SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL
Northeast Wisconsin Chapter

 
SCI Northeast Wisconsin Chapter
By: Marty Witczak, President

Anticipation, excitement and nervousness were the emotions that were running high as my wife, and friends Cal and Karen Ort, prepared to embark on our long waited African adventure. We boarded the plane at Chicago O’Hare airport Friday evening March 6th amid all the concerns from family and friends regarding leaving the country during the rampant spread of the Coronavirus in China and several other countries. Had we known the seriousness and speed in which this virus infected its victims and the task of our president embraced to protect the citizens of the United States by closing down all travel in and out of the United States we would not have taken the risk and gone on our African trip. However, we did not believe we would be caught in the middle so we left with the intentions of completing our hunt and visiting Victoria Falls and then home before we could possibly be affected.

 

The four of us arrived in Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, early Sunday morning March 9th and were greeted by our professional hunters Mark Mackenzie and Heinrich Van Zyl. We drove five hours to Wilton Valley Hunting Safaris Farm and Lodge near the Limpopo River and the border of Botswana. The staff and Jannie Otto the outfitter, welcomed and greeted us with open arms and made our experience with Wilton Valley Hunting Safaris very pleasurable. After a little unpacking and camp exploration, we all took a short ride to the gun range to site in our weapons. It was a beautiful, warm sunny late afternoon early evening for honing-in on our hunting shooting skills. Once we left the gun range, we took a ride to appreciate the beauty of the farm and the abundance of game. The ride ended with Cal shooting a pesky jackal. The first trophy of the week!! Our first evening in camp ended with an excellent meal and some serious talk of trophy hunting dreams! Cal and myself had some specific trophies in mind that we wanted to brag about taking on this hunting trip, until we began planning and executing our next hunt whenever and wherever that would be!

 

Monday morning dawned bright and early for myself and Cal as we prepared for our first official day of hunting. The plan was to be out of camp by 6:30AM with our professional hunters Mark and Heinrich leading the way. Mark and I went in one direction while Cal and Heinrich went in another direction. By the end of the day, I had taken a huge Eland that weighed in over 1650 lbs. and Cal had taken a beautiful older zebra. One that would make a very handsome rug to grace their homes’ living room floor! My wife Terri and Cal’s wife Karen were over the moon with the first days’ hunt and these beautiful trophies! Speaking of over the moon, later that night, we experienced a glorious full moon so close to us it felt like we could reach out and touch it! It will be a very long time before we all will forget about that stunning sight, the way it lit up the dark sky with its’ brilliance!

 

The rest of the week produced more warm sunny days and cool evenings spent eating delicious meals prepared from game recently taken and enjoying time spent around the campfire with our new friends and anticipating what the next days hunt would bring. By the end of the week I had taken a sable with a horn length of 41 inches and a very impressive Kudu with a 56-inch horn length. Two very beautiful specimens. Cal finished his week by taking a bushbuck, a warthog and a sable. One horn measured 44 inches and the other one measured 39 inches. Terri and Karen occasionally accompanied us on our hunting expeditions and enjoyed the peace and quiet and the scenery. Let us face it, it didn’t hurt to have the extra pair of eyes looking for those beautiful animals we were hunting. We especially enjoyed seeing giraffes, hippos, many species of colorful birds, and all the beautiful examples of the animals we hunted daily. It was also amazing to watch all the animals and even a croc daily that hung around the watering hole within camp. Terri and Karen took the day off on Thursday to travel and sight see with Heinrich to Sun City, known as A World within a City. It was a day filled with fun and relaxation, a little bit of haggling with the local artists to purchase a few African trinkets, and a visit to the Sun City Casino. The only one who lost money was Heinrich! They dined and drank tropical beverages at a local favorite, the SPUR restaurant, inside the Sun City mall. They thoroughly enjoyed their day spent with Heinrich and doing a bit of shopping!

 

Before we knew it we were preparing for the next leg of our journey which wasn’t looking to promising according to the news we were hearing. The Coronavirus was ravaging China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and just beginning to invade the United States. While in camp we were notified by text that British Airways had already cancelled our flight from London back to Chicago on the 21st of March. Our visit to Victoria Falls was beginning to look like a terribly missed opportunity instead of the wonderful, beautiful sight seeing experience that we envisioned when we made our plans last February 2019. On our way back to Johannesburg and the airport we made an important stop at a World class Taxidermist since 1981, Highveld Taxidermists. This is a family owned business and has been serving hunters from all over the world, specializing in high quality African trophy mounts. Here, our hides would be tanned, shoulder mounts, pedestal mounts and specialized items would be created and perfected. It was a fascinating tour and well worth the time we took to meet the owners and view t he employees at work.

 

Arriving in Johannesburg on Monday the 16th of March, we went straight to the airport to obtain plane tickets to get back to the states. We were fortunate to obtain tickets for all four of us on one of the last planes flying to the United States. We flew Qatar Airways from Johannesburg to Saudi Arabia and then on to Chicago. We left early Tuesday morning on the 17th, spent the night at the airport in Saudi Arabia, left early Wednesday morning and flew 14.5 hours to Chicago. What a long couple of days but thankful that we were able to get home safely and healthy. The last leg of our African journey wasn’t what we had planned or expected and will always be a part of our memories, but all of us were thankful for the wonderful hunting expedition, the beautiful scenery and game, and all the great new friendships that were forged during our safari hunt with Jannie Otto at Wilton Valley Hunting Safaris Farm and Lodge. My hope is that in the very near future all hunting/fishing shall be restored and those who had to cancel or postpone their hunting adventure will be able to proceed. Take care, stay safe and healthy and God Bess you my friends.

 

Marty

 

 

I look forward to seeing you September 9th
at our Septembers Member's Meeting.