The Affordable Safari; Your African Dream Hunt, Part II

Read Part One: The Affordable Safari; Your African Dream Hunt, Part I

We left off last time with the outfitter selected (Marupa Safaris) and paid, airlines booked, and all the paperwork done. Oh yeah, and with the first of the three animals on the ground, a nice black wildebeest. 

Let’s step back from the hunt to more of the preparations, planning, logistics, and getting there.

Gear Selection

I checked to see if there had been any new products released at the SHOT show back in January that might be interesting to try and suitable for taking on the safari. Finding nothing that really caught my eye, I decided I would take the Marlin 45-70 I had built up for an article last year.

A quality hard-sided case is needed for airline travel. Lock all points to keep it from being pried open, this model has 4 along the front.

The gist of it from discussions was that most shooting would be within 200 yards, so I was confident that the Marlin would reach the distances needed and was strong enough to take the game I was on contract to shoot. However, you don’t always get to choose the distance you find game so I wanted to cover my bases a little.

My Vortex Fury 5000’s passed the PH’s judging eyes.

I topped the updated Marlin with a Nightforce NX8 1-8x scope. The little illuminated variable power scope fit well on the gun, would allow shooting close-range targets at speed on 1x, and also excel at longer distances with the 8x magnification and mil-based reticle. 

I also took along a set of the new Vortex Fury 5000 laser range finding binoculars. Knowing the exact range is critical when shooting a cartridge like the 45-70 at distance. At distances beyond 150 yards, the 45-70 trajectory starts looking a bit rainbow-like and being off even 25 yards could cause misses on smaller animals.

To transport your gun on an airline it has to be declared and locked in a hard-sided rifle case. My gun, scope, and rangefinders all got locked up in a Pelican case secured with 4 Master padlocks. 

I chose Hornady’s 250-grain LeveRevolution ammunition for the hunt. I found it to be very accurate and figured it was heavy enough for the game on my hunting list. Typically, within the US, TSA and the airlines allow up to 5 kilograms of ammunition (11 lbs.), however, South Africa only allows you to bring in 60 rounds per rifle. I took 60 in and got by on less than 20 for the hunts and verifying the gun was still sighted in on arrival.

Expansion of the bullets was varied based on range (velocity) they struck my game. Starting at 45 caliber helps.

If I was recommending a rifle for someone to take for this size and type of game, I would say bring your favorite 6.5 caliber, 7mm, or 30 caliber rifle. Any of those would have the power, ballistics, and bullet selections to shoot the distances encountered and take the selected game. If I was planning on coming again tomorrow I think I would be bringing my 6.5 PRC.

Prep Work

I’m amazed at the number of people that show up at my range with a loose scope, base, or rings. So, before you even start shooting your selected rifle, clean the base, ring holes, screws; apply thread locker; and torque everything in place.

Regardless of the gun you bring, it’s critical to get out and shoot it so you are ready when you get to Africa. You’ll probably be shooting standing off of a set of shooting sticks, kneeling resting on a tree, or somehow braced off of the Land Cruiser. It’s almost certain you won’t be shooting from a bench or prone, so as soon as you get your rifle and ammo zeroed start shooting from some of the expected positions.

Attention to detail when setting up your guns pays dividends in the field-“Luck favors the prepared”.

The will to survive is strong with the animals of the plains, so practice working your action quickly and getting a second shot on target as fast as possible. You want your trophy to go down right there; you don’t want it running off, mixing with the herd, or going back into the bush so you have to go looking for it. Most times that means a fast follow up shot or two to make sure it’s dead right there (DRT).

It may seem silly, but it has to be said, be 100% familiar with all your gear. Some people go out and buy new gear just for the big trip but then don’t take the time to get fully acquainted with it. Pick your rifle/scope combo and all your gear well in advance and spend the time needed to get comfortable with it.

Packing

Laundry is done daily at the Marupa lodge so you don’t need a bunch of clothes. I packed light with only 3 bags; a carry-on backpack containing my laptop, camera, paperwork, electronics and a sweatshirt, my Pelican case, and a small Under Armor checked bag with the rest of my clothes and ammunition. 

Make sure and bring a comfortable pair of headphones in your carry-on for the plane ride and something to read or watch in case you’ve seen everything on the plane’s movie list. I also threw my sweatshirt in just in case it got cold on the flight.

I took two pairs of pants to hunt or dine in, one swimsuit, one pair of shorts, a couple of T-shirts, a light long sleeve Ice Breaker shirt, a 200 weight Ice Breaker pull over, and short and long sleeve 5.11 shirts. I found I really didn’t need anything else and it made getting through the airports light and easy.

Straight thorns and shorter, sharp hooks decorate the branches of many bushes.

When flying in the US, ammunition can be in manufacturer packaging, but for going into SA it has to be in a locked plastic, metal, or wooden container. I used an old Glock handgun case with a single lock to meet the requirements and I’m not sure anyone ever even inspected that bag at all once it passed TSA initial check-in.

As far as footwear, the PH’s typically wore a set of low top boots with short tough gaiters to keep debris from getting down in their boots. I wore a pair of Salomon Ultra GTX hikers for the hunts and thought they worked well. We didn’t need a pair of high top, heavy hunting boots; the people that brought those typically left them in the room.

The gaiters the PH’s used were short and made of canvas material to keep out the sharp debris and dirt that is kicked up while walking in the dusty terrain. The closest in size, not material I found doing a quick online search was these. Theirs are definitely tougher to hold up to the hostile terrain.

Small necessities go in a carry-on, knives and bug repellant had to be in a checked bag.

To power up the phone charger, laptop, and recharge my camera batteries I took an AC Converter designed for SA’s outlets. It included a standard US 110 plug and USB ports for easy charging.

Also, throw a small flashlight or headlamp in your bag for moving around the lodge/camp area after dark. You don’t want to be stepping on any cobras or scorpions. My favorite little light is the Surefire Titan; small size, plenty of light for general use.

Along with your normal toiletries be sure to pack bug spray and sunscreen. It wasn’t summer yet, but the sun is strong, and I did manage to get a burn on my face due to removing my hat while riding in the back of the Land Cruiser.

The Johannesburg OR Tambo airport has banned what they call irregular shaped bags and bags with excessive straps. They determined these bags were the major cause of baggage conveyor jams and issues.

This means your bags must have at least one flat side and cannot have long or excessive straps. No duffel bags, North Face duffels, or backpacks with straps and belts hanging off of every point of the compass.

Departing Airport Check-In

Leaving the US is easy; declare your unloaded firearm at the check-in counter, sign the form affirming that, and lock your case. Show your passport to prove you have it with you and check your other luggage like any other flight.

TSA may want to have a look in that locked case so wait around the counter a few minutes before heading through the security checkpoint. As long as it’s unloaded and you don’t have any ammunition in there then it’s no big deal. If they do call you back to unlock it I think it’s because they want to check out the cool guns.

I would recommend hitting the currency exchange and getting your South African Rand on the US side of the flight. You’ll want a few hundred US dollars converted for tipping and souvenirs and I prefer not to be handling money in the open in a freshly landed foreign country. 

A young Kudu chilling in the shade.

Proceed through security and you’re off on an amazing adventure.

SA Arrival

When you land in South Africa you will have to clear Passport control and get your passport stamped letting them know who’s in the country. The next stop was baggage claim for checked bags, and then over to oversized baggage where they held all the firearms. 

I made sure mine was there, though they won’t let you have it, they will cart all firearms to the SAPS import/export firearms permit office, which would be our next stop.

As we left the secure area of the airport we were greeted by GC, one of the Marupa PH’s. He helped with the checked bags and led us to the SAPS Permit Office. Right outside the office, we were introduced to the Hunter Permits Africa representative, who went into the office with us, and sped us through the inspections with the SAPS officers.

Once our firearms arrived from baggage, it took no longer than 5 minutes for everyone to get their case unlocked, inspected, closed back up, and ready to go. Compared with having to submit the paperwork at this time and have it all reviewed, verified, processed and approved; the pre-approved permit was definitely the way to go.

Trip Schedule

The 9-day itinerary for the trip was planned out for us to fly out of Atlanta on Sat. The 16-hour flight would put us into Johannesburg SA Sunday evening; after all, you are crossing the international dateline. 

We would be hunting at Marupa’s Kimberley lodge about 5-6 hours away, so due to our evening arrival, we would have dinner and spend that night in a hotel in Johannesburg. The Limpopo province hunting lodges are closer and do not require the night stay in Jo-burg, so you get to the happy hunting grounds sooner.

Cape Cobra, that Pieter shot with my 45-70 when we caught it crossing the road

Monday – drive to the farm, get settled into our rooms, check zeros on our rifles, drive the property scouting animals, have dinner, and set our hunt plans with the owner, Pieter and the PH’s (Professional Hunters).

Tuesday – Begin the day hunting wildebeest, lunch, then hunt springbok. At least that was my day; everyone had their own plan based on what they planned to bag while in the country.

Wednesday – Everyone hunted warthogs and several went out on a night hunt for some more nocturnal animals.

Sights from the first day driving around the property, some game would let you get close, others would run at the sight of the truck in the distance.

Thursday – Continue hunting designated animals.

Friday – Everyone had completed successful hunts and bagged the animals they wanted so we went to town sightseeing, shopping, and visited a lion preserve.

Saturday – Travel back to Jo’burg, pick up a few more souvenirs along the way, and back to the airport for the late evening flight back to the states.

Sunday – Get back to the US of A, through Customs, and back to the house.

The variety of animals in Africa is amazing, so much more than deer hunting in the states.

Back to the Hunting

Hunt #2 – Springbok – My PH, Dolf, said we would be going to an adjoining stretch of property that had some very nice springbok. He also asked if I had enough ammunition with me before we left because it may take a little more shooting as that area had some open spaces.

Being the true professional he is, Dolf found an awesome springbok and we started pursuing it in the Land Cruiser. He was also right about the open spaces, this area was wide open, and since it was late in the hunting season the animals were not interested in letting us get anywhere near them.

We had close range stalks in the brush to wide open glassing in the plains.

This hunt was going to be from the Land Cruiser since there was no cover to even consider a stalk and the springbok was covering hundreds of yards each time we tried to get near it. After what seemed like an hour, Dolf decided it was time for me to use some of that ammunition. 

Cooper Springbok taken by a fellow hunter (Tikka T3 308, Nightforce).

The springbok was standing with a few others but presenting a clear broadsided shot. I set up to shoot from the back of the Cruiser using a bag on the roof of the cab. The sun was at our back and the light made the buck stand out in the grass. 

I settled into as solid a position as possible while Dolf watched and ranged the buck. Then he gave me the bad news, the buck was at 360 yards, much farther than I had planned on shooting the short-barreled 45-70.  

I had good 300-yard data based on the wildebeest earlier in the day, so I took a swag based on my experience shooting the 45-70 for the additional elevation. I had also been light on my windage call before so I did my best Kentucky windage guesstimation. The wind was not as strong as earlier and was a lesser value based on its angle, but I was shooting noticeably further.

Quad cab, diesel v8 Land Cruisers, with a short truck bed was the designated hunting rigs.

I was holding well in front of the buck and at my best guess for elevation as I pressed the trigger on Dolf’s direction to fire. We were both slightly amazed when the Springbok kicked and bucked as the Hornady bullet found the rear leg off in the distance. I have to admit I somewhat expected to see the bullet kick up dust around the buck and have to make a correction and fire again.

As pretty as the sunsets were, we hated to see each day end.

However, the trophy buck was not out of the game, it hit the gas and began speeding around with the rest of its herd. It didn’t even appear to be limping and was keeping up with the rest of the animals as we followed in the truck. If it wasn’t for Dolf and TJ’s keen eyes and the trophy horns on the buck he would have been lost in the chase, blending in with the rest of the animals.

We continued to pursue, and he finally began to tire. He dropped in and out of the herd and tried to slip away in the brush, bedded down, and let us drive past it. I had tried a couple of shots at the buck in the distance while it was running to no avail.

When the PH couldn’t find the exceptional horns in the animals ahead, we circled back and the chase was on again. The buck jumped up and was working down a fence line heading away from us at about 200 yards when we pulled to a stop and I hit it in the back between the hips and shoulders. 

The turned back horns of an awesome and most elusive Springbok.

I am still in amazement at the speed and endurance the buck demonstrated after taking a hit in the hind leg. It used every trick in the book to try to shake us and if it hadn’t been for the experience and skill of my PH the buck surely would have been lost.

Though the first hit had been a poor one, the Marin 45-70 / Nightforce NX8 combination was earning the admiration of the PH’s. I had taken another outstanding animal and couldn’t be happier with the way the trip was going.

Hunt #3 – Warthog- The next day everyone saddled up after breakfast to go hunt warthogs. A warthog wasn’t a big deal on my list, so I conceded to take mine as one of the last shooters on the day. We hunted the tuskers by two different methods. One is simply setting up in a blind near a watering hole and waiting to see what wanders in; that approach worked for a couple in our party, and it was interesting seeing all the animals that came in for a drink.

Huge trophy Warthogs taken by our group on the second morning hunt.

The other method was riding around in the Cruiser scanning the brush and passing water holes looking to see what we could find; the rest of us got our hogs in this fashion. Sometimes the warthogs would run and have to be chased to get a shot; other times they would pause just long enough for the shooter to get a clean shot.

When it came around to my turn on the gun and we found a suitable tusker, he wasn’t about hanging around and immediately headed for thicker cover. I got off a shot at him a couple of minutes later as he stopped in the bushes but I misjudged the distance and saw dust fly just over his back. And then he was off again. 

The terrain would change faster than a New York city red light, but you go where the animals are.

We paralleled his path through the brush as best as possible until we saw a hog emerge going away from us at about 140 yards. As the truck came to a halt and the Ok was given, I let one fly at the slightly quartering away bacon factory. It was a solid hit, and it went down after traveling about 10 yards.

However, when we got up on the animal, we found it was not the large tusky fellow that we had chased into the brush, it was a sow. The old boy had pulled a wonderful bait and switch on us and since this one was going away from us, no one could see the face or tusks, so we fell for the tactic hook, line, and sinker. 

This gun combo was better suited for the shorter range brush hunting

The animal had a nice set of symmetrical tusks and the European Mount will look awesome when it gets home, so I was still very pleased. With the warthog on the ground that finished my 3 animal basic package but having seen some incredible gemsbok on the property, I was thinking of upping my hunt for one more plains game animal.

Next Time- Part III

Check out Part III of the Africa Dream Hunt Series for more information on my gemsbok hunt, the Marupa Lodge facilities, Getting your Trophies Home, Leaving SA, and the Flight Home. Yes, it’s worth it, how much have you saved for your trip?

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About the author: Jeff Cramblit is a world-class competitive shooter having won medals at both the 2012 IPSC World Shotgun Championship in Hungary and more recently the 2017 IPSC World Rifle Championship in Russia. He is passionate about shooting sports and the outdoors. He has followed that passion for over 30 years, hunting and competing in practical pistol, 3gun, precision rifle and sporting clays matches. Jeff is intimately familiar with the shooting industry – competitor, instructor, RO, range master, match director. Among his training credits include NRA Instructor, AR-15 armorer, FBI Rifle Instructor, and Officer Low Light Survival Instructor. As a sponsored shooter, Jeff has represented notable industry names such as: Benelli, 5.11 Tactical, Bushnell, Blackhawk, DoubleStar, and Hornady. He has been featured on several of Outdoor Channel’s Shooting Gallery episodes and on a Downrange TV series. Jeff’s current endeavors cover a broad spectrum and he can be found anywhere from local matches helping and encouraging new shooters as they develop their own love of the sport, to the dove field with his friends, a charity sporting clays shoot, backpack hunting public land in Montana, or the winners podium of a major championship.

{ 4 comments… add one }
  • H Norman Angell April 7, 2020, 11:56 am

    Zulu Time (12 hours after the International Date Line runs through London, UK). The IDL is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Author is VERY confused.

  • R Edward April 7, 2020, 10:18 am

    Rifle and caliber are both poor choices for a Africa plains hunt. Choice of novelty firearms and ammo is not in best interest of clean kills. Story about Springbok good example of this.

  • Trey Lewis March 5, 2020, 1:05 am

    Definitely true about hunting from standing and kneeling positions. A very different experience from hunting in stands or blinds – can be rough to get used to especially when in unfamiliar terrain such as South Africa!

    If you went back, would you bring the 45-70 again? Seems like you might have missed some shots because of the drop.

  • Dr Motown March 3, 2020, 10:14 am

    I took a 375 H&H for my plains game hunt and it was overkill. Any 7mm or 7.62 bullet is sufficient and easier to carry. There are also “facilitators” you can hire for a reasonable price, and they’ll get you through the customs and firearms inspection without hassle. In my case, I left my gun case padlock key at home, and the facilitator had some bolt cutters and spare locks that saved my butt😉

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