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It was the best of times.. ..It was the worst of times!
by paco

Friend Jim Taylor started it. Six months before we left for Africa he set it up for us. A number of SHOOTISTS and members of the LEVERACTIONS.COM site signed up, but many things got in the way and it ended up that myself, J.J.Miller, Roger Cox, and John and Pat Asmundson, were the final attendees. And this is where the worst of times comes into the picture of an otherwise wonderful trip. Traveling to South Africa takes the patience of Job....

For example I left Phoenix AZ Sky Harbor Airport at midnight of the 3rd of March heading for Atlanta Ga. Where we were to catch South African Airlines 210 to Johannesburg, South Africa. That took nearly 4 plus hours, and then having to wait around at the Atlanta Airport for a number of hours. Roger and I got together there.... When we finally got off the ground it took 22 more hours to get to South Africa. By that time it had been over 30 hours of travel and we had another 3 hour drive from there.. My tail bone felt like it disintegrated...

At Josíburg Airport things began to get better because a representative of Air 2000 met us and ushered us thru Customs..... and that is a whole story in itself... Iíll save it for a future woe-is-me article and the last part of the worst of times. Chris Troski the owner of Troski Safaris met us also at the airport and then drove us to Transavaal District and where we would be staying for the next 8 days.

The facilities at the game ranch were absolutely lovely. As you have seen in some of the photos it was a luxury none of us expected. The compound had a swimming pool, individual housing (we each stayed in one) a large building with a dinning room and open bar and open fire pit area, excellent staff... and our host Chris, the chief Chef Charmain Changuion. She also managed the compound staff. And another professional hunter Tony . I must say they did everything they could to make us comfortable, and give us an experience few have when they hunt Africa today.

We ate game meat (a good deal of the Gemsbok I shot, and some of the game that Roger shot.... plains game has no gamey taste like American deer meat) and all kinds of other food... three meals a day....

We would head out after breakfast (four different choices of food)... driving towards sunrise... and be in the game fields until around 11 to 11:30 a.m. The game begins to lay up around then, so we would go back and have lunch, (usually three or four different foods) rest, swim, have a beer or two and around 2:30 or 3 p.m. head back into the game fields. We then would hunt till dark... around 7 p.m.

The animals in Africa usually group in herds, unlike our animals in this countryís lower 48 states where they move mostly singularly except during the rut... So hunting in South Africa is choosing what animals you want to collect, and then hunting the herds for the best head you can find......

My best example is the gemsbok that I took. We saw them everyday, but seeing a 40+ incher was a now and then thing. And they were always on the move. The trophy I got, I would like to say I hunted him hard for days... but the truth is, we came around a curve in the hunting truck, and he was standing in the road about 160 to 170 yards in front of us. I shot him with a Browning levergun in .358 Winchester. It was loaded with a 250 grain Swift bullet. And that was the first problem... we found later the bullet didnít open but penciled thru from the ribs back and stopped in the muscles of the rear leg.

I borrowed J.J.ís custom Ruger 480 S/A, and gave J.J. the levergun. And then J.J., Myself, Chris, a friend of Chris, and our tracker Abraham started on foot for a 2 1/2 hour tracking job over four or five miles of heavy brush, wait-a-bit thorn, thick stands of short trees and very high grass. Mostly of course finally finding him was because of the skill of Abraham and Chris... we jumped him three times.

I hit him with one shot from the Ruger on the second jump, at around 150+ yards. Finally with the sun low in the western sky and night coming rapidly, Chris and his friend went around a stand of heavy brush and trees... J.J., myself and Abraham went the other way around them, and I saw the just gemsbokís rear sticking out of the brush. He was watching Chris and unaware of us. I shot him in the root of the tail at about 80 yards, he leaped forward thru the brush and went down in front of Chris Troski. When we got to him, he was still alive... his back was broken but he could still reach up with those long and dangerous horns. So I broke his neck with a final shot from the Ruger 480.

It was loaded to about 1350 fps with a 330 grain cast bullets. All three of the Rugerís bullets exited. All three broke heavy bones and transversed very dense muscle. The Swift bullet was a sad mistake, it was much to stiff and never opened... just deformed the nose a bit. It was a fatal hit but it would have taken a long time for death to come. The 480 on the other hand was superb, all three bullets did considerable damage, with the second breaking the end spine and still exiting. So I really feel this animal was a handgun trophy. We hunted hard for him, night was coming, I intended to stay out all night if I had to... but the Good Lord answered my prayers......

I also had licenses for wildebeest, impala, and warthog. Both Roger and John got a warthog each... and very nice heads also. I hunted hard for five days for a real trophy warthog but never got a shot, let alone even a good look at one. It had rained hard for days a few weeks before we got there and the grass was very high. And since warthog legs are very short, the grass hides them... all you see is a wave rippling thru the grass. We tried hard to nail one crossing the many dirt roads, like friend Roger did... but it didnít happen. Just canít understand their refusal when I put out such a nice invitation to any good warthog to come back to the United States with me... Ahh but there is next year, and the grass wonít be high and the tusks will be even longer.....

At the end of the hunting day we would drive back to the compound, drop off any game we harvested at the skinning shack... and then go and take a shower. Our small houses had full bathrooms, bedroom, air conditioning, all the amenities... We would drop our sweaty hunting clothes in the hamper, and the staff would wash and press them for us, ready the next day. We were spoiled rotten... I loved every minute of it...

To the right of the dinning room building was a open area with a fire pit and a large semicircle stone wall and seating area around the fire.... every night a fire of hard wood would be started and allowed to burn to coals, then the coals shoveled into the cooking pit and the meat of the evening would be roasted, usually several different kinds. While we had a sundowner or two, fine conversation and fellowship. Chris, Tony, and Charmain were the perfect hosts... it was like all of us had known each other for years.... the end of each day at the fire was one of the high points of the trip.

This trip to South Africa for me ended a forty plus year stretch of time since I lived in Africa. I spent a few years there in the late 1950s and early 1960s. I can safely say that though the whole continent of Africa has now changed.. Terrorism, starvation, genocide, and so much more that is sweeping away a great land... South Africa has for the most part solved her problems. The country is secure, politically stable, and relatively safe. Iím sure like any country there is crime in the big cities... but in the hunting areas, except for motor vehicles and clothes... itís much like it was 46 years ago. Quiet, lovely, hospitable and friendly.... you just have to join us next year..... PACO.

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