My Chawalo Safari Hunting Adventure (Story 1)

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Action and Adventure  |  House: Booksie Classic
This story is about hunting plains game in South Africa. If you have every wanted to go to hunt in South Africa or are thinking about it I believe you will enjoy this story and informative.

Submitted: September 16, 2012

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Submitted: September 16, 2012




My Chawalo Safari Hunting Adventure (Story 1)


I had always dreamed of hunting big game in Africa. After 58 years of life and 37 years of marriage, my wife thought it was time that I consider filling one my bucket list goals. With her permission I started doing the research needed to be an informed consumer. I looked to the internet first and found numerous advertisements outlining hunting venues at various prices. I watched endless hours of hunting in Africa on the hunting channel and still could not make up my mind. The choice of a hunting outfit was a decision I could not afford to take lightly. I have learned in life that word of mouth is better than any glitzy advertisement or paid program, and the answer to my questions came from an unlikely source – my dentist.


Dr. Jeffery Olson, DDS is one of the best dentists in Rapid City, South Dakota, and I have used him for years; not only because he is good at what he does, but also because he caters to cowards. I knew he was a great fisherman. All one had to do was sit in any of his dental chairs and look at all his trophies. When I told him I was interested in hunting in Africa, he was more than happy to take me back to his office to show off his African trophies. He had it all – from Nile crocodile to Nyala.  As a member of Safari Club International, Dr. Olson gave me much advice on hunting in Africa. He said that if he could only hunt once, he would use one outfitter. It was here that I was turned on to Chawalo Safaris and Mr. Carel Maartens. With Chawalo Safaris brochure in hand, I left the doctor’s office as giddy as a teenager getting ready to ask a girl on his first date.


My next question: Was I going to go to Africa alone or could I get a friend or relative who had the same dream and passions to accompany me. Being from South Dakota, most of my friends and I hunted deer, antelope, and birds. It’s a life style that I have always loved. I put the feelers out at the waterfowl lodge in Oldham, South Dakota to see what interest, if any, there would be. And I got that look! You know the one where they think you’re a fool to leave a hunting paradise to go to another, regardless of the difference in game opportunities.


My ace in the hole was my son-in-law, Kristina O’Meara, who I refer to as KO. In business and hunting he lives up to the acronym. Ohio born, he did not grow up in a hunting family, but had come to love hunting and fishing in South Dakota with me. As the VP of his firm would he be able to get away to hunt in Africa?  I told him about Chawalo Safaris, that I was going, and that I would love to have him come along. He did not hesitate, and we were on.


Once he agreed to be my hunting partner and after I reviewed Carel’s website ( I contacted him via email ( Carel’s hunting concern is in Mozambique along the Zambezi River, and covers about the same area as the Black Hills. Because we were interested in plains game, he suggested we hunt either the Kwa Zulu Natal or in the North West Province of South Africa, where he had excellent access and accommodations. Carel said our chances were best for trophy red hartebeest, waterbuck, and oryx in the North West Province of South Africa.


We talked to Carel about bringing our own weapons, and he suggested the calibers we should consider. He recommended that we use the guns at the lodge versus bringing our own, due to his past experiences with customs in South Africa. I am glad we took his advice. The Remington 700 chambered in .300 Winchester Magnum with its Trijicon scope that Carel provided was dead on every time. We used Remington’s, 180gr Swift A-Frame which worked without fail on all the plains game taken.  Carel also ensured that we each got to enjoy the other’s hunt with the two on one package. When KO was shooting I was filming and vice versa.


On May 10, 2011, we met Carel at the Johannesburg Airport (O.R. Tambo). After many emails and a few phone calls, this was the first time we met in person. In the movies when I was growing up, the PH’s were the Clark Gable and Stewart Granger types. Carel was a cross between Rod Taylor and William Shatner. He was Rod Taylor rugged, but with William Shatner’s commanding presence: confident, knowledgeable, and in control of any situation. I even told Carel as much the first night over cocktails.  The younger men had no idea who Rod Taylor was, so I started referring to Carel as Captain Kirk, which he took with good humor. From that moment on, he took us where few have or will boldly go. Little did we know at that time what experiences we would have, what we would learn, and more importantly what friends we would make.


North West Province, South Africa


Because our flights arrived late in the evening, Carel set us up in a beautiful hotel some 3 hours outside of Johannesburg. The next morning we drove another 5 hours to Harry Claassens (Harry Claassens Safaris). In this part of the Kalahari, Claassens had established many hunting opportunities (rifle, black powder, archery) for the hunter to be fully successful. We stayed at Claassens’ lodge, which provided world class food and lodging. Our hostess, Jolane Claassens, and her staff ensured that our stay while in camp was pleasant and comfortable.


After reaching the lodge and once our luggage was secured in our rooms we headed for Claassens’ main dining room for coffee and to discuss the plans for the rest of the day.  Trophy heads of every plains animal adorned the walls while their hides carpeted the floors.  As we sipped our coffee, Carel and Harry described what our hunting schedule would be.  Unlike white tail deer hunting our hunting day would not start at “O-Dark-Thirty.”The game was literally outside our door so no need leaving before light.  Breakfast would be from six to seven.  We would then load up and hunt until dusk.  Each night after dinner Jolane would pack lunch for us with plenty of soft drinks, water, and a few beers. This would be our routine for the next 9 days.


After coffee Carel and Harry talked as we walked 50 yards from the lodge’s main dining room to Claassens’ rifle range.  The Remington, model 700, 300 Winchester Magnum had been fitted with a Trijjcon 3x12 Scope and a suppresser that looked imposing.  I and KO were amazed on how much the suppresser reduced the recoil and sound when fired.  At 50 yards both KO and I were in the 10 ring.  With the sighting in done we loaded up on the Land Cruiser and our adventure began.  We would be hunting on Claassens concern and Molopo Reserve. As we drove around that first afternoon it was like being in the Garden of Eden.  Any fear we might have had about not seeing game and lots of it quickly was put to rest.  It was the rutting season for the kudu and two nice bulls gave us a good show that evening as the sun went down.  KO and I were eager to draw blood but Carel said that we could do better than the fighting bulls.  Having never seen these elk-sized animals in the wild we were sure he was wrong.  Over the next 9 days Carel showed us how right he was.


During our hunts we took exceptional blesbuck, cape eland, impala, greater kudu, oryx, red hartebeest, Cape springbuck, waterbuck, blue wildebeest, and Burchell’s zebra. The only animals on our list that we did not take were the nyala, roan, and black wildebeest. We had our chances, but were unable to pull the trigger before they disappeared into the brush. KO was hunting trophies, so most of what he shot scored in the gold. I was looking for good representations of the species, which scored in the silver or bronze range. We saw plenty of other species, like the grey duiker, steen buck, warthog, giraffe, and jackal. When not hunting big game we hunted grouse and guinea fowl.


Though all of our hunts were memorable, there were two that stand out in my mind.  That was KO’s waterbuck hunt and my eland hunt. All the hunts were spot and stock with the main problem being what species to shoot on any given day.  On the third day of the hunt Carel spotted a beautiful waterbuck.  We had seen him on two other occasions but he had always been on the run and headed into the bush.  On that day the buck was in a wooded area where he thought he was concealed.  Carel picked up the glint of the suns reflection off of his horns and motioned Harry to stop the vehicle as he glassed him out.  He told us to bail out of the cruiser which by now was a daily happy occurrence. 


KO, Carel, and I started the stock about a half mile from the buck.  After about thirty minutes of walking through the brush and dried reeds, Carel and KO were in front of me and to my left.  As I had been watching the ground to make each step as quiet as an old fat man can, I did not realize we were so close to the buck.  I felt, rather than saw him, then froze!  When I looked up I could see the waterbuck plainly in the brush 50 yards from me.  He and I were both in the open and he was staring at me.  With the buck watching me I saw Carel put up the shooting sticks out of the corner of my eye.  I stood not wanting to make eye contact with the buck for fear he would bolt.  With his attention on me, KO got into position and fired, hitting the buck just behind the right shoulder.  I saw the bullet’s impact as the animal jumped into the brush.  He did not go more than 20 yards from where he was hit.  It was only luck that I did not spook the buck and Carel and KO were in a place where they could shoot through the heavy brush. 


The next memorable hunt took us over seven miles of walking and stalking.  While scouting we came across six eland bulls.  One of them was a trophy bull and we bailed out and started what I thought would be a short trek.  And it would have been if we weren’t being busted by zebra, then wildebeest, then oryx, each time we got within shooting range.  With all the eyes on us I did not think we would ever close enough for a shot.  It was getting close to dark when Carel spotted them grazing some 200 yards from us.  Since we were after the trophy bull, KO was surprised when Carel called me forward.  Taking the gun KO handed me and joining Carel, he whispered that the trophy bull had left the group but there was an old bull with a worn down horn if I wanted him. Out of breath and sweating like a whore in church, I looked through the scope at where Carel pointed.  Carel ranged him at 175 yards and he still looked as big as a draft horse.  Calming down I drew a half breath and fired.  The bull seemed not to react as it turned and ran with the others.  I pulled the bolt back and chambered a new round and tried to find him for a second shot.  Carel and KO were pounding me on the back as the bull had dropped while I had reloaded.  The old boy was larger than any moose I have taken. KO told me later that after that long of a hike one of us had better have got something, even if it was a warth


While we were at Claassens, Scott Shultz (CEO of Scent Blocker) took a beautiful male lion from a nearby concern. For a dull normal from South Dakota, it was almost more than I could take in. KO, who had only hunted birds and deer, felt we had reached the zenith of our hunting careers. During our 10 days, Carel had become a good friend.  What a great personality and he proved to be the most knowledgeable person about African game we had ever met. There was nothing fake about him, and he did everything within his power to put us on the game we wanted.


Each time we achieved a trophy of a lifetime, Carel would say, “If you like that, you should come to my place and hunt the dangerous stuff. You know hippos, crocs, Cape buffalo, and maybe a cat or two. During your down time you can fish if you like.” At the airport I told him we would be back the next year. All we had to do was come up with the money and tell our wives. Not easy tasks. It would be okay for KO, because his wife (my daughter) loves her father and would do anything for him. My wife, on the other hand, was not an easy sale. She finally gave in when I told her it was always my wish that we walk nude along the French Riviera. She said that if I gave up that dream, I could go back to Africa and so we did!  See My Chawalo Safari Hunting Adventure Story (2)


All in all we had the time of our lives for about the price we would pay for a 10-day grizzly bear/caribou hunt in Alaska. The difference was in the world-class accommodations and the number of species that could be taken. All hunting was spot and stock with most shots within 100 yards or less.


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