LION HUNT IN THE KALAHARI
The adventure began on a hunt in South Africa in early 2020 with my brother and Marius Goosen from @KMG Hunting Safaris. It was my first African Safari. Covid had just started and no one was taking much notice in Africa. Anyway we started talking about getting a lion and elephant and Marius immediately accepted the challenge. Well the hunt was delayed until this year (2022) in October due to the Covid and other challenges. The Elephant hunt was cancelled due to SA politics with misguided conservationists.
During Covid I started dreaming of having my own heirloom quality big caliber rifle that would be something that I could pass on to my son one day. After searching the internet and talking to my brother, I chose the Mauser 98 Expert in .416 Rigby. A gun shop in Melbourne ordered it after a 50% down payment. Only one Bank was willing to transfer the funds despite everything being legal. The Mauser was delayed one year due to the factory in Germany shut down with Covid. Fortunately I took delivery of the rifle 4 months before the trip to Africa. I went with my wife to try it on the only long distance shooting range in Victoria. I put it on a stand and tentatively pulled the trigger. The gun and stand jumped and I got a nasty cut on the forehead which my wife bandaged. I continued shooting and was utterly surprised at how accurate the rifle shooting 400gr Barnes at 100m. Amazing.
I booked tickets on Qantas however not understanding the export license did not get prior approval till I got to the Airport in Sydney. The Border Force officer was pretty mad but in the end a nice lady there helped me with my papers.
The Qantas flight to Johannesburg was nice and the food was good. The selection of Australian wines was also good. We arrived in Tambo Airport and as I stepped out from the plane a man dressed in a black suit had my name on a card. This was due to the greeting service I had booked with Rifles.com. We picked up my suitcase then we out of the arrival area and I was met by a couple who took me to the police office to clear the rifle. They then took me to the Intercontinental Airport Hotel which is quite luxurious. The seafood is first class. I spent the night there with my rifle and luggage and next morning met Marius in the lobby. After a meal we boarded a minibus he had chartered and we drove to a suburb on the outskirts of Johannesburg.
We stopped at a heavily fortified house where Marius picked up his double rifle for backup. From there we went to a small airport where we met a jovial gentleman, Gevan, who turned out to be the pilot of our Single Engined Cessna 207 with a STOL kit. We took our rifles out of the hard cases which we left in the hangar and placed them in soft cases.
The flight took about 2 hours over the Kalahari desert. I sat in the back with the luggage and had enough leg room. I was pretty nervous, however, Gevan assured me that he could land the plane anywhere; and there were indeed lots of dirt roads or tracks crisscrossing the area. Finally we got to our destination and after a couple of high speed flyovers to chase springbok for the landing strip Gevan landed the plane.
We were met by our host, Freddy the owner of the property, a large heavy set gentleman of few words who was packing a 9mm Glock which never left his side. Our videographer Martin from Africa Sun was also there. First of all, Gevan drove the plane into a fenced area which was then locked. The reason being the antelope like to rub their horns on planes and end up bursting tires and making holes in the aluminum body.
From the airstrip we made our way to the accommodation which was quite decent. It even had air-conditioning and hot and cold water. Laundry provided every day. Glad I took along insect repellant though and plenty of liquid soap and shampoo. The South African economy is having problems and the electricity goes out in scheduled outages (load sharing) so no light, water or wifi. Fortunately, the evenings are cool and no mosquitoes so you can sleep with the windows open. There was no problem with food and plenty of nice local beer in the fridge.
After we were assigned our rooms we left to sight in my Mauser 98. For some reason it did not seem to kick as hard and was quite comfortable to shoot. Tight group at 100m still. I asked Marius if we could shoot an antelope first but he said “No! Tomorrow we go straight for Lion!” Oh boy I thought. I studied pictures of Lion shot placement that evening and really could not sleep all that well.
We went to the club house at 6 AM, had coffee and cookies and left for the lion. Turns out our host had a large male lion roaming the property which had killed a young Eland some days before. We checked it out but there was nothing left of the kill, just dried skin. So we went drove along all the dirt roads looking for tracks and finally one of our trackers Piet, who was of bushmen descent saw something in the distance. We got out of the Toyota and walked over to a large shady tree surrounded by grass and bushes. There was a black maned lion under the tree. You could only see the head. It had killed an antelope which turned out to be a Kudu and was guarding it.
Freddy motioned for me to follow him. The lion growled and made a mock charge. Marius gestured for me to get back. We circled the tree with the lion glaring at us. Finally Marius put up the sticks and our host said in a low voice: “Aim at the mouth. When he turns his head fire!” Well that’s what I did. I aimed at the mouth with my Mauser in .416 Rigby. The image was clear in the Minox 1-5X scope. The wind started to blow and the lion turned its head to the right. Our host whispered: “Fire!” I pressed the trigger and the rifle spoke. I did not feel any recoil at all. The lion grunted and jumped straight vertically up in the air. All I could think was “my gosh he is big!” I had instantly reloaded but he bounded out of sight behind some trees and bushes. We followed behind Piet the bushman and after a short distance Piet pointed to him lying under a bush. Out host said: “Shoot him in the spine”! Without hesitation I aimed at the middle of his back and fired. The lion did not move. We carefully walked over to him and Marius touched the tip of his barrel to the lion’s eye. There was not reaction.
I was so excited and thrilled at actually having taken an African Lion. Just stuff I had dreamt about since I was a teenager and read all those safari books that my father’s friends gave me including Hunter by John Hunter, my favorite. My gosh, here I was at 69 years of age and finally got a magnificent male lion.
Well the rest of the trip we hunted antelope because I wanted to get a Kudu. It was difficult and we walked 2 hours the next day to find a nice springbok at around 120m which I shot with the Mauser like everything else. During the following days I got a beautiful Kudu, Lechwe, Impala, Springbuck and to top it off at the end of the trip shot a magnificent Cape Buffalo.
This was my second buffalo but the first I shot with my own rifle. Pre covid I shot one with a rented .375 which did not go through the chest but skipped along the ribcage and it had to be followed up. This time the Barnes 400gr bullet went into the chest cavity, albeit a bit low but severed the arteries. The buffalo ran of but 5 minutes later we heard the death bellow and found him stone dead under a tree.
I hope you find this short tale of my hunt in the Kalahari interesting.
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