SOUTH AFRICA: Two Weeks With Motshwere Safaris & Outfitters

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by chonk34, Jul 10, 2019.

  1. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    My dad recently retired from the military and to celebrate, he booked a two-week safari through Werner Lewies’ Motshwere Safaris near Lephalale, Limpopo Province, South Africa. Hunting a Cape Buffalo was one of his dreams, and he also added a modified spiral horn package to his hunt. His package included a free observer, so he invited me to go along. I didn’t want to go all the way to Africa just to watch, so I signed up for a basic plains game package for myself and we brought along my dad’s uncle as an observer.

    We chose Motshwere because my dad’s neighbor recommended them, as he has hunted with them before. The neighbor was also hunting with Motshwere this year with his son and a friend, and their trip overlapped ours by about a week. We met Werner and some of his staff in person at the Western Hunting & Conservation Expo in February 2019, where we reworked my package to take advantage of one of his show specials. He struck me as a pretty fast talker and a salesman, but he also answered the list of questions we brought regarding rifle selection, ammunition, optics, travel arrangements, and pricing. My dad has limited experience with big-game hunting and I had never hunted anything before (I shot in the vicinity of a duck with the world’s worst shotgun once during my teenage years), although we both have done a fair amount of shooting on the farm and in our military careers.

    Although I wasn’t a member of this forum at the time, I did read quite a few threads here during my preparation, as well as numerous other pages and reference books. Doing that ensured that we had our customs paperwork correct, our SAPS 520 forms filled out correctly, and the appropriate gear packed.

    Our hunt was booked for June 16-29, 2019. Our flights from Idaho to Atlanta and then direct to O. R. Tambo International Airport in South Africa were smooth, as our paperwork was in order. A representative from Motshwere met us at the airport and took us to the police station in the airport, where our firearm import paperwork was processed. Again, our forms were correct and we didn’t have any trouble. It was dark outside by that time, and the representative took us to dinner and checked us in to a guest house in Pretoria for the night, explaining that it would be nicer to drive to the lodge in the daylight so that we could see the landscape and wildlife.

    In the morning we awoke to plenty of birdsong and had breakfast, then stood in the courtyard of the guest house and looked at the many birds while waiting for our ride. He showed up at the appointed time and we traveled to the Motshwere property. My first thoughts as we drove through the country were that the brush was a lot thicker than I envisioned. Much of the terrain reminded me of my native Idaho, just with different animals and more thorns. We saw a fair amount of wildlife on the drive, and I was glad that they chose to put us up for the night and travel in the daylight.

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    Upon our arrival we were greeted by Werner, his family, and the Lodge Manager, Elmari. Elmari showed us around, introduced us to Kenny, the chef, and showed us our rooms. She explained that my dad and I would have to share a room for two days, but then we would be able to expand out to individual rooms.



    After the two days, we did indeed split out into individual rooms and the three of us shared a mini-lodge with one other guest. The mini-lodge had four bedrooms, each with an individual bathroom, an indoor shower, an outdoor shower, and a porch. There was a common room in the center with a couple of couches, a fridge, a big television, and a kitchen area.



    Out back was a small fire ring, but I only ever saw people at the main fire ring in the center of the compound, which was furnished with camp chairs and carved log seats.


    There were several new buildings being constructed; some lodging and an on-location day spa. Although the day spa was being built, Elmari and Stephanie, Werner’s wife, were very good about arranging outings for spouses or hunting parties that wanted to go out and get a massage, spa treatment, or do some shopping. The grounds were well-kept, and the staff were all attentive and welcoming. Before dinner we were able to get our rifles out on the range and make sure we hadn’t lost our zeroes in transit. Dinner was amazing, and really every meal was great. I believe Kenny started out as a pastry chef, and he can sure turn out some desserts and breakfast pastries. The rest of the food was top-notch as well, and most dinners included at least one type of game meat. Dinner is always eventful at Motshwere. Werner uses dinner as an occasion to celebrate those hunters who have had a good day, tease hunters who have had things go wrong that day, and maybe try to get people who are nearing the end of their package to join him after dinner to swipe their credit cards for another animal or two.



    My dad’s neighbor had already been in camp for a few days when we arrived so he showed us around camp after dinner, including the skinning shed and the horn room. Although I didn’t measure any of my trophies, it was fun to learn everyone’s tag numbers and spend part of each evening in the horn room, comparing skulls and debating the relative merits of each specimen. After getting our bearings for a bit and hanging out by the fire with some of the other hunters we headed for bed. Although this was technically Day 1 of our 14-day hunt, we didn’t do any hunting. We were assured that there was plenty of time to fill out our packages, though.


     
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  2. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    Day 1 of 13

    This was a pretty busy day for us. With so many animals open across the two packages, we weren’t really hunting for anything specific. Game was plentiful, and we overshot our pace by a little bit. Almost directly out of the gate we ran into a beautiful Nyala bull that my dad took with a perfect shoulder shot as it ran into the brush.


    We spent the rest of the morning chasing groups of Gemsbok and Zebra that were running around in the same area. The Zebra finally stopped for a second with one of them standing broadside to me, facing left. I took the shot, trying to remember the guidance in my The Perfect Shot book. At the shot, the Zebra wheeled around to the right and disappeared into the brush. The PH and the tracker looked at the tracks in the dirt and eventually came up with the blood trail. We followed the Zebra through the brush, with the tracker pointing out spots of blood as we came across them. This was the first animal I’d ever hunted, so the PH coached me as we walked. Now that the animal was wounded, he wanted me to shoot it wherever a shot presented itself, rather than waiting for the perfect presentation. We nearly lost the track going across a clear area, but picked it up again and soon saw the Zebra resting underneath some brush. I still had some nerves going on, and I was unable to get a shot off before it ran again. It didn’t run very far this time, though, and when we saw it again I fired a quick shot before it ran off again. This time I had hit it in the vitals, though, and it only went another twenty yards or so before collapsing and dying. Upon inspection, we saw that my initial shot was at the right height, but too far back. On the range I had noticed a tendency to fling shots to the right when I missed, and that was an issue that would plague me from time to time on this trip. The Zebra was beautiful, with wonderful sharp stripes and patterns. I had wanted to hunt only male animals that were past their breeding prime, but in this case I had shot a female Zebra and wounded it with a bad first shot to boot. Since this was my first successful hunt, the PH initiated me to the hunting fraternity by marking my face with blood from my Zebra. I was impressed with the respect that all of Werner’s PH’s showed for the animals we hunted, usually touching their foreheads once they were down and saying a few words. I think that hunting is a vital part of conservation and game population sustainment, but I was glad to see that they showed respect for the lives of the individual animals we killed.

     

  3. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    Day 1 of 13, continued

    After the ordeal with the Zebra we went back to the lodge for lunch and a nap. Once that was done we met back up and went out to see if we could track down a Gemsbok. While chasing Gemsbok all over creation we spotted a group of Eland with a promising-looking bull and my dad dismounted with the PH to go take a look. After his perfect shot on the Nyala it was his turn to get buck fever, and his first shot on the Eland passed through the bull’s dewlap. The Eland ran into the brush and stopped for just long enough that my dad was able to steady himself and put a good shot as he quartered away, entering from the right side and crossing through his front left shoulder, dropping him.


    Once the Eland had been picked up and taken back to the skinning shed, we went back to our hunt for Gemsbok. I put in a nice long stalk on some of them, but once we got within shooting range there weren’t any good candidates in the group. After another failed stalk or two by me, my uncle took a turn looking for a Gemsbok, and he had some good luck. He finally got one to stand still long enough to get a shot off. It wasn’t a perfect shot, as it was too far back, but it hit the spine and fixed the Gemsbok in place so that there was no tracking involved. He was able to finish it off quickly and it was a beautiful specimen, with long horns and some characterful gouges on the growth rings.


    There was still some daylight left, so we kept chasing Gemsbok. I finally got a good look at one standing broadside to me facing left, and again I pulled my shot to the right, hitting it at the right elevation but too far back. The whole group of Gemsbok ran into some thick brush. The truck pulled up as the PH and I were looking into the trees, and we could see the Gemsbok standing in there, but we couldn’t see which one I had hit. Since it was gutshot, there wasn’t much blood at all, none of the Gemsbok were acting ‘off,’ and it was starting to get dark. Every time the truck stopped the Gemsbok would start running and every time it started driving again they would stop. The PH told the tracker to drive in circles around the area while he and I went in to see if we could find my animal. We walked around in the brush and looked at the Gemsbok for a long time. There were also some Blue Wildebeest in the brush that would circle around as we circled. Eventually one of the Gemsbok became separated from the others and stood still for a long time. The PH could not spot any marks or blood on him, though, and couldn’t tell me 100% that it was my wounded animal. It was getting darker, and my dad and uncle were getting dizzy from going around and around in the truck. I didn’t want to guess wrong and end up shooting another animal, but I also didn’t feel right about leaving a wounded animal to suffer. The PH told me that he felt like the lone Gemsbok’s body language suggested it was the wounded one, and I decided to take the shot. I got lined up on the sticks and although the brush was blocking much of the animal, the PH talked me onto the right aiming point. I fired and the Gemsbok dropped. As we ran up to it we were finally able to see the wounds from my initial shot, meaning that this was my animal. I felt awful about my poor first shots on my Zebra and Gemsbok, and I was grateful for a good PH and tracker who helped make sure I didn’t lose an animal.


    At dinner Werner presented me with a beautiful carved bowl to celebrate the first successful hunt of my life. He also thanked us for having such a prolific day and began making threats toward my dad’s credit card.

     

  4. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    Day 2 of 13

    On Tuesday morning we drove a couple of hours to a game ranch southeast of the Motshwere property. As we drove up to the ranch we saw three fairly impressive Sable bulls loitering in the vicinity, and it became apparent that we were there to hunt one of them. Supposedly the Sable had full run of the ranch, but they happened to be right there. It was a weird situation. My dad’s uncle shot the biggest one and they gathered it up and took it over to the ranch’s skinning shed.

    I was happy to make the acquaintance of the ranch’s Basset Hound, as I have two Bassets at home. While they were skinning the Sable the Hound almost got away with the Sable’s testicles, but he got caught sneaking away with them and soundly scolded.

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    The hokey Sable hunt was one of the weirdest and most disappointing parts of the trip, but while they were skinning it out we had the opportunity to talk to the ranch owners at length about their business model and the industry in general. They explained that they were trying to get their three Sable bulls hunted out so that they could purchase a breeding herd that would hopefully be a little more wild. They also talked about how rare Sable had been, and how trophy hunting had increased the population of Sable and brought prices down to where game ranchers could afford to start herds. My dad raises Texas Longhorn cattle as a hobby and is trying to increase the horn length in his herd, so he was very happy to ask them questions about the game market and the particulars of game ranching. Most of the other hunters we talked to who had Sable on their list had similar experiences to ours, so we suspect that Motshwere doesn’t have an agreement in place with anyone who has some good wild Sable.

    After lunch we went out on a proper hunt on the ranch, which was a beautiful property with a small stream and a lot of rocky, hilly slopes. I took a look at a herd of Blue Wildebeest, but they were wary of us and kept to the brush. Supposedly there were hippos in the pond, but we never saw any of them. We also saw plenty of giraffes and a lot of Zebra.

    Finally we spotted some Kudu, and I chased them up and down the hillside for quite a while with the PH. They ran off to the west and disappeared, but as we walked back up the hill to the truck we spotted them circling back on a ridge above us. We must have had the wind and light in our favor, because every other time we’d seen them they had been running. There was a nice bull in the group and I fixed him in my sights, but my shot kept being blocked by cows, calves, a young bull, brush, and the fact that a Kudu bull can disappear in plain sight even when you’re staring right at him. It felt like forever, but it was probably fifteen minutes before he moved out from the herd enough for me to chance a shot. There was still a little bit of plant growth in the way, but I had a pretty good idea of where his shoulder was and I took the shot. He ran off to the right and up the hill, and we chased him. He made it about 100 feet and fell down dead among some rocks. I had been feeling pretty bad about wounding my first two animals, so when I saw that my shot on this Kudu had been true I got pretty choked up by the experience. What a beautiful animal, and a great hunt to go along with it. His horns were a little atypical, with one tip pointing forward and one pointing to the rear, and I couldn’t be happier with the hunt and the trophy.


    The second day started out kind of strange with the Sable incident, but talking business with the ranch owners and getting such a good chase out of my Kudu made for a good ending.
     

  5. flatwater bill

    flatwater bill AH Elite

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    chunk 34.............that was a mighty fine report..................I think you will return to Africa one day............that eland your dad shot is a very nice bull...............well done to all...................FWB
     
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  6. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    Day 3 of 13

    This was a pretty slow day. It seemed like we couldn’t get close to anything in the morning, no matter what we tried. In the afternoon we went out to a different property where it was rumored that there were some big warthogs. My dad and uncle sat in one blind and I sat in another. I did a lot of bird-watching throughout the afternoon, which I found quite enjoyable as there were probably 10-12 different species of all different shapes and colors. Very late in the day I saw three warthogs, but they were young or female. Then at last light a single Impala ram came by, and the PH told me to shoot. It was quartering toward me, so I fired at the front shoulder and got a good shot. It ran about fifty feet before it collapsed. I was consistently surprised at the toughness of the African game, as this Impala still ran that far without one leg and without most of his heart and lungs. I thought he had nice knobby horns, and as far as width he was as good as any other trophy in the horn room. I was most happy, though, that I had made another clean shot.

     

  7. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    Day 4 of 13

    This was the day of my dad’s big Cape Buffalo hunt. The early part of the morning was spent making sure my dad’s rifle was good to go. Because it’s a dangerous game animal his uncle and I were allowed to go to the property, but not actually go around with my dad, the PH and trackers.

    IMG_20190620_094311.jpg

    It was a good-sized ranch with plenty of dense scrub. The PH told my dad that if things went really bad he needed to climb a tree, but the trees all had massive thorns on their trunks. Maybe that wouldn’t be a deterrent in the case of a Buffalo charge. I don’t know.

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    We spotted the herd early on and they dismounted to start the stalk. At some point the herd merged with another herd, growing from about 10 animals up to probably well over three times that number. They followed the herd all morning and saw that a good bull was traveling with them, but the Buffalo were getting agitated and starting to move faster and they decided to stop for a bit and let the herd calm down. They had a pretty good idea of where the herd was, so they called for the truck and we set up in a clear spot where we could see a couple avenues out of the area where the tracks had gone. Just as soon as we got settled in for some sandwiches and fruit, we spotted a small group of Buffalo moving from an entirely different direction to the rear of us. The herd had split up again, and the bull my dad was chasing had circled around behind us.

    The PH and my dad ran out with the shooting sticks and the Buffalo ran up to take a look at them, deciding whether to charge or to run away. After a standoff one of the cows decided to run away, and the rest of the herd began to follow. As the bull turned to the side he presented a brief side view and my dad pulled the trigger. It looked like a good shot, but the bull turned and started running back into the brush. My dad, the PH, and the trackers all took off cautiously behind him, hoping to find him without much fight left in him.

    Image00020.jpg

    They found the bull back in the brush, clearly hurt but not ready to give up just yet. They circled around him, with the PH instructing my dad to take additional shots at his vitals from different angles. Eventually the bull gave in to his wounds and died, and my dad had his trophy Buffalo. Everything about the hunt was just what he had dreamed of, and as he took in the scene at the end of the hunt he got pretty emotional because it had been just what he wanted. The bull is just what he envisioned, with nice characterful bosses and perfectly-curled horns. It was great to be there to see him live out his dream and to see him get a Buffalo that met his expectations. This day really made the whole trip worthwhile, no matter what else happened.

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    Much ado was made about the Buffalo hunt in camp that evening, and it was a daily ritual to go to the horn shed and take a look at the impressive skull dominating one corner of the room. Werner complained from time to time that my dad’s Buffalo was costing him money, because hunters wanted him to promise that if they bought a Buffalo hunt, they could get a trophy that looked like that. Other hunters in the camp also complained to us that Werner wanted to sell them a Buffalo hunt, but wouldn’t promise them a trophy that looked like that.
     

  8. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    Day 5 of 13

    Apart from the first day we hadn’t had much luck in the mornings, but it was still cold out and we were just settling into our spotting rhythm when we spotted a herd of Blue Wildebeest in the new area we were hunting that day. I went out with the PH to scout them and he pointed out a good bull after we worked through the brush to a good position. I felt like I put a pretty good shot on him, but he took off running with the herd and got mixed in with the rest of them. It looked like he was going to get away wounded, but one of the other bulls in the herd slammed him from the side and broke his front leg in a couple of places. He stumbled into the brush away from the herd and we could hear him bellowing in there, so we followed. We spotted him from the back and I put a shot into his rear as he stumbled away. He didn’t go far, and when we caught him in a clearing he was spinning around in a circle. It was still cold enough to see your breath in the air, and he was shooting four-foot jets of vapor from his side where I had shot his lungs with my first shot. As we approached he fell over, shooting gusts of steam straight up into the sky. The PH told me that he was pretty much dead, but instructed me to place another shot into his chest to hasten the process. My first shot had been a good one, injuring his shoulder and puncturing his lungs, but he still fought on through a broken leg and a shot in the rear. My Blue Wildebeest certainly lived up to his reputation as a poor man’s Buffalo. What a tough and beautiful animal!


    After returning to the lodge and delivering my Blue Wildebeest to the skinning shed, we headed back out to see what else we could find. It wasn’t too long before we spotted a group of Blesbok a few hundred yards away. We hadn’t had any good shots at Blesbok yet, so I got down with the PH to see if we could close the distance. There wasn’t a lot of cover on this particular patch of ground, but we worked our way through what was there and got within 120 yards or so of them. The PH pointed out a good-looking male and after a bit he finally moved away from the others and turned so that I could get a good shot on him. My bullet went right where I wanted and he didn’t go far at all before he fell over. Once we walked up on him, we saw that one of his legs had been torn up pretty badly from attempted predation or fighting. My Blesbok was another wonderful trophy, and I was glad to have another clean kill after a good stalk.


    IMG_20190621_085149.jpg
     

  9. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

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    Day 5 of 13, continued

    It was still pretty early in the morning, but we were running through our list pretty quickly and we decided to call it until the afternoon. My dad had already begun negotiating with Werner on a plains game package to supplement his original contract, and I think it was around this time that he sealed the deal on one. There were several animals that hadn’t appealed to us before our trip, but seeing them in the wild sparked changed our perception of them. For me those animals included the Black Wildebeest and the Red Hartebeest. Both types of Wildebeest were so much fun to watch as they ran around and goofed off, and the Red Hartebeest were just a lot cooler-looking to me in person than they were in pictures. We found that prices were pretty easy to come by, as we would ask our PH what it might cost to add an animal to our package, he would radio back to Werner, and Werner would radio back with a price pretty quickly. Trades were a little harder to come by, but still we didn’t have any trouble negotiating on the fly. I read in a couple of previous threads that people had a hard time getting prices while hunting with Motshwere, and it looks like they have corrected that. Every room had a printed price list on the table by the bed when we arrived, and it was pretty easy to get a price on an animal on the fly or after dinner at the office, usually at a discount from the list price.

    In the afternoon my dad put a nice long stalk on a Zebra stallion, one of the animals he’d added in his new package. The herd was pretty skittish, so he was only able to close the distance to about 200 yards without them moving away. Eventually he got a good shot on the stallion and dropped it. The striping wasn’t quite as bold as on my Zebra, but his Zebra had some really neat patterning on its face that we didn’t see on any of the others brought in while we were there.

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    With the remainder of the evening I chased some Springbok around and around, but I just couldn’t get close to them or get any of them to stand still in the open long enough to even get a good look.

    That's all I've written out for now. I'll probably finish typing up the next few days and post about them soon.
     

  10. gesch

    gesch AH Veteran

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    Thanks for a great report. What a great opportunity to hunt with your Dad and uncle. I appreciate your factual writing style. Great animals.
     
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  11. Mekaniks

    Mekaniks GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Great writing thanks for sharing with us so far
     
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  12. enysse

    enysse AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Congrats! I’m still drooling over your dad’s eland!
     
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  13. johnnyblues

    johnnyblues AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Very nice. Congratulations to all.
     
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  14. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Looks like yall had a grand safari! And there is still more to go based on your post of day 5 of 13!
    Some real nice trophies so far!
     
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  15. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    Very enjoyable report! I’m amazed you did so well on your very first hunt! Excellent IMO!
    Anxiously waiting on the next chapter! And thanks for sharing your adventure!
     
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  16. LivingTheDream

    LivingTheDream AH Elite

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    You guys are racking them up. Congratulations so far and thanks for the report!
     
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  17. buck wild

    buck wild SILVER SUPPORTER AH Fanatic

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    Enjoyed the report thus far. I'm pretty sure you are being sarcastic about the needling to add more animals and credit card etc as the South Africans I've met have a very dry sense of humor (which I like as I do also), but without a few emojis :cautious: in your write up I'm unsure. Could you clear that up? Were they joking with you or did you perceive that as serious attempts to talk folks into more shooting thus more money ?
    Thanks
     
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  18. Nyati

    Nyati AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    RFEC, RFETO
    Hunted:
    Spain, Finland, RSA ( KwaZulu Natal, Limpopo, North West, Northern Cape, Free State ).
    Congrats for a great hunt, and thanks for sharing !
     
    chonk34 likes this.

  19. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2009
    Messages:
    2,945
    Video/Photo:
    50
    Likes Received:
    2,231
    Hunted:
    Namibia, Kyrgyzstan(2) South Africa(2) New Zealand
    Looks like you and your dad are having a good hunt. Some nice trophies and generally good experiences. Beautiful eland. Congrats
    Bruce
     
    chonk34 likes this.

  20. chonk34

    chonk34 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Member

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2019
    Messages:
    31
    Video/Photo:
    26
    Likes Received:
    74
    Location:
    Idaho
    Hunted:
    South Africa
    I think the needling was largely meant to be fun and humorous. Anyone who was hunting at an accelerated pace or close to finishing their package before the end of their stay got a little attention from Werner at dinner. He has a reputation as a salesman, and I think he plays up to that role a little. It did get to my dad a little bit at the start of the trip, but he pulled Werner aside and they explained their positions to each other. Once they talked it out the teasing continued, but there was a relationship there to back it up. I did find that Werner was pretty approachable about things, whether it was changes to a package, adding animals, or other arrangements. He was also pretty open about why you could trade some animals and not others, and the rationale behind the pricing and the timing of things.
     
    Vanguard2279 and enysse like this.

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