Greetings from South Africa! For the past few days my “to do” list has read, “Go to Africa. Hunt. Make memories,” and I’ve been doing just that. I’m leading a group of five female hunters in the Eastern Cape with Starr & Bodill African Safaris, of which I am a co-owner along with my father Dwaine Starr and professional hunter Louis Bodill. Unfortunately, our time here has come to an end. Here are highlights from the last three days of our hunt.
Michelle’s Burchell’s zebra
If it seems as if Michelle and I both spent days chasing zebra near Fort Beaufort, South Africa—probably because we did! They are incredibly hard to hunt, because there are so many eyes in the herd to spot you stalking them, and they are almost always on the move. Couple that with the fact that they like to mingle in groups with other animals, such as skittish blue wildebeest, and you have a hard hunt on your hands.
On the afternoon of day seven, Michelle finally sealed the deal. I hung back and watched from afar as Michelle and Dad put a long stalk on the herd, crawling to close the distance.
Michelle took her zebra at approximately 200 yards with a .270 Winchester Short Magnum slinging 140-grain Nosler AccuBond Trophy Grade bullets. “One shot—right through the heart,” Michelle reported.
I do have to say that her zebra is the most unique of any that I have seen. Dad speculated that it may have mountain zebra genetics, but is still primarily an example of the Burchell’s zebra subspecies. Its brown, black ,and white coloration will make for a stunning rug.
A river cruise
Michelle and I spent the morning of day eight hunting for elusive bushbuck (an animal that I had on my list). We didn’t see any, but still had a great morning afield.
That afternoon, we rushed back to meet the rest of the women at camp, so we could go deep-sea fishing out of Port Alfred, South Africa in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, when we arrived, the wind was gusting and prevented us from exiting the mouth of the channel, due to dangerous and unpredictable swells.
Luckily, we had a “Plan B” in place, and after a quick dockside lunch, we boarded the fully enclosed mega-barge Lady Biscay for a leisurely cruise down the Kowie River. We were able to relax and enjoy each other’s company during our voyage. We even spotted a fish eagle and a giraffe on the banks of the river.
After our cruise, we drove to a nearby beach area to dip our toes in the Indian Ocean and write in the sand.
The most challenging hunt of my safari came to a close at the end of day nine. While the rest of the group went back to try their hand at deep-sea fishing, Dad, Julia Chamberlain, and I set out on the hunt for my bushbuck.
Bushbuck are generally found in mountainous terrain that has a high density of brush The animals are very elusive due to their ability to hide and camouflage themselves in the landscape.
Winds were high again that day, which was unseasonable for the area we were hunting and the time of year. But, determined, we pressed on. That afternoon, while glassing from a mountaintop, we caught a glimpse of a bushbuck in the brush. Dad set up the shooting sticks on a small ledge, practically hanging off the side of the mountain, and I rested my rifle there for roughly 20 minutes, in hopes that we would see the animal again. We didn’t—nor did we see any other bushbuck for the remainder of the early afternoon.
In the late afternoon, we moved our location to an area dubbed “Bushbuck Valley.” Our plan was to glass the valley as the sun started to set and find a bushbuck moving at dusk. My hopes got higher when we heard several bushbuck barking in the distance—the most action we had all day!
We scouted out the area from the side of the valley, and soon found a large male standing on the opposite side. A riverbed and heavy brush separated us. We moved our location slightly to the left to get into better position, and Dad set up the shooting sticks. Luckily, I made a perfect 150-yard, broadside shot on the bushbuck’s shoulder, hitting its heart and lungs. As a testament to how tough these small animals are, he ran 50 yards before taking his final breath.
At dusk, we walked down the valley, through the dry riverbed, and halfway up the opposite valley to retrieve my bushbuck. We carried him out as the sun set—a perfect ending to a hard hunt.
Julia Chamberlain and Andrea Fisher both connected with common blesbok on the last day of hunting.