Friday, August 5, 2011

Hunting on a Beer Budget

Champagne Hunting on a Beer Budget at Cabela's

Champagne Hunting on a Beer Budget

Author: Don Gasaway
Most hunters look at hunting in Africa as belonging on "Someday Isle." That is, someday I will go there. Someday has arrived. Hunting in South Africa is a premium resource that hunters need to look at very seriously. It is possible to hunt there for less than many hunts in our own western states.
Don Gasaway with a trophy gemsbok. at Cabela's
"Wait, wait," cautioned Ed. The antelope was walking slowly away from us and did not present a good shot. Finally, Ed uttered the words I wanted to hear. "Ok, take him when you are ready." The Springbok ram turned broadside and presented the perfect target.
The explosion shattered the silence of the grassland. The beautiful antelope dropped and did not move. As with most hunts, I was both elated and saddened. Elated that my trophy was down, saddened that my first African safari was coming to a close.
We had covered many kilometers, and taken a representative sampling of the animals South Africa offers. Some of the hunting had been on the grassland. On other days, we hunted the mountains of the Eastern Cape Province.
Among the other animals I had taken were Kudu, Bushbuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, Impala, Zebra, Blesbok, Gemsbok and Caracal.
The Kudu had proven the most difficult. They tend to stay high in the mountains and slip over the top to another valley when humans appear. Quick shots are a must. There are but a few seconds to decide to take the shot. After being too late to take a shot several times, I was able to put one down with a 400-yard shot at a running bull. It was the longest shot of my life: and verified with my Bushnell Range Finder.
Like most hunters, I always viewed hunting in Africa as belonging on "Someday Isle." That is, someday I will go there. For me, someday had arrived. Big game in South Africa is a premium resource that hunters need to look at very seriously. It is possible to hunt there for less than many hunts in our own western states. A deluxe, 7-day safari for five animals can be had for as low as $3,000 per person with two hunters hunting together. A non-hunting observer can go along for a little more than $1,000 additional. You will be hunting on millions of acres.
South Africa has the infrastructure to offer visitors modern roads, hospitals, medical facilities, a healthy climate, political stability and excellent communications facilities. The countryside offers hunts in forest, bushveld, mountains, open plains and even deserts. Each area has its own grazing and climatic conditions, as well as hunting methods. It is a whole world of hunting in one country.

A combination of factors, including lower overhead, has come together in South Africa to the benefit of the international hunter. The cost of living is lower, and the efforts of the people and government are geared toward encouraging hunters to stay in this beautiful country.

The game industry of South Africa is based on trophy hunting. Twenty percent of the land in the country is used for some form of wildlife utilization. Other countries on the continent suffer from misuse of wildlife and political instability that has caused immeasurable damage.

The ranches of South Africa are teeming with different species of animals that tempt the international hunter. The numbers of huntable animals are in the millions, just like when the first settlers came in the 1600's.

Because marginal livestock farming areas can be used to successfully raise native animals, many landowners turned to raising game as an alternative crop. Game ranching is usually a multi-species system that utilizes a wide range of habitat, grazing strata and veld conditions. It produces trophy animals as well as meat for the venison market.

In the 1960's, farmers began to realize the economic potential of indigenous game species. Today, tourism and the international hunter provide a welcome income for landowners.

Safari companies provide the services of a Professional Hunter (PH) and hospitality demanded by the international traveler who wants to hunt trophy quality animals. Most hunters are traveling with family members who desire comfort and interesting things to do other than hunting. The safari company will make such arrangements.

The PH is a guide, friend, wildlife expert, and authority on the country. "He is a special breed of man," says Rick Van Zijl, owner of John X Safaris. "He has a love of hunting and everything that goes with it." According to Rick, the PH has that extra spark of enthusiasm for every aspect of the safari. My PH, Edward Wilson, was such a man. He lived for the hunt and knew each animal intimately. Ed's philosophy was to not allow the hunter to take any animal that he would not personally want to harvest.

Edward and I became friends while attending a sports show in Chicago. The friendship continued in South Africa. He was familiar with the area, having been born and raised there. Once out of school, Ed attended the Professional Hunter's Certification School to become licensed as a Professional Hunter by the South African government. Years spent hunting has sharpened his hunting and people skills.

Day after day, we left the base camp at Hillside Farm for a drive out to a ranch in search of a particular specie of game. Often this meant driving many kilometers in the darkness to be in place on a mountain when the sun burst into the sky. The scenery was spectacular. The mountains were great, green monoliths rising from the earth. The animal life was a thrill to behold. From the lizards to lions, we saw dozens of species.

Each evening we returned to camp for a hot shower, cocktails and some fine dining. All the guests and their PHs sat down to a feast each night. Our host and his wife Susan joined in the lively conversation on a multitude of subjects. Topics ranged from the day's hunting activity to world events and everything in between.

Some of the spouses traveled each day to historical sites, private game reserves, shopping centers and any other item of interest. Some hunted with their spouses on particular days or they rested around the pool at camp.

There were four couples in camp the first week of my hunt and only one other hunter there for the second week. One hunter was interested in waterfowl hunting and spent most of his time out pursuing Egyptian Geese. He did take a few which were prepared and served by the camp chef. Most of our meals were domestic meats and fowl, but sometimes something exotic was added to the menu at the request of one of the hunters. All meals were top class, and the evening meal often included some fine South African wine.

At a relatively low cost, a hunter can take trophies, have them field dressed and prepared for the taxidermist, have his family enjoy luxurious food and accommodations, and take in the splendor that is South Africa. It is not necessary to pack a lot of clothing for the trip as daily laundry service is a staple of African hunting camps. The extra space in your suitcase can be used for gifts and souvenirs to take home in remembrance of a wonderful experience.

A final note for the hunter going abroad for the first time. Use a hunting or travel consultant to make your arrangements. They earn their living knowing where to get the best price on airfares and other travel arrangements. Ask them to book a few days at either the beginning or end of the trip for site seeing. South Africa has many interesting places to explore and sites to view.

Now is the time to hunt South Africa for champagne hunting on a beer budget.

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