What Your Hunting Consultant “Forgot” To Tell You
A great many folks have come to me and asked about the how, what, and why’s or do's and don’ts of going to Africa for the first time.
Having been to Africa 19 times so far and there are a lot of tips that can be passed along.
Here is a new tip we learned the hard way. Call your credit card company and tell them you are going to be in Africa. That way when they get any transactions from there, they will not deny them. This could save you a lot of trouble trying to pay for a meal or Hotel somewhere in Tim-Buc-Too.
Another new problem we have run into is this. What is your credit limit? Get as large a Credit Card limit as you can. It seems that when you purchase something in local currency, like South African Rands, @ 6 or 8 to 1, they run the sale thru in Rands. So 10,000 Rands is really a $600 dollar purchase, but is charged against your available credit line.
If you have 10,000-dollar credit limit, and you try and run another sale thru that day of 5000 Rand, the sale will deny because you have exceeded your limit. Now the next day it will workout, as they convert all sales each night, and adjust your account.
Now on to your Safari planning:
Where to start? From the beginning.For the sake of simplicity, let’s ASSUME that you already have a hunt booked. Getting hunts booked is another complete project, so I will not attempt to lead anyone in any direction at this point. If you need help or recommendations, please just ask.
Check with your local health dept to see what shots might be needed. There are now a couple of “lifetime” Polio and Hepatitis shots that should be gotten. Be certain your Tetanus is up to date for sure.
Speaking of Health Problems, look up www.MedJetAssistance.com
We purchased their coverage a few years ago, and so far have not needed it but came real close twice so far.
Just recently, I spoke with a widow of a man who bought this coverage 2 years ago for their African trip, but her husband died in Canada while back-packing, 14 miles back into the mountains before they ever got to go to Africa.
She called Med Jet, and they arranged getting the body out of the mountains by helicopter, then Med Jet did all the paper work to get it back to the USA. She reported it all was handled perfectly, and at no extra charge.
She told me she just could not imagine getting that done without their help.
Airline tickets are a big part of the trip. DO NOT CALL THE AIRLINES DIRECT, they have no deals. Usually, your Booking agent will have their own agencies for travel so they want to book the airline seats too, but even if you did book your hunt through an agent, be sure and ask several travel agents for QUOTES, you will be amazed how different the same flights can be in price.
Call Elaine or Lynn at African Odyssey Travel toll free at 1-866-486-9351 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
She has done our air-tickets for the past several years.
Using British Air thru Heathrow seems to be a viable alternative lately. Just be sure you DO NOT change airports in London, as that takes and expensive courier.
Seldom can you not get where you want to go by going through Amsterdam Holland, Frankfort Germany or Johannesburg SA.
Speaking of Amsterdam, one must now have a TRANSIT OF NETHERLANDS CONSENT FROM in order to take your guns thru there. Fax your request to 011-31-50-523-2183 they will usually get it back to you in a few days.
If going thru Frankfurt, as long as your arriving airline has a baggage agreement with the connecting airline, then it is not a problem.
But, if for any reason you need to take possession of your guns, even just to take them to another airline, you need a Transit permit there too. So check with your airlines and booking agents on this subject.
If you need further help with Frankfurt, send me an e-mail, and I’ll forward more info.
Also be sure and check with your local Health Department to see if any shots are "required" for where you are going. Be sure that your tetanus is up to date. There are a lot of rusty nails and wires to get you in trouble.
Regardless, if you are going to Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe or staying in South Africa, everything is much the same.
One way to get there is to fly from Atlanta on Delta Airlines, to Johannesburg South Africa (Joberg). It leaves at 3:45 PM arriving JNB at 3:40 PM the next day.
Another way is on SAA (South African Airlines) out of Washington Dulles, which leaves at 5:40 PM arriving at 2:45 PM the next day in Jo Berg.
The GREAT NEWS is that this flight is NON-STOP.
In Joberg, you can change planes and connect to any of the southern parts of SA to hunt like Port Elizabeth, Durban or Cape Town. Also you can change to flights to Namibia, Botswana or Zimbabwe too.
SAA also still fly’s out of New York’s JFK Airport, with one-stop for fuel to Jo Berg leaving at 5:55 PM. arriving at 5:50 PM the next day.
Speaking of name tags on luggage, put on TWO just in case a conveyor or cart rips one off.
As of Oct 1, 2007 here is the latest “scoop”.
AIRLINK will only carry Sporting Firearms IF you give them advance notice. You just can’t walk up with a gun case anymore. So be sure when booking your flights, if you are using AIRLINK in South Africa anywhere, you give them notice of the firearms.
I have gotten a little ahead of myself with the Airline details, so let’s back track a bit.
Remember, only TWO checked pieces of luggage per person, and don’t let exceed 50 lb in weight per bag. That’s right 50… not 70 like it used to be for international flights. If you are alone, (and that is no fun) that means one gun case and one bag.
I have found by going to the local "Army Surplus" store and look for an Air Force flight bag, a big Green nylon rip stop flight bag. It weighs next to nothing and is very tough, but does not lock very well, even with a pad lock.
But why worry, if someone wants in the bag, they either pick the lock or cut a hole in it anyway. All locking does is keep it from coming open by itself in transit.
Include in your packing a laundry bag. Also write down what you turn in to be cleaned each day to be sure it all comes back.
Also put your boots in a “boot bag” when you leave home, that way you will have a bag to put them in when you leave or change camps, as they could be dirty.
Luggage weight is a problem, which is why the light bag is important. A 20 lb suitcase is already 20 lbs, and on international flights, they are not bashful at charging you for over-weight bags.
Let us assume again that you are going with your wife. It matters not if she hunts, but it is a bonus just having her along, because it gives you more bags.
You still will take only one gun case with two NOT THREE OR FOUR guns in it. Seems that since 9/11, those big "trunks with 3 or 4 guns are not being allowed anymore, but two does not seem to be a problem with any airline.
Also a NEW NOTE: South Africa will not give you a permit for 2 guns of the same caliber, nor can you bring in semi or fully automatic rifles, and NO handguns. Also don’t attempt to bring in (traffic) ammo for your PH for a caliber that you don’t have with you.
I recommend you contact a Company in Jo Berg Called Air-2000, that “Meets and Greets” Hunters, and takes care of getting their gun permits for them.
Also, they may be needed to transport your gun THRU RSA to other countries.
I highly recommend that you use Air-2000 for your gun permits. Look them up at www.hunterssupport.com
and write to them at Anne@Air-2000.com
for Anne Gaines Burrill the owner.
If you will send me your mailing address, I’ll send you a CD from Air-2000 describing their services and providing additional information.
You can however, check your bags and guns THRU to Wind Hoek Namibia, if and only if, you are flying into Jo Berg on SAA and connecting to SAA to WindHoek.
You can also fly to Frankfurt Germany, and connect to Air Namibia non-stop to Wind Hoek and bypass Jo Berg completely, just BE SURE that your airline taking you to Frankfurt has a luggage agreement with Air Namibia so they can transfer the baggage and guns. If not then you must collect them and recheck them and get a Frankfurt gun permit to take possession of your guns.
IF GOING TO ZIMBABWE, You must have $20 US DOLLARS for a departure “tax”. Many people do not know this, so be sure you plan on it. They are also trying to collect a VISA tax upon arrival of $30 so have some small US bills available, because they “can’t” make change. Victoria Falls is also collecting and “extra” tax upon arrival as well as departure.
So now we have one gun case and THREE bags we can take along. This is wonderful because that gives your wife two and a half complete bags for her and one half of one bag for you, but that is OK, because you are going to want to put some ammo IN EACH of those three bags.
Let’s assume again, that you are taking only two rifles. A Buffalo rifle, (if hunting Buffalo like a 375 H&H or 416, and a plains game rifle like a 300 Mag, 7mm Mag, or 30-06.
Put a box of ammo of EACH Cal in EACH bag. That way if you loose any one bag, you still have some ammo.
Even if you go with a partner and not with your wife, put some ammo in each other’s bag, so that if you lose yours, you still have ammo in your partner’s bag.
REMEMBER, Airline Regulations allow only 5 Kg’s or 11 lbs. of ammo per passenger. So you claim 5 kg for your wife and 5 kg for yourself.
HERE IS A NEW THING JUST IN. It seems that you will be asked when checking in,” Is your ammo in the ORGINAL factory container”? Also, they might ask, “Is it in a locked metal box”?
Put you ammo in an original factory container, OF THE CORRECT CALIBER for the ammo, and put your ammo in a metal “cash box” that you can buy from Wal-Mart for $9.97 compared to Office Max at $29.99 ea. So buy 2 metal boxes, and you can put ammo in each piece of luggage.
Never mind that you will have too much ammo if all the bags get there, that ammo is priceless to your Professional Hunter (PH). Leave it, and the metal box, with him when you go home.
Do not attempt to leave a gun in Africa under any circumstances. It is illegal and the US Fed’s frown on that big time.
What clothes to bring? An old saying comes into mind when packing... “Bring half as many clothes as you think you will use, and bring twice as much money”.
DARK colored clothes are the key. Old Boy Scout uniforms are great, but wear just wear dark green fabric with no Military type Camo of any kind. Real Tree or Tree Bark seems to be OK, but not light colored khaki shorts or shirts. Also no WHITE baseball caps.
The game will spot your legs or head moving first in the bush, and dark ones are harder to see. I actually had a PH send me back to the truck once to change my light colored shirt for a dark one. He did not care if it was red, but not light colored. There may be a lot of game in Africa, but it still is hunting. You must see them first or they are gone just like a White-tailed Deer.
Remember, most all hunting outfits in Africa do your laundry everyday, so it is not important to bring a lot of clothes.
Shoes are very important, WELL broken in walking shoes, and a lightweight DARK colored hat, and NO white baseball caps. Game can see those for miles.
Ask your PH about how COLD, or HOT it might get where and when you are going. The Southern parts of South Africa can get very cold during July and August, and even snow in higher elevations. So take an extra jacket and sweater if going where it might cold.
We were southwest of Jo Berg in the town of Kimberley in the middle of May, and we had ice on the windshield two mornings.
Before going to the Airport to leave, take a trip down to the local Customs Office, and get a form 4457... This is a CERTIFICATE OF REGISTRATION OF PERSONAL EFFECTS TAKEN ABROAD, as they are called.
Take all your guns, cameras, binoculars, and anything with a serial number on it with you to the local Customs office.
They are usually open normal 9 to 5 hours. Monday - Friday. Be careful of Gov't holidays, as they might be closed. It is a no hassle deal as they do it all the time.
Do not try and do this the same day as you are leaving on your trip. All you need is for the Customs office to be closed for some dumb reason (like Presidents Day) or any other Gov't Holiday excuse for a day off, and then you are screwed.
The reason you get this form, is to show the US Customs people when you come back into the USA.
They want to be sure that you are bringing back the guns, cameras, etc, that you took out. If you have something not on that list, they then might charge you DUTY because they can say that you bought it abroad and now must pay Duty.
Plus the Customs folks in South Africa NOW REQUIRE YOU TO HAVE THAT FORM UPON ARRIVAL TOO, plus you will need it to get your gun permits even if you use, or don’t use, Air-2000.
Another new thing has now come up. It seems that the Federal Gov’t is now spot checking departing passengers to see if they have more than $10,000 in Travelers checks or cash on them. If you have $10,000 or more, you are “required” to file a FinCen Form 105 with US Customs at your departing airport. If is no big deal, and it is trouble free just like the 4457.
Look up www.fincen.gov/reg_bsaforms.html#105
to down load the form. Do it or don’t do it, but remember, I told you about it.
As you can see by now, this is no short quick reading material to absorb before going.
There are a lot of details here that hunting consultants don't take time to tell you.
OK, we are packed and ready to go now. You have dual nametags, bags that are not too heavy, and ammo in correct boxes.
OH... Did we bring our PASSPORT up to date before we try to leave?
YOU MUST have at least 11 months left on your Passport after your scheduled return date. Why, I do not know, just a Gov't thing. In case you get delayed, then your passport does not expire. SO BE SURE and check the expiration date.
AND>>>. Now South Africa requires 2 blank pages in your passport when you arrive.
I am assuming that you have a passport already, or have just gotten a new one.
Regardless, make sure you have at least 6 months on your passport AFTER your return date. If not they will deny your departure.
Arrive at the airport 2 hours before departure time here, and 3 hours before any international flight.
It always takes longer to check in when you have guns. They will ask if they are unloaded and may ask you to fill out a form and sign it. They may also ask about ammo, and tell them it is SEPARATE and in the other luggage.
If they ask how much you have, tell them 5 Kg's, don't say any more than that, and only answer their questions.
South African Air (SAA) will usually ask you to sign a paper stating that you have only 5 kg’s. No problem, just sign it and say no more about it.
Also, do not take the bolt out of your rifle and try and bring it on the plane in your carry on. When x-rayed, it looks like a pistol, and guess what that will get you at an Airport?
While we are speaking of “firearms”, here is the latest twist. More and more PH’s are having their clients use or rent their rifles. This eliminates the gun permits fiasco. It really works well if you and going to take a photo tour in conjunction with your hunt, as some National Parks frown on you taking your guns into a park.
Also, if you are going to Vic Falls, you will then not have to deal with the Zimbabwe gun permits and storage while you are at the falls.
I would say that all the PH’s I know, would have adequate quality rifles and scopes for you to use. Renting firearms is not a bad option to consider.
If you are taking a laser range finder, be sure it is in your checked luggage, as airline folks are inclined to think you are a terrorist if you have a laser object.
If you get an anti-hunting agent, ask to speak with the supervisor right away. Don't make a big show of it, but you don't have to take any guff either.
Do just what they say, and get away from that counter before something else comes up. DOUBLE CHECK YOUR CLAIM CHECKS, AND BE SURE THAT YOU HAVE AS MANY AS YOU SHOULD HAVE, also be sure that they are YOURS and be sure that your tags get on your bags at the counter. This is how we lost a bag a few years ago.
Now on your way to the departure area, you will see a Currency Exchange window. If you have not gotten some South African Rands before you left home, stop here and exchange some US Dollars for SA Rand. Take about $100 to $500 and buy some Rands.
Ask for small bills, as you will use these for tips and misc. things when you get to South Africa. If all they have is big bills, try to exchange them with the flight attendants on your SAA flight. They carry Rands from home and will usually help you.
Flying is usually spoken of as, “Hours and Hours of boredom spiced with seconds of sheer pleasure”.
Well, now comes the boredom part. It is a long ride to Africa. Some flights are one-stop for fuel, and one SAA flight is non-stop. After dinner, a nap, several movies and a nice brunch, you really do get there.
All international travel is in the 24-hour clock so be aware of how it works.
Upon arrival, (In Joberg) your first stop will be Immigration.
Only answer the questions, and don't make small talk, but don’t look like you are in a big hurry either.
Once through Immigration, you will see the luggage area and lots of people. First of all, find yourself a cart for your bags. Collect your luggage, and then go to the Security office there and ask about your guns.
Your GUNS will USUALLY NOT come out on the normal luggage carousal, but are unloaded and held for pickup at the Security Office.From there they will send you out and around to the Gun Permit Police office where you will get your gun permits for South Africa.
If Air-2000 is assisting you, they will have all this under control, and escort you to the right places, and see the right people.
Watch across the luggage area, and look or someone carrying your guns. Be sure he brings them to the Security Office and does not “try to leave” with them.
I once caught a guy walking out the door with my guns. Those Porters are a menace and thieves.
This gun permit system is becoming more of a hassle all the time. Unless you are using Air-2000, you will need to fill in quite a bit of paper work. Get out that Form 4457 you got from US Customs, and fill in their forms with Serial numbers etc.
You will need to go thru the sliding doors down the right past the currency exchange windows, to the firearms office to complete your gun permits.
You will be given a SAA permit application to fill out, and you will need a letter of “invitation” from your outfitter which included his license numbers etc.
If your destination is Jo Berg, your PH should be waiting for you when you come through the door, and he is now in control of the situation, but if you are flying out the next day, here is what to do.
In JO BERG, You will be overrun with porters who want to help you with your luggage. That can be good and/or bad, as they know where to go and will take you to the bus to Hotels etc., but never take your eyes off them or your luggage for one second.
If you and your wife, or partners have two carts, which means you will end up with two porters. NOW LISTEN, each of you stay with one cart no matter what.
It has happened that a man who was alone has come out with two carts. He was pushing one and a porter the other. When they get outside, the porter and a cart went in an opposite directions, so what does he do? Leave his cart to chase the porter? But if he does, the cart he left standing will be gone too.
If you must choose, follow the cart with the guns. You can always get clothes replaced, but there will be heck to pay if your guns are gone. If your wife or partner is with you, each stay with a cart. Just say STOP if your cart goes the wrong way, and don’t be too polite about it either.
If you are trying to get to your shuttle bus to take you to the Hotel, so be sure you know WHICH Hotel you are going to.
Holiday Inn, for example, has two Inns right near the Airport. Be sure and go over this detail with your travel agent so you have no doubt which one you are going to. Tell the boys what bus you want and they know what to do.
When you get to the bus more boys will try and help load your luggage, and collect a tip.
Be very blunt, and tell them to get away and the boys understand it very well.
Now the bus will take you to the Hotel and life is calmer. Tip your bus driver 10 or 20 RAND and he will handle your luggage there.
Be sure and have your Hotel Confirmation when checking in, because, they have no idea what or how to spell your name.
Low and behold, they do have your reservation, sure enough it will have one bed instead of the two you requested, or visa versa, but it can usually be handled (Or sorted out as they say).
The Bellhop will take your luggage to the room, but don’t take your eyes off your guns. Carry them your self if need be.
You might ask the head bellman down stairs if you should pay the bellman or if you will be billed for it anyway? This is the European way, but it works. Finally, you can put your feet up and get those stinky clothes off and take a shower.
The Hotels have very good food, and the waiters usually speak English as well. The menu is usually in English and the prices in Rand. With the favorable exchange rate of the Rand to the US Dollar, so don't worry about the price, just get what you want.
Do not attempt to pay for it with your Rands, just sign the bill and charge it to your Hotel bill. If you need more Rands or smaller bills, the Hotel can usually help you. Do not pay for anything in U S Dollars. Use your VISA card any place you can.
Now it is late in the day and you are exhausted, and will want to sleep. So sleep, I guess. About 4 or 5 hours from now, at 8 PM local time, you will be wide-awake and will be hungry.
So now get up and have dinner, and try to get your body on local time.
We have found the local Bed & Breakfast houses to be much better that the Hotels. Call me for details. They will personally pick you up and transport you to their house.
Dinner must be arranged in advance, and breakfast is included. The food is normally GREAT, and they quite often have a puppy to play with.
B & B are usually a little cheaper than the Hotels, and much quieter.
Depending on what time your plane leaves in the Morning, you do need to wake up, (as you are now gone to the world) and get ready to go.
Try to eat breakfast at the Hotel or B & B before you leave. Check out of the Hotel and plan on getting to the airport at least 2 hours before departure time. Now you are in for a fun time again.
Take the bus back to the airport, and get ready to be over run with porters again. Same deal, get one or two and stick with them like glue.
At the departure counter, the nice lady will check in your bags, but NOT your gun case. If “she” complains about your luggage weight, tell her you are "in transit", and that seems to make it go away. She will give you the claim tags, and you will have to go with your porter to a separate counter to check in the guns.
South Africa has gotten tough on gun travel because of all the stolen guns. The man here will check in the guns and carry them to the plane at the appointed time. Again, check the tag he has is put on YOUR case not another one that looks just like it.
Then just one more thing, go through Immigration once more. They will stamp your Passport etc. and say goodbye. Finally you are in the departure area, and wonder where the last hour went.
In Jo Berg OR Cape Town, ask where the PREMIER LOUNGE is. Usually up-stairs, and you can buy in for your stay at anywhere from about 75 Rand. This gives you a quiet area, great chairs, and all the food and drink you want. For the price, you can’t eat down-stairs with noise and people.
Relax, but stay alert, there are those who will separate you from your luggage in a heartbeat if you are not careful.
If you are off to Zimbabwe, you will fly to Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, or Harare, the drill is the same wherever you go. Be patient...
Just pay attention to the big departure board and it will tell you what gate and time to board. Odds are they will want to see your Passport once again, so be ready.
Believe it or not, they will try and leave early if everybody is on board. Same goes for departures in Harare, as we almost got left behind as the plane was ready to go 25 min early, except for us, but they came and got us out of the line at the store.
Harare is where most hunters go in Zimbabwe, so let's start there. Upon arrival it will be much warmer and more humid than in Jo Berg, and the Airport does not believe in Air Conditioning.
First get in line to have your Passports stamped. MAKE SURE THAT YOUR PASSPORT GOT STAMPED. It has happened where a stamp was missed and there was all hell to pay when trying to leave. They will give you a little paper to fill out while on the airplane and that you will turn in with your passport.
Then over to luggage, and most likely your luggage will be waiting on a cart with a "boy" watching and waiting for you. He is smart enough to look for luggage tags that look alike and puts those on his cart.
Now go over to Customs to fill in the firearms forms. Same as in Jo Berg, be patient.... it goes slow. Sometimes is goes slower than slow, but it does get done.
Be sure you get it done RIGHT. No mistakes. Then you go out the door into the airport.
Your PH should be waiting there for you. He will go get the truck and get you all loaded up. Ask him to tip the porters for their help with your luggage.
Why ask him to do this? It’s because you have no Zimbabwe money unless you have been there before, or have "borrowed" some Zim dollars from someone who will loan you some.
Zimbabwe dollars are so worthless, that there is no way any bank will exchange money for them. There is just no way to get them outside of Zimbabwe.
Not having ever been to Bulawayo, I can only assume it goes the same there, although in Victoria Falls it goes the same as in Harare, as I have been there several times.
On one trip to Vic Falls, I was standing in line waiting for Immigration to stamp my Passport, and the guy next to me sure is nervous as could be. He is looking around the corner watching his luggage. He says to me,” You sure don't look worried about your stuff", my reply, "I'm not, because if you look real close there is a porter sitting by my luggage on a cart".
"How do you know it is your stuff” he asked? “Because I can see the orange name tags on them”. The boy there recognized my tags from before."Anyway, after Passport Control, this boy has my stuff all ready to go. Again after filling in the gun papers, you either go to a Hotel in Vic Falls or your PH is waiting for you.
Pay your boy "well", like 500 to 1000 ZIM dollars, but be sure and tip him as you will need a friend when you depart. He will ask when you are leaving and give him the time and date. He will then look after your stuff upon departure.
Vic Falls is bad for catching you on overweight, especially on Air Zimbabwe. This is where you want the boy to handle things.
Tell him if you are overweight, and can he fix it for you? He will fix most anything for a couple US Dollars. His "sister" runs the little store at the airport, and suggests that you wait there for him to bring your luggage claim checks to you. No problem, while you are spending a little money, he is getting the job done. An extra few thousand Zimbabwe dollars spent will go a long way there.
I've gotten a little ahead of myself here about leaving, but it seemed to fit in right there. Finally, we are now getting to the camp to hunt.
So far this has been a lot of details on things I would rather not mess with, but now on to guns, bullets etc, and I am now in my glory.
Upon arrival in camp, you will have a snack and then, if time permitting set off to the rifle range. Be it a Buffalo or a Plains game hunt, and be it in Zimbabwe, South Africa, Namibia or Tanzania, the drill is the same. Shoot the cardboard box with an X on it.
Really the PH just wants to see if you can, HIT THE BOX, let alone hit the X on the box.
I love details on guns and ammo, so bear with me as there will be lots of details to follow. Actually, I'll sum it up in one sentence.
FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT, NOTHING, BUT NOTHING, BEATS BULLET PLACEMENT.
I don't care if it is a 50 lb Duiker or 1,500 Buffalo or Eland, if you do not put the FIRST shot in the right place; you are in for big troubles.
Remember, most of Africa has a great system where you shoot first and pay later. It is a great conservation measure. BUT, if you wound an animal, you PAY ANYWAY.
So do not take a running shot, as your PH will most likely kill you anyway if you do.
Shoot ONLY when he says to shoot, and be sure you are looking at the same animal he is. Then only take the shot, and shoot only if you are sure you can do it right.
Your whole trip boils down to you putting the first shot where it belongs.
Offhand or standing shots are quite common. The grass is often too high for a sitting or prone shot, and this is where most PH's will have a set of shooting sticks.
They are nothing more than a pair of 6 ft long sticks tied together so that he can set in front of you and spread them apart to form a wedge for your rifle to fit in. This helps tremendously to steady the gun and help you make a good shot.
SO PRACTICE...PRACTICE… PRACTICE, and practice some more, and do it in hunting positions. I have made a target out of 1/4" steel plate that I have hung it in the back yard. (Now you can do the same by taking it to the rifle range at a local gun club if you do not have a back yard to do this in). It is only about 6" x 9". I shoot it at 80 yards with my 22 cal rifle all winter, mainly shooting off hand or sitting and with a set of sticks too.
Shoot at least 500 rounds before you go. Do this for months, everyday if possible. Shoot 10 to 50 rounds a day if you can. Any 22 cal with a scope will do. Shooting must become second nature, just doing it out of habit.
CITIES PERMITS… Some animals need a special permit to export and import your trophies, especially Leopards. Write to Office of Management Authority U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 4401 N. Fairfax Dr Rm 432 Arlington VA 22203.
They have applications and information on what you may need. Do this LONG before you leave, as it can take “weeks” to get done. Leopard is the most common permit needed. Without one, importation is not likely. Getting an Export permit from SA is very difficult even if you have an import Cities Permit. Check it out or call them at 1-800-358-2104 ext 5446, or on line at www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-20.pdf
IF ARE NOT HUNTING BUFFALO, YOU MAY SKIP DOWN TO PLAINS GAME AMMO.
A PH I was going to hunt Buffalo with, once told me to go home and put a 10" paper plate up. Now take my BUFFALO Rifle, and learn to hit it off-hand.
At what range I asked? His answer was unique. "You, tell me at what range" he replied, “that you can hit that plate EVERY time". "If is 20 yards, then we will have to get to 19 yards or less before you shoot. If it is 82 yards, then we will get to 81 yards before you shoot. It is that simple."
And shooting a BIG rifle is difficult than shooting the 22 by a long shot. It kicks a lot more, and makes a lot of noise.
If you do it right and picture taking will shortly commence, but do it wrong, and you will spend the day following a wounded animal. Problem is, this is time you paid for and should be hunting other trophies, and not spend it following wounded game. Remember, if they find blood, you pay for that animal anyway.
OK, enough of that, and now on to what guns, scopes, and what bullets to use.
Now since we have come all this way to hunt Buffalo, let us start with Buffalo Rifles and ammo first.
Let me state that I have only killed two Buffalo so far, but have spoken with many PH's who have killed hundreds. I’m gleaning from their experience combined with facts about bullets and their construction.
Most countries will not permit you to hunt Buffalo with anything less than a 375 H&H. That's OK, as you need a pretty big rifle to do the job.
Let us assume you are taking a 375 H&H or 416 Remington Bolt action, unless you have the big bucks to spend for a double rifle. What kind to buy? Any Winchester, Remington, Ruger, or custom made, whatever makes you happy.
What ammo? Use only the BEST. In the "old" days, all Buffalo ammo was thought to be of Solids only. The reason is that in old days there were just no good soft points. Only solids could be depended upon NOT to breakup upon impact, and none of them were as good as the solids we have today.
Today, we have so many GREAT bullets, that it is hard to decide which one to use. Personally, I killed my two Buffalo with Trophy Bonded Bear Claws 300 gr. handloads in a 375 H&H.
What more and more PH’s are recommending, is shooting a SOFT Point for the first shot, using a Bear Claw, Swift A-Frame, Barnes "TSX", or Winchester Fail Safe.
This will be your best shot at a standing animal, and the idea is to get a bullet into the lungs that will do as much damage in there as possible. Then when followed up by a Solid, which is used for pure penetration on the running away shot that is sure to follow. Plus if you get a charging shot, the Solid is better to "brain" him with.
Since then I have spoken with MANY PH's and fellow hunters who have used the "soft-solid" combination, and it has worked fine.
If you choose to bring a bigger rifle, a 416 Rem is a popular and fine choice, or even the 458 Win just use the same "soft-solid combo".
In the 416 Remington, Federal loads Bear Claws and Sledge Hammer Solids.
Speaking of the 458 Winchester, here is my humble opinion…Use only factory ammo. That’s right, as I do not recommend using handloads for hunting in the 458 Win. It is the most difficult of all calibers to get the proper velocity out of.
Let the folks at the factory blend the right powders to attain the required velocity.
A common remark to this is, “but factory ammo costs too much”. Too this I reply, “If you can afford to hunt something that needs a 458 Win Mag, and can’t afford the ammo, stay home”.
The folks at Hornady, Federal, and Speer, are the only companies loading the 458 Win up to its real potential and published velocities.
In fact, the new Hornady Heavy Magnum 458 Win has loaded its fine 500-gr FMJ bullet to a velocity of 2260 fps. That, my friends, will certainly get a Buffalo’s attention.
I have spoken to several hunters, who have used the Barnes TSX with great success on Buffalo. Only a couple bullets have ever been recovered because of complete penetration.
Should bullets exit the animal or stay inside? Ah, there is a subject that will keep you up all night around the fire discussing that one.
Personally, I hope I NEVER recover another bullet. Now I know that’s a mouth full, but let me tell you why.
It’s because exit holes bleed, not entrance holes. If a bullet stops so that I can recover it, it may not have gotten to where I wanted it to go.
If you will look up a story in the Barnes Reloading Manual #2 on page 29, a good friend of mine, the late NATIE OELOFSE from Tanzania, has a great set of charts in there.
I first met Natie in 1992 when I hunted with him in Namibia. He has collected hundreds of reports on kills he has been in on and measured the distance an animal travels after taking a hit.
There is a great book on the market by Dr Kevin Robertson, called THE PERFECT SHOT.
Also look at a SHOT PLACEMENT book from African Hunter Magazine. See www.african-hunter.com
to order. Both are well illustrated and really show you how to place your shot effectively. Find either one somewhere before you go.
OK back to Natie's report:
Using three different classes of animal sizes, it boils down to this:
IF YOU HAVE AN EXIT HOLE, THE ANIMAL WILL TRAVEL 1/3 THE DISTANCE AS AN ANIMAL WHERE THE BULLET STAYS INSIDE.
According to those who shoot lots of Buffalo, there is a marked difference between hitting them with a 300 gr 375 H&H and hitting them with a 400 gr 416 Rem, but the 500 gr 458 Win seems no better than the 416 Remington, because it is going too slow.
The 458 Win is the most controversial gun around. LOVE OR HATE seems to be the word. Choose only the BEST ammo, like Hornady Heavy Magnums, Federal Premiums, or Speer Nitrex, and you should do just fine.
To scope or not to scope a Buffalo rifle is a common question too. This is the question most potential Buffalo hunters ask, or how about quick detachable scope mounts?
I would recommend a scope as you and I need all the help we can get to hit the target correctly. Since the range is most likely to be less than 100 yards, a big scope is more hindrance than help. I suggest a Leupold 1x-4X scope as my first choice, followed by a Leupold or Kahles 1 3/4 - 5 scopes or even a plain 4X scope is really all you need. When sighted in to hit dead on at 75 to 100 yards you are all set.
Most quick detachable mounts are "for the birds". They cost too much and not likely to be needed. Besides, you must have iron sights on your gun if you intend to use them anyway. Just turn the power down as low as possible and do your thing in thick cover. The only QD mounts I like are the Leopold’s.
Quick detachable mounts are just like "Range finders". It’s just something else to come loose and/or fool with but they are something the manufactures try to tell you that you really must have, and then charge you a lot for them.
FINALLY PLAINS GAME RIFLES AND AMMO
This is one of my favorite subjects. In my trips, I must have killed over 300 head of various plains game, but one thing remains as primary importance:
First shot Bullet Placement is what counts.
Plains game is made up of "everything" that is not a Buffalo, Lion, Rhino, Hippo, or Elephant. Yes, Leopards to me are plains game, and are treated with the same ammo requirements as anything else.
If you do hunt Leopard, use any plains game rifle that you are SURE you can hit a 2" target at 75 yards, off a rest, every time. Special bullets are not really needed, but a good scope is a must. Just be able to hit a certain "spot" on that cat's shoulder and he is yours.
There are many sizes of African plains game, and are made up mostly of the following:
Small ones, made up of Duikers, Steenbok, Bushbuck, Impala, Reed Buck(s), Springbok(s), Klipspringers, which are all pretty much less than 100 lbs.
If you could plan on hunting ONLY these little ones, than any small rifle will do like a 243 Win, 25-06, or a 270 Win would be great. BUT seldom does that happen as most of your hunts will be for a variety of game and you see what you see when you see it.
So let's continue with the next class of plains game:
The "Bigger" size ones are usually made up of Wildebeest, both Blue and Black species, Kudu, both Greater, Cape and Lesser, Water Buck, Hartebeest (Hard-to-Bust), Gemsbok, Zebra, Blesbok, Warthog, Bush Pig, Nyala, Bontebok, Lechwe, Sable, Eland, and a host of other species depending on country and local populations.
These species range from 250 lb Blesbok to 1,500 lb Eland, and all mixed together in the same bush.
In Namibia, and southern South Africa, ranges tend to be a bit long, like over 200+ yards. In Zimbabwe, and the Eastern and Northern South Africa, there is a lot of brush and ranges tend to be in the 100-yard type. Tanzania can vary a lot too, depending on the region.
So depending on WHERE you hunt will help determine the proper gun, scope and ammo combinations.Since you might be combining Buffalo and a plains game hunt, let us assume that you have gotten your Buffalo and now are hunting a variety of plains game in the same bush country.
Normally a Kudu, (800 lb) Impala, (120 lb), Wart Hog, 150 lb) Duiker (50lb), Wildebeest (500 lb) are what to expect. All these will normally be shot at around 100 to 150 yards.
What gun to bring? A 30-06 on up is simple, BUT with proper ammo, like at least 180 or 200 gr. Swift A-Frames, Barnes TSX, Trophy Bonded Bear Claws, Nosler AccuBonds or Partitions.
I also like 220 gr Bullets in the 30-06 if I’m hunting in an area where the shots are going to be 100 yards or less. The 300 Win is also very popular with the same above bullets.
We have used the 300 Win with 180 gr Barnes TSX bullets and Bear Claws and killed “everything” in sight with no problems.
The 7mm Mag is also a good choice, BUT only with 160 gr or 175 gr Premium Bullets. Africa is no place for those 140 gr or 150 gr light fragile bullets.
I do have to add in one tidbit here. For many years my wife has shot a 7 mm Remington Mag with 162 gr Hornady Spire Point BT with 63 gr. of IMR 4831 or the 175 gr Hornady RN and Spire Points, with 66 gr of IMR 7828 and has now killed some 55 animals with it.
Hard to believe, but I have stood right there and watched her do it, day after day after day, and NEVER had to look for anything except a Zebra and an Eland that ran and died within a 100 yards.
Her “new love” is now the Barnes 160 gr TSX with 63 gr of IMR 4831 at 2880 fps. Most all animals hit with that 160 TSX just dropped where they stood, including Blue Wildebeest & Hartebeest. She seldom takes shots that are more than 200 yards, and she just does not shoot until the shot is right, which means bullet placement is right.
Beware of any bullet going over 3000 fps. Hitting an animal with a fast bullet at under 100 yards can be devastating. It’s better to use a heavier or slower bullet if you know you will be taking shots less than 100 yards.
The 270 Win is the absolute minimum caliber for African Plains Game. I have used the 270 with 150 gr Hornady’s and Nosler Partitions, but really feel it is still a bit light for Kudu, Wildebeest etc. The new 140 gr Barnes TSX were quite impressive, but I would prefer the 30-06 with 180 gr bullets for these “middle” size animals.
I have shot several Eland. One with my 7mm Mag and 175 gr Bear Claws, one with the 338 Mag with a 250 gr Speer Nitrex Grand Slam, one with a 225 gr Barnes TSX, and two with 225 gr Federal Premium Bear Claws. All of them piled up shortly after being shot.
An absolutely great cartridge is the 35 Whelan for bush-veldt type hunting. Nobody thinks about it as an African caliber, but believe me, it works. It is very close to very the popular 9.3 x 62, which is a .366 dia. Bullet as compared to the .358 of the Whelan.
I have used the 35 Whelan with 225 gr Barnes X bullets, and killed two big Kudu and a Wildebeest. All THREE dropped right where they stood. Now that is what I call performance.
Federal loads a 225 gr Bear Claw for the 35 Whelan, and the last animal we took with it was a Nilgai, and he died so quick the guide thought he was hit with a 375 H&H.
The 338 Win Magnum is my most favorite caliber for Africa. With 225 gr. or 250 gr. bullets, it is a real powerhouse. Contrary to many misconceptions, the big 338 Win Mag and 375 H&H do NOT blow up the little animals.
In those large calibers, the bullets are so "tough" that they just begin to expand in those little animals, and just knock them down without doing excessive damage. A 270 or 243 will do MORE damage to meat and hides than a 338 Mag will. If Buffalo or Lion are not included, then any 338 Mag on down to the 30-06 will do just fine.
I have killed “everything” from Duikers to Buffalo with my 375 H&H. Just use the same 300 gr SOFT point bullets you were using on Buffalo. Now remember, better to shoot a 30-06 well than a 300 Mag or 338 Mag poorly.
Any bullet in the right place beats a bigger bullet in the wrong spot.
How about scopes on the plains game rifles?
Pretty much what you like or can afford. My personal preference is that nothing bigger than a 3x-9x be used.
A bigger scope is just not needed for 100 to 150 yard shots. Most of my guns wear a 3x-9x VXII Leupold, and I get along just fine. Please, no big 50mm scopes, they weigh too much and are clumsy.
A 1.5x-5x or a 2x–7x is great and it gives you enough field of view in brush and still have a little extra magnification if you need it, BUT buy a quality scope. If the Airlines do not kill it, the riding around on the terrible rough roads will.
Let’s take a minute here, and go over hunting in the wide-open spaces like Namibia and the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
The Orange Free State, along with the Southern and Western parts of the country, can be quite wide open. Quite often, a 200-yard shot is as close as you are going to get. Here you may want a flat shooting longer-range rifle.
Also get yourself a “Harris” bipod to put on your gun. It will really help you with prone shoots at long range.
The 300 Win and 300 Wby are top choices, using 180 and 200 gr Pointed bullets. The 338 Win Mag also does well at longer ranges with 200 gr or 210 gr bullets. Here a 3.5 - 10x or bigger scope is acceptable. Also the new Federal High Energy and Hornady Light and Heavy Magnum ammo is great, but remember, you wound it you pay for it.
What is nice about this open country is that when you hit an animal and it runs off, you can usually see it for quite a while. Not like in the brush that swallows up every animal two steps after you shoot it.
OK, let's go home.
You may certainly want to consider having your heads mounted in Africa. It saves dipping & packing charges, the price per head is cheaper than in the USA and the Quality of work there is very good.If you are flying back to Jo Berg from any destination in South Africa, you will only be able to check your guns back to Jo Berg, and then collect them, and now you must take them to International Departure check in. This is because all other airports (except Cape Town) are not “International” airports, and can’t handle those departure papers.
If you are flying into Jo Berg from Harare or Wind Hoek, then normally you can check your bags all the way to New York or Washington Dulles as you do not take possession of them in Jo Berg, no permits are needed.
Now it is a sad time of having to say goodbye to your PH, kiss his wife and kids, of course by now you have promised the world to him, given him the scope off your rifle, and any extra left over ammo, and even left deposit money to come back again next year.
Now to passport control where you will have your passport stamped again. Enjoy the system, and do as they ask. Be polite, and be patient.
Finally you go through the metal detector, and enter the departure lounge. Do you know that Rolaids are hell in those detectors? They will get you every time.
SHIPPING CAPES AND HORNS HOMES
Here is a subject sure to send terror through many people. If anything in your trip will go really wrong, this is where it will be.
Your PH and/or outfitter will handle getting your capes to the taxidermist or shipping agent to get them shipped home. There may be additional costs in this.
Before you leave on your trip, contact Carol Rutkowski in Dallas at Copper Smith Importers at 1-888-827-4388 ext 120 or e-mail to email@example.com
as she is very good about helping get your stuff home.
Don’t just leave it to your African Agent, as he will most likely send it to NY and that is not what you want to do, unless you live there.
Now you must have even more patience, as this takes a long time to get them out of an African Country and finally get to the USA.
GOING HOME, LIKE IT OR NOT
Now that we are finally on the way home, the next thing is getting through Jo Berg again. Upon landing, (assuming you had to fly back in) you will again go down the steps down to immigration, just like when you arrived the first time. Only now, you do not have to go through the passport stamping line.
Remember that bank of Airline counters you saw when you arrived in Jo Berg? Go right to Airline you are using, SAA, KLM etc, and get your boarding pass.
After that, just to the left of the Airline counters, is a metal detector. Go there because that bypasses the lines, and takes you directly to the departure lounge upstairs.
Here you wait for your plane to depart for home. If you want to return any SA Rands you might have, there is an exchange bank right there in the lounge. Plus lots of shops for last minute shopping, But remember, you buy it you carry it.
If you have been hunting in South Africa and your PH has brought you back to the Airport, the drill is about the same.
Come into the INTERNATIONAL DEPARTURE area, and a Porter will want to help you. That is OK as he knows how to get through the lines.
Now pay attention for a minute, IF you purchased anything in SA, you paid a VAT tax on it. This tax is refundable to you when you leave, but you must apply for it.
Just inside the door when you come into the terminal is a VAT tax office. There you must check in they may want to SEE the goods you are taking out of the Country.
So do not bury them in your luggage. They will give you some paperwork to take to the REFUND office inside the departure lounge way on the far end.
Here you will get a check for the VAT tax refund and you can go to a Bank there in the lounge to cash it in.
On our last trip to SA, we found out that VAT tax refund is not worth the trouble. “They” disallowed most of our receipts for one reason or another. Sort of like our IRS, no compromise. After an hour of sorting, waiting and watching, we got a ck for US $ 7.28, which was not worth the trouble.
If per chance your PH takes you to the large discount store called Macro’s, take your passport to the courtesy counter and get a “day pass” with YOUR name on it. Then you can get a VAT refund for what you spend. Without it, you will get no refund. I still say the VAT tax refund deal is a Gov’t scam.
OK, back to departing. Now go over to your check in counter for boarding passes and luggage tags.
Then you must take your gun case to the special desk to check that in. Your porter will know were to go. Make sure your paper work is correct, be polite, and say thanks. Be sure that your luggage tags get on YOUR gun cases.
Then you go through passport control and into the departure waiting area.
Now is when you go to collect the VAT tax spoken about earlier. (If you have enough to make it worthwhile).
Jo Berg is an unbelievable airport in efficiency. How they ever get so many people boarded “on time” is an incredible feat. It is about an 8 -9 hour flight during the night and then at about 2 AM the next morning all the flights will land to refuel.
Usually you can’t get off the plane while they refuel. It is then about another 8 or 9 hour flight to the US, and after about 6 hours, they will put the lights on and start to serve some breakfast, show you a newsreel and such, and some information upon entering the USA.
Again, keep your passport handy, as you will wear it out. They will give you a form to fill out about where you were and what did you do and what did you BUY. Get all the receipts from purchases ready to show Customs if they ask.
The Immigration people now want to see all boots from returning hunters, so that they can dip and spray them with a disinfectant to prevent hoof and mouth disease from entering the USA.
Upon landing you will have a long walk to immigration to have your passport stamped but they have lots of lines, and do very well. Then down the steps to baggage claim.
Luggage will come out as normal, (get a cart) but your gun case will come out on a side door.
Then over to Customs to see if they want to see or open anything up. He or (she) is bound to ask for that Form 4457 PERSONAL EFFECTS that you got in Customs before leaving. Have it out and ready. At this point it is a 50-50 chance if they will want to check the gun numbers or your purchases. Just be patient and polite.
DO NOT ATTEMPT TO BRING ANY FOOD OR ANIMAL PARTS INTO THE COUNTRY. THIS INCLUDES BILTONG, Warthog tusks, or Porcupine needles.
Don't act nervous or in a hurry. After clearing Customs, there is a check in counter for ALL airlines leaving to your departing airline. Check in your luggage and guns here and they will put them on the right plane.
Then go to the Airline departure counter, where you will check in and get boarding passes.
In Atlanta, you just go to the baggage re-check counter and they will send it on its way. They are much faster than JFK or Dulles and an hour and a half should get the job done.
If per chance you are not leaving from JFK, you will most likely be taking a cab to La Guardian airport. Just look for the signs for Taxi cabs and take one to La Guardia, and check in there like normal to go back home.
I must say that I am totally unimpressed with Dulles procedures. It is a true “Mickey Mouse” operation, not unlike how Africa was twenty years ago. Total confusion and understaffed.
From here on it is just endure a couple more hours and you are home.
One more note about Malaria pills. If you are on a one a week program, keep going.Let me tell about a case I know of regarding Malaria.
Seems this man followed all the directions very carefully, and took the pills for 4 weeks after returning. Guess what, 6 WEEKS later he came down with Malaria. Pay attention to any symptoms you might get later. Get medical attention and tell them about the pills and that you might have Malaria.
Larium seems to be the pill of choice, but some people have had reactions to it, so certainly talk to your Doctor about it or an alternative. Malarone seems to be a better choice, but check with your local health dept.
In the past, I have contracted Tick Bite Fever twice. I just could not get warm, (had a fever). Took some antibiotics and felt much better the next morning.
There is tick spray (Baticol) available from most hunting ranches to put on your clothes to keep the ticks away, USE IT.
I am not sure where I should insert this little note, BUT, I need to insert a little wisdom here. While with your PH’s, have a little extra patience with them.
They need to make stops to get and do things while out with you. Some of what they are doing while with you will be about or for, the next client. Then again he did things for you while with the previous client. Don’t be mad at him if he stops in town to get “supplies”, like salt or fuel.
Every minute of every day is not going to be spent hunting. You are not getting cheated out of your daily rate. Bear with them as it is tough enough having all the supplies they need when they need it to make you happy.
Do one more thing. Be sure and get all your “negotiations” in Writing. Take all paper work, faxes, e-mails to and from your outfitter and booking agent along with you. Be prepared to defend or prove all conversations and agreements of prices and services.
ALSO, it is very customary when you arrive at a Ranch to hunt, to say hello and have a tea or coffee with owner. These farmers want to talk with the Americans and are truly interested in what you have to say. They live in the country you came a long way to visit. Stay “loose” and just let things happen.
Then stop in upon when leaving for the day to show them your trophies, and again you might have coffee. Take time to listen to them, as they are very interesting people.
Don’t “take anything for granted”. I once saved $500 for Airport Pickup, of all things, as the Outfitter tried to slip it in on the bill. I had specific paper work with me, saying that Airport Pickup and return was, “Included”.
JUST IN… we have had several requests from Bow Hunters about Moon Phases, and how to find out what they will be.
Then click in the year you want, and it will come up on the screen. Now you can figure out the date of the Full or Dark of the moon to suit you.
One last and final observation;
Dress and courtesy in the airport...
Don’t dress like a hunter. No camo or caps with Hunting lodge names on it. Nothing at all. No Pro Hunting slogans etc. Absolutely do not look like a killer or hunter. You will get better service from ticket agents and flight crews.
Now the cruelest observation, when waiting for the plane, and while ON the plane, sits down and shut up.
Don’t be telling the whole world about your kills. All it does is rile up the anti-hunter sentiment, and there is plenty out there.
Don’t annoy everyone around you, with your endless bragging of your kills.
I know this has been a lot of reading, but the trip is worth it. I would be glad to talk more about it anytime, just call me days at 616-896-6500, or write Terry & Jo Ann Blauwkamp at firstname.lastname@example.org
I have a few other articles that you should read, so just write and ask for them.
I would like to insert just one more tidbit here, and that is:
What about INSURANCE? Look up www.siai.net
you might want to buy their coverage on your guns and equipment. Great low cost, no-deductible coverage.
In conclusion, we have done the best we can to help the first timer have successful trip with a minimum of hassles.
Remember, anticipation is half the fun.