An African Safari always seemed like a fairytale to me. On September 30 2018 that fairytale became a reality for me. Not only was I going to Africa but I was taking my son with me. I use Bowhunting Safari Consultants to book all of my hunts. They specialize in bowhunting outfitters. There is nothing worse than trying to bow hunt with someone that is set up for rifle hunters. Neil Summers recommend Chattaronga Safaris based on what I was looking for in an African Safari.
We flew out of St. Louis September 27 to Atlanta and then a 15 hour flight to Johannesburg. If you ever go to Africa consider using Gracy Travel International. One of their representatives met us at Johannesburg and directed us to the hotel for an overnight stay. He met us the next morning and navigated us through the maze of an airport to check our bows and get on our flight to Polokwane. Chattaronga Safaris met us at Polokwane for a 1.5 hour ride to the lodge. The lodge was amazing. Tour of lodge
We arrived at the lodge early enough to hunt that evening. Heinrich was our PH and you couldn’t ask for a better person to be your guide. The first blind we visited didn’t result in any shots. There was plenty animals of which I thought were big but Heinrich told us not to shoot. I quickly learned that he would only let us shoot mature animals.
Going into the trip I only wanted to shoot a Kudu and a Sable. Little did I know that idea wouldn’t last very long. We drove up to the blind that first morning about an hour after daylight and Sable ran everywhere. I didn’t like the idea of arriving after daylight but I’ve learned to listen to the guide. We set up in the blind and about 30 minutes later the Sable started filtering back in. A nice looking Sable came in that I wanted to shoot but Heinrich said no he is too young. After a while another one came walking in and you could tell he was the boss. The others would move to the side when he walked by. The young one I wanted to shoot tried to challenge him and they started to spar. When he got broadside at 20 yards I took the shot. It was a complete pass through. The herd ran out of sight into the bush. Heinrich called the trackers and we waited. After a short wait they started off on the track. It didn’t take long because he didn’t make it far.
I was using a Mathews Triax set to 70lbs at 28″. My arrow was a Easton axis 260 with a 50 grain brass insert, 150 grain cutthroat broadhead, 4 Gateway Razer vanes, Firenock, and a 2″ footer for a total arrow weight of 550 grains. Ontarget2 calculated approximately 260 fps, 80 K.E., .630 momentum and 19% FOC. I should have used a 250 grain head but hind sight is 20/20 as you will see later on in the story.
We got back into the blind in hopes of seeing an Impala for my son. His wish list consisted of Impala and Wildebeest. As you will see his list expanded quickly as well. A small herd came through but way out of range of his Ravin crossbow. I tipped his arrows with the same broadhead I was using. If you plan on using mechanical heads you better check with the outfitter first. Most of them hate mechanicals and will not let you use them. I also put Firenocks on his arrows. After adding the weight the chronograph read 375 fps. Which only required changing the speed on his scope and a re zero at 20 yards. After a big lunch we went to a different blind. About an hour before dark a really nice Nyala came in. If Heinrich said it was a good one we shot it. From our point of view the shot was clear but Wyatt’s shot was blocked by limbs. It finally cleared the limbs and Wyatt took the shot. However this Nyala was on pins and needles, and just as Wyatt squeezed the trigger the Nyala jumped back. Thankfully it was a clean miss.
We went back to the “Nyala” blind the next morning in hopes of seeing it again. No luck on the Nyala but a herd of Impala came to the blind. Heinrich pointed out the best one and Wyatt made a good 20 yard shot. It fell within sight of the blind. After the trackers picked up his Impala we got back into the blind. It wasn’t long until a herd of Blue Wildebeest came in. The biggest one turned broadside at 30 yards. Wyatt had to wait for an Eland to move for a clear shot. His shot looked good at first but after it walked a hundred yards and laid down it was obvious it wasn’t a good shot. I later learned how to cock his Ravin silently but at the time I didn’t know how and the clicking of the crank spooked the wildebeest and he walked off. No I wouldn’t let him take a 100 yard shot on an animal but a wounded animal is a different story. This is when I learned what a good tracker was. Working as a guide for several years I felt like I was a pretty good tracker but after watching these guys; I would give my skills a 1. I went with the trackers and we walked 3 circles. The whole time I’m thinking these guys are just looking for a body there is no way they are tracking. Sure enough we jump the wildebeest. They track it to a road. We mark the spot and go eat lunch. Upon returning we drop off the trackers and circle around to the other side of the bush. They find it within 200 yards of the road. The shot would have been perfect on a whitetail so obviously it was too far back for an African animal. The vitals are straight up the leg vs behind the leg.
We went back to the “Nyala” blind again for the morning hunt. Wyatt wanted that Nyala badly. We saw Eland, Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Warthog, and some Nyala but nothing was big enough to shoot. That evening we tried a different blind. Chattaronga Safaris has some awesome blinds.
It wasn’t long until a huge Eland came in. I really wanted to shoot him but again Heinrich said don’t shoot he is to young. He kept turning broadside and just standing there begging to be shot. Then a whole herd of Eland showed up and their was an old bull with them. I had to wait several minutes for him to turn broadside. I bought a video camera to film our hunts but I told Heinrich if we got the shot on video I would be happy but I was going to take the shot when I could, even if he wasn’t ready. Unfortunately he had trouble with the lens cap and didn’t capture the shot on film. It was another double lung complete pass through shot and again he didn’t run far.
Wyatt wanted to go back to the “Nyala” blind. We saw several animals but no Nyala. There was a lone Impala that kept coming in and Heinrich said it might be a little bit bigger than Wyatt’s. So when the decision to leave was made I said if he gives me a shot before the truck gets here, I’m taking it. Of course he comes in to 20 yards and gets broadside. This is where my “perfect” shot streak ends. I feel like my shot was high even if he didn’t duck the string. We watched him run off into the bush never to be found. The video confirmed my suspicions. That evening we went to the “River Farm”. A nice Nyala came in but it wasn’t as big as the one Wyatt had missed on the first day so he passed on it. Later on, two huge Waterbucks came in. They initially spooked and we thought our chances were over. Right before dark the biggest one came back in and Wyatt took a 20 yard shot. I thought the shot looked good but Heinrich thought it was forward. He was still skeptical after we watched the video. However it turned out to be a heart shot and we found him within 100 yards. According to Heinrich this Waterbuck was a “MONSTER”.
It’s now day 5 and I haven’t even seen a Kudu yet. Heinrich takes us to a different blind and when we pull up there are 3 Kudu at the blind; 2 of which are shooters. We see Eland, baboons, and a good looking Giraffe but no Kudu. The action slows down around 12 and we go back to the lodge for lunch. Pulling back up to the blind around 2 the Kudu take off running again. They come back in from the downwind side around 4 and spook. This is the first day that we don’t take a shot.
We go back to the “Kudu” stand and guess what? Yep, those damn Kudu are already there and run off again. They come back in around 12 but yet again I don’t get a shot. I talk Heinrich into not going back in for lunch and staying all day. At 4:00 they start working back in. I finally get a shot. He is broadside at 10 yards and I make a “perfect” shot. Heinrich calls the trackers and tells them to bring the trailer this Kudu isn’t going to make it very far. I can’t wait to get my hands on him so we go look for him. By the time the trackers show up ,we haven’t found my Kudu yet. After looking at the footage Heinrich confirms its a “perfect” shot. We take off on the track and 5 miles later we still haven’t found my Kudu. It’s getting dark so when it crosses a road we mark the spot and go back to the lodge for supper and a very long night.
The trackers start back on the trail. The night before we discussed that if we didn’t find any blood to confirm we were on the right track we would have to backtrack. It wasn’t long until they found a speck of blood to confirm we were on the right track. They tracked for another 2 miles until we came to some rocky terrain. The trackers told me the secret to their tracking. When an animal is wounded their hooves will spread apart when they walk thus blood isn’t needed to track. This only works on the heavy animals, which is why we couldn’t track the impala. So when we hit the rocky terrain they spread out and looked for the track. That’s when I heard a hunters favorite words “I found him”! The trackers were in disbelief at how far this animal went after seeing the shot placement. The skinners said not only did the arrow hit both lungs it also nicked the windpipe between his lungs. I have no explanation as to how this Kudu went this far. You should watch the video posted at the end.
Up to this point I was feeling really down. I even said find it or not, I’m done. I have to give my son a lot of credit. He tried to keep me upbeat and happy. My mood changed immediately after it was recovered and I was ready to go hunting again. Heinrich said the trackers had found a spot that some really nice Gemsbok were frequenting. They built a blind out of burlap and limbs and we got set up by 2:00. Sure enough the Gemsbok started coming in and Heinrich pointed out the best one. In order to stay concealed they had only left a very small hole to shoot through. I had a hard time getting a good shot at the one he told me to shoot. He was either quartering to or there would be other Gemsbok in the way. He spooked a little bit but he stopped and gave me a quartering away shot. When I drew back to shoot, Heinrich took down the camera for fear of getting shot. That’s how small the hole was. We heard the crack of bone as the arrow hit the opposite shoulder. Another “perfect” shot and again we told the trackers to bring the trailer. After tracking a couple miles it was obvious the shot wasn’t actually that good. This particular section of the property had a lot of roads. We would circle around and try to finish him with the rifle as the trackers stayed on the track. At the first crossing Heinrich gave me his .375 to finish him. Heinrich started saying there he is shoot, shoot; but for the life of me I couldn’t see him. Just as I handed the rifle to Heinrich the Gemsbok ran across the road and he took a shot. He hit it in the ass and that Gemsbok didn’t even slow down. The next crossing didn’t yield a shot because it was a narrow opening and he ran across too fast. At the next crossing the trackers call on the radio to let us know they found him. They walked up on him and as he tried to get up they finished him off with another shot. The skinners said the arrow had broken a rib on entry, but it turned the arrow enough so that it only got 1 lung. This is when I wished for the 250 grain head. Not sure if it would have made a difference, but I think it might have.
There was full body mount of a Bushbuck in the lodge and Wyatt decides he wants one. Heinrich tells us the best way to hunt them is at night with a light because they are rarely seen during the daylight. The best place is the “River Farm”. After supper we drive to the farm and begin the hunt. Using a spot light we see a nice Bushbuck. After maneuvering into position I try to range it. I had left my rangefinder back at the lodge so I was using Heinrich’s. Mine has red numbers which makes it very easy to read in low light however his had black numbers and it was very difficult to read. Fearing the Bushbuck would run off I guessed the distance at 40 yards. Wyatt took the shot and it looked a little high. We followed up and found the Bushbuck standing facing away from us but he was hit good and wasn’t able to run off. We got into position for another shot and again he hit a little high. This time we find him laying down and Wyatt hits a limb on this shot deflecting the bolt off course. That’s 3 shots and he is out of bolts. Luckily he was using Firenock’s and I was able to retrieve one of his arrows. This time we are able to get within 20 yards and he finishes it off.
Wyatt wants to try for the Nyala again so we go back to that blind for the morning hunt. We see lots of animals as always but no Nyala. We do see a warthog that I considered shooting but Heinrich tells me we can do better. We are back in the blind that evening looking for Wyatt’s Nyala. Finally we see him coming in. All of the blinds had big rubber mats to help keep down noise. As the Nyala works around the waterhole to give Wyatt a shot Heinrich’s chair falls off the edge of the mat and makes a loud noise spooking the Nyala. However it only makes a couple jumps and stops long enough for Wyatt to make a shot. Wyatt makes a good shot and it only runs about 60 yards before falling. Heinrich tells us we just completed the spiral horn slam. I got the Eland and Kudu while Wyatt got the Nyala and Bushbuck.
At this point we have shot everything we wanted and then some. Johan makes me an incredible offer on a Cape Buffalo but at this point I’ve already gone way over budget and can’t afford it. I inquire about shooting a Livingston Eland. He has an old bull that the trackers say probably won’t make it much longer. I can shoot it for a very big discount. We drive out to the area it was last seen and find it. Only one problem it’s already dead. Johan says I can have the head if I want so I tell them to prepare it for a European mount.
Now we are just looking for a Warthog. Heinrich takes us to a totally different blind he called “Whitepan” that evening but we don’t see any shooter Warthogs.
Back to “Whitepan” to look for Warthogs again. Zebra come in but no shot opportunities which didn’t matter because my wife said no Zebra or Giraffe. Three Cape Buffalo come in and tempt me but luckily they don’t stick around long enough to give me a shot opportunity. That evening a family of Giraffes come in. Two females with several young ones. After they move off a huge old bull Giraffe comes in and gives me a perfect shot opportunity. I’ll admit I did think about it for a second but I knew better and hung my bow back up.
This video is the compilation of everything we recorded: Chattaronga Safari
This video highlights the Kill Shots we got on camera: Kill Shots
This video is us talking about our hunt with footage: Interview