Out of Africa: A Hunter’s Journal

EDITOR’S NOTE: Minot resident Mark Hamilton recently embarked on his fourth trip to Africa. He began a hunting safari on June 16 that is to include a quest for the continent’s most dangerous game, culminated by a lion hunt the second week of July. Hamilton intends to provide weekly reports and photographs to The Minot Daily News for publication on these pages. The following is his first report from the field.

HARARE, ZIMBABWE – The journey begins. From Minot to Minneapolis to Washington, D.C., to Dakar, Senegal, to Johannesburg, South Africa, to Harare, Zimbabwe. Twenty-three hours total flight time, layovers and time changes excluded. Africa at last. We have arrived.

I have always felt that no hunter’s life is totally complete until he has seen Africa. Throughout the world, there are many great places to hunt and an unending variety of game to pursue, but Africa is special. Once she grabs you, she holds you in her grasp, never to let go.

Growing up in North Dakota, when I was a boy of 8 years, my father would turn me loose in our cattle pasture with a .22 rifle. In my dreams, I was now in Africa, and the gophers were lions, leopards and elephants, and I slew them all! I couldn’t stop dreaming of Africa. One day I would go there, I thought. One day I would be “bwana,” the great white hunter! Young boys dreams do come true. Now, once again, I find myself in Africa.

A note about safari hunting in Africa

Africa hunting is somewhat like attending a giant smorgasbord. You are presented with a list of a great variety of game for you to choose from. For most first time hunters, the typical initial safari begins with a variety of “plains game.” The list includes impala, zebra, wildebeest, waterbuck and more. On this type of hunt you pay a fixed daily rate for the hunt, and then trophy fees for each animal you wish to take. Your daily rate costs are about $300 per day for a hunt usually lasting from 7 to 10 days, and then your trophy fee. Each animal has a different price. This is your baptism, your introduction to Africa and its hunting.

I have never met anyone who has hunted Africa who has not returned there, or at the very least, did not desperately want to. On this, our returning hunt, we will be after beasts of a different color and disposition than plains game. We will be hunting dangerous game.

It is most often accepted that dangerous game usually comprises

the following animals in their respective order: Cape buffalo, leopard, elephant, lion, and to a lesser degree, crocodile and hippopotamus. In the past, rhinoceros was also in this category, one of the famed “Big 5.” However, due to poaching, rhinoceros are few in number today and are rarely hunted.

Our hunt takes us to a west central portion of Zimbabwe known as Sengwa Reserve, a government-owned wildlife area similar to our national refuges. Our camp is located on a high bluff overlooking the Sengwa River. The natural setting itself is most spectacular.

From our vantage point we see a good deal of game. It is mostly plains game, but a good variety none the less. All hunting at Sengwa is controlled by the Zimbabwean government, which sets regulations and specific quotas on each animal. Mokore Safaris, our outfitters, has a five-year lease on this property of about 95,000 acres.

More about all this later. Soon we walk with buffalo, leopard and lion. Join me next week for another episode from “A Hunter’s Journal.”