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Thursday, October 4, 2007

2007 Africa Inspection Trip The Eastern Cape RSA and Hunting With The Ladies - Part 1

Upon returning from this year's inspection trip to Africa, I have had some time to reflect on what I saw and experienced. I have to say that the most rewarding experience had to be witnessing the creation of two new hunters. For me, there is nothing better than to see the look in the eyes of a person who has just taken their first game animal. When you see that gleam you know they are hooked and that they have joined our unique group.

The first to be initiated on this trip was my assistant Shannon. She started working for me last year and took on the job with a ton of enthusiasm but with no personal hunting experience. She grew up in a family of hunters but had never really hunted. When my friend Buz Mills, the owner of Gunsite, met Shannon and found out she never fired a rifle before and was going to hunt in Africa, he offered to have her trained "properly". After a week at Gunsite training with instructor Il Ling New, Shannon was hitting targets out to 400 yards!

Although she was a bit unsure about whether or not she would actually hunt she "bucked up" and decided to give it a try. So off she went with her PH Jaco. That night I couldn't wait to find out what happened and when I saw Shannon standing in the lodge I could tell right away from her face that she was the newest member of our hunting fraternity.

On this almost 2 month long trip, I was pleased to visit with old friends and gratified to make a few new ones. Our existing outfitters are doing very well. Their game looks great, the lodges are terrific and they are still feeding our clients more than anyone can eat!

Our outfitter in the Eastern Cape was host to our first NRA Women on Target hunt. We agreed to organize this hunt as a way to provide an affordable, high quality experience to women hunters and it was a way to give something back to the NRA. The hunt exceeded our wildest expectations. It was sold out before some of our advertising even got out. The 10 women who participated had an incredible time. Each evening we anticipated hearing their stories around the fire (some of which are being posted in the newsletter) and some of those evenings went well into the night. We have two more women's hunts scheduled for next year already!

While I was there I had an opportunity to hunt with 2 terrific hunting partners. Peter and Willem Jordaan. We went after a springbuck that had to be culled because he was hanging out with the white spingbucks. Willie spotted him and Peter led me on a perfect stalk, set up my shooting sticks, and thankfully I made the shot.

I want to personally thank all of the folks who made this experience so enjoyable and successful for all:

Thank you to all the ladies who signed up to go on this trip, we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!

Thank you to Tollie and Karen Jordaan, and their staff including their fine PH's for making this an unforgettable experience for everyone.

Thank you to NRA past president Sandy Froman for taking time out of her extremely busy schedule to spend 10 days with us in Africa.

Thank you to Pam and Brian Zaitz of SHE Safari who provided thousands of dollars worth of women's safari clothing and made sure all of the ladies were perfectly outfitted. SHE Safari stepped up in a major way and we all appreciate it.

Thank you to the NRA for the Women on Target program and for sending Karen Mehall along to document the hunt for NRA publications and television.

Thank you to Tim Wegner of Blade Tech knives who made sure everyone involved had the ultimate hunting knife!

Thank you to Louis and Annelise from The Afton Guest House in Johannesburg for taking care of all of us (especially me).

Thank you to Peter and Willem Jordaan for hunting with me and being my "PH" and "tracker"!


2007 Africa Inspection Trip The Karoo, Central Namibia and the Kalahari Desert- Part 2

After the women's hunt in the Eastern Cape, I was off to visit a potential new outfitter in the Karoo area of South Africa. This outfitter will allow us to offer a new management hunt opportunity and to add another twist to your hunting safari.

If you are interested in South African history, this outfitter has a wealth of knowledge about the Anglo Boer War and is located in a part of South Africa that is close to numerous battlefield sites from this important part of African history. Before I left South Africa we toured a number of these sites, as well as the historic diamond mining town of Kimberly, including a tour of the "Big Hole". We are currently working on a package with this outfitter that will feature an option of a few days of touring these fascinating sites. I took a nice Steenbuck with this outfitter and he has some very good Mountain Reedbuck as well as many other excellent quality game. For the hunter and non-hunter who is also a history buff this will be a great experience. We will let you know as soon as we have the details of this package worked out. Keep an eye on our newsletter and website for details.

At last year's Dallas Safari Club Convention we met a family from central Namibia who invited me to come see their hunting farm. I am glad I accepted their invitation. They have a wonderful place located only an hour and a half or so from Windhoek. They have excellent opportunities for eland, kudu, warthog, leopard and many other species including Damara Dik Dik. They just finished building a huge lodge and guest cottages. Everything is first rate. The whole family is certified PH's (including mom) and all are skilled experienced hunters.

While visiting with this outfitter I met a young man named Nico, who was there for the weekend. He had some firearms experience and did quite well on the shooting range. Our PH, Botha, took us out to cull a few wildebeest because of the very dry conditions in Namibia. After a full day of blown stalks and just missing the wildebeest herds, we finally got on a herd and I told Botha to let Nico take the first shot. Botha and I were both holding our breath and watching intently through our binoculars as Nico got set up on the sticks and squeezed the trigger, the wildebeest dropped where it stood. Nico let out a "whoop" and started to run to the fallen animal and we had to remind him that a 400 - 500 pound animal could suddenly "come back to life" and reverse circumstances.

Once we reined Nico in a bit and confirmed it was a fatal shot we celebrated with him. On the way back to the lodge he was asking about what kind of rifle to buy and what modifications he should make to his truck so he could use it for hunting. Another hunting addict was born!

I am looking forward to setting up some opportunities with this outfitter and anyone who hunts with them will enjoy it as much as I did.

I moved on to visit Bernd, Rita and Marco on their ranch near Windhoek. I have always liked their place a lot; it is huge and has a lot of game. Marco and I spent a couple of days looking for a good warthog and I took a nice old boar. His tusks were a bit worn and they can certainly find bigger ones there but we didn't have a lot of time to hunt. We used a unique technique for hunting warthogs there. Because the grass is low this time of year, we were able to go out on the open plains of the ranch and spot warthogs from long distances and put on stalks to judge their tusks. This is a bit more entertaining to me than sitting at a water hole (although that is fun as well). As usual the food that Rita prepared was incredible (a testament to her growing up a butcher's daughter). The place is full of game and I expect they will have a great season in 2008. Recently our client Mike Manni took some outstanding trophies there and if you are considering this hunt you should let us put you in touch with Mike so he can tell you about it.

After a few days I headed down the road to Volker Grellmann's Etango ranch to visit with him and Anke. I always enjoy visiting with them. It's like seeing extended family. The lodge is very busy and so is the Eagle Rock School which trains guides and hunting assistants to complete Namibia's rigorous professional hunting qualifications. Volker has been running classes nearly non-stop. This has cut into his hunting activities a bit. He told me that he would be happy to take out select clients for some short 2 - 4 day hunts near the ranch. This would be the perfect opportunity to hunt with a legend either for someone who has time right before or right after another scheduled hunt in Namibia. His knowledge of Namibia's hunting history and its current status is unmatched, and his knowledge of wildlife and their habitats is incredible. This is truly a unique opportunity. Please get in touch with us if you are interested in booking a hunt with Volker. Even if you are not able to hunt with Volker, Etango is the perfect place to stay right before or right after a hunt in Namibia, it is right near the airport and they can arrange transportation to Windhoek for you as well.

During my stay at Etango Volker and I discussed the latest developments in Namibia's conservancy and concession programs. There are a few types of hunting conservancies and concessions in Namibia. There are private conservancies which are usually a group of private ranches with shared hunting rights. These are extremely successful and have made Namibia an incredible hunting destination. The other type is the communal conservancies which are public land or tribal land and are administered by local people in the form of committees. The communal conservancies are on their way to becoming another Namibian hunting success story, some of them are truly wild places and offer dangerous game including the "Big 5". Others offer outstanding plains game opportunities. The "concessions" are public land usually parks all or part of which are managed for hunting by a local committee. They are all administered a bit differently and there are things that you should be aware of before planning a hunt in Namibia. I have been researching them thoroughly for months now and can help you make the right choice.
After a few days with the Grellmann's I was off to visit with the folks from KHS. Jean and Sophia are doing well and their new home in Windhoek is lovely. We went up to the Khomas camp for a few days where we saw plenty of Hartmann's Zebra, a few excellent kudu (one which was huge but was very far away), and some nice gemsbok.

The gemsbok there are not as big as the monsters in their Kalahari but it is a unique place to hunt them. I took a "management" bull for the pot before we headed for the Kalahari camp. Down in the Kalahari Johan, Mabel and Hendrick are all doing well as is all of the support staff. Including the recently arrived new additions…a pack of blue ticked hounds! Johan is hoping to get them trained for cat hunting. But, more on that when he let's me know how they are doing. While hunting in the Kalahari I took a nice gemsbok, springbok, and steenbok, unsuccessfully tracked a caracal cat and then culled a few springbok. We reworked some of our KHS packages and they are still an excellent value for the money.

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2007 Africa Inspection Trip Caprivi Strip Namibia - Part 3

After the Kalahari I flew back to Jo'burg to catch a flight to Livingstone Zambia to head out to the Caprivi Strip in Namibia. I was really looking forward to this hunt because I have heard so many good things about the Caprivi Strip in general and this particular outfitter.

Given some past bad experiences with other outfitters, I proceed very cautiously with any outfitters/PH's who are new to me. This helps me to ensure that you will have a quality experience when you hunt with one of our outfitters. Reputation is important, however, it is not enough. That is why I personally inspect each new outfitter before agreeing to represent them.

Even though my expectations were high for this hunt and outfitter, they were exceeded. This area is almost one million acres and they are only taking 8 buffalo, 8 elephants and a small number of plains game species. This is barely scratching the surface of what they could take from this area. The result is that the trophy quality of all hunt-able species is excellent. I was able to take a beautiful kudu, and a very nice, old hard bossed buffalo bull. The kudu was over 58 inches and the buffalo was over 40 inches wide with 13 1/2 inch bosses. Two excellent trophies.

I saw thousands of buffalo in the 7 days that I was there including some very big, old hard bossed bulls. I also saw hundreds of elephants. Located along the Angola border, this area of the Caprivi is sparsely populated by humans and is well managed. There are some areas in the Caprivi that can't say that. It is important to be cautious when booking a hunt there so you don't end up hunting in the more heavily populated areas of the Caprivi where hunt quality and success rates are not as high as the less populated areas.

While hunting we were accompanied by a game scout from the local community management committee and he was quite helpful in all respects. This fellow was a skilled tracker and worked well with the outfitter's own trackers. I have been around some game scouts that are a hindrance, but this guy was an asset.

While I was in camp I was able to see ivory from previous hunts, they are averaging trophies of about 70 pounds. There are plenty of elephantsin this area and the trophies being taken can rival those of almost anywhere else in Africa today.

We will have a limited number of buffalo hunts in this area for 2008, a 7 day hunt will be approximately $13,000 US including the trophy fee for one buffalo. These are top quality hunts and your chances of taking a hard bossed, bull that scores very well are excellent. We have an interest list for 2008 buffalo and those on the list we be "first come first serve". On these hunts you will be the only hunter in camp unless you bring a companion and you'll hunt with the PH who owns the company and is personally responsible for the concession. So if you are interested you need to get on the list now, because we still don't know how many hunts we will have available.

We will also have a very limited number of elephant hunts available in 2008; these are 21 day hunts including the trophy fee for around $50,000 US. We have an interest list for these hunts as well. So if you are interested please let us know right away.

Since I had a few days to kill before heading back to the states a friend recommended that I do some tiger fishing on the Zambezi. This has always been a dream of mine so I jumped at the chance. My friend took me to this terrific lodge right on the banks of the river and I spent 2 days fishing.

It was an incredible way to end a long trip to Africa. The fishing was good although I didn't catch anything huge. The lodge was very nice with comfortable cabins and good food. I had such a good time that I am going to represent them. If you are interested in booking some tiger fishing let us know. It is very far up in Northern Namibia so you have to be prepared for some travel but a few days up there are worth it. Keep checking our website and sign up for our e-newsletter for more reports, hunt descriptions and pricing for 2008.


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