GON Freelance Writer Wins Safari Hunt

With more than 800 contest entries, the author and his son got to experience the trip of a lifetime.

John Stanley | May 6, 2015

Editor’s Note: GON freelance writer John Stanley, of Lawrenceville, recently won a hunting trip to South Africa. His son, Andrew, wrote an essay and entered John into the "Scout/North American Hunter TV Master Mentor Contest." Andrew’s entry was selected as the winner from more than 800 entries. John and Andrew won the safari with host Luke Hartle at the Maroi Conservancy in South Africa. The hunts were videoed for a future episode of North American Hunter TV. The father-and-son team killed three eland, two impala, a wildebeest, waterbuck, bushbuck and a warthog. John’s full blog can be found at John Stanley’s Blog. Below is the blog post from Day 4, the first day they went hunting.

Day 4: What A Start

After a quick breakfast, we were off at daylight. Riding on the bench seat in the back of the truck seated next to Andrew seemed a little surreal as we eased down the dirt road… we were actually hunting in Africa. The first animals we encountered were quite a sight, a group of giraffes. We were amazed at how tall they were and how quickly an animal that size could move as they loped off.

Crispen (our tracker) soon spotted some fresh eland tracks, and we took off in single file. I let Andrew go after the first animal. We saw a couple of eland cows, and I spotted a big kudu bull crossing a dry river bed 200 yards away. We tracked him for a couple of miles, but Chris (our professional hunter) said we must have bumped him because he never slowed down.

We encountered several impalas, including one really good ram on the way back to the truck, but a limb prevented Andrew from getting a shot. We saw a number of duikers and a host of baboons on the way out. We were on the edge of our seats as you truly never knew what was around the next bend. Everyone met back at the lodge for lunch and swapped stories. Andrew asked Chris about a big bird that was mounted in the trophy room in the lodge, and he told us it was a Kori bustard, at up to 40 pounds it’s the largest flying bird in Africa. He then told us how to cook them by putting the bird in a big pot of water with a rock on top of the lid, cooking for five hours and then dumping the water and bird out and eating the rock. Cool

After a wonderful lunch, we headed back out and had our first of many experiences climbing koppies. The opportunity to spot game from the top of these natural rock formations was a big advantage considering the thick brush. The professional hunters and trackers climbed them like squirrels scurrying up a tree, even the guy carrying the sand bags they always carried in case you had to shoot off the rocks. Andrew and I ascended a bit more slowly, but it was a cool opportunity at spectacular views we didn’t expect.

An hour and a half into the hunt I spotted a small herd of impala. Chris kicked the sandy soil with his boot, the small cloud of dust indicating a good wind, and we were soon in pursuit. Chris spotted a couple of good rams in the bunch and quickly set up the shooting sticks, and Andrew settled behind the rifle. His shot missed the mark, but there was no time to be disappointed as Crispen was right back on the track.

We were amazed at how the trackers could differentiate the game we were after from the maze of tracks that crisscrossed the ground everywhere. I soon knew we were close to the herd again as Crispen did what we would witness many times before the trip would end… he removed his cap, crouched down and scanned ahead very deliberately. Sure enough, there they were, and Andrew was quickly in the sticks again; this time his 130-yard shot was perfect, and we were soon standing over our first African prize.

Hugs and handshakes followed, and I couldn’t have been more proud to see my son posing for pictures with a smile a mile wide and holding my dad’s prized possession, the Winchester pre-64 Model 70 he had handed down to me. What a way to end our first day of hunting in Africa!

To read the full 9-day blog and see all the African pictures, go to John Stanley’s Blog.

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