Plains Game Safari Photos from South Africa's East Cape

Last spring I spent 10 days hunting for 10 animals in South Africa's East Cape region. The hunt was arranged by Cabela's Outdoor Adventures (you can find out more about the hunts they offer, and book one of your own, by clicking this link to their top-notch African hunting safari page). It was a package deal offered in partnership with a South African outfit called Frontier Safaris -- the package allowed a duiker, a warthog, an impala, a blesbok, a gemsbok, two species of springbok, a bushbok, a wildebeest, and a kudu. The story of the kudu hunt appeared in the November 2009 issue of the magazine (you can read it here). This gallery of more photos from the trip is a companion to that piece.
My professional hunter (South African for "guide") was Alan Schenk. On the first morning after I arrived we spotted a herd of impala grazing in a field dotted with large acacia bushes. We used the bushes as cover and crouch-walked to within 200 yards of the herd. This ram was standing guard and spotted us just as I pulled the trigger.
On the third day of our hunt, in the early morning, we spotted this male gemsbok bedded in the dew on a slope of land overlooking an old impoundment. To shoot him we stalked through the brush on a ridge opposite from where he lay until we reached a small clearing. I was using a BOG Pod as my shooting sticks, and after we set them up and I settled into position M'stele, our tracker, clapped his hands to startle the animal to its feet. The gemsbok ran a few yards up the hill, then stopped, quartering away, to look back for the source of the sound. My bullet took him behind the shoulder and exited halfway up his neck, clipping his lungs and his spine.
This is a blesbok. Blesbok run in herds and so can be hard to approach -- if one spots you the whole herd will spook. This ram, though, was standing guard on top of a ridge with his herd on the west-facing side of the slope below him. We were able to approach him up the east-facing side, with the sun behind us, on the fourth morning of the trip. I shot him from a sitting position, camouflaged by a scruff of grass at the edge of a game trail, from 250 yards away.
This small antelope is a duiker (which means diver in Afrikaans, one of the languages they speak in South Africa). It is a full-grown male. Schenk and I had been trying to stalk a family of warthogs -- our eyes on a large boar with wide tusks and a cinammon-colored mane -- when the wind shifted and they spooked. As we were hiking back to the truck I saw this little ram standing in a clearing about 150 yards away.
We spent the next day trying to track down that cinammon warthog. Alan loves hunting warthogs -- he's big into stalking game with his bow, and warthogs, which have terrible eyesight but excellent noses, make good targets as long as you know how to use the wind and terrain to your advantage. We eventually spotted the boar later in the afternoon. He was fighting with some rivals in a clearing surrounded by termite mounds. We were able to stalk within 100 yards before I made the shot.
This is a common springbok ...
And this is a black sprinbok. Springbok are bouncy little antelope that live in more open terrain than what Frontier Safaris normally has access to, so we drove for two hours through the South African countryside to reach a region of broad, grassy plains.We found two small herds of them here, one of black, and one of common, and were lucky enough to put separate, successful stalks on both.
The next evening, while hunting back at Frontier Safaris' home range, we spotted this massive blue wildebeest bull (also known as a brindled gnu) grazing with a bunch of other bulls in an acacia-strewn meadow at the bottom of a valley. We were glassing from a ledge high on the mountainside above the valley when we saw him. The climb down was very strenous, and by the time we reached the meadow they had moved further up the next hill. By the time I put a scope on him I my legs were burning and my chest was heaving, but I had trained well before leaving on the trip and was able to settle my nerves. My shot took him just behind the shoulder, at a quartering angle, exiting midway down the paunch.
This is a kudu. Kudu don't grow as large on the East Cape as they do further north, in Namibia and elsewhere. But of all the animals included in this package, this kudu was the one I wanted most, and the hunt for it proved the most exciting of them all. You can read the full story here -- it was originally published in a special section of the magazine's November 2009 issue.
The last animal I took was a bushbok. Bushbok are very difficult to spot. They like to hide in thick brush and rarely move from the shadows. Alan and I spent the final two days of the hunt searching for one, and he was getting worried that I would end the trip without filling all my tags. But on the afternoon of the last day we stopped in a clearing at the base of a canyon to glass a trail on the side of a cliff, and spotted this nice ram picking his way from bush to bush. After I shot him we had to swim across a river, climb halfway up the cliff, and burrow through a half-mile of thicket to reach where he fell. We took turns shlepping him out by carrying him on our shoulders.

Rifle: Browning X-Bolt chambered in .30/06
Cartridges: 180-grain Winchester Supreme Ballistic Silvertips
Binoculars: Cabela's Euro 10x50