First Sign That Hunting Season Is Near - (1) Hunting North Of The Orange River
Updated: Jan 17
When the swallows start flocking together building up their collective brain and establishing each individual bird's networking into it before the long haul north, hunters are calling up their chosen buddies and start organising their hunting trips.
Photo shared by Londolozi Blog
It has been a good raining season but as we speak there is no convergence of moist air flowing in from the Mozambiqan Channel and a stable upper atmosphere associated with a massive, low gradient high pressure systen is hanging over Southern Africa. The late season rains will make a final apearance from February to April. The seasonal rain was on time and sufficient, so habitat all over is in excellent condition and the new arrivals of all species all over the Mpumalangha, Limpopo, and North West and Northern Cape Provinces Provinces for all the species has been very good. That sustains the reports that wildlife all over is in excellent condition and meat hunters will get good weights for their money duringthe wintter hunting season.
Hunters typically book their stays for a Friday, Saturday and Sunday night and most arrive at 07H00 on the Friday morning. Such excursions are self catering but the ranch will have coffee and rusks for the arrivals and the hunting rules and lay of the land are discussed. First order of the day is to demonstrate the scope zero: two shots into the 2" bull at 50 metres -preferrably 0.5" - 1" above zero. Last shot on game is at 3 hours before sunset on Sunday. Early Monday morning the carcasses are loaded from the refrigerator room, the balance of the costs are paid and the hunters are free to go. Except for eland, local game prices are per individual animal according to age, and fatter means lower per kg cost for the meat.
Eland sizes vary greatly between young and old bulls and not so much between males and females of the same age up to about four years. After four years of age the bulls keep on adding height and muscle - so all eland are paid for by the carcass weight. Bulls can vary from 2,000 lbs to 500 lbs on the hoof and females average 400-600 lbs. The carcass is weighed after it had hung for one night in the refrigerator room (36 degrees F) and all the blood had drained from the meat and it is quartered for transport.
A family group of young eland
The base line of Nature Conservation in South Africa since the 1960s has been exactly that - "Nature Conservation" and not conservation of certain species. That means that the first and foremost priority has been habitat protection by ensuring that game numbers never exceed about 70% of what the habitat can sustain in times of drought. If there is one thing that landowners fear more than drought it is overgrazing, and that is why sustainable hunting is such a high priority and a way of life for many city dwellers.
There is so much wild game around that after all the overseas trophy hunters and the local meat hunters have completed their hunts ranch owners then selectively hunt their own properties, scouting for and stalking particularly older females of all species and shooting them as the opportunity arises. On the very large properties (10,000 - 60,000 acres) the owners do helicopter excursions for residual game counts and contract the expert marksmen teams with firm instructions on numbers of males and females of which species to hunt out. This is for a particular market - the high demand for South African game meat in Europe - and only brain shots are allowed.
Carcasses are frozen whole and exported and hygiene principles demand not a single bullet hole on the body. There are specialist, state approved hunting teams with refrigerator trucks, registered butchers, and each operation has a state veterinarian doing the skinning, knives and other higiene oversight.
Small operations local husband and wife marksmen team - not for export meat. The blesbok on the right is a female with Rowland Ward+ horns.
This exactly is the very cheap hunting packages we offer for those foreign individuals who feel themselves capable of doing a great deal of shooting in a week or ten days - all brain shots from anything between 150 to 250 yards.
South Africa is by far the cheapest hunting destination in the world - for visiting trophy hunters the cost is about 25% of what out of state hunters pay in Colorado / Wyoming / Montana. USA trophy hunters alone spend on average $160 million every season. Europeans are approaching the tipping point where they are taking more and more the place of our USA friends as the anti-hunting lobby in the USA is becoming stronger. Already elephant and lion hunting is now solely the domain of Eastern European hunters with their CZs and Zastava Mausers.
The CZ is well known in South Africa, with the BRNOs having set a standard as a 100% all the time dependable DG and non DG field rifle - and later the CZ 550 (which now sadly has been discontinued; what a great loss). The most excellent Yugoslavian Zastava Mauser is an impressively well made and dependable and accurate rifle of very high quality. I see more and more being advertised in the USA and had I still lived there I would buy nothing else than a Zastava 8x57 Mauser and feed it Privy Partizan 190 gr ammunition to save brass and then eventually load my own. The 8x57 is the equal of the 30-06 but slightly better with 220 gr bullets.
The high numbers of animals hunted to maintain their sustainable food source means that the remaining gene pools themselves sense the abundance of food relative to their own numbers-to-food-ratios, causing their offspring numbers to be very high. That is why South Africa today has more wild game than 200 years ago. While in the 1960s wild game habitat had been taken up and damaged by cattle and crop farming, in the 60 years since then the habitat has been restored to what it was 250 years ago to conserve nature as it was. Cattle are selective feeders and are very bad for the habitat where 45 different species of huntable animals also wish to exist and can exist - quite apart from the many species of wildlife we never kill at all.
Regional (geographic) habitat and species
Travelling west, and north-west, and north, and north east, and east from Pretoria, within one hour one is in big game country, and after three hours in Big 5 country to the north west, north, north east, and east.
Typical Limpopo Province landscape
Limpopo landscape: foreground is the Eastern Escarpment with the "lowveld" Big 5 country in the background.
North West Province:
Typical North West Province landscape
NW province scene
Travelling east from Pretoria it is three hours to Big 5 country in the Mpumalangha (meaning "the direction from where the sun comes out") Province:
Still at 6,000 ft. elevation towards Big 5 Country which is lower than 1,500ft
Often both of them die from getting their horns interlocked.
Local hunter with Rowland Ward +6" kudu in Mphumalanga Province.
Sunset scene from a causeway across the Sabi river.
6 person private game reserve cottage.
Going south and south west after two hours it is the grassy plains of the Free State Province where springbok, black wildebees, blue wildebeest and blesbok roam.
Central Free State
Eastern Free State Province winter view
The true "plains" game: Black wildebeest and blesbok
Stretching for 500 miles further south east, south, and south west the open plains and flat top mountains and hills and canyons of the Great Karoo of the East and North Cape provinces region is the desert-like home of gemsbok (oryx), springbok, black wildebeest, kudu, mountain reedbuck and grey rhebok.
Communal nest of the sociable weaver
Long view into the Great Karoo
[next up: the snowy high mountains and lush tropical coastal forests of Kwa-Zulu-Natal plus the Easten Cape (called "Caffraria" by the British Colonists) with its rolling foothills and mountains with their deep canyons covered by very dense succulent brush which is the ancestral home of the Cape buffalo Syncerus cafer, after Caffraria]