Her First Safari
Article published in SCI Magazine July/August 2008 Edition
Although I have been very fortunate to hunt in Namibia on two previous occasions my wife, Sally, was looking for an opportunity to visit the Dark Continent for the first time. Since she had never been on any wild game hunt, she was taking a big step and the possibilities in her mind were endless.
Like every good hunter, I have many rifles and back-up rifles that would be good for plains game, but I thought Sally should have her own rifle for this first experience. I also thought it should be versatile and the short magnum “Full Nelson” in .25 WSSM, .270 WSM and .325 WSM, seemed the perfect solution. Using a different barrel for each of the three calibers, they are interchangable in a convertedd Remington 700 short magnum action. There is one bolt for the .25 and .270 barrels and a different bolt for the .325 barrel.
It was a good thing our safari was 15 months away, after the six month wait for the custom built Nelson rifle, we still had time for lost of practice. We often spend weekends relaxing at my South Florida “Wild Boar Hunt Camp” but now we headed for the rifle range camp for some serious practice. We started slow, al close ranges and built familiarity for SAlly with her new rifle, only shooting six or eight times during a session.
As her shooting skill progressed we increased the distance and eventually shot from positions she would encounter on our hunt, including shooting off safaris sticks.
When she could shoot consistend groups at 200 yards we set out for a wild boar, her first big game hunt. The chance for her first trophy shoet came at 90 yards and because she knew she could shoot much farther than that, she had the confidence to take the shot and downed him with one shot. After seeing her first big game trophy drop, she turned around and grinned from ear to ear. During the practice on the range she handled loading, unloading, cleaning and storing her rifle. By devoting the time and effort into preparation, she successfully made the transition from having never fired a rifle to being a proficient hunter, and she was proud of the progress she had made.
Our SCI donated hunt with Wiets Safaris included four hunters, so we were lucky to be joined by our good friends Baughn and Linda Holloway. Many years ago my oldest son took his first deer on a hunt with Baughn, so inviting him to Africa gave me an opportunity to repay the hunt given to my son.
Our plane was to land in Kimberley about 7 pm and we woke the next morning to a wonderful breakfast and had time for a short walk before Hannes Fouche, the head PH for our safari, came asking for us. After readhing the lodge at Wiets, we settled into our rooms and we were off to the shooting range. Hannes was so impressed with how well Sally shot the Nelson takedown rifle that he wanted a go with it after she finished shooting.
We were joined at dinner that night by our second PH, Barend Vermeulen, sho reported that a huge Hartmann Zebra had been spotted that was a great trophy, but it appeared he had developed a hip problem and needed to be hunted. Barend went on to point out that this particular zebra was very leery of hunters and he would require shooting at a long distance.
Sally had always wanted a Zebra rug but she never dreamed she would have one made from trophy she had hunted. She said she was up to the task because she figured she could shoot her other animals at closer distances and work up to the zebra later in the safari.
At 7 a.m. we piled into the hunting car. About an hour into our ride Barend spotted the Hartmann zebra we had discussed at dinner. He was 450 yards away and Barend told Sally it was time for her first stalk, as they climbed off the truck, I could see the zebra turn and walk away with the limb. The faster they walked, the faster he walked. The zebra headed towards an open savannah with few bushes.
Every time the zebra would stop to look at them, Barend would hurry to set up to shooting sticks and as soon as Sally could get the scope on him, he would turn to walk away. I was shooting video and keeping track of the zebra’s distance with my range finder. Finally the zebra stood still long enough for Sally to get settled into the shooting sticks, and I reported the range at 394 yards.
I was thinking to myself that is way far for someone’s second ever big game shot when Barend states “this is as close as we are going to get today.” Just as he spoke, the rifle sounded off and the zebra stumbled forward. He ran in a small circle towards us, and then just stood there broadside at 364 yards. Sally settled on the sticks for a second shot, thinking her first shot may have been a little low. She centred the rifle over the body in line with his front leg and shot a second time. The big zebra dropped right where it was standing and did not move.
Sally turned around with a grin from ear to ear Barend jumped up and down.
Her second trophy came the afternoon of the next day as Sally and Hanne’s approached a herd of 80 blesboks that were mostly common and some white ones mixed in. Hanne’s glassed the heard for the dominant male and found him near the back of the herd, behind two blesboks.
It took Sally a few minutes to get Sally onto the right animal because they kept moving and were 268 yards away. The big male was nervous and it through the bino waiting for her to get comfortable for her shots. Hanne’s told Sally not to be in a hurry and to wait for the shot she wanted. Finally she made the shot for her second African trophy, and it was SCI Gold. Two days of hunting and two trophies, what a hunt!
The next day it was my turn to hunt in the blind with my primitive recurve bow. Without the use of sight pins or a release I needed to get within 25 yards of the game, and the blind was the place to do it. After four hours in the blind we had been within range of 35 springboks, but the one I was looking for was not in the two groups that came by the blind.
About 11 a.m. we retired to the lodge for lunch and then to the archery range for some practice before the afternoon hunt. That afternoon the blind was visited two groups of female blesboks and two white rhinos. The rhinos came within eight feet of the blind, and the inside of the blind got darker for a few seconds as their bodies completely covered the shooting port. They just walked on by and did not know we were there.
The next morning I got a chance for my springbok with my recurve bow at 22 yards, and it was SCI Silver. Our safari continued to bring us success for hartebeest, gemsbok, wart hog, and steenbok, and far too soon it was over.