By Dave Wilson
In Arizona in June, when it’s 109 degrees, it’s hard to think about packing coats, gloves, and long johns! I was going on an African safari, but in Africa in June, it is winter, and the elevation where I was going was over 6000 feet. Many people, like myself, have dreamed for years about going on a safari in Africa, reading stories from Ruark, Capstick, and Roosevelt. Now, my dream was becoming a reality!
I met Christo Roos, owner/outfitter for Bokpoort Safaris, a couple of years ago at the Sportsman’s International Expo in Phoenix, Arizona. We corresponded and met again at the 2014 Expo. One of Christo’s hunting packages was “Mr. First Time Africa Safari”, and it sounded exactly like what I was looking for. I was only looking for plains game, and the adventure/experience, not dangerous (and expensive) trophies. The “introductory safari” featured my most desired animal, a Gemsbok, and other animals I was interested in: Wildebeest, Impala or Blesbok, and Springbok. I also had the option of adding animals, if I wanted. The hunt was not what I pictured as a “traditional” African Safari, in the jungle or desert-like flat lands, but a mountain safari on horseback! Christo’s hunt seemed to be more personal, less-commercial, and presented a unique adventure where I would be the only client that week. It was also in a malaria free area (one less worry). Although a safari may sound “exotic” and expensive, it is actually comparable in price to a guided elk hunt in the States (or less), and you see and get more animals!
After a long flight, Christo, and his tracker/skinner Tyron, met me at the Johannesburg airport. Everything was loaded into the truck and we were off! Our first hunting camp was at a hunting concession that Christo had arranged. The site offered a restaurant, lodging, interaction with some animals, and various plains game. Since this was my first time to South Africa for a Safari, I wanted everything to go smoothly. For that reason, I opted to “hire” (rent) guns rather than transport mine from the United States. I was rather surprised to find out that most of the guns had “silencers” (sound suppressors) to minimize the noise and lower the disruption to the herds. The first gun I hunted with was a scoped .270 with a thumbhole stock. After checking in and shooting the rifle, we drove through the property viewing, photographing, and field judging the animals we saw. The area was rolling grasslands with patches of trees and water holes, and had a wide variety of plains game. Driving the roads and viewing hundreds of animals was amazing! There were Springbok, Gemsbok, Cape Buffalo, Blesbok, Waterbuck, and Black Wildebeest.
The next morning we rose early, had coffee, and went hunting. We had spotted a good sized Springbok ram during the drive the evening prior and decided we would try to go after him. It was cool and still early when we returned to the area where we had first spotted him. We located the small herd a few hundred yards from where they were the night before. We stalked, on foot, to about 300 yards and I steadied the rifle on the shooting sticks and waited for a clear shot. As the group moved about, the opportunity for a broad-side shot at the one we were after presented itself. I took the shot and had my first trophy on the ground!
Later that day we were able to spot and move in on my most desired trophy– a Gemsbok. As with many African plains game animals, both the cows and bulls have horns. The cows’ horns can be longer, but they are thinner and lacking the mass of the bulls. As we moved closer, the cow and bull were slowing walking, broadside to my position. The Gemsbok bull stopped 147 yards away. I ran the vertical line in the scope, up the front leg as coached by Christo. As I settled in about half-way up the body, I touched-off the round and the bull bucked. He ran about 40 yards before toppling over.
The sounds and smells of Africa around the fire along with a delicious steak brought the rewarding day to an end. The next morning, we left to drive to Christo’s ranch in the mountainous area further south. The mountains and views were spectacular! Another roaring fire, more companionship with interesting conversation, and another great dinner rounded the day off perfectly.
The following morning we had a leisurely breakfast and drove to a ranch to hunt Blue Wildebeest. I always heard them referred to as the poor man’s buffalo, and that proved to be true. The .375 H & H was not too much gun for this animal. My first shot was a “double lung” shot, but it took two more hits to put it down. It was a very tough animal, and big, but I was quite happy to finally get the biggest bull Christo has ever seen!
The next day we relaxed, rested and reflected on all the adventure we had experienced. The following day we saddled the horses and rode up into the mountains high above Christo’s ranch. Christo said he had been seeing free-ranging Eland in the mountains but we probably only had a 20% chance of actually getting one. An Eland was not in “my package” but I said I would take one if the opportunity arose. A couple of hours later I was looking downhill through the scope at a massive bull at 210 yards. A couple of extra shots (for insurance) and the huge Eland was posed for pictures.
Later in the afternoon on our trip back to the ranch we spotted a herd of Black Wildebeest. One shot at 191 yards dropped the bull where he was standing and I added another trophy to my collection, and more skinning work for Tyron.
The only animal left on my list was a Blesbok. So the next day it was back in the saddle and onto the mountain tops in search for our animal. Today, it was only myself and Christo, and we had a great “mountain man” day hunting, seeing Jackals, Zebra, Eland, Reedbuck, and Black Wildebeest, but we never located a Blesbok (leaving something for next time)!
The last day of my trip we traveled to the taxidermist and on to the airport where Christo and Tyron made sure I made it safely to the plane. Christo even called me a few days later to make sure I made it home okay.
When I initially confirmed and scheduled the trip, I told Christo my primary goal was to have a good time. I shot all the animals I wanted (except for that Blesbok), experienced a thrilling adventure, and enjoyed good weather all week. Everything I ate was good, and the companionship was wonderful. I like the variety of locations we visited, the large numbers of animals we saw, and the variety of animals we encountered. Although I was unsure initially, I picked the right outfitter and the right hunting package for me. I am so glad I finally did this; the only problem now is everyone says your first safari is just that, your first safari, and that you will have to go back!