Some things I learned on my first safari (warning long post)

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Deleted member 43267

Just got back, and the return trip arrangements were begun before I left Africa. I learned a lot, and made some both good and poor choices with gear and such. Here are some opinions, and they are geared toward people that might be going for the first time.

There are three factors that will contribute to a successful hunt more than anything: 1) listen to your PH and do what they tell you to do, 2) listen to your PH and do what they tell you to do, and 3) guess. I had vowed beforehand to to that, and it worked. Except for one time, and it turned out OK despite my idiocy (there were two bull gemsbok, not one, and I shot the wrong one. He was still a beautiful trophy but slightly smaller than the one I was supposed to wait for. )

Let the PH and tracker spot and track; your job is to watch them and follow them quietly as possible. If they freeze, you freeze. If they take a knee slowly, you take a knee slowly. If they crawl, you crawl. Just be a giant copycat. I spent a lot of time staring at where to put my feet so as to not make noise. Just step where they have stepped.

I found LL Bean long tropical cargo pants to be almost perfect, and saved my legs when we had to sprint into position or get close quick to make sure an animal was really down. But, they are a bit baggy in the legs and swish and catch thorns. Next time, I am bringing some elastic bands to rein in the extra fabric. They come in an olive that is perfect.

I lucked out and had a chance to pick up a leather belt cartridge case in Johannesburg that held 5 cartridges. I learned later that nothing screams NOVICE louder than a full cartridge belt and giant knife. I filled it the day before the hunt, and worked cartridges in and out until it loosened up so they could be extracted when needed. Light, and was the only thing that did not snag.

I also lucked out and found Jonsson short sleeved shirts in Johannesburg. They were super light and perfect for hot afternoons. The oversized breast pockets were perfect for my iphone (used as camera). I had brought some Tag shirts, and they are tough but so well made they were a bit hot in the afternoons.

Merrill moab ventilator boots kept my feet dry and comfortable, but were not as quiet as Russells that I wish I would have had. Tried tennis shoes one day but that was a disaster and my toes were trashed by sunset. Somewhere there must be affordable quiet footwear that goes beyond running shoe protection but is not a vibram soled noisy boot.

Jeez, do not forget your sunscreen and chapstick. I did not, but would have died.

I brought candy to pass out as treats, but the most popular snack was biltong. People almost fought over it. Not really, but they loved it. Buy some in town, and do not let them wrap in plastic. Store in a paper bag so it does not mold.

Next time, I am bringing a tiny bottle of gun oil. My rifle bolt got super dry, and we had to scrounge some in camp.

It seemed that all my optics were covered with dust, all the time. I had brought tons of CVS lens wipes, but my PH taught me to lick the lenses to get the grit off before using them. That way I was not grinding stuff into the glass. Best trick ever.

My biggest screw up is not bringing a light down jacket. Looked at the weather forecast that called for 90-95 cloudless daytime temps and thought that it could not get that cold at night. So stupidly wrong. I did have a shell, but longed for that jacket every night.

We did it so correctly by hunting during the dark of the moon. Seeing the milky way and the southern cross each night was beyond cool. I missed more than a few animals on the night game viewing drives because I was looking up all the time.

I think that I also did something that helped; I told my PH that we should go for nice, representative examples of animals and that he should recommend what to shoot. I think it made his life easier, and I filled my tags by Thursday morning with beautiful individuals. That was good because a cold front rolled through and put everything down the next day. Had I held out for specific sizes, I might have gone home disappointed. A veteran hunter might be OK with this, but if it is your first time you naturally want to be successful. AND, it led to some unexpected fun. We used the extra time to hunt guinea fowl, which I renamed "flying eland." And evenings were spent calling in jackals.

I am convinced that had I not practiced shooting on sticks, I would have come home with nothing but empty shell casings. I even practiced slowly mounting the gun and getting a sight picture. Again, that was valuable. I was still a wreck with adrenaline, but found that when everything is shaking, you can move the crosshairs off target, and move them back on slowly. Squeeze as they hit the sweet spot. That was my technique of last resort, and it got me an eland (separate post for that tale).

People do not like to talk about it, but all of us had digestive upsets from the travel, time change, water, change in diet, and the fact that you are encountering novel bacterial strains. Foreign tourists get sick when they visit the U.S., and the same is true for U.S. people when they travel. My travel doc told me to take a pepto bismal tablet every morning, and one with dinner. It keeps things under control, and can stave off the real bad stuff should you encounter it. It worked.

But here is the thing. The angling writer John Gierach was talking about fly fishing, and he described it as beautiful beyond description. Africa, the people, and the wildlife are the same. And he went on to say that when a certain type of person is touched by a certain type of beauty, your life is either saved or ruined forever. My life was saved, my bank account is going to be ruined in perpetuity, and I do not care one bit. All the posts about Africa getting in your blood are some of the truest statements ever written. Only 332 days until the next trip and counting every one.

Thanks for reading ...

Jeff
 

JPbowhunter

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Great to hear you had a good trip and some useful information for travels for sure.

For me personally if i get to Africa someday (and I truly hope to) I would need to have a hunt where i had as much control as possible in the tracking/hunting and trophy assessing. If that meant I came home with a couple lower side of average animals as opposed to half a dozen big ones I'd consider it worthwhile. But then again i love diy/unguided hunting, have done it on 3 continents so far (elk hunt in WY in 2020 will be no.4) and don't care too much for being a trigger man. I think thats one of the great things about hunting though, what we want out of it and how we go about it can be so varied and it's all as valid as the next person's way of doing things.

Practising on sticks is definitely something worth mentioning, i didnt before i hunted in scotland and it cost me a nice roe buck!

Congrats again on what sounds like an amazing trip mate
 

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Like the Queen song, another one bites the dust. :LOL: Good luck with the bank account. :whistle::LOL: I hear you on the down jacket. Fortunately my PH helped out with heavy Czech army coats. Ironic on my first trip in '13, front page news was snow somewhere in the mountains. It was then I knew I wasn't in the Africa of the movies.
 
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Deleted member 43267

JP,

Thanks for your kind words. In reading over my post, it may have sounded like I was just following. I was, but the truth is that it was a team effort, and we were successful because we formed a good one. I forgot to mention that each of us wrote a letter to out outfitter outlining what type of experience we were looking for, and she paired us with the PH that she thought best suited our needs. So you do have quite a bit of say in the type of hunt you want. In my case, every animal I saw looked like a magnificent trophy because my prior experience was with whitetail deer only. It was only late in the week that I was able to discern SOME of the differences. That is why I let the PH recommend specific shots or animals. And trust me, I did not end up with merely average trophies, on some of my animals even the PH's and tracker's hands were shaking as we closed in. They were that good. :)
 

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Merrill moab ventilator boots ($109) kept my feet dry and comfortable, but were not as quiet as Russells ($450) that I wish I would have had. Tried tennis shoes one day but that was a disaster and my toes were trashed by sunset. Somewhere there must be affordable quiet footwear that goes beyond running shoe protection but is not a vibram soled noisy boot.

My wife and I have spent the summer Breaking in our Merrill moab ventilator boots hiking the Adirondack Mtns. We found them perfect and didn't think they were noisy?

How bad were they?
 
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Nyati

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That was good advice for a first timer, Jeff (y)
 

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Great post and good insight.


but my PH taught me to lick the lenses to get the grit off before using them. That way I was not grinding stuff into the glass. Best trick ever.
if he was taking pictures of you while you did this you may have a different idea of his "advice":unsure:;)
 
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D

Deleted member 43267

My wife and I have spent the summer Breaking in our Merrill moab ventilator boots hiking the Adirondack Mtns. We found them perfect and didn't think they were noisy?

How bad were they?

They were not bad, just noisier than my PH, who hunted barefoot (Yes, he really did this) and my bushman tracker. He wore boots, but had a stride, gait, and foot placement that kept him ghosting along. I would recommend Merrills and will definitely wear them again, but you have to work at it with harder soles. You are walking in sand, trying not to step on sticks or loose rocks, trying to ease under or around plants with wicked thorns, and all the time trying not to be the guy that messes it all up so the stalk has to begin again. It is tiring gait for many who have not hunted that habitat and it was for me until I got used to it. I did get better through the week, and did learn how to navigate with more dexterity. On the last big-game day I crossed a loose rocky patch while crouched and my tracker gave me a thumbs up. Kudu spotted us anyway (we got him later). Yeah, there were times when I longed for a pair of Russells with gum soles, but you would still have to stalk with the same care. Truth is, as the next trip approaches I will look at Russells but will turn them down in favor of my present boots and put the didn't-buy-it money toward an additional trophy fee.
 

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Dear sir, as an outfitter in Africa I am speechless ! You truly touched me and I would urge everybody to read, interpret and apply what you have said ! We are only the architects and each hunter “writes” his own story. By listening and carefully observing, every story WILL end happily ! Congrats on your trophies and thanks you from all outfitters
 

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On the lens of the binoculars, scope, or camera pick up a lens brush at a camera shop. It has soft bristles and you can shoot a puff of air onto the lens for heaver dust. Cabela's used to sell a pencil type of cleaner that had a brush and cleaning fluid in it to clean the len's of your optics.

On boots I wore a pair of Merrell's hikers and had no problem staying quite silent as I followed my PH. Most of this you have to learn on your foot placement and weight distribution. However if your boots or shoes are squeaky then nothing will help.
 

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