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  • Writer's pictureCarlene le Roux

African Safari - a personal account by Dr Ralph Henderson

Sep 12-26, 2021 - General Agenda

● 12-13 & 25-26 Flights DL200 Atlanta to Johannasburg & DL201 Return

● Transport Hunters (13th late) to Northwest Province, Lichtenburg area

○ Turflaagate Game Reserve - Lodging/Most Meals

○ Little Dreams Guest Haus - Alt meals

○ Hunts:

■ RA: Sable, Crocodile, Porcupine

■ John: Warthog, Aoudad (Barbary Sheep), Crocodile, Lion

● Transport John (22), RA (23) to Mpulanga Province, Mbomobela (fr Nelspruit)

○ Jock’s Guest Lodge - Lodging/Meals

○ Hunts Planned:

■ John: Roan, Hippo

■ RA: Cape Buffalo, Hippo

● Transport Hunters (25) to Johannesburg


Party and Place

Hunters were yours truly and friend John. Buck joined as an observer and photographer. He “shot” the most game. The Property hunted were large farms interconnected with gates. The primary farm with lodge is 6000+ hectares (~15000+ A or 24 sq. miles), surrounded by 34 miles of solar electrified high fence. I have no idea of the total area. The property is “high veld” which is open plains mixed with thorn thickets. The owner keeps a large variety of animals including rhino (nearly 50), eland, gemsbok, blue & black wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck, blesbok, ostrich, etc. And of course freerange trespassers such as ardwolf, jackal,

porcupine and many others.



Day 3 (Tuesday 14th) - Sights, Unwind, and Staff

Days 1 & 2 were consumed by a 15.5 hour flight, loss of a day traveling east and a 3 hour ride to camp. Unwinding included 7am breakfast, rifle range, then walking and stalking and getting our “Africa eyes” meaning that it is important to look through the brush to see the critters and there were bunches. Buck saw his first giraffes in the wild. Suddenly coming upon these creatures is amazing, especially the first time. After Lunch our walk continued and we encountered a huge rhino and some warthogs. PH, Abie (Steyn Safaris) had John shoot a warthog which had purposes for Days 5 & 6. There is a humorous back story that Buck likes to tell. This was his first African trip and there were some surprises. If you know Buck, ask him, he’s got tales.Then we stalked a herd of Cape buffalo which contained a huge hard-bossed bull. We walked long and saw much. Support Staff: Apprentice hunters Paul & Pete and Assistant Hunter Garrick (G-Man), Tracker/skinners Fernando and Alex.



Day 4 (Wednesday 15th)


Breakfast 7a and north of town to another reserve where I stalked hartebeest and sable. Extraordinary wind, missed shot on sable and the stalk was blown. Lunch at Little Dreams which was described as whimsical by my daughter in 2017. Afternoon was John’s hunt which was in the same area different place for aoudad which was successful. Other hunters in camp provided Zebra fillets for dinner appetizers.


Day 5 (Thursday 16th)

Early hours after breakfast were spent “cruising for crocs” in farm waters until we found 2 sets of tracks or sighting of 11ft min. and then we dropped some warthog guts. Thursday afternoon we were individually coached on the crocodile by the assistant PHs. When breathing, often only the tip of the nose is seen perhaps every few minutes but usually 4 to 6 times per hour. They can go 10 hours. Early spring with cool air and wind causes reluctance for crocs to sunbask. Crocodiles sense vibration and appear lazy but are highly sensed with excellent sight, sound, hearing and even “feel”. The target is a 1 inch margin brain or neck-spine shot which tests marksmanship. Our advanced croc hunting skills training would be by “fails”. Several sneaks and crawling stalks were “busted”. If poorly killed crocs may re-enter the water and they don’t float which necessitates manual recovery. The day ended with some sightings and John shot high over his small target. Dinner main: fillets and marrow.



Day 6 (Friday 17th) - Our appointment


This was a specially planned morning. Near the preserve is a small school which caters to poor mining families. We asked our PH for opportunity to assist them. Protein is rare in their diet hence the warthog carcass for the cook to use (a freezer has been previously donated by our PH). We also took candy and soccer balls for their play.



Day 6 Appointment Continued


Carrot soup or cabbage soup, which do we have today? And then a wart hog carcass of meat shows up. Squeals of excitement from little voices and a principal who was too glad to help us take it into the kitchen. How would you handle the gift of 60 pounds of carcass. We are so fortunate to live in the USA.


Ministry

We knew of the school and had made plans to do what we could. A ministry principle is that if you can’t help everyone (and we can’t), then help someone. We had also prayed for gospel sharing opportunity and for individual counsel and prayer. We were abundantly blessed with opportunity to speak and pray with individuals and groups. We were individually approached with gospel and theological questions; and, sought to provide counsel. We give praise to Jesus who through His Spirit provided opportunity in abundance. There is a another principle that when the Holy Spirit pours blessings through believers to those in need, the splash is on the believer. We were also blessed.


Day 6 (Friday 17th) - continued

After lunch we went about our ways learning to hunt crocodiles. John had a prone hide and I had a blind. Both were near a pond with seemingly simple shots of 40 to 70 yards. Observation was hampered by high winds of 18 gusting to 21 mph causing waves. Part of the aiming challenge is that when a wet croc comes up (or out) the sun makes it shine like a diamond. It is hard to define the target area. John tried another shot which was also believed high. To find our, the tracker and apprentice PH must go into the water with shooting sticks or a pole to probe the bottom until the beast is encountered. (Clients are not permitted to enter the water) If found dead it is roped and dragged. But if found alive, running is advocated. And so it was this day, the probers ran - losing the PH’s shooting sticks during evacuation. Because no one was injured, the evacuation video is humorous. The shot and following moments were later re-lived beside the fire


Crocodile Waters and Hide

Day 7 (Saturday 18th) - Sable

To town to retrieve John’s lion permit. The sable hunt was resumed and the wind was gusty to 21 mph which influences bullet travel and moves both hunter and shooting rest even if it is a tree. The first shot was wounding. A herd of sable looks much alike, but the PH figured out which was which and we could finish what was started. Hard, long day...


Evenings

Sunsets in Africa are spectacular and after sunset, South Africa tradition in hunting camp is the “braai”. It looks like sitting around the campfire, but technically it is cooking out and sitting around the fire. Safari camps and many SA homes have a outdoor cook area with oven, pit, and open fire areas of some combination. Food and beverages are consumed and the day is re-lived. Sometimes foods offered are a bit off the ordinary. This is the South African “TV”. Often questions like, What was the best/ worst thing today?, are asked. BTW, Safari means “travel”. What surprise is on the menu tonight looks like someone prepared a “puff adder”. No it is not a real snake, it was made from a Sable


Evening Braai


The Unusual Braai - the Safari Experience

As mentioned previously, the braai includes foods of a cultural peculiarity such as the “puff adder”. In this instance, the sable kidneys, liver, and heart were chopped into small cubes and combined with tomatoes, peppers, and spices which are packed in a natural sausage casing, the washed rectum. It is grilled over open coals at low heat for an extended period until cooked through and the casing is crisp. Flavor? There were no leftovers.


Day 8 (Sunday 19th) - Church and Family Dinner

The land owner (left) is a devout servant of Jesus and permits no hunting on Sunday; infact, he prohibits all but essential work on Sunday (our breakfast was prepared, but no daily laundry). We were invited to an Afrikaans-speaking service.. The pastor introduced the “US hunters” in English by name and joked that we would understand nothing else as he switched back to Afrikaans. But “2Tim 3:1-2, 10” was projected, and as he read the Scripture in Afrikaans, he pulled out his camera and made a selfie - we understood the essence of his sermon. You can figure it out if you read the Scripture. He was speaking of the latter days.



Day 9 (Monday 20th) - Lion Hunt

Among the ethical issues raised in trophy hunting, the one most debated is the hunting of raised and released animals: In particular, lions have reduced fear of humans which is bad for both. The anti arguments are simple; the pro arguments might be surprising. This hunt was of a released animal acclimated for 2 weeks before hunting. I try to be somewhat neutral on hunting ethics. I have preferences. Fights within families rarely accomplish much, and the residual toxicity is poison..


Day 9 (Monday 20th) - Continued

On Sunday, after lunch, we had gone walkabout and John’s croc was seen out of the water as the day’s warmed toward summer. Late afternoon, PH and John stalked to and caught the croc out. Two accurate shots, one to the spine to paralyze and one to chest to kill (followed by a pistol brainer) - reptiles die slowly otherwise. A lion and croc “in the salt” starting hide prep is an accomplishment. Dinner included lion loins and crocodile tail.


Day 9 (Monday 20th) - Continued

So what was I doing while John was racking up trophies 4-1? Watching for croc. My quarry had been hunted previously and earned a PhD in evasion. His reputation was that of being an aggressive hunter. I got to know the neighbors like a drake and hen. The hen disappeared… The drake walked the dam calling for her - or so I thought. But no croc. Later, a night hunt. I added to my windburn and scored my second trophy, a porcupine which will become a life mount and, as Diana says, “A conversation starter…” They are beautiful.



Days 10-11 (Tuesday-Wednesday 21st-22rd) - RA

Waiting for a croc can be a crock. Day 10 was a bust. He just would not show. Day 11 for me was a bit more exciting. My croc exposed 3 inches of head above the water, but my shot missed high. Surprisingly, he came up and moved to the edge of the shore. More surprisingly the forlorn drake marched down the bank squawking at him. My shot was on croc, but not spinal. Poor Alex probing found another living croc...









Days 10-12 (Tuesday-Thursday 21st-23rd) - John & Buck

Day 10 was travel for John and Buck who packed and moved from Northwest province SE to Mpulanga province. For John it was for roan hunting. For Buck it was for touring Kruger Park. PH and John stalked and killed a nice roan of which most people have never heard. A beautiful large antelope which shares the genus Hippotragus with the sable and the extinct bluebuck.


Day 12 (Thursday 23rd) - RA

I had spent 3 hours the previous day and did not see the croc breathe so we hoped him to be dead. But discovering him still lively and being unable to grapple him, we resorted to a cargo net. Leaving a wounded animal was unacceptable. And recovery was not without drama. Humility is a balm of sorts, and the croc was retrieved. Always a bit of competition among guys, John’s croc was 358 cm, mine was 355 (11 ft 8 in) Packing and transport to SW to catch up with John and Buck where another surprise awaits.


Day 13 (Friday 24th) Heritage Day

We awaken to South African Heritage Day, a 3-day weekend celebration of “roots”. The plan for hunting Cape buffalo fails. Kruger park rangers have no reports of problem hippos so we are treated to a steak cookout. Then we are invited to night hunt by a macadamia farmer. Porcupine & bush pigs damage his water lines and root so they are vermin, but we see diker and nyala only..


Day 14 (Saturday 25th) Heritage Day

Heritage weekend continues and the ranger has had 2 problem hippos reported. Can we stay to hunt? Our party is over and the day is spent by sleeping in with 9 am breakfast, double checking our packing, paying for services, a visit to PH home to say goodbye and pray for his family. On the way to the airport we stop at Magnum Taxidermy and visit Richard who will manage our trophies. Then to JNB for our 10:55 pm 15.5 hour flight. Good to be home.

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