Here I was after 30 some hours of travel, back on the Dell farm on the Eastern Cape of South Africa, and this place is like a homecoming for me! I’d met up with Kip, David, and Chris in Atlanta, I made it to the plane right before the door closed, and flew with the guys over to Johannesburg. On arrival we collected our guns and gear, got the paperwork done, then climbed on for the short hour and a half flight to Port Elizabeth. When we arrived, Rob and Andrew were there to pick us up for the couple hour drive out to the Hounslow lodge. On arrival, we got sorted out in our rooms, and met for a quick talk on where and what to hunt in the morning.
I’ve been coming to SA for the last 16 years, my wife was born and raised there and her family is spread about the country. I’ve visited, fished and hunted in various regions over the years. About 9 years ago I met up with Rob Dell and Andrew Meyers, two professional hunters that had an idea; to bring airgun hunting to the Eastern Cape! Andrew it turns out, had been in the UK working for a couple years, and going through shooting / hunting withdraws had acquired an FAC BSA SuperTen to bag a few bunnies on a friends permission. When he returned home, he thought that sportsmen visiting the region to hunt the abundant plains game might like to bring their airguns, or use his, to shoot varmint and small game in their down time. He presented the idea to Rob and the decided to give it a go. Somewhere along the line Andrew and I met up, and liking his plan, I set up a hunt with the intention of bringing over one of my standard caliber airguns. But as we talked, I broached the subject of bringing along a big bore airgun to hunt some larger game. Andrew and Rob were impressed enough after looking at the specs on these guns (all Quackenbushes at first) to get the permissions for me to bring the guns in, Since that time I’ve returned on several occasions to hunt with these guys, and we’ve taken duiker, springbok, impala, kudu, bushbuck, warthogs, other larger game and lots of smaller specieis, including my beloved Guinea fowl which for me is where African airgunning all started.
Jump ahead to this year, and I’d organized with AoA to bring a couple of American hunters and a cameraman to join in the fun. One of the hunters, Kip Perow from Airguns of Arizona was doing almost all of his hunting with airguns, David is an AoA customer and was using his 300 mag centerfire for big game and had his Daystate along for the smaller stuff, and I had planned to go exclusively airgun. Kip and Chris were filming for the AoA site and have some great footage coming. I was also filming segments for the American Airgunner, which is the broadcast television program in the States that is actively promoting our sport to the masses, and wanted to focus on showing the guns and gear in action.
As to Hounslow, I love this place, it has been a working farm (no differentiation between farm and ranch here, everything is a farm) in the Dell family for generations, and the lodge is a historical building very much in the Dutch/South African architectural style. Every room is well appointed, has an on-suite bathroom, and is very comfortable. There is a formal dining room and billiards/sitting room, a trophy room/pub, and a great outdoor brie (BBQ) where many excellent meals are prepared. Robert’s wife Angela oversees the staff, who are tasked with keeping your rooms clean and comfortable, and your laundry is done daily limiting the need to pack a lot of clothing. You rough it while in the field, these guys hunt hard, but when the day’s over it is a very comfortable environment!
Type of game available is diverse; on the property there is an excellent population of kudu, with some quite large bulls showing up. There is also a substantial population of bushbuck, which along with the kudu happen to be my favorite species and both like the rugged, thick brush covered hills and cliffs that dominate the landscape. In the more open areas there are good populations of springbok (cape and black), and impala, with a good representation of the smaller Steenbok and duiker antelope spread about the place. There are also waterbuck, and of course lots and lots of warthogs, including some very large tuskers. You’ll need a quality set of binoculars, and I’ve used many over the years; but the Hawke Friontiers that I carried on this trip have been my favorites. The optical quality and light transmission characteristics are excellent (I use a lot of their scopes for the same reason), and I spent many hours with them glued to my forehead!
If you want to pursue the duiker or Steenbook a .303 doing 100 fpe will work (we used the Wolverine and the Boss), for springbok a .308 or .357 doing around 140 fpe is required, and after many years of experience and taking a close look at performance, we’ve put a 400 fpe minimum on guns used for impala and warthog. This is also a good option if you want a shot at a baboon, as these animals are not to be underestimated, with a skull looking more like a leopards than a monkeys! Compared to North American game, these African species are disproportionately tough and can carry lead. The guns we’ve used that were very effective include the Quackenbush .457 and .50 calibers, and this year the XP Ranger 45. Both roundnose and hollowpoint bullets in the 200-400 grain range have functioned well, and I believe that soft lead is the best option out of the higher velocity guns.
The other option is to bring your centerfire or muzzle loader for the bigger stuff, and use your standard caliber airguns for the abundant small game and varmint species. Hunting Guinea fowl, Egyptian geese, hyrax, carrion crows, pigeons, springhares, the big African porcupine, mongoose, etc with these standard caliber guns is a fantastic way to break up the morning and afternoon hunts. With his 300 Mag, David shot a duiker, steenbok, springbok, impala, bushbuck, warthog, kudu, waterbuck, zebra, and baboon, but was out there knocking over pigeons, guinea fowl, and other small game with his Daystate. This year the smallest gun I brought was the FX Boss .303, plus I had a Marauder .177 I’ve left at the farm for the last few years (which gets used on a regular basis for pest control), but any .22 or .25 using standard Diabolo pellets is a winning rig. Another gun that saw a lot of action was the FX Verminator Extreme, and Kip took some nice animals with the arrow barrel attachment that you’ll be seeing some video footage of later.
I think it fair to say, that Hounslow Safaris (and moreover Rob and Andrew), are the airgun hunting experts on the continent. With all of the prototype and new guns I’ve brought with me over the years, we’ve had to make several running repairs not to mention fabricate parts, these guys have become adept at meeting the needs of airgunners. In the past, Andrew has made sure we had several high pressure carbon fiber tanks charged and ready, but as of this year they had a 4500 psi compressor available, so all you need to bring is your pony bottle or simply fill from the compressor.
What sets Andrew and Rob apart from other PH/Outfitting operation in the area, besides their knowledge of airguns, is that for airgunners they keep a 1:1 PH/client ratio as this type of hunting is much more challenging and intense than firearms hunting. These guys know the land, know the game, but mostly are the kind of guys you want to hunt with and like to sit around talking with at the end of the day. Some of the game we took with airguns this year included; several warthogs, duiker, Steinbok, springbok, impala, bushbuck, and all the small stuff. We have taken kudu with airguns in the past, but think this is pushing at the extreme limits of even the most powerful guns.
I have now brought over two parties to hunt with us through Robs outfitting service. Although I position this as a once in a life hunt, everyone that has come has stated a strong desire to return! Traveling to a new country, especially with the additional complexity of doing so with guns, can be daunting. AoA can set up the hunt and we can organize flights so that I can meet my fellow hunters before we leave the country, and in fact most direct flights are routed through, Atlanta. This allows me to meet up with hunters in the USA, and fly over with them to get through the formalities in Johannesburg then out to PE and on to the lodge. Next year, is already being planned for the June/July time frame. If you would like to have a go at the most unique airgunning experience available, shoot AoA an email for information …… if you’re a serious airgunner I’d love to have you join us.