Discussion in 'Double Rifles' started by 375 Ruger Fan, Feb 4, 2017.
Certainly one of the best I've seen as well!
Gentlemen, it must be nice to have folks pay you thousands of dollars for a safari and let you shoot there animals for them. Man would I like that have his job!
There is a PH in the industry who posted stories on his website. He referred to certain types of PH's as members of the " Golden ball brigade". After listening to Sullivan, I now understand what he means.
Please tell us more?
He was referring to the PH's who think their balls are made of gold. Guys like Mark Sullivan.
Hahaha... sorry i am a bit slow on a Sunday evening....
There is no doubt MS is a mouth on a stick, and he would be hard company to keep unless you could switch off to his diatribe. None the less he does know a thing or two.
I don't condone his provoking a charge, but I do believe in his going after the animal immediately after being shot if it did not go down straight away. What I don't like to hear is waiting for an animal to 'stiffen up' for 5 or 10 minutes and then go after it, that in my books is just as cruel. You shoot it, then you deal with it as soon as.
I feel like not waiting is what sent a lot of hunters to the great beyond. It does make sense if you want to let some of the fight leak out of a lion or especially a leopard before following up. Even then people get killed. At full strength they will make a mess of a person really quick... Cruel or not, I would not be wading right in to the thick jesse immediately after an animal didn't go down. It could very well be the last thing a hunter does. Exceptions are obviously made for animals that are not generally dangerous or that you might lose. As a bow hunter I will tell you that you don't ever go after an animal right away because, if they aren't bleeding that much but are fatally hit, you will drive them on and on until you lose them and thats more irresponsible. Let them lie down and let the bullet or arrow do its work.
I'm not a PH, just a client so my opinion here is not as credible as those who do it daily as a profession.
I cannot understand why I would want to charge after a wounded dangerous game animal if I believe the shot was good. Like any other animal, if the shot is good I want the animal to be unaware of where the shot came from hoping the animal will bed down. Once an animal is down, the blood pressure and adrenaline both reduce. Any animal, even if passive, will die slower by being persued as adrenalin kicks in and the animal stays on its feet. When animals lay down they typically stay down.
I view Mr. Sullivan's conduct through his own testimony: "Make no mistake, I'm going in there picking a fight". Exactly. We call that tormenting an animal when you are actively seeking a response from an animal to stimulate your own amusement while it is trying to die. This is a cat swatting at a mouse for pleasure. This isn't hunting. The motivation determines the ethics. Minimal trauma and suffering to the animal is top priority, safety of sacred human life is held in the balance. Sullivan's approach ignores both the morality to the animal and the reverence for the safety of human beings.
Christ G and Rookhawk, I see your points, I wouldn't go straight after a bow shot animal either because of the same reasons you quoted and was not eluding to that in my post, so point taken. Nor was I saying to charge after it either, and if the shot was good it will probably be down before you get to it anyway. What I was saying was instead of sitting down and having a smoke or two and let the animal 'stiffen up' go after what you shot with a rifle with minimal delay, it is your responsibility to stop that animals suffering ASAP. If that means you have to wait for someone to get a 12 gauge and then assess the situation before you follow a Leopard that was gut shot, then that is minimal delay. Sorry, but maybe I should of spelt that out in my original post to cover such specifics.
When I go hunting Buffalo in Australia and the animal runs off after being shot, I just walk casually off in the direction it went with obvious caution to finish the job I started. I don't have the luxury of having a PH on hand to back me up, actually never hunted with one, so I don't know how they operate. Nor do I smoke, so I'd just get the fidgets.
I'm responsible for my own actions. I've shot my fair share of them and been in a few close calls. But I believe in following up an animal with minimal delay. I'm not a hero or a tough guy, nor am I a loud mouth like MS. It's just what I believe in. Hopefully I'll grow old doing it my way
This is obviously a touchy subject Mark Sullivan is a pretty strong minded chap.
His books do explain much more than the movies.
I like the clip about handling double rifles pretty informative and useful.
There is something to be said about the community having the same feeling around Ethics.
Great news For us all.... Ethics first egos later.
Read the books if you get a chance worthwhile read to get everyones opinion and you never know you might pick something up you can use.
The discussion around caliber is answered in his book ...
I shoot a 470NE and believe in it but would enjoy a 577NE.
WOW....I stumbled across this while searching for what bino harnesses people use (so I blame you @rookhawk and @Philip Glass). This guy is definitely entertaining in his own way. I imagine a lot of liberal/anti-hunting types assume this is what all hunters are like. I personally find his methods distasteful. I understand there can be discussion about shooting from 100 yds out vs stalking in close - that certainly is a hunter's choice. But as many others have said, standing there waiting for an obviously wounded animal to charge just so you can "shoot it at your feet" (paraphrasing Mr. Sullivan) is disgusting.
On a lighter note....
I'm sure that was a hair-raising charge. I hope you brought a clean pair of underwear!
actually,i was wearing my super depends.close call.
Whether we like it or not, much of what we do is conducted in the public gaze, thanks to social media: We are now all ambassadors for the wider hunting fraternity & I am not altogether sure that the hyperbolic Mr Sullivan, puts us in the best light
And 6 pages on you're all still talking about Mark Sullivan. What's he doing wrong again?
Members , at a risk of having myself quartered by the hunting experts on this forum , I'd like to make a few comments.
MS is a helluva shot with a Double Rifle under stress.
His Style of hunting is definitely different. Not everyone's cup of tea.
He has faced more charging Buffalo and Hippo than most PH's out there. I doubt that every hunt turns into a charge. I bet some seasons have few charges.
His clients who book with him know all of this and approve. Many returning.
This is their choice to spend their hunting Dollars in Africa.
His business model for making money in the hunting business , i.e making hi energy Dangerous game hunting movies , with no plains game shots to deter from the Dangerous game , was a huge success.
His hunting movies changed the hunting video business drastically , lifting the bar on production quality. In turn these videos/DVD's brought big game African hunting to peoples living rooms and in turn the big game hunting industry got stimulated.
Now , as far as him " doing battle " with the Buffalo. Let him call it what he wants. It works for him , and his clients. In 25 years I've seen a lot worse -- from PH's who really had no idea what they were doing , real bull shitters of note , although they were ( and are ) lauded heavily by their clients and on social media platforms. Believe me , when the chips are down I'd rather have Mark standing next to me than some of these wannabe's.
Lastly , I love Double rifles and there's no caliber I don't like. I wish I could own all of them. Unfortunately I own only a few. I have learnt over the years not to put all my faith in paper ballistics. A 9.3 x 74R ( or 9.3 x 62 for that matter ) for example is capable of so much more than is perceived by looking at its ballistics.
Likewise a 470 NE visually hits so much harder on a buffalo than a 458 win mag although velocity and weight data are almost the same. Likewise a 500NE hits considerably harder than a 470 NE and that seen on the same animal with the same brand of Bullets used. Now when you hit that same animal with a 600 NE were talking a new ball game completely.
In the end we all do things differently. We're not all compatible. Good thing we can choose whom we hunt with.
My 2 cents worth.
I rarely come on AH so forgive my delay in my reply.
I wrote a 3-part article on Mark that was published in the African Hunter magazine. If any of you have seen it please copy it here (with the photos, if possible) to get a comnplete picture of Mark.
A few years ago I viewed the first then of Mark's films and tabulated each shot as well as the charges. In 16 years Mark filmed 8 buffalo and 6 hippo charges. Not the dozens or "hundreds" as many have said.
It is interesting that, of all the negative comments about Mark, not one has come from a person that has hunted with and knows Mark. 100% of the negative comments come from those who have never talked with the man nor have hunted with him. My take on the picture is this: if Mark did things like every other PH he would be struggling to get clients, hunt with a worn out bolt action, and be financially behind the 8-ball each season. Rather, Mark has set himself apart from the group to stand out and be different. It has worked. Look at his rifles. Look at his clients. Look at his bookings. Look at his trophy quality. Look at his video sales. There is not one PH in Africa who would not like to have what Mark has. But, they can't so they rave and make up all sorts of negative BS comments that are repeated by so many mindless minions to be part of the crowd.
What Mark does is, in my opinion, no different that John Sharp hunting without a shirt to show off his (former) body builder's physique. How about Ivan Carter waving his rifle in front of elephants? They get a pass, but not Mark. Craig Boddington's PHs have shot his animals as they are running away but no one gets on his case.
No, Mark's words have angered a few but it is acting. What he does in front of the camera gets attention, makes his hunting different, and draws folks in. His videos don't show long range assassination, nor do they show endless shooting of impala at water holes on fenced properties. With his success, who can blame him? Every hunter here would like to shoot one of his many 40-48" buffalo and do it with a vintage double rifle. When you see an actor playing a role that is not the actor's real behavior. I put out to you neither are Mark's words to the camera the same has Mark in person. He has found something that works, has angered some people, has 100% success with his clients, and even the negative press puts his name in the spotlight.
Mark is a gentleman, a great shot, uses the finest of firearms, and is polite and soft spoken in person. If any of you have the AH article on Mark, please post it here. If there is interest I can post the shot-by-shot commentary on his videos as well as post a tabulation of each of his animals killed on his videos.
Let the fireworks begin…
Will the Real Mark Sullivan Please Stand Up? Part I
By Cal Pappas
No doubt about it, the name of Mark Sullivan stirs up emotions to levels not imagined in the hunting world. Mention his name on AR, even as benign as having a DVD to sell, and the fireworks start. Those that have hunted with Mark are very pleased with the resulting trophies. Others will state he wounds animals intentionally to invoke a charge. Like him or not, Mark’s name is arguably the best-known in the business. It is now time to put all the hype and emotion to rest and see the man for who he really is. Borrowing the title from a 1960s television show in the States, Will the Real Mark Sullivan Please Stand Up?
It was in the early 1990s at the school I was teaching at in Anchorage, Alaska. This was before my first African hunt (Zimbabwe, 1994) but I read all of Capstick as well as Hunter, Taylor, Sutherland, etc. I heard my name called as I entered the teacher’s lounge for lunch. The Round Table was where a 25-year tradition of white, middle aged, heterosexual, hunters and fishermen gathered at lunch and before school to tell a few off-colour jokes and solve the problems of the world, nation, state, city, and school from our ultra-conservative points of view. Mike A., after calling me over, said, “Pappas, you’ve got to go to the gun shop and see this video. A guy stops a buffalo charge with a double rifle. It’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! The shop is playing it continuously - not the entire video, just the charge - non-stop, all day.”
Of course I went to see the video play at the gun shop across town and came away knowing two things. First was the location of a proper frontal brain shot. I had read in vintage literature as well as more modern writings, such as Hemingway, that to shoot a buff in the charge mode was to aim for the nose or between the eyes. Mark’s first shot with his .500 was between the eyes and it didn’t slow the buff one bit. The second shot was just below the boss and the buff was dropped immediately. Second was the excitement of watching a video of just big game (now commonly termed dangerous game) hunted and seeing a Cape buffalo in full charge. I bought the video!
My old man sitting on the right taught me to shoot dogs.
How are we fellows to keep warm? Africanis pups, Magondi Tribal Trust Land, Zimbabwe, winter of 1977.
I just did. Maybe it was because of the boring life I had growing up. There was no adventure in my life. No danger in my life. So, I lost myself in my dreams thinking about hunting buffalo and charging ones at that. I shot many thousands of them. So when the eventful day came, August 16, 1990, with cameraman in tow, my dream to shoot a charging buffalo dead at my feet was finally realized. This became the famous Black Death charge that forever changed my life. Here is how it happened.”
“My client, Roy Barnes, was in poor health. To make matters even more difficult Roy was missing a left arm. Even with those obstacles Roy was great company. We found a good bull early one morning and Roy took a longish shot striking the bull in the body. The bull ran away and we followed. Upon finding the bull Roy shot several more times with his .375 and I took the opportunity to blast the bull once with my John Wilkes .500 Nitro Express and a 570-grain Woodleigh solid. The bull went to the ground. Roy stayed in the truck as I walked up. The bull was laying down with his back to me.”
“The ground had short grass. There were no trees or bushes to get in the way. I walked to within twenty feet of the wounded bull, adjusted my cap rearward so I would have full view of my front sight, and let him know I was there by purposely crunching the grass beneath my feet. I knew even the slightest sound would alert the bull. I knew he was alive.
I knew he heard me. I positioned myself to be charged. I wanted to be charged.”
“This was a new experience for my cameraman, too. I wanted it now. I had waited my whole life for this moment. I was like a kid in a candy store. It was mine for the taking. I never thought how stupid it was, or that I might die. To this day I don't think of those things. The bull turned and immediately charged. As my front sight zeroed in on his brain a weird thought flashed through me mind, ‘how simple this was!’ My sight picture looked perfect, I yanked the front trigger. To my surprise I did not kill the bull. He never slowed down. My first shot had absolutely no effect whatsoever. At that precise moment fear ran up my back and to the base of my head. I thought I was going to die. To this day, I still remember the thought, ‘I was dead.’ Then, in a millisecond, realizing my first shot missed the brain, understanding from my sight-picture etched in my brain, that my shot was low, I adjusted my front sight high on his forehead and pulled the rear trigger.
The bullet raced through his skull and into his brain killing him instantly. His head falling into my footprints, now departed.”
There is no doubt the placement of the bullet for a frontal brain shot on a buffalo is just below the boss. Mark has proved this numerous times. But, where did the idea of shooting for the nose or between the eyes originate? A bit of research will lead you to Ernest Hemingway. Not only was Hemingway a great writer but his experiences in Africa (1933 and 1953) were chronicled showing safari life to the general American public and, even to this day, his writings are studied in countless high school and college classes by students who don’t have a clue about the hunting life in Africa.
In The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber (1936), the PH, Robert Wilson, is instructing Macomber how to successfully drop a charging buffalo. Hemingway writes, “When a buff comes he comes with his head high and thrust out. The boss of the horns covers any sort of a brain shot.
The only shot is straight into the nose.” While Hemingway was an outdoorsman he only had two safaris to Africa. He learned from the famous White Hunters of the day such as Phillip Percival. Is Hemingway saying the boss will prevent a bullet from reaching the brain? Any solid will penetrate the boss. A bit later a bull charges with his nose out and Francis meets his end. But, not by the buff. Also, in viewing Mark’s films, buff don’t charge with their head up and nose out and these films, while exciting, are also lessons in shot placement.
Between 1990, when the above charge took place, to 2006, Mark produced ten hunting videos and was known world wide as the man with charging buffalo and hippo. The excitement of the hunt and especially the charge make a definite impression on the viewer. It did me! Now that impression may be good, bad, or indifferent, or any number of other things, but it does stay with you! Mark states, “I’m not a computer guy. I don’t surf the Internet because I don’t give a damn. I live a simple life because I am a simple man. I am aware there is a lot of crap floating around about me. I would like to address some of the most stupid."
To be continued...
Also at the same convention I walked by a very well known Zimbabwean PH who was bad-mouthing Mark’s style of hunting - Mark had six videos on the market at the time - noting especially his disapproval of the charges of buffalo and hippo. I listened and when the PH noted my interest he called me closer, introduced himself, and asked me to watch his video of how buffalo hunting is done “correctly.” He played his video for those watching as well as myself. A client wounded a Cape buffalo and it ran off. After letting the buff “stiffen up” for about half an hour or a bit longer, the PH and client stepped into the back of the Land Cruiser. The bed of the ‘Cruiser was surrounded by a cage of one inch diameter tubing, spaced about eight inches apart, and to the approximate height of the men’s shoulders. Two of the staff - I presume the tracker and skinner - were in the cab and drove slowly into the bush following the spoor. When the buff was sighted he was killed with a few shots. The PH in the booth said, “Now that is how it’s done” and I departed with mixed emotions. What I knew was that Mark’s videos were thrilling to the core - no endless plains game shot at 300 yards or from a blind at a water hole. No spotlighting and night shooting or shooting from a vehicle. I remember thinking I would much rather track an animal (by now I had four hunts in Zimbabwe under my belt) than shoot it from the bed of a glorified pickup truck.
As the years passed and I acquired all of Mark’s videos and appreciated his demeanor and hunting style. I also was very impressed with his double rifles used. By then doubles were my life and I enjoyed seeing them used as they should be! I hunted South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Tanzania from 2002 through 2006 and ran into Mark at the Sea Cliff Hotel in Dar es Salaam. We spoke of double rifles and Mark came to my room to see the pair I brought to hunt in the Selous Game Reserve: a .450-400 Harrison and Hussey boxlock ejector and a Joseph Lang .450 No. 2 (which is only 40 numbers apart from Mark’s Lang in the same calibre). And, as a side note, earlier in the day at the hotel I videoed some of the beach and hotel settings and also videoed some photos of Mark on the wall of the hotel for my girlfriend back in Alaska. She has had a crush on Mark and would drop me in a New York minute for a date with him. Mark kindly made a short “Hi Donna” video for me to take back home. And, it earned me extra points!
As the second decade of the new millennium came on I began following AR and noticed so much negativity about Mark I was baffled by it. How could so many be so angry at a man whom they had never met? Both at SCI and at the big Dallas Safari Club convention I heard the same. It was not all bad, but negative comments seem to stick around more than positive comments. As I was selling my book on the .600 Nitro Express many came to my booth. All of those that hunted with Mark had wonderful praises to say about him. Not one negative comment. The negative comments only came from those who had never met the man. The owner of the finest forum on guns and hunting on the planet has posted hundreds of very negative comments on his AR. A well-known hunter and author from Zimbabwe begins his Sullivan rants with, “I’ve heard that Mark Sullivan...”
So, to separate fact from fiction, let’s look at Mark Sullivan, see who he really is and what makes up this most controversial figure in the African hunting community and to close with details of his videos and an open letter regarding Safari Club International’s decision to ban Mark from its convention.
Mark first saw the light of this world on October 15, 1949 on Coronado Island in San Diego, California. He was the youngest of two boys. Mark’s dad, Harry Francis Sullivan, was a career naval officer and was aboard the USS Yorktown when it was sunk in World War II during the Battle of Coral Sea. Mark’s mother, Helen, was the traditional (for the time) stay-at-home wife and mother. Mark had a childhood similar to millions of other kids growing up in the prosperity of post-war America. He rode his bike, played with his Lionel trains, attended school, and enjoyed summer vacations. His family was not the outdoor type. There were no guns in the house so no shooting at targets or at small game, no fishing, no mountain climbing or other outdoor activities.
However, Mark’s family moved every two years due to Navy policy. During these moves Harry and Helen would take their sons to visit their grandparents in Montana. Mark states, “My dad’s mom and dad were exceedingly boring, requiring all the patience a young boy could muster.” Not so with his maternal grandparents who lived across town. They were outdoor folks who hunted and fished and young Mark would revel in stories of his grandpa Glase hunting pheasants with a 16-gauge shotgun, bagging a rabbit with a .22, or taking a deer for the family table food. No trophy hunting here, just table fare, but it was eye-opening for a young man with no outdoor experiences. “Grandpa become the most influential person in my life. Though my time with him could be measured in weeks, not years, he, more that anyone else inspired me to become the person I am today for he, unknowingly, put me on the path of adventure.”
In 1976 Mark bought two copies of a title he saw in a local bookstore, African Hunter. He bought two copies - at $40 each! - and gave one to his grandfather with an inscription of his admiration. Upon his grandfather’s death the book was returned to Mark where it remains in a place of honour upon his bookshelf.
Something was calling Mark at an early age to explore a world unknown to him at the time. In 1961, at the age of twelve, he received his first subscription to Outdoor Life magazine and was spell-bound by the stores of Jack O'Connor, Elgin Gates, Herb Kline and others. He dreamed about hunting in Africa. Stories of hunting white tail or black bear did not do much to make an impression on young Mark.
It was Africa! Big game, big rifles, the thrill of the chase, and danger in a far-off land took hold of Mark and did not let go. By fourteen Mark read a story in Outdoor Life about a grandfather who took his fourteen year old grandson on safari and the boy shot an elephant.
He made a vow to himself that someday he would go on his own safari and shoot an elephant. As Mark lived without any guns or outdoor adventure (except every other year when visiting Montana) this was a far-reaching goal. However, if Mark has learned anything over his sixty five years it is that a person is only limited by his imagination. “I have always kept true in my heart the self-taught belief that failure in not an option.”
In school Mark’s first car was a 1960 Austin Healy Sprite. This was in 1965 and he was attending Bullard High School in Fresno, California. A typical American youngster that loved cars and gas was cheap! Later he drove a ‘58 T-bird, a Toyota Land Cruiser 4x4, and an outstanding muscle car - a 1966 Chevelle Super Sport 396 big block.
In 1968 Mark graduated from Arcadia High School in Phoenix, Arizona. Two later-to-be-famous personalities also went to Arcadia: Linda Carter (Wonder Woman) and Steven Spielberg. He does not elaborate on his high school career but two years after graduation Mark enlisted in the US Navy. His draft number was 171 and the Viet Nam war was still going strong even though President Nixon was gradually slowing the war down. An educational deferment would have kept Mark at Arizona State University until graduation but he made the choice to enlist sooner rather than later.
Shortly after boot camp Mark married Kathy Louise Espinosa on February 13, 1971. They are still married after 44 years. “I owe everything to my wife. She loves to hunt, she supports all that I do and is a fabulous companion. I could not have become the person I am without her.” Mark and Kathy have three children: Mark Ashley, Shawn Kelly, and Keely McKenna. Shawn worked as a PH with his dad and can be seen in some of the 1990s DVDs. On Kathy’s 24th birthday, September 20, 1975, she became the first Sullivan to draw blood in the field - a pronghorn antelope.
After this, the hunting fever took a hold of Mark. He states “In June of 1976 Kathy and I were invited to drive to Tucson, Arizona and meet C J McElroy, founder and Chairman of Safari Club International. I had heard of Mac but nothing more. I read an article about him and with it was a photo of him standing in the middle of his massive trophy room. I remember telling myself ‘I would give $100 to meet that guy!’ Back then a hundred bucks was a lot of money! Kathy and I arrived at Mac’s house. He was outside watering the flowers. This was long before the Museum was built or even thought of. Mac greeted us warmly and we became best friends until his death. We became frequent house guests. Mac and I would sit and talk until the wee hours of the morning; Mac telling me story after story. One night over dinner at Stuart Anderson’s, Mac asked me what I thought about SCI having it’s own record book? I told Mac I thought it was a great idea. I spent the next eight days with Mac measuring every animal in his trophy room. Between the two of us we established a measuring system that is still used to this day. Because of this I became the first Master Measurer for Safari Club International.”
Early in my writing career I noticed many hunters, guides, booking agents, and PHs made disparaging comments about Mark’s style of hunting. While some are thrilled at the charges filmed over the years, many developed a very negative attitude towards Mark. I listened and read much of what was said and wrote. Many were disgusted at the purposeful allowing of a buff to charge. The years passed and I met Mark in the late 1990s at an SCI convention in Las Vegas. He was a nice gentleman, passionate about his life as a PH, listened with respect when I spoke of my double rifles, and (to use an Alaskan term) was a skookum gent.
Mark Sullivan with a happy customer...
The moment fear seeps into your brain from the neck upwards...
Mark Sullivan showing shot placement on a charging hippo.
Said charging hippo.
Mark Sullivan with trophy lion.
Just past mock charge...
One angry hippo.
Mark Sullivan with trophy elephant © NitroExpress.com
“When it came time to raise money for the building of the Museum, Kathy and I contributed generously. We were one of five patron donors (the highest level). To this day my name can be seen on a bronze plaque as you enter the Museum. That is, if SCI has not removed it.” (More on the SCI controversy later in the article. It should be noted here that in the spring of 2013 Mark became a life member in SCI).
Shortly after Mark was developing a love of hunting and Africa he also was bitten by the double rifle bug. Beginning in 1978 he purchased a .475 No. 2 Jeffery, a .470 Mahillion, an Army and Navy .450, and a John Wilkes .500. The Wilkes was the rifle that stopped Mark’s first buffalo charge as shown on his first film, Africa’s Black Death. Many more followed including a .577 by Charles Osborne which he still hunts with today.
The interest in Africa never left Mark and in 1977, at 28 years old, Mark and Kathy, travelled to Zambia for a twenty nine day safari then on to South Africa for another sixteen days of hunting. Mark recalls, “While on that first safari I remember well telling myself that one day I will be a professional hunter. Thirteen years later I kept my promise.”
“In 1987 while attending the SCI convention as a client, I watched with great interest the newly acquired buffalo charge Jeff Rann showed in his booth. I believe the film was called Buffalo Hunting on the Savuti. I was very impressed with what I saw.
The wounded buffalo charged well. Jeff and his client shot many times. Finally the bull fell dead. Although you never saw Jeff or the client during the charge you could see the buffalo. He had fire in his eyes. That was the first buffalo charge I had ever seen. I'm sure it was the same for all the other folks there as well. But it got me thinking. It was about that time I was making the change from businessman to something else. I was getting myself in position so if an opportunity presented itself I could respond. What Jeff's movie did was give me focus. I liked what I saw. I wanted what I saw. For as long as I can remember, ever since reading Outdoor Life as a kid I dreamt of shooting charging buffalo. I don't know why.
Will the Real Mark Sullivan Please Stand Up? Part II
By Cal Pappas
"I live a simple life because I am a simple man. I am aware there is a lot of crap floating around about me. I would like to address some of the most stupid.”
The buffalo are drugged so not fully functional. Mark shot a drugged lion in South Africa.
“Wrong. I hunt them down and kill them. After a wounded buffalo runs off I’m hot on his trail. I do not take a cigarette break. I do not sit and wait for the buffalo to stiffen. That is for cowards. You know, the guys who are their biggest around the campfire with a whiskey in their hand. A shot of courage if you will. I immediately take up the spoor because I want to find the buffalo alive. I want him to know I’m the one who did this to him. I honour his life by offering my own in return should I fail to stop his charge.” “The lion in SA was tracked and pushed hard on foot for more than six hours over a two-day period. I gave that lion every opportunity to prove to himself and me that he was a lion. I did everything but give him a prostate exam. I finally killed him at eighteen yards just as it was getting dark. I am confident no one has ever hunted a lion that way before or since.”
There are several PHs backing up Mark.
“If a PH doesn’t have the guts to hunt like I do on his own, why should he be willing to hunt behind me? This is so stupid it just goes to prove how scared and fearful (some)PHs are that they would even suggest such a thing. Of course, I know why they say this. Because this is the only way they would hunt a wounded buffalo. And how do I know this? There is a well-known lion charge circulating on the internet. It features Johan Calitz and four other PHs. They are after a wounded lion. I have never seen so many rifles in my life! Everyone has a gun! Muzzles were pointing everywhere. I have never seen anything so stupid in my life! And these are top-of-theline PHs! The best in the business, or so they believe. I damn near died of laughter watching these guys do everything in their power not to find the lion! Eventually the lion charged and a PH (by the luck and grace of God) shot him between the eyes with the luckiest shot ever recorded. Good for him. But the problem is this, why so many PHs?”
“I will never let anyone but my tracker - maybe two - go in with me. That’s it. I don’t want another gun. I don’t want to have to worry about some guy who is scared and behind me where I can’t see him. I don’t want, nor do I need, the distraction. Those Phs should be ashamed of themselves. Sadly, they probably aren’t. That is the problem. They see nothing wrong in what they did. That, my friends, is the difference between what they do and what I do.”
Buffalo are wounded intentionally to induce a charge at my request. Clients are asked or paid to wound and then not to shoot to kill in order to obtain film footage.
“It is not necessary to do this. Clients are more than capable of wounding them without me telling them to do so. If I offered one million dollars to a client to put his bullet into the shoulder of a buffalo I could go for many seasons and over a hundred buffalo before I would have to pay out. Yet, all you hear about is how well clients shoot. Nonsense. Many of my clients can’t shoot. This is due to the excitement of Africa, lack of practice, or inexperience with a heavy rifle. I guess you can’t have everything. Clients are, for the most part, bad shots for reasons just mentioned. It is not necessary to suggest or ask that they intentionally make a bad shot since there is a ninety percent chance they will do it on their own. They are, however, brave to stand side by side with the PH.”
Buffalo are shot in the testicles with a .22 to induce a charge.
“BS. Whomever did this one should get an award. Absolutely false. I don’t have a .22. And, who can see the nuts of a buffalo in the grass and thick bush?”
Mark has lost his Tanzania PH license for overshooting quota to obtain film footage. Mark shoots animals when transfixed by a spotlight at night.
“I have never been accused of any game violations in Tanzania. I am very proud of that fact. I hunt ethically. I never use a torch or flashlight to kill lion and leopard at night. When it is too dark to shoot I call the truck to the blind. I don't care how many PHs use lights. I refuse to do it. I have never had one complaint brought against me. I have not committed one game violation. The record is very clear about that. I do not use a spotlight. Anyone can kill a lion or leopard at night. It does not require any hunting skill whatsoever.”
It is torture when Sullivan walks up to an animal to see if it will charge. It is torture for Mark Sullivan to walk up and let a buffalo decide ”how he is to die.”
“I disagree. I do not take half an hour or forty five minutes to let a buffalo stiffen before taking up the blood trail. I take the spoor immediately. Therefore, I kill my buffalo a lot quicker and more humanely than (many) other PHs. Yes, I let the buffalo decided how he is going to die, but he does not feel pain. Why? Because his mind is thinking about me. I have his undivided attention. He’s not thinking about dying. He’s not thinking about his kids or not seeing his wife anymore. That’s BS. The problem with (some) PHs and like-minded clients is they give human thought to animals because it makes them feel good. Oh yes, the buffalo is suffering. Why? Because you think so! A wounded buffalo is thinking how the hell do I get away from the guy that shot me? That’s all.”
You can see the fear in Mark’s eyes when he approaches a wounded buffalo.
“You must be fearless. That is why I wrote the book Fear No Death - The Truth About Fear and Being Fearless. Many PHs are fearful and there is nothing they can do about it. That is why I am the only PH in the world that hunts buffalo and hippo the way I do. I would hunt elephant in the same manner if I hunted in Botswana where there are plenty of elephant and opportunities were many. Folks that say this is so because this is what they see (or would see) in their eyes if they were me. They are fearful and there is nothing they can do to change that fact. And because they are fearful they think everyone else must be fearful as well. Not true.
Mark’s way is that he shoots his animals for the client.
“When I tell a client, 'don't shoot - don't shoot!’ it has nothing to do with me wanting to kill his animal. I tell him not to shoot so he does not shoot too early. That is the only reason. I believe the correct shooting distance on a charging buffalo or hippo is at ten feet. Not ten yards or twenty for that matter. At ten feet that is when we both shoot. At that point my client and I are teammates. The goal is to kill the charging beast dead at our feet before he kills us. I do not believe in shooting early. Shooting early only means you do not have the discipline or the confidence to wait. Patience is the single greatest asset a PH can have.”
As you can see, Mark’s hunting style has drawn it’s share of criticism. However, to be fair, not one of the critical posts on AR has come from any of Mark’s clients. All, one hundred percent, have come from those who have never hunted with Mark. And, most have not spoken to, or directly met Mark, face to face.
While the charging buffalo and hippo have brought most of the acclaim to Mark, and Mark will state he does relish the thought of the danger of a direct confrontation with a charging buffalo, all clients must agree to this hunting method in advance should the situation present itself. Mark will never put a client in harm’s way if he does not want to experience the thrill of a possible charge.
Mark states, “Do I like a one-shot, dead-in-your-tracks shot? Absolutely no. I hate it. The hunt is over before it ever begins.
I have always said the hunt for Cape buffalo begins with the first drop of blood. Shooting an unwounded, feeding bull is not dangerous game. It is killing. Hunting is when you pick up the spoor immediately, without waiting for an hour for the buffalo to stiffen, and upon finding the bull, walk up and let him decide how he is to die. A wounded bull will do one of two things: run away in which case you shoot him dead, or he charges. Then it is kill or be killed, a winner and a loser. Death is certain to come to one of us. That is dangerous game hunting.”
Mark has stated to me that, with the above philosophy always in his mind, ninety five percent of wounded buffalo will decide to run away rather than charge. On his videos, there are plenty of one shot kills but hunters with any experience in buffalo hunting will state it is the rare buffalo that drops to an immediate shot. Many are found dead after the client shoots and Mark has also had follow-up shots in the buff as it is running away.
Agree with his methods or not, all must agree Mark Sullivan’s films do make a lasting impression. No one, to my knowledge, has spoken negatively of Mark who has shared a hunting camp with him. But, wanting to get to the facts, in the spring of 2013, whilst recovering from a knee replacement, I decided to watch each of Mark’s films, in order from the first to the last, and record, as Jack Webb said, “just the facts.”
Prior to this undertaking I asked a question of many friends in my circle of double rifle men and those who have hunted Africa. All have seen some or most of Mark’s videos. My question was a simple one, “How many charges has Mark Sullivan had?” The replies were similar: “Dozens”, “At least fifty”, “Over a hundred”, to “More than I can count.”
When watching the films I kept note of each animal killed, the number of shots fired by Mark, the number of shots fired by the client, if the animal charged, if the charging animal was wounded, and if Mark killed the animal for the client. The results will surprise many and, after being published on AR, most of the negative banter died away. A few of those imbued with negative illogic continued to do so. But, the films do not lie and the facts are from Mark’s first ten films are as follows:
Animals taken - forty six buffalo, thirteen hippo, fourteen lion, two elephant, and seven leopard.
Charges - buffalo eight, hippo six (1990 to 2006 -16 years) none of the hippo were wounded prior to the charge. Total animals shot, eighty two. Shots by clients - one hundred and ninety three. Shots by Mark - seventy three. (After the client shot - follow-up shots by Mark). Animals shot by Mark - two.
And, of course there are the clients who pulled the trigger on an empty chamber, forgot to load their rifle, pulled the trigger of the barrel of a double rifle that was just fired, or ran out of ammunition.
There you have it. The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. No speculation, no myths, no “I heard it said that Mark Sullivan...”
In closing, I hope now the air has cleared and the view more accurately portrayed of one of today’s best known professional hunters, Mark Sullivan.
Among many facets of his career, he was known for nearly twenty years to use fine English double rifles. Mark has now designed and uses a .577 Heym double for much of his hunting. I hope this new rifle brings him another twenty plus years of success. Unfortunately the income of a retired teacher is not within reach of hunting in Tanzania any longer, so I will be content with Mark’s films.
Mark Sullivan has carved his own special area in the African hunting world. The details of which are examined in this article and in Mark’s letter about his problems with SCI. With the facts now publicized, the real Mark Sullivan can stand up against a clear picture of the man. Agree or not with his methods, the air is now clear.
MARK SULLIVAN’S LETTER
To add some information about Mark’s tribulations with Safari Club International, it is best told in his own words in an open letter published in AR on August 7, 2007. The letter is below in is entirety.
To members of AR, friends, and clients:
It gives me great pleasure to have this opportunity to write you. To the surprise of many, I have not purposely avoided this day. I am not as well-versed in the computer arena as many of you, nor do I wish to be. I live a simple life. I have ever tried or wanted to be a disruptive influence. I go about my business one day at a time. I infringe upon no one. I expect the same from others. I suppose this is why I am misunderstood. People believe I am aloof; and perhaps even arrogant. I am none of the above. My intentions are honourable, I assure you. For my critics on this forum I now answer your allegations against me.
I began my professional hunting career in Tanzania in 1990 at the age of forty. Then as now, I go about my business one day at a time. I offend no one. I am professional to everyone. I have no axe to grind and; no dog in the fight. As I did twenty years ago, I still, in my view, hunt for all of the right reasons and none of the bad as I have so often been accused. I do not hunt for the camera or to show off. I do not brag or boast. I instruct. I answer questions. I also write books. I make documentary hunting films that are responsible for thousands of hunters going on safari each year.
My movies evoke great emotion. Either you like them or you do not.
Regardless of your emotions so invoked, they are true. The charges are real. If you watch them with an unbiased eye, you will notice no edits ever occur moments before or during a charge. In all cases, my clients shoot first. My shot always follows theirs. The footage is unaltered. It is authentic as-it-happens footage. Whether you like what you see or not is a different matter. The life and death events depicted on the screen cannot be denied. In the wild, everyday is kill or be killed, eat or be eaten. My films simply show this raw side of nature.
I suppose the reason why a great many people hate me and my movies, for lack of a better description, is I do what I do because it is who I am. Just as it may be your nature not to take chances, which makes you who and what you are. I love the confrontation. I seek it. I enjoy a fight to the death. I relish the idea that if I perform poorly I die a horrible death. I’m attracted to the cycle of life and death. I often try and get as close to death as I can, crossing the line if I choose, just to get a good whiff. Last season I enjoyed four outstanding life and death charges with as many clients. No cameraman was present. Each client came away with a life-defining experience. Each one would do it again if given the opportunity. I know my manner and method of hunting is controversial. Yet, in my opinion, it represents the finest hunting there is. I honour the life I am about to take by offering my life in return. I can offer no more and therefore give hunting my all. If I fail to kill, I die. It is as simple as that.
If we are to believe in the sport we call “dangerous game hunting,” then why do so many do everything in their power to remove as much danger as possible? Why call it dangerous game? Why not call it “least dangerous” if the object is to remove all danger? Why criticize me for accepting the danger in our sport? I do not like killing. I do like hunting - there is a difference. Anyone can kill a wounded Cape buffalo standing his ground forty yards away. In my opinion, to do so is killing. On the other hand, to walk up and let that magnificent animal decide how he is to die in battle is great hunting. If you lack courage that is something I cannot help you with. But to condemn me because I have the courage you lack is unfair and unjust.
For example, a client shoots and wounds a buffalo. Then the buffalo is allowed to run. The client and professional hunter sit down for half an hour to forty five minutes to let the buffalo “stiffen.” Is the buffalo not suffering during this time? The buffalo is allowed to “stiffen” which is the code-word to die. Is that “dangerous game” hunting to you? I pursue my buffalo immediately, every time. I do not want to find him dead. I want him alive. I want him to charge to his death or mine should I fail to stop him. Killing is boring. Great hunting never is. This is who I am. While I am on this point of clients wounding dangerous game and how quickly I go after it, let me address the often mentioned criticism that I not only risk my own life, but that of my client.
Over the past twenty years I have been a professional hunter I have never had a client (or tracker) harmed by an animal being hunted. In every instance, I first obtain express permission from the client. More often than not, a client chooses me to hunt with because of the unique hunting experience I offer. A client knows I have the proven experience to close with dangerous game and correctly books his safari. If the truth be known, I make a pretty good insurance policy.
Mr. Kim Petersen posted a letter addressed to me. I wish to answer his allegations.
The first is I intentionally wound buffalo so as to prompt them into charging. This is not true. I instruct my clients to always make the best possible shot. The indisputable fact is clients shoot poorly and nothing will ever change that reality. Coupled with the fact buffalo are notoriously difficult to kill, these two conditions make hunting them a challenge. I know many of you have killed buffalo with one shot. That is not the norm. Buffalo take a great deal of killing. I know. I have the experience to prove it. The notion that I use a .22 to shoot buffalo in the balls is not worth the effort I am about to make to dispute it, but here goes anyway. I do not know where you hunt your buffalo. Where I hunt my buffalo the grass, bush, trees, and every other obstacle God created obscures most parts of a buffalo anyhow. In twenty years I do not recall ever seeing the testicles of a buffalo before he was shot nor have I ever had any inclination to try and shoot them. What is the point? For those who have no penchant for ever doing what I do, I can only imagine their minds race wild with things that don’t matter. If you want a buffalo to charge, put yourself in front of him, let him see you, then walk directly at him. The notion that I would waste my time using a .22 should embarrass those spreading the rumour.
The second question is more of a statement than a question. After a client takes his shot on dangerous game, I determine whether or not a backup shot is necessary or even possible. The last thing I want is for a wounded animal to get away. Contrary to what I have been accused of, I do fire backup shots quickly.
More often than not, I have been blamed for firing too quickly, too often. I shoot as a backup for a number of reasons. Clients demand that I do. I determine they need help by observing their skills or lack thereof. If I am filming I believe more gun shots are better than fewer gun shots. I remember purchasing a hunting movie where I waited forty five minutes to hear the first gun shot. That may be the kind of movie you like to watch, but not me.
The second part of this is I “taunt my prey… for the purpose of filming a charge.” While this statement seems logical to the inexperienced, it is precisely for that reason why it is not true. Let me explain. An inexperienced client, or equally inexperienced professional hunter, wrongly believes that in order to get a wounded buffalo to charge, you must first “taunt” him. The very fact that someone says this tells me he has limited dangerous game experience and does not know what he says. His knowledge of wounded buffalo behaviour is incomplete or simply nonexistent. Let me set the record straight. There are two kinds of buffalo; those that run and those that charge. Ninety-five percent of all wounded buffalo fall into the first category. Those that run will never charge. They are cowards and no amount of campfire story telling will change that fact. The five percent that charge do not have to be taunted at all. The moment they see you they charge. The idea that it must be taunted into charging is simply untrue. The mere fact that you have violated their personal space by being there is enough to set them off. What is not known beforehand is which kind of buffalo you are confronting. I have never had a buffalo that first runs away, later turn and charge. In my new book Fear No Death I go into great detail about this and much more. Anyone interested in knowing what I know should obtain a copy.
The third item, “my clients must sign a non-disclosure agreement” is a new one. I marvel at the creativity of the Mark Sullivan haters of the world. It reminds me when people say my cajones are the size of grapefruit. While I am sure they are trying to flatter me, I later set the record straight and confessed they are the size of watermelons. Directing a client not to talk about his safari with Mark Sullivan would be like trying to tell your wife she can’t go shopping. My clients are highly educated professional people and would never sign such a document. I could no more tell them what to do than they could tell me.
The fourth question conflicts with the second. On the one hand I am accused of not “firing backup shots to kill a buffalo” at the first opportunity and now I am accused of firing shots “on top of my clients.” Let me tell you this story. In 1997 I did not have a cameraman. Sensitive to the criticism that I shoot clients game “on their dime” I decided to experiment. I would not help a single client shoot his buffalo, except if one charged, and none did. The next three clients wounded five buffalo and all were lost. Each bull had an outside horn measurement greater than forty inches with one I was sure would exceed forty five inches. All shots were standing broadside shots under 100 yards. The animals seemingly there for the taking and yet they were lost to die a horrible death in the bush. I ask you, “Is that what you want?”
Do you wish me not to shoot so the animal runs off never to be found? I cannot believe any hunter wants that. I certainly do not. I believe we have an obligation to kill the animal as quickly and as humanely as possible.
In my movie Death by the TON, the young man’s statement deserves an explanation. I was perturbed you may say, but not for the reasons you state. This is where the way I hunt differs from how you hunt. The reason why I was disappointed is because the charging hippo was too far away to be shot.
He was twenty one feet away. In my opinion that is too far for a certain killing shot. My instructions to my client (before we entered the arena) were to wait until the hippo breaks the ten foot barrier before shooting. He did not do that. I do not believe in shooting early. Twenty one feet is much too far. Why is it too far? It goes to the core of how I hunt dangerous game. I believe ten feet is the correct distance to begin shooting; not twenty one feet. It is all about the hunt, not the kill. At ten feet it is hunting. At twenty one feet it is killing. This is how I hunt.
By the way, for those of you who have never stood just ten feet in front of a charging animal, there is not a lot of time to shoot. This is why it appears I am shooting “on top of my client” to the inexperienced. If you disagree that is fine. However, your disagreeing with me does not make you right. Conversely, these are solely my views. They do not make me correct either. I prefer to let my clients determine if my hunting method is right for them.
Tomorrow, Saturday, I leave for Tanzania to begin my twenty first season. I will not be present to respond to your comments. If I have insulted any of you, please accept my full and complete apology. My intention is not to irritate. My writing manner is direct much like my manner and method of hunting. This is how I am made. It is what makes me me. I have no trouble with those who disagree. But until you hunt with me you will never know me. I have more clients this year than I have ever had. I do not hold a gun to their heads to get them to sign up. They come to me willingly and leave as lifelong friends. I welcome each and everyone one of you to do the same. Remember, shoot straight and let them come close!
In closing, I wish to personally thank those in support of my SCI situation. I know many of you have written SCI on my behalf. I cannot begin to thank you enough. I am humbled by your generosity. I am honoured with your friendship. Recently I renewed my membership for an additional three years. Regardless of their treatment of me, I will continue to support SCI at every opportunity.
Great Hunting and Best Wishes,
Separate names with a comma.