By Nelius Mostert
We were just finishing our December issue and I was still recovering from the scars I had sustained from my “rat race”, when Jenny de Villiers called and invited me to visit her and her family on their farm Blinkwater, just outside Vaalwater.
Weiter Raum has its origin from the German words 'Weiter Raum' meaning 'wide open spaces' which refers to the lovely high lying and open typography of the Estate.
This upmarket, exceptionally huge property is situated in the malaria free Marico Busveld with its breathtaking views.
The 1693 ha. consists of 54 full title stands spread across the fully fenced property on which there is a diversity of bird and animal life.
The pre-determined guidelines set up by the Home Owner's association assists you in setting up and building the dream home you always wanted...Read more
Herman Brand tells about his visit to Nyalarus, game farm of Nicholas de Klerk.
Species on the price list are blesbuck, blue wildebeest, bushbuck, bushpig, grey duiker, eland, gemsbuck, impala, kudu, nyala, ostrich, red hartebeest, steenbuck, warthog, waterbuck and zebra. Two things that really strike you are the quantity and the quality of the animals. Firstly, you might think that there are way too many animals for the size of the property, but ecological studies have shown the veld at Nyalarus to have excellent carrying capacity – higher than most other game farms. Yes, as on most farms the effect of the dry winter months is visible on the condition of the animals, but not to an extent that causes worry. Then you see the quality of the trophies. Understandably, Nicholas is very proud of the trophy animals that roam the bush at Nyalarus. It’s a long time since I’ve been on a farm ... Read more
This time of the year we bow hunters start getting that “feeling” that it is going to be a good season. You wake up one morning and as you open the door and step outside you smell it. Fall is in the air and the hair in your neck rises, sending a chill of excitement down your spine.
Memories of past hunts come flashing by. You can smell the wetness of the grass and the leather of your armguard, and you feel the familiar smoothness of the bow in your hand and the comfort of the string pressing on the inside of your arm.
I have known about Pieter McCord and Ibala-Bala for some years now. Rean Steenkamp, publisher of Africa’s Bowhunter, told me a lot about this place he visits at least twice a year. As a matter of fact, over the last three years he has invited me time and again to accompany him. But on the one hand I never seemed to be able to synchronise my diary, and on the other I never want to join a group of hunters of more than about six. Their groups are already larger than twelve and crowds are what I want to leave behind in the city... Read more
Africa’s Bowhunter recently visited Cheetah Safaris, a 5000-hectare game reserve 260 kilometres from Pretoria. Publisher Rean Steenkamp gives a review of his stay on the ranch and how he shot a blue wildebeest with his recurve. “This rain is worth thousands of rand” said Hendrik Liebenberg, while sitting with me in the blind. “We might not get a shot at any animal because of this, but this rain will take the farm deep into the winter.” However, an animal did come – the next afternoon, about an hour before sunset. Actually quite a number had come in, but they did not stay long enough or did not present a flank for an ethical shot ... Read more
Klein Kunkura – varied, versatile, and vibrant
Hennie Meyer describes a tourist resort-cum-game farm that offers the tourist or bow hunter a really unique experience.
Nimeng Safaris – a quiet place
Nelius Mostert of Fieldsparrow writes about his experiences during a visit to Nimeng Safaris in February this year.
It was on a quiet December day in Louis Trichardt (Makhado) when I walked into the local bow shop to have some repairs done. We all love hanging out with these friendly shop owners and staff, talking about past hunts and planned safaris. This is where I first met Etienne Ernst ... Read more
Ex-Springbok Hennie le Roux's Crown River Safari
Few people do not know Hennie le Roux, ex-Springbok and member of the 1995 Rugby World Cup winning team. However, not many people know that he also owns Crown River Safari, an excellent game farm with a rich landscape that abounds with fauna and flora. Rean Steenkamp recently had the pleasure of meeting the friendly Hennie and talking to him about his passion for nature and his game ranch, and his enthusiasm for bow hunting.
Hennie says he always dreamt of buying a game ranch but could only do so after his successful 1995 Springbok rugby tour. He says he has been hunting since he was five or six years old ... Read more
Komati Gorge Lodge – a secret jewel outside Machadodorp
Nelius Mostert from Fieldsparrow was invited to visit Komati Gorge, an upper-class hunting venue in Mpumalanga.
Ernst had invited me to visit Komati Gorge, situated on the banks of the upper Komati river just outside Machadodorp. It’s only about 300 kilometres from mid Gauteng. At first I thought it would be on the highveld, but actually Komati Gorge is situated between high and lowveld – and that means the best of both worlds concerning weather, habitat and types of game ... Read more
Nyalarus: Plek waar drome sinvol waar word
Almal van ons koester ’n droom. Wanneer jy droom om van die alledaagse lewensgejaag weg te kom en rus en vrede in die natuur vind, is Nyalarus Wildplaas in die skilderagtige bosveldomgewing naby Marble Hall in Limpopo ’n moet, skryf Tom Cairncross wat onlangs op dié plaas gaan jag het.
Nyalarus Game Farm voorsien in talle verskillende droombehoeftes wat gekoester mag word. Ek weet, want ek was daar, en daarom sê ek so ...Read more
The wind was blowing in all directions on the morning I was waiting in one of Zinyathi’s many blinds, writes Rean Steenkamp. I was hoping to bag an eland, but none would enter. I tried stalking one, but with the wind changing so often, it was to no avail.
Bow hunting the provinces
The Free State – a unique experience
Hennie Meyer, a Free State game farm owner himself, takes a look at bow hunting in this province.
Summer in the Free State is sunny and hot. It is also the time when the province gets most of its rain, which turns it into a feast for the eye. The maximum summer temperature is 26 degrees Celsius. Winter in the Free State, as many a hunter can testify, is very cold, with an average temperature of 16 degrees Celsius. The mountains in the eastern part are often covered in snow, providing spectacular views.
The province has five big nature reserves: the Sandveld Nature Reserve in the west, the Willem Pretorius and Golden Gate National Parks in the east, and the Gariep dam and Caledon reserves in the south. In recent years the province has focused on the development of its tourist and hunting potential, capitalising on its beautiful scenery. The eastern highlands, where the Golden Gate Highland National Park is situated, is one of the jewels of the province. Another one, towards the north, is the Vredefort Dome – a world heritage site with unique mountains and vegetation.
The province can be divided into four hunting areas: the north, around the towns of Heilbron, Parys, Sasolburg and Kroonstad, the west, around the towns of Welkom, Odendaalsrus and Wesselsbron, and the east, around Bethlehem, Harrismith, Ficksburg and Clarens. The central part is around Bloemfontein, the capital city, with its international airport and well-developed infrastructure. Each area has a unique habitat providing for a unique touring and hunting experience. The old saying goes ’n Boer maak ’n plan. Part of the Free State’s plan was to convert many of the beautiful farm houses into guest houses for visiting hunters.
There are more than 26 huntable game species in the province. Sable, buffalo, lion, and hippo of trophy quality can be seen on many a game farm. Springbuck, blesbuck and wildebeest have reclaimed the areas where they used to be hunted with voorlaaier, assegai, and bow and arrow. Today they are up against a new breed of sophisticated, professional hunter – a city slicker who is armed with a traditional, recurve or compound bow. Thus the age-old struggle between hunter and hunted continues. The hunters take trophies and biltong home to remind them of the good old times and to motivate them for hunting seasons yet to come.
The Free State, being the breadbasket of South Africa, is the ideal habitat for birds. With its abundant birdlife, it has become a bird-hunting and conservation paradise. Francolin, partridge and guinea-fowl are among the most popular species. Wingshooting is also very popular in the area, with kolgans, geelbekeend, wildemakou and bosduif among the most popular species. Bass, carp and barbel of a good size can be bow hunted in the rivers and dams of the province
Visits to the many historical sights like Vegkop, near Heilbron, the national museum in Bloemfontein, and the gold museum in Welkom, can round off a unique
Hunting in Limpopo
Hennie Meyer, game farm owner and avid bow hunter, takes a look at the Limpopo province as a hunting destination.
Excellent quality impala, bushbuck and warthog also reside in this area. Impala are on the list of most local hunters and are among the three species most popular with foreign hunters. These beautiful, graceful antelope make for great trophies and a great, exciting hunt, as there are many eyes and ears in a herd and all are alert for any mistake by the hunter. Many a bow hunter has been string-jumped by these agile animals. Hunting bushbuck in riverine areas is also an exciting experience. A trait that these animals display when danger approaches is to simply lie down and wait, then to dart away when the danger comes too close. To many people warthog, though very ugly, epitomise Africa. They are animals with character, making very attractive shoulder mounts – especially boars with large tusks. The Rowland Ward record is 24 inches.
Among the game parks in Limpopo are the Kruger National Park, the 500-hectare Modjadji Cycad reserve near Duiwelskloof, and the Mapungubwe National Park, right up against the South African border with Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Limpopo is a bird watcher’s paradise. The Nylsvlei Wetlands in particular has a bird checklist of 426 species, including several rare and threatened types. It is estimated that up to 80 000 birds may be gathered on this wetland at a given time. The biggest colony of breeding Cape vultures in South Africa is on the cliffs of the Waterberg, making it a bird watching hot spot.
The area is also well known for its scenic hiking trails – among others the Giraffe hiking trail in the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve, the Magoebaskloof hiking trail near Tzaneen, the Soutpansberg hiking trail near Louis Trichardt, the Diepdrift hiking trail near Warmbaths, and the Stamvrug hiking trail near Nylstroom. The Manyeleti Game Reserve offers tourists the opportunity to experience an adrenaline rush by tracking the Big Five on foot in their natural habitat. These outings are led by highly experienced, professional field guides
In Limpopo, bow hunters can combine hunting with a great family outdoor experience, allowing their families to experience the finest that nature can offer while dad enjoys the delights of bow hunting in the bushveld.
Bow hunting in Mpumalanga
Hennie Meyer, game farm management consultant (IPI consult) and game farm owner, takes a look at bow hunting in Mpumalanga.
A formidable challenge for hunters in this area presents itself on the escarpment. The senses of the mountain-dwelling species, whose safety is in most cases dependant on individual effort, are much sharper than those of their counterparts on the plains. Among the popular species hunted on the escarpment are the grey rhebuck, mountain reedbuck and klipspringer.
The grey rhebuck, one of these mountain dwellers, has extremely good eyesight. It frequents open mountain habitat, which gives it visibility over large areas. Thus it is difficult to get within bow range of it. The best way to hunt grey rhebuck is by spot-and-stalk. Spotting involves getting up higher than the antelope and then carefully glassing the area below. Hunting them requires stalking skill, patience and long-range shooting ability. Based on grazing patterns, early morning and late afternoon can be considered the best time for hunting this species.
Mountain reedbuck prefer areas with water, tall grass, and reeds, or a combination of these. Reedbucks are hiders – they will crouch in the grass when predators approach, lying quite flat and still, muzzle stretched between the forelegs and ears laid back. They will bolt only when almost stepped upon. If they spot a human approaching, they will pretend to graze unconcernedly – to then suddenly bound away. They run with a distinctive rocking-horse motion, tail held high, showing its white underside. They spend most of their day bedding up in the mountains below rocky ridges, coming down late in the afternoons to feed or drink. Mountain reedbuck are very difficult to stalk. The best way to hunt them is by ambushing them using natural cover. This requires the hunter to familiarise himself beforehand with their drinking, feeding and bedding grounds.
Klipspringer, “the sure-footed rock goats”, are stoutly-built antelope, well adapted to living on rocky outcrops – unforgiving territory where most hunters lose or break a few arrows in pursuit of their prey. The mostly likely place to find klipspringer is on a koppie in the middle of an open plain. A good idea is to select one whose horns stick up well above its ear tips. This will ensure that you end up with an excellent, SCI-standard trophy.
Because of its diverse habitat, Mpumalanga also offers exceptional opportunities for bird-watching, hiking, horseriding and fishing. Many a beautiful trout has been caught in its streams. Here the hunter can relax with a sundowner after a day’s hunting or fishing on one of the many game ranches in the area, watching a sunset of a magnificence seldom seen.
Hunting the Cape
Hennie Meyer, game farm management consultant (IPI Consult) and game farm owner, takes a look at hunting in the Cape.
The Cape is well known for its rich sea fish life. Gansbaai, Gordonsbaai and Hermanus come to mind when thinking about fishing spots in the Cape. Here spear hunters and anglers can find tremendous sport among the 1 300 species of fish frequenting these waters. The yellowtail, the courageous game fish, is the great fighter of the area. Garrick, also called leervis, along with kabeljou and geelbek, are abundant along the coast. The very tasty shad, a favourite among fishermen, is also found in large shoals in these waters.
The east, the Karoo, is much drier and hotter – as many of us who did military training in Oudtshoorn can testify. The winters are cold and the area is a very popular hunting destination. The terrain varies from thick bushveld to savannah and from high mountains to arid Karoo. Arguably the animal that had the biggest long-term impact on South Africa’s international image came from this area in the form of the springbuck, the only gazelle south of the Zambezi. It is the common denominator between East and West, Springbuck rugby and springbuck hunting. Stellenbosch in the West, Matie country, has produced many famous Springbuck rugby players like Dr Danie Craven, Divan Serfontein, and the du Plessis brothers, to name a few. Their counterparts in the east are just as famous and their popularity ranks high among the huntable gazelle species, nationally and internationally. No wonder those in power at the time decided to adapt it as South Africa’s national sporting symbol in 1916 when the first international team arrived in London. The South African team had no nickname at the time and it was during a visit to the London Zoo, where the team watched a small herd of springbuck, where the decision was taken that the team would be known as “De Springbokken”.
Springbuck are delightful and gregarious creatures. They come in a number of colour variations like white, black and copper. They stand a mere 750 mm tall and weigh 37 to 41 kilogrammes. The common springbuck’s face is snow white, with dark brown lines running from the eyes to the corners of the mouth. The rump is also white, with dark brown vertical bands on the sides. Both sexes have horns. The springbuck is well adapted to dry climates as it obtains all the water it needs from the plants it eats – although it will readily drink when water is available. When alarmed, springbuck give a sharp whistle and after scattering in all directions, break into a peculiar bouncing run known as “stotting” or “pronking”. It takes the form of leaping in a stiff-legged way while arching the back and fanning out the dorsal hair on the rump – a spectacular sight. They can reach speeds of 90 kilometres per hour in full flight and can cover up to 15 metres in one leap.
Because springbuck frequent open spaces and have excellent vision, bow hunting them is a challenging experience. Free stalking is very difficult and is only for the most capable men of the veld. Most hunters conceal themselves near a waterhole or employ experienced “beaters” to chase the gazelle towards them. Having the springbuck focusing on the beaters makes the job of the hunter much easier. He often gets an easy 20-metre shot. As with other plains game, if one decides to stalk, the best time is early in the morning when the animals are more relaxed and will allow hunters to approach more closely.
Another favourite among hunters is the black wildebeest, also known as the white-tailed gnu. On visiting the Cape for the first time in the 19th century, a visitor remarked that the animal united the characteristics of the horse, the ox and the antelope, with the head being ox-like, and the mane and long sweeping tail much like that of a horse. The efforts of a few foresighted farmers and conservationists saved these animals from being hunted to extinction. The alarm call of the black wildebeest – a loud “ge-nu” – inspired the Khoikhoi name for this species. In English it is called the “gnu”. They prefer dry areas of open grassy plains, as well as bushveld, with a preference for short, green grass. Being gregarious, they are usually found in herds of 30 or more. They usually drink twice a day, in the early morning and late afternoon, but can survive without water for days if necessary. Black wildebeest bulls establish well-defined territories and when approached make a great display by snorting, thrashing their blonde tails, and stamping their feet.
Black wildebeest often have a favourite sleeping spot and this may be a good starting point for a walk-and-stalk. For some reason hunters often shoot high at this species, possibly because of the “optical illusion” created by the hump. As the blue wildebeest is a particularly tough and tenacious animal, such a mistake could result in a lost trophy. A wounded animal must be approached with caution, as it might challenge the hunter. Rather be over-geared than under-geared when hunting wildebeest. An 80-pound bow with a two-bladed broadhead will do the job.
The Northern Cape is also home to the beautiful gemsbuck, easily recognisable by its distinctive V-shaped horns. “V” for victory. These horns, ridged for about two thirds of their length and pointed towards the tips, are formidable weapons which these powerfully built animals use to good effect in skirmishes. Even lion are no match for these horns. Intruders are warned off with a demonstration of pawing and horn-thrusting and only if this fails will the bull resort to a real clash of horns. These animals make beautiful trophies – trophies which, if shot through fair chase with bow an arrow, can be regarded as distinct.
The Eastern and Western Cape is the location of some of the finest and most exciting wing shooting available, with sandgrouse shoots in the Kalahari being amongst the most popular. The sandgrouse is one of the most interesting African game birds, resembling pigeon in flight. They favour hot, dry country. They are best shot when they congregate to drink at dawn or dusk when they come together in great numbers, often flying great distances to where they drink. Their favourite choice is a clear, shallow pool, with gently sloping, bare sandbanks. Most common amongst the species are pintailed, yellow-throated, doublebanded and Namaqua.
Spearfishing has gained popularity in the Cape in recent years. Yellowfin tuna, a part of every spearfisherman’s dreams, is found here. Like all tuna, yellow-fins are torpedo-shaped, swim at high speed and go absolutely ballistic when speared. Yellow-fins grow up to two metres long and can weigh nearly 200 kilogrammes, but are mostly taken in the 30 to 100-kilogramme range. Spearfishing yellowfin tuna is an experience not to be missed.
The Bible states that if everything that our Lord Jesus Christ did was written down there would not have been enough books to contain it, and so is it with writing about hunting in the Cape. There are not enough African Bowhunter magazines to contain it!
Bow hunting in North West
Hennie Meyer, game farm business management consultant (IPI Consult), takes a look at bow hunting in North West.
Portions of two of South Africa’s eight Unesco world heritage sites fall within the borders of North West – these being the Vredefort Dome, the world’s largest visible meteor-impact crater, and the Taung fossil site. The Magaliesberg mountain range in the north-east extends about 130 km from Pretoria to Rustenburg. The Vaal river flows along the southern border of the province. The Barberspan bird sanctuary, on the outskirts of Delareyville, is an essential stopover for all bird lovers. The sanctuary is unique for the number and variety of its bird species, of which it has 365. Pelicans, flamingoes, grebes, terns, herons, cranes, ibises and bitterns are some of the species to be mentioned. All but one of the South African duck species have been recorded at the pans.
Agriculture is the other big role player in North West’s economy. The eastern and southern parts are crop-growing regions that produce maize, sunflowers, tobacco, cotton, and citrus. The northern and western parts of the province have many sheep farms, as well as cattle and game ranches. Large herds of cattle are found in the Stellaland, Vryburg and Marico districts. This part of the province is sometimes called the Texas of South Africa.
The abundance of game, including lion, leopard, buffalo, black and white rhino, giraffe, hippo, eland, waterbuck, zebra, red hartebeest, nyala, kudu, roan and sable antelope, makes North West a hunting paradise. Hunters are spoilt for choice in both game and hunting venues. Burchell’s zebra, one of the species found here, makes exquisite trophies, for which reason they are a favourite among bow hunters. Even if an animal is not of trophy size, the skin is used to make beautiful, eye-catching rugs. Burchell’s zebra is found in grassy or grass-woodland areas. They are well known for their “kwa–ha kwa–ha–ha “ call. It is relatively easy to stalk a zebra in woodland, but it can be quite difficult in open areas. The animals’ dependence on water is their vulnerable point. Waterholes are good ambush sites, where hunters can take shots from hides. A bow of 60 pounds or more, with a good broadhead-tipped arrow of at least 500 grains, coupled with good shot placement, will easily dispatch a full-grown zebra.
Red hartebeest, also abundant in North West, are gregarious antelope, usually found in herds of up to 30 animals. They weigh 160 to 189 kilogrammes. A watchful cow usually stands on high ground, from where she acts as an effective sentry. Red hartebeest are very fast runners, reaching speeds of 60 kilometres per hour, with great staying power over distance. They prefer savannah, open grassland, and plains or semi desert, but can also be found on mountainous terrain. The best time to stalk them is in the very early morning or late afternoon, when they will often stand and look, affording the hunter time for a shot.
North West offers excellent variety – variety waiting to be explored by hunters and tourists alike.
Bow hunting in KwaZulu-Natal: a bow hunter’s dream offers exciting challenges
Tony Ruggeri, ABH’s field writer from the USA, writes about a hunt in South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.
“Hard to believe this is Africa”, I thought to myself. Smiling inwardly as I walked across the grounds towards the dining area, where a hot breakfast waited, I considered trying to describe this scene to someone who has never been here. I doubt they could envision it. Heck, they probably wouldn’t believe a word I said. But this was indeed Africa, as it has been unfolding in front of me for more than twenty years now… a sequence of seemingly countless breathtaking encounters, one after another. The mountain was Mount Currie, near Kokstad in the southern part of what was once Zululand, but is now South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) province. To this day, many people still refer to that part of KZN north of the Tugela river as Zululand.
I had come to this particular part of KZN to collect a mountain reedbuck, then maybe try to get inside bow range of a vaal rhebuck and knock him down to boot! For this undertaking, I had allotted a grand total of two days! No doubt virtually all of Africa’s Bowhunter’s readership knows what a fool I was (arrogant might be more accurate) to schedule such a formidable undertaking and allotting so little time. Well, ignorance is bliss, as they say, and obviously I came up empty on the trophy side of things… But on the learning-curve side, I am now extremely confident that both species can be taken with archery gear, if one has knowledge of the mountain to be hunted, and one allows a proper amount of time to accomplish what is by any standard a very tall order. Thus a return trip to Kokstad is definitely on the cards for me, with a minimum seven-day hunt to allow a reasonable chance of success on both species.
But I am getting a bit ahead of myself. This whole thing started five days earlier with my arrival to visit my friends Barry and Jane Cole in response to their standing invitation. Owners of a large sugar-cane and eucalyptus farm not too far from Durban, Barry and Jane grew up in the region, and are now raising their two sons here as well. Barry is an avid hunter, and between his hunting contacts and his farm, which sports good populations of bushpig, bushbuck and common reedbuck, he assured me there would be plenty to keep us busy.
Located in eastern South Africa, KZN is bordered to the north by the tiny country of Swaziland, and to the east by the Indian Ocean. Not too far up the coast from Durban is a little community called Sodwana Bay, whose offshore reefs attract divers from all over the world. It has the bluest water you can imagine, with endless beaches of white sand… a beachcomber’s dream and a diver’s Nirvana. On an earlier trip, my wife and I actually met about a half dozen young adults in their mid-twenties from various parts of the U.S. who at one time or another arrived there on vacation and just never went home. Parents, you’ve all been warned.
Inland, KZN is also a wonderfully scenic place where huge tracts of cultivated farmland are interspersed with unbroken tracts of extensive, thick bush. The land is steeped in “old Africa”. Native residences, circular in shape with steep sloping roofs, reminiscent of those in Zulu kraals from a bygone era, dot the landscape. Occasional small groups of Nguni cattle, once prized possessions of the Zulu and Swazi tribesmen, can be seen grazing against a backdrop of cane fields and eucalyptus groves – a subtle reminder as Africa’s past collides with her present and future.
This place is a hunter’s treasure chest. The extensive and varied wildlife habitat supports an abundance of game animals. Due to the dense cover and the sheer volume of it, animals live to ripe old ages. For this reason KZN sports excellent numbers of trophy-class males for many plains-game species. While KZN is widely known for its large populations of trophy-class bushbuck and nyala, a variety of plains-game species live and thrive in these nutritionally rich and varied habitats. So much for the good news.
As we all know, much of the bow hunting in southern Africa is done from blinds over watering points. KZN has an annual rainfall considerably higher than the rest of South Africa. Consequently, it has more streams that run year-round, or at least hold pockets of water for most of the dry season. Small holding ponds for irrigation quite naturally are found throughout the landscape since agriculture is prevalent throughout the province. While this does make hunting over watering points more difficult, it does not make it impossible.
For successful bow hunts over water, I would recommend the six-week period between the last week of July through the first fifteen days of September. These times are the safest bet that you will be hunting the driest conditions. PHs should scout the concession extensively for hidden springs and pockets of water in nearly dry stream beds, and set tree stands or ground blinds accordingly. If the stream flows year-round, PHs must identify “preferred” drinking locations in order to sustain an acceptable level of success over water. These will likely be dictated by terrain, travel routes and ease of access to the water from the bank.
More bad news… mineral and salt licks and supplemental feeding used to improve success during wet weather in many other locations throughout South Africa do not work here. Apparently the dense bush provides all the animals’ needs, so they just do not come to these attractants.
Walk-and-stalk hunting tactics place the bow hunter at a distinct disadvantage to the game pursued, for a number of reasons. Most of these reasons are directly related to the hunters’ chosen weapon. You’ve heard them time and again… animals are alerted to some degree or sense that something is amiss, string jumping causes bad hits, shot opportunities are often quartering-on or moving as the animal turns to leave. Still, these situations and the shortcomings of archery gear do not make success using walk-and-stalk tactics impossible… just more difficult. The key here lies in not forcing the shot. That means recognising when the opportunity is dissolving, staying focused, and letting down… rather than taking a hurried or low-percentage shot. Another opportunity will present itself! Move on and stay focused.
One of Barry’s hunting contacts is the father-and-son team of Mo and Mark Lister, who own and operate Watervale Safaris and The Oribi Ranch. After seeing those concessions first hand, I truly believe that for every trophy nyala or bushbuck they kill, two die of old age. Large sections of those concessions are never hunted. Some drainages are inaccessible because the cover is so thick. Some have no roads into them at all. Nyala over 30 inches and bushbuck of 16 to18 inches and larger are possible here, and each season outstanding trophies in these classes are taken by their clients.
It was on this ranch that my PH Mo Lister and I hunted virtually the entire day, covering a solid 12 kilometres trying to find an old bushbuck male for my wall. Fighting cold and windy conditions, with most of the game holding tight to the thickest cover in small pockets sheltered from the bite of cold winds, we hunted hard the whole day. At day’s end, with less than half an hour of daylight left, we were headed in the general direction of our Land Cruiser. We resisted the temptation to quicken our pace in order to reach it and shelter from the wind sooner.
Another tortuous fifteen minutes and 200 yards further down the grass-covered two-track road, a tug at my elbow stopped me in mid-step. I looked at Mo, and then followed the direction of his gaze into the bush up a small ridge to my right. The broadside body of a big nyala bull stood motionless in the brush. Range was not an issue – it was 20 to 25 yards. I call that OPR (one-pin range). But I could not see his head. I risked a look at Mo and mouthed the words “How big?” His reply, “Can’t See”, left it to me. This decision would be mine alone.
Slowly I took an arrow from my quiver and placed it on the string, hooked the string loop and drew. Once I’d settled into my anchor, the path to the nyala’s chest was covered by a tangle of intervening branches and leaves. Still at full draw, I eased one step back, then another. At the second step, a lane opened up with an opening next to his side about the size of a Nerf toy football. In all this time, I still had not seen his head. I don’t know how long I was at full draw, but it was a considerable amount of time… and then, as he looked directly over his back, two long straight ivory-tipped horns appeared. I could not see the sweep of his horns, nor had I seen the width of his “bell”, but judging from the length of those tips and that massive body I felt certain he was an old, mature bull. With that, the decision was made.
He was still standing broadside looking back the way he had come as I settled into the sight picture. The two steps I had taken backwards had him now quartering away ever so slightly. My 20-yard pin was rock solid on my selected spot just behind the crease as I increased pressure on the back wall of my draw. The flash of the arrow startled me, and that plus the unmistakable sound of something solid hitting a melon told me all I needed to know.
I was hoping for 28 inches or better and I got 27¼ inch. His bell and sweep were just about average. Nothing else about him was, though. Massive body, Rowland Ward qualifier, walk-and-stalk nyala bull with a bow. KZN no doubt represents some of South Africa’s most difficult and challenging bow hunting. But if you pick the driest time of the year to bow hunt, incorporating walk-and-stalk tactics with tree stands and blinds over watering points, and finally you “…take what Mother Africa offers you”, the rewards can be truly phenomenal!