African adventure just one among many
July 13, 2001
Some men, and somewhat fewer women, hunt wild game. Looking beyond the casual hunter, one finds individuals who, whether by genes, instinct or some other natural entity, are compelled to hunt. They are drawn to hunt by an overpowering magnetism.
These are the ones who get excited just telling the stories of the woods and streams; who join organizations that enhance wildlife; who follow the rules of good sportsmanship; who simply love nature and all its creatures and who understand and are satisfied with the world's biological system that includes food chains and creatures living off each other. They are those who have discovered their true selves. They don't just hunt, they are our hunters, whose forefathers fed mankind, thus perpetuating our species.
One such hunter is Phillip Williams of Clarkdale. Williams' last hunt in Africa was 1997, and his residual excitement from that hunt is conspicuous. This adventure, with friend Randy Pope, provided a lifetime of memories. "On one hunt in Africa, a hunter can seek and collect several trophy animals. To collect the major big game animals on this continent, it would take many trips and many years," said Williams. "It would also be more expensive," he added.
The 1997 hunt brought several trophies for Williams. One in particular came unexpectedly. He was accompanying Pope who was hunting a particularly large crocodile. The hunt took place in December, one of the area's hottest summer months and very late in the hunting season. The professional hunter (PH), Con Van Wyk, had saved Pope one last crocodile permit for an estuary where a potential world record croc lived. The beast was some 16 to18 feet long and had killed in his lifetime 56 goats, numerous cows, 5 or 6 dogs and 2 people. He had killed a cow the day before the hunters arrived.
Besides the trio of Pope, Williams and the PH, a game officer was also in the party, typical of many African hunts because African countries make sure that hunters follow game laws to the letter.
As the group made their way in a 16 foot boat toward the croc's lair, they passed through a pool of hippo's. They slipped the boat quietly and carefully along to avoid provoking the giant mammals. Hippos are responsible for more human deaths in Africa than any other animal. They live in the water by day, where all nearby humans must come to get the life-giving liquid. A hippo can grip a small boat in its giant jaws, lift it into the air and shake its passengers out and into the water where they become an easy meal.
While Pope and Williams searched for the giant crocodile, the PH and game warden climbed a cliff and observed the lagoon which held the hippos. They brought back surprising news to Williams. "There is a hippo in there that is injured and I am afraid it will become a rogue and begin killing people," reported the game officer. "If you want to pay the trophy fee, you can take the animal. If not, I am going to kill it anyway." The hippo had entangled its snout in a wire snare that local people use to catch smaller animals for food. Though such poaching is illegal, it is done in most areas to stave off starvation. The wire had become imbedded in the hippo's flesh and likely was causing maddening pain.
Williams chose to take the animal. A 140 yard brain shot from his .375 H&H Winchester Model 70 caused the 6,000 pound hippo to die instantly and sink in deep water. An hour later it floated to the top and many from the huge crowd that had gathered on the bank dragged it ashore.
The sound of food
The PH left an armed associate to be certain the meat was divided fairly, and when the party returned the next day, not a shred of the hippopotamus remained. Not even a drop of blood was wasted. Meat for local people is one of the benefits of legal hunting throughout the game-rich African countries.. Natives have no guns to collect the large game or even defend their families against the numerous man-killing species. A big game kill is always met with adulation and gratitude.
So many Americans don't understand why someone would kill the various African animals. We seem to remember that someone has said many of them are endangered. The truth is some are endangered. Those are protected now in Africa more fervently than perhaps by any game managers on earth. Their game laws are far more strict and much more thoroughly enforced than in the United States. Market poachers are dealt with harshly. Many have been shot. Other animals are abundant to the point of overpopulation that threatens their existence. Selective hunting is a wise management tool for taking excess animals. Game permits are carefully issued to effect the health of game herds.