You've no doubt heard the saying "Half the fun is getting there." Maybe you've used it yourself. Certainly there are times when it's true, but maybe there are times when the more appropriate cliche is "Good things are worth the wait."
That was our experience as Dan and I made our way to hunt plains game animals with Koringkoppie Outfitters in the Limpopo province of South Africa. Getting there was in no way "fun," but once we were there, we found the wisdom of the old cliche to be spot on. I won't bore you with the details of our travel experience, but you can read the whole drama here...
Once we finally arrived in Johannesburg, we met our PH, Jacques Combrinck, packed our bags into the truck and made the drive north to the Limpopo Province of South Africa. We were greeted by a warm fire and the company of Frans and Nella Combrinck, a hot meal, and a soft, warm bed to help us shake the residue of a long trip. Even though our bellies were full and the beds were warm, we could hardly sleep. Some would blame jet lag, but I know better. Just outside of camp there were all kinds of interesting critters, waiting for us to begin our hunt. How could a guy sleep in a situation like that?
The first morning, after breakfast, we checked our Excalibur Crossbow and our Darton Compound to make sure the airlines hadn't totally destroyed them. Assured that our equipment was in shape we headed out for our first trek into the Bushveld.
Everything was new to us. The terrain, the trees, the brush, the birds - all of it new and different. We were hunting waterholes in a comfortable ground blind, and it didn't take long for the action to pick up.
Dan was hunting first. After a brief wait, the first African game animals started making their way into the water hole. Dan's trigger finger began to twitch and the Excalibur Equinox seemed to start vibrating in his hands. Just when he was about to lose control, a big warthog appeared out of the bush.
His tusks were huge - nearly 12 inches - and Dan got excited. He loves pig hunting in the Southern US, and this felt a bit familiar as he raised the Excalibur Crossbow and settled the crosshairs on his first South African target. A FireBolt, tipped with a BoltCutter broadhead, screamed at the warthog at 350fps, and on the first day our safari had yielded success.
The next day it was my turn. We ate breakfast, had a cup of coffee, and packed our gear to head back to the bush. We decided to hunt a different waterhole that morning - one frequented by eland, zebra, and, on occasion, giraffe.
After a brief wait, Jacques grabbed me by the shoulder and said "There's your bull." My heart skipped and the adrenaline began racing through my veins. I hadn't even seen the animal and, for that matter, didn't even know what kind of bull it might be. My view was blocked, but Jacques could see him just fine and told me to get the Excalibur ready - we were going to shoot this bull.
When he finally stepped into my view I lost my breath. There in front of us was a mature, trophy kudu, just over 20 yards away. It was an incredible sight - one I will never forget. Once I got calmed down, and the bull was at ease, I settled the Excalibur Equinox's crosshairs on the first stripe and squeezed the trigger.
He jumped a step, then lost his front legs for a moment as he tried to outrun the inevitable. He made it 40 yards, and piled up in a thicket. Two days, two amazing trophies. Does it get any better than this?
The answer to that question is "Yes!"
The next day it was Dan's turn again. We went back to the same waterhole where I took my kudu and settled in for a day's worth of hunting. After only about an hour's wait, a herd of gemsbok began pouring into the waterhole. Dan's father had hunted South Africa years ago and told him the only animal to elude him had been the gemsbok. With his dad in mind, Dan raised the Excalibur and closed the book on a family story 30 years in the making.
Dan and I were amazed by the speed and grace of this majestic animal - he covered 40 yards in a heartbeat, but fell secluded in the bush. Not bad for a day's hunting. But the day wasn't over.
Frans brought the buckey out to retrieve the gemsbok and shortly after he left, we were settled back in the blind. The dust had barely settled when two mature kudu just appeared from the think African veld.
I looked over at Dan and his eyes were as big as silver dollars. The spiraled horns of the kudu had him in a trance and he was about to fulfill two dreams in one day.
The bulls approached the water hole and sparred a bit. They moved back and forth never presenting a shot opportunity. It seemed like hours were ticking by and I could see out of the corner of my eye Dan raise and lower the Excalibur, waiting for the perfect opportunity. Then it came. Dan sent a BoltCutter into the pump house and the big bull ran the same direction as the gemsbok. He died not 15 paces from the spot where the gemsbok died.
The rest of the week was much the same. One afternoon I shot a warthog, then, shortly after, Dan and I doubled up on two Impala just 10 minutes apart. On the next to the last day of our hunt, I took the opportunity to shoot an old, mature Red Hartebeest that should qualify as a Rowland Ward animal.
But the last night of our hunt summed up our total experience at Koringkoppie Outfitters.
As the day grew old and daylight began to wane, a herd of Wildebeest made their way to the water hole from behind our position. We scouted the herd for a mature bull and waited for a shot to present itself. Nearly 30 wildebeest were in front of us and the scene was chaotic. Just before Dan was going to take a shot 2 huge, magnificent kudu bulls appeared in front of us, checking out the commotion. They were followed by a blesbok and eventually two massive bull eland.
We had seen the eland at a distance all week, but this was our first opportunity at a close distance. As daylight began to fade, Dan sent a FireBolt through the evening air, closing out the week with a bang. It was like the grand finale on the Fourth of July. We couldn't have scripted a better ending to our hunt.
To say we had a great time at Koringkoppie Outfitters would do it an injustice. You will not find a finer group of people than the Combrinck family, a better hunter, guide, and friend than Jacques, a nicer camp, or a more target rich environment than the South African veld.
If you have ever even contemplated an African hunt, our advice would be to make the time to do it. To our surprise, the cost would be comparable to a moose or elk hunt, with the benefit of taking multiple animals in an unbelievable setting. The memories of our time on the bush veld will last a lifetime, and our trophies will always remind us of the great time we had on the Dark Continent.