Contributed by Chris Petersen and Cherie DeFreece
Hello. My name is Chris. I’m hardly a safari veteran by any means. But I count myself as blessed to have been on 4 safaris with John X Safaris in the last five years. Yes, I am a proud victim of the old African saying:
Everything in Africa bites, but the Safari bug
is worst of all … it never lets you go.
They say that nothing can ever replace your own first African safari experience. Maybe so … but on my last safari I had the opportunity to relive the excitement of someone’s first safari through the eyes of my niece Cherie DeFreece.
Reliving your “first” safari through the eyes of others…
For those veterans of several safaris, I heartily encourage you to take someone along with you on your next safari. It is a highly rewarding to be part of the process again as the first timers plan their trip and you are with them to watch it unfold.
John X offers special “father/ son” packages to let both hunters experience a first safari together. We have previously posted on a few of these; Rush Hour Traffic?!” and “Times like this make it worth it …”. There is no better way to relive your first safari experience than through their eyes. But I would add a very important twist … don’t rule out taking your wife or daughter on their first hunt. The “She Safari” experience with John X is unique and very special.
A She Safari … years in the making.
In my case, reliving a first safari experience involved inviting my wife’s niece and husband to go with us on safari. I had the opportunity to watch Cherie grow up from a teen to a fine young woman. And when she married Randy, they shared everything together, especially the outdoors.
Cherie and Randy’s safari experience actually began in my John X Safaris trophy room after my first hunt in 2008. It is now simply called the “Giraffe Room” in honor of my most noticeable trophy from John X.
Over the course of several years of drinking Amarula and port in the Giraffe room, Cherie and Randy were bitten by the safari bug. Instead of saying wow that must have been neat, they starting asking about what it would be like … what it would take … when they could go with!!!!
Decisions … decisions – Grey Ghost or Gemsbok?
One of the most fun and fascinating parts of the first safari is to try to pick your top trophy to pursue. With over 27 species of antelope alone, it’s not easy. Cherie and Randy quickly fell into the first timer’s typical choice dilemma – Kudu or Gemsbok?
Cherie quickly decided they should take on the majestic Gemsbok. When she described how the colors would be perfect hanging on their wall, I knew that she was hooked. Randy was simply hooked on Kudu and the challenge of hunting them in the free range habitat of the Karoo.
After many Amarulas and glasses of port, they finally decided that they just wanted to hunt for the absolute best Kudu they could find … and do it together as a team in the Karoo.
Safaris do not always go according to movie scripts….
In a previous John X blog you read about Randy’s amazing Kudu hunt in the Karoo titled Catching a Ghost … . I have never heard of anyone having the opportunity to work with their PH to stalk within 7 yards of a Kudu! Now that’s an amazing first time safari experience for anyone … even an old-timer!
Only one problem … neither Cherie nor I were there. It was one of those days where Kudu bulls were extremely hard to find. I could tell that even “old” Carl, the master PH, was getting nervous. So when white tips were spotted by Boy, our tracker, it was determined that the location and stalk was too tricky.
It was simply not possible to take an entourage, so Carl and Randy set off alone. Worse yet, the stalk took them behind a hill out of site and we literally didn’t know what happened for the next two hours until we got word over the radio that Randy got his majestic Kudu.
Her She Safari Experience begins …
Cherie was very happy for her husband and his Kudu success, but I could also sense her disappointment in not being a part of the experience. The Kudu was to be their one premier trophy together.
She had been rigorously working out to be able to part of any mountain stalk. She had even been learning to shoot a rifle to understand the experience. Now she had missed it.
When we finally made our way up the mountain to the Kudu, Randy was still shaking and reliving the experience. But it didn’t take long to see the magic in the moment. Here’s how Cherie describes it:
“Once Randy shot his Kudu and I was there to witness all the excitement and emotions I thought to myself it would be really cool to experience what he went through, especially when I saw the tears in his eyes. Randy was also going to have some really good stories to tell our friends and family back home.
Randy then insisted that I should hunt a Gemsbok. After very little resistance, I decided I needed to do it because this is what was going to make the whole African experience amazing!”
Gemsbok for Cherie. Maybe … maybe not
For those used to deer hunting in the US, the territory is pretty defined and the hunting areas are very small compared to Africa. The first timer to Africa is simply not prepared for the vast plains, especially in the expanse of the Karoo. To say you are going to go get a Gemsbok is one thing … to find a trophy is quite another.
What makes John X so good as an outfitter is the quality game management they practice on their concessions. You simply don’t go looking for Gemsbok in the same area year after year. Some hunting areas simply do not have enough quality bulls on quota at any time, as they are managing the herd for optimum trophies.
Fortunately, John X hunts across literally millions of acres of concessions. We were hunting with Carl’s good friend Niel, who lives right in the middle of a hunting paradise. A couple of check ups in Niels quota book and a phone call later, and we had a herd of Gemsbok that had a couple of trophy bulls available for season 2011. Knowing there’s a herd and getting in position to hunt one are two entirely different things. That’s why they call it hunting and not shooting.
To relive that first time safari experience it is best told by the hunter herself. This was not only Cherie’s first safari, it was the first time she had hunted any game with a rifle. I had the utmost confidence because I had seen her shoot in practice.
She Safari Experience … from her eyes and in her words.
My initial thoughts on my hunt were I can’t believe I am doing this especially since I had no intentions of shooting anything … just watching. Because I have never shot anything in my entire life, I began to wonder if I could really do this.
After Randy shot his Kudu, we had a few hours of sunlight left in the day to scout for a Gemsbok. We came across a herd before sundown, but they would not come out into the open. Part of me was hoping they would step out so I could get this over with. I have never been so nervous and excited about anything in my entire life! Sundown came and it was too dark to continue so we headed back to camp in order to get up the next morning bright and early and try this again.
So now this is where the blood, sweat and tears come in! We left camp around 6:00 a.m. The temperatures warmed up quickly and you definitely work up a sweat climbing around all those rocks. I have never seen such rough terrain in my life. I no longer needed all the layers of clothing I had on earlier in the morning. I even had to shed my She Safari jacket that I bought especially for the trip. Come on … a girl has to look good on her first safari!
We finally spotted the Gemsbok and Carl patiently got me situated where I needed to be. I fired a shot. Unfortunately I missed and unfortunately like many first timers, I held the scope to close to my face and it cut the bridge of my nose. So this is where the blood comes in. Randy helped wipe away the blood and joked that I simply fired a warning shot just to give the Gemsbok a fair chance.
The only problem is that on our second stalk I fired off another warning shot … and this is where the tears came in! At this point I felt like I was disappointing everyone and I should just give up. When I mentioned this to Randy he looked at me and said: If you tell Carl you are giving up … he will kick your butt! (actually I think the word was ass!)
So I stopped being a “girl” and toughened up. And when I say tough … I had no idea of how many more rocks and hills there were to climb. When you say: “I’ll keep up with you Carl”, you have no idea what that means until you are literally sucking wind trying to catch your breath and catch up with the Gemsbok.
Finally around 2:00 that afternoon I shot my Gemsbok and it was more excitement than I can explain. I had taken my trophy at over 180 yards with a clean shot and there is no describing how much pride and satisfaction there was in that.
I knew I had to get the job done because the Springboks were playing a big Rugby match later that day and Carl wasn’t going to miss it. You have not had a safari experience without experiencing South African passion for their Rugby and their team the “Springboks”.
Now I’m a safari “veteran” and trying to explain the safari experience to others. There is nothing quite like the camaraderie that comes as part of the hunting experience. There are the tough times of missing the shot … and there also those special moments that make it all right.
For me there was a special point later in the safari that I inquired about a strange pile of rocks … and Carl told me, that is where they bury misbehaved hunters! Maybe you must have hunted in Africa to understand that joke from your PH who has experienced your blood, sweat and tears with you.
My hunt was incredible and almost indescribable. As a woman who never hunted before … it is hard to explain the exhilaration, challenge and joy of taking a magnificent Gemsbok on his turf.
And what can you say to describe the special relationship with your PH? In my case, Carl’s expertise, patience, and coaching were far more than I would have ever expected. I can also say that my Gemsbok will be proudly displayed next to Randy’s Kudu in our special Africa room where many stories of our hunts will be told and retold for years to come.
Cherie, welcome to the hunting fraternity. Or I guess that should be the: She Safari Sorority. You now share that special bond between all true hunters. Best of all I got to relive the excitement of a first safari through your eyes and experience.
My only disappointment is that it sounds like you won’t be visiting my Giraffe room as often anymore. You had better stock up on Amarula, because I will now be sipping it in your African room where we will relive the stories as you tell the tales of the great She Safari.
One word of caution, when the safari bug bites on a She Safari it can be especially addictive. After my wife’s first Zebra experience, she now has six more trophies and counting.
Randy, you had better start saving money in that cookie jar my friend – we haven’t seen the last of Ms. Cherie on She Safari.
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