South African safari success
Published: October 4, 2012
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PITMAN - With the many hunting opportunities offered by the Pennsylvania Game Commission's Mentored Youth Hunting Program, many young hunters have taken a deer, a few squirrels and possibly even a spring gobbler before their 12th birthday and buying a junior hunting license.
Connor O'Prey has taken both deer and squirrels, but in addition, the 11-year-old Pitman hunter has bagged some game that is extremely unusual for most Pennsylvania hunters. That occurred in June of this year when he and his father, Don, travelled to Lephalale, South Africa, to hunt with Warthog Safaris, a respected outfitter in that area.
As with so many successful trips, arrangements for the hunt were made at the Eastern Sports and Outdoors Show in Harrisburg. Initially, there was concern about the reaction of the outfitter about someone so young going on the trip - not as an observer, but as a full participant.
That is not a problem for the people at Warthog Safaris, who are prepared to make a few favorable concessions needed to make the trip enjoyable for young hunters. In addition, there was no need to deal with the hassles of permitting firearms for import and export, as the outfitter provides rifles in appropriate calibers for the game hunted and comfort of the shooter.
Upon arriving at the camp, bolt-action rifles chambered in .270 caliber were provided and proved to be ready for the job at hand after test firing them on the shooting range. In addition to having time on the range to gain confidence in the performance of their rifles, the hunters got instruction from the outfitter and professional hunter on shot location.
Vital organs of the African game being hunted are located farther front than those in North American game. According to the outfitter, the arid country was a factor in vitals being positioned differently than in the game Americans are accustomed to hunting.
Variable scopes were on all rifles, but the outfitter wanted both hunters to use the four-power setting, as the game being hunted would be stalked to get as close a shot as possible or from blinds located at water holes. Hunting from blinds is usually reserved for archery hunters, but concessions are made for young hunters to use them for rifle hunts.
Herds of gemsbuck, warthog, wildebeest, impala, kudu, zebra and buffalo frequent water holes, but Connor was looking for a quality blesbuck. On his first experience hunting from a blind, a quality blesbuck presented an ethical shot, and he downed his first African game with a well-placed shot.
Over the next few days, hundreds of animals were seen while spot-and-stalk, still and blind hunting, which produced blesbuck, warthog, wildebeast, gemsbuck and impala. Of these species, the hunters were impressed with how wary warthogs are, as mature warthogs circle a water hole to get the wind in their favor to make certain they were safe, and many times it seemed other animals watched for warthogs to signal the all-clear before coming to water.
A special treat of the safari that was not expected was that the meat of many of the animals taken was featured on the menu of meals at camp. A professional chef insured the meals were of top quality as well as quantity, and Connor was allowed to help prepare the loin of his blesbuck for snacks.
"Connor was just the third junior to have hunted with Warthog Safaris," Don O'Prey said. "We both loved the experience and plan to return in two years."
Experiencing the country, people and animals of South Africa was like a geography class on steroids. Boarding a plane at JFK and arriving in South Africa about 16 hours later set the stage for a remarkable trip and set the tone for future trips.