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SABA farm evaluation: Falcon Safaris

FalconSafarisAn unforgettable weekend…

By Harry Marx

Staying and hunting with Falcon Safaris was an absolute pleasure, honour and delight. We were treated very well, experienced the good life, and indeed the good hunt. But before we get to the hunt, a bit about the farm…

We arrived early Friday morning and were greeted by wonderful clean, crisp air of a bush veldt morning, a stark contrast to the smoke-filled winters in Gauteng. Gerhard, the hunt master, was on leave and we were greeted by Louis, the second in command. Actually, Louis is the manager of the beef half of the farm. But I think he must have hosted hunters before – we were on the right foot from the word go.
First things first. Laurike booked us in and indeed, it was the very luxury of bush living itself. Fred (chairman of SABA) and I each had our own suite with a massive bathroom, complete with shower, bath, wash basin, toilet and wall to wall window which looked out onto the inviting bush. I’m just glad the window faced away from the rest of the camp… no need to say anything further.

The rooms were large, air-conditioned, each with a bar fridge. I was impressed with luxurious interior of the five-star accommodation; we were going to sleep in style. Louis insisted that the first thing we simply had to do was having breakfast – hotel style. We compromised. The “mess hall” is not what we expected to find at a hunting lodge and I think it was our complete disregard for such fancy things that caused us to storm into the kitchen and make ourselves at home, like Boers do on a farm.  This caught some of the staff off guard, but again, we are all just people and the breakfast was even better this way.

The beautiful swimming pool, I must confess, would have attracted our families’ attention much more. For us, well, we had only one thing in mind. After the necessary paperwork was done we were off to the hides.

Louis and his wife Carla joined us in the evenings around the fire and we then enjoyed their company as friends. Can you imagine the stories they shared with us – she being a real-life lion tamer! Yes, we were entertained every now and then by a lion’s growl, snuff or cough and the interpreter sat with us. (PS the lions were in a camp right next to the lodge, so we were quite safe.)
The stay with Flacon Safaris was marred only by how short it was and the job we had to do – indeed, we had to do some hunting as well…

The hunt
I have been on many farms, not probably as many as some of you, but I’ve seen my share. And I’ve been on farms where you would later take the bakkie and go for a game drive just to see if there are really animals on the land, or if the only animals around were the ones in Mammals of South Africa on the book shelf.

This was not one of those farms. On Friday, we decided to first just observe. We saw impala, kudu, warthog, hartebeest… I saw a baboon troop of probably 200 strong. They “invaded” a whole hectare around the hide at a time. Indeed, it was very early spring when we were there and everything alive was struggling – the winter drought was not yet broken and it was lingering too long. Some of the animals showed this. But it also showed us that the animals were surviving under these harsh conditions, a good indication of a well-managed game farm.

That night around the fire Fred and I were confident, if Saturday looked like the previous day in the hide, we were in for a treat. Of course we had a specific brief – we were hunting for meat and therefore would target female animals, or young males. From previous hunts, I knew things could change in the blink of an eye. So although being optimistic and enthusiastic, there was still a nagging doubt, because hunting is neither as sure as death nor taxes.

Saturday morning, not too early, around seven, we set off to the hides. A slight early morning drizzle settled like dew on the leaves. The grass smelled like only wet veldt grass can and the dust was kept at bay.

And indeed, things were hectic at the hides. The impala came in, and within minutes I shot a ewe. Louis was quick to fetch it as well – most probably because he was already in the bakkie – Fred had shot a warthog. And then there was another impala – a young ram. Fred got an impala, and then another one. Around midday a mature kudu cow finally approached the hide. I was looking at her the previous day and she was still in good condition. I was giving up a lot of the younger cows waiting for her. Finally she stepped into shooting range.

We were blessed indeed as I believe the word “lucky” is not appropriate for hunting. Between Fred and me we shot the budget we had on Saturday and Sunday morning. The tally was three warthog, seven impala and two kudu cows. Indeed, the meat was for three families. We were very fortunate. We had only one wound, which was successfully followed up by Fred, making good for the mishap.  

It always fascinates me when this happen, because the shot, although slightly low, should have been good. But small things can make a difference. Something simple like a kudu cow stretching a bit higher to get to a greener leaf, and suddenly her lungs and heart lifts slightly in the chest cavity. I have on a previous occasion shot a kudu cow in the middle height of the chest, and cut through the upper muscles of the heart. I think kudu vitals are situated slightly higher in the chest cavity than other antelope.

What really caught my attention was how relaxed the animals were at the hides. And somehow the growls of the lions almost had a calming effect. I think they were lulled into the false sense of safety, hearing that the lions were “far away”…

I can only recommend Falcon Safaris, based on our experience during these three days. They were friendly, professional, competent and presented us with the best of living and hunting. Thank you Louis and the staff of Falcon Safaris.

For the next farm to be evaluated by SABA we will award “arrows”, zero to five, for the following conditions:

  • The “cheapest” accommodation – we want to do it like most hunters would.
  • Is the slaughtering facilities hygienic, clean and enclosed – no flies?
  • Is the cold room below 5 degrees Celsius, with backup power?
  • Is the PH on time getting us to hides and did he arrive for a follow-up on agreed time?
  • Were we able to see at least (not necessarily shoot) what we planned to shoot (as discussed with farm management)?

If conditions 2 and 3 are not met, we simply cannot afford the risk – this is food for our families and pays for the reviews… Although the temptation is great to award Falcon its arrows, I cannot do it, simply because we did not brief them on the questionnaire. But for the next farm we hope to bring you the facts soon, so be aware, wink-wink.

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