My African Hunting Story (Long Post)

Hemingway's Karl

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There are two reasons that I wanted to share my story. First, and probably foremost, it’s a means for me to process the recent passing of my mother, whose cancer was the cause of me venturing out over 9,000 miles to go on my first hunting trip ever. Second, I wanted to share my story with a group of people who could appreciate and understand the gravity of it all. Africa, particularly the Limpopo region in South Africa, became my Walden Pond and provided me with a period of much-needed personal reflection during a rather difficult time. Unfortunately, people who haven’t seen the beauty of the African bush and fauna can’t fully appreciate the experience and will easily dismiss my stories. However, I think this forum provides the right audience to share my experiences with.

The first time my brother asked me if I wanted to go hunting in Africa with our dad and him, I told him “No.” I was not a hunter. In fact, I had never hunted before. Not once. Heck, one month prior to our trip, the last time I had even shot a rifle, any rifle, was 21 years ago. It’s not that I was opposed to hunting, I just wasn’t drawn to it. My heart was (and arguably still is) in fishing for trout in mountain streams. I could spend hours (without waders) trekking through cold mountain streams hunting after that one elusive trout (regardless of size because it’s not about the prize, but the experience). I could fully appreciate the importance of hunting and its influence on conservation (I have a background in biology), I just had no desire whatsoever to hunt any local whitetail deer (to each their own).

My father had previously been to Mozambique in 2009 on a “once-in-a-lifetime” hunt with a friend. He had bought a .416 Rigby and had taken a buffalo, kudu, warthog, and impala. He came back from Africa brimming with stories that he always loved to share with our family, especially over the fire; however, I could never fully appreciate them because I neither hunted nor been to Africa. Regardless of his mood, he was always jovial when sharing stories of his African adventure.

One night back in 2020, possibly inspired by the love of a son (and half a bottle of bourbon), my brother bought a South African hunting trip during a Dallas Safari Club auction. It covered two hunters and two observers. In his mind, my brother was picturing our dad and him going on their own personal African safari, and bringing their wives (i.e., my sister-in-law and mother). My brother asked me if I had any interest in going and, as noted above, I told him “No” because: (1) I was not a hunter and (2) I’ve never taken a two-week vacation before (and taking my first two-week vacation to go hunting in Africa without my family would probably result in some form of castration from my wife). Since hunting was not my passion, and because I quietly valued my physical manhood, I politely declined.

The trip was scheduled for June 2022 and was supposed to be my mom, my dad, my brother, and my sister-in-law; however, October 2021 would dramatically change things. In October 2021, my mom was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and immediately started chemotherapy on the cancer that would ultimately take her life in October 2022. Around December 2021, she knew that she couldn’t go to Africa due to her condition.

My mom and dad were married for 45 years at the time, and my dad was dedicated to her care and tried to be her rock during those difficult times, but you could tell he was also struggling. However, there was one positive thing that my dad could focus on during this time: the Africa trip in June 2022 (assuming it would still occur). During all her treatments, and regardless of her condition, my mom always pushed my dad to go on the trip, even without her. She knew he looked forward to it, and even though she could never understand its pull (she never went before), she knew it gave him something to look forward to during the bleak times. That’s when my brother reapproached me about the trip.

With our mom no longer going on the trip, there was an extra spot, and my brother once again asked me if I had any interest in going. He mentioned it would mean the world to our father, particularly since: (1) Africa was the one thing we could discuss with him and get a positive response and (2) he always wanted his boys to go to Africa with him to go hunting. I suspected (and confirmed after a few glasses of Scotch) that my dad and brother were colluding to get me to go, but to be honest, it took little convincing at that point. I knew I needed to go. I needed to be there for my dad, regardless of whether I had or had not hunted before. It was at that moment that I decided I was going to Africa and, dang it, I was going to hunt! The absurdity of my situation was very amusing to me: not only was I going hunting, but I was going on my first hunting trip in Africa. I felt like a rookie baseball player skipping over the minors and going directly into major league baseball.

As for the trip itself, all I can say is that it was amazing. I was blessed with immense beginner’s luck and landed six different animals. My father accompanied me on my first four hunts and was there when I took those animals, including my buffalo. You could not ask for better father-son bonding time and I will forever remember the smile on his face when I took my first animal (the sable) and my buffalo. In every successful hunt, I was wearing my mom’s cancer shirt underneath my hunting shirt, so that I could carry part of her with me (which is kind of ironic because my mom never hunted and didn’t like hunting, but man, her shirt was lucky). I also got to spend some bonding time with my brother and sister-in-law, especially over some brandy and coke (bless the South Africans for brandy and coke). Although my brother and I may have been slightly competitive on our trip (e.g., he was partial to his 48” sable and I was partial to my buffalo), I couldn’t have asked for a better bonding experience with my brother.

I know this post has become much longer than I anticipated, so I would highlight the key events of my trip as follows:
  • The SABLE –
    • My first hunt (and first animal that I had ever taken in my life) was a 44” sable. I figured if you are going to hunt for the first time, you might as well do it right and have your first animal be something interesting and amazing. The hunt was a very educational experience, both mentally and physically (I tore my meniscus during the hunt, which I was able to remedy at night with copious amounts of Scotch). My first hunt had many great lessons (and perspective) and it also taught me the value of understanding your rife, ammunition, and shot placement.
  • The ELAND
    • My second hunt was an eland that happened to show himself when we were stalking zebras for my dad. My dad turned down the opportunity, but I was not one to turn it down! It happened on the same day I ended up with the sable. Lady Luck blessed me with an eland of questionable intelligence who happened to stick his head out at the wrong time.
  • The Buffalo Stampede
    • After the eland, we started hunting buffalo and that’s when my PH, tracker, dad, and I got stuck in a buffalo stampede of old dagga boys. Needless to say, it was a little scary. We were tracking some old dagga boys and the wind shifted. Next thing we knew, the bush started to shake and 40 yards away from us about six bulls emerged from the bush running towards us, which provided me with ample opportunity to visually confirm why they are nicknamed the “Black Death.” I had the .416 Rigby up ready to go and was just waiting for the PH’s instructions to “SHOOT,” but the moment never arrived. Instinctively, and ensuring our safety, our PH shouted and diverted the stampeding herd about 10 yards in front of us. It was an intense moment. I think we realized how close we were when we couldn’t find the tracker afterwards. The tracker smartly sprinted about 200 yards away when the commotion began. That’s when I told my father, “Oh crap, that was close…NO ONE TELL MY WIFE!” It’s not that I didn’t want to share my experiences with my wife, who was 9,000 miles away, and I did share this experience with her (eventually), but I didn’t want her to worry too much while I continued to pursue my buffalo. I was a man on a mission.
  • THE BUFFALO (i.e., “Fritz”)
    • When I went to Africa, I thought the chances of me going after a buffalo were slim. I was a rookie. I was green. It was ABSURD for a someone with no previous hunting experience to go after one of the Big Five on their first hunting trip ever. However, being a man susceptible to my own questionable logic, I did notice that my brother was going for a buffalo and my dad had already taken a buffalo back in 2009. Thus, I felt it was my familial duty to also go after a buffalo.
    • The prospect of the hunt and the animal itself were terrifying and exciting. The adrenaline was pumping during the entire endeavor and it’s amazing how such a large creature can camouflage itself in thick bush while it’s only 15 yards away. Buffalo hunting, or at least how we did it, was a very intimate affair with a rather large and dangerous animal through thick bush cluttered with thorns of all shapes and sizes (including those “Hat Stealer” trees, which steal your hat and then slap you in the face when you grab your hat back).
    • We pursued a solitary old dagga boy in the early morning after we found his tracks at the waterhole. We pursued him for over five miles through the thick bush, where he proceeded to backtrack and circle back behind us. The feeling of possibly being stalked yourself while stalking was an interesting predicament. It was an intense pursuit.
    • Finally, after crossing a road, the PH whispered to me to come forward because he had spotted the buffalo through thick bush about 15 yards away. Knowing time was limited and the buffalo was likely to run or charge, the PH quickly grabbed and positioned my rifle on his shoulder for the quick shot. In a flash, I had aimed and taken my shot, which looked to be a double lung shot. The buffalo ran about 20 yards and died (just out of sight so we had to go in 10 minutes later to look for him once we had another PH for backup).
    • The buffalo, who I named “Fritz” (long story), measured 42.75 inches wide and had a beautiful old boss. Fritz was a snarled old dagga boy with no fur on his back and a peppering of white on his face.
    • The adrenaline from the hunt was amazing. I could barely eat lunch that afternoon because I was so doped up on adrenaline. I did enjoy that afternoon sitting in the truck, drinking beer, while my brother pursued his buffalo. It was a worthy afternoon off.
  • The KUDU
    • After the buffalo, I decided I was done with hunting, although we had five days of hunting left. Originally, I promised my wife that I would only get two or three animals (at most) and that I would only do Euro mounts. However, I never expected to be blessed with the beginner’s luck that I had and, let’s be honest, it’s hard to Euro mount a beautiful sable and buffalo, both of which held immense sentimental value to me now. I had always thought of going after the “Grey Ghost,” but I didn’t want to alienate my wife further with additional animals (and subsequent mounts).
    • However, after a day of not hunting, I casually mentioned to the PH’s that I may go after a kudu if the opportunity presented itself, but I wasn’t sure. Man, let me tell you, it’s like the African hunting gods then told every single kudu bull in the area to present itself to me. Seriously. Everywhere I looked…kudu bull…kudu bull…kudu bull. Sensing a weakening will, the PH would look at me and say, “Hemingway’s Karl, do you want to go after that kudu?!?” However, my fortitude (and fear of my wife’s reaction) was still going strong, so I probably turned down three kudu pursuits that day. The worst one was the last kudu we saw going in for the night at the end of the witching hour. We were driving back to the lodge and this kudu bull was just standing broadside in the middle of the road about 30 yards away from us and just staring at us. I also turned down that shot. My brother, both amazed and annoyed by my ridiculous luck, was convinced that a kudu bull would just simply walk up to my chalet that night and start pawing at my door.
    • Recognizing the signs and the significant number of kudu sightings, I decided to tempt fate and pursue the Grey Ghost the next day. While looking for gemsbock, we noticed a couple of kudu bulls in the distance. I was able to take one, which measured about 51.7.” I had secured my Grey Ghost.
  • The LIMPOPO BUSHBUCK
    • Due to the auction, we had a tag for a bushbuck. Based on my luck, and my dad’s and brother’s continued pursuit of a zebra, I was delegated the bushbuck tag and was told to go hunt the bushbuck. All I knew was that bushbucks liked thick bush and were crotch stabbers if injured (i.e., they’re about crotch level when they charge). I had no idea what a bushbuck looked like, except for the mounts at the lodge. In all honesty, the PH could have taken me on a glorified snipe hunt, and I wouldn’t have known the difference, except when I heard the barking. Evidently, bushbucks love to bark, especially when alarmed. I didn’t know this. In all honesty, I didn’t think the trip was going to happen about two weeks before we left and, if it did, I didn’t think I would pursue a bushbuck. Thus, I knew nothing about bushbucks! However, I learned fairly quickly that they bark. And, unfortunately, since I can be as graceful as a beached whale when going through thick bush, I spooked a lot of bushbucks during our hunt. The barking became akin to continuous taunting from those little b******s.
    • However, Lady Luck was on my side, and I did land a ram (~14.8”).
    • I cannot stress this enough, but THEY BARK!
  • The NYALA
    • We also had a tag for a nyala from the auction and, again based on my luck and my brother’s pursuit of a zebra, I was delegated this tag. The nyala hunt was rather uneventful, but I did land a beautiful nyala (~26.7”).
The above summarizes the key events of my hunts but omits many wonderful stories about my dad’s and brother’s hunts. My dad ended up getting his zebra, along with a roan and a monster eland (which my brother and I had to convince him to go after). My brother ended up with an impala, eland, sable, buffalo, kudu, and roan. They all have some amazing stories, especially the stories involving my dad’s zebra, my brother’s buffalo, and the roans. However, since these aren’t my stories to tell, I won’t share them here. What I can tell you is that we all had an amazing time, and we will forever have this trip to bond over. Furthermore, our African experience provides us with a source of joy and happiness, while working through our grief of my mother’s passing. For me, in a way, my African experience and my mother are two sides of the same coin. To remember one, involves remembering the other. I am incredibly thankful for my African experience, and I consistently look back at it for strength during my grief. If you have read this far, then I thank you for allowing me to share my story with you.

EPILOGUE – As noted above, my wife was under the impression that I would come home with two or three trophies, at the most, and all would be Euro mounts. However, at the end of my trip, I came back with five future shoulder mounts and one Euro mount. Needless to say, my wife was not pleased. That being said, despite not being a fan of hunting, she understood the importance and significance of the trip and is allowing me to place five of my trophies in my home office when they arrive. Except for the buffalo. Fritz is going on a pedestal mount in the corner of my basement so that he will stare at the couch from the right of the TV. This will position him so that any future suitors of my daughters will have to stare at Fritz while down there. My hope is that this will convey to said suitors that: (1) my daughters’ father has taken down the Black Death and (2) has intimate knowledge on how to operate a large caliber rifle. I imagine these are two important things for future suitors to know in the future.

Buffalo - No Face.jpg
 
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yhc

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Welcome to AH, Karl. What a grand entrance/1st post!!

Glad you got to spend some quality time with your dad. And sorry about your mom’s passing.

Regards,
 

Firebird

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I’m sorry about your mother. Welcome to the site and thanks for sharing. Who did you hunt with in the Limpopo?
 

BRICKBURN

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Congratulations on your hunting success and family time.
Condolences on your moms passing. Glad the shirt was lucky.

Welcome to AH.
 

Von Gruff

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Impressive intorduction Hemmingway's Karl. Welcome to the A H forums.
 

mark-hunter

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Welcome to AH, Karl!
Great story, thanks for sharing!

Can you share some ppics?
 

R.M.C.

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Sorry to hear about the passing of your mother, I went on my first safari in Limpopo. Who did you hunt with? By the way, welcome to the forum!!
 

cls

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Welcome to AH , great intro. Congratulations and thank you.
 

slam8031

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I enjoyed your first safari story. Having dealt with cancer in a parent, prayers for your family! Congratulations on your first safari. And I share the same projected message to the suitors of my daughters!!!
 

Hemingway's Karl

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Thank you all for the warm welcome and condolences! I've been wanting to share my story for awhile, but I just had to take the time and consideration to write it all up. We hunted with Quagga Safaris, who was a top notch organization that I cannot speak highly enough about. They were wonderful people and the PH's were awesome.

As for pictures, I'll try to add some here soon, especially of my buffalo.

Thanks again for the warm welcome and I look forward to posting here in the future!
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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No need to thank me for reading your report, thank you for taking the time to write it. I enjoyed it greatly. That was a great introduction to hunting that would be very hard to top. Condolences on losing your mom, my mom passed away in June this year after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.
 

Red Leg

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Really well written. Thank you for making us part of such a special experience.
 

Bullthrower338

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Welcome aboard! Great intro, Limpopo is a cool place, go back and see what else she has to offer, Africa never disappoints
 

375Fox

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Very well written. Just curious, were your dad and brother not always hunters? I couldn’t imagine growing up with a hunting family and not hunting, but I’m glad you’ve started now.
 

Tra3

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Thank you for the post! It sounds like you had an excellent hunt.
 

Mekaniks

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:S Welcome: Welcome to AH. What a great first hunt and thank you for the report
 

Tally-Ho HUNTING SAFARIS

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welcome welcome welcome

great first post
 

Fatback

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Congrats on a tremendous first safari. Sounds like a wonderful experience. Also, CANCER SUCKS!! Sorry for your loss, may your grief fade and you be left with the wonderful memories of your mom. God bless.
 

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