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Old May 30, 2000, 05:21 PM   #1
Rich Lucibella
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Join Date: October 6, 1998
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I apologize for taking so long to post of my first African hunt. I've developed, organized and uploaded the pictures (at last) and offer a brief account here. Describing a 2 week hunt is kinda like inviting people over to see the video of your last vacation: if done right, everyone gets a glimpse of what it was like...if done wrong, it becomes The Interminable Travelogue of Narcissus. I've decided to provide an overview of the surroundings, the game, the hunt and the occasion and leave the rest to pictures. These are individually linked here but may be viewed in their entirety at African Hunt Even so, the narrative is lengthy and, for this, I apologize.

For those who were not aware, this hunt was organized by Rich Wyatt of Gunsmoke Gunsmithing to celebrate the occasion of Jeff Cooper's 80th birthday: May 5, 2000. Cooper expressed a desire to return to South Africa to celebrate his birthday and was amenable to Rich's suggestion that a group of hunters, known to Jeff, be put together for the festivities. Excluding the Colonel, the party turned out to include six hunters and three PH's. I was the only hunter who signed for the entire two week program. The others either came late, left early or participated for part of the time as "observers"....Africa hunting is not, after all, cheap.

The festivities were housed at Danie and Karin van Graan's Engonyameni ("Home of the Lion"), west of Johannesburg on the border of Kruger National Park. Engonyameni is housed on the van Graan family's 40 square mile ranch which includes the hunting operation, sugar cane and orange grove farming and tree farming. The terrain is too rugged to be called "hilly" yet not rugged enough to earn the title "mountainous". It ranges from meadows, knee deep in wild grasses, to thick bush, passable only on narrow game trails. Hillsides can be treacherous with loose shale and uneven footing camoflauged by the grasses. Weather ranged from chilly mornings to 80+ afternoons with intermittent rain about 1 in 4 days.

The camp itself boasts all the amenities and a number of separate buildings to house hunters. I was billeted in The Dam, a comfortable two story wood cabin with thatched roof, separate bath and veranda and my own sitting area. The Cooper's were housed next door in a specially built home. Called "Cooper's Corner", this cabin is complete with it's own watering hole where we'd meet at the end of the day and debrief the Colonel about our activities.

Meals were expertly prepared by Karin van Graan and staff. We'd start the day at 0530 with coffee and rolls. Then out to the fields until 1030 when a large breakfast would be served. Back out to the fields by noon to hunt until dark. Then followed drinks at the main hall, a shower and dinner. Indigenous foods included local game such as wildebeest, warthog and impala, served as steaks, stews, chiles and bacon. As the game taken on the ranch is used to feed the guests, we did not necessarily have occasion to eat our own kills. The one exception was a relatively rare Red Duiker taken next to the last day by yours truly.

The hunting was nothing short of fabulous. The hunters generally went out with one of the three Professional Hunters . The accompanying <PH's>....clockwise: Danie, Alf and Steph me and Rich Wyatt. I can't say enough for the PH's and Karin (also a licensed PH). They were accommodating, professional, hard working and helpful to the end. All of my hunting was with Danie, usually with only one other hunter or observer aboard and two to three trackers. Far and away, most shots were taken on foot, as opposed to the truck, but this was a function of the hunter's priorities and the game's cooperation. I did take my kudu from the truck (distance was 260 yards.) The rest were taken on foot. Much of the time, my hunting companion was Lindy Cooper Wisdom who is a quiet as she is beautiful. Here's a picture of Lindy's first kill: an impala taken with a perfect heart shot. (Apologies to Lindy and Joe for originally posting her maiden name....Lindy may be liberated, but she doesn't need to wear it on her sleeve!)

My first kill was a trophy wildebest taken from a tree "barricade" stance at 263 yards. The animal was quartering away from us at an ambling rate. The first shot was high in the lungs, the second broke it's back and the third was the infamous "Texas Brain Shot" to the backside. When we moved to where the animal fell, it required a coup de grace. From this and other shoots performed and witnessed, I've concluded what most hunters already know: the .308 is marginal for larger game. No offense to Colonel Cooper. While I am hardly in a position to question his experience, my limited reality is that animals in the field don't always present perfect kill shots; especially when the first shot is a bit off and the animal is making tracks for the bush. Sure, the first shot will kill him (sooner or later), but I'd prefer the sooner part. The wildebeest is a large animal; and, at 260 yards the .308 has already bled off almost half it's muzzle energy. Had my second shot not have pinned the animal with spinal damage, he'd have suffered unnecessarily.

A note on the Steyr Scout:
I'm proud to own this weapon and I believe it is an outstanding advancement in the general purpose rifle. While I've expressed my disappointment in certain of it's features, it did everything that was asked of it in Africa. The forward mount scope truly comes into it's own in the field and it allowed me to pin my first impala from a most awkward semi-prone position with an acceptable boiler room shot on a running animal at 55 yards. If there is a complaint about the Scout in Africa, it would be the caliber. For this, the Steyr .376 Dragoon is to be recommended. While it suffers from the same problems of excessive bolt drag as it's little brother in .308, Kevin Mad Dog McClung has proven to me that a little bit of genius smithing can go a long way. John Schaefer has now detailed the fixes that we required and reports 4 of 4 Scouts have been cured of the "light primer hit/heavy bolt throw" problem. While none of my close up pictures seem to want to come out, Kevin also engineered a bolt handle retrofit to my specifications. It changes the Scout "butterknife" handle to a more traditional truncated cone and adds about 1/2" to the length. On my rifle, it's pure heaven.

Lessons for you novice hunters....i.e.: guys like me:
- Believe about 10% of what many hunters tell you. Their memory is selective and their stories only serve to perpetuate bad shooting.
- Sportsmanship is about honesty...to yourself and the game. One can only learn from mistakes by admitting to them. And hunters who refuse to learn should be avoided at all cost. To wit:

The low point of my hunting came on my third animal, the zebra . At a range of 160 yards, from a good standing rest off a tree, I managed to place the first round way too high in the animal's chest. All hell broke loose after that, as I managed to get off 3 more rounds on the running zebra with only one hit: regrettably a gut shot. The ensuing track, straight up a wall of shale, lasted about 45 minutes and ended with the animal dying, presumably of old age or altitude sickness as I missed him, yet again. Having only hunted hog and birds prior to Africa, the knowledge of this FUBAR put me into something of a tailspin and I continue to have occasional bad dreams about that zebra. The fact is, I was more concerned about hitting the animal than killing him clean...so I set the crosshairs at mid height, rather than at shoulder level. Lesson learned: if you question your ability to place your round on a standing animal, from a rest....don't squeeze the trigger! A "shooter" is not necessarily a sportsman. I will, hopefully, never make that mistake again.

All was not hunting, however. We paused for every photo op possible, including me mugging for the camera with the Coopers. On the Colonel's birthday, Danie arranged a formal ceremony with local entertainment and a presentation to Colonel Cooper. As I had no individual birthday present to offer to the Colonel, with the exception of my toneless though heartfelt contribution to the groug sing of the Marine Hymm and Amazing Grace, I asked Jeff to grant me a present! He agreed and I believe mine is the first Steyr Scout signed by Colonel Cooper in Africa. Likewise, time was available for pictures of curious giraffes and bathing hippo.

Perhaps the most challenging animal I hunted was the bushbuck. These animals tend to run singly or in pairs and are the closest thing to hunting ghosts that I can imagine. You will see a piece of them at close range in the brush and, by the time you raise your rifle, there's nothing but empty space in the scope. We drove, walked, stalked and ambushed bushbuck for nearly four days before I finally got one. Other than the Zebra, this was the only game which I shot at and missed during the two weeks..placing two into the dirt on running bucks.

The skills of our PH's and our trackers were as interesting to me as the hunting itself. After all, in these conditions they are truly the hunters: much as we hate to admit it, we are essentially the executioners. Robert, Elmond and Gugwon have been with Danie from the beginning and Danie proudly displays their pictures found in a modern African Hunting text. Their ability to follow an animal, wounded or whole, to the exclusion of any others in the herd is spooky; their skill at picking out game (or "pieces" of game) in heavy brush at unheard of distances is surreal; and their clairvoyance in knowing which way game will turn on their paths and, thus, get you into ambush position is pure sci-fi! It was due to their expertise that I got my most gratifying shot: a bushbuck finally presented just his ears, eyes and top of his head above the grass at 50 yards. While concerned about ruining the trophy, I was not about to repeat my error with the Zebra. The snap shot entered the back of his head and exited cleanly...he dropped, trophy intact. That one earned tracker Gugwon a hand rolled Havana!

Well, that's the end of the tale, except for a couple of outtakes:
- While on the trail of a baboon, one of the younger trackers had a face to face with a spitting cobra not 20 feet from Lindy and I. The tracker lost the confrontation after being hit directly in the eye with the launched venom. He beat a rather hasty retreat from the field of battle. Danie tended to him on the spot and washed out the eye. The boy was none the worse for wear the next day.

- The last day of the hunt, Danie spotted a 10 foot black mamba lying across the trail/road. As it is their habit to rise to full height and strike into a window or at an exposed person (like the trackers and I in the open back of the truck), Danie quickly sped up and nailed the brake pedal, hoping to grind the serpent into the ground. That confrontation was a draw...the snake got away with injuries unknown....one of the few African species I do not feel obligated to track when wounded.

- We city types don't often get a view of "natural" death in the bush, closehand. This wildebeest had probably met his fate in a pack of hyena. Messy as they are as killers, it's no wonder that their table manners also leave something to be desired. (And I thought [i[]live[/i] Wildebeest smelled bad!)

- Finally: my second impala and the hunters toast on top of a mountain with the sun going down on our last day.

Respectfully submitted:
Rich Lucibella

[This message has been edited by Rich Lucibella (edited June 05, 2000).]
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Old May 30, 2000, 07:38 PM   #2
.
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A most excellent sojourn, and one of those unique and timeless opportunities in hunting history. Welcome back!
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Old May 30, 2000, 08:35 PM   #3
gunmart
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hey rich,i think that next time you need to take a photographer with you.hmmmm i think i might just be available for the trip.when do we leave?

just kidding.i would like to here more about the way yall got around on the safari and how the guides prepared you for the stalks.
was it mostly spot and stalk?did you ever get out and just wander around?what do you do with the meat and hides and shoulder mounts when you kill somthing over there.?do you get to keep anything.?maybe you could prepare a "wanting to be africa hunter page"

thanks ed
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Old May 30, 2000, 11:15 PM   #4
Tim Brooks
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Rich,
Thanks for sharing this with us.
A great Post! and the pics weren't bad <g>
Cheers, Tim Brooks
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Old May 31, 2000, 01:02 AM   #5
The Mohican Sneak
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Rich,

Thanks for taking the time and effort in writing that story and sharing it with us...

Best of luck always,


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Old May 31, 2000, 08:46 AM   #6
Long Path
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Rich, I've gotta hand it to you: you know how to live, friend!

Speakin' of hand-rolled Havanas, is that one Lindsy's smoking in your Red Duiker Picture? Man, oh man. What a daughter the Colonel has! May my own girl have such poise and character (and shooting interests!) when HER old man gets to be 80! Gentlemen, I have it on good authority that the good lady is married to a heckuva guy, so don't swoon...


Rich-- I really admire you for bringing back with you a sense that there is more to learn, that it can always be done better, and that you engaged in good sportsmanship. Some, I know, have gone with the attitude that "I paid my money; I can act as I please." You, who undoubtedly dropped as much as a luxury car on this trip (or more), still felt an obligation to the game you took. That's great to see.

I hope the images stay fresh in your mind forever; you've given us a lovely glimpse at what you saw and experienced, and I realize we could never know it all.

Finally--- what was the climate like? I notice long sleeves in every picture; were the bugs and thorns that bad, or was that comfortable with the temperature?

--Matt

[This message has been edited by Long Path (edited May 31, 2000).]
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Old May 31, 2000, 12:05 PM   #7
Rich Lucibella
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Ed-
The hunting pretty varied. It always began by truck. In certain cases, we'd see an animal or herd and the trackers would get out and move them in a general direction. The hunter would set up at a remote location and wait. Sometimes we'd get lucky. This was how I got the wildebeest, coming over a hill.

Others took animals from various blinds, but this was of less interest to me. Not that it's "easier", just that you don't get to watch the trackers and PH's work.

Often, we'd just walk with the trackers out in front looking for sign. This was how we came on both my impala, the duiker and, finally, the bushbuck. The trackers would track the animal to an area and the hunter and PH would go in. They all have an uncanny sense of where the animals will break from the scrub. I've not heard the term "spot and stalk", but this is, I think, what we did most of.

Finally, there were cases in which a shot presented from the truck and, depending upon the hunter's values, it would be taken from there. This I did without hesitation on the Kudu...it was a fairly long shot; and I would glady have done so on a bushbuck...they're just so elusive.

As for the trophies, they're all being mounted in S.A. and shipped here. Little game was taken that won't be mounted. The meat is sold or used at Engonyameni, after shares are given to the trackers.

Matt-
Lindy is, in fact, holding a Havana in this picture...Fonseca, I believe. It seems the week before I left, my entire family (Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister Nieces, nephews and significant others) came for a visit...ostensibly for Easter, but I think they were quietly splitting my gear in the event I didn't return. Now I love my family...however, their presence has the unfortunate effect of returning me to my tobacco habit.

By the time I reached Joburg, I was hooked. Anyway, the cigars became a source of amusement to the party, especially Colonel Cooper. Seems no one had ever thought of hunting with a lit cigar in hand. As it seemed the game didn't pay attention, and it helped us to monitor the wind, the cigars became a personal affect of mine, usually chewing on the cold butt. As a result, all game was taken with cigar remnant firmly clenched in teeth.

On particular occasions, I'd offer to share one. Thus, the other cigars in some of the pictures.
Rich
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Old May 31, 2000, 06:22 PM   #8
gunmart
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rich,usually a spot and stalk refer to spotting game at a distance with field glasses and deciding on a plan for a stalk.we are almost finished with my zkk 3006 scout.ill send you a preview photo tommorrow.the barrel has not yet been cut or blued and the sights are not yet installed.i also have plans to put that cartridge drop in the stock that you turned me onto.
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Old June 1, 2000, 11:00 AM   #9
Art Eatman
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Helluva trip! Thanks, Rich...

For those who haven't seen just how good some people are at seeing "a piece of an animal", and how awed Rich must have been, consider:

My father was hunting mule deer here in Brewster County, some 50 years back. The guy with him suddenly whispered, "There's a big buck!" They went through the process of finding a notable rock, then a bush, and on up the mountain side. Suddenly, the deer flicked his ear and my father finally spotted him at some 300 yards. He shot him and asked, "How in Hell did you see that buck?" "Oh," was the reply, "I see his eye."

Basically, if a PH or a tracker can't do that sort of thing, they find some other line of work.

I'm afraid I won't ever be a PH...

Art
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Old June 1, 2000, 05:53 PM   #10
Art Eatman
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Rich, I wnet back with a bit more time, and followed the text picture by picture. It's obvious that you had a great time! What's better than good hunting in the company of other great people?

There is just one small point. Now, I'm not usually one to be real picky about somebody's choice of a "good luck" charm. But I don't care if it came from Havana or Tampa, there's just something about chewing on a sample of used dog food...

Next time...

, Art
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Old June 1, 2000, 07:17 PM   #11
Dennis
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Absolutely stunning, Rich. Congratulations.
Thanks for sharing your trip with us.
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Old June 2, 2000, 02:38 AM   #12
Rich Lucibella
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Did someone say "Dog Food"?

Where's that Mad Dog when I need him? He'll demonstrate, thru nutritional science and common sense that a good bag of dry dog food makes grat sense on long treks!
Rich
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Old June 2, 2000, 03:40 AM   #13
terridarri
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Thanks Rich for sharing with, looks like you could of had some fun.

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Old June 2, 2000, 09:53 AM   #14
DorGunR
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Rich
Thanks for some great pics.
I know you had a wonderful time.
Color me green.

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Old June 2, 2000, 10:33 AM   #15
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Rich,
I have indeed survived on either "hi tech" lamb and rice based dry dog food like Eukanuba and Nutromax or Science Diet monkey chow for extended periods in the bush and/or when I was too broke to buy "real" food.
It is light, portable, does not draw bugs or bears with cooking odors/grease/mess, and provides all of the nutrition that a boy needs while moving and grooving in the wilds.

It requires no preparation, tastes reasonably good, and has NEVER upset my stomach. Something that can not be said for MREs, C-rats or that freezedried backpacker crap.
A pound or so a day does me fine, a little more in cold weather. The longest that I have gone on a diet of primarily kibble was three weeks. I supplemented with some berries that I found and one grouse that ran afoul of my slingshot.

I first got "into" knoshing on Lab grade monkey food while working at Marine World/Africa USA and the San Francisco Zoo.
Veterinarians and feed stores that sell Science Diet can order the monkey chow for you. I recommend the "new world" monkey chow, as it tastes a lot better than the "old world" monkey chow. The two variants are designed around the different nutritional needs of apes/monkeys in different parts of the world.
The monkey chow made by Purina sucks. Avoid it.

Later, I tried the new generation dog food, and found that it worked very well too.
(go with the smaller kibble, unless you have teeth like a pit bull)
I find that the taste of the dog food is more "satisfying" than the primarily vegetable/fruit/honey flavor of the monkey chow, but if given the opportunity, will carry some of both to break up the monotony a bit.
I tried hi tech cat food, due to it's higher protein and fat content, but the taste didn't really make it for me. Also, I developed a nearly uncontrollable urge to bury my waste, lick myself and rub on people's legs when I got hungry...
YMMV.
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Old June 2, 2000, 07:32 PM   #16
SnakeLover
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Congrats on your safari and thanks for sharing the memories. Of course, I started getting that sense of longing as I read it. I had my first safari last August and have been planning/saving/thinking of going back ever since. As it is, my wife and I just booked an African safari for our 10th anniversary in 2002, so I shall continue to agonize with the wait.

The part about the snakes was a bit unsettling. I didn't see any on my trip and hope to avoid on future ones as well. My wife seconds that!

I also agree wholeheartedly about your comments on shooting at a specific spot. I had a similar relapse while hunting my white blesbok when I hit it in the front left leg, but below the shoulder. The next few minutes while we scrambled to get into position for a finishing shot, I felt horrible. It was the first and only of the 8 animals I shot that required two shots, but it is the one that lingers longest. It's moments like those that make me question if I am really prepared to hunt dangerous game (cape buffalo especially), when life an limb are on the line.

Good luck in the future and thanks again for sharing.
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Old June 3, 2000, 11:06 PM   #17
Bud Helms
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Damn, Rich! That was a fantastic read. Thank you. Great pics too!
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Old June 4, 2000, 07:24 PM   #18
Schmit
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Maddog.

What about Milk Bones to clean your teeth after you eat? (I like them and have turned my kids onto them... get strange looks... know what I mean? )
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Old June 4, 2000, 08:07 PM   #19
MAD DOG
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I get funny looks at the Vet's office when I grab a Milkbone out of the freebie dish, and then start chompin'.

I prefer the little hot dog looking ones though, they taste better.
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Old June 4, 2000, 09:34 PM   #20
Schmit
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I'll have to try those!
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