This weekend I returned home from plains game safari with friends and family in South Africa. We all had a wonderful time enjoying good hunting and good company for a little more than a week.
Eleven years ago my Dad asked if I wanted to join him on a hunting trip to South Africa. I had just graduated from college, so I had the time and having been to Africa once before on a photo safari, I was eager to head back. I told him I’d love to join him on the trip, but I wasn’t interested in hunting. “Well, maybe we’ll get you a rifle just in case…” was his response.
At that point I’d been hunting with my Dad several times, but only wingshooting. I still wasn’t sure about hunting anything “with fur” and hadn’t even ventured out into a deer stand on the farm. Even so, he did get me a rifle for the trip that I practiced shooting “just in case,” but I was confident I’d only be an observer. Little did I know.
Our professional hunter (“PH”) on that first trip was James Quin, and on the first day as the truck came to a stop he told me to get off and grab my rifle. A few shots later I had my first African trophy, a common reedbuck, and that was it. I had officially caught the hunting bug. We planned our return trip to Africa – this time to hunt buffalo – on the flight back to the US.
My Dad and I have been incredibly fortunate to have been back to Africa on several safaris since then, experiencing some of the finest big game hunting the world has to offer. So we were really excited to be able to introduce our friend Thomas to African hunting on this trip and to again be hunting with James Quin, now a partner in Stormberg Elangeni Safaris.
After three long flights and a substantial drive, we arrived at our first hunting location, Branstone Lodge, located in the Stormberg mountains in South Africa’s Eastern Cape.
Shortly after we arrived at Branstone, we headed to the range to sight in our rifles. While we do sight in our rifles before we leave home, it’s important to check them again in country, in case anything needs adjusting after their trip around the world.
The Stormberg hunting area looked unlike anything Dad and I had experienced in Africa. Its mountains and wide open plains almost looked like some of the landscape I saw on my road trip in the American west. With hardly a bush or tree in sight, it seemed the hunting here would be challenging, requiring long shooting and good luck.
Those things in the picture that look like rocks? Those are sheep. Also a new experience for Dad and I, our hunting on this trip took place on cattle and sheep ranches joined together to form a conservancy. The wild game occurs naturally on these farms, so the farmers look at the hunting as just an additional source of revenue.
We hunted the Stormberg for two full days making the most of the challenging landscape. Here I am with James, huddled behind a small termite mound, waiting in ambush for a lechwe.
And here I am shortly afterwards with Victoria, my Dad and the first trophy of the trip a beautiful – lechwe with a unique skew horn.
It was cold in the Stormbergs. There was even some snow on the mountains, which reach 9,000 feet in elevation. Here’s Victoria looking cute in her cold weather safari gear.
Because there were 4 hunters on this trip (Thomas and Tommy – his Dad, and me and my Dad), we had two PHs – James Quin and John Sparks – each with their own hunting vehicle. On that first hunting day we all met for a picnic lunch on some large rocks warmed by the sun and shielded from the wind.
Here’s Thomas, enjoying his first African picnic in the bush.
Because of the nature of the terrain in this area, our primary style of hunting was to drive to a location, pile out of the vehicle and walk up to the ridgeline, stop just before the peak and then crawl the rest of the way to peek over the top without being seen by whatever might be grazing below us.
Since Victoria was still in her boot from her stress fracture, she often had to stay behind in the vehicle while we went out to look for game. She took plenty of photos like this one, of us leaving her on our way to walk the ridges.
It was great to be back in the bush and to be spending time with friends and family in Africa. I could tell this was just the beginning of another wonderful African safari.