I had been considering a big game hunt for quite some time; considering either Moose or Elk somewhere in the States or Canada, when I stumbled across a posting by Rob Martin on the Savage Shooters website where he was preparing to leave for his hunting trip last October. I jokingly posted that I was jealous and wished him luck. Rob replied and said, "Hey man, don't be jealous; Come along with us." I thought, "yeah right, as if that will happen."That's when Rob told me he was planning a group hunt for 2005 that will be more than affordable, and to start saving my pennies. Well, I have to admit my curiosities were starting to get the better of me.
Upon Rob's return from Africa, he spoke of the hunt he had held with his client Lyle in October and announced his intentions for the 2005 group hunt. It appeared to be too good to be true. Rob posted a link to an article written by Lyle so I looked at the article and emailed Lyle to ask a few questions about his trip. Between his article and his reply to my message, I was convinced that Robs group MAA Safaris was legitimate and experienced in this type of hunting adventure.
I wrote to Rob and expressed my interest in joining him on the group hunt. After speaking with him on the phone a few times, I felt like we were old friends and I was prepared to go along. Of course, I had a few concerns about traveling overseas these days but I was not going to let that stop me from what looked to be the hunting opportunity of a lifetime.
After my wife and I discussed it and she reluctantly agreed that I should go I decided to sign up. Rob was very flexible about payment scheduling and even told me he would accept my final 1/3rd at the airport if I had any concerns. Well I felt that was a great idea but not necessary, so I booked the trip and made my payments in three installments. Rob had offered monthly terms that would have been easy to meet, but I decided to make larger payments just so I would not miss one.
Rob was in constant contact with me throughout the long wait. We spoke on the phone or via email whenever I had any questions in regards to gear, clothing, paperwork and other miscellaneous items we would need. I always got prompt replies to my emails if not a phone call the same evening. Rob helped make it easy for me to prepare and to get my paperwork in order so I would not have any problems getting there. We spoke at great length about rifles and ammunition requirements. We discussed bullet construction, weights and type, manufacturer etc. Through our conversation and by process of elimination I decided on the Swift Scirocco 180 grain bullet for my Savage 300 WSM Model 10. I could not have made a better choice!
Load development took quite some time with the Scirocco's but they were showing good progress. After some 16 loads, 6 powders and 2 bullet styles (180 grain Nosler Accubonds and Swift Scirocco) I was able to narrow it down to one load and began fine-tuning. Eventually I was able to work up a load that would shoot three shot groups at 3/8 at 100 yards, with speed in excess of 3150 FPS per my Millennium Chronograph at 10 feet.
This is the load that I ended up using:
Case: Winchester new or once fired
Case Trim Length: 2.095 inches
Bullet: Swift Scirocco 180 grain
Ballistic Coefficient: 0.521
Powder: Reloader #19
Charge: 68.7 grains
Primer: CCI 200
Overall length: 2.885 inches
Average Velocity 10 shots: 3,135 FPS
Highest Velocity: 3,155 FPS
Savage Model 10 300 WSM
Scope: Leupold VX3 long range 4.5-14 x 40, medium duplex, 30 mm tube and adjustable side focus objective
Base: One piece Leupold
Rings: Burris with standard inserts
Bipod: Caldwell sitting model
Savage Model 16 Weather Warrior 7MM WSM
Trigger: factory, owner adjusted pre Acutrigger model.
Scope: Leupold silver 3x9x40 VX2
Mounts: Leupold silver one piece base and standard rings.
Ammo: 140 grain Nosler Accubond @ 3270 FPS.
With the extremely high winds and the long-range shooting we encountered, the Swifts high BC, the Savages great accuracy and the Leupold clarity really paid off.
Philadelphia Airport check-in was as smooth as silk! My rifles and case were inspected and on the way to the plane in a matter of minutes. I was in the air and on my way to Atlanta without a hitch.
I was in Atlanta ahead of schedule and began hunting around for Rob and Jody. I got in way ahead of both of them so I had a breakfast sandwich while I waited. Rob finally got in and told me he had missed his flight and had to take the next one. Jody came in about 30 minutes after Rob and we were soon on our way to the SAA terminal. I felt right at home with both Rob and Jody, as if we were old friends. It was going to be a great trip!
The SAA flight left on time and we were on our way. Thank Goodness the plane wasn't full as we really needed the empty seats around us in an attempt to get comfortable. Free beverages were provided for the duration of the flight and were much welcomed. The food was not the greatest, typical airline food. I highly recommend a large quantity of snack foods and perhaps a good healthy sandwich or two if you are sensitive to such gourmet foods as were offered on the plane. I was unable to sleep at all because I was just too wound up. After landing in Jo-burg, we got through customs in a little over an hour and we were on our way to meet Karel, (Carl) Robs South African partner. I took an instant liking to Karel as he was friendly and funny. After a short drive from the airport, we were at Karels' home and met his lovely wife Carin and their adorable 16 month old daughter. We quickly loaded up the rest of Karels' gear and we were on our way to the concession. Along the way we were able to see a little bit of the way of life for the native people and there were several interesting buildings and factories for our viewing pleasure.
Once at the concession, Percy, the manager of the lodge and the chalets, greeted us. He was a nice and very friendly older gentleman. As our chalets were not quite ready for us, we spent the night in the guesthouse, which was quite comfortable and would have been fine for the duration. We had a terrific meal in the lodge that night consisting of several delicious meats, sausages and vegetables.
After dinner, several of the guys were talking about checking out the concession and trying a little jackal hunting. I was gung-ho to join in but quickly decided that I was just too tired to tag along. In the morning, I heard that Jody shot a bush duiker. The guys saw a couple jackals and tried to take them out but missed and a porcupine somehow ended up in the back of the truck.