After finding the location where the warthog exited the water, Marius turned Flex and Rigby loose. The two well-trained Jack Russells scent trail silently and then bark when the animal is located. The African tracker Lloyd followed the blood trail. After only a few minutes, the dogs opened up and we scurried through the thick bush to get to the downed animal.
What a specimen it was and what a safari this promised to be. I was also more than pleased with the performance of my crossbow and setup. We quickly got the animal out and processed immediately due to the heat. Later that evening we sat in an elevated blind overlooking a different water hole. We watched several kudu work their way down the mountain toward the water, but darkness arrived before they did and we were forced to pull out. Day one surpassed my wildest expectations.
The following day the weather turned for the worse. High winds and rain set in which relegated us to hunting sporadically as conditions permitted. It gave us the opportunity to do some additional scouting and filming. We drove across the plains and down through the mountain valleys glassing nearly continuously.
Animals were more than abundant. At each turn and stop we glassed every type of African animal imaginable. KMG's habitat definitely supports world class animals and plenty of them. Now if we could only get mother nature to cooperate, we could get back after them.
That evening we tried a set in another blind, but the weather just wasn't working in our favor. Thirty minutes before dark we could hear a terrible racket and commotion coming from the cliffs behind us. Marius explained that the noise was coming from a troop of baboons that slept in the cliffs at night. We eventually slipped out of the blind before dark. The baboons were still carrying on as we made our way back down the valley.
The following day broke calm and clear with temperatures again pushing the upper 90s. The rain had subsided for the time being, but its damage had already been done. Water was more than abundant throughout the entire Fish River Rand Region, and it would remain that way for the duration of our hunt.
On this day we opted to sit in an elevated blind covering the short plains grass where a herd of blesbok had been seen grazing. It was located a short distance from the cliffs where we'd heard the baboons the previous evening.
When we arrived at the blind in the predawn darkness, Marius was visibly upset at the condition of the blind. The baboons had ransacked it, destroying parts of it, making a general mess of it all and defecating throughout the interior. We tidied up as best we could and waited for daybreak hoping the blesbok were close by.
Shortly after daylight the entire troop of baboons was headed across the short grass directly towards the blind. The dominant male was in the lead and bearing down on us rapidly. He was three times the size of the other baboons, and Marius gave me instructions to take him at the very first opportunity. I slowly eased the crossbow to my shoulder and then brought my entire body in front of the window in one fluid motion.
The thirty yard reticle was squarely on its chest, but it was moving rapidly toward us. At twenty-five yards my heart was in my throat because it was still coming too fast, and I didn't know how to stop him. At twenty yards it hesitated, and the TenPoint jumped as the RamCat slammed it and the Lumenok disappeared through its chest.
At that point pandemonium broke loose. I knew I'd hit it hard and could visibly see the damage done as it ran back across the plain. The baboon scouts took to the trees and began calling as the rest of the troop scattered, trying to figure out what had just happened. The large male piled up at eighty yards but didn't stay down for long. Back on his feet, he covered another fifty yards and went down again. After several minutes he got up again and made his way into the bush which led down into a steep valley.
Marius was ecstatic with the shot saying, “it was the trophy of a lifetime with a bow.” My heart was still in my throat and my mind hadn't yet caught up to the rest of the events that had transpired. I was still counting down yardages and reticles in my head. My cameraman, Randy, was more than happy, and high fives ensued. The animal was recovered in the valley.
That afternoon the rains came again, and animal movement ceased. This day we would try to get around the bad weather and hunt after dark. Marius had an elevated blind set for the special occasion with a light set up over bait. The plan was to ambush a bush pig at the bait pile. It was a short lived plan however. Shortly after climbing into the elevated blind, gale force winds and heavy rains ensued. On this night the thought actually crossed my mind that I was going to die in Africa.
On our journey back to the lodge, Marius, the ever diligent outfitter concerned about his client’s hunting experience in Africa, asked me if “I was game to try something different?” I was game for anything except getting blown away, I thought, and this was Africa. It was already different.
He went on to explain further that a local sheep farm had been losing sheep to caracal cats. There was a professional houndsman in the area, and if he could reach him in the next couple of days, we might be in for a very exciting type of hunt. The caracal cat is hunted much like the western cougar in the states. The hounds would run until one was treed or bayed. I was all for it.
The following day the rain had once again subsided, but the gusty winds showed no sign of laying down. Spot and stalk was on the agenda for today as a new player had arrived on the scene. A herd of zebras had been spotted on the plains. From the first time I laid eyes on them, I was obsessed. After playing the wind and working our way around a herd of black wildebeest, it appeared as if we might actually get in position for a shot if the wind would only stop gusting for a period.
We were bent over, edging our way along from bush to bush when suddenly two springbok rose from their beds. They were fifty yards out and had no idea we were there. Marius said “the one on the left is a shooter,” but I couldn't make the shot under the current wind conditions. We crawled another ten yards closer, and the targeted springbok gradually worked its way another ten yards towards us.
I was locked on at thirty yards. When the wind settled momentarily, I let the arrow fly between gusts. The shot was true, and the springbok exploded from the scene. I gave Marius the thumbs up just as the zebras crested a small rise to our right and turned broadside at fifty yards. I quickly re-cocked the bow, but the wind was gusting strong again and the shot opportunity was lost. Following Marius's lead, we continued to stay in contact with the zebras for another hour, but it was not to be. The springbok was collected later.
The following day was spent trying to stay in contact with the zebras, but Marius heard them calling from across the valley. They had slipped off the plains and into the mountains during the night. The following day’s plan was to sit a blind over a water hole between the plains and the mountains with the hopes that we'd catch them coming back.
We arrived at the blind at daybreak and had just gotten settled when Marius received a call on the radio. The local houndsman had his pack cold trailing a caracal cat near the sheep farm. The hounds had struck, and the chase was now on. Out of the blind we went as fast as possible trying to get in on the chase. Two valleys and three ridges over, we caught up to the fray. The cat had treed at one point but was back on the ground fighting with the dogs. As we approached, the dogs circled out of the bush and I had clear window to the caracal with no danger of hitting the dogs. The shot found its mark, and the chase was over, resulting in another exceptional crossbow trophy.
Finally we caught a break with mother nature, and the following day was sunny with no wind. It found us back in the same blind we had abandoned the previous day when we embarked on the cat adventure. We were still hoping to catch the zebras coming back to the plains. We were prepared to sit it out all day when suddenly a herd of blesbok was spotted making their way to the water hole.
The lead two animals were a cow and calf. The third in line was a mature ram. To our disappointment they hung up at thirty yards. They were facing us and getting more nervous by the minute. They knew something wasn't right. My crosshairs were settled on the ram, but I needed him to turn. Finally he slowly turned to head back in the direction from whence he had come.
He was quartering away, and I guessed him at thirty-five yards. When my breathing calmed, I gently squeezed the trigger and he did the classic mule kick as the arrow passed through him. I could see the Lumenok glowing in the distance and knew the hit was lethal.
We gave it a thirty minute wait time before we turned the trackers loose. The blood trail was excellent, but I must admit when I didn't hear the dogs barking immediately, I became a little concerned. Finally about one-hundred-fifty yards away, they opened up and I let out a sigh of relief. The shot had been good and the splendid looking animal was collected, processed, and served for dinner that very evening.
The final two days of the safari were spent stalking zebras along the Fish River Rand. The sights, sounds and smells encountered during those days will stay with me for a lifetime. We walked, ran, climbed, and crawled within bow range on several occasions. At one point I had a perfect thirty yard quartering away shot but lacked the confidence to take it because of the strong winds.
On another occasion we crawled to within fifteen yards of a beautiful stallion but couldn't find an opening to get the arrow through. Even though I didn't kill a zebra the safari was a huge success.
The most you can ask for on any hunt is a legitimate chance to harvest your target species. Marius Goosen and the gang at KMG Hunting Safaris went above and beyond to continuously put us onto animals in some of the toughest weather conditions the region had seen in decades.
There's no doubt that KMG Hunting Safaris has some of the best animals and hunting in South Africa. I'm grateful to have experienced it firsthand, and I'm blessed to call Marius a friend. For additional information contact Marius at www.huntsafaris.co.za or 27-82-820-5387.