Posted - 03/28/2006 :
It started when a client of the
safari company I was in partnership with came to hunt in SA with his
Marlin levergun in .357 Mag. Andy had been hunting with my partner for 6
years – previously bringing his .375H&H Ruger No.1 and successfully
bagging most of the SA plains game species on offer.
A couple of weeks after our hunt during which Andy killed three Impala and a Warthog, he wrote to me and said that he had been invited to post an article about his hunt on www.leverguns.com . Well, the article ended up on the levergun website and this got me thinking that there could be opportunities to market safaris to levergunners so I got in touch with Jim Taylor.
Jim actually thought up the idea of a “Hunt Africa with Paco Kelly” safari and asked me to put together a package that would appeal to members of the Levergun website.
We ended up booking the hunt for March 2006 which was actually quite early in the season to hunt, but was the only time I had available in my hunting diary.
And then they arrived…
On March 3rd I picked Icelander and his wife up from Johannesburg International Airport. John and Pat from Belingham, Washington arrived two days before the rest of the group and we started hunting the day after their arrival. John had brought his brand-new Browning in .358 Win and killed a nice Impala early morning and a Warthog the same afternoon – both with single shots. The .358 Win worked beautifully on SA game and I was as impressed with the caliber’s performance as I was with John’s marksmanship. I had to leave the following afternoon to pick up Paco and the rest of the group at the airport and John killed his Blue Wildebeest with another well-placed shot during the afternoon hunt.
I got a call from JJ Miller that evening advising me that his flight had been delayed due to engine problems and that he might be arriving later than expected. (It turned out much later as his flight was finally cancelled and he arrived a day later after diverting via Europe.) Although JJ was real tired by the time he arrived after spending 2 days traveling, he still volunteered to join Paco and me on the afternoon hunt.
JJ wanted to kill a Zebra with his .480 Ruger handgun and we virtually drove into a herd but they took off. Then, as we cleared some shrub – still looking for a Zebra – we saw a Gemsbok standing perfectly broadside approximately 180 yards up ahead. I was under the impression that Paco was there for Warthog and Impala but next thing I saw he had the Gemsbok in the Leopoldt’s sights on the .358 Win he was carrying. I asked him if he wanted the Gemsbok and he replied in the affirmative. The Gemsbok was big for the area we were hunting. In the Kalahari and parts of the North-West Province seeing 40 inchers plus is not uncommon but here in Limopopo where we were busy hunting a 35” Gemsbok is considered trophy material. The one that was standing ahead of us was about 36” so I told Paco he should take it. I could see the Gemsbok taking the hit but it took off to the left and I told the driver to drive up to where it had been standing. What followed was two-and-a-half hours of “hide and seek” game with a wounded Gemsbok that we jumped on three occasions before finally managing to get a shot in to kill it. Either way, Paco seemed satisfied and so was I. The clock was ticking and we had plenty more killing to do… But not tonight as by the time that we had loaded the Gemsbok on the back of the truck sun had already set.
Getting back to camp I learnt that Roger Cox had managed to kill a Blue Wildebeest with one shot from his 45-70. Together with Waterbuck, Bushbuck and Warthog, Blue Wildebeest was on Roger’s priority list and I was glad that he managed to get one of the animals on his wish list on his first day.
We had a great time around the campfire that night – getting to know each other better and talking about the next day’s hunt. John and wife Pat had been living on a boat for the past 5 years and John bought a 358 Win Levergun made by Browning to protect themselves against bears up in Alaska. When he learnt about the safari with Paco he and Pat decided that this was the ideal opportunity for them to come and test his new gun on African game and do some sightseeing afterwards. RAC) Roger is a pilot for American Airlines and he came on his first safari to Africa last year. He did not really intend coming back to SA so soon but it so happened that the levergun hunt was scheduled during his off-time and he decided to join us. The best way of describing JJ is as big old cuddly teddy bear. Being a retired West Virginia State Trooper, JJ and I immediately clicked as law enforcement (and ex) law enforcement officers from all over the world just seem to do. JJ now runs his own PI business (something that I am also involved in when I’m not hunting) and there was a lot of common interest between us. And then there was Paco, whom you all know. Having spent most of his career in law enforcement and being an expert on handguns, leverguns and all kinds of rifles, Paco has a wealth of knowledge on firearms that he eagerly shares with those around him.
Over the next 6 days, we hunted hard for the remaining species on the clients’ wish lists. As mentioned earlier, John was fortunate enough to get all three the species on his wish list within his first 2 days of hunting. Now depending on how you look at this, this could have been fortunate or unfortunate. Fortunate in the sense that he did get all the animals he came for including warthog which was difficult to hunt at this time of the year due to late rains and the grass being exceptionally long and unfortunate in the sense that he hadn’t planned on hunting any other animals so he had to look at other people hunt instead of hunting himself.
JJ had been to Africa before as well and he wasn’t particular about the types of animals he wanted to hunt. For him this was more about the experience of hunting with a handgun and levergun than adding trophies to his wall. The only other animal that Paco wanted to hunt was a Warthog and although we did see some nice ones you have to be real fast if you want to kill one as Warthogs never walk – they run wherever they want to go unless they’re busy feeding. One day whilst driving we saw a red Hartebeest that was clearly sick and could hardly remain upright. I asked JJ to relieve it out of its misery and he killed it from about 20 yards with his .480. It turned out that the Hartebeest had a festering wound – probably caused by a snare or a fence line on its hind leg. It had lost its condition, was infested with ticks and other parasites and I was glad to have been able to relieve it from its pain.
JJ needed another Zebra skin rug for back home and while we were looking for one, we saw a one-horned Blue Wildebeest standing on his own – probably about 40 yards from us and within easy handgun range. But one-horned Blue Wildebeest were not on the wish list, so we passed it by and continued looking for Zebra.
After a couple of slow days, JJ said to me that he was considering taking the one-horned Wildebeest with his .480 Ruger so we went after it the next day and found it next to the fence line with another Wildebeest bull on the other side of the fence. We stalked it and got real close by leopard crawling up to about 30 yards from it – hiding behind some shrub – but the wind changed right at the last minute and both bulls made off. I couldn’t help but smile when big old JJ – all cut up from crawling over sickle bush and acasia thorn trees said: “This is war now! I’m gonna doggone kill that Wildbeest and it ain’t gonna be pretty!”
We continued looking for old One-Horn and when we eventually found it, it was standing facing us head-on. JJ shot it with his 375 Win Levergun in the chest and I could see it taking the hit right where it should. But instead of falling over, One-Horn turned and ran off. We found blood and started tracking it but ended up losing its track and had to give up. I hunted the same concession the week after the group had left and looked for One-Horn but could find no trace of him – not a whiff of rotting flesh, no tracks – nothing. I hate it when clients have to pay for something they aren’t taking home with them and the mood was somewhat somber around the campfire that night. Roger was more fortunate than us and he got a nice Bushbuck and Waterbuck hunting on another concession further north.
The following day JJ and I set out alone as Paco decided to spend the day in camp. We saw a huge Wildebeest bull with a spread of easy 31” early morning and I told JJ to take it from about 80 yards. I could see clearly through the 10X42 Swarovski binoculars that I borrowed from JJ after mine fell of the truck how the Wildebeest took a hit on his left shoulder – exactly where it should have. After being hit, the Wildebeest ran into some thicket and I told JJ that it was a good hit and could even see the puff of dust coming off the Wildebeest’s shoulder. As the herd was unaware of our presence it didn’t run away at the shot and in order to avoid the hit Wildebeest from running off with the herd if it had not been wounded fatally I decided to wait it out. A while later the herd made it off and we walked up to where I was expecting find the Wildebeest laying dead. But no such luck. The beast had vanished with the rest of the herd and all we could find was a spot of blood where it had been standing for more than half and hour. The tracker Abraham and I looked at each other and read it in each others eyes. It was time to get Diesel on the spoor. Diesel is Antonie’s Jack Russel tracking dog and if anything can find something that has been wounded it is him. I radioed Antonie who was hunting with Roger on another section of the hunting concession and he was there half-an-hour later with Diesel. In spite of tracking the bull for the better part of the day we just couldn’t catch up with it. It was clearly hurt but it kept going strong and we finally had to give up – another wounded Wildebeest!
Later that afternoon we drove over to the concession where we had wounded One-Horn the previous day and JJ killed a beautiful Zebra stallion with one shot from the same levergun. We all eagerly attended the post mortem at the skinning shed that night and discovered that the bullet had started tumbling when it hit the Zebra on its shoulder and fortunately had enough velocity to penetrate and shred the heart and lungs to pieces. This was when the light started going up for us on why there were two wounded Wildebeest walking around - bullet failure. Truth was that JJ had luck on his side when he killed the Zebra. His shot placement was good on all the animals but Wildebeest are tough and don’t die easily. It also has heavy shoulder bones that must be penetrated if you hit it on the shoulder or else you end up with a “Johnny Walker” that “keeps on walking” for days after being hit as we discovered. Talking about Johnny Walker, a couple of those in liquid form did seem to douse some of the pain later that evening.
JJ killed a nice impala on his last day using his custom .480 Ruger handgun and I was impressed with the caliber’s performance and JJ’s shooting skills.
So what was my final impression of the levergun hunting group from my perspective as PH and outfitter?
I have to admit that I did not really know what to expect from the group when I booked this hunt. Would it be a bunch of cowboys, dressed in jeans and check shirts with big belt buckles and Stetsons chewing tobacco and smoking cigars, being full of demands that I would meet at the airport? Or would it be different? To be honest, I did not really care, but I was pleasantly surprised when everyone had arrived. The people I met and got to know over the next week were ordinary people, doing ordinary things back home and were absolutely wonderful. The friends I sent back home to the US were not afraid to chip in and help in camp. They did not expect to be treated like celebrities or to be waited on – being happy to help themselves to drinks or anything else they needed when the staff was busy with something else. The people I met didn’t pull their noses up at sitting on the back of the hunting vehicle whilst we were driving towards or back from the hunting concessions and ending up being hit by bugs and other UFO’s. They were also quick to get out of the vehicle and help with opening gates as we arrived at and left hunting concessions. In short; an absolutely wonderful group!
Some thoughts for next year…
When you budget for your hunt, do not restrict yourselves to the animals that are included in the package. It could happen that you get all the animals on your list within the first couple of days and it would be good if you had some reserve cash to carry on hunting Remember there is a wide variety of species available in Africa and you may see many of them during your trip. There is nothing worse than driving past one trophy animal after the next because you didn’t budget on hunting more animals. Remember that the outfitter pays a trespassing fee for every client that is on his property – whether that client kills something or not.
Consider upgrading to a 1X1 hunt – especially if you are thinking of hunting harder to get animals such as Kudu, Bushbuck and Nyala. This will improve your chances on success and doesn’t cost that much more.
Follow the instructions and advice of the outfitter – especially as far as those pertaining to the importation of your firearms are concerned. Don’t wait until the last minute before you do the paperwork as this could cause delays at the airport – or even worse – your firearms may be confiscated and kept until you return to your country of origin not giving you the opportunity to hunt with your own guns.
Think carefully whether you can afford the hunt before booking and making your down payment. Do not book under the presumption that you will have enough money next year. First add all the costs you’re likely to incur including that of airfare, taxidermy work, additional animals you may want to hunt and gratuities and if that falls within your budget then book. Remember that your outfitter starts reserving camps, time of PH’s and incurring expenses the day that you make your down payment. For this reason down payments are not refundable.
I am looking forward to hunting with levergunners again next year and am working on putting together a package for you all. Thanks again to all those who joined me and made this safari a huge success.
A bad day out hunting beats a good day at the office
Edited by - Chris Troskie on 07/02/2006 04:49:58 AM