This year, I was fortunate enough to find a great new Africa hunting destination, the Tuli Block and Koch Safaris in eastern Botswana. How this all happened…..
Earlier this year, a friend/client (Bob) who’d hunted with me in Namibia two previous years went to the DSC show in Dallas. Saw a lot and talked a lot but didn’t book anything. A few months later, he calls me up and says he HAS to go back to Africa hunting but, doesn’t want to go back to Namibia because he’d already taken all the plains game species he was interested in there. Could I find a new place to go and would I go with him? Told him to give me a few days, I’d run down a few contacts I had and get back to him. I came up with Koch Safaris in Botswana. The website hasn’t been updated in a good while but the basics of it’s location and most things are still applicable.
As some of you may or may not know, about 5-6 years ago, the previous President of Botswana folded to the pressure of the anti-hunting/animal rights groups and closed all big game hunting on government held and private lands BUT, they did NOT close plains game hunting on private land. Good news/bad news situation has been that the “word” that was put out was that ALL hunting was closed in ALL of Botswana. This has been generally bad news for the private land owners who saw bookings fall off to near nothing. The good news is plains game populations that were already at record numbers in the county exploded nationwide. BAD news is so did the elephant populations but that is a different story. Bottom line is that plains game hunting in Botswana on private land has always remained open but had very little pressure due to the misinformation. Anyway……
I contacted Gerhard Koch for pricing for a 8 to 10-day plains game cull and a trophy impala and trophy black w/b for my friend Bob. Also, I might be interested a cull giraffe if available. A few days later he came back with a price of the cull hunting: 12 cull impala each, 8 cull blue w/b each and 2 cull plains zebra each for $5100.00 each and we would each have our own PH (1x1). The add on trophy fee for the impala and blue w/b for Bob was $800 each and a cull giraffe for me was $1000 extra. Since we were going to be on the banks of the Limpopo river, Bob asked if he could add a crocodile. Gerhard said not on the Botswana side, but he had a friend with a place on the South Africa side we could go and add an extra day to our trip. He gave Bob a price for the croc and he agreed. While all this was going on I was doing a little checking on Gerhard’s operation with a few very reputable PH’s/Outfitters and all came back with Gerhard is the real deal and don’t worry for one second! After that and the prices, we booked for mid-June.
Rifles: For me, it was a newly acquired Ruger 77 RSI in 30/06 shooting 180gr Speer Grand Slams and my long time friend Ruger Alaskan in 375 Ruger using 300gr softs and Cutting Edge Bullet brass solids (for the giraffe) For Bob, he took a Savage Hog Hunter in 308 with 150gr TSX and a Ruger 77 Alaskan in 375 Ruger with 270gr TSX.
Travel: The capital of Botswana, Gaborone, is not easy to get into (that is changing starting this Oct). At the time we were booking, the best route in seemed to be Delta to Johannesburg with an overnight and Air Botswana in the next morning. I’ve done the J’berg transit a LOT and know the process and the documents required and have everything filled out and correct before we left. I booked us rooms at the City Lodge hotel right in the airport complex where I normally book if having to overnight. Convenient, comfortable and fairly priced. Was my first time on Air Botswana and it was a very, very well run and on-time operation. Was a regional turbo prop size a/c and the flight from J’berg to Gaborone was a little over an hour.
The airport terminal in Gaborone is small but VERY nice. By the time we made the short walk from the a/c to the terminal and filled out our immigration form, the luggage and rifle cases were coming out on the conveyor belt. Short walk over, we each grab a luggage trolley, our luggage and rifle cases, short stop at the immigration counter, stamp our passports with our visa and then a few steps to Customs. Gerhard had our rifle permits and with a quick check of serial numbers and 4457’s we were out the door.
Because Bob wanted a croc, instead of going to Gerhard’s place we drove about an hour to the NW of Gaborone, crossed the boarder back into RSA and another 45 min. to the property Bob would hunt his croc on. This property was a 3500-acre high fence place common on the RSA side. The crocs were in the small oxbow ponds/pools formed by the Limpopo river and flooded during the seasonal rains. During this high-water time, crocs from the river would relocate into these oxbows and ponds and stay there after the flood water recedes.
The good part about hunting crocs in these oxbows and ponds is that if your shot is a little off and you don’t absolutely “anchor” the croc on the bank and it gets back into the water, you still have a high probability of being able to recover it. In a flowing river situation, if you don’t absolutely anchor it with your first shot and it gets in the water, it’s gone. The current can wash it downstream; it gets caught in an underwater snag etc. and the trophy fee is STILL due and payable.
In Bob’s case, the next morning after breakfast, we checked zero on the rifles and Bob decided to use his 375 Ruger. It was still pretty cool, maybe 45F and we went back to have a little coffee and wait a couple of hours for it to warm up and draw the crocs up on the banks to sun and warm up. We collected up our kit and drove to the first oxbow about 10:30. Checked the first three and no shooters and on the fourth there was a good one just under 12ft sunning on the opposite bank about 75yds, facing away with about ¾’s of his body out – perfect set up. Bob made a good shot and broke his spine at the front shoulders – didn’t kill it but he did anchor it soundly. By the time we got around to the other side, the head and jaws were still “active” and Bob used the PH’s 40 cal pistol to finish it. All collected and back at camp by 1pm.
On the drive back we passed a couple of VERY nice Roan and over lunch, Bob and the land owner struck a very good deal on a Roan and and instead of packing to leave for Gerhard's, an afternoon Roan hunt was set. Typical hunting, after the deal is made, the quarry vanishes! Finally, late in the day, with just barley enough shooting light left, we find a good Roan bull. Bob makes a very hasty off hand shot and wounds it and the rodeo is on. Try tracking till well past dark and decide to pick it up again in the morning. Long story short, after many hours of tracking the Roan is recovered but, it’s too late in the day to pack and make the drive back across the boarder to Gerhard’s place. So, an unscheduled second night in RSA. Out very early the next morning, cross the boarder at a different location and are at Gerhard’s place well before lunch.
The drive from the RSA/BOT boarder crossing and the airport to Gerhard’s concession are both about 2 1/2hrs with most of it all blacktop. The last 30 min was gravel but, it is currently being converted to blacktop and by the end of this year it will literally be black top from gate (airport) to gate (entry to his concession). Here’s a link to the map on their website - Koch Safaris Concession Area
Quick history of the “Tuli Block”. During “Colonial times”, entire southern Africa region was controlled by the British. One of the main “Governors” of the region was Cecil Rhodes who founded Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. The British government gave the Tuli Block to Rhodes for land and resources to build the Cape to Cairo Railroad. Years later, the land was sold/transferred to private ownership and in the early 60’s the bulk of the area (1 million plus acres) ended up with a man named Derek Brink who still owns it and many other large tracts in Botswana (he’s the largest property owner in Botswana) and around the world. Gerhard and his wife Maggie have a long-term exclusive lease on a large portion (250k acres) of the property for the past 16 years as well as access/hunting privileges on all of it.
The entire concession is made of “sub-blocks” of anywhere from 30K to 50K acres by high fences. These fences were put in for the most part by previous post-colonial land owners to control cattle. These “sub-blocks are only high fenced three sides with the fourth side bound by the Limpopo river and the game freely transit between the Tuli and South Africa during the dry season when the river is at it’s lowest. They are maintained today, to control the movement of game between the various blocks for disease and population control.
The Tuli pretty much marks the eastern edge of the Kalahari Desert. Despite the drought conditions on the western side of the Kalahari over in Namibia, this side did have adequate rains and still had areas of good grass and forbs. AND THERE IS GAME EVERYWHERE! We drove through the main gate off the main road and within the first few hundred meters there were impala, kudu and giraffe! I’m not talking about 1 or 2 here and there I’m talking herds!
The drive down the “two track” from the gate to the main house and butchery is about 15km the drive and from there to the lodging/camp was about another 10k. The bungalows are literally on an oxbow of the Limpopo river with the river proper another 300m beyond. They actually have two “camps”. The one where Bob and I stayed was set up as two private guest buildings with private ensuite bathrooms and queen size beds. Hot showers and 220v power outlets. Power was supplied by solar panels and battery banks or generator as required.
We unpacked, met Gerhard’s wife Maggie and his two terrific little girls and a very good lunch. After lunch we again did the obligatory zero checks at the range and off on our first hunt. This trip was to be more of a familiarization of the property and to get a feel for the conditions. These were to be “proper stalk and spot hunts”. No, I don’t have that reversed. Gerhard does NOT shoot from the truck (except jackals) and does not hunt water holes. If you see game from the truck, you will get off and stalk them. Otherwise, you will drive to an area, get off the truck and actually “hunt” the bush and once the game is spotted on foot, you’ll commence the stalk.
With all the game you can see, this is NOT like shooting fish in a barrel. If you see a heard of 100 impala, remember, they have 100 pairs of ears, 100 sets of eyes and 100 noses to yours and your PH’s. They also have the high ground covered by hundreds of giraffes (literally over 350 in the main sub block alone) along with 100’s of birds. To me, this is hunting the way is should be. My PH, Basjan Bakker and I covered between 12-15 miles a day (wrist gps) on foot. Busted many fold more times than I shot even though shooting distances were will under 150yds, it was just the combination of the above and sometimes swirling winds the would give us away.
In the end, Bob and shot our quota and Bob got his trophy impala and blue w/b and added a bookable Limpopo bushbuck too. I did take a very, very old giraffe bull with the 375 and solids. Everything else was just the 30/06 and Speer Grand Slams. Only recovered three of the Grand Slams. They were on impala I shot facing way and hit the spines at the base of the tail. Every other shot on game, including blue w/b and zebra were complete pass through. One w/b was hit in the front of the chest at about 180yds and I the bullet fell out of the guts just in front of the hind legs so, 3-3 ½ feet of penetration?
Bottom line: This was such a good time when I got home, and told my wife, we decided to add 8-days back in Botswana at the end of Aug when we finished our Namibia hunt with Jan I posted above. Will post another report on that under a new entry.
I’m already looking to put together a few guys who’d like to try Botswana. One of the nicest things about Gerhard, he will customize each client’s hunt within a group that goes. Everyone can have their own dedicated PH and their own “package” of culls and trophies over the course of the groups time there. You can add trophies at the time and you can even settle your account before you leave by credit card.
As always, feel free to PM or ask in open forum any questions you may have.