KEYS TO SUCCESSFUL SAFARI – Brad Fitzpatrick

 

Eight Keys to a Successful Safari By Brad Fitzpatrick
1.  Red Hartebeest
By Brad Fitzpatrick and Jacques Strauss, Kowas Safaris
Your professional hunter is going to try hard to see that your hunt is a success, but the hunting client’s attitude and effort plays a role in the overall quality of the experience. Here are eight key items to bear in mind so that your next hunt is successful.
Practice
You’ve spent a lot of time and money getting to Africa, and now you’re jet-lagged and suffering from sensory overload. Are you going to be able to make the shot? More importantly, are you even going to be able to reach the game?
“I found that many of the clients I hunt with aren’t in great shape, which makes it hard for the PH to get the trophies the client wants,” says Jacques, who grew up on a hunting ranch in Namibia and who is now a hunting guide. “A kudu hunt in the mountains of Namibia requires a great deal of physical ability, up and down mountains. And after climbing over a bunch of rolling hills, smack bang in front of you there he stands, the grey ghost of Africa, allowing you only a few seconds to take the shot after the PH sets up the shooting sticks. Being tired and out of breath will be the last thing you want to make that 200 yard shot.
Most hunters know that they need to practice with their rifle, and they need to remain consistent with their ammo from the bench to the field. As important as it is to practice from a rest, it does a poor job of mimicking field positions.
“Find out from the PH which you are going to hunt with: what will be the approximate shooting distance on your safari, what type of shooting sticks he uses, will you be climbing mountains, etc.,” says Strauss. Understanding the type of country you’ll be hunting and having a thorough understanding of your rifle’s ballistics is elemental to success on any hunt, at home or abroad.
Understand and Express Your Limitations
Many of us have a hard time admitting we have limitations, and we have an even harder time telling others that we aren’t as able-bodied as we once were. On a hunt, though, it’s critical that your PH knows the limiting factors that may prevent you from climbing mountains in search of klipspringer, spending lot, hot miles on an elephant track, or running after a fast-moving herd of eland.
It’s your duty as a client, to communicate any physical constraints like knee surgery, heart problems, back problems etc. with your PH. We are responsible for your safety at all times after you set foot on African soil. If you had several knee surgeries, I would like to know, then I can plan the hunt prior to your arrival so we don’t have to go climbing in the mountains. The same goes with clients with heart problems. Then I know that I as the PH should slow things down a bit.” Strauss says it’s also a good idea to keep emergency numbers close by. If you take special medication, it’s best to make your guide aware of that as well.
2.  Blue wildebeest in sunset

Trust Your PH
If you want to make the most of your valuable time in Africa, book with a PH that you trust, let them know what you want, and let them call the shots, Strauss says.
“You have spent a lot of money to go on this safari and the reason for you booking with this particular PH or outfitting company should be clear; it may be based on reputation, a buddy that recommended them, or whatever. But whatever reason, your choice is final. You should have done all the research you could. You’re in Africa! The number one rule you should never forget: TRUST YOUR PH. The PH knows the area, he knows the game, and he probably has been in the business longer than you’ve even dreamed of Africa. Trust his knowledge and judgments. There is nothing worse than a client challenging you on your judgments. I know in my area, I can get you a 15” springbuck male, so trust me when I pass up a 13” Springbuck standing broadside at 50 yards; and telling you “we can do better”. Even worse, I knew a PH who’s client doubted his stalking abilities and asked the PH to step aside because he (the client) can do a better job himself. Needless to say, he did not shoot anything. It spoils the hunt. A good PH will always involve the client on the hunt and explain his choices on doing things. Sit back, and enjoy the safari!”
Learn to Stalk
A great deal of African hunting requires stalking and tracking, and these experiences make for some of the greatest memories of any safari. But you must be sure that you understand the basic principles of stalking game on foot; the terrain and the quarry may be alien to you, but the principles of effective spot-and-stalk hunting remain largely the same.
“Many of the clients that arrive here in Africa have never stalked before in their entire lives. So here are three basics principles; stalk in single-file at all times without trying to step to the side or pass the PH, keep noise to an absolute minimum while watching where you are stepping to avoid cracking of limbs or moving rocks, and follow instructions. When the PH signals you to stop, stop immediately and limit any movements, since your quarry might be watching you.”
As a client hunter, don’t get in a hurry. Keep your gun safe, stay quiet, and always be ready for the shot. In areas of thick cover, a slow stalk can turn into a sudden and fleeting opportunity, so be prepared.
Safety First
“I have found that many clients are not used to hunting with someone,” Strauss says. “They are used to sitting alone in a deer stand. Hunting in Africa with a PH leading the stalk in front you can make silly mistakes. Like my dad always said, once you fire a shot, you can never take it back. Remember that!”
The primary goal on safari isn’t to kill a record book animal, it is to enjoy the experience and to return with a lifetime of memories. Excitement and fear cause some hunters to lose their cool and lose sight of the primary objective, which is for everyone to return safely to camp. Muzzle awareness is always critical, and if your hunting professional asks you to unload, comply with that request.
“I don’t want to second-guess if the rifle which is pointed to me is loaded or not. Don’t forget rifle safety. You can never be too safe. I’ve had clients that accidentally fired a shot on the truck when they were unloading the rifle, and many of the clients look at you as if you are crazy when you kindly ask them to comply with your safety standards. And don’t forget the basics: always point the rifle in a safe direction.”

Have Realistic Expectations
Few hunting areas will offer you multiple shots at a 60 inch kudu, and 45 inch buffalo are rare when hunting any unfenced concession area. If you’re lucky, you’ll take an excellent trophy, but don’t let unreasonable expectations ruin your safari.
“Clarify your expectations of the hunt with the PH prior to the first stalk, and be completely honest. If you would like a 53 inch plus Kudu bull, tell the PH, but don’t be unrealistic. Don’t blame the PH if you don’t have a record book entry by the end of the safari and make absolutely sure you and your PH are on the same page. Then, work together and communicate throughout your safari, and you’ve got the best receipt for a great safari,” Strauss says. Honest PHs will tell you what you can reasonably expect, and most don’t try to mislead you by making unreasonable promises.
3.  Jacques Strauss warthog

Work as a Team
Taking a great trophy requires a great deal of teamwork. You must rely on your PH and trackers to put you in position, and when the moment comes it is your responsibility to make the shot count. Working as a team also makes any safari far more fun, and no matter what happens, you can rely on the fact that you did the best that you could in a collective effort.
“Believe in your ability, believe in the PH, and work together,” Strauss says. “You are a team. One is not superior to the other. Trust him and his judgments, but also give him the opportunity to trust you. I just love it when a PH and client work together!”
On many safaris, you won’t be asked to do much of the work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t step in and lend a hand where needed, whether that’s helping to load gear and equipment, aiding in the construction of a leopard blind, or simply staying out of the way when the track becomes tough to unravel. Doing your part adds to the experience and the overall satisfaction of the hunt. At the end of the best safaris, you’ll feel the satisfaction of knowing that you worked together no matter the outcome, and that’s just part of what makes the memories of the hunt last a lifetime.
“You’ve done all your research, you trust the PH or outfitting company that you have chosen, and you booked your hunt,” says Strauss. “When you are finally in Africa, sit back and enjoy the safari. After all, it’s a dream come true. Let the PH do what he does best. Do what you do best. Don’t be shy to ask a ton of questions, as that shows that you have interest in what’s going on around you.”
Handle Disappointment
We’d all love to harvest every animal on our wish list on every safari, but that’s not always going to happen in wild Africa. Most of the time that’s not the result of the PH not doing their job; in the vast majority of cases, your hunting professional has made every reasonable effort to get you the trophy that you were after, but sometimes luck just isn’t with you. Sometimes it’s the common game that manages to foil you; on my first safari I didn’t manage to take an impala or warthog, but that’s not because my PH wasn’t working as hard as he possibly could. This is, after all, hunting.
“If the client purchases a leopard hunt for twenty grand, the leopard better be there,” says Strauss. “The flip side to that situation is that the PH can be doing everything right and the leopard just doesn’t show. As a client, you better be prepared to handle that situation.”
Visit us at http://www.kowasadventure.com to obtain information to assist you to make your African safari dream a reality. It is within YOUR reach – LIVE YOUR DREAM, with Kowas Hunting Safaris.

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