Tag Archives: hunting

Africa–Realizing a Dream

gemsbok-071513At age 75 I thought my doctor’s suggestion for an angiogram didn’t make sense just because of a slight shortness of breath when walking briskly. However, the test results showed I was in immediate need for what turned out to be triple bypass surgery, and the next day I found myself a cardio bypass patient.

A lifelong dream of an African safari seemed remote and, as I lay in my hospital bed, my family and recovery were on my mind, not Africa. Heart surgery is a life changing experience, both physically and emotionally.

In a few weeks, I joined a group in a cardio rehab program at a local gym. One morning I overheard the words “African safari” and immediately introduced myself to a fellow rehab patient who was showing his photos of a safari he went on two years prior. One thing led to another and as I quizzed my new found friend, Doug Blood, I told him how I had wanted to hunt in Africa since I was a teen and didn’t see that a possibility now.

impala-071513We discussed a trip during the next few weeks at the gym, over lunch, and dinner and Doug said he would go again if I would. Doug had taken a Cape buffalo and kudu and wanted to add a plains game hunt. Tino Erasmus, the PH and owner of TG Safaris in the Limpopo province of South Africa was to visit in March for his annual trip to the States, and we all agreed to meet and discuss a possible hunt. Doug’s previous safari was with TG Safaris and he was impressed and satisfied, so any other outfitter was not even considered. I liked Tino from the start, and felt comfortable talking with him and discussing my health issue and concerns.

After talking it over with my wife, JoEllen, she urged me to go. Her words were something like, “Look, you aren’t getting any younger, you survived heart surgery, and I think you should go.” A safari was no minor expense; however, we discussed that as well and agreed it was not an issue.

As for my heath concern, after talking it over with my cardiologist, he said: “Have a great time. I want to see the pictures.” I did, however, purchase a trip cancellation policy through SCI’s travel protection plan as well as a Global Rescue policy. Neither was necessary, but well worth the peace of mind they afforded. South Africa is a long way from home.

I finally made up my mind and said to Doug, “OK. Let’s go hunting.” Since he had been on safari, he knew the ropes and what was involved. That made it much easier, riding on Doug’s experience.

suppressor-071513We booked the trip with TG Safaris for a seven-day hunt in July of this year. I wanted to take a greater kudu, gemsbok, impala, warthog and wildebeest. My daughter, Amy, asked that I get her a zebra rug, so that was added to the list.

As for the rifle, five years ago I purchased a custom Winchester Model 70 in .300 Winchester Magnum caliber with the hope of an eventual African hunt.  I mated it with a Zeiss 3-9X scope, not knowing it would actually make it to the Dark Continent. I settled on 180-grain Nosler Partition Federal Premium ammo for the hunt, since it was highly recommended and consistently grouped well under an inch at 100 yards. Sighted in 1.6 inches high put it on the money at 200 yards. A ton of practice off the unfamiliar shooting sticks gave me the confidence I needed, as well as getting used to the stiff recoil of the magnum.

Our other daughter, Jenny, a critical care physician in Washington State, asked if she could join us because she wanted to see and experience Africa. Of course I was elated that she wanted to come, knowing deep down that her real purpose was to watch over her dad!

The long flight from Rochester, New York, to Washington/Dulles to Dakar to J’Berg was not nearly as bad as I feared. I suspect the thought of my long-anticipated safari had a lot to do with that. An overnight accommodation at a meet and greet guesthouse in J’Berg allowed us to get a good meal and restful night sleep. The next day, we boarded a short flight to Pietersburg where we were met and driven the final leg to the Sand River Hills ranch.

kudu-071513Upon arrival at the ranch and meeting Amanda, Tino’s wife, Arno, my PH, JJ, another PH, and the staff, we settled in, sighted-in the rifles and prepared for the next day’s hunt. After an excellent dinner that included gemsbok, we hit the sack for tomorrow’s hunt. It is hard to describe my feelings and thoughts as I lay in bed. There I was in Africa. Tomorrow we would hunt. After 60 years, a dream was being realized.

Our hunt was successful in all ways and Doug and I took the game we sought. The last shot I took was on a slow-moving warthog at 210 yards. The Model 70, Federal ammunition and practice combined for one-shot kills on all the game.

Dr. Jenny had a terrific time joining me on the hunts and enjoying camp life. Tino said it was nice having a doctor in camp and Jenny did tend to a serious infected tick bite Doug received.

That is how a dream was realized, and a 77-year-old cardio patient discovered that Africa was not out of the question. As I admired my first trophy, the zebra, I became overwhelmed for the moment seemed impossible two years ago. I can’t imagine the possibility of a few years from now wishing I had gone on safari and not having done it. Some dreams are meant to be realized.

warthog-071513Before heading back, we spent two days at the N’Kaya lodge in the Thornybush game reserve and observed more animals, including the Big Five close up, thus capping off a fantastic adventure.

Incidentally, I recently purchased a Mauser rifle in 9.3×64 caliber for the next trip in two years. The Africa experience is too wonderful to only experience once.   I hear there is a dagga boy Cape buffalo waiting for me and I don’t intend to disappoint it.– Ron Martino

Pennsylvania Preliminary Statewide Bear Harvest Results

Hunters during the final day of Pennsylvania’s statewide bear season harvested 365 bears, raising the 2018 statewide season harvest to 1,993 – a 10 percent increase compared to the 1,796 taken during the four days of the statewide season in 2017. Continue reading Pennsylvania Preliminary Statewide Bear Harvest Results

Hoosier Bigger Buck State?

By Scott Mayer

It’s pretty amazing what professional wildlife managers can do to manipulate animal populations to meet specific cultural, economic, or geographic needs.  For example, when I was growing up in rural Virginia, the rule when deer hunting was “bucks only,” as the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries was managing the herd for growth. It succeeded. In fact, some would say they over succeeded as today Virginia has liberal antlerless deer opportunities as the Department works to either sustain or in some places even reduce deer populations.

Indiana is no different in managing its deer herd to suit that state’s needs as evidenced by the Indiana Natural Resources Commission recently approving an indefinite extension of a management tool commonly referred to as the “one-buck” rule.

Indiana is no different in managing its deer herd to suit that state’s needs as evidenced by the Indiana Natural Resources Commission recently approving an indefinite extension of a management tool commonly referred to as the “one-buck” rule. That rule limits hunters in Indiana to only one antlered deer during the regular archery, firearms and muzzleloader deer seasons.

The rule was first applied in 2002 and was set to sunset after a five-year period. I spoke with Chad Stewart, the deer biologist for Indiana, about the “one-buck” rule, its background, and the effect it has had on the deer herd and hunting in Indiana.

Stewart wasn’t with the Commission when the rule was implemented, but his understanding is that sportsmen and women lobbied for the rule to manage the herd for more mature deer. Steward explained that in 2001, the year before the one-buck rule was applied, 56% of the bucks harvested were yearlings. He recalls that at the time, there was some push-back from some groups of hunters, but the rule was renewed in 2007 and today 65% of Indiana hunters support the rule, and most of those support the rule “overwhelmingly.”

According to Stewart, the popularity has a lot to do with hunters seeing more bucks, and the bucks they are seeing are larger and more mature. In fact, in 2011 (the latest year for which there is data) the yearling buck harvest was only 39%. As Indiana’s one-buck rule demonstrates, when hunters and game departments work together and use sound wildlife management practices, great things can happen.

Both Eyes Open When Shotgunning!

Paul James, General manager of Estancia Cortaderas, shot a shotgun for the first time with both eyes open. After coaching from Vicki he shot 11 of 25 with his first box. He was amazed at how slow the birds appeared when shot with both eyes and minimal gun movement.

Gil and Vicki Ash help a new shotgunner be a better shot by keeping both eyes open.

By Gil and Vicki Ash

Upon arrival we were stunned at the well-groomed front yard. The grass was manicured and the trees were pruned to form a canopy-like setting completely surrounding Estancia Cortaderas. The Parana River was the northwestern boundary of the Estancia and was larger than one would expect.

Paul met us with the excited smile of a new friend and a twinkle in his eye, which made us feel welcome immediately.

We were the only ones in the lodge and were shown the spa area, complete with shower, wet and dry sauna, message rooms and hot tub room all on the second floor.

First on the hunting list were pigeons. Tired from a day of travel to Buenos Aries, then change airports, then to Santa Fe and a ride with Omar for about an hour and a half to the lodge, we decided to not leave at 5:30 the next morning. We retired early, slept until 5:30 and started the day off slowly with coffee in the room. This put us a little late by most hunting standards. But the best shooting was going to be between 2:30 and 5 p.m., so Paul called it right.

The pigeon hunting was a blast and there were many lessons learned, especially for Gil. These birds are very large compared to the doves we normally shoot. They are hunted much like ducks, but not over water. Just a blind and decoys on the ground. No calling necessary.

One of the biggest takeaways for both of us was the fact that they appear to be moving fast, but actually are moving very slowly. It is easy to shoot in front of the birds. Why in front? It goes back to gun speed equaling bird speed, which is the basis for consistency in our system of shooting. Even though they are big birds they can put a move on a hunter who comes up too suddenly or too early.

We used our 20 gauge K-20s on this hunt and they performed flawlessly. With the Isis recoil systems there was little or no felt recoil. Omar who was our chief guide, made shot selection. We would be using #5 lead, which just happens to be my favorite shot size for large birds like the pigeon. With Modified over Modified chokes and those #5s, it was an unbeatable combination with clean kills even at 40 yards. We had many headshots as well as the usual misses behind because the gun stopped when we checked the lead or we mounted too fast and the accelerating muzzle caught our eye.

While at Estancia Cortaderas we had an occasion to take the General Manager, Paul James, and Hunting Guide and gunsmith, Omar Borghello, out on a dove hunt with us. Paul has shot rifles and done a little wingshooting, but was closing an eye and trying to aim.

One of the doves we shot and picked up had germinated soy beans in its crop. These birds have gotten to the point that they know where the beans are planted in the field and they scratch the soil with their feet until the bean is exposed and pull it out of the ground. This is the reason they are regarded as pests in Argentina.

The next morning we all went to a field near the lodge and began to shoot. They watched. When we pulled the trigger and the bird folded, they landed at our feet or just in front or just behind us.

Then it came their turn and Paul was first. Vicki put two shotgun shell boxes on the ground and showed Paul what he was supposed to see when shooting with two eyes and how it was different from shooting with only one eye. When he understood the difference she had him move on a few birds with an empty gun and then he loaded one shell and the next bird that passed he missed behind but he knew WHY! He immediately said he had looked down the gun while looking at the bird which made the gun come up on the bird and made the gun stop as he pulled the trigger. It was almost magical what happened on the next shot. As the trigger broke the bird folded and hit the ground dead.

Paul shot his first box of shells with two eyes for the first time. He killed 11/25 and on every shot he missed, he called the error correctly and CORRECTED THE MISS. His comment was that everything was moving in slow motion and he knew even before he pulled the trigger when he was going to hit the bird and not.

“In the beginning I was afraid of not being able to keep both eyes open. I got this habit from rifle shooting. Got over it easily as I was told not to look at the barrel but concentrate on the target and fine tune on the head,” he said. “I was surprised when I did this that I was able to keep both eyes open and when mounting the gun use short and gentle movements and you become very accurate.”

Will Paul be a great shot with two eyes from now on? Maybe, maybe not. That will depend on how much he practices, not on how much he understands the procedure.

Omar was fascinated with our guns and wanted to shoot to see what the recoil was like with the Isis recoil system. To his amazement, after the first shot, he said, “It’s like shooting a .410.” Well we couldn’t agree more. The combination of the K-20 with 32- inch barrels and the Isis recoil system is amazing in that the felt recoil is reduced dramatically. But because of the material it is made of, there is no change in the balance of the gun. In a hunting gun, balance and handling are everything. When you combine target gun handling with reduced recoil, you have just about the perfect high volume gun.

If we were going to set the record for most doves shot in a day we would go to 20 gauge gas guns and take the plug out to have three or four guns with two loaders so the guns could cool down a little in their rotation.

We must have made an impression on Omar and Paul because they both arranged to shoot with us in the afternoon. We worked with both Paul and Omar in the morning and they could not believe how their consistency improved. Runs of six to eight dead birds in a row were not uncommon.

On the afternoon hunt Gil decided to shoot long, high incoming shots so he put in two full chokes and went to work minimizing his move and shooting birds farther and farther out in front, with Omar and Paul looking over his shoulder. One of the birds Gil shot spilled some grain as he fell and hit the ground. Paul went out to pick it up to show Gil why these birds are seen as a pest in Argentina. As he picked the bird up, falling from its craw were “germinated soy beans” and on closer inspection we found several with the new root still intact. These birds have learned where in the field the seeds are planted and they scratch the ground with their feet until they expose the seed and then they eat it. Estimates of as much as 30 percent of the crop can be lost to doves between planting and germination.

Hard to believe that this little bird could be this destructive. But when you add to the equation the fact that there are as many as five hatches each year, you can begin to see why the dove is seen as a pest and the hunter is welcome. Capitalism baby, you gotta love it! We are looking forward to coming back to Estancia Cortaderas later this year to shoot a mixed bag of ducks, perdiz, pigeons and doves. Maybe even try some fishing.