“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”. Helen Keller.
It was always meant to be that I would end up hunting in Africa one day, though it eventually happened in a very roundabout way. I had embarked upon an adventure in March of 2014 to Madagascar and the famed Castor Bank in search of free dive spearfishing’s holy grail the mighty “Dogtooth Tuna”. As a precursor to that trip my wife and I visited a friend living in South Africa just outside Nelspruit. We stayed there for 10 days and during this time visited Kruger National park and Kings Camp in the Timbavati Game reserve. We had such a wonderful time I had been eager to return as soon as I could. Africa was calling!!!!
For those that have never been to Africa you probably won’t understand the attraction but once you have been Africa somehow keeps calling you back.
During the latter part of the year I began planning a follow up spearfishing trip to Mozambique with Richard Leonard, also an avid spearfisherman and African spearfishing guru, to take place in October of 2015. Unforeseen circumstances however caused the cancellation of that trip, desperate to salvage something of the trip I reached out to Richard and explained my dilemma. I proposed that my son and I would still make the trip and we could instead travel up South Africa’s east coast and Spearfish when the weather allowed and try something else if it didn’t. My son had recently completed school and was about to leave home and embark on a career of his own, so this may be my last opportunity to do something like this with him for quite some time. I discussed this with my wife and she agreed it was a good idea. However we were informed that the weather at that time of year could quite easily scuttle our plans. Rich then mentioned, "Why not come out and hunt with me" Now that was right up my alley and something I had wanted to do for many years. Rich then suggested he could quite easily work within the original budget set for the Mozambique trip so I asked him to put together a few different options for us.
He hastily agreed and when I received his options I was simply stunned at what he proposed. He suggested we hunt in the East Cape region of South Africa for 5 days; we would then travel to another location in the Karoo and hunt for 2 days. Then to top things off we would travel to the Kalahari and hunt for a further 5 days. He was proposing to hunt, Kudu, Impala, Black and Blue Wildebeest, Impala, Lechwe, Zebra,Waterbuck, Gemsbok, Warthog, Hartebeest, and Springbok. After checking he was not joking I gave him the go ahead to make arrangements. Richard owns a media company called In The Zone Media Productions and was not only going to arrange a hunt of a life time for us but he was also going to bring the ITZ Media crew out to film our hunt for a series he produces called African Hunter.
The intervening months dragged by ever so slowly, the only thing that made them remotely tolerable was regular sessions at the rifle range practicing shooting. I asked Rich how do I best prepare for hunting in Africa and Rich said the best thing you can do is practice as much as you can shooting off sticks. He said 99% of the shots we would take would be off sticks and in his experience most visitors that come to Africa to hunt end up shooting a lot worse than normal because they are not used to or are not prepared to shoot off sticks.
For some reason in Australia shooting off sticks is unheard of, I can’t for the life of me think why it’s just the way it is. Maybe it’s that old delusional thinking that we men have that we are just naturally good at some things like fixing cars and shooting. Sadly most of us are not that good at either and need as much practice as we can, so with this in mind I cobbled together a set of sticks and set to shooting as often as I could.
I decided that due to the length of time it takes to get the permits required I would not take my own rifle but use one supplied by the PH at each location, and thinking at some point I may end up using a .375 H&H I decided to practice with my 45-70 being as though it had roughly the same amount of recoil. Once I included my son in the practice sessions it did not take long to deplete my supplies of both powder and primers and I was fast running out of projectiles as well. It was around this time that I came to the realization that although my rifle barrel was stamped 47-70govt, it was actually chambered for $5 notes!!!! Still that was a minor expense in the overall scheme of things and the extra practice certainly paid dividends later with not one animal lost to a poor shot.
As the departure date for our trip drew nearer both Jack and I were getting very excited and were pouring over every available piece of information we could. I discovered 2 very good web sites
African Hunting and Accurate reloading, both have forums and are extremely informative, I highly recommend a visit as there is a wealth of information on each site. it was through one of these forums that I was pointed toward Gary Pegg of South Pacific Taxidermy in Melbourne. I gave Garry a call and we discussed the requirements for importing trophies into Australia, it is actually quite an involved process and the paperwork is not so simple, suffice to say I have since enlisted Gary;s services to import my trophies.
During this time I was also having plenty of email conversations with Richard regarding where we would be hunting and what conditions to expect, what clothes would be suitable for each area etc. Well you would not believe it but Rich arranged a clothing sponsor for the trip and Jack and I were kitted out in local camo, something we really did not expect. As you can see in the pictures below the terrain varied greatly from the hills of the East Cape to the sands of the Kalahari Savanna. The surprising thing about the difference in terrain is that the shots taken in the East cape tended to be around the 200mt range while in the Kalahari they were shorter being around 100mts sometimes less. This is mainly due to the ground being much flatter and a little more open allowing you to stalk bush to bush a little easier and being sandy a lot quieter.
Eventually our departure date came around and we boarded our overnight flight from Perth to Sydney and then after an uneventful flight and breakfast in the Qantas lounge we boarded our flight from Sydney to Johannesburg. At long last I was on my way back to Africa, though this time I would have my son with me and we would be hunting. We landed at Johannesburg's O.R.Tambo airport some 14 hours later after a very pleasant flight and cleared immigration then collected our luggage. We made our way to the City Lodge hotel, a short 200 meter walk and checked in, after dinner and a couple of drinks we turned in for the night. The following morning we walked back to the Airport and checked in for our flight to Port Elizabeth. A short hour and a half or so later we were met in Port Elizabeth by Richard and introduced to Greg and Jacu the ITZ media crew who would be accompanying us on this trip.