SOUTH AFRICA: Hunt With Tootabi Valley Safaris 2017


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Jan 12, 2010
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SCI, DU, Pheasants Forever
Canada, United States, Zimbabwe, South Africa (Eastern Cape; Northern Cape; North West Province, Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo), Namibia, Cameroon, Benin, Ethiopia, Liberia, Argentina
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.

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Been waiting on this one!!!!
Heard beans is an awesome dude!
Looking forward to it!
This should be good. Looking forward to it.

Agree with Riksa. Your hunts are always exceptional one way or the other!!!
Good start Hank!
With all due respect, do you ever have normal hunts :ROFLMAO:

Anyway, very much looking forward to the story. Keep it coming!

I'd like to nominate this for post of the week please.
Looking forward to the rest of the story Hank!
With all due respect, do you ever have normal hunts :ROFLMAO:

Did I forget to mention I was the sensitive type?

Agree with Riksa. Your hunts are always exceptional one way or the other!!!

Two of you at this now?

I'd like to nominate this for post of the week please.

Now this is just piling on. Likely amounts to cyber-bullying. In fact, I feel bullied.

I think all of my hunts have been relatively normal. It's the people I hunt with who might be just a bit off.
Day 1

We had breakfast at 7 am, and decided Grant would start looking for lion immediately, while I would start looking for old, broken down, or otherwise decrepit animals. So once breakfast was done, we headed out to the range to check the rifles we would be using. Beans had brought two different rifles for Grant – a .270 with a suppressor and a bigger rifle for dangerous game in some metric caliber which I tried (obviously successfully) to forget the moment I heard it, without a suppressor.

John had brought two rifles for me – a .300 win mag and a 25-06, both Rugers, and both with suppressors (no metric calibers for me). I had not given much thought to suppressors (they are illegal in Canada, apparently because they completely silence a gun, and if we could do that, we'd be a nation of assassins and then we wouldn't be nearly so polite anymore), although I had used a .223 with a suppressor once before in South Africa for jackal shooting. While you couldn’t say that the sound of the rifle wasn’t loud (what, it's not silent? Who knew!), the suppressor took the ‘crack’ out of the shot, which was certainly nice. More importantly though – and this was something I hadn’t focused on before – the suppressor eliminated much of the recoil. I still had no idea how many shots I’d be taking, so I didn’t realize how important this feature would be, but believe me, I do now!

After determining that all of the rifles were on, both Grant and I headed out. I asked Beans to let us know if they thought they were on a hot track, if they had the time. I wanted to be an observer on a lion hunt, if possible. Serapa provided their own PH for the lion hunt – Pulle, a sturdy Afrikaans rancher from a place called Terra Firma, a few hours further north into the Kalahari – which I had actually visited, if you can say you visited a place with about two buildings! Pulle seemed to know his stuff – and I discovered he had learned about cats the hard way. One of his arms was very badly scarred – it seems he had had a bit of a set-to with a leopard on his ranch. The leopard apparently got the worst of it, but Pulle had more than a few scars to remember the occasion. I was to see for myself shortly that Pulle had strong nerves. I think we had Pulle because Beans is spending much of his time thinking about, and planning, for his upcoming wedding, and humming wedding marches. And has a permanent silly grin on his face. I understand that - most people told me he would never get married (not for lack of trying, just for lack of candidates, suitable or otherwise), but you can't hunt lion with a silly grin (this isn't a Monty Python sketch).

We began, as one does in Africa, by driving around, getting a feel for the property and the terrain. This area was generally flat, and the ground was very sandy, but the vegetation ranged from low scrub to relatively thick bushes and trees. There seemed to be a good population of wildlife – in the first hour we saw zebra, sable, impala, warthog, giraffe, duiker, and a variety of other game. At one point, as we were driving, we passed an old looking gemsbok, which stared at us. John thought it would make a fine first target, so we stopped some few hundred yards further on, got the rifles, and began to slowly stalk back. I should point out that while I had the .300, John was carrying his .450 Rigby, as he would every time we got off the truck on the property; there were at least two lions we knew about somewhere in the vicinity (I later heard there were more), as well as buffalo. Not a place to take chances.

As we began to walk back to where the gemsbok had been, it had either smelled us or had seen us, because it wasn’t there. But one of the features of Kalahari sand is that a good tracker can find most animals, and ours was no exception. So the stalk was on. About an hour later, having backtracked over our tracks once, I decided, as I usually do in these circumstances, that the tracker had no idea where he was going, but was happy enough to go for a long walk. And as soon as I decided that, we spotted the gemsbok with a female and some blue wildebeest resting in a shaded area.

John quickly got the sticks, and, crouching, we slowly made our way to a bush. We could go no further, but the distance was about 175 yards, so I had no concerns. John put the sticks up, and I quickly identified the gemsbok. But he was in front of a wildebeest, and shooting Barnes TTSX’s, both John and I were concerned that the bullet would exit and hit another animal (I didn't exactly rate the levels of concern but if I had, John's might have been marginally higher than mine). And so we waited, and every time I got ready, another animal either walked in front or behind my target. After what seemed like an eternity, I finally got a clear shot, and even though it was a frontal shot, I took it.

The gemsbok dropped as if hit by lightening, so I quickly reloaded and got ready for a second shot. The second shot proved unnecessary, since he wasn’t going anywhere. As it turned out, the bullet entered a bit higher than I had been aiming, and likely broke the spine as it dropped into the body. Something – either bone fragments or the bullet – also caught the top of the lungs since he was bleeding from the mouth and nose (there was a bit of an angle to the shot), and that was that. An old warrior, with most of his teeth gone or going, and losing condition.


This was a trophy to be proud of. First, it came after an hour and a half of stalking; secondly, it was more than old enough; and thirdly, it set a record for Serapa. You may laugh, but it's true. This was the smallest gemsbok ever taken by a hunter on the property – 23 inches! And all of that fun for half the regular trophy fee! I had found my calling. Send me your tired, your old, your decrepit, yearning for release. I am ready to do what is required. At half price.

We returned to camp to drop off my prize and to grab some lunch. Grant came in not much later. They (actually, he) had seen the lioness while driving looking for tracks, and they had tracked it all morning.

After lunch we headed out together. Three hours of stalking, walking more or less in (big) circles on sandy ground. If you haven’t tried that, I suggest you do – you will become much better acquainted with muscles in your feet and calves that you didn’t even know you had.

Just at the point where Grant whispered to me “I think he (the tracker) doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing . . .” we caught sight of the lioness in a tree some few hundred yards ahead. Circling and circling, and for three hours, the tracker had kept us on the track. But to no avail. We ran, but the lioness was faster, and the day ended with tired hunters but no prize.
Great report so far! Looking forward to the rest.

Hunting in the Kalahari, especially for lion is an exceptional treat. It's amazing how you can track an animal through the sand for miles.

while the airline finally accepted responsibility,
Glad to hear they took responsibility for that debacle.

Looking forward to reading all about it Hank.
OK. I think you guys are putting too much pressure on. Really, I told you at the beginning this wouldn't be a normal hunt report. There isn't even an ostrich in this one! So let's all settle down, and get the expectations in line.(y)

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