Last year, I was contacted by an old friend who invited me to join him and his wife on an African safari hunt. Now, I've been hunting from Ohio to Kansas and in between, but the idea of traveling around the world was a dream about to become reality. Without hesitation, I jumped on the chance to follow my friends halfway around the world.
We spent a year preparing for this epic adventure. We bought books to help us learn about the different shot placements. We found out what equipment other people had used with success. There were so many bases to cover.
Once we arrived in South Africa, we awaited a nearly five hour drive north to our final destination. Kieuw Game Ranch, Stanley Pieterse Safaris is located in the Limpopo Valley about five miles from the Botswana border. The drive was beautiful and reminded me a lot of when I lived in Arizona. Rolling desert terrain splattered with rocky mountain ranges. There were villagers walking the dirt roads, miles from civilization, to travel from farm to farm where they either worked or lived.
For the most part, it was desolate and there wasn't much in sight. On occasion, we would spot a few small plains game animals such as the Duiker or different species of monkeys.
Finally, the moment I had been looking forward to for the past year was finally here. We pulled off of the dirt road and approached a large gate with the words Kieuw across the front. At that moment, my heart started to beat faster and the look on my face must have been priceless. Even though it was dark when we arrived, I was still full of anticipation of spotting something. As we approached the final gate nearing the lodge area, a small herd of Blue Wildebeest ran directly across our path. I almost screamed in excitement. This was one of the animals that I would be hunting during my trip. At this moment, I realized this was really happening.
Day one started with an early breakfast and then we were off to our first set of the day. We ventured out in safari Jeeps, somewhere across the 20,000 acre ranch. Once we were settled into our blinds, I awaited in anticipation for what we were going to encounter. First there was a Duiker. Then a few Guinea's followed by monkeys. Then, I had the encounter I had only dreamed about. Seven large Cape Buffalo bulls came into the watering hole near our blind. I could barely speak. I spent hours that day snapping pictures and taking videos. Although, none of these animals were the ones I was after, I was having the time of my life watching them roam. On the way in, we passed a few giraffes and impalas. When we left, we passed a few wildebeest and a very rare golden wildebeest as well as kudu. This trip was already surpassing my wildest dreams.
Day two was time to get down to business. This morning, we set out in search of an old Blue Wildebeest. There was one on the ranch that was nearly 900 lbs and was a 16-year old giant, which was going to be the focus of this hunt. We sat for hours from the early morning until almost lunch when we were going to retreat back to the lodge. We were discussing our afternoon game plan when it happened. The wildebeest we were after was approaching with two younger bulls. The moment was here and I was ready. Once the wildebeest came into range, I got my bow ready and positioned myself in front of one of the shooter windows in our blind. They were moving in quickly and pushing each other around. Once I had a good clear shot on the old bull, I let my arrow fly without hesitation. Perfect shot placement and twenty yards later, he was down and my heart was full.
I had just taken down my first of three plains game animals on this trip and he was a majestic old wildebeest. His horns told a story of an animal that had lived a long life battling for his existence in the harsh environment of the Limpopo Valley. This was a moment I will always cherish and never forget.
Day three and four were amazing, with many more animal encounters, including a fierce Cape Buffalo, who wanted us out of his territory. Heart pounding adrenaline comes from being almost eye to eye with one of these 2500 lb bulls.
Then, I sighted the gemsbok, which left me speechless. This was the animal I was after. It is now day five and the final hours of our hunt. I had an incredible shot at a nice, mature gemsbok bull, at 35 yards. It had taken me almost three hours to get a clear shot. Now, with a complete pass through, the gemsbok was finally on the ground. I held back tears of joy, I was so happy with the hardest hunt of my life. I couldn't believe this was it and our hunt was officially over. In my mind, all I could think about was how fast can I get back to this place, which now felt like home?
Plans are now in the works for a return trip in the summer of 2017 with a few new species in mind. This was not only a journey, but a true test of patience, drive and the determination to accomplish goals you set forth for yourself. Always dream bigger and never give up!
"The Blue Wildebeest was nearly 900 lbs and was a 16-year old giant. With perfect shot
placement at twenty yards, he was down and my heart was full."
Stanley Pieterse Safaris, Kieuw Game Ranch, Limpopo Valley, All Days, South Africa
The Gemsbok is a herd animal and they are extremely fidgety. The shot placement took almost 3 hours and a extreme amount of patience.