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GRONG

Epperson's Africa Plains game Hunt with GreaterKuduLandSafaris

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Oh my lord where do I begin? Earlier this March I was invited to go to Africa with a group of very gracious guys in trade for a hunt here in AZ. My wife was very excited for me and told me there's no way I could pass up a chance like this! I agreed to the hunt swap not really having a clue of what I was in for. I mean, I was excited but still really didn't know what to think or what to feel about it all. Since I'd never even toyed with the idea of actually hunting in Africa I never even looked at the animals any other way than that they were zoo animals. I know that may have not been a fair way to view the animals, I was just extremely ignorant to all of it. So I adjusted my attitude so that I was just gonna go with the flow having no clue what to expect of the animals and the scenery etc and just have a great time.

I shot my bow a lot this summer, attending every 3-D shoot that took place around Happy Jack and Flagstaff. I studied the kill zones on a few animals trying to prepare myself for what was to hopefully come.

August 3rd crept up on me extremely fast and before I knew it I as kissing my family goodbye and soon would be meeting my new hunting buddies in Phoenix and readying ourselves for the long trip ahead of us. I met Austin Parks, Brad Frei and Gary Goss and they were all awesome from the get-go. A total of 3 flights and we were greeted by PH Chris Van and were driven another hour and a half or so to the property. I could tell this was gonna be nearly 2 of the funnest weeks of my life. Chris has a laid back attitude and a sense of humor I immediately connected with. That along with the guys I'd just spent a day and half traveling with I knew this hunt was gonna be a blast! A couple hundred yards through the front gate onto the property and we were IN!! This place was nothing short of GORGEOUS!! Driving into the houses we instantly could see animals 40-60 yards off the road. Impalas, nyala cows, waterbucks, warthogs all just hanging around the small stream and feeding on the hay that they supply to the animals in the dry winter weather. We got settled in our rooms, which were nothing short of a 5 star resort type rooms, and broke out our bows to check them and make adjustments if need be. First 3 arrows, perfect! Nothing like having confidence in yourself and your equipment just before "opening morning". Chris took us for a hour drive around the "farm" to see the country and get us pumped up by seeing tons of animals. I tell you, there's so many different kinds of animals, towards the end of the hunt I still had trouble keeping all the names correct with the appropriate animals. When we got back to the house we were greeted with an amazing feast! We were also greeted with an Nyala cow that was trying to bum chips or crackers from us "newbies". What a great introduction to Africa! The owner, Howard Knott, and his staff are just amazing and very much appreciated. They truly know how to spoil people.

 

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First morning out I was greeted by my guide/tracker Ronny, he didn't speak the best English and I didn't speak his native Vendan tongue so he one-upped me there. About a 30 minute drive later and we were dropped off at a pit blind by PH Chris and hunter Gary. Howard, Austin and Brad headed out on the trail of a cape buffalo that caught had Austin's eye. I bet we hadn't been sitting in the blind for 30 minutes when the first few baboons starting coming in. Holy smokes those are some nasty, mean, ornery bunch of bandits! I have to admit I was quite intimidated by those punks at first. Pretty soon we must've had 30 of them intermingled by several impalas.

 

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Not to long after, a group of kudu cows and calves came in to drink as well. I couldn't believe how many animals were all the sudden just everywhere!! The first kudu bull to show up had me getting extremely trigger happy but Ronny assured me we could do better. Heck, I was wanting to fling arrows at a couple of the impala rams as well but he also convinced me to pass. (Sorry for the fuzzy pics as I was taking the pictures thru the screen window.)

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Those guys are so good at judging those animals I was amazed. He was calling them within a half inch! "That one is 18-18 1/2", that other one is 17, the other one is 19". Heck I didn't care, they all looked good to me! I didn't care if this one was 17 or 19 but he assured me we would see better. So once again I patiently awaited for a biggin. A nice male gemsbok came in by itself and once again I was teased. Ronny shook his head no and once again I had my camera up to the screen taking pics and video...

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Chris and Gary showed up around noon with a gorgeous kudu bull that Gary double-lunged. Oh man, talk about getting me excited!! I had initially come on this trip hoping to shoot a kudu bull and gemsbok and now after seeing all these animals I wanted ONE OF EACH!!! Those of you who have experienced this first hand know exactly what I mean!

 

Back to the house we went to have lunch and share in the excitement of Gary's bull. After an awesome brunch we went back out to try our luck at another blind. Howard's 10 year old son, Gavin, accompanied us. For a young kid he knew everything about everything (no joking). He was an absolute delight to have in the blind with us. A couple hours into our afternoon sit we had a few springboks go by at 100 yards or so and after seeing them through the binocs I added another animal to my wish list! With about 30 minutes of light left, Ronny spotted 2 kudu bulls coming to us. Oh man was I gettin the shaky knees! Ronny gave me the nod of approval of the larger one and I readied myself behind the bow. They hesitantly came to the water after 10 minutes or so. The bigger one got broadside and bowed for a drink. I ran my 20 yard pin up it's lead leg and held 2" low on the sweet spot. At 14 yards the muzzy tipped broadhead pierced thru it's lungs and off they all ran. At 50 yards it's knees buckled and down it went! I had my first African animal, a gorgeous kudu bull! I couldn't stop smiling. Gavin kept saying, "Congratulations Sir" in that awesome South African dialect, and I shook Ronny's hand with much excitement. We took a lot of pictures and then Ronny ran off to get the truck. He showed back up 10 minutes later and winched the animal whole right up into the back of the LandCruiser and off we went for the skinning shack. I was on cloud 9 and couldn't take my eyes off the bull as Gavin and I swapped stories. It really made me wish by boy Isaac was with me at that point as he would have been loving the experience too.

 

Middle Blind... The wetness on the concrete is where the bull was standing when I shot it.

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At dinner we all swapped exciting stories of the days goins ons. Howard, Austin and Brad all followed the Cape Buffalo Austin wished for in the thick bush for most of the day but didn't get to see more than a couple flashes of black hide at 20 yards as it ran through trees. Gary was missing another arrow as he'd added a nice impala ram to his growing collection of animals as well. Dessert was just stupid awesome and I knew I was in for a few extra pounds at the end of this trip.

 

Morning of day 2 we got into an elevated blind up high against a giant Baobab tree. We had a nice wildebeast bull come in by itself and shortly after a lone springbok ram came to water as well. Ronny gave me the nod and I pulled my string back and settled on it's lower shoulder at 13 yards. It was just barely quartered to me and it wouldn't go perfectly broadside. I knew I'd probably kill it but I just wanted to be sure of my shot, so I passed. It never offered me another shot and teased me for a half hour or so at 35-45 yards. It finally wandered off and made me second guess myself. Heck, it was only day 2 and I figured I'd get another chance sooner or later.

 

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While in the "Treestand" blind I spotted a baboon about 300 yards out perched high in the top of a Baobab tree. I took this picture through my Swarovski binoculars. This picture is one of my favorites from the trip.

 

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That afternoon found us in the same blind as the night before. About an hour later Ronny says that the springboks are coming. They eventually found their way to us and, again at 14 yards, I claimed my 2nd African trophy. It ran about 40 yards before it expired. Both arrows, from the kudu and this springbok, both stuck in the sand about 3' apart from each other in the sand 30 yards from where they exited the animals. I thought that was cool...

 

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Ok at this point when we got back to the skinning shed I start to lose who killed what and when as the animals just start to pile up rapidly. I think Brad shot his Kudu bull at some point on this day and Gary added another as well, an impala ram I think it was.

That night after an amazing dinner we sat around the camp telling hunting stories and life stories when we heard some commotion. Howard said elephants are coming!! We grabbed a couple lights and turned them on in the direction the noise came just past the 8' high electrical wire that bordered the driveway. In came 2 bull elephants, you talk about an amazing sight!! We all stood 15 yards from the bigger one as Gavin threw it oranges. And I tell you what, 15 yards was a tad too close for this Coues hunter... It was too dark that night to get pictures unfortunately.

 

On the third morning just after light we found ourselves sitting in Springbok Blind and my Hoyt Carbon Element was hanging and ready to rock.

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First animal to come in was a wildebeast bull and not to long after came a waterbuck cow and calf. Then came several mature impala rams together. At this point Ronny had me pass on probably a dozen or more good impala rams and a couple of these ones coming in looked nice. The last one to come in he said was 20" or bigger and to take him if I wanted. I waited and waited for a good shot but the rams wouldn't separate enough to make a safe clean shot only to have the biggest one wander off with no shot....

Here's a shot of the big one in the distance walking out of my life.

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Having thought the big one got away when within a minute here came 4 more rams in from our right! Ronny grinned and said, "That one!" I steadied myself and drew my bow. The ram passed from right to left on the closer side of the water hole at about 11 yards and I lined up on it's leg, held the 20 yard pin just a hair low, and once again let it fly. All the animals bolted at the shot and with them biggest impala ram followed only to make it about 40 yards! I had just taken an awesome impala ram the we later measured around 22" I think. Oh man was I stoked! As I got to watch and study the animals that Africa offered I quickly began to appreciate each and every one of them in the their own way for all the beauty that they had. The colors of each animal just continually blew me away. So very different than the game we're so used to here in the states.

 

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After we unloaded the impala at the skinning shed we met Chris and Gary for lunch. Chris offered to take Gary and I for a drive to see the biggest Baobab tree on the property. So we hopped in the back of his Land Cruiser and off we went. Of course on the drive we saw tons of animals all over the place and when we finally got to the backside of the mountain we got to the tree. And what a tree it is!!! I'm not exactly how wide this tree is but you can judge for yourself. I'd guess an easy 20' in diameter

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It was here where I just went for a small stroll onto the slope just east of the tree when I noticed where something had drug an animal down the sand and into the "bush" as they call it. It appeared to be a week or so old because of all the animal tracks that had walked across it since it was made, so I didn't follow it. Not 20 yards away I find another one!! This one is brand new looking, maybe a day I guessed. No animal tracks in the drag other than the tracks of the leopard that was dragging the animal!!! Holy smokes was I excited to see that! I took a couple pictures and followed it into the bush. Probably not the smartest thing I've ever done but I couldn't resist. After maybe 50 yards I found what was left of the kill... hair. The leopard had eaten ALL of the animal other than the hair it had nipped off of it. I sure wish my Dad could have been there to see that, he would've been way excited since he's the best mountain lion hunter south of the Grand Canyon ;)

 

Here's a look at the flat I was in looking south into the bush. This is where the leopard had been. Notice the dinosaur-like Baobab tree in the distance among the sea of Maponi trees.

 

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We made it back to the house and met Brad and Austin. Austin told us about how his tracking job was goin and the close encounter they had had again with the elusive cape buffalo. They were certain that Sam, the black tracker, was on the right track of the buffalo they had singled out. I think it was also this morning that Brad had shot a wildebeast bull from a blind. He was uncertain of his shot, so after tracking it a few hundred yards they backed out as his tracker/guide, Amos (prounounced Ah-mos), had advised. I offered to go back out with them and from everything he mentioned it sounded like we would find it after some time was given. We went out that afternoon and Ronny and Amos started on the track. It wasn't 5 minutes after we'd got on it and maybe just over a 100 yards when Ronny spotted it dead in the bush. Had they kept on the track earlier they most definitely would've jumped it and possibly lost it.

 

Ronny and Amos with Brad's wildebeast

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Here's a couple pics of Brad, Gary, PH Chris, and Austin lounging in the common area of the kitchen/dining area that day.

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The fourth morning sat in a blind I hadn't been to yet, but one that Brad had already taken his awesome kudu bull and impala ram on in the second morning from. He had shot the ram early, tucked it behind the pit blind and continued hunting when his kudu bull came in. Lucky dog....

Ronny and I had been there for a while watching many baboons, impalas and 2 young kudu bulls coming and going when out of nowhere to my left a huge warthog pops out and immediately drank. I looked at Ronny with bug-eyes and he was nodding YES YES! I quickly grabbed my bow only to realize I hadn't put my release on yet!! I quietly and frantically searched through my pack for it and put it on. Ronny grabbed my video camera and got ready. To be quite honest, coming to Africa I had zero interest in warthogs. But quickly changed my ignorant mind as soon as I saw one. Since this one standing 10 yards from me and was indeed no slouch I put the 20 yard pin on his elbow and let it rip! By the time this big male had heard the bow go off the arrow had already passed through it's heart as it lept in the air and landed straight into the middle of the water hole. It made it just out of sight and about 55 yards later it ran out of blood and I had myself a big and very old warthog. Oh man was I excited!! This dude had about 12" tusks and was just way too cool!!

 

Here it is just before the arrow hits him...

 

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Then as it reacts and jumps strait out into the air and into the middle of the waterhole.

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We took lots of pics and went to get the Land Cruiser. On the way back we stopped over at another blind to pick up Brad and Amos but they weren't there. We looked around the water hole and found their tracks and blood leaving the blind so we followed. We went about 200 yards or so and we finally caught up them. Brad had taken a really nice gemsbok, possibly the one I'd taken pictures of at that same blind on the first day. So now we had my warthog in the truck and after getting the truck closer, Brad's gemsbok was loaded as well.

 

That afternoon we sat in a different blind and we got to see a nice waterbuck come in. A short time later there came a ton of wildebeast. I took lots of pictures of course. Just before dark they all heard something coming and a moment later out walks 2 of the biggest beasts I've ever seen! A mother rhino and her young!!! At 40 yards from us I was freaking out!! I'd never seen anything so awesome, other than the 2 bull elephants that came into camp a couple nights earlier. The mama dwarfed the waterbuck and wildebeasts that flanked her sides. What a trip I was thinking!!!

It was also this evening that Austin, Howard, and Sam caught up close enough to the herd of cape buffalo and Austin landed himself a 1600lb giant! Hearing about his hunt was amazing! You gotta have a set of steel cajones to be nearly mano y mano in the bush with an animal like that. Kudos to those guys and their 4 days of perseverance for getting the job done!

Austins's beast

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The 5th morning we spent at a new blind and within 30 minutes we started getting some activity. I had planned on taking a wildebeast cow if givin the opportunity and I had my eye on a pretty big one. Ronny told me, "Wait, nyala bull is coming." As if he had a premonition of what was to come I hung up the bow and kept taking pictures and video. So many animals started showing up it was just amazing! Impalas in every direction! Finally some waterbucks came in and waded into the water then to my left out walk 2 nyala bulls! I wanted one bad but neither of the 2 were quite big enough so we just enjoyed their presence. I didn't let any arrows go this morning but holy smokes did I get some good pictures! Enjoy...

 

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We spent the 6th morning on the property at a blind that was pretty uneventful, then got picked up and headed back to the house. On the way back we had a U-joint break on the Land Rover we were in. After Brad did some quick mechanic'n we were back on the road headed for the house but not before I could snap a pic of elephant flop :D

 

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This ends our 6 day hunt at this property. We loaded our gear and headed for Howard's other property near a town called Alldays for 4 more days of hunting. When I get some more time I'll load up some more pics for you all.

 

Josh

Edited by GRONG
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Wow, what an adventure! Great write up, you truly have a gift for words , and your pics are amazing! What else can I say, you had to be on cloud 9 the whole trip. Didn't notice what kind of hunt you traded your friends for but you better get to work and make it a good one!

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What an awesome adventure! The beauty and mystic of Africa always amazes me! Can't wait for the 'rest of the story' so far it's been a great write- up and your pictures are incredible!

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Wow! What an adventure! A trip of a lifetime for most foks. Congrats on the great success. I hope you have a big trophy room.

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Nice animals. Great mass on that Kudu bull.

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Well done! Great story and pics thanks for sharing...

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You mean to say there is more to come?! Wowzers man what an awesome adventure with some truly awesome trophies! I am not afraid to admit there might be a little jealousy taking hold of me...great pictures and write up. Now get the rest of the story on here!

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