Published July, 03 2013
Back in South Africa again……..for the fifth time!
We, that is my wife Val and I, first hunted South Africa with “Savannah South” (Adrian Purdon) in 2005. We have desperately wanted to hunt Africa every year since then, but business realities limited us and this year, 2013, was only our fifth visit. That 2005 hunt with Adrian was Val’s first introduction to “Game” hunting. She was an excellent wing shot with her 20 gauge and target-shoot her 243 very accurately but was uncertain if she wanted to shoot at animals, principally because she feared injuring and not killing cleanly. Adrian’s calm, patient tutelage over the first three days granted her four successive “first shot clean kills” and a huntress was borne, unleashing an enthusiastic and instantly capable “stalk and shoot” African hunter. Since those early days there has been no looking back. Comments by visitors to our home about “Oh my goodness, how does Val feel about all these animals hanging on your walls” allow me the luxury of smugly replying, “Fine I think, she shot them all”………for Adrian and Val consistently bring in the Trophy’s while I appear to consign myself to bringing in the meat. Val and I are both naturally fiercely competitive, and that results in each day spent trying to best the other. I continue to suspect, and frequently allow myself the pleasure of accusing Adrian of “fencing in” the Trophies for her!
Over the ensuing years we hunted effectively all of South Africa’s Plains game, many of them multiple times, with Adrian and an excellent selection of his PH’s. Africa was always such a thrill that in 2010 we introduced good friends Jim and Kristi Grotenrath to Adrian. Again he worked his magic turning Kristi from “not sure I want to” into a very impressive, accurate and patient, Trophy Huntress. While we never take the tape with us, and are committed to the hunt itself being the reward, not the pelt and horns, it is, nevertheless, still so rewarding to score most of the animals very high in the RW or SCI lists.
May 2013 we were back again. My Father’s demise several years ago left me a small gift which was eventually converted into a 1923 Manton 470 NE Double Rifle. Built in England, it was apparently sold out of the same Calcutta Gun shop that Fathers first 22 came out of (he was brought up in India) and I liked the coincidence. It certainly has the ability to “kills at one end and maims at the other”, but it feels so good to carry, loft and shoot. I commented on arrival that it was only good for close up shooting of 30 yards or so and Adrian gave me a look I did not fully understand. He told to bring the 470, and we wandered into the bush and stalked a Warthog to 85 yards. On the sticks I asked where to aim and was told, as ever, “On the shoulder” I know better than to question Adrian so did as I was told and was pleased to see the Warthog go down, never to move again. “Good to 100 yards” was all he said. Point made.
This was all in preparation for my first Cape Buffalo. It is becoming well known that there are now a significant number of excellent herds of real quality Cape Buffalo in South Africa. Established over the past 15 years there are real Dugga Boys out there and the quality is very impressive. On day three of our hunt we started early and spent some time looking for spore and once found, moving in close enough to scoping for a really old boy. A stalk up a rock filled river bed with good cover brought us to 200 yards and then it was creep, scope, position, wait, creep again until we were 50 yards from the old boy of interest. He was lying down with his back to us, but his brothers alerted him and with considerable agility he jumped up perfectly broadside on and stared us down. I was on the sticks with the aim solidly on his shoulder for all of a minute but a younger bull was behind him. Without ever giving me a clear shot he spun round and was gone into the thick trees down in the river valley. Adrian’s insistence that I shoot the Warthog, followed by this 60 seconds of suspended animation, gave me to opportunity to learn how to control my excitement and to both “live in the moment’ while learning quickly how to focus on what was happening. Of course we went after them and of course they were gone…….just vanished. We called it a morning, went of to sort out some of Val’s business, but returned that evening.
Same general location, but now late afternoon, rolling hills and small river valleys, and we located another herd with several excellent bulls. Three stalks, twice on the sticks, and a final desperate attempt to get into position resulted in the whole herd crashing off into a small valley. Adrian ran me to the edge of the valley and I was on the sticks when they all drove up the other side just 70 yards away. The “person of interest” was at the back, and a loud grunt piqued his interest for long enough for me to fire the right barrel into his left shoulder. He went down immediately and was not given the chance to get up again. Adrian subsequently claimed that it a God Given Right for the PH to put at least one shot into a client’s Buffalo, but he made no attempt. His consummate care as we finished the job, his manoeuvring to stay out of the threat line, and his sage advice that “It is the already dead ones that will kill you” were well heeded. Val and I shared a special moment as we stood there and she reminded me to offer a ‘Thank You’ to Father for the opportunity to indulge ourselves in that Cape Buffalo Africa experience.
That afternoon Adrian and Val had searched for Val’s principle objective, a Sable. It was windy out on the svelt and everything was skittish. We saw very nice Bulls but Adrian’s discerning eye, always adjudged, that Val could do better. We spend hours looking but Val and Adrian’s patience won out. In what appeared to be amazingly open country, we terrain screened and brush stalked until we were within range of four excellent Sable bulls. The big ones look big, but they don’t get big by hanging around when they are being hunted. A brief discussion between the two of them, a careful crawl to a small tree, bull selection, sticks up, gun up, Bulls heads up, bang and Val had her Sable. It was a direct frontal chest shot from about 130 yards, but the Bull took the 30-06 hit hard, turned and ran only 20 yards before going down dead. It is that clean kill certainty that Val works for, and Adrian patiently supports. If Val cannot get that killing shot she will walk away.
The final major hunt was for three reputedly very nice Eland that were on Val’s wish list. These animals had a reputation for ‘evaporate’ into the millions of acres of Africa for 12 months or more at a time, but nothing succeeds like persistence. They were “old boys” and had been hunted many times before but to no avail. The wind had really picked up and the temperature dropped as a storm blew through and everything was spooked and hidden. However, early on day three our trackers finally found them and we spent the rest of the day trying to get ahead to set up an ambush on them. Many false setups occurred as they avoided us but, in the end, Adrian ran us into position in a slightly open area with a clear track. A Nyala Cow spooking out of the cover warned us they were coming and Val started to get onto the sticks. Adrian called for her to take the first Bull but it was all too late! They saw us, accelerated and then positively thundered past her 50 yards away and, as she said afterwards, she knew immediately that the 30-06 was not the correct caliber for a large Bull Eland in full flight. I meanwhile was left with no option but to rack a round into my 375 HH and take a running shot on the lead Bull. It was a fortunate shot and it broke the leg and shoulder pulling him up short. In archetypical Purdon style Adrian calmly turned to me and commented that he doesn’t usually serve up Driven Eland! Val’s Eland had become David’s Eland, and I suffered badly for having had the temerity to just take the law into my own hands.
We spent the next 9 days, mixing rifle and bow hunting, successfully night hunting for Bush Pig, collecting Warthog tusks, Bushbuck pelts and bird watching. The luxurious lodge accommodation, attentive staff, excellent food, wine and dinner conversations with friends completed our visit. Adrian, as ever it was a wonderful two weeks. Thank you.
David and Val Hemmings.
P.S. If you would like to talk to Val and I about Hunting in South Africa please email your number and we would be happy to call you. firstname.lastname@example.org