Most folks might think spiral-horned beauties and dumbo-sized tuskers when the Dark Continent is mentioned, but South Africa surprisingly represents some of the world’s best remaining wildfowl adventures, too. To provide full perspective of this amazing destination, Ramsey meets with South African associates and US clients. Similarities and differences, favorite species and foods, local customs, memorable days, and expectations versus reality are discussed, proving that in the world of duck hunting experiences, birds of a feather really flock together. Whether looking for a new adventure or just interested in what duck hunting’s like half-way across the world, y’all will enjoy these conversations.
Bringing Your Birds Home
… there’s a handful of us that have turned our profession into wing shooting or a large part of wing shooting, it’s never solely wing shooting over here, we do mixed bags.
Ramsey Russell: Welcome back to Duck Season Somewhere from South Africa where we’re enjoying duck, geese, guinea fowl and other upland game birds in a massive wing shooting combo that I believe is among the top three wing shooting destinations in the world at present. We’ve got Argentina, we’ve got Mexico and we’ve got South Africa. One of the big advantages of South Africa is you can bring the birds home for your trophy room. This is our 5th or 6th year down here having a great time and I wanted you to hear from a lot of my associates and from the clients to hear what they say to provide a full and proper perspective of this excellent destination. Joining me first on the phone because we ran out of time to meet and talk when I was down there is Mr. Paul Lennon. How you doing, Paul?
Paul Lennon: I’m good, thanks Ramsey. How are you?
Ramsey Russell: I’m good. Man, what a great time we’ve had together the last couple of years hunting down in South Africa, I sure have enjoyed it. And I’ve enjoyed getting to know you. You learn a lot riding to and from these hunts and sitting in the blind with somebody and I’ve learned a lot about South Africa and a lot about yourself. What are your origins as a hunter in South Africa?
Paul Lennon: I was originally born in the UK in London and then came out here when I was still a baby and then been backwards and forwards several times. So, my origins as a hunter was being given a pellet gun as a six year old and being asked to shoot Starlings around the house with a pellet gun for 20 pellets and to earn some pocket money and I guess that’s how it all started.
Ramsey Russell: Do you identify as a Brit or a South African since you were born and raised?
Paul Lennon: No, definitely as a South African. We all support the Springbok rugby team and they have a green jersey and as we say over here, my blood is definitely green, this is my home.
Ramsey Russell: I hear you. Talk about going from a pellet rifle into proper hunting, primarily game, I know, but also wing shooting, which makes you, sort of a niche specialist in South Africa among hunters.
Paul Lennon: Yeah. Most of the professional hunters over here are all into big game, plains game hunting with rifles, there’s a handful of us that have turned our profession into wing shooting or a large part of wing shooting, it’s never solely wing shooting over here, we do mixed bags. But my interest started, as a young boy in England and I would go with a gamekeeper, we lived over there from about when I was about 6 till 13 and I would go with him and I would help beat on some of the pheasant shoots over there as well. Yeah, it kind of culminated in an interest and then for my 16th birthday, I was given a shotgun by my father and the rest as they say is history, that’s where it started for me.
Ramsey Russell: One thing I’ve noticed as we go to taxidermy shops throughout South Africa, especially the ones that cater to the locals, as I meet with people like yourself, the South African hunter, a lot of the clients that I send over there, a lot of the people that I meet in Africa that come from America and Europe, they’re trophy hunters or sport hunters, they’re looking for a sad daddy of a certain animal that’s totally different than yourself. You were telling me kind of how your big game hunting, what it’s about. Explain what you are as a hunter or how you hunt and what you hunt for in South Africa as compared to a lot of the tourists that come over.
Paul Lennon: Yeah, as a local hunter, there’s a huge local hunting market here and it’s driven almost solely by you’re hunting for the table, you’re hunting for meat. There’s a lot of guys over here that also trophy hunt but it’s primarily for the meat and being local hunters, we’re allowed to take the meat home with us. And then that goes into various table fairs, I mean, I go every year and look for an eland cow up here in the Drakensberg close to where I live in Natal. And that’s enough venison in there to fill the freezer and last us for a year. Some of it will go into mince, some of it goes into stewing meat for curries and stuff like that and then, some of it, of course, will go into biltong as well or jerky as you guys know it.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah.
Paul Lennon: So, that’s kind of how that evolves. So we don’t necessarily go out and hunt for trophies per se, although, if you’re able to and also it’s got a lot to do with price. So, hunting for meat animals, you’re hunting animals, often the female of the species and it’s a lot more affordable that way. And venison even in those situations and those prices is almost a half or a third of the price of beef or lamb, so it’s a cheap way to go out, enjoy yourself, put some meat on the table for the rest of the year and it’s a much cheaper way to sustain yourself with healthy meat for the rest of the year, so that’s kind of where that lies.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a real similarity between South Africans and American hunters is we all like to fill our freezers with venison and I’ll tell you what, I’ve eaten some eland that eland is some fine venison, no doubt. I know from riding around with you, boy, I’m a biltong freak, I love biltong I like to sample it all. And it’s funny how you go into some of these different meat shops and they all got their own little recipe for it. And I’m always with an arm’s reach of a bag of biltong. And I don’t eat so much biltong, I eat the case sausages, I call it biltong, but it’s not, it’s a different word. But what is your biltong recipe?
Paul Lennon: It’s very simple. You separate the muscles out of the back leg or the back strap and you slice it with the grain of the meat and then once you’ve removed a lot of the sinew and stuff like that, you pack the strips with four ingredients, so it’s coarse ground salt, coarse ground black pepper, some sugar, a little bit of brown sugar and coarse ground coriander and that’s it. And you layer all those different ingredients, so you put a layer of meat down, you put the four ingredients in the next layer and you let that soak overnight and then you dip it in vinegar, brown spirit vinegar before you hang it up and then you hang it in the air dryers and so it’s very simple.
Ramsey Russell: It is very simple, we smoke and do a jerky mostly over here in the States and I really like the air dried biltong over there. I like the way you all cure the meat, to do it here in the Deep South, we’d have to use like a dryer, a dehydrator. In fact, Mr. Ian, who you know actually made some last year and it turned out absolutely good, it was amazing how good that turned out using a similar recipe to what I think you told him.
Paul Lennon: And traditionally it’s done here in the winter, which is our cold dry months, if you wanted to make it during summer, you’re going to run into problems with humidity and heat and flies and all that sort of thing and it’s generally quite often hung outside just under the eaves of the house. So it’s where it gets a good air flow, so you do it in the cold dry winter months, so typically June, July, August that’s when you get it done.
South Africa Duck Hunting Culture
But here shooting waterfowl or duck hunting was mostly pass shooting and it was something you did at the end of the day after chasing guinea fowl or upland birds around to add an hour or two in the evening.
Ramsey Russell: Paul, most of our clients, of course, come over to wing shoot, that’s how I know you. How would you describe the South Africa duck hunting culture? Because I think it’s a very small minority of South African hunters that actually pursue ducks at all, is that a fair assessment?
Paul Lennon: Yes, very fair assessment. I wouldn’t say we had a duck hunting culture at all over here, nothing like the States where it’s huge and I don’t think there’s many other places in the world that follow suit with the States in that regard. But here shooting waterfowl or duck hunting was mostly pass shooting and it was something you did at the end of the day after chasing guinea fowl or upland birds around to add an hour or two in the evening. And you just go to a man-made dam or a lake or a pond and you’d flight them coming back into roost on the water and that was pretty much it, that duck shooting to most South Africans is shooting them where they roost as opposed to what we now doing with – those of us who know that do it, now we shoot them where they’re feeding, we create areas where they’re feeding and then we let them go back to their roost, so you don’t disturb the population in an area, in that way it becomes a sustainable thing. But, yeah, I wouldn’t say most South Africans have got no idea how to shoot a duck or decoy geese or use decoys.
Ramsey Russell: I think, it’s a huge advantage to that because what I recognize when I hunt ducks, the South African way, the waterfowl aren’t as pressured, they just aren’t as pressured as what we experience and I think the difference is, I don’t know how successful we Americans would be with a lot of the habitats we hunt with a lot of the scenarios we’re in, especially on public land, just simply pass shooting. So we’re all trying to decoy them and get them in close and do this, it becomes very competitive and I just see a lot of differences when I bring Americans over to hunt in South Africa and I explain to everybody, it is a different way of hunting, but when in Rome. For example, when we hunted together this past visit, the first hunt we hunted together, you had some associates from South Africa, some older gentlemen that were friends with your family and I brought some Americans and we formed a line between the big roost in the feeding area and it was the first time any of the Americans had ever done anything at all like that. They had never passed shoot now, they had a good time, I heard one of them say I’ll never shoot over decoy again, this is too much fun, it’s very effective, we sure put up the numbers that way and it’s fun, I really do enjoy it. Do you notice any other similarities between the South African hunters versus the Americans? Just a mindset? I know what I think, I see and I’m just curious what you might see.
Paul Lennon: Yeah, I mean, similarity wise, aside from the obvious that we all enjoy shooting and we all enjoy the outdoors and we all have a passion for conservation at heart and you want to be able to preserve species and stuff like that. But I think that the passion certainly for waterfowl is, you guys have got it down to a fine art. We don’t possess that culture where ducks are almost like a cult following, where everybody waits for the start of duck season, shooting duck in the shooting season.
Ramsey Russell: You’re right.
Paul Lennon: Here, they don’t have much of an idea about blinds and camo and staying hidden and wearing a face mask and all that sort of thing. They don’t understand –
Paul Lennon: Decoys, no they’ve got no. And you guys are way ahead of us as far as decoys and understanding how to set them out and kill zones and all that sort of stuff. I mean, I for one spend quite a lot of time on the internet, not only Googling that kind of stuff, but also watching videos on YouTube of how you guys do stuff in order to get new ideas. And we’ve had to come up with our own plans here, we can only get a sort of a plastic shell decoy, so we’ve had to come up with our own plans to try and get more movement into the decoy to get it more lifelike and stuff like that. Like that bobbing, diving duck, mallard female that you brought to Mike and I –
Ramsey Russell: That’s flashback decoys, it’s called a flashback decoy.
Paul Lennon: Yeah, a flashback decoy, you can’t get that here. I think Janie’s son when we were shooting at his dam, he came up and he said to Mike, he said, why don’t they shoot that duck there? And Mike said which one? He said, no, that one there and the duck is right there in front of the blind, why don’t they shoot that one there? And Mike said, no, that’s a decoy. And he went, what? So they’ve never seen that stuff, never even heard of that sort of thing before. So, we’re still learning, we get there and we’re trying to make our own plan and adapt as best we can. But I think we do pretty well under the circumstances for what we have here.
Ramsey Russell: I told Mike, we were going to bring some mojos, the spinning wing decoys, mojo decoys and I was going to bring a flashback decoy and he shrug and said, well, I don’t know if it’ll work, I said, I would have work. And there were some memorable afternoons that we pitch the decoys made somewhat of conventional spread decoys to the left, decoys to the right mojos in motion at the kill hole and it was astounding. Because when the birds present themselves right, all 4 or 5 gunners can really put them on the water. And it’s all about the presentation. And one of the other important things and correct me if I’m wrong, but in the same way that a lot of the local hunters go out to hunt for meat and don’t really collect normally trophy antlers, have you noticed that a lot of the Americans value the bird? We cook them for dinner, we’ve made gumbo, we’ve made chicken fried, we like to cook our own little recipes, but boy, they really place a lot of value on the trophy quality of the species itself, have you noticed that among the American hunters?
Paul Lennon: Yes, I have. And I mean, to me that’s a natural thing. If you’re going to go and hunt in a different country in a different part of the world and you’re able to collect and take those different waterfowl or game bird species back home, it’s interesting because it’s different and it’s something you’ve never seen before and something you’ve never hunted before. So, yeah, it’s all very different. I don’t know that we have a wider range of species here, but they certainly – also, all ducks are beautiful, they’re all pretty, they all fantastic, even the dull ones when you hold them in the sun and you look at them closely, they all have their own wonderful characteristics. And I think, for you guys to be able to come over here hunt those different species of duck and take them back and put them up on your wall and that’s a wonderful thing.
Ramsey Russell: And one of the most common species in South Africa, the Red Bill Teal is also one of the most popular with clients that want to do taxidermy. So it’s really not a scarcity or rarity or a particular thing, it’s just that innate beauty that these different waterfowl have. Now, one thing you all have in common and I’m going to end on this note. One thing that I really like hunting with you and Mike and the guys we hunt with over there is dogs. You all have Labrador retrievers. And Scout is an absolute dynamite, little yellow lab, you’ve got. I tried to bring Char dog and I’m going to tell you this right now, there’s no bringing a dog from America to South Africa, 2 things stopped us. One, there was a test we had to perform and my vet who’s very good at this kind of stuff called me up and said, look, I can administer the test and we can’t find a laboratory in America to run the test to confirm it and even if we did the last time I did one, it was $1,500 to $2,000, I said, well, that’s a deal breaker. And meanwhile, Mike had put me in touch with a pet travel service and they were going to help me get through customs and all this good stuff, before the deal breaker came along with the enormous cost of this certain test. And when I explained to them that she was a service animal and was going to be riding on board, not in cargo, they said, well, we can’t help you unless it’s cargo. So there’s no bringing Char dog to South Africa as much as I’d love to. But really and truly to have a little dog like Scout out there handling and working and fetching birds, I really do think that and I think most listeners are nodding their head right now saying, yeah, dogs retrievers are very integral to the American duck hunting experience. I mean, to me, it’s as important that I have Char as I do my shotgun or my duck call maybe more so. But anyway, did you train Scout yourself?
Paul Lennon: Yes, I did. And I enlisted a lot of advice from various other friends that I know that are also in the game. There’s quite a quite a large working gundog community here, both retrievers and also pointers and English and German short hair pointers and that sort of thing. But yeah, so Scout, this was her first season, she’s just over 18 months old and now she’s about 20 months old. So, there’s some fine tuning to do, but for her first season, I just amazed, but the dogs definitely, play a huge role. I mean, there’s retrieving wounded birds from an ethical point of view, it’s very important. And also if you have guys that you bring over that are hunting here that are collecting, if your prized South African shelduck or shoveler or something is out there in the middle of the dam, you need to be able to go and get it without wrecking the thing. So, yeah, they’re important and they’re fun and they certainly add to the whole experience as well and it’s always a delight to watch dogs working, just wonderful.
Ramsey Russell: Well, Paul, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and I know you’re very busy and I look forward to seeing you next year.
Paul Lennon: It’s a great pleasure, Ramsey. And, yeah, it was wonderful to see you and all the guys that you brought over to hunt with us and likewise I look forward to sharing a blind and having a matter as the sun’s going down and the ducks are coming into the decoys, it’ll be wonderful.
South African Guinea Fowl Hunting
But the next day, once we started hunting upland, first thing, man, what a beautiful country and the birds were – we worked a little bit but it was worth it. I mean, shooting Guinea fowl, Francolin just a neat experience.
Ramsey Russell: Mr. Philip Bush. What brings you to South Africa?
Philip Bush: Duck hunting with Ramsey Russell.
Ramsey Russell: Man, it seems like we’ve been here a month, I’ve really enjoyed hunting with you, what’s the week been like for you? What did you expect and what was it like?
Philip Bush: As far as my expectations go, I’m not really sure. I kind of came into this totally unassuming of what I was getting myself into.
Ramsey Russell: That’s a good mindset, when you leave home. Because the world’s bigger than our own backyard.
Philip Bush: And I didn’t have a lot of details coming into the trip and so for me, it was like, okay, I knew I was going to go duck hunting, I made the decision not to bring a weapon, which I kind of wish I would have brought my own shotgun. But just because I didn’t know kind of exactly where we were staying, where we were going, I decided not to bring a shotgun. But once I got here, man, I realized what a neat place this is. And I mean, pretty much from the first time getting to the hotel, my flight was delayed, so I didn’t landed at night. But the next day, once we started hunting upland, first thing, man, what a beautiful country and the birds were – we worked a little bit but it was worth it. I mean, shooting Guinea fowl, Francolin just a neat experience.
Ramsey Russell: That was a lot of fun. I have said I would come to South Africa just to shoot guinea fowl. I don’t enjoy the walk ups as much as I enjoy the driven, but I love them, something about that goofy looking game bird I like.
Philip Bush: Yeah and there was a bunch of them and so for me, I didn’t mind the walking even though it was a tougher hunt and then we had that one good drive that, I mean, what we got 12 or 15 out of it?
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, in 5 minutes, that’s what I like about driving it, but it’s just exciting because you can see those birds kind of scurry and they want to run, they don’t want to fly, but then they sense you’re there and I looked down, you were to my left, I don’t know, 80 yards, Greg was over 80 yards to my right, I noticed he was looking down at his phone and I could see a whole shadow of guinea fowl kind of heading this way, get ready. Of course, who you think they run to? Right to David, but then we got a lot of shoot little action pack flurry right there for a minute.
Philip Bush: Yeah, we did. And one thing I would have liked to have done, I wanted to try guinea fowl, they had a nice looking breast to them and that was a nice thing about a peer, yesterday’s hunt, we went on a like, I think it was like a six mile walk upland hunt and 8 Francolin and then what do you call the red neck one? Yeah, I requested to clean my birds and just to kind of examine them a little bit better, what pretty meat that these birds have up here.
Ramsey Russell: Beautiful game meat. I noticed something I don’t see everybody do, but I walked out and you were cleaning those birds and man, you had the hearts and the gizzards and is that something you grew up doing back home?
Waterfowl Hunting in South Africa vs America
Philip Bush: Yeah, we grew up dove hunting and quail hunting and I guess from a young age I always eating the hearts and the gizzards. Gizzards actually, I’m from Florida, small town Fort Pierce area chicken gizzards are a big thing at gas stations. So, yeah, so always offer me some chicken gizzards.
Ramsey Russell: Then we moved around, we did some duck hunting, we did some goose hunting, how does the waterfowl hunting compare to the hunting back home for you? Talk about the methods, talk about the different techniques they use, it’s different than what we hunt back on, but I enjoy it and it is different.
Philip Bush: It is different and a lot more birds and we were hunting little lakes and kind of, I wasn’t expecting, there was times I was thinking, where are the birds going to come from? And almost every single time it was lights out. And I also think being able to shoot 30 minutes after dark, that was something I’ve never experienced, but that in itself is something just unbelievably unique and cool.
Ramsey Russell: Especially last night with that full moon behind them.
Philip Bush: And all those red bill teals, I mean, just doing their thing coming in as quick as possible and man, that was so neat. Now, the goose hunting to me, that was pretty cool. I mean, one of the things, those spur wing, just how massive that bird is coming in and what a fun species to target. I mean, the Egyptian goose and we got them in Florida, they’re kind of a nuisance, I wish we would have had a chance in more of the shelducks because, you were showing me some pictures as far as a comparison, what a pretty duck. But the spur wing, I could have done more of that as well, those are some neat geese.
Ramsey Russell: To me, the waterfowl hunting in Africa is twofold, it’s the species. And some of these species like the cape shelduck, we do shoot them over decoys while we’re hunting, but it’s not common because they’re breeding this time of year, man, they’re paired off. So the ones that do come in, like the one we shot in decoy the other day, they’re typically non-breeding birds, the breeders that you really want are off doing their thing, they’re just to themselves and you just got to kind of spot and stalk them. And you got the black duck that we shot one yesterday with decoys it’s very uncommon. The Maccoa duck boy that’s a tough one. Some of these space eat are just kind of – you’ve got to really go target and hunt more like Kudu than that, but having done all that, I like those spur wing geese. They’re not a pretty bird, they’re not an attractive bird, but it’s just something that really turns me on about shooting spur wing geese.
Philip Bush: Yeah. I mean, as far as, targeted species in my mind when I was coming here, I wanted that Egyptian or pygmy goose. And so when we book this again, I mean, that’s definitely going to be something I want to target.
Ramsey Russell: You bring up a good point, Philip is I tell everybody you are not, unless you are the luckiest man in the universe, you’re not going to come to Africa, whether you’re plains game hunting or big five hunting or upland bird hunting or waterfowl hunting, you just can’t possibly get them all in one, you just can’t possibly, but there’s worse consolation having to come back down here and enjoy this.
Philip Bush: I mean, you kind of segue into just the people, the culture, the food, I think that’s like the thing I’ve been most surprised about.
Ramsey Russell: Talk about that. Tell me some of your favorite meals.
Philip Bush: I mean, last night, the brai, our barbecue last night. I think we had wildebeest. We cooked up our own birds and in those little, what is that?
Ramsey Russell: Steel cocky something, I can’t pronounce it. But it’s a lamb liver wrapped in lamb caul fat and that was my favorite thing, I really just nibbled on everything else.
Philip Bush: Yeah, but that lamb liver wrapped in fat, that thing in itself, I don’t know how we’re going to mimic that in the US, but that’s something we got to bring back because it was phenomenal. But I mean, the hotel we’re at here, they got this lady that just what a personality, great cook, makes you feel like you’re at home and just in that, I mean, the food that she’s putting out, the dessert, she’s putting out, I think I probably gained 5lbs or so.
Ramsey Russell: If you don’t gain weight on vacation, you ain’t doing it right.
Philip Bush: Right. But I mean, we did get our long walks in with the upland. So all in all, I mean, I just had such a great time, can’t wait to get back to Africa, South Africa.
Ramsey Russell: I appreciate you coming, Philip. It was good to meet you, it was good, we shared some good times in the blind, it’s not always just bam, bam you got time to talk and I noticed the other day when we were visiting we were on a goose hunt and I would initiate some of your story telling because it’s like it makes the geese start flying. It takes forever to tell a 10 minute story because we were interrupted by geese coming in and I think that was one of my favorite mornings of the week was just that particular morning because the geese really did decoy right. The Egyptians were coming off that body of water and skirting into the decoy and it was really good.
Philip Bush: It was a good morning. And I mean, I look forward to, you getting up to Saint Louis and us having some conversations about my family’s history and we’re going to try to schedule up, you having a conversation with my Uncle Adolphus to talk about his efforts in waterfowl management and conservation, what he’s doing in Missouri over the last 20 years, so we’ll be talking again.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you, Philip.
Philip Bush: Yes, sir. Thank you, Ramsey.
The Allure of Bird Hunting
I’ve really liked the stalking part, I’ve really liked the hunt, but with birds, what you don’t get with any other type of hunting is how quick you have to react and how fast it comes on you.
Ramsey Russell: Greg, what brings you to South Africa, man?
Greg: Came here with a couple of friends to go on a hunting trip, we did 7 days big game, 7 days birds and then 7 days we’re leaving in about 30 minutes to Cape Town, going on a diving trip and hanging out in Cape Town.
Ramsey Russell: Are you a big duck hunter?
Greg: I am not a big duck hunter. I actually only started hunting probably 6 years ago and that was for deer, gators and hogs and that’s it and then fishing, I’ve been doing my entire life and then bird hunting, I’ve only done one other time other than this.
Ramsey Russell: But you seem to really like bird hunting.
Greg: Yeah, I know it was an awesome experience, probably one of the best things I’ve ever done. One, the company, I think the trips are just great.
Ramsey Russell: It was a fun group.
Greg: It was a great trip. And I’m good friends with David and Phillip. But I think the biggest thing was, all the other hunting I’ve done has been – I’ve really liked the stalking part, I’ve really liked the hunt, but with birds, what you don’t get with any other type of hunting is how quick you have to react and how fast it comes on you. And also you have to pay attention the entire time, you’ve got to be in camo, you’ve got to know where to set up your blinds, you’ve got to know where the sun is, where the wind’s coming from, you got to know the birds, you got to know, I think the PHs and that set up this whole trip did an amazing job, scouting and we shot so many birds and I don’t know that much about bird hunting. But from what David told me and everyone else, he said pretty much some days in the US, you’ll go out, you’ll pay $300 for a hunt and you’ll only shoot one or two birds. I mean, we shot like 60 a day.
Ramsey Russell: As a group, we did.
Greg: And that’s not even a day, 60 in the morning and then 60 at night.
Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite hunt we did? What was your favorite bird hunt? Was it the upland, was it the waterfowl?
Greg: Waterfowl was probably my favorite. I did like the upland upland was nice, I think, upland was a little more difficult for me as a beginner hunter just because when you’re walking, you have no idea when they’re coming, you don’t have any time to react and all of a sudden. With the dogs, when the dogs were out there, but it was a little windy, so a lot of them were just, we were walking and then all of a sudden a bird would fly up and you have to react and shoot it.
Ramsey Russell: And there’s always a little, to me, when that explosion of feathers gets up, it takes you a second just to –
Greg: Calm your nerves and take a breath and then aim and then shoot. So it’s a lot to do at once for doing it, for almost the first time. But I loved it. I mean, the adrenaline and getting ready and also working as a team, I think that was one of the things that I really enjoyed about it. Because other types of hunting, you’re not really working as a team, as much as you are here and I realized that when like birds would come in, you would have to wait, you’d wait till they’re in the right position and the goal is for everyone, for the whole team to hunt a lot of birds.
Ramsey Russell: See, I’m kind of jealous of guys like yourself and I’ll tell you why and I said this at breakfast while you’re packing is, you get to see it all. Those of us that have seen a lot of it before now you’re going back to it again. And that, to me, looking back for the past 20 or 30 years was the most enjoyable part was the newest, all the new stuff, you see what I’m saying? That’s what I really enjoyed about it and I loved it.
Greg: And that’s what I’ve been – I mean, I’m 36 years old, I’m a little older than a couple of these other guys. But in my life I’ve realized that I get bored pretty easily and once I do something for a certain amount of years, if I do it for 10 years or 20 years and I’m the best at it, it’s not as great as it once used to be and you sort of look for that new experience. And I’m grateful that fishing, I can fish anywhere in the world and I will love it till the day I die, it’s probably one of the main reasons that or one of the main things I enjoy, it’s probably my favorite thing to do in the world is fishing. I could do it for the rest of my life 24 hours a day and I feel that way that I’ll feel that way about bird hunting too and it’s great because I’ve traveled a lot and I sort of fell out of love with traveling and now I get to do it all over again, but with bird hunting. So now I can go to the same place, I can go to Bali and before I used to dive Bali and then I fish Bali and now I can go hunt Bali.
Ramsey Russell: I want to go with you, told you that. Hey, what was your favorite species here? Favorite species? Because you kept some cool species for taxidermy? What was your favorite one?
Greg: I really liked, yellow bell duck, I thought it looked gorgeous, that was probably my favorite duck or maybe the Egyptian, that was a beautiful duck.
Ramsey Russell: Cool looking duck.
Greg: And then, I really love the geese, bigger birds and just how big their wings are and how powerful they are, how fast they can go, how hard they are to shoot and take down, I thought that was more of a challenge and they’re smarter and they hear better and they see better. So you really have to be on your A game and you have to do everything right to take them down.
Ramsey Russell: What was your favorite meal, I guess it was bacon biltong.
Greg: My favorite is probably yours, it’s probably that fried duck, yellow bill duck. So, when I go hunting, one of the things I really try and do is eat all the meat or use the whole animal because I do think, animals are a gift from God and I think you’re supposed to use them and I don’t take a life very easily, it’s something that like, I’ll pray before I go hunting, I’ll pray before I go fishing and I think taking a life is a big deal. So if you’re going to take a life, then I try and use as much.
Ramsey Russell: That’s interesting. You think you’ll come back to Africa to bird hunt?
Greg: I definitely will come back to Africa and I hope to hunt the world, same thing as fish.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you Greg, I enjoy the week.
Greg: Yeah. Thank you Ramsey.
Becoming a Dedicated Hunter
Ramsey Russell: Mr. Mark today, we’re down here in Kwazulu-Natal in this town and the province in South Africa and we were driving to go see a rhino production area. I mean, the place they were growing some rhinos and along the way, you pointed, there’s a lot of mountains in this part of the world. In fact, somebody told me the other day that, the province is “1000 mountains”, 1000 hills, “land of 1000 hills” is what Kwazulu-Natal is. And you pointed to one and said, that’s where my family settled, who were they? When did they settle?
Mark: My ancestors from Germany came from a northern part from a family farm in the Lunenburg Heath. And the youngest son being my great, great, great grandfather was 16 years old and being the youngest, he had to do an apprenticeship and he became a carpenter and then there was a missionary project that the Lutheran church wanted to go to Africa and Christianize the local African people. And then he jumped onto this ship and they came to South Africa via a long story, it took about six months, they were originally designed to go to Ethiopia, then they were turned around by the Sultan of Zanzibar, they were sent back to Cape Town, Cape Town, didn’t really know what to do with these Germans. And then later on, they decided to put this colony of settlers and missionaries between the Swazi and the Zulu people who were having conflict at the time as a kind of a buffer zone and that happened in 1852. So I’d be the 5th generation South African German speaker.
Ramsey Russell: How do you know all that about your family? Was that just told at Christmas dinners or what?
Mark: No, I’ve just happened to have a real good, an interest in history generally and my family counts amongst that history and I have a similar history on my mother’s side which is a very different background but that is, yeah, it’s just a personal love of history and the study of different cultures and folk and even just our own country’s history.
Ramsey Russell: Do you and your family still practice a lot of German cultural traditions?
Mark: Yeah, we do. In fact, this colony of settlers was a very religious colony, Lutheran church and the first thing they built almost was a church and the community being in those days very far apart and whatever you, their only kind of social interaction would have been to get together on Sundays, go to church. So even myself, my father and his father before him and so forth, we all still speak German was still one of my two home languages and I went to a German sponsored or a private school that was sponsored by the German government at the time. And yeah, so we’ve maintained the German Lutheran religion, the language, although ours has become a bit of a dialect here and its kind of metamorphic into almost anglicized German, so we mix up a lot of words. But we also taught to speak so called German, which is what is spoken mostly in Germany. And then we have the same traditions as they do in Germany and Northern Europe where we would celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve more than on the Christmas morning, the next morning and so forth. So we had lots of traditional dishes are still cooked for Christmas and Easter and yeah, I would say, we certainly try to still keep our identity and we feel it’s important.
Ramsey Russell: How did you get into hunting? You’re a professional hunter, you’ve been in the hunting industry a while, how did you get into it?
Mark: I was exposed to hunting from a very small age, my father bought me an air gun when I was about 5 years old. Of course, the first thing I did is I shot myself in the foot and he took it away for a year and then he kind of gave it back to me. But he would, let me walk around with it without pellets for a long time before he actually felt confident enough to actually give me some pellets. And then what he did is he used to give us, like 10 pellets each and we’d have to then account for what we did with each pellet. So we learned to be quite frugal with those.
Ramsey Russell: What did you do with it?
Mark: We used to shoot little birds, doves and that kind of thing. And my granny used to actually cook them on an old wood stove in the kitchen for me, I’d pluck them and clean them and she’d cook them for me and it was like a treat and they tasted pretty good too.
Ramsey Russell: How did you get into more of the commercial side later in life? Because you were telling that story this morning as we were leaving, coming back from a duck hunt about Clayton’s father taking you and your body and get you all involved in this?
Mark: Yeah, I think that my father was not, although he was a real crack shot, he wasn’t a hunter as such. So he didn’t hunt and then I always had a hunting interest from small and I didn’t really nowhere to go. And he was a teacher and farmer and he had taught Clayton’s father and they used to get together sometimes and just, a chat and my father mentioned that I’m so keen on hunting and then Trevor took me under his wing and I used to for gilly for him, I don’t know if that’s a term that you guys use.
Ramsey Russell: What is it?
Mark: It’s a little helper.
Ramsey Russell: So like a bird boy.
Mark: Yeah, a bird boy and we would go and go out, he was a professional hunter, he was a proper outfitter and we would go out in the middle of winter myself and a friend and help him and retrieve ducks and do whatever was necessary, set up blinds. And so it just grew from that. And then, yeah, I am a dedicated hunter, I’m not really a professional hunter, I may guard, but, yeah –
Ramsey Russell: And you made a good point today, we were talking, I was telling you, I’m not a trophy hunter, I like to shoot a lot of his critter, but I don’t have to shoot the biggest, I just want a good representative species and like a lot of absolutely South African hunters, I know you’re not a trophy hunter either.
Mark: No. I’m not. And I think that, South African culture of hunting is probably based more in our history and also my forefathers, they used to hunt to survive very often and they used to be on great wagon trails, which we call the Great Trek and very often, without refrigeration or any other way of keeping meat, they shot animals and made dried meat, which we call biltong and dried sausage and that was kind of that with rusks became kind of a staple diet and biltong similar to jerky, although I think it’s much better. And we just have such a great love of that we call ourselves biltong hunters mostly, which is a meat hunter, we’ll go out and basically eat most of what we shoot. And, yeah, it is nice to get a trophy, absolutely, but for myself personally, it doesn’t have to be a really a massive buck or whatever.
Ramsey Russell: What’s your favorite game animal to fill the freezer with?
Mark: I think impala and then Kudu is very good, impala, Kudu, springbok is of the finest venison and then we also have Reedbuck, which were very nice, fine textured meat and excellent for cooking up. Yeah, so those would cover it pretty much.
Ramsey Russell: I asked you about your German heritage and your German culture because there’s a lot of Dutch and German and English, I’ve met along the way and America has always been described as a melting pot of culture. And we’re not the only country that’s a melting pot, Africa is too. You’ve got indigenous Africans and a lot of white Europeans that have been here for 5 or 6 generations and cohabitate with each other and I guess, here’s what I’m getting at. Hang on, it’s like in America, we give us you’re rich and you’re poor, we’ve always taken everybody, so we’ve got this great big melting pot of people from around the world and it seems to be a prevailing thought that if you’re going to come to America be American, act American, act like me. And the other day back in the kitchen, I was meeting with Heidi, the cook who is also German origin and it just dawned on me just something we were talking about because she cooks, a lot of her cooking is German influence. And you can’t leave a country of your origins and lose your cultural identity, that’s why we’re the melting pot. Everything’s good. You know what I’m saying? We can’t be just gray, we got to be all the different colors in a crayon box, that’s what culture society is. And I don’t know, it was crazy to have this revelation in Africa coming from a German, wait a minute, you can’t lose your cultural identity, American is your citizenship, but it’s not your cultural identity, especially as I see practice here in Africa. For example, I guess it was yesterday, what an incredible morning and afternoon duck hunt, we beat the brakes off the duck, it was wonderful after getting rained out, hadn’t rained since April and we show up and boy it rains cats and dogs. And so we go out the next day, we have great duck hunt, we stop along the way to get gas and there’s the biltong king is right there in town. So we stop and going to get some biltong and as I’m waiting on everybody, get back in the truck and all I noticed a lot of local folks dressed in costumes. I mean, I’d call them costumes. I mean, very colorful, very bright, big hats, big dresses, big sashes, some of the men were wearing leopard furs and coats and I’m like, what the heck is going on? So I got out and introduced myself to a couple of ladies, I guess there were three ladies that had changed clothes and I mean, I don’t know, I’ve never seen anybody dress like that and I’m like, may I take a picture with you all? And we took a picture. I said, what’s going on, why you all dress like this? And they said, we’re going to the coronation of our Zulu king. And it reminded me and I’m not making light of their cultural traditions, but it reminded me of a movie back in the 80s, Eddie Murphy coming to America and he was like a king like that, came to America and was kind of out of his element. But here we are in the year of 2022 and there’s still a very profound tradition. What was going on? What is the coronation of a Zulu king, why were the people dressed like that? Who were the people?
Traditions of the Zulu Nation
And they are very proud of their individuality and unique character and spirit.
Mark: Well, to go a bit further back, the Zulu nation who are predominantly the inhabitants of the Kwazulu-Natal province have a very long very proud warrior tradition and alongside they have very distinctive and different to other nations in our country, their own cultural dress, which is hundreds and hundreds of years old. And each item of clothing or bead work or whatever has special meanings. And as for example, you remember seeing that gentleman who had some leopard skin sort of under his blazer and that would be a sign that he was part of the other – he was certainly a chief as they call it. And would have been one of the VIP guests or guest at the coronation of the new Zulu king, our previous Zulu King passed a year ago and with a whole lot of traditional ceremonies and processes, he was eventually prepared to take over the reign as king of the Zulus.
Ramsey Russell: It’s not a political.
Mark: Oh, no, not at all. No, this is a cultural group and a tribal, well, the national because the Zulus are not just a tribe, they’re a nation, so they are the largest nation in our country. And they are very proud of their individuality and unique character and spirit. So, yeah, very similarly other tribes in all nations in our country, like the Sotho, the Xhosa, the Soto, the Khoisan and the Bushman and the San who were our original inhabitants would also have their distinctive tribe, there are 9 official languages and those kind of represent the different groupings of nations in this country.
Ramsey Russell: Tell me a little bit more about the Zulu king and his celebration. Like, how did he become king? Because I understand they’ve got a lot of wives and a lot of children, how is he selected one?
Mark: Well, traditionally, it’s quite a muddle from an outsider’s view and there are many processes that have to be complied with and in the absence of a clear will the Prime Minister of the Zulu nation who is also not a political appointee, but he’s the Prime Minister of the Zulu nation is a chap called Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi. But he would have then had a really big input with his recommendation of who of the very many Children would be suitable for the candidacy or for the kingship and in this case, the new king, Mr. Misuzulu Zulu wasn’t the first born as far as I know, he in fact had older siblings but from different mothers. But his mother was the most senior wife to the late king and she had left a will in which she wanted this chap to be the new king and it seemed to also had the approval of the past king. However, there were other princes and so forth who felt it wasn’t right and that is actually nothing unique as far as history is recorded, there has never been a smooth takeover of kingship and there’s a lot of rivalry that happens and that I suppose happens when a regent is able to choose a new wife from – there is a ceremony every year called the Reed Dance where Zulu virgin above a certain age all track up to the king’s palace and they dance for him and do various things and he is able to, not forced to but able to choose a new wife every year in theory, it hasn’t really evolved that way and I think that the old Zulu king had somewhere in the region of, I’m not quite sure, but not as in the olden days you might have had a Zulu king have over 100 wives.
Ramsey Russell: And all the young girls you say want to be a –
Mark: Yeah, it’s their dream.
Ramsey Russell: Because he’s king. They get their own house, get their own staff.
Mark: Exactly. Yeah, the state to a large degree sponsors the sustainability or the preservation of the royal house. And it’s not just from a material point of view, but obviously, if you end up being one of the king’s wives, you are a top lady, you’re very prestigious, you couldn’t really go much higher.
Ramsey Russell: Did I understand you to say that they are one of the largest landowners in Africa or in the Kwazulu-Natal, they have a lot of cows?
Mark: There were many very – the traditional areas that the Zulu people settled were largely kept intact and even though they may have become part of the Bantustan and sort of reservation areas for the Zulu people under apartheid, all that land in the Zulu culture actually belongs to the king. So the king happens to be the largest cattle farmer in South Africa and he’s got the biggest Simmental stud herd and so forth. So that is still a very aristocratic kind of rule. And yeah, he of course, then has a whole rows and rows of chiefs who are then able to lease out parcels of land in essence and give them sort of lifetime ownership to people who apply and they pay a nominal fee for those and now and then they may be asked to contribute to the coffers of the Royal House. And yeah, so they own a very large tractor land, of course, during colonization and apartheid and so forth, there were many larger pieces of land also taken by the whites to call it a spade. But to think that the Zulu nation doesn’t own land or very little land is a misnomer.
Ramsey Russell: Pursuant to him becoming king spinning around his cultural traditions thing, he had to kill a lion?
Mark: I heard about that and I believe it was done under, not just the hunt but very many of the processes and traditions that are done leading up to a new king’s coronation are done in secret and are entirely kept away from the press or the media or anything like that. And that is probably just because they don’t want the interference and commentary on whatever it is.
Ramsey Russell: What do you imagine the coronation ceremony was like, for example, one of the professional hunters nearby was telling me that he slaughtered some zebras, so obviously, there was a lot of wild game that he probably went hunting for a lion just like his ancestors did, what are some of the other things?
Mark: What is interesting is that what has been maintained right throughout since in the olden days is the king still has – there is still a military training call it the time period in every young Zulu man’s life, they are called the amabutho and those are the king’s warriors and there are various amabutho and they will all be named a different name and traditionally, they would have been given a different color shield for war and you may have a amabutho that might have a white shield and another one that will have a black and white mottled shield another one will have brown cattle shields. And even though there are no wars or applications for the amabutho anymore, this is still a tradition that is maintained till today. So at the ceremony, you would have had obviously all royalty and VIPs invited and those could also include people from the media, press, politicians, et cetera, ministers, probably the state president. But the amabutho would be there in their regiments and they would perform dances as would also the young Zulu ladies and they would then be predominantly dressed in cultural dress. And then many cattle would have been slaughtered and cooked over the fire and it was served with traditional foods.
Hammerhead Water Bird Superstitions
The hammerhead, it’s always had real superstitious, sort of properties and beliefs attached to it by all the people in other countries in southern Africa and in this Zulu land, the Zulus, believe it controls lightning and fire and that it’s evil.
Ramsey Russell: The other night you told the story, this is a superstition, cultural belief, all this kind of stuff tradition. You told a story and I heard the story first, somebody telling the story you told and I said, well, I ain’t shooting one of them, but you told a story about a certain bird, a water bird around here called the Hammerhead. Tell the story because this is a great story.
Mark: Well, I hope that the listeners will believe this story but we have proof and it actually gives me goose flesh thinking about it. In June, we had a group of Belgian wing shooters out there and if I remember correctly, we went shooting on a Monday evening over a dam or a lake as you might want to call it and it was getting dark and we have a bird in this country and not only in country but found mostly in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s also found in Madagascar, it’s called a thekwane in Zulu and a hammerkop in general lingo Franca. And that name comes from, this is a wading bird of medium size and it has a crown, a crest of feathers behind its head. So it looks almost like a geologist’s hammer, hence, it was also called hammerkop, which is a direct translation from Afrikaans, the Boer language, which means hammerhead. And one of these hammerheads came flying along with a flock of duck and we shouted no, because it’s not a huntable species. Although it is on the CITES least vulnerable list. It is a common bird but yeah, we shouted, no. But in the confusion of the shoot, there was an accident and the one Belgian chap brought a hammerhead down and then nobody thought too much about it. And on the Tuesday after a shoot and we were having supper or dinner, this particular Danish Chap turned around and he showed us a video of –
Ramsey Russell: What did the staff say about?
Mark: Yeah, I’m getting into that. So he showed us a video of his home in Belgium that it caught fire whether it was electrical or whatever, I can’t really tell you now, I actually don’t know. Yeah, so I didn’t really know or let me just interject. The hammerhead, it’s always had real superstitious, sort of properties and beliefs attached to it by all the people in other countries in southern Africa and in this Zulu land, the Zulus, believe it controls lightning and fire and that it’s evil. But what I didn’t know at the time is that what the Zulu say? And, well, let me jump the story a little. You’re right. It’s getting a bit confusing, I don’t know. But anyhow, so luckily this chap’s wife woke up and she managed to get in the fire department, they killed his fire, it nearly burnt down his trophy room. But yeah, there was a lot of damage. So that happened on the Tuesday night in Belgium, so on Wednesday morning, we go to another lake and we have a shoot and guess what a hammerkop comes flying over the lake and I shout, no and thankfully the guys didn’t shoot it. And after the shoot, we got together, the hunters and the outfitter and the outfitter’s helpers, his field workers. And I said to the guys, well, thanks very much for not shooting the hammerhead this morning. Great. And I said, because it’s a very important bird to the Zulus and it really is a holy bird and it’s got a lot of magical powers and all that, but thanks for that. So the outfitter at Clayton then turned around and said, yes, they say that should you kill one or harm it, your house will burn down. Yeah. So, I mean, as crazy as that was, I didn’t know that detail of it, so I turned around to the esquire and I said, is that right? They said, oh, yeah, no, you kill that bird, your house will burn.
Ramsey Russell: I’m not killing one, I can tell you that.
Mark: I then immediately just got like goose flesh all over myself because I then put one and one together and I said to these esquire and to the outfitter who didn’t know about this video at that time of the fire. I said, well, guys, hello, this chap shot one on Monday and now his house caught on fire, so that is quite scary. And I don’t know if you could just put that through to coincidence, I don’t know. So I kind of think there may be some truth to that.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you for sharing. The stories you hear at hunting camps around the world never cease to amaze me. I really appreciate you, Mark and I’ve enjoyed hunting with you and I look forward to seeing you next year.
Mark: It’s been an absolute pleasure to hunt with you too, thank you so much.
African Hunting Calls You Back
The varied ways we’ve hunted and shot those birds, pass shooting, decoying, jump shooting, the pygmy goose in a boat.
Ramsey Russell: Mark from Wisconsin, not from Minnesota. This is not your first trip to Africa?
Mark: No, been here many times on plains game, but my first bird hunt in Africa, which is why you and I have been talking for the last couple of years, you have perfected the bird hunt in Africa.
Ramsey Russell: Well, thank you. And it’s so crazy because I really got to know you, I’ve known you forever, we went to Netherlands together years ago and I see you at convention, but I identify you as a trophy bird collector, but you’re a hunter man. You hunt everything. What have you hunted here in Africa in the past?
Mark: Oh, my God Kudu, Nyala, a lot of the dikers, impala, the usual.
Ramsey Russell: Plains game type stuff.
Mark: That’s the usual, yeah.
Ramsey Russell: But birds are your heartbeat.
Mark: It’s true. That’s where I grew up in Wisconsin, my father had a shack on Hurricane Marsh back in the 60s, in fact, the whole family did and that’s where I shot my first duck, that’s where my love is.
Ramsey Russell: What was your first duck?
Mark: It was a ring bill. A ring bill, right to left swing and I didn’t even see it over the marsh grass and my father went out and grabbed it that was it, I was 12 years old, it was fantastic.
Ramsey Russell: What did you expect coming to South Africa? And how does it reconcile with reality?
Mark: I thought it would be more of a low volume, onesie twos type of hunt. This hunt, I like in Argentina and you had everything very high volume of red bill, yellow bill, Egyptians, spur wings and then you had the collector side, the white backs, the pygmy goose, obviously, the hot and hot teal, the shelduck, some really rare species that you see very little here in Africa, but we were lucky enough to get them.
Ramsey Russell: You got them, you even got the black duck and that’s a tough one.
Mark: That is a very tough one, 15 mile walk, what an experience.
Ramsey Russell: But what a beautiful walk.
Mark: Yeah, a very beautiful walk and it reminded me of Peru for the other –
Ramsey Russell: The way we’ve got Africa kind of structured, 3 provinces, couple of outfitters, 6 days and at least you want shorter to about 10 days like we’re doing here because some guys want the high volume shoot, some guys want the upland and waterfowl combo, some guys just want to go cherry pick individual species and be done and you can’t do it all in one place. And I said, Mark, I know you want the species, but hey, you’re a duck hunter, let’s go shoot some birds too, so we did the extended trip. We did some high volume, we did the cherry pick one and done type species. What do you remember? I mean, because it seemed like we’ve been here a month, what do you remember most about the past 10 days?
Mark: The varied ways we’ve hunted and shot those birds, pass shooting, decoying, jump shooting, the pygmy goose in a boat.
Ramsey Russell: Describe that boat for me. Roberts and Caruso with a blue tarp.
Mark: Exactly. You’ve been there. I’ve never seen anything like it. Sticks and reeds, put together with baling wire and over locks made out of canvas straps, it was phenomenal.
Ramsey Russell: But it got it done, didn’t it?
Mark: It certainly did. Our guide was quite an horsemen, he knew where they were, brought us right to the spot.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about the goose hunting?
Mark: The Egyptians and Spur wings here, Egyptians are everywhere. It reminded me of the old days of Argentina where the Magellan and ashy heads, they come in and there’s many and it’s a volume shoot to say the least.
Ramsey Russell: You went down today to Zulu land and not Kwazulu-Natal, but actually Zulu land down close to the Indian Ocean, that was a real different part of Africa than where you’ve been the last 9 days isn’t it?
Mark: It’s a very rural type of Africa, the roads are actually pretty good, I have to say, but the people, the costumes, we hunted on Sunday, it was a church day so everybody was dressed and obviously, a cultural garb and so friendly. And Ramsey, you had warned me about, you had told me about the Children, you look at them, the cell phone comes out, they will dance, the smiling face –
Ramsey Russell: Happy, they’re just pure happy.
Mark: It’s so true and they’re just happy to be alive in such, I won’t say impoverished conditions, but African middle class, these people are fantastic.
Ramsey Russell: What all species did you kill? And which did you not kill? Because I warned you. I said, Mark, it’s impossible unless you’re just really lucky to kill them all, but there’s worse consolations in coming back. Which all species did you get and which you coming back for?
Mark: Egyptian, spur wing, red Bill, yellow bill, pigmy, hot and tot teal, but I really got to come back for that knob bill, that one haunts me, I missed it, it was there. And of course, the upland game, we haven’t talked about the Francolin and the –
Ramsey Russell: Well, you a Wisconsin guy you’ve shot pheasants and stuff before? How did it compare to that?
Mark: Well, the Francolin are as fast as a Hungarian partridge as far as I’m concerned and certainly faster than a pheasant. But the guinea fowl was so much fun because that is, should I say volume? I mean, it can be, you get in the right spot, we shot 50, 60 guinea fowl easily and as a group that is a lot of fun and not to mention the barbecue at lunch during the guinea fowl hunt.
Ramsey Russell: That part of the trip for a couple of days, we get up at daylight, eat a breakfast, go out, walk or drive or combination of both, a brai they call it, a barbecue out in the midday and then a duck hunt. And I mean, I love it. I love the whole thing about it. Randy, who was with us, asked him best meal, he had the whole week, he described that rump streak that big bam side, Fred Flintstone size that they cooked over the coals.
Mark: With your favorite African skull packy.
Ramsey Russell: I was like, what is that? I go, well, it’s lamb liver wrapped in caul fat and everybody, oh, I don’t eat liver, you ate a bunch of liver, you a bunch of skull packy.
Mark: It was delicious, I will tell you that, it’s ground liver. But yeah, the skull packy, he was excellent barbecued, flipped over on that massive grate with, as you say, the Fred Flintstone.
Ramsey Russell: Did you bring home any upland bird?
Mark: One guinea fowl. I’ve shot guinea fowl in Africa before, had them mounted here. But it’s time to bring it home and have a professional do it. Because they are beautiful birds, those feathers are so intricate and it’s an actual trophy, they’re hard to hit and fun to shoot.
Ramsey Russell: Well, we’ve talked about a lot of hunts over the years, we’ve done some hunts together. I know you’re wanting to go to Mongolia, we’ve talked about other places, I think we talked about Guatemala, we talk about Azerbaijan, a lot of these destinations are one and done. You go to Mongolia, you go to Peru, check, I’m done. This is your umpteenth time to come to Africa and sitting there over cocktails a night, you’re already talking about next year. What is it about Africa that just gets in your blood? Not sure. But I’m warning anybody listening, if you come to Africa, it ain’t a one and done, either something you drink or eat or the dust you walk something gets in you and you got to come back. What is it?
Mark: Everybody says, Africa calls you back. If you go, you’re going to have to go again and I truly understand having been here a few times. But the bird hunt in particular and it’s been my dream to do a bird only hunt and I’m not going to say waste time with plains game because that takes time, spot and stock day after day after day, this hunt was so consistent every day, birds in the morning, birds in the afternoon, it wore me out.
Ramsey Russell: But was also a 10 days, 3 provinces, 4 places and that keeps it going, it’s fresh and it’s new and one day we’re doing this and one day we’re doing that, one day we’re decoying ducks and one day we’re pass shooting geese, one day we’re walking up at guinea fowl, the next day we’re being driven and it’s just bamb, there’s a lot of stuff in a small cup.
Mark: Yeah, different food, different guides, different cultures, different parts of Africa and as you said before, the Zulu land trip, that’s an extreme part of Africa, that’s like old Africa too, where people still live –
Ramsey Russell: Like a little round houses with the grass roof and stuff. I love it.
Mark: Salt on the faces as you described and just good happy people.
Ramsey Russell: Here’s something I’d also, I want to ask you because you’ve traveled a lot and I know you’ve traveled with some close friends over the years this time you came alone and you and I knew each other but you didn’t know the other three guys and they knew me but they didn’t know each other and it’s almost like this, I mean, everybody just got along, like we known each other and hunt together our whole lives. What is it about that?
Mark: Isn’t that amazing? The duck hunting culture and big game culture, upland game culture, it’s so different than the duck hunting culture. People, who are duck hunters, waterfowl hunters that meet other waterfowl hunters immediately, they want to know, where do you hunt? Where do you live? How do you do it? Because there’s so many varied ways of hunting waterfowl and that’s why we’re here in Africa because it’s yet another varied way –
Ramsey Russell: It’s all kind of same, isn’t it?
Mark: I loved it and we all bonded and we’re probably going to hunt in the States together with a couple of these guys. Yeah, we’ve already talked about it, come to North Carolina, come to California, I’m just a Wisconsin boy.
Ramsey Russell: Mark, it was great sharing camp with you again and I got to figure we’re going to do this maybe even next year. Thank you very much.
Mark: I will be back.
Why a South Africa Hunt?
Randy, what did you expect coming on a waterfowl upland combo to Africa and how did that reconcile with reality?
Ramsey Russell: Get back to your cocktail. Mr. Randy from Phoenix, Arizona, what brings you to Africa?
Randy: Well, what brought me to Africa was just the adventure of coming to Africa and hunting waterfowl and just to explore, the conservation in Africa and the people and the food and the culture and the people. When you’re traveling, it’s always just fun to meet new people and try new foods and just get out of your little shell and grow as a person.
Ramsey Russell: Mark Twain had a saying about getting outside, quit vegetating your own little corner of the world, get out and see more of it and I think there’s a lot of truth to that.
Randy: Oh, I totally agree. I tell my staff at the office, I said you learn three times as faster when you’re outside the office than when you’re sitting in your office or just out of computer.
Ramsey Russell: Was this your first time to Africa?
Randy: It was.
Ramsey Russell: Of all the world to go to, to get outside of Phoenix, get outside of your little corner of the world and go experience food and culture and hunting and hospitality, why South Africa? What appealed to you about South Africa?
Randy: Well, the first thing was the timing, we were through COVID and I’m kind of through remodeling a house and I wanted to go someplace this summer. But I think that almost all sportsmen and even as a little boy, they always dream of going to Africa and hunting the games in plains and just seeing it. I know a number of husband and wife that went to Africa just to see the games and experience it and they just said it’s so wonderful. So it’s kind of a timing thing, but Africa is just really unique. Africa is kind of like going to Alaska and North America, it’s totally different, you can’t compare it to anything.
Ramsey Russell: Nothing, nothing at all. Randy, what did you expect coming on a waterfowl upland combo to Africa and how did that reconcile with reality? Did you have any expectations?
Randy: No, I didn’t. I guess, I expected the waterfowl hunting to be a lot like North American waterfowl hunting, but I expect it to be some differences and when we’re hunting the Egyptian geese in the cornfields –
Ramsey Russell: Wait a minute, you’re fortunate enough to have shot an emperor goose and of that, I’m jealous. But go ahead.
Randy: Hunting the Egyptian geese in the cornfields was a lot like hunting, Canada geese in the lower 48 or even the decoying and the blinds and that set up in the Canadian provinces. In fact, the blinds we used and they set up, were a lot like what we used in Saskatchewan when you’re hunting, white geese and speckle bellies in the fields, a little bit different cover but not the same.
Ramsey Russell: Was the Egyptian goose your favorite hunt? Because I really enjoy the action and something about shooting over geese and we had some great hunts, we hunted two provinces, we hunted a bunch, we hunted geese a bunch, it seems like we’ve been here 6 months, we’ve only been here 10 days. But we hunted geese a lot and you seem to like it a lot.
Randy: Yeah. I would probably say the highlight was going down to Zulu land and spotting the pigmy geese and the spotting and just seeing the little bit different culture down there, that was probably the best part of the hunt. But there was no bad part of the hunt. I mean, I know that, one of the professional hunters when it was raining that day was complaining about this was just terrible and a bad day and I thought it was a good day, I mean, just different.
Ramsey Russell: Well, congratulations on the pygmy goose, but now we talked, you and I visited a lot preceding this trip and I said, do you think you want to shoot certain species, shoot this, shoot that for taxidermy, you said, no, I’m just going for the experience. And then last night you said, I think I want to shoot this pygmy goose and you went down and got one, what a beautiful bird. Would you say that’s your favorite species you shot down here?
Randy: Yeah, because I got wet doing it.
Ramsey Russell: That’s one thing I’ve noticed about you, you are all in every step of the way. From the time I see you over a cup of coffee in the morning to the time we say good night, you’re 100% all in. And it didn’t surprise me a bit that you were the one that jumped out of the boat and waited after those pygmy geese to get him and not a bit did it surprise me.
Randy: Yeah, that was kind of fun. When I was probably 15 years old, a little bit off topic of going to Africa. But it’s about hunting and your dedication or collecting the birds you shot, as I was 15 years old and I didn’t have any hip boots or waders and I shot a duck out in the water. So, what did I do? I took off my socks and went out in the water.
Ramsey Russell: Same here, first duck I ever killed, I didn’t own a pair of waders and I sat there on a beaver hut and right on the edge of the bank shot one and stripped down and went and got him, got a pair of waders because I was cold that morning. You’re from North Dakota originally, did you grow up shooting ring neck pheasant?
Randy: No. I live northeast of Devil’s Lake and that’s in the Prairie pothole region and it was too cold for pheasants, ring neck pheasants. And our habitat really at that time wasn’t very good for ring neck pheasants because we raised mostly small grains and there wasn’t a lot of good cover for ring neck pheasants. So, we shot Hungarian partridges and but our primary bird hunting was waterfowl.
Ramsey Russell: What do you think about adding to driven guinea fowl? What did you think about hunting guinea fowl? Because I love them. You seem to enjoy it.
Randy: That was a lot of fun. And they were a lot like ring neck pheasants and probably, what I remember about of the whole hunt and there was good parts of it about watching that one guinea fowl land into this kind of pasture land and it almost like I could see the feet moving even landed, it’s like, they’re pretty crafty birds and they’re really pretty, they’re really a pretty bird.
Ramsey Russell: I think they’re beautiful and you’re right about them being smart. It’s like, I told somebody the other day, I said it’s like a wild turkey, a 2lbs wild turkey, except there’s 50 or 60 of them yammering on how to evade me and they’d rather run than fly and every now and again, you’re clucky enough to corner them up and push them over the hunters and they still rather sneak past you if they can. But wasn’t it amazing that – can you remember walking through some of that shin deep cover? And I said, there’s no way these guinea fowls are going to be here, they’ve ran ahead of us but man, they just exploded from our feet trying to hide. I don’t know how they hid in that cover, but they did.
Randy: Yeah. And how do they run or walk through that is a little bit unbelievable.
Ramsey Russell: Do you have a favorite meal that we’ve eaten?
Randy: Yes. I don’t remember the cut of beef, but when we were shooting guinea fowl at one day and he cooked up that giant piece of beef steak, rump steak on that grill on wood collected by our hunter helpers and they just built a little campfire, started it up and let it burn down for half an hour and they cooked that rump steak on there and cut it into pieces and then we had it on bread that was pretty good, I thought that was pretty good. And then there was one other steak and I don’t remember where we ate that, that was done really good too.
Ramsey Russell: I remember the rump steak because I thought it was a ginormous sirloin, he said, no, this is the top cut of a rump and I thought it was just tasty as it could be.
Randy: Oh, it was the first place we stayed, I think it was the first night, that was a really, no –
Ramsey Russell: It wouldn’t have been an African Sky. But all the food was pretty good.
Randy: Oh, it was. The cooking and the food have really been great and you’re not wanting for anything and if you go hungry it’s your own fault because you didn’t make it.
Ramsey Russell: Randy, I eat way more here than I eat at home. I’m almost like, I feel like a pig, I eat so much, they feed you three meals a day, we go out and hunt. What did you think about the pass shooting? Because that’s the first time you’ve ever been on a series because it’s a very European mode, they put decoys out a lot of times, but the way that they want the bird to present themselves is almost pass shooting mode and I’ve come to where I really enjoy it.
Randy: Yeah. I do like pass shooting, it’s a little bit different type of shooting and a couple of those days when it was really windy, it was like, a little bit challenging.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah, those birds would catch a 30 mile an hour tail and come Mark 5 over the decoy, yeah, that was a little challenging to say the least.
Randy: And we had some that where a group of 20 would come in and somebody on your right or left would take a shot and the bird you just so-called, had a lead down and thought you were going to be able to have a chance to bill it and that somebody took a shot one second before you and you’re looking at, well, they shot where it used to be.
Ramsey Russell: He start barrel rolling like Tom Cruise on Top Gun. But I like to be humble sometimes, I enjoy that as much as everything else. Randy, I came to South Africa years ago and thought it would be just kind of a one and done and I’m now about a half dozen trips coming here and it’s like, I don’t look at today’s last duck hunt as an end, I look at it like a soft pause, to me it’s something about Africa that just gets in. I don’t know if it’s the dust, the water, the species, the boundless hunting opportunities, something just gets in your blood. Does South Africa resonate with you that way? Does it feel like somewhere that you want to come back? Is there more world to see?
Randy: I’ll probably come back to South Africa at least twice. Once, I’ll come back as a sportsman probably or for sure. And then I would probably come back as a tourist and go see some of the national parks and see some of the animals. And I’d heard one of the gentlemen talk about a dinner club in Johannesburg that it would be fun to go to and they do a full dinner, you sit down and you have one seating at the table and they have performers and it would be just nice to take that in.
Ramsey Russell: I would enjoy that, I think I would. It’s something very exotic about Africa yet being from the Deep South, it’s something familiar that I love Africa, man I really do and I’ll tell you this, I like the climate, it’s cold in the mornings, it’s warm in the afternoons, it’s not unbearably cold, it’s enjoyable cold because it’s a dry cold, I love it, I love it down here. And Randy I’ll say this too, in this team right here, there were five of us, nobody knew each other but we fit together like the fingers on the catcher’s mitt. I mean, it fit like a baseball glove, is what I’m trying to say, it just fit together, didn’t you think?
Randy: Yeah. And what was really interesting, the first night I stayed at the desert sky, I knew there were three other people going to be at the hotel, but I didn’t know what they look like or anything like that and I went around talking to some people and no, that’s not us and all of the people that were here to haut were very friendly and it was almost like as a sportsman, we have this common bond and I rode from the airport to the desert sky that first night and there was a family of four and husband and wife, a boy and a little girl and the driver was talking to him and I don’t know why he asked this little girl and I guess she probably wasn’t so little, she was probably about 10 and says, well, what did you come here to hunt? And she says, I want a wildebeest and she was like 10 years old. He was just like, and then he asked what the boy was hunting, he says, well, I want to shoot this and it was just really kind of neat and they were from Minnesota, I think, somewhere in Minnesota and they were taking a family vacation to go to Africa.
Ramsey Russell: I met a family from Wyoming there, just like you described. It was a father and a mother and two young children and everybody kind of had their own thing going on and one thing I like about staying at that guest house is all you got to do is come up and say, introduce yourself, I mean, it’s full of hunters just like us. But like, hey, how are you doing? What are you hunting? Boom, the conversation starts, except one time Randy, I met this lady, I said, so what are you hunting? She’s like, I’m freaking out over hunter, I said, well, what are you doing in Africa? She just sounds exciting to me, she went up in the mountains and watched her interact with silver back gorillas, I’m thinking, okay, that’s pretty cool, I could enjoy that too. Randy, thank you so much, I have been absolutely enjoyed our month together, our 10 days together, it’s been a really good time and appreciate you coming on this trip and it’s just been a lot of fun hunting with you.
Randy: Oh, yeah, thank you so much. And it’s just kind of hard to believe that it’s going to be the end or at least it’s the end of this trip. And then you get home and you get your stuff unpacked and kind of get your head into work and then you start thinking about, well, when’s my next trip?
Ramsey Russell: You’re going to hear those African drum beating and thinking, bringing you back something about Africa that draws you back for something, it’s boundless opportunities here. Thank you, Randy. And last but least Mr. Richard Turner in South Africa at long last shake and bake baby.
A Bird Safari
You talked to me about this trip first when we were down in Rio Salado pre-COVID, the interesting part was, the species are all different from a spur wing to a pygmy, hot and tot teal, so you have the largest goose in the world and the smallest goose and it was like a bird safari for me.
Richard Turner: Thanks for having me, Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Richard, where all we’ve hunted? Mazatlán, we’ve hunted Obregon, we’ve hunted Rio Salado, Argentina.
Richard Turner: And now South Africa.
Ramsey Russell: Why South Africa for you, Richard?
Richard Turner: It was a bird safari. You talked to me about this trip first when we were down in Rio Salado pre-COVID, the interesting part was, the species are all different from a spur wing to a pygmy, hot and tot teal, so you have the largest goose in the world and the smallest goose and it was like a bird safari for me.
Ramsey Russell: Are you more of a species collector or an experience collector?
Richard Turner: I would say an opportunity collector. I don’t have every single North America bird mounted, I first met, you was trying to figure out how to export birds in from Argentina and it wasn’t happening. And so, we talked, we talked on the phone as a matter of fact and then I met you at Dallas Safari Club and we hit it off. You said you had a group going down to Argentina and met five other great guys that I’ve went to Mazatlán with and to Canada with, you name it.
Ramsey Russell: This was not your first trip to South Africa.
Richard Turner: No, I hunted plains game in Namibia in, I believe, 2016 or 2017.
Ramsey Russell: And you booked this trip saying all right, I’m in. Because it’s both shooting quality and shooting quantity, we had some volume shoots, we had some species, you really went through the species list. Tell everybody why we got a shake and bake saying.
Richard Turner: Well, shake and bake was a slow year in Rio Salado, we were sharing the blind when you came up with the Ramzilla and birds came into our hole and nothing left and the guide just laughed and laughed and you came up with the term shake and bake and I think it’s just kind of stuck.
Ramsey Russell: But you know why? It’s like, I hunt with a lot of people in the course of a year, that our first hunt ever to share a blind together and generally when 5 or 6 or 8 or 10 birds come in, inevitably you’re going to step on each other’s feet and shoot at the same duck or ducks plural and you and I didn’t, 5, 6, 8, it didn’t matter, you started on your zone and worked towards the center, I started on mine and just clear the sky on the table every time.
Richard Turner: That’s the thing, I believe you shoot your zone, people talk about it, but they don’t often do it, it’s easier said than done, I think it takes some work. But naturally we just hit it off well in the blind and it worked and it’s worked ever since.
Ramsey Russell: Let’s talk about South Africa. You decide to come on this trip, give me the highlights, because we started off and it seemed like two years ago, but it’s only been a couple of weeks ago. We started off, shooting ducks and geese over in Malanga Province relatively high volume. Tell me about that experience, that was your introduction to South Africa shooting.
Richard Turner: Well, unfortunately, the introduction to South Africa was supposed to happen last year and in transit, I had to call Anita and leave the New York airport and go to the emergency room, I had a medical emergency. I left my guns, my luggage went into the emergency room basically was told that I needed to get back to Los Angeles that I wasn’t coming to South Africa. Your outfitters were 100% super helpful and fortunately I was able to roll everything over with a few extra fees but felt very comfortable with the outcome of the trip and showing up and meeting Mike to shoot the ducks and that first high volume, it was a blast. I think, one of the first ducks that came in was a shoveler, we were able to check that shoveler off the list, then there was a drake cape shelduck that came in, we didn’t let that leave, that same night the Egyptian came in, so I knocked off three species just boom.
Ramsey Russell: Yeah. And then we went goose hunting the next morning.
Richard Turner: And that was a blast. Never seen a spur wing in the wild and let me tell you, I was a little hesitant with shooting 32 g loads, ounce in an 8th of 3s or 5s. But we got on them and we did it right.
Ramsey Russell: Describe that bird, Richard.
Richard Turner: God, he seems like he’s got like a 6ft wingspan, head is bigger than a giant Canada, it’s got like a red bill and the real mature birds have like a horn, exactly like unicorn almost, the unicorn of the geese species. A big white chest, juveniles have a little darker kind of like, shooting specs almost, you got some bars and no bars and things like that.
Ramsey Russell: How did that compare to much towards the end of the trip with the little pygmy goose?
Richard Turner: Okay, that was just unbelievable. Cherry on the top. We’re headed down, there’s three of us that are going to go down and we’re targeting those specific species, first was we’re going to go down, we’re going to do the scout very difficult to see that pygmy goose out on those lily pads, spotted a few, spotted a para cape tail and quite a few hot and tots, so we felt pretty good. Met up with a young man that had a stick boat basically with a blue vinyl tarp that we tarp our trash going to the dump with wrapped up over this stick boat, he rode me out and I got my binoculars and I’m scanning through the reeds, found him, pop, took my drake pygmy goose went over and picked him up and he wasn’t much bigger than my iPhone 13. He was tiny and besides the beauty of him, all the green colors and everything else that vibrant yellow beak, he’s just a beautiful dainty bird and mission complete. Pair of binoculars low to 7.5 in victory, I was able to watch two other of your clients, go out and do theirs, one was out in the boat while we watched a couple of pairs from the shore and watched a gentleman from Phoenix Arizona go out and do a foot stock on one with a pair of irrigation boots and that was just comical because it didn’t take much to haze him into doing it. But once he got his feet wet, the stock was on and I was able to film that, part of it and then the recovery for sure. But I was trying to scout for him and he was chasing pair when the other pair was actually getting closer. So he ended up being very successful and like I said, 3 pygmy goose 100%.
Ramsey Russell: We’ve got this hunt, it took a while to put this particular South Africa hunting experience together because we’ve got like a week long, six days, some odd version that’s ducks, geese, guinea fowl and then we’ve got the extended, which is more of the same, but you break off into the – because some of these species you found out require a focused attention just to get a shot. The pygmy goose was one, the hot and tot teal, the cape teal that you came up with, the black duck that you – we gave it a hard try, didn’t we?
Richard Turner: Yeah, the black duck was very difficult, some of the small freshwater rivers that we were actually hunting, it could go just like being in Idaho or Montana and those black ducks are looking for that running water, kind of skittish, we were able to connect on one with one of the guys and it’s a beautiful bird. But unfortunately it’s a trip for me to come back after.
Ramsey Russell: There’s worse consolations. I tell everybody, unless you’re super lucky and I’d rather be lucky than good, but unless you’re super lucky, you just cannot possibly get all of the birds in one trip and then there’s still another, the Maccoa duck that, I didn’t see ever lay eyes on till this trip and it took some effort so when you come back for some more of the same and have some new species to add that to the list.
Richard Turner: The birds work, there’s not a huge pressure on them, so they decoy well, like you said, you got the Maccoa duck, I was able to see a hen on one of the ponds, we never saw another drake. Like I said, I think I checked off 9 different species on this trip alone plus upland, the francolin and the guinea fowl, that was a blast.
Ramsey Russell: And that’s a good diversion, isn’t it?
Richard Turner: Yeah, getting out and walking versus just sitting in a blind. And, like I said, you talk about the diversity between hunting, like irrigation stock ponds to hunting big marsh pans to lily pads, the train is so different.
Ramsey Russell: Well, look at the long trip, it’s just like, if you had just time lapsed, just the scenery out the window from the open plains and the agriculture to the mountains, to the mountain passes, to the deep valleys, to the lily pads, it’s a heck of an excursion just all of the South Africa habitats encountered and the cultures and the people and the foods and the lodges, we stayed in four different lodges.
Different Shooting and Hunting Methods Around the World
But like you said, I’m going to shoot this Cape Buffalo and then I’m going to throw on a Sable and I’m like, man, we could shoot the smallest goose and the biggest goose and then we’re jumping over 8 hours away from duck hunting and we’re shooting big game and let me tell you, it was phenomenal.
Richard Turner: I think Clayton told me I was maybe 7 to 10 miles from the Indian Ocean and traveling over there to the Zulu land, I believe we hit somewhere around the 6000ft elevation mark and it looked like Elk City, Idaho. Big plateaus, lots of rolling grass and then all of a sudden you hit cornfields and milo fields, it’s amazing.
Ramsey Russell: How did the shooting and hunting methods differ from what we’ve done together elsewhere? Because that’s a big deal, I think it takes a little getting used to.
Richard Turner: Well, you talk about the European model, it’s like a flat bamboo, spread that goes around, it’s a blind, but it’s just bamboo, they’re in sheets and sometimes those panels, there’s two of them, they’re angled at kind of like an arrow and other times they got you in a square and it was sometimes challenging with the squares because of the height differential between people getting your gun up over low birds and things like that. Where in Argentina I’ve seen the guys pull off on the side of the road with their little, I forget what the knife is called, you’ll have to help me here.
Ramsey Russell: I don’t remember what the knife is called either.
Richard Turner: It’s not a machete but it’s a knife that they carry in their back and every single gaucho’s got one. And they go to chopping limbs off and they’ll carry 50lbs of branches out and make a stick blind in the middle of the grassy fields for ducks in Argentina.
Ramsey Russell: We decoyed the ducks, you brought a mojo, I brought a mojo, guarantee the outfitters are going to start using mojo, they’ve never seen anything like that before. Mike really loved the flashback decoy we put out especially when it wasn’t any wind going those ducks you seemed to key in on it. But a lot of the hunting we did was pass shooting and that’s a real – you hear people say in the world of duck hunting back home, no that doesn’t count, that’s fun though, isn’t it?
Richard Turner: You get to pick your shot. If you want the bread and butter trying to let them come into the hole, you got that. But a lot of these birds are trading back and forth between ponds and stuff like that and take them when you can get them, challenge yourself and take a poke.
Ramsey Russell: Years ago, I came to South Africa the first time to hunt birds broke the ice, got back into the big hunting and shot an animal and came back later, want to shoot more and came back later and wanted to shoot more and it’s something about this country, it just gets in you, if you like to pull the trigger shotgun or rifle, something just gets you in your blood. We were sitting around the fire, we’re sitting around a fire now, we’re sitting around the fire at Rio Salado and I got to tell somebody about this trip and I said, and this year I’m going to shoot to Cape Buffalo and just like that you woke up and jumped up and said, I want to go and here we are.
Richard Turner: Yeah, that was a special trip. I hadn’t been down there since 2019 and Rio Salado, it’s a special place for me. In 2019, sitting in 130 square mile marsh, never had cell service, my phone rang and had a family emergency with my brother calling and I just normally took my phone out there to take pictures of dead birds, sunset, sun rises and I just happened to – I sat still, I might be able to make the connection, well, I made the connection and my mom was deathly ill had a couple of heart attacks and he put her on the phone, we got to say our farewells. And it’s between 6000 and 8000 miles away, there’s not much you can do but the bird boy, Pablo was there with me, he knew that something wasn’t right and was patting me on the back and it was just a special place. And hopefully I get to go back there every year. But like you said, I’m going to shoot this Cape Buffalo and then I’m going to throw on a Sable and I’m like, man, we could shoot the smallest goose and the biggest goose and then we’re jumping over 8 hours away from duck hunting and we’re shooting big game and let me tell you, it was phenomenal. I mean, just lights out phenomenal.
Ramsey Russell: It’s kind of like, when we said goodbye to other boys down at Zulu land, you and I just repacked our bag, jump in the truck and kept going and here we are and let’s talk about that because it was a bucket list hunt for me to shoot a cape buffalo, they are big menacing man, it’s just something else. And the sable to me it’s one of the most God awful beautiful animals. But now, you were coming to hunt those animals? Did you expect you were going to shoot a waterbok too?
Richard Turner: No, that is the beauty of Africa, there’s just so much and it’s not like you have to come down here and just pull the trigger or just keep the killing, but there’s such a variety and an opportunity exposes itself and your PH says sure if you want, it’s not a problem, back home and it’s 106°, 110° to go deer hunting where I live in California, it’s just hot and miserable. Here, you’re bundled up with thermals on, fortunately, we’re sitting here next to a fire, I got some shorts on finally. But it’s just a magical place, whether you shoot it or you take a picture of it or somebody else. I mean, like I said, being a part of yours, I was just amazed at how big the animal was and I mean –
Ramsey Russell: They don’t look that big. Out there you say, man, that’s big through binoculars, but when you walk up to one, they just grow.
Richard Turner: Yeah, there’s no shrinkage.
Ramsey Russell: Those bosses just grow and those horns just grow you, the girth of those horns even way out by the tip is just like unbelievable.
Richard Turner: Yeah, for sure. We saw some taxidermy so we would hit the PHS Clayton and Theo, hey, how big is this or how big is that? And they’re kind of guessing here and there and all of a sudden you stretch a tape and you’re like, oh, my gosh, I shot a monster.
Ramsey Russell: I really did not expect it to be – I’m not a trophy hunter but I did not expect when you and I walked up to my Buffalo, I just did not expect it to be that, I was just in awe.
Richard Turner: I mean, you’re just going to have to – you’re going to be in awe, I think every time you look at him what battles he took, he’s just a big majestic animal. I mean, mine too, it’s just like there’s a story behind them how they’re either kicked out of the herd, we saw one big thick of boy that they call him, he got a broke horn and he’s just out, hanging out by himself. I mean, that’s how he’s kicked out of the herd, so to speak. But they’re just ginormous animals, if they could just tell their story, their fights, they’re breeding, you can see.
Ramsey Russell: Scratches and character and stuff on their horns, on their hide just from running through this stuff.
Richard Turner: Yeah, it’s the brush, we got down on the ground and it’s just kind of like, talking to Verner, it’s like, if they charge, this is what we’re going to do. But I mean, it got to be down on the ground and you hear so many different sounds and it’s like, okay, that’s a wildebeest or that’s a impala, it’s like, oh my gosh, I hate to hear what this thing is going to sound like if it comes at us.
Ramsey Russell: I’d rather be lucky than good, so right off the bat, bam, shoot’s a sable and you put a little stalk, shoot a sable, then bam, I shoot a buffalo, it’s not even lunch on the first day and I did not appreciate just how lucky I was until here we are day three or four and I’m thinking Richard ain’t going to get his buffalo, I think I asked you yesterday even I said, are you snake bit? Well, it’s like this morning, we lay crack of dawn and there’s buffalo everywhere but there’s not a shooter, there’s females or ancient ones that you can’t shoot. But I’m like, are you a snake bit?
Richard Turner: Yeah, I almost felt like, going after that old black duck, I don’t know if it was something about the black species or whatever it was that, but yeah, I felt like it’s carrying over on me and they’re telling me at dinner, don’t be nervous, we got Plan A, we got Plan B, we got Plan C, yesterday we took a little jaunt over onto another farm, concession and looked at some amazing animals and everything but it wasn’t the right animal, the right time. So we’re looking for that old guy that’s been lived a good part of his life and now it’s time for somebody else younger and stronger and faster to take over.
Ramsey Russell: We shot a lot of birds, we shot all, as a group we shot all of the species that South Africa has to offer. As a group, we shot black duck, Maccoa and everything else, everything. And then we came over here, I had two things in mind, I want a buffalo and a sable, I want to kill a buffalo and a sable. And on the first morning we’re driving around and there’s just two waterboks. And I had told you, man, waterboks don’t do nothing for me, but there’s something about Africa that just make you want to pull the trigger. And we saw those two waterboks and Verner said they always hang out in this part of the farm and four days later, we take an intermission, we say let’s go over and see them and we rode around and rode around and finally found them and I told you Richard, I hate the 1, 2, 3, but it worked out, shake and bake and next thing I know we’re sitting there two big waterboks. Yeah, no regret. And I just thought I didn’t like them animals, so I walked up, put my hands on them horns, I’m like, oh boy, I love this.
Richard Turner: Well, it’s funny because I mean, it’s an animal that’s got a big white ring around his rear end and they were teasing us, well, that’s for the Texas heart shots. So, unfortunately, we didn’t have to make that shot. And we got a great picture together with two magnificent animals and then, no more that it’s like, let’s go shoot a buffalo and I think within 30 minutes I had my buffalo down on the ground.
Ramsey Russell: That’s the first time I’d ever shot a 375 and they brought out two, you’d gone in to do something and the bottom of one of them said big sexy, I said that’s Richard’s, that’s got to be Richard’s.
Richard Turner: Yeah, definitely, it sounds kind of like a farfetched story, but I guess a client left it here and the gun maker, specially engraved it for him. So, teasing the guys, I told them to tell him thanks for letting me use the gun and put another notch on the holster for a giant cape and just call me big sexy junior.
Ramsey Russell: Well, Richard, I sure enjoyed it as always, I enjoy traveling with you, shake and bake is always, man, it’s a real good trip another good trip in the book for us to go.
Richard Turner: Thank you for having me, thank you for the invite on the sable and the cape and the waterbok, that was extraordinary. And I’m going to give a shout out to Anita, she’s the bread and the butter behind the operation, she was great last year and everything that she does. So, again, thank you, Miss Anita and thank you Ramsey.
Ramsey Russell: Thank you Richard and folks, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere from South Africa. Believe it or not, we are coming back late next July through August, it’s just a world of duck hunting. You know what, I did not see it coming, we came down here years ago, I came down here in 2019, back again in 2021 now 2022 and it’s becoming, oh boy, I love Argentina and I love Mexico, but this is the third pillar of the duck hunting world. It’s high volume, it’s high quality and then you go out and shoot critters too. Check it out on getducks.com or give me a shout to discuss. Again, thank you all for listening to this episode of Duck Season Somewhere, we’ll see you next time.