A Dream Come True
His Yellow eyes looked through me, as I moved, his head moved with me. I heard the P.H. say HE’S LOCKED ON TO YOU !!
I had two of the big five and in reality could see no way of being able to afford anymore. All the Outdoor Life magazines I had read growing up seemed to be fading into my childhood and out of reality,
I had remembered as a kid looking at Outdoor Life and dreaming that I to could hunt the true KING OF BEASTS The African LION! As I grew older this was truly a dream, as I could never justify spending mega bucks on such a hunt. Just for the rich guy’s I thought.
While at the 2010 S.C.I. in Reno, Nevada, I talked to many outfitters. The so called CANNED LION that was so fiercely scorned upon a few years ago, were being sold by many very respectable outfitters? This I thought was a possibility and I had a few friends that had shown interest in this hunt.
Because of the fanatical situation in the world, many such outfitters were having a hard time selling their hunts and were willing to bargain on a hunt with four hunters.
As in many things, it all sounds good at the time, but as time got closer to sending money for the hunt, reality set in for two of the guy’s and now we were just two hunters. The P.H. had shown us the type of lion we could expect, but now with just two of us, the quality started to take on a whole new look.
While surfing the web one day I came upon a site advertising a special on Lion hunts. I e-mailed the outfit and told him what we were looking for and it looked like the hunt and the quality of his Cats where exactly what we had originally bargained for. His prices where in the ball park, $22,500.00 for my buddy Dave and $17,500.00 for what I could spend. This hunt was to take place in the Kalahari area of South Africa. The outfit’s name was Mugaba Safaris and was owned by a young fellow named Patrick De Beer. The long drive from Johannesburg to the hunting area would be about 8 hours, this after flying 20 hours, half way across the world, the good news was this outfit was to fly us to the hunting area and was included in the price. GREAT !
All was looking good and as we talked via e-mail it was getting even better. Dave was to be with Karen and it was going to cost him the usual observers rate for her, NOT HERE Patrick said this is included in our end of season special !! WOW, O.K. what’s the hitch? The Lions must be of poor quality. I asked for and received photos of the type of Cats we could expect. With all this info, I talked to our original Outfitter and asked what he thought, he said he cannot match this price or the package and suggested I go with this Mugaba Safaris outfit and he would refund our deposits. A very nice thing for him to do for us.
As the time approached I was waiting for the hammer to fall so to speak. But No, all was a go. Never meeting and or seeing this new outfit was a huge chance I was taking!! Not only risking my money but my buddy Dave’s as well. I had a good feeling about this young guy but was this deal TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE ??
I arrived in Johannesburg and met Dave in the airport, Patrick was with him, as was his helpers. Hell their all just kids, what the hell have I got myself into this time?? The deal was to pay up front NOT the normal way I’ve done it, every other time??
As we paid our bills, Patrick had to take care of something and said he would be right back. I turned to Dave and said I hope we’re not still waiting here next week? I was very unsure at this point.
I couldn’t have been more WRONG Patrick De Beer is a young man that thinks in a new way, he sees the bigger picture and is not the same old same old way of doing things.
We left the airport and drove to another, where two airplanes awaited us. It was looking better, two very professional pilots were to fly us to the Kalahari Lion hunting area.
After a two hour flight we arrived at a location amongst a gold mining operation. This I thought was the place we were to stay, again I thought what the hell is this, after asking if this was the location I was assured it was not and we had a one hour drive to the lodge. Upon arrival I was so relieved to see what was probably one of the most luxurious lodges I have ever been to. A rambling area of cultured grass and gardens set in amongst this were the chalets for each of us. I had brought along an observer by the name of Ed, a long time friend and client of mine. Ed and I shared one unit, we each had a separate bedroom and washroom, and everything was as I had asked for, right down to the smallest detail. There was a beautiful lounge and dinning room, full bar, big screen T.V. not that I watched it but it was a nice touch.
The staff was excellent as was the food.
Now how was this hunt to play out? Remembering this was a captive reared Lion hunt, I was assured it was indeed a hunt, not just a kill. The hunt was to take place on an area of 3km. x 6 km. this was huge and it was hot, tracking was to be the method, I had reservations as to my ability. As I have a few health issues and am a young 63 year old. I do not deal with the heat very well but I’d give it a go. The night before the hunt was to begin I was full of anxiety, Patrick had schooled us on the procedure of the hunt and what we must do in certain circumstances. As I lay in my bed I could hear a Lion roar, or was I just hearing things? As morning dawned I had not slept and for the first time in my hunting life I was truly unsure of what the day would bring, hell I was scared and anyone that says they aren’t would be full of it, or a total idiot!
To my surprise the area was as any other concession, full of game.
This I could not figure out, why would they want to have their very expensive game animals eaten by the Lions? As I was told, this was to be as a wild hunt, yes they lost some game but as they said that was part of the price to pay for a real hunt.
The cats were fed at selected bait sites BUT they never used the same site twice, moving the bait each time ensured the cats would have to look for the food each day. WOW these guys have really done their home work on this deal, were my thoughts. The first day of tracking proved fruitless as the sites were not fed at, to add to the situation was that there was 6 lioness and two male Lions in the enclosure, making tracking difficult. The next morning was cloudy and cooler, good for me. Dave had taken a real unique Zebra and as we were taking photos, Patrick had a radio call one of the trackers had spotted a Lion at one of the baits. A second truck was called in to get the Zebra and we were off. I fully expected that the first Lion was to be Dave’s, but then how could we know what would turn up first?
Patrick said O.K. Jim this is your Lion, it was as good as it could get, as I was not worn out tracking in the sun and bordering on dehydration as I was the day before.
As we approached I was getting more and more nervous. Would I screw this up after waiting most of my adult life for this opportunity?
I had made it clear to the P.H.’s that I wanted to be close, 35 yards or so and that I did not want anyone talking to me. (I did not want a situation like the u tube lion attack I had seen too many times). They had assured me that 35 yards had it’s good points and bad, yes I would have a better chance of exact shot placement but at that range it would be almost impossible to get off a second shot and the cat could cover that distance in a matter of a very few seconds. As on bears that I had taken, I feel closer is better. I had studied the book The Perfect Shot and felt I knew the neck and spine location in all the usual situations.
When the P.H. had said He’s locked on to you, I was ready but the position the Lion was laying in was a totally new situation, while eating the cat had both his front paws holding the feed, our approach was a bit to the rear of the cat and as he turned to look at us, he was curled so that his mane was touching his back leg, all this was going on in mille seconds WHERE THE HELL IS HIS SPINE AND OR NECK ?? I made a quick visual and as the cats tail was now standing straight up and was waving from side to side, in one movement he had his front paws under himself and I saw his motion as he was getting to his feet, his muscles tensed and I knew he was on his way! I squeezed one off, I heard the P.h. say he’s dead, I remember while talking to Craig Boddington at his booth in Reno’s S.C.I. saying to me, Jim be careful these are really dangerous cats! Where the wild ones will probably run away, these Lions will come for you every time. Taking his advice, as in many of his films Craig says keep shooting until they no longer move . With this in mind I reloaded and put a shot through his heart and another through his lungs. The cat did not totally expire for another several minutes. Dave went on to get a truly old monster of a Lion, both Lions had magnificent long manes that reached far back behind the front shoulder, Dave’s had belly hair that extended between his back legs. Lions of this quality would sell for far more then we paid. I have spent a few years looking and talking to outfitters at S.C.I. to know what they offer. As I said Patrick De Beer is among the BEST outfitters I’ve ever hunted with. I should say Patrick is not that young, it just seems that anyone under 40 is a kid to me! Happy to be a young 63 year old that can still have a dream come true !
For those that have a dream of a Lion hunt. I can honestly say that Patrick De Beer of Mugaba Safari is the real deal and will give you A HUNT OF A LIFE TIME !!
I will return next October for a Lioness
W J Rough