It is been 7 years since our last trip to the Eastern Cape with Nick Bowker Hunting. While there are a few minor changes (some upgrades to the bar/dinner area), most things were very similar. Most importantly, the experience and animals once again greatly exceeded our expectations. Being this was my hunting buddy and my second time over, we wanted to go after some different animals to get a little different African hunting experience, but we also wanted to go after of few of the same game as our 1st round given how impressive these animals are and how much we enjoyed going after them previously. In 2012, both of us took a Kudu, Mountain Reedbuck, Springbuck, Impala, Warthog & Blesbuck. Nick has very appealing hunting packages available for South African Plains Game.
Here is a recap of our 2019 experience
Arrived in Port Elizabeth mid-morning and were greeted at the airport by Nick Bowker & his brother Rob Bowker. They took us to OliveFountain Ranch, about 90 minutes from PLZ, which is were we stayed for the following week. After unpacking our stuff, we made sure our rifles were dialed-in at the range on the property. This day was a bit misty and rainy, but that didn’t stop us from going out for a great walk in the hills and valleys. We saw numerous animals before sunset but the only thing we pulled the trigger on was at a Jackyl from about 350 yards. The Jackyl ran off with a miss just over his back. Even though the weather this day wasn’t the best, we still saw so many animals of trophy quality but decided against shooting any given we would have 7 days of hunting in front of us and given the number of animals we saw, we felt very comfortable passing on some quality animals knowing we would have more opportunities. Upon our return to the lodge, we enjoyed a fantastic steak dinner along with some outstanding South African wine and a few beers/cocktails. We sat by the fire reminiscing about our 2012 trip and catching up on the seven years since last being together and looked forward to the coming days of Free range hunting in South Africa.
Zebra was the top animal on our list this year for our hunt in South Africa and we started out the day going after these. We spotted 3 separate herds of Zebra on this morning. They all proved to be very skiddish and jumpy, remaining on the high-ground running with Blesbuck, Springbuck and Waterbuck. A quality shot never did present itself on a nice stallion, but was an exciting start to this day. Late morning, we headed back to the lodge for brunch. Our mid-afternoon hunt was focused on another new animal for us, the beautiful Gemsbok. We quickly came across a large herd of about 70 animals in the high plains. Like the Zebra, they were very aware and love to cover very large areas in a short period of time. This is where Nick’s expertise and knowledge came in to play. While Rob & the trackers drove the Gemsbok into a valley, Nick set us up in an area he was confident they would eventually make their way through. After waiting them out, the herd began to cross back into the highlands between 200-250 yards out. Nick spotted a very impressive bull which presented itself broadside at 220 yards. A shot off the sticks through the shoulder put the animal down in it’s track and we had our 1st of 15 trophies of this trip.
For the evening hunt, we went after Kudu, Nyala and/or Warthog. We spotted hundreds of animals within a few square miles at saw numerous Nyala (including 8 Nyala bulls) feeding out in a field. After a stock on the animals, Nick was able to get us in close to get a great look at these magnificent animals. An extremely impressive Nyala presented itself broadside within 100 yards where it went down, again with a shot off the sticks.
Again, a fantastic dinner, dessert and drinks were enjoyed back at the lodge as we discussed day 3 plans.
We began the day by going up higher in the mountains near Bedford as we pursued Kudu. The drive up in these mountains is absolutely breathtaking. Rob showed his fantastic driving skills high in these mountains with amazing views. Again, we located numerous animals but decided against going after any. We enjoyed lunch in the field then moved to an area closer to OliveFountain Ranch where we had a lot of success in 2012. This are didn’t disappoint as a trophy Impala ram was shot off the sticks from about 225 yards. This shot was a little far back in the Impala and this is where the trackers and the two Jack Russell Terriers proved their skills. Blackjack, a two year-old Jack Russell quickly found the ram a couple hundred yards from point of impact. Watching these dogs work is amazing. Their energy, instincts and love of the hunt is so impressive.
This evening we spent about an hour glassing over a huge area of land. Like the evening before, the Nyala bulls were out in amazing numbers. Near the same location as the night before we spotted 15 Nyala bulls out in a field along with numerous Kudu & Nyala cows. We put in a long stock as the wind and sun were in our favor and were able to close in to within 100 yards of many of these animals. Nick’s ability to differentiate a very nice Nyala from a “Proper Nyala bull” was again very evident, we continued to move down the field using large thorn trees as cover to identify the best animal. We continued until we finally got busted by some young Nyala that were hanging in the thick brush as we came within 30 yards of them. While we didn’t down anything this evening, the stalk on these animals was so impressive and rewarding in itself that we went back to the lodge with zero disappointment.
We started the morning by going back to the area where the Impala was taken the day earlier. As we were glassing from the top of a high ridge we spotted several Kudu, Warthog & Impala. A very impressive Impala came out at 270 yards and it was taken down using the elevation to our advantage.
Following brunch, we were back on the Zebra. Again, they were very wary and covering miles of highland. Nick put us on a hillside where he felt they would eventually move into. After watching the Zebra for over an hour, they moved into a comfortable range. A shot was taken at a beautiful stallion but was missed just low from about 350 yards. We decided to let the Zebra settle down after this and left the area. Free range hunting in South Africa is like no where else in the world.
This evening we again went on to stalk the Nyala bulls in the same location they have been hanging out. At last light, Nick spotted a beautiful shooter bull where we moved in on the unaware animal and closed the distance to within 150 yards. The 2nd trophy Nyala bull was taken and we headed back to the lodge after another great day of hunting.
This day was simply amazing. In the morning a beautiful Kudu bull was spotted among several Kudu cows. We again went on the stalk. As we closed the distance the valley came alive with the number of animals moving. This startled the Kudu as they moved away from us. The big bull stopped broadside to look back on the valley and was dropped in his tracks at 330 yards.
After we dropped the Kudu off at the lodge to be prepared for mounting, we headed back after the Zebra. This time, they weren’t as active as the previous days. A beautiful Zebra stood broadside at 347 yards and was put down.
Again, due to the heat we brought the Zebra back to lodge to be properly taken care of and were back in the field chasing another herd of Zebra about an hour later. Nick set us up in an area he felt they herd would be moving through. An opportunity at the lead stallion presented itself at 548 yards. From a prone position, a shot was placed just in front of the shoulder and this Zebra was put down on the spot. We were thrilled that within about a 3-hour timeframe we both had our #1 animal successfully taken.
This evening we glassed a huge Warthog with very impressive ivory….again, the stock was on. As we moved into the area of the big pig, he came out at 215 yards and was knocked down in the spot off the sticks.
We are not sure the trackers were to thrilled with our success as they certainly had their work cut out for them having to cape/skin all those trophies in a day, but we were certainly thrilled. What a day! And to top it all South African hunting prices are very reasonable. Six trophies will cost the same as an Elk hunt in the United States.
Gemsbok was 1st thing on the menu for day 6. Going back into the same area where we had previous Gemsbok success, they herd was very active running about in the high plains. After making several unsuccessful stalk attempts due to the outstanding eyesight of these animals, we were able to position ourselves under a thick thorn bush to conceal ourselves. Rob and the trackers were able to move behind the herd and redirect them back in our direction. As the herd began to settle down they crossed in front of us single file at 180 yards. Again, Nick picked out a beautiful bull among the large herd and another trophy was down in its tracks after a long wait for the proper Gemsbok to come through.
No other animals were taken this day, but it certainly wasn’t from a lack of seeing quality animals. By this time in the hunt we have conservatively seen at least 10,000 different animals of numerous species. One of the coolest things happened late this afternoon. While we were looking for a big Warthog we spotted a nice Kudu that will be a shooter in another year or two. We were within 300 yards of this and it didn’t have a clue we were there. Just for the fun of it, we decided to stalk it to see how close we could get as he was busy eating off some kind of tree. We slowly walked towards him going into the wind and got to within 35-40 yards of him before he finally spotted us. We have this stalk on video and it was a moment we will never forget. You could see the “Oh Shit” expression on the Kudu’s face before bolting off. I included a snip from a screenshot of the video so you can see how close we ended up moving in on this impressive animal (sorry, the clarity of this isn't the best due to pausing a video).
Again, we headed back into the mountain region near Bedford going after another new species for us, the Blue Wildebeest. After another awesome drive through the mountainside a herd of about a dozen Wildebeest were spotted. We stalked into a position getting an advantage from an elevated position. A fantastic bull was taken from 315 yards from a prone position off a cliff and the bull went nowhere. What an impressive creature this animal is!! South African hunting packages offer an enormous variety of animals at very competitive prices.
On a very hot afternoon, we went after a Red Lechwe in a new area. After spotting the herd in thick thorn bush area, we were able to put in a long stalk and get ourselves into a position to get a shot as the herd moved through the thick brush. Two “proper” Red Lechwe came through the opening and Nick quickly identified the better of the two. A shot off the sticks put the Lechwe down at 230 yards.
Another fantastic (hot) day of hunting with two new species taken. Ice cold beers back at the lodge never tasted so refreshing to cool us down. And like every other night, we had a 5-star meal and great conversation.
The only animal left on our list was another big warthog. This was the focus for our final day of hunting. Well, success was achieved within 90 minutes of sunrise as we spotted a few shooters. One unsuccessful stalk on a big pig was quickly followed up by a successful stalk on a different pig which was downed from 210 yards. Warthogs…..they are so ugly they are beautiful!!!
Since we still had most of the day remaining to hunt, we decided to test our long range shooting skills on the active and elusive White Blesbuck. These animals love to run and can cover great distances in such a short period of time. Like many of the other species we went after, they are challenging due to the fact they run in such are large herd.
Nick put us in position and identified a big shooter which stopped broadside at 608 yards. After using the G7BR2 rangefinder and setting the MOA on the Nightforce scope, this White Blesbuck was hit just in front of the shoulder and dropped in its tracks.
After gutting this animal and putting it in the shade it was round 2 with the White Blesbuck. Again, we set ourselves up in a similar location and finally the herd moved in front of us and another trophy was hit hard behind the shoulder as it was walking slowly at 378 yards. What a way to end a fantastic hunt….two 18” White Blesbuck taken within a couple of hours of each other.
Finally, a few recommendations I would highly suggest to anyone:
- Give yourself a MINIMUM of 3-4 hours for a layover between Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth. We were delayed out of PLZ and barely made the plane back to the States. You will need all of that time for gun transfer, International check-in, etc…
- Follow the recommended packing list Nick provides. Both trips I have overpacked. You only need two sets of hunting stuff as they will wash and clean your clothes each day used the previous day.
- Bring a very good set of optics! The eyesight of Nick and his crew is astonishing. They see stuff with their naked eye that are difficult to pick up with good bino’s. Great bino’s will make your experience much better with the amount of glassing you will be doing.
- The majority of your shooting will be standing off of sticks. The first time I went over I didn’t realize how much shooting would be done this way. Practice, A LOT, and be prepared to get a quality shot off in the standing position off sticks quickly. When you anchor an animal with one good shot it makes everything so much better. You don’t want to spend a half-day or more tracking a trophy.
- Bring quality bullets and know your ballistics…this will be important in preventing frustrating circumstances.
- Listen to your PH. Nick has the ability to quickly judge a good African animal from a great one. After two trips, every decent Kudu bull still looks huge to me...he will quickly be able to tell you what is a shooter and what isn’t...trust their judgement
- Start planning your next trip after you experience your first trip as this is such an addicting experience.
Hope you enjoy the recap of another fantastic hunting experience with www.nickbowkerhunting.com We have already started planning our 3rd trip over there and we cannot wait for the next experience to happen!