SCI’s founder, C.J. McElroy, used to say that the only hunters he envied were those on their first African safari. The first African adventure is indeed a life-changing event! A safari is always wonderful, but although you may try many times, you will never quite recapture the excitement and wonder of your first sojourn in Africa. This being absolutely true (trust me), the next best thing is sharing another hunter’s first safari and enjoying their awe and enthusiasm!
Donna and I got to do that not with just one hunter, but with a whole group. The occasion was an SCI auction hunt donated by Barry Burchell’s Frontier Safaris in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, a hunt that we had agreed to join as part of the auction package. The hundreds of hunts donated to our convention and sold at auction are obviously critical to our fundraising efforts in support of The Cause. They circle the globe, offering tremendous opportunity, and the configurations vary almost as widely as the locales. Some are for one hunter; others are for a hunter and observer. More rarely, the offerings are for groups. This particular (and particularly generous) donation was for two hunters, a ten-day safari with a “package” of animals, with observers welcome. Giving up part of a precious season to a donated hunt is a major concession from an outfitter, so here’s my thanks to those who are able to make such donations…and also my thanks to the buyers. We need both!
When hunts for two or more hunters come up for auction many of us have hunting buddies who would join us on a good opportunity…and many of us do not. When Frontier Safaris’ “lot” (as the auctioneers call auction items) came under the gavel at our 2015 Saturday night auction, SCI members Joel Thiesen and Charlie Goodwin, total strangers, were randomly seated at the same table. Neither had hunted Africa, but both were thinking about it. I have no way to know how unusual this was, but it seems unusual to me: On the spur of the moment, with bidding ongoing, they agreed to split the hunt…and won the bid!
Joel brought his son Blake; Charlie brought his whole family–wife, Sarah, their three young children, and his Dad, Larry Goodwin! Hunting camps with total strangers can yield some surprises, so I’m not suggesting I recommend this unorthodox approach, but in the six months that passed before we all met up in Port Elizabeth the two families took some pains to get to know each other, and it was a very happy camp. And why should it not be, with a wonderful lodge, comfortable and private chalets, and a big area with lots of game? Most days we went our separate ways with our PHs, sometimes joining up at lunch and always in the evening to share our adventures around the fire.
All of the youngsters were able to take some game, and Larry Goodwin shot his first animal in many a year. By design, some of the animals were “culls” and others were top quality, with the skinning shed kept busy every day. The Eastern Cape is especially well-situated for families. Joel and 17-year-old Blake hunted every day, as did Charlie…but Sarah and her younger children and Donna didn’t have to. They had options of game drives and elephant-back and horseback rides in nearby game parks, and a shopping expedition to Port Elizabeth.
I regret not being with either Charlie or Joel when each got his kudu, or when Joel and Larry took beautiful nyala, or when the kids took their first African animals. But their hunting vehicles were pretty full, and even I haven’t figured out how to be in two or three places at the same time! I did have the honor of being with Joel when he took his first African animal, a big wildebeest well-shot; and I was with Charlie when he made a truly spectacular long shot on a blesbok far out on an open plateau. It was, for all, a fine and memorable experience…and equally enjoyable for Donna and me to share it with them.
Right now we’re reaching the tail end of the 2015 safari season, so theirs are just a few of the thousands of great hunting memories being generated by hunts bought or booked at last year’s convention. And in just a few months the cycle begins anew. Whether you prefer to glass the aisles and talk to the hundreds of exhibitors, looking for an outfitter with the hunt that seems to “click”…or whether you prefer to stalk the auctions and bid on attractive hunts, our SCI convention has the hunt you’ve dreamed about, with more options and opportunities available than anyplace else on the face of the Earth. Make plans to attend now, and pay attention to the great hunts offered at auction. This one was so much fun Barry Burchell and I have agreed to do it again, so maybe we’ll see you in Las Vegas…and around his boma a few months later.–Craig Boddington