Like many of you, I figured I would travel and hunt Africa later in my hunting career after I retired or when I became too old to climb the mountains. That all changed when Wendy left a message on my satellite phone in May of 2011 while I was guiding in Alaska for Brown Bear. It was one of those messages that you don't want to get. She had been having some unusual headaches. She got checked out and had a brain scan. The doctors found a lesion (scar) on her brainstem. The lesion wasn't the cause of the headaches but it was in the exact place where an MS lesion first appears. Luckily, she has a mild case and it has not affected her much, for now.
A few years earlier, I was diagnosed with hemochromotosis. As it turns out, both my grandfathers had this genetic disorder and it is fairly common in Scandinavian blood lines. It causes the body to retain too much iron from food, thus damaging the liver (causing cancer) and also causes heart failure due to interference with the electrical signal in the heartbeat. Both of my grandfathers died of complications from this genetic disease. Luckily, I was only 40 years old when I learned from a medical physical that I have it. My iron count at was 1589 instead of 75! I am being treated for it now and try to keep my iron count low. Still, I have about a 1 in 3 chance of developing liver cancer later in life. The only good thing about hemochromotosis is that it increases my red blood cell count and oxygen levels so I can hike at high elevations easier than most people. Anyway, these health scares brought us to start traveling and hunting Africa now, not later.
Wendy and I booked our first African trip in 2012. I wanted to hunt a large open area concession, not a game ranch. We traveled with a longtime friend/client, Dr. Frank P., to Zimbabwe. Frank hunted leopard, buffalo, sable and other plains game. I just hunted plains game while Wendy ran the cameras. Frank got all the animals he wanted and I took an incredible 31" waterbuck, a nice greater kudu, impala, blue wildebeest, warthog, and zebra. I had an opportunity to take a giant buffalo but it would have cost me a lot to upgrade my hunt plus a trophy fee. I didn't do it. Knowing what I know now, I regret that decision.
After being home for a while, we got the itch to return. For the most part, Africa is on the opposite hunting schedule than we are here in North America. The fall and winter months in Africa are our spring and summer months here. As an Outfitter in Colorado, this works perfect for me. Since I guide non-stop in Colorado from late August through January, I don't get to hunt much anymore for myself in North America. I have squeezed in some trips but I don't have the flexibility that many of my clients enjoy. Africa works great for my schedule and for any of you that may be interested, it won't interfere with the timing of most North American hunts.
Since that first trip in 2012, we have returned several times and hunted in Mozambique three times (a different area each time), the Central African Republic, and Tanzania. I have done a lot of research. Many of my clients have hunted Africa. I have gotten to know several great safari operators. I have learned a great deal about the best places to go for free ranging animals and I am happy to help any of you that have the African dream. In most areas, Africa is a great place to bring your spouse of family members, even if they don't hunt. Through my connections, in 2014 I was able to pick up a leopard, buffalo, sable and plains game safari for half price in one of the open concession safari areas in the Niassa Reserve in Northern Mozambique. I spoke with the cancelling hunter and he had killed four leopards there in the daylight with his bow! There aren't a lot of people in the Niassa and the leopards there are not as spooky as in most other areas. After hanging some baits for a few days, I got my leopard the first day I sat in the blind at 4:50pm in the afternoon! I also was able to take a great buffalo and some plains game animals.
Later, we went back to Mozambique with friends/clients, Craig and Janet J. Craig wanted a large crocodile, leopard, and a few other animals. With Craig's knowledge, we picked an area with some of the largest crocodiles in Africa. I hunted crocodile, sable, buffalo, and bushbuck. On this trip, a 17 year-old boy showed my PH and I where a big old crocodile was living. This particular crocodile had eaten several fishermen from the local village over the years. I was able to get that exact crocodile. Also while we were in camp, a 12 year-old boy was eaten while helping his mother do the laundry on the riverbank. Craig was asked to go kill that croc but there were so many in that area that his PH couldn't be sure which croc was the right one. Overall, we did very well and the camp accommodations were superb. Later, while Wendy flew home with Craig and Janet, I transferred to another area for nyala, big kudu, etc... It was probably a good thing that Wendy went home because she wouldn't have slept much at the new camp. About every other night when the generator was shut off, three male lions came into camp to prowl around and search for food. A lion's roar is the loudest sound in nature and can be heard for miles. The roar reverberates in your chest. Try sleeping in a bungalow with just insect screens for windows (no bars or glass) with that going on half the night while the lions pace circles around your bungalow! I "slept" with a loaded .458 Lott and my Surefire flashlight on the bed beside me.
If you think you may want to go, now is the time because in the current political climate, I am not sure how much longer the free-ranging animals will survive. The USA is the leading source of clients for the African safari operators. Since the Obama Administration curtailed the imports of ivory and listed the lion as "threatened," the safari industry has suffered a severe blow. In the large, remote, open and free range areas where there are plenty of lion, leopard and elephant, the hunting safari operators were the last line of defense against wide-spread poaching. The safari operators in these large, remote concessions fund the anti-poaching patrols. It is typical for these hunting safari operators to have a dozen or more scouts out in the field at all times looking for poachers. Without the revenue from elephant, leopard, and lion hunts, many safari operators are quitting and relinquishing their concession leases back to the governments. The African governments cannot afford to do the anti-poaching work without the hunting safari operators. These areas are too far away from cities and infrastructure for photo safaris to operate. The camera crowd cannot pay the bills. Hunting in the open concessions may be a thing of the past in the not too distant future. Recently, the Trump Administration announced that they will approve applications for imports of lion and leopard on a "case by case" basis. Even if you don't want to or cannot afford to hunt for elephant, leopard or lion, you should seriously consider doing a plains game safari before things get worse. I am available to "host" trips if you want me to go along and make sure things run smoothly. Or, I can just help setup things for you.
Reg # 1165
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