I had not originally planned to return to South Africa in 2017, or frankly, any time soon. That's not because I don't like South Africa - on the contrary, it's one of the nicest countries I have ever hunted. It's just that apart from the African wildcat, the Suni and the Sharpe's grysbok, there isn't any trophy there that I really need, and those which I do need, I can find in other places which I've yet to hunt. Having said that, I have always enjoyed hunting with John Tinley, who has had the misfortune, perhaps, of being my PH for each of my four or five hunts in South Africa. So when a couple of friends who had never been to Africa asked if I could help them with a lion hunt, I was more than happy to call John and see what he could put together. We all agreed that I would go along, more as an observer than a hunter, but as things turned out, that wasn't exactly the case. Apart from the fact that I was going to South Africa without a really defined trophy list, or in fact any trophy list, I was also going without my rifles. First, my main plains game rifle, a .300 Win mag, was destroyed on the return flight from a hunt in Benin earlier this year, and while the airline finally accepted responsibility, it’s still with the original gunmaker, waiting for a new stock. Secondly, and more importantly, I would be spending 4 days on my return in the UK, and while I could have found someone to hold the rifle in bond while I was visiting London, it just seemed like a lot of hassle, especially if I wasn’t really going to be hunting. As it turns out, this was an excellent decision, although more through luck than foresight. Some few days after I sent John Tinley a note asking about the hunting, he asked if I had any issues if he went through Beans du Preez, a good friend of his who owns and operates Tootabi Valley Safaris. I had “met” Beans (or “Bone” in Afrikaans – pronounced like “Buena”) on AH and I was pleased he’d jumped aboard. John asked me what I was interested in hunting, and I told him that apart from a couple of zebra to make some gun bags, I had no plans, but that the others were on their first hunts to Africa so would want the normal plains game trophies in addition to the lions. John asked if we’d ever thought about culling. I had culled some older animals in the past, and have found the hunts to be just as much fun as ‘trophy’ hunts, so I said sure. Again, this turned out to be a great decision, and again, that was more luck than foresight. So all was planned fairly quickly. We would start the 10 days of hunting in the Northern Province at Serape Safaris, where we would hunt for two lions and a lioness along with some trophy animals, and then move to the Eastern Cape, where we would hunt the Karoo, finishing off the hunt by spending a couple of days at Bean’s place about an hour from Port Elizabeth. And then a week before departure, one of my friends was diagnosed with a heart condition that required treatment fairly quickly, putting an end to his safari. Our fourth had dropped out early, pleading family or some such reason. John and Beans were very good about it all, even though this meant an enormous change in plans – we would drop one PH, leaving us with John and Beans, and we would have to drop some of the culling we were scheduled to do. I wasn’t sure why we would change our culling, but I was to find out. In any event, they adapted very quickly, and the two of us remaining (I’ll call my friend “Grant”) left Calgary for Kimberley via London and Johannesburg in early July. After a series of delays on the last leg of our flight (note to SAA: We appreciate you having another airplane available when ours can’t fly, but, for future reference, when you change out a turbo-prop for a jet, you will also need a pilot who can fly a jet), we finally arrived in Kimberley, and were met by our PH’s. It was good to see John again – our last hunt had been the very successful hunt last year in the Limpopo for nocturnal animals – not exactly stress free, but a great success. After a three-hour drive, we arrived at Serapa Safaris, late in the day. A quick bite, and we were off to bed, looking forward to the start of our hunt the next day. I should put in a caveat here. I didn’t take a lot of pictures. I wasn’t trophy hunting, so didn’t take pictures of most of the kills. In fact, as things turned out, I’d have had to have named all of them and painted the name on the carcass to tell them apart, but more on that later. And another caveat. This isn’t my normal hunt report, simply because it isn’t a ‘normal’ hunt.