Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Packing for your African Safari

When going on a hunt in Africa, you need to realize that the terrain can be tough and wild. You have to have the correct Protective Clothing and Equipment, not just for safety purposes, but to make your hunt and stay as comfortable as possible.

The most important factors when deciding what you need to pack
are based on 'Where you are hunting?' and 'What time of the year you are travelling?'. The luxury level of your accommodation together with the type of hunting terrain and weather, will determine what goes into your travel bag.

Remember each airline has their own baggage dimension and weight limits, so before you pack anything get this information and stick to it, or you'll be digging deep to pay over-weight. Most lodges offer a laundry service depending on their location and level of luxury. Enquire with your Outfitter which lodges you are staying at offer this service and if it is daily or every 3rd or 4th day.

Be sure you take clothes you feel comfortable in and have worn in
before. Hunting locations are not generally close to cities and stores should you need to get a quick change of clothes. The newer quick drying fabrics, shirts with ventilation and trousers that convert into shorts are all worth considering.  

Please keep in mind that some fabrics are noisy in the bush and will definitely hinder your hunting during walk and stalk. Cotton, dark brown or dark green colours are essential for hunting in Africa. Camo is an option if you are only staying at hunting lodges. If you have booked post-hunting safari trips to other eco-tourist lodges some guests will be offended by camo outfits, so keep this in mind.

Most lodges that cater specifically towards hunters are very casual
in terms of clothing; sneakers and jeans are the order of the day. If you have booked a luxurious lodge then throw in a nice sweater or evening shirt but on the whole this on not essential. As we all know hunters are very relaxed and Outfitters don't fuss over smart attire. 
Ladies we wouldn't suggest bringing along those high-heels. There may be a short walk from your lodge to the room over grass, and high-heels just don't work well in this terrain. Climbing up and down guest steps into Safari vehicles will also be awkward with those high shoes.
For the hunters, pack yourself at least two pairs of well-worn and comfortable walking boots with thick soles. The best being waterproof boots that cover your ankles and thick socks. Gators come in handy to keep the bugs at bay but must not create noise while you are walking. A pair of slip on sandals or comfortable shoes for the evenings and day tours.

Packing for an African Hunt, you have to bear in mind that the weather
can change at any minute. Africa's hotter summer months are November to end of February and winter is May to end of July. Rain seasons depends on where you travel in Africa. Cape Town's rainy season is during the winter months and the more Northern areas of South Africa

have rains during the summer months. Make sure if you are hunting in the Northern areas and plan to travel to Cape Town after your hunting days, that you time it well with the rainy seasons. Winter evenings can become extremely cold and you might just find a scarf, gloves and layered clothing comes in handy, despite the days being fairly mild.

Remember Africa's accommodations are not catered towards very cold weather, sealed windows and underfloor heating are replaced with a fireplace and blankets. A waterproof raincoat, hat and jacket are suggested sticking to the same dark colours. Ladies - Game drives can be very bumpy and a good (sports) bra would probably not go amiss.

Africa's winter and summer sun can be potent and we suggest
using odourless sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 20. Bring insect repellent as the summer evening's call for insect and in certain areas mosquitoes. If you stay in the Northern parts of  Africa during winter time, swim gear will also come in handy. Google Weather is a great friend - check this a week before you fly out!

Going out into the bush for hunting or sightseeing requires binoculars, these make your hunt a lot easier and through the lens 

you will enjoy so much more of nature. A binoculars strap is essential when considering your hands need to be free when the hunt is in full motion. 
Make 100% sure with your airlines and private charters what their packing and transport requirements are for both the firearm and the ammunition. There will also be paperwork required to clear each border you go through and having this prepared in advance is imperative.
Contact your Outfitter who can advise all these details. Bring enough ammo, you don't want to run out in a remote hunting area. 200 rounds per calibre are allowed through the South African airports or a suggested minimum of fifty to seventy rounds. Remember your rifle's cleaning equipment, however good Outfitters will supply this for you and generally have firearms available to rent. 

Whether you stay in a tent or a 5-star lodge, remember to bring your flashlight / torch. This always comes in handy as Africa's electricity supply can be intermittent.

Catch the moment... Use a good smartphone, camera or camcorder, to make your dream moment last forever. Bring with enough memory sticks or cards to ensure you do not run out of memory. 

Each electrical appliance has its own recharging cord, make sure to put this in to avoid a flat battery at the moment you need your appliance the most. In South Africa we make use of 220V electricity so bring a converter plug, South African shops in general are not well stocked with US converter plugs.

If you don't have a friend going with to take the photos, ask your Outfitter for contact details of their Professional Photographer. Hire a Professional, this is the only memory you will have of your trip. Your PH (Professional Hunter) is there to focus on guiding you and covering all safety aspects. A good book will also come in handy. You never know when flights may be delayed or bad weather comes in.

If you are using chronic or pre-script medicine, we suggest you bring along the prescription and original containers you received your medication in. South Africa is generally less austere regarding controlled medication, but it is better to come prepared. Ensure that
your travel insurance is arranged prior to your travel, in the unlikely event of an accident. If you travel to the North Eastern parts of South Africa it is recommended to discuss taking anti-malaria medication with your doctor, prior to arrival. Your Outfitter should send you a 'Client Information' form well in advance of you Safari which will cover any medical issues, allergies, food preferences etc. In this way your Outfitter is well prepared for your arrival.

The usual toiletries are essential. Again the standard of the lodge
you are staying at will determine if you also need to bring things like shampoo and conditioner etc. Make a list of contact numbers in case of an emergency. Put all paperwork, passports, itineraries, travel insurance, firearm forms and air tickets together and keep it safe. Copies of these documents left in safe hands at home can be very helpful should documents get misplaced.

If you wear prescription glasses, make sure to bring more than one pair, or use contact lenses. You will be outdoors most of the time, be prepared. Remember your mobile phone, laptop/tablet if needed. You are on vacation, but for certain hunters business back home has to continue. Keep in mind that due to the remoteness of certain lodges in Africa you may not have Wi-Fi or internet access available.

If you forget anything, most cities in South Africa have shops that cater for hunters at affordable prices.

The Hunting Outfitter you have booked with will have 99% of the answers to any questions you have! Please use their knowledge and experience, and assist your Outfitter in their preparations of your Safari with any information requested.


Monday, 24 October 2016

How to introduce your child to hunting...

Living in Africa can only be described as amazing, especially living in this country of wide open spaces and clean fresh air. A Lifestyle for children that money cannot buy!

The way you introduce your child to hunting and the outdoors is by teaching them that it is a privilege to hunt not a right, and to have respect for mother nature and the animals in it. Getting kids to understand that they have to be quiet and organised while hunting, is far fetched, rather teach them to be proud of the outdoors and conserve nature. Bare in mind... they are kids. You can not change the fact that they will get tired or hungry or can not be quiet.

Keep the following 10 things in mind, this may help to culture hunting as a love for your little-ones.

1. This will not be your normal, quiet, hunt...
Young kids want to explore by asking questions about all the unknown things they come across.
Encourage your child to ask even more questions, by answering the questions enthusiastically it will make them even more curious about what they see. This allows them to learn an enormous amount of information in one day. When hunting, keep it short and active. Because in that little brain there are so many unanswered questions and boredom will cause them to "give up" on their curiosity - our aim is to give the kids the same proud, adrenaline filled experience that we as hunters experience, and keep them hooked for life!

2. Safety is priority number one...
Accidents happen quickly, and working with an inexperienced person, makes the chances of an accident happening much higher. Make sure you help them to practice enough. Teach them that it is dangerous and they should be extra careful at all times. Set an example, rather than just to try and tell them how to do it - let them see how you do it.

3. Fill the trip with fun...
Kids hate being bored. Keep them interested by
teaching him/her about the trees and all the different grass/plants types you pass. Allow them to take a toy with, so they will be able to show you when they are not interested in the hunt anymore and then try again on another day. Or give your child a "play" gun or bow and make them pack their own little bag. By carrying their own "hunting backpack", they will feel more involved.

4. Go prepared...
Pack everything that your child is used to having with them at all times. Depending on your child's age: Toys, to ensure they do not feel lost in the wild. Food, snacks and drinks, as us parents all know, kids prefer to eat at times that are usually most inconvenient for any adult. Take with that special pillow and blankie, to avoid them crying when they are tired or irritated. Don't forget to pack enough warm clothes, kids get cold much faster than we do. Pack it in a way that it is easy to reach, so when they get difficult, you can just reach out and give it to them.

5. Most kids are not emotionally ready to kill...
You might have told them lots of stories. They might have played "guns & gangs". They might seem to be ready to shoot an animal like Dad or Mom do, but the reality of shooting a beautiful animal, may still be too much for your child's feelings. Do not push them to shoot! Let him/her tell you when they feel ready. And even then, be ready for the reality that might make them cry. Always discuss the whole hunt that evening, allowing your child to give their full input and show your children how proud you are of their determination and efforts.

6. If the weather is bad, make it quick and effective...
Image result for kids hunting photosHunting can include bad weather conditions. Take them on that hunt, even if the weather is terrible. But make sure that you only go out for a short period of time to prevent the kids from getting sick and creating a bad experience of hunting. Put on warm clothes and make it fun - perhaps get the same style gloves or warm hat or buff as your child so you "in-it" as a Team. They have to learn that bad weather is part of the fun...life is not always moonlight and roses, and when they finally hunt on their own the luxuries may not be included and they will lose their love for hunting. 

7. Practice makes anything perfect...

If your child tells you that he/she is ready to hunt, one of the first and most important lessons is firearm-safety and respect. Practice firearm handling and target shooting daily before each hunt. Your child might just miss or wound the animal making them feel like they failed and that could cause them never to try again. To have a bad day does happen, however try to avoid it on their first hunt with as much preparation and practise before-hand. Having a Professional Guide help a child with their first hunt, often helps the child's confidence as should he/she fail at the shot, they sometimes don't feel they have directly disappointed their Parent.

8. They cannot just get everything on a tray...
If you decide to go off on a hunt, please make the kids help you with the preparations. He / she should pack their own hunting gear, food, maps, caps etc. (Obviously as the parent you need to double check everything). Hand the map over to your child, and let them help with planning the route. If you shoot an animal, help them follow the blood trail. In this way they will feel involved and needed enticing them to want to do more and indirectly learning every step of the way. By doing this you will culture not only the love for hunting, but also the love for being Adventurous and Responsible.

9. Don't Shame them, after a kill...
Each child will react differently after a successful hunt, some may even cry. Do not ignore them. Do not try to dismiss their feelings. And most importantly - DO NOT shame them for their reactions! Rather use this opportunity to talk to your child about how hunting contributes to Conservation, provides healthy meat for the table and is an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. A successful shot is only 10% of the hunt, taking in the whole aspect of what your child is learning around them is the balance!

10. Everyone is different...
Not every child wants to go hunting, and this is okay. If you have 3 children, they will have 3 different personalities and perhaps none of them want to hunt. Do not force it. The more you push it, the less they will want to do it. And if you keep pushing they might even hate it, just out of revenge. If you used to hunt with your child and he/she suddenly stops [especially when entering their teenage years], do not stress, they will 9 out of 10 times pick it up again when they are adults.

The above points are 10 suggestions based on our experience hunting with kids to try and ensure that your children can share the same love for nature as you do. Remember that enjoying quality, focused time with your children is a lot more important than to culture the love of being a hunter or to try to make them love the outdoors. Time with your loved ones is always time well spent!! And always take photos of your time together, these memories are priceless... 

Friday, 30 September 2016

My ass meets the "Boss"

Early mornings
The 30th of July started early, leaving from my home town Vryheid, to pick-up Joe from the airport in Johannesburg. I was excited as I really enjoy Hunting Buffalo and Joe was looking for a great Bull which made it more of a challenge.

Day 1: We were up early on the 31st and met our tracker Josef, to start Joe's Buffalo quest, for the next seven days. The area where we were hunting is 10000 ha, so there was a lot of ground to cover and a lot of Buffalo to look at. The first day we drove around a lot, to familiarize ourselves with where the herds were. Looking for spoor, looking at waterholes and looking at Buffalo we saw that day. In the first herd I spotted a nice old "Dagga Bull" and some others too. We had seven days, so we were not in any hurry.
View from one of the hills

Day 2: The 1st of August, saw us back early and we decided to look up on top of the two or three mountains, where I had seen good Bulls away from the herds before. Due to the bad drought we are having in South Africa there was no water up there and there were no fresh signs, so we moved back down to the flatter areas and checked a few more waterholes and other Buffalo on the way. Near from a waterhole we found fresh tracks crossing the road and decided to follow. The tracks were of three Bulls, two younger Bulls and one bigger mature bull, from what I could tell by their front hooves, bigger older Bulls always have bigger front hooves to support their big necks and heavy horns.

We tracked these three bulls for two to three hours, but could not get close to see them and then they must have heard us or winded us and began to run. So we decided to call it a day.
One of the Buffalo's on the concession

Day 3: 2nd of August. We were back bright and early and quickly found a big herd spotting an older maturer bull, deciding to get closer and have better view.  The Buffalo were in a clearing about 800 yards away as we started our stalk, they suddenly all took off in a big cloud of dust and we noticed four bulls went off in a different direction. We followed them, hoping the bulls we were looking for was one of the four.

The Bulls climbed a hill side so we tried to get in front of them as they were moving fast and fearless, they winded us and took off down hill again, we also ran down parallel to them and saw them cross a road, the last bull was indeed the Bull we were looking for. The Bulls disappeared, we climbed higher ground to try and see them again, but no luck.

We then decided to follow the spoor and track them down, from where they crossed the road earlier. We got all our kit ready, loaded our guns and set off on the spoor.

The four Bulls really went a long way, the first half an hour, the spoor showed they were running. They settled down to a steady walk and were heading to the remote part of the concession. I knew of a spring/waterhole, in the thick bush was not to far away, where we suspected they were headed, on our final approach of the spring, we disturbed two Nyala bulls and they ran to the water. I suddenly heard water splashing and heavy hooves in the mud, as the Bulls fled the scene. We rested for 10 minutes and decided to follow on.

It was getting hot and tough going in the thick Sickle bush, up and down dongas (draws) and small hills. About an hour later, with no sign of the bulls resting, they entered some really thick cover and from their dung, we agreed they were about half an hour ahead of us.

I looked at Joe and could see he was tired and I explained if we catch up to them in this thick bush, they would either hear or smell us before we see them, or we would not be able to pick the right bull in the thicket. We decided to go back to the car, which was now brought forward and restrategize our plan. After a rest and some drinks, Josef (tracker) and I decided to go back on the spoor without Joe for a short while to get a direction or come to a road as to catch up with the Bulls further down the road. This is when I made a big mistake and left my 378-weatherby in the truck, thinking the Buffalo were long gone. Josef and I had been back on the spoor for about 100 yards staring at the ground when suddenly we heard a noise and looked up and 20 yards away a Buffalo Bull was coming at us, full charge. At that moment I knew we were both in big trouble. Josef spotted a small tree to his right and we both shouted hoping to stop the charge. I started to run away as the six foot sickle bush trees would not work as a getaway. I glanced over my shoulder and the Buff was two meters away. I clinched my teeth and waited for the impact. The Buffalo threw me high in the air and I remember landing on my head and shoulders, seeing stars! I felt him hammer me again, I think then I passed out for a few seconds, cause the next thing I remember is I was flat on my back and he was standing next to me, two feet away, breathing heavily. 

I could hear Josef clapping his hands and shouting. The Buff turned and disappeared as quick as he appeared. Every body asks me what was going through my head? Did your life flash before your eyes? Honestly, there is no time to think, the only thing I remember thinking is "am I going to live?"
Scene of  the incident 
Scene of the incident

I sat up fully conscious. I had no pain, but felt immediate pressure on my left ankle and my boot was gone. I did not try to stand. I still had my radio with me and called for help. I started feeling around for injuries, I was bleeding on my forehead and felt pain on both sides of my ribs. I pulled my shirt up and luckily there were just marks from his horns, but no deep punctures.

My right calf
My right leg felt funny, but no pain. I looked down at my jeans and there was a big hole in them, where my calf is. I pulled the jeans up and to my horror, there was a big hole in my calf, where the Buffs horn had gone straight through and then ripped out. I slowly lowered my jeans back down, I found my cellphone in my pocket and phoned Debbie (my wife) and told her I was in trouble and could she inform my medical insurance and told her I was still alive. We quickly bandaged my calf and I was raced to hospital, 2 hours away. The last 10 minutes in the ambulance was not fun and I was in and out of consciousness.

Paramedics stabilizing me 
"Scene of the crime"

So after I was dropped at the hospital the other outfitter and Joe went back to the "crime scene" to go and hunt the Buff, as Joe and him were both angry. They then discovered that the Buff had turned and stood where I was lying, he had rubbed all the bark off a small tree nearby. They also discovered that the Buff had stayed behind there and waited for us to return on the spoor before the attack. The other three Bulls had carried on walking away. He stood in one spot for about half an hour and had cleared a circle, waiting in anticipation. He was found later that afternoon, but Joe could not get a clear shot, low and behold it was the Buff we wanted to shoot all along. The next morning, on August 3rd, Joe hunted and shot the Buff. He was delighted with a great trophy and to get some revenge. 

Joe with his Trophy 

My left ankle
My calf with the vac pump
I had broken my left ankle and the surgeon operated the next day and secured it with 3 screws. Over the next ten days I had two operations on my right calf, as a lot of my calf muscle was torn off. The wound was left open with a vac machine pump attached to avoid infection. Joe was kind enough to come see me in hospital before he left to go home. I spent ten days in hospital and six weeks in a wheelchair. As I write this story it is now eight weeks and today is the first day I put my shoes on and tried to walk again.  My calf has heeled amazingly from a big hole to a lined scar. My left ankle just came out of its boot and is getting stronger by the day.
My right calf stitched up 
My right calf today

So two questions to be answered!
1.) Why did the Buff behave like he did, without being "wounded"?
2.) Why did he leave me to live another day?

1.) Several Reasons: A revolver bullet was found in his stomach. During the three days we hunted these Bull, we found snares and foreign footprints on the farm, so clearly these Buffalo had been harassed from time to time. I think we might have pushed the Bulls to long, they knew we were behind them and because of the bullet irritation, the Buff was disgruntled.

2.) I believe Josef saved my life, he said he half climbed the tree and when he saw the Buff repeatedly throwing me in the air (three to four times according to him), he climbed out the tree and clapped his hands and shouted at the Buff. This was very brave, as it could have turned on him, with no time to get back into the tree and he had no weapon to protect himself.
Others say; the Buff left me when I lay motionless on the ground.

Out of every mistake or accident or any positive or negative situation in life, we as humans, must always learn from them and improve next time.

What did I learn from this situation:
a.) Importantly, always carry your gun when hunting dangerous game or any game and most important, make sure it is loaded. There was no time, in my situation, to load a round out of my magazine.

B.)There is only time for one shot, make it count! Practice with your big caliber, you have one shot at a moving target in one or two seconds and you better kill him, because a non-lethal shot will just piss him off.

C.) Talk to the owner of any dangerous game where possible and find out, when they last hunted on the ground and what was the outcome. Also discuss, if a animal charges, and is not wounded, who is responsible for the payment of that animal. Who do you think, would have paid for the Buffalo if I had had my gun and shot it???

D.) Never underestimate these wild animals and don't let your guard down. They're even faster than on T.V.

E.) Always be grateful for what you have in life and especially if you are healthy. To be temperately immobile and off your feet is no fun and one appreciates many things, that were taken for granted before.

Clayton and Debbie 
F.) Your family and friends are the most important when bad situations happen. I don't know what I would have done without my loving wife with me every step of the way. All the support from the rest of my family and friends has been overwhelming. Thank you.

Kids visiting Dad in hospital
G.) Slow down, smell the roses! Spent quality time with your family. I have always been a busy person, running around every minute of the day. Make sure you have a great Team, like I have, to support you when accidents happen.

"Food for thought"

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Plan your perfect Safari part 4

Firearm and ammunition recommendations

Rifle hunting is certainly the most popular method employed on hunting safaris in South Africa. The question of which caliber is best and which rifle to bring on safari can be a topic of endless discussion. Experienced hunters and Professional Hunters alike will surely have their favorites and are more than willing to discuss the subject. The right rifle will largely depend on the bag of trophies you are interested in taking. The “old timers” are still “locking horns” over the pros and cons of the .375 H&H versus the 9.3 X 62 and that debate is sure to go on until the last impala is in the salt. In my opinion the .375 H&H can be used to hunt both small and Big Game from Suni and Red Duiker all the way up to the might African Elephant. Bottom line here is; if it is dangerous game that you are after, the .375 caliber is the minimum prescribed by law in most African countries. For the average hunter coming to Africa for plains game, bring a rifle that you are completely familiar with and comfortable shooting. 

Calibres and bullets, Any 30 caliber type firearm that you shoot accurately is great. 308, 30.06, 300 Magnum, 7mm Magnum etc are all great calibers. If you can find one that shoots 180 grain bullets well, that would be outstanding. As a general rule, premium quality, heavy for caliber bullets are your best choice. Many fine bullets are on the market today; the Nosler Partition, the Swift A-Frame, Woodleigh Weldcore, Barnes X & Triple Shock, just to name a few. Many of these fine bullets are available in factory-loaded ammunition and can also be hand-loaded, if you possess those skills. African game seems to be a bit tougher than game found elsewhere in the world. Perhaps this is due to evolution and the extensive predication to which they are subjected, so do not “skimp” on ammunition. 

 As an Outfitter, while lesser calibers will do just fine on the smaller antelope, the .270 Win should be considered the minimum for most medium-sized plains game species. With the proper premium grade bullets and good shot placement, the .270 is fully capable of taking many of the larger plains game animals.The 300 Win Mag is an excellent all-round choice, especially if your safari will take you to areas where long shots may be necessary. The above-mentioned calibers are merely examples and should in no way be considered as recommendations. BRING A RIFLE THAT YOU SHOOT WELL AND ARE COMFORTABLE WITH !

You can bring the finest rifles to Africa in just the right caliber, with the perfectly matched heavy for caliber premium quality bullets and all will be for nothing if your shots are not placed correctly. SHOT PLACEMENT is the most important aspect of any discussion regarding hunting with a rifle. Put in its most simple terms: “It's not what you shoot him with, but where you shoot him that matters the most." A badly placed shot with even the largest of rifles and the finest bullets available will result, at best, in a very long day of tracking and, at worst, a lost trophy. The loss of a fine trophy can be a big disappointment but, in case you have not heard: if you make it bleed, you pay for it.

Your Professional Hunter will guide you in this matter. Trust his judgment and do your best to put your shot where he recommends. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with the shot, do not take it. They will understand as they also dont want you make a poor shot. 

You can stack the odds in your favor here by doing a bit of homework. An excellent book, “Perfect Shot” by Kevin Robertson, a veterinarian and professional hunter, is available. It details shot placement on just about every species of African game that you might encounter. And by all means, go to the rifle range and practice. Sight your rifle in at the desired distance, usually between 100 and 150 yards using a solid bench rest. Once your rifle is “on target”, get off the bench and shoot from the shooting sticks, off hand, sitting, kneeling and the various other positions, Learn to shoot on shooting sticks as that is what you will be using for the most part when you take your shot. You might use a tree or a bush if it is available and convenient. Even the most experienced shooter needs to hone his skills with the rifle. Ammunition is cheap compared to the cost of the safari, so practice, practice, practice!

 Bottom line is you want to be accurate and you want to be accurate to 200 yards minimum. If you can be accurate to 300 yards, that increases your chances of collecting your trophies but most of your shots will be 200 yards and closer. If you don’t have the dial up and shoot type set up, I would recommend 200 yard zero and then just know where the bullet hits at 50, 100, 150, 250 and 300. I don’t shoot past 200 unless it is absolutely necessary.

We look forward to seeing you soon and

Making your Wildest Dreams come True!!