Hunting at N'kosi Sana Game Lodge
By Harry Marx
My whole family recently had the pleasure of visiting N’kosi Sana, a game farm only an hour’s drive north of Pretoria. It made a welcome change from the usual multi-stop trek. The farm is adjacent to the Dinokeng Nature Reserve and the last ten or so kilometres already welcome you to Africa. When we arrived, the luxury, hospitality and beauty of the place exceeded all expectations.
Hans is an Austrian South African, one of those rare farm owner/PH/manager breeds and in spite of a heavy European accent, he has 15 years of African hunting experience. Many of his “clients” come from Europe, which tells you much about the quality of service. We enjoyed the game drive thoroughly as he drives a Land Rover like a real boer.
The chalet, we were given the large unit, has two double bedrooms, six single beds in a thatched roof area with a wooden floor and two single beds in a cozy niche. It has a modern kitchen, lots of cupboard space, a fridge, percolator, microwave, etc. No, this is not an ordinary “hunting venue”, I would rather describe it as a holiday resort with a games room, pool, and braai lapa. And for Dad, the bowhunter, the opportunity for a really rustic, down-to-the-basics hunt is a bonus.
On a game drive and walk, Hans showed us the part of the farm where few people come. It also serves as a reserve or retreat for the animals. Not only the welfare of the hunters is catered for here, but the animals can roam in a stress-free environment. There is plenty of natural clean water on the farm and the veld is in excellent condition.
When you compare this all to a “standard South African hunting farm”, you will realize that you can hunt cheaper at other farms. But very few offer a retreat for your whole family. Jana (my wife) and Letitia (Wickus’s) gave it the thumbs up, and from personal experience they can be picky. Compared to other holiday resorts this is very affordable and will easily fit into a family’s holiday budget. The day fees include everything. If you want to look at their website, you will see a breakdown of their prices, however, I much prefer the single-rate-includes-all option. You will not be charged for wood, diesel, skinning, cold room, tracking, or the PH’s services to retrieve a wounded animal. Hans says he simply hates surprises on a bill. I think this is getting a PH service from the hunter’s perspective. This all certainly sets N’kosi Sana in a very niche market, as you can combine a bushveld family breakaway with a hunting trip in one nice packet.
I hunted from a pit blind. The pit blinds at N’Kosi Sana are basic wooden pole structures with thatching for walls and tin roofs. They blend in well with the winter field. It was late summer/autumn and not yet as dry. The blind is not at a waterhole and the only attractions provided for the animals are a salt lick and a feed block. I was skeptic, since the farm I hunted on just the previous weekend sent me home with an empty trailer… When you bowhunt, note, not “bow shoot”, you get use to this. I easily go home with nothing – three hunts in a year. Although I must add I never shoot out of desperation. I pick a target and if it presents a shot, I take it. Many hunters draw as the animals come in, and the first one to present a shot goes home.
I spoke to Hans the morning of our arrival and knowing he has many kudu on the farm, mentioned that kudu might feature somewhere. The kudu would exhaust our budget in one shot. But then hunting is never by order and contingency plans are always in place. We had some backup funds to add to the budget…
The kudu came in from straight ahead, and walked with all the time and grace it can, directly to the feed block. It nibbled and observed, nibbled and observed. I was waiting for the perfect presentation – a quartering-towards shot was not on. Then it moved over to the salt lick, and turned again, facing me. Five minutes it stood there and then started walking briskly past the hide… the opportunity lost.
But it did not leave. It went and stood next to the hide, slowly chewing on something it bit from the block. For two hours it stood there. I could not make a sound. The feed block must have been delicious, for it went back - this time, at the right angle. Yes, some do not call this hunting. I would not disagree. But if we measure the level of “fair chase” by how many get away, even sitting in a hide fares better than rifle hunting. And we had to test all modes of hunting, I convinced myself. The simple truth is if you want to hunt – walk and stalk - if you need meat for the table, well…
Up till to that moment I could control the bokkoors. Deep, slow breathing. My heart went from “normal” to super-fast with one draw of my bow. The choice was made, I was going to shoot my first kudu bull. I had drawn the bow at a safe angle; an accidental release would have been “bloodless”. Then I anchored, moved into the shooting window, and started drifting the sight onto the front leg. He was standing plankdwars. 20 yards – as good as 120 in a rifle scope. My heart was pounding to a degree that everything but the pin and the vital triangle became a white blur. The kudu was looking slightly to its right, in my direction. At that distance, I knew it could not string jump. If only my concentration did not falter. And then the arrow flew.
The shot was good. The arrow slipped right through the chest in the centre of the vital triangle. I was shooting a 650-grain arrow, it cleared the kudu and fell five yards further. The Razor Trick broadhead performing perfectly. The kudu pulled back, turned and started running, but I could see it did not scare. It wasn’t galloping, just trotting. It was heading for the bush it came from, two long hours ago. When it reached the edge, 80 yards from me, I could see its horns already swaying. It slowed down and stopped. And again, I heard doef, it was down.
I called Hans, waited another 15 minutes and then approached. He lay at 100 yards. The “autopsy” revealed the shot went right through both atria, the top chambers of the heart. This surprised me, for I thought from the entry wound, it would have overshot the heart. Again, I got an anatomy lesson. The heart is not as low in the chest for the kudu, as I thought.
After the photos, and a tot of Jagermeister, we relaxed around a fire, the smell of the braai swirling in the cool night air. Hunting may not be for all, but we were all for hunting.
The next day we enjoyed the veld. I was hoping for a large warthog, but alas, all that came in were the blue wildebeest, giraffe, hartebeest, blesbuck, ostrich, nyala… no, N’Kosi Sana is a good hunting farm.