Over time we as Professional Hunters enjoy the privilege of being part of something truly special.
It often involves a once in a lifetime experience with mother-nature, a rare sighting of that monster that got away, or starting a hunt with a complete stranger and walking away as friends for life. When comparing my short hunting career with guys like my Dad, Rick, and the many other great Professional Hunters of the industry, I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been a part of so many first time trips to Africa. We all agree there’s no safari better than a young boy’s first African safari with his father.
Late June saw Ignacio Gallardon and his son Inigo, board the late night flight from Madrid, Spain, bound for Johannesburg and finally onto Port Elizabeth. They would be joining Professional Hunter, Carl van Zijl, on safari in the Eastern Cape. Ignacio was after a few last remaining species he had not previously hunted on one of his many African hunts, and Inigo was simply in heaven. What more could one ask for than being on safari with your Dad in Africa!
Carl was still on safari with celebrity, Mike Rogers, filming his new season of SCI Expedition Safari, when the Gallardon’s arrived. Gary helped out and brought Ignacio and Inigo as far as Cradock, where the hunters would split. We then continued north, finally arriving up at Ed’s place in the Stormberg Mountains.
After so much excitement it was hard to get focused again. We were still in the mountains, still on the hunt for Vaal Rhebuck. We spotted a group late afternoon and moved in closer for a better look. A good ram was identified and we decided to have a go. The shot was long, longer than what we had anticipated and shooting conditions were tough with high winds picking up to gail force. We came up short and set off what was to be a marathon Vaal Rhebuck hunt.
Early on day three we finally got our chance. We had sent both Ed and our tracker, Boy, up one of the higher peaks in the vicinity to glass for Vaal Rhebuck . Within minutes they spotted a group 1500 yards below their position. The hunt was on.
The following day we started our journey south, away from the cold and the mountains, straight into a raining coastal area.
Day 5 saw us rising to overcast conditions without any wind. Just the kind of conditions we were after. I called up Jeff our hounds’ man and gave him the go ahead. Our plan was to head down towards the coast in search of Caracal. At first the dogs battled to locate any sign of tracks or scent. By 10am the weather had improved dramatically with sunny clearings filling rapidly with numerous species of game.
It goes without saying, we had a huge morning. Having hunted both an East Cape Kudu and a Caracal in the space of two hours, we had the remainder of the afternoon to concentrate on Cape Bushbuck.
Bongo tried hard, but to no avail. After 5 hours we called off the search, the minimal blood had dried up 2 hours into the search and the remainder of the time was more or less a guessing game trying to track a particular track between a hundred others.
A disappointed crew headed back towards camp, stunned at the fact that our luck had finally run out.
While our safari had been blessed with unlimited bursts of luck, both Ignacio and Inigo had taken their chances, bagging a very high standard of trophies throughout. So when we drove from camp that second last evening in search of Cape Grysbuck, our spirits were understandably high, we were at the point of invincibility.
Trying to fall asleep that evening proved extremely difficult. With so much excitement from the nights hunt, and the thought of our last day fast approaching, set off a few unwanted nerves.
To understand the nerves, one must understand the Spanish hunter and his/her culture. A Warthog is the begining and the end of everything on any African safari. They spend their entire lives hunting Wild Boar in Spain, they dedicate every free minute to their addiction, always pushing for a bigger boar. So when they think about Africa, they think about pigs with massive tusks, Warthogs.
Our final day was upon us and I was not planning on sending a young Spanish hunter home without a Warthog on my watch.
That last morning saw Warthogs everywhere. Boy once again turned out to be the champion spotter. I could clearly see his urge and desire to get this particular Warthog he had spotted. He understood what was at stake. Up to that point I had not seen the boar, only the sows feeding with him. He was feeding some ways from them, behind brush in the same clearing. There was no time to double-check. We got moving immediately and left Boy to keep an eye on the boar and direct us in.