Wednesday, December 27, 2006

A Most Enjoyable Muzzleloader Hunt

Fellow Muzzleloaders,Here a story to share my pleasure with some of like mind?

In May 2004 I guided a group of American hunters on a wingshooting hunt on a concession near Reitz in the Free State. The land owner asked my if my clients would want to shoot two blesbok which had escaped from the camp in which they were kept to an area where they were not welcome. Naturally I agreed and let my clients have a go. Mr. Unnamed, with his .338 Norma Magnum, drew the short match and was first to try. Now to understand the situation you must know that the blesbok were on a very large open area of a few thousand acres, mostly fallow plowed fields. All the grass on water drainage strips and roads were mowed and removed. There was literally not a single tufft of grass for cover on the thousands of acres of rolling Free State farmland. My client got to about 450 yards and felt very confident that he could pull off the shot from there. Needless to say he underestimated the distance and cleanly missed by undershooting. A long and fruitless pursuit followed. End result: Still two blesbok alive at the end of the days hunt.

Then I decided that these two blesbok, a female and almost full-grown lamb, should fall to a muzzleloader!

Taking the opportunity of a gap between clients I traveled to Reitz and on Tuesday 15 June 2004 I visited the area dressed in a full gillysuit and armed with my muzzleloader. To stalk an animal you must first see it! Since just at daybreak I drove around the area in search. Then, eventually, at about 10.00 I first saw them! They were in the same area where my American client had a shot at them three weeks before. I drove away and parked the vehicle where they could not see it.

The stalk started. First I scanned and surveyed and planned. The actual hunt started with a walk for about 3/4 mile to the start of the most difficult and longest stalk in my 45 years of hunting. The only cover that I planned on using was a pump house about midway between the start and the blesbok. Topography was such that from the initial comfortable upright walking, it was straight to belly crawling for about 150 yards! Do you know how far 150 yards is when you crawl? Hell, it's agony! Then the land contour allowed me to get on hands and knees and crawl for about 100 yards. It sounds like fun, but if you are carrying a muzzleloader it actually means that you are on knees and one hand! There is a small spiny type of weed growing in those fallow fields that you never notice until you start using a knuckle to walk on!, and eventually crouch walked 300 yards to a pump house. Then had a long rest in reasonable comfort sitting behind a pump house.

Waiting to see if they were going to move and hoping, praying they would get closer than the guessed "much to far" where they seemed content to just stand and watch. Here I learned something about the ever-vigilant nature of the blesbok. Every few minutes the ewe would walk around a bit and face in a new direction! No hope of getting to within shooting distance while she 'looked the other way'!

The strategic possitioning of the blesbok was also clear. They were in a fallow field just on the highest point with a good view to all sides. It was a stalemate situation!Eventually, and very reluctantly, I decided that "Mohamed will have to go to the mountain!" I then had a mix of alternately belly crawling and crouch walking in the shallow water of a dam for about 200 yards.

Now here it was about mid-winter, and wearing normal leather hunting boots in the still a bit frozen shallow water resulted in wet and cold feet! Eventually a short hands and knees crawl brought me to a shooting spot on the dam wall. Now the lamb was closest, the ewe when last seen was still to far to risk a shot. I decided that if the lamb followed it's mother the opportunity to get one would be lost and so the lamb would be shot at first!

At just about 15.00 the stalk ended with a prayer and a slow trigger squeeze. At the shot the young buck lurched, stumbled a few paces and went down.

Actual shooting distance was paced off as 97 long paces. She was hit high through both lungs, a complete body penetrating shot.

From Andrew McLare...

Shooting was with my Westley Richards Monkeytail using a 405 grains slug fired by 100 grains black power and used only as a muzzleloader. The rifle is of military configuration and was manufactured in 1873; at least this date is stamped on the lock plate. The rifle was completely shot out when I got it, but cutting about an inch off the barrel, crowning and refurbishing it a bit resulted in quite a good shooter.

Don't quite know which day I enjoyed most, last week Tuesday, with it's five hours' stalk, or the first day of my honeymoon? The beauty of the situation is that there is really no such thing as a "second honeymoon", and next month it is the time for the mother! Man, do I look forward to that one!

Postscript: It turned out that a poacher got the mother before I had a chance.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

How to Build a Remote Caller

Here is a plan of how to build your own remote controlled varmint caller.

The 'designer' of this setup is Mr. Lourens Goosen of the Free State Nature Conservation. He does not hold any ‘patent rights’ on this and explicitly gave me permission to publish this info. Any further information needed can be asked by emailing a request from my web page at

The photos can be seen below this text.

The basic player is a normal automobile Radio/CD player of the type with an infrared remote controller. The remote uses an infrared light beam to control the CD player, volume, ON/OFF and track select. The range of such infrared controllers is measured in feet rather than yards. The range is enough to reach from where you may be hidden in the shade of a tree [or sitting on the back of a pickup truck] to where the transmitter is up on a branch in the tree [on the roof of the pickup]. The trick is that he uses what he calls “blaster” transmitter/receivers that converts the infrared light into a radio signal. These ‘blasters’ are readily available from many radio/TV shops in South Africa, and I would assume also in the USA?

He would control the setup by the remote that activates the blaster pick-up through the transparent plastic. The receiver ‘blaster’ then converts the radio signal back into infrared, which in turn controls the CD player. By using vertically installed aerials he claims that he gets at least 100 yards line of sight control. The higher the transmitter is the further the likely range at which the radio signal can be picked up by the remote caller. He told me that the maximum he has achieved is 270 yards on a downhill line of sight setup. Lourens says that the big plus of this setup is that there is no radio-type “hiss” on the speakers, as the radio signal only controls the car remote control. The sound quality is as good as your CD and the CD player & speaker! Naturally the remote is simple, no keypad and just a single step forward to next track. You have to make a memory note of which sound is on which track.

I most surely intend building one for my own use. The big cost here is the car radio/CD player, which cost about R 1000 in South Africa.

The first photo show the actual caller in the wooden camo box and the transmitter in clear plastic container on top of it. This one has a 10 W horn speaker mounted on the outside. What can not be seen is the 12 volt battery behind the Radio/CD player.

Here a close-up of the actual automobile Radio/CD player. With the sliding rear panel removed. Here is a Sony, but any brand will do! The reciever 'blaster' is mounted above the radio/CD player. The infrared light reflects off the removed back lid well enough to be picked up by the reciever on the radio/CD player. Watch out for a metal box - it will absorb the 'heat' much better than wood, which reflects the infrared 'heat'!

The clear plastic container with the actual infrared car Radio infrared remote wrapped in clingwrap foil to protect it from rain etc. on top of container.

Just another close up view of system.

The transmitter with lid removed.

The 12 volt batteries last for at least a few nights' actual calling. Remember to recharge these batteries at a slow charge rate. A so called 'trickle charger' will do the job quite well. A normal automobile battery cahegre will likely cause damage - it is said even an exploded? - battery.
This is the biggest, by far, lynx or caracal I've ever seen!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

How to Plan an African Safari.

If I've never done it before, how do I plan to?

Africa. Just hearing the name can bring goose bumps on real hunters. Those who harbor a deep desire to visit the Darkest Continent, be it for a first time or a repeat visit.

To plan a successful hunting trip to Africa requires a lot of work, or luck, or a combination of luck and lots of money to compensate for planning mistakes! You don't have that, so be sure to read carefully this planning guide. To assist would-be African safari goers I have attempted to record some required planning steps on the pages indexed below this one.

How do you plan an African Safari?

In three distinct phases:

1. The preliminary phase: Steps 1 to 7. In these steps you learn about yourself and what you want.
2. The critical decision making: Steps 8 to 17. Learn about what is offered and decide what you want.
3. The execution phase - steps 19 to 21. Get the proverbial ball rolling towards an experience of a lifetime.

Who is this Planning Guide written for?

Without making it into a formal planning step, I believe that the potential client for Andrew McLaren Safaris should know what type of client this website was really written for.
This whole web site is written to help and assist dedicated hunters who want to hunt in Africa. Andrew McLaren Safaris hopes to get some more clients through this web site. But, without trying to be pompous, I don't want just any old client. I want to select my clients to suit my ideal client profile as far as possible. I am after all not in the Hunting Outfitting business to make money, but to enjoy my semi retirement.

I don't want to sell you accommodation and dead animals!
I want to present to you an affordable yet unforgettable African safari adventure!

When I say that my services are reserved for a certain category of client only, this must not be construed as arrogance or lack of awareness of the principles of customer service excellence. On the contrary, within the specialized niche of tailoring a safari itinerary to specific client needs, it makes sense to define the profile of my “ideal client”, in pursuit of better service levels - thus a better chance on satisfying the client.

The alternative would be to take on any type of client on any type of hunt to kill any type of animal in any way he likes, as long as the client pays. This strategy runs the risk of , no more than that, is almost guaranteed to, failing to meet expectations. The result would be a loose-loose situation and two unhappy parties.

For many years I was in the fortunate position to be guiding hunters part time only, with no financial dependence on an income from hunting. My full time day job allowed me only enough vacation days to guide few safaris per year, which is adequate for someone who does it for fun. I have found that choosing the right clients resulted in enjoyable experiences with people who doubled also as fellow hunters and companions. Now that I'm semi-retired I still not all that dependent on income from Hunting Outfitting, and I want to continue to select my clients carefully.

So here is the profile of my “ideal hunting client”:

My ideal client loves the great outdoors. He/she [and for simplicity I will for the rest refer to 'he' only - female huntresses are just as welcome as clients of AMS as their male counterparts] is both hunter and conservationist - a “prefect of the veldt”. He is however a realist too, not hypocritically obsessed with the highly debatable ethics issues of hunting. He understands that for all of these noble intentions there has to be a balance and a compromise.

My ideal client is direct, open and honest in the up-front negotiations phase. He asks frank questions and expects frank answers. It is always better for any supplier of services to exceed expectation, than to raise hopes which can easily be perceived as promises, ending up in disappointment. If, during the safari, some issues are not fully meeting the client's expectations, he will inform me immediately so that we can make right.

My ideal client has probably never been to Africa before. Alternatively he might have hunted here once or twice, but has unlikely taken the "big five" or other elitist game. His has a limited budget, and is therefore quite prepared to jointly plan with me in detail how we can pursue optimal overall value for money. He is keen to explore the vast variety of affordable African game. He will not travel all the way to Africa primarily for gourmet dinners and lavish accommodation. He wants to experience an eventful, but safe, African safari and take back memories of a lifetime.

My ideal client’s name probably does not frequently appear in the Top Ten SCI and other record books of the world. He does prefer a nice trophy over a mediocre specimen, but he does not consider himself a “trophy collector” that chases inches at all cost. In stead, he is content with a variety of affordable species of plains game, of “average to fine” trophy sizes that can be described as “mature animals, good representative specimens of the species”.

My ideal client is not madly obsessed with instant results. If we spent the whole day going after that kudu bull and return empty handed, he will look forward to finding it tomorrow. He understands that elusive animals cannot be guaranteed (unless canned). Having said that, he still expects fair results too. He is prepared to hunt hard and risk failure on certain species, but would be duly disappointed if the accumulative trophy results of the entire safari are below his expectations. Having traveled all the way to Africa, he expects to achieve most of his wish list.

My ideal client might probably also enjoy going out some nights to call small predators. At little or no extra cost or loss of hunting time, he would appreciate taking some of the smaller African animals such as jackal, caracal, squirrel, rock hyrax, rabbit, monkey, baboon and game birds - even fishing. Time and cost permitting, he might consider visiting some game parks and popular tourist attractions.

I realize that the above is somewhat utopian, but the closermy prospective client meets these wishes, the better for both parties.

In the next writeup the three phases of the actual planning process will be described in some more detail.