The nyala bull was feeding in a brushy little canyon. I have no idea how our tracker spotted him, but we worked our way along the bluff above and were almost directly above him with only his legs visible. Sooner or later he must step out and offer a shot, but standing there on sticks, willing him to take that step, is hard on the nerves. Fortunately for me, my nerves were just fine because it wasn’t my shot. Steve Gieseking was on the sticks, his PH Jason on binoculars and I was just along for the ride–and glad of it—waits like that are tense! In due time the nyala did step clear. It was a beautiful bull, and Steve made the shot.
I was happy to share the moment, but that was just one moment in ten days of truly excellent hunting at Barry Burchell’s Frontier Safaris in South Africa’s Eastern Cape. Other than a good hunt, the point to the exercise was that this was an auction package that fell under the gavel at Convention last year. Obviously this hunt was just one of many dozens of great hunts that generous outfitters donate and generous members bid on in support of our cause, but it was a very good package: Ten-day plains game hunt, trophy fees and taxidermy included for a dozen animals each for two hunters with an observer.
The only dubious thing about the package was that I agreed to join the hunt, which I’m sure frightened off most potential bidders. The winners were hunting buddies Steve Gieseking and Lloyd Gettemeyer, good folks who I met at our St. Louis Chapter fundraiser. We actually discussed the hunt at that event and they wound up splitting the winning bid. In the event, due to an illness in the family, Steve came by himself; Lloyd’s wife, Debbie, accompanied him along with their two daughters. This part worked out really well; my youngest daughter, Caroline, not quite 21-years-old, came with me. The Gettemeyers’ older daughter, Morgan, is also 20, and the two young ladies go to different Midwest colleges hardly an hour apart. As often happens in hunting camps, people arrive as strangers but leave as best friends. This was one of Caroline’s first experiences with that friend-making phenomenon that we veteran hunters know so well.
The property is huge, contiguous and varied from tall, open ridges and mesas to deep, brushy valleys, which means that it supports a wide variety of game. This, in turn, means that it’s a viable destination for both veteran African hands and hunters on their first safari. The Gettemeyers were on their first-ever safari, so Burchell’s standard “10-day, 12 animal” package was just about right. It included kudu and gemsbok, impala, wildebeest and blesbok, a couple of “cull” animals and some choices between this and that. Although far from impossible in a game-rich area, a dozen animals in 10 days is busy. Also, as a family vacation (according to Lloyd, the “best ever”), the game list was divvied up a bit so Debbie and Morgan had opportunities including Morgan’s gorgeous gemsbok. We also took a day off to take the kids to nearby Addo National Park.
Steve Gieseking was in a different position. He’d hunted in South Africa a few times before, so while Barry’s “list” was good, he upgraded, eventually including not only that nyala, but also waterbuck and eland. You know how it is when multiple hunters share the same camp, the same concession, and thus essentially the same opportunity–one hunter has to work hard for every shot, while another has animals running up to surrender, front hooves in the air. The latter on this safari was Steve. He found pretty much whatever he was looking for whenever he and Jason went out to look for it. That included a fine bushbuck on the first day and that nyala on the second–both fairly difficult animals in that area. Lloyd had both good luck and good success, but he worked for it.
I can’t say that Caroline and I worked all that hard. We’d agreed it was mostly her hunt, but she was kind enough to let me take a couple of animals along the way. On her side, she had good luck greatly aided by our PH, Scot Burchell. Just 18-years-old, he is amazingly calm and confident, and of course knows the family property like the back of his hand. Caroline had been to South Africa once before, so her goal was to take some “new” animals, with kudu at the top of the list. Yep, she got her kudu, and a blue wildebeest, and an impala, and…well, she shot well and did well. Except for this pesky waterbuck.
Thank God for it, because in Africa it’s always good to have an excuse to go back. I’m not altogether sure Steve has many excuses left, at least in that region, but I don’t think he’s done with Africa. And for sure the Gettemeyer family—bidding on their first attendance at SCI—is not. As our next Convention approaches, take a careful look at the many incredible auction items. There are always a whole bunch of real gems and please remember: In great measure our successful auctions are what allows SCI to truly be “First For Hunters.”–Craig Boddington