The Youth Outdoor Camp was established in 2011 to help children who have not had opportunities to experience the outdoors and related activities. Thirty-two boys and girls ages 11 to 16, who had not yet taken their Hunter Education Class with the Nevada Department of Wildlife, participated in the second annual camp.
Located on a Nevada ranch 30 miles north of the Reno/Sparks area, the camp is nestled in a valley between the Dogskin Mountains and Tule Peak. The commonly seen animals are deer, antelope, wild horses, chukar, quail and sage grouse.
A key component of the camp is developing a youth mentor program with qualified adults who lead the attendees through the camp and follow up with them on future hunting and fishing experiences. Activities include: familiarization, handling and shooting of shotguns, 22 caliber rifles and bows; fishing and fishing education; survival skills and first aid; orienteering, map reading; laser safe shot station and fly tying instruction.
The camp was held Friday, Saturday and Sunday in July 2012. The children enjoyed their experiences as evident in the following camper’s testimonial.
Camper Luke: “I really enjoyed attending the camp because hunting and outdoor activities are things that I enjoy and love learning more about. I have not had a lot of opportunities to hunt and fish, primarily as my father is not an ‘outdoorsman’ and I have limited opportunities with my grandfather.
“I have to thank the people at the Maison T. Ortiz camp for allowing young kids to come to a camp and get hands-on experience in so many outdoor activities. We were able to sleep in tents, sit around the campfire, learn about the many career opportunities with wildlife, and sharpen our outdoor skills. The time went by very quickly and each day presented a new opportunity to learn a number of outdoor and survival skills. The instructors were great, very helpful and were terrific mentors and guided the activities ranging from fishing, orienteering, shotgun shooting and archery. The activity I enjoyed the most was fishing, which is surprising because I enjoy shooting and archery so much, and because I usually don’t have a good time when I fish, but this time was different – I caught a good size fish. A few days later, when my father and I barbecued it, the fish was delicious.”
The Maison T. Ortiz Youth Outdoor Skills Camp is a unique partnership with the Northern Nevada Chapter of the Safari Club International, Nevada Bighorns Unlimited (NBU), and the Sparks Rotary. Volunteers worked more than 2,500 hours.
The Youth Outdoor Skills Camp is named in honor and memory of Maison T. Ortiz, a 15-year-old Galena High School student who died in a tragic snowboarding accident in January 2011. Maison was a fifth generation Nevadan. From his early years, he had an uncanny ability to connect with nature and all of its creatures.– Terrance Melby, Chapter Director
The first story I ever wrote about African hunting was titled “Sunset Safari in Kenya.” By lucky chance I hunted there very shortly before the country closed, so perhaps I can be forgiven the article’s aura of gloom and doom. In late spring 1977, with Kenya recently closed and Tanzania closed for four years, most people with an interest in African hunting thought the end was near.
I’ve written about it before, but this business of “gloom-and-doomitis” is one of two interesting syndromes that seem to attack every hunter who journeys to Africa for the first time. The other is “know-it-allitis,” in that, upon completion of a first safari, he or she is amazingly transformed into the greatest African expert who ever lived. This is fairly harmless, and is simply a reflection of how Africa grabs hold of a person and truly never lets go. This malady can clearly be seen in all of the stuff I wrote after my first few safaris.
The second syndrome, “gloom-and-doomitis,” is much more serious. For some reason every hunter who journeys to Africa seems compelled to recount that he or she saw Africa at its best, and all who follow will see something less. Roosevelt did this in 1910. Hemingway did it in 1935. Ruark did it in 1953. Boddington did it in 1977. Good grief, is this a pattern?
Africa has changed, and African game has changed. As we know, some is for the worse, and some areas are still declining. Some is for the better. In 1977, Namibia was a quiet backwater, and there was very little hunting opportunity in South Africa. Few predicted or could foresee the growth in their wildlife, the efficiency of their wildlife management, or that those two countries would come to host the largest safari industries on the continent. Amazing. But perhaps not so amazing. The reality is wildlife is more resilient than we give it credit. Despite the worst of mankind’s ravages, remnants often hang on against all odds…and given a bit of husbandry, can rebound more quickly than expected.
Since 1977, and thanks to the value placed on wildlife by international hunters, we have seen game in Namibia and South Africa increase exponentially. The same can be said of Zimbabwe, except that, thanks to Mugabe regime’s “land reallocation” program, wildlife carefully nurtured on private land from 1980 to 2000 is now pretty much gone. Tanzania reopened in 1981, and remains a staunch and solid hunting country. Botswana recently announced it will no longer issue hunting licenses–squeezed by the country’s lucrative ecotourism industry. Cameroon, once a quiet backwater to C.A.R., has become a key safari destination for both forest and savanna game. C.A.R., Ethiopia, and Zambia have had ups and downs and occasional closures, but remain important safari countries. But this is far from a complete picture of the hunter’s Africa in 2011.
During my lifetime, many African countries have changed names – and certainly some of them change governments like I change socks. But the basic political map of Africa hasn’t changed much, and there isn’t a lot of opportunity for genuinely “new” countries to open. On the other hand, some traditional African hunting countries shut down nearly a generation ago, and have been unavailable ever since. So one of the most exciting things in African hunting today is what you might call “recycled” hunting countries, countries that were once open, and now are again open to hunting.
The star player in this role is Mozambique. Ravaged by a brutal civil war for nearly two decades, her wildlife was at such a low ebb that, in 1989, I personally thought it could never recover. That was pure gloom and doom, and I was dead wrong. It has taken much time and effort both by enterprising outfitters and a supportive government, but today the hunting in Mozambique is fantastic. This is not true in all areas. Some areas are still recovering, and a few may never recover, but the hunting is now very good, and will probably just get better.
Mozambique competes with Zimbabwe for the most available and most affordable buffalo hunting, with her numbers increasing every year. She has no competition for the most available and most affordable sable hunting. Her indigenous rarities are few, but a buffalo hunt in Mozambique includes a goodly selection of plains game, and she is “the place” for Livingstone’s suni and red duiker, and her native range-free range nyalas are increasing rapidly. Hunting isn’t new there, pioneering outfitters started up in the late 1980s, really before the shooting stopped, but things were pretty tough back then. Today there are more areas, more outfitters, more game, and more opportunity. I’ve hunted and filmed in Mozambique for the past several years, and it has become one of my favorite hunting countries.
Uganda, reopened for just a couple of years, is in some ways where Mozambique was 20 years ago. Wildlife suffered under Idi Amin’s regime and during the civil war that followed, and today must be considered to exist only in pockets. With protection and the value placed by hunting this will get better, and you have to start somewhere. Uganda’s “somewhere” is really a pretty good position. The country is exceptionally beautiful (Churchill’s “Pearl of Africa”), totally peaceful and safe, and Uganda’s game is very interesting.
Most of her races and subspecies haven’t been hunted for many years, so even her common game – Uganda kob, Nile bushbuck, Jackson’s hartebeest – are extremely desirable. It was the chance to hunt the almost-mythical Sesse Island sitatunga piqued the interest of a lot of collectors, but one of the things I learned is that, on the mainland, Uganda has a large and very widespread population of East African sitatunga. This animal’s swamp habitat has been penetrated very little. It’s my judgment that Uganda offers the best sitatunga hunting on the African continent.
There are big Cape buffalo, and Nile buffalo to the northwest, but while there are good populations in some parks, Uganda’s buffaloes are very much a remnant population. Hunting is possible, with a number of great Nile buffaloes taken on the boundary of Murchison Falls National Park. It’s going to take time, but buffalo hunting will get better – along with everything else.
The West African nation of Ghana is a brand new hunting country. Although explored, exploited, and poached, she was never open to sport hunting until very recently. The incentive was royal antelope, the world’s smallest ungulate. This cool little animal is fairly widespread from the Dahomey Gap westward, but it appears that Ghana holds a major concentration. Until Ghana only a handful were taken historically, mostly in Liberia. In March 2011, mine was the 14th royal antelope outfitter Steve Kobrine has taken, and there have been more since.
Like most forest hunting, Ghana has among the most specialized of safaris, with just a small selection of forest duikers and small predators also available. However, there is potential. There are bongos in some forest reserves, and the country also has reasonable numbers of West African savanna buffalo, West African kob, and Nagor reedbuck.
Benin, long known to French-speaking hunters but new to the American market, has emerged in recent years as sort of an “alternative” safari destination. I haven’t been there yet, but certainly intend to. The game is pretty much the same as northern Cameroon, except there are no Derby elands. So West African roan is the premier antelope species, and this area also offers Nagor reedbuck and West African kob, along with other plains game, savanna buffalo, and the occasional lion. Hunting in Benin has been extremely successful, but, absent bongo and eland, at a much reduced cost from hunting in C.A.R. and Cameroon.
The age of exploration is long since finished. Several expeditions have penetrated the forests in search of a rumored dinosaur that lurks there, but I don’t believe there are any large animals still awaiting discovery. Undoubtedly, as our record-keeping system continues to mature, there will be reclassifications and new categories, but genuinely new animals are unlikely.
On the other hand, across the vastness of Africa recent discoveries provide hope and, once again, prove that wildlife’s will to survive can endure despite even the worst of mankind’s excesses. After the long civil war in Angola, most of us thought there was absolutely no chance that the giant sable might have survived. We were wrong. In the late 1990s, a seriously threatened population was found in game reserves in the Malanga District, north-central Angola. Most reports suggest that things have not gone well for this population, but with live captures and genetic research, captive breeding programs are underway that will ensure the survival of this incredible animal.
From a hunter’s perspective, North Africa is perhaps the most unknown part of the continent. From Morocco to Egypt there are pockets of aoudads, there are gazelles, and Egypt holds the largest African range of the Nubian ibex – but so little is known. A decade ago, when I hunted Chad, the folks there absolutely assured me that scimitar oryx still persisted in remote wadis along the Libyan border. I can neither prove nor disprove this, but the Sahara region remains huge and largely untraveled, so I think it’s very likely that oryx persist, and possibly addax and Dama gazelle. Now that Ghadaffi’s government has fallen, there may be greater interest in seeing what wildlife remains in the great Libyan desert.
As stated earlier, historically Ethiopia has been on-again, off-again as a hunting country. More recently, she was closed from 1994 to 1999, but since then has been a solid, if specialized, hunting destination. Ethiopia is a huge country, and not all areas are available. With southern Sudan closed for nearly 30 years, the Gambella region of southwestern Ethiopia – unhunted for many years – has held the only hope for “Sudan species” such as Nile lechwe and white-eared kob. Reports have been conflicting. Do these animals still occur in Ethiopia, or have they been exterminated by meat poaching?
Thanks to Ethiopian wildlife biologist Yitbarek Tibebe and photographer Bingam Admassu, we can now answer that question. Both the Nile lechwe and white-eared kob occur in huntable numbers in southwestern Ethiopia (which implies they probably do in southeastern Sudan as well). Access is an issue, and no outfitters are currently operating in this region – but they can, and probably will.
I wish I could say that Kenya was one of them, but despite 34 years of rumors, nothing has happened. Perhaps it’s just more gloom and doom, and thus to be taken with liberal doses of salt, but I don’t think we’ll see Kenya reopening. Some of her politicians and wildlife managers would like to see it, others wouldn’t, but I don’t think it’s likely. Realistically, after spending several months in Kenya on a military mission in the late 1990s, I am not convinced that Kenya, with a burgeoning human population, has enough wildlife remaining outside her parks to allow a viable sport hunting program.
This is a problem across much of Africa: The barn door has been open too long, and the horses are gone. But it is not universal. There is quite a bit of untapped potential for hunting tourism, and wildlife conservation efforts that can be realized by both direct monies and the local employment that a hunting safari brings to town.
We know that aoudad rams are dying of old age in Morocco, and hunting is open there – shotguns only – for birds and wild boar. Importation (or availability) of rifles has been a long-standing issue for aoudad, but there is potential for gazelle and Barbary red deer as well as aoudad. Morocco is a possibility. Just a few years ago, one knowledgeable agent was taking deposits for aoudad and Nubian ibex in Egypt. The final permits weren’t issued, but there remains strong potential. As mentioned earlier, Libya’s government has now changed (at long last) – and although it might take quite a while, there is potential there as well.
Moving down into Central Africa, just a few years ago an international survey revealed significant – if not amazing – quantities of game in Sudan’s Eastern Equatorial region, essentially southeastern Sudan. The south now has independence from the north, and as peace comes to the region, hunting is very possible – with a treasure trove of races and subspecies that haven’t been hunted for a generation. Pioneering outfitters are already working with the local government and scouting. I think this one will happen, but exactly how soon is unclear.
Also in Central Africa, Congo-Brazzaville has been on-again, off-again on a limited basis, almost never with more than one outfitter. Hunting is technically open, but logistically difficult, and at least one outfitter is again offering hunts there. “Congo-B” has all the basic forest game of southern Cameroon and C.A.R., possibly with fewer bongos, but almost certainly with more forest sitatungas and dwarf buffaloes. One outfitter doesn’t make an industry, but “Congo-B” has great potential for specialized hunting.
I wish I could predict that Gabon would reopen. With great mineral resources and a small human population, this country has one of the best herds of forest elephant, plus all the forest game (like “Congo-B”, fewer bongos, but more buffaloes and sitatungas). I’m sure there will be more opportunities to hunt there, but who knows?
In Southern Africa there has been some discussion about Malawi, but I don’t see it. There are lots of nyalas and a scattering of other species, including elephant, but a large human population and limited opportunity. Otherwise, Southern Africa is open to hunting, except what may be the crown jewel – Angola. Although I’m sure we will never hunt giant sable, Angola is a rare place where everything comes together, kudu, sable, roan, sitatunga, lechwe, and so much more.
With the long civil war finally concluded, enterprising outfitters have already established camps and area, and report surprising concentrations of game. The stumbling block is that, currently, there is no game law in Angola. But there will be, and there will be great hunting. When Kenya closed, those of us (me included), who predicted an end of African hunting were just plain wrong. Isn’t that wonderful?– Craig Boddington
SCI-Canada’s Manitoba Chapter held its first fundraising banquet in Winnipeg recently. More than 350 hunter-conservationists participated in the fun-filled event, while 18 new members were signed-up. Pictured here, left to right, are: John Krupinski, Banquet Chair; Dennis Wiebe, Humanitarian Chair; Dwight Gelhorn, Vice President; Dale Longstreet, Logistics; John Fidler, President; Jake Quiring, Treasurer; and Paul Turenne, Media Liaison. (Absent: John Tronrud, Membership Chair)
In September 2007, my wife, Sue, and I left on a much-anticipated trip to Russia. We planned on sightseeing in Moscow, the ring cities and St. Petersburg. We had some extra time after arriving, so I called my old friend and Russian outfitter Alexander Lisitsin to arrange a hunt.
Alexander said he could arrange a moose and a brown bear hunt at a hunting compound near Pskov, south of St. Petersburg.
After nine days of touring capped by an evening watching Swan Lake at the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, we departed by private car for the six-hour drive to the hunting camp owned by Oleg S. Pokrovskiy, a St. Petersburg admiralty lawyer, and his associates. It is located in a small village called Sobalitzy.
The moose hunt was to be conducted with a regionally known moose caller named Gena. He is one of only two or three men in Russia who are still masters of this ancient hunting technique. Gena is also capable of calling wolves – another hunting technique that is difficult to master.
The camp was modern and comfortable. Sue and I were given a large cabin with a big bedroom, a sitting room and a full bath. I was told that Alexander would be waking me at 5 a.m. Gena had located a moose that was answering his calls.
I woke up a little before five, but the appointed time came and went without a knock from Alexander. I assumed that our plans had changed and gratefully went back to sleep. A good Russian dinner with some excellent Russian vodka had kept me up past midnight. At breakfast, I learned that the morning hunt had been canceled because heavy fog made it difficult to see as far as 25 feet, but the 5 p.m. evening hunt was still on.
At the appointed time, Alexander, Gena and I, along with Peter, our driver and assistant, got into our tough Russian UAZ 469 4WD vehicle and drove for 40 minutes from the camp to the top of a hill. From there we looked down into a long, sloping area of forest, bogs and swamp.
Gena showed me the glass candle lampshade that he uses to amplify his calls. Alexander translated his comments on the different calls he uses to coax the big bulls from their boggy resting places. Gena uses a variety of cow calls and competing bull calls to call the big bulls to him. In this area of Russia the moose are nocturnal. They move, feed, fight and mate from twilight to dawn.
We walked about three kilometers through upland woods with boggy interludes and wet meadows to a spot where two well-traveled moose trails intersected. Gena had called a couple of bulls to that spot in the preceding days, a really good trophy bull and a smaller one. He knew their calls so he could generally tell which one was responding. But if the wrong bull were to come to his call, he would cross his arms in front of himself to signal me not to shoot.
We waited until sunset, which was about 8 p.m. that time of year. Gena began with a bull moose call, at first without his lampshade. When he got no response in three to four minutes, he amplified the call with the lampshade. He would give from about seven to 15 bull grunts, then listen for a response. After calling for about eight minutes, Gena signaled that he heard a return call back the way we had come. Before starting his calls, Gena placed me about 75 feet to his right and about the same distance behind him, and placed Alexander and Peter the same distance directly behind him.
We walked quickly back to a spot where the trail looked down on a forest of immature pines and up to a far-off ridge covered with small hardwoods. This time Gena placed Alexander and Peter about 10 feet behind me and he took his place about 75 feet to my left. He called again and again, but received no response. So after a few minutes we again backtracked.
We tried twice more from different spots until we had returned to the top of the hill we started from. It was now dark and Gena had been calling for an hour and a half without any response. We got back in the truck and stopped a couple of times on the ridge road so Gena could call down into the valley, but the attempts produced nothing.
We drove back to the gravel road we came in on and followed it for a kilometer, then left it for our first foray. We crossed one small creek, and then stopped in the middle of a second. Exiting the vehicle in the dark into the mud and water was tricky. We all avoided falling, but I almost lost a boot in the mud.
The night was still and a quarter moon was just coming up. We walked up a wooded road and sat on a birch log while Gena listened. After a short interval, we moved on to several open fields that we carefully surveyed before entering. Gena tried again, calling in two different fields. In the last one, however, Russian fighter planes on night maneuvers over the lightly populated area pretty much ended the calling. So we called it a night and arrived back at camp about midnight. Alexander promised a knock on my door at 5 a.m. Although nothing was said, I could sense Gena was disappointed that we had not succeeded.
We were back on the road by 5:30 a.m. and returned to the area we had last been in the prior evening. We again stepped into the creek but I was more practiced now and kept my boots from getting stuck. We walked to the last field we had called from the night before.
Gena called for several minutes, but with no response after several attempts, we started back to the truck. We were more than halfway there when a female wolf howled off to our left. The alpha male to our right immediately answered her. Gena pulled his lampshade from his pocket and gave a long return howl. Such sounds in the early dawn made the hairs on our necks stand up. Peter unslung his SKS and I cocked a .300 Win. Mag shell into the chamber of my borrowed Remington 700 BDL. The sound of my clanking shell seemed extraordinarily loud in the stillness. We waited five minutes but to no avail. The wolves didn’t answer, and we trudged back to our vehicle.
The wind picked up as we drove back to the hill we had started from the prior evening. Gena tried calling again, but concluded that the rising wind kept his calls from traveling far. We gave up just as the sun rose. Gena and Alexander were now concerned that the wolves might have driven away the moose that Gena had called several days ago.
Back at camp we had breakfast, and Alexander said we should catch up on our sleep and be ready to go again about 5:30 p.m. While we rested, Gena and several of the other guides left to scout an area a good 10 kilometers from where we had been hunting.
The area we hunted that afternoon was about an hour away. For most of the route, the road was arrow-straight as it traversed woods, alder bogs and swamps. In some places it was elevated 10 feet above the surrounding terrain. Alexander said he thought the road had been built by the Red Army for training purposes, and possibly for use by the mobile missile launchers of the Strategic Missile Forces.
The gravel road ended at the site of a long-abandoned village above a small lake. We parked at the edge of an uncultivated meadow and walked along an alder bog on an old cart trail. Alexander had told me in the truck that during the afternoon, Gena had called in a very good trophy moose in this area. After a kilometer along the trail, we were at the edge of a small field. Gena positioned us and commenced calling. He got no results after a few minutes so we moved on. This first spot, I later learned, was where Gena had seen the trophy moose.
We stopped again after about 500 yards, at a small opening at the edge of the alder bog. Gena positioned himself 75 feet to my left and Alexander and Peter were placed 15 feet behind me under the branches of the pine trees. I had a relatively unobstructed view that ranged from 20 feet to my right to about 120 feet to my left.
Gena called and almost immediately got an answer. I saw movement through the alders but no definite shape. Gena continued calling. Slowly, a trophy bull cautiously stepped forward. He came on slowly, step by step by step, and then paused behind a group of pines and alders 20 yards off my center left.
I was ready, with the safety off and my rifle poised. Gena had now moved back into the woods to my left. He had not crossed his arms as a signal not to shoot. The moose looked very big to me, but I still didn’t have a clear shot. Gena changed the tone of the call, and then dropped the volume, as though he was moving away.
The bull slowly emerged from behind the screen of trees. Time seemed to stop as I waited for the step that would bring him into position for a clear shoulder shot. Now his whole body was visible, his head and neck outstretched as he looked for the bull that was calling him. I brought the rifle to my shoulder, centered the crosshairs on the immense bull’s shoulder and squeezed the trigger.
Through the scope, I saw him lurch sideways as though hit in the shoulder by a sledgehammer. Immediately he turned away from us and crashed into the alders. I worked the bolt and sent a second shot after him as he disappeared. We heard him crashing through the alders and circling around to the right. Then all sounds ceased.
Gena, Peter, and Alexander came over and shook my hand. Then Gena and Peter, who had his rifle cocked and ready, went into the alders to track the bull. After about five minutes, I heard Gena shout something in Russian.
“He’s dead!” Alexander translated. He and I walked into the swampy tangle of alders and birches. After about 75 yards, we found Gena and Peter standing next to my bull, which was on the ground wrapped around a huge alder.
The 180-grain, Grand Slam Speer bullet was perfectly placed in the moose’s shoulder. My second shot had broken his right leg about halfway up. Gena had a pine bough from which he tore two small branches. He smeared moose blood on both and placed one in my hat and one in the moose’s mouth in accordance with European hunting customs. After we took photos, Gena opened the moose, removed the liver and propped open the body with sticks to cool it. Alexander estimated the moose weighed between 600 and 700 pounds. It was now about 8 p.m. and the deepening twilight meant that it was too late to do more. The next morning, Gena, Peter and some of the other guides returned and cut the moose into pieces small enough to carry and hiked out with them on their backs.
The cook had a good Russian dinner prepared when we arrived back at camp after leaving the moose, but we waited to eat until the moose liver had been prepared with onions as a third course. The food was superb as we discussed hunting customs around the world, and I toasted Gena’s unique calling skills. Unfortunately, moose and wolf calling are dying arts. Perfecting them takes years of practice and a natural bent to begin with.
I shall always remember my moose slowly and cautiously emerging from the alders – so totally focused on defending his turf from a competitor that he never saw or sensed me off to his left.
The moose hunt was followed by six hard days of brown bear hunting in which I didn’t see a single bear. Too bad they cannot be called in.– John R. Monson, SCI Past President