Norissa and I were in South Africa again in May 2014 in the Northern Cape. One of our favorite places to travel to is South Africa. We are starting to get to know many parts of this country through our travels this year. We found ourselves at Wintershoek Safari’s. This is a beautiful hunting concession with some of the biggest game I have seen in South Africa. Our PH, Yvan Nieuwoudt, greeted us when we arrived at the beautiful lodge, along with the other friendly staff at Wintershoek. We were ready for a fantastic 8 days of hunting! Several years ago at SCI, Norissa and I saw a Gemsbok mounted in one of the booths. Ever since then, Norissa has wanted to harvest one of these beautiful animals. We have been to South Africa twice since that show, and only seen these beautiful animals at a distance. Knowing that this was an animal that Norissa was after, Yvan was on a mission to harvest a nice Gemsbok Bull.
After days of walking and stalking the area, we had gotten close, but were never able to take a shot at a nice Bull. Yvan decided to take us to a nearby concession, Gamagara. Norissa, myself, Yvan, and our cameraman (Kappie) took off early one morning at Gamagara. We were looking for a mature bull in that area. We did a lot of walk and stalk that morning. After a few hours away from the truck, we came to an area with an open field. I was busy filming B Roll when Yvan motioned to all of us to be still. I kept rolling as a herd of Zebra walked right past us less than 50 yards away. We were in the shade standing up right and they had no idea we were there as we all held perfectly still. It was a rush! We continued to hold still until they passed and then we snuck to a nearby bush where we paused as we saw a huge herd of Gemsbok. Norissa could barely contain her excitement.
Yvan told us that the shade was the best area for us to be in and we needed to keep as still as possible. We crawled into position to see if we would get a chance on a bull. We spotted a nice bull in the herd using our Swarovski El Range Binos. It’s not easy as the cows have horns as well. The bull’s horns are typically shorter and heavier than the cows. There was a cow laying about half way between us and the bull along with the herd of cows he had with him, so we couldn’t get any closer than 350 yards. Norissa didn’t have a shot with all of the bushes in front of us. We sat shivering in the shade for two hours. Every time the bull would get up we would get ready thinking Norissa would get a shot, but the bull was behind a cow or a bush and there was no shot for her. Finally, after a long wait, the bull started to graze out of the bushy area and into the open. Cameras were ready and Norissa was still propped up on the sticks as she had been for the past two hours. She took a deep breath as the big bull came out into the open area at about 200 yards. She slowly squeezed the trigger and he was down! Perfect shot to the shoulder!
Norissa and I were jumping up and down yelling with excitement There is always that one elusive animal that you really want, and when you finally get that shot, it’s so rewarding. Our PH was very happy. He didn’t tell Norissa, but she had taken a very nice bull. He was 37.5 inches on one side 35.5 inches on the other. She was very happy to have had the opportunity to hunt the beautiful African Gemsbok with Wintershoek Safari’s.
Next, Norissa and I had an opportunity to meet some amazing animals, including two White Rhino calves! Wild Hearts is a nearby animal rehab that works in conjunction with the Nature Conservation Organization in South Africa. It is managed by Ansabet le Roux, a lovely woman who showed us the grounds, as well as the owner of both Wintershoek and Wild Hearts, Wiann van der Linde, who is the 2011 Wildlife Rancher of South Africa. Wild Hearts has a full reaction team for the rescue and re-introduction of wildlife, which includes ample staff, veterinary service, tranquilizer specialist, and even a helicopter with a pilot. They accept any orphaned animal from a list of 32 animals and that includes the Big Five. More importantly, these animals that would normally be culled or left to fend for themselves in the bush are given a home and they are loved.
The environment was thriving with beautiful animals, such as the Vervet Monkey. I had the opportunity to hold an infant through the fence. He tried to take off my wedding ring and steal my blingy sunglasses. This is something you can’t do in the wild and was a neat experience. We also got to see the lions up close and even a brown hyena, which has one of the strongest jaws in the world. He had been raised in a fenced area, and he liked to play with the Ansabet’s Border Collie through the fence. It was comical to watch. The highlight was the White Rhino calves. We got to watch them being bottle fed and scratch their butts. They were like tamed dogs. Once the animals are older, there are ear-marked game reserves for the future release of the rehabilitated animals. All of these game reserves employ anti-poaching units as poaching is a big problem in SouthAfrica, and the game reserves are very pro-active in stopping poaching. One thing that most non-hunters don’t understand is that without the hunters, the animals would not be protected. Hunters work diligently to make sure that a species is able to flourish and doesn’t become extinct. This is part of conservation and something that makes Norissa and I both proud to be hunters. Hunting and conservation go hand in hand.
Next was my opportunity to hunt. Norissa and I had been introduced to a new species on this trip— the Black Wildebeest. They were thriving in this area and we saw huge herds of them. It was difficult to get close to them because they tend to stay in the open areas where we didn’t have a lot of cover. Many of the outfitters call them the Clown of the Bush. They have a beautiful blonde tail and their horns curl forward. They have bosses similar to a Cape Buffalo, but they are much smaller in body size and horns. We ran into three bulls traveling together one evening while out hunting. Yvan climbed a nearby tree to get a good look. We stalked in as close as we could and I laid down in the prone position with my bi-pods to try and take a shot. They were about 200 yards away, and they didn’t give us a good shot. I was disappointed, but I knew I would have another opportunity. We packed up for the evening determined to set out the next morning in pursuit of these prehistoric looking animals.
Yvan had found a trail that was fresh as we got off the truck early the next morning. It was chilly out and we took off following the tracks. In Africa, it tends to warm up quick, and as it did, we found the road again and took off a few layers of clothes to pick up later. We were quiet this morning, all of us very focused on finding those three bulls. We lost the tracks temporarily and we thought that we weren’t going to find them again. All of a sudden, Yvan motioned quickly for us to get down behind the bush. Even though the trail had gone cold, he spotted a herd in front of us. They must have gotten our scent because the big bull stopped and faced us about 110 yards away and was snorting and looking around. Yvan whispered to me asking if I was comfortable with a frontal shot, and I nodded yes of course! I felt my adrenaline kick in, knowing we only had seconds before this bull either spotted us or just got spooked and ran off.
He was looking in our direction as we set up the sticks behind the bush. Yvan was watching him as I set up my gun to take the shot. The sand was deep and the sticks started sliding. I couldn’t steady myself and I whispered to Yvan to help me. He reached around me and held the sticks from moving and I focused my Swarovski scopes red dot right under the Black Wildebeests chin. Only seconds had gone by, but it felt like an eternity. I squeezed the trigger and he hunched up and ran away. I felt good about my shot. Yvan smiled back at me and said, “Jen, I don’t think you know what you just shot!” I asked him what he meant, and he said, “That is a huge bull!”. I could barely contain myself as we walked up; he was about 40 yards from where I had shot him down. This magnificent animal was more than I could imagine! His beautiful bosses were old and full of character. I could see that he had lived a good life and was an older bull. I was excited as we got back to the shed and put a tape on him. He made the SCI Score Book for Gold Medal Black Wildebeest! What a trip! We harvested several beautiful animals, had some amazing wild game on the menu, got to see a huge taxidermy operation, and we had an opportunity to see conservation at it’s best at Wild Hearts Rehab. Norissa and I are very thankful for this opportunity to hunt at Wintershoek Safaris and recommend this outfitter to anyone. To learn more about Universal Huntress TV, check out our episodes at Wintershoek Safaris in 2015 on Sportsman Channel.