For me hunting isn’t just about collecting species and trophies. It’s about discovering new places, meeting new friends and sharing new experiences.
I’m fortunate to be able to travel quite extensively for my hunting and I’ve had some great experiences along the way.
I very much enjoy the social side of hunting, to the point where I’ll enjoy being part of someone else’s hunt – sometimes more than hunting on my own!
On a recent trip to South Africa I had the pleasure of accompanying my good friend Iain Sanderson on his Red Lechwe hunt.
Iain and I were hunting as part of a group with Gavin Ingram at Nduna Hunting Safaris, based near Alexandria in South Africa’s East Cape.
Although not indigenous to the area, Nduna has a large and healthy herd of these strikingly beautiful and highly sought after antelope.
The Red Lechwe is native to parts of central southern Africa – Botswana, Namibia, Angola, Zambia and southeast Congo.
Usually found in marshy areas such as flood plains and seasonal swamps, the red lechwe at Nduna have adapted well and the herd now thrive in the rich grasslands with numerous grassy marshlands and plentiful water.
Red Lechwe have a thick reddish golden brown coat, with a white underbelly. Their impressive horns sweep back from the base and outwards, before curling forwards towards the tips.
Minimum trophy size for entry into the Rowland Ward Records of Big Game is 26 inches. The current record measures a whopping 35 inches and resides at the British Museum in London.
Nduna Hunting Safaris is home to two or three pretty good trophy bulls at any one time, but it was unlikely we’d see a monster of those proportions.
I’d actually shot a red lechwe myself earlier on in my hunt. It was a young bull with a ‘switch horn’ that my PH – Clint Mattheus had asked me to take out.
One of its horns had been damaged and was already curling forward from the base. By the time it reached maturity, the chances are the horn would have curled around the front of its face, so it was important to remove it from the herd.
Iain’s bull had no such problems and was in fine condition. Gavin Ingram knows the Nduna Hunting area like the back of his hand and was pretty sure of where the herd would be.
‘They love water, long grass and plenty of cover” suggested Gavin. “In the afternoons they move through this valley towards the grazing on the far side of the estate” he said, pointing out their usual route. We took the truck across from the Lodge out into the bush and continued to stalk on foot.
Nduna is blessed with a variety of different terrain, from open plains to thick acacia and mopane bush. The Lechwe use the latter as an effective cover whilst they lay up during the day.
At Nduna they’re usually joined by a few mountain reedbuck, which can make the hunting very difficult indeed. Mountain Reedbuck tend to lay motionless in the long grass, before springing up and leaping away.
Not only can this catch you by surprise, but also it alerts every animal within earshot of your presence. Stealth was to be the order of the day!
Luckily, Iain Sanderson is an experienced international hunter and has hunted extensively in Africa.
For this trip he’d chosen to use his beautiful Sauer 202 Elegance in .30-06 with a Swarovski Z6 2.5-10×50 scope and Apel swing-off mounts.
The Sauer was zeroed to 200 yards with the excellent 180 grain Sako Super Hammerhead. This was pretty much the perfect combination for any African plains game.
Gavin took up position at the front of our group, constantly glassing the area ahead for signs of the herd.
The thick acacia bushes meant we had to be incredibly quiet as the lechwe could be but a few yards in front of us.
Inch-by-inch, yard-by-yard, we made our way through the bush to the edge of a granite ridge that sloped down towards the Lechwe’s preferred grazing area. Here the bush was almost impenetrable, but for a few twisting game trails that weaved their way between the rocks.
Suddenly Gavin spotted the herd. He raised his hand and we all knelt down simultaneously while he scanned for a mature bull.
It was difficult to make out the individual animals as they were grazing right at the edge of the bush from which we were stalking. There we’re a number of females clearly in sight, which meant there would be a bull close by.
Gavin signalled for the rest of our group to remain whilst the three of us continued down the ledge and into the bush to see if we could get closer and spot the elusive bull.
We reached a gap in the bush and Gavin slowly stood up to get a better look whilst Iain and I remained in cover.
No sooner was he up, than he was back down again! He’d spotted a good-sized mature bull grazing at the base of the ridge, some 200 yards in front of us. He was quartering on to us, but unaware of out position.
Gavin asked if Iain was happy to take the shot. The wind was good and Iain is a capable shot. Gavin slowly set up the sticks – the bush was so thick, there was simply no option for a bipod.
Iain got himself comfortable and waited for the bull to turn. After what seemed like an eternity the bull turned broadside and the 180 grain Super Hammerhead found it’s target. The bull lurched forward and disappeared from view.
Iain reloaded and we ran down the ledge, through the bush to try and pick up its tracks. We needn’t have worried.
The shot was good and the lechwe had used its last steps to reach its usual marshy safe haven, where it laid perfectly still by the water.
A fine stalk and a great shot resulted in a beautiful red lechwe trophy, which can be viewed on the Nduna Hunting Safaris stand at the Midland Game Fair this September.
Sauer 202 Elegance in .30-06 – 5*
Swarovski 2.5-10×50 – 4*
Apel Swing-off mounts – 5*
Sako Super Hammerhead 180 grain – 4*
Swarovksi EL 8×32 binoculars – 4*
Harris HBRS 6-9” bipod – 4*
As published in the June 2011 edition of Sporting Rifle Magazine