My African Macnab and Bonus Safari
May 26 – June 8, 2005
On my personal list of things to do before I take the “Cruise to see Alaska” was to experience an Elk trip out west – horse pack, line camp and all. While shopping venders at the Ft. Washington Pa. Sport Show two years ago, my wife got bored going from booth to booth with me. Sometimes it was a two minute stop, others a 20 minute discussion. Therefore, she wandered off. Sometime later, I found her talking to two handsomely rugged men at an African Safari booth. She introduced me and I shook hands politely and conversed mainly on the prospects of some Elk outfitters. They were real gentlemen and never tried to redirect me to their specialty. After a few minutes I said goodbye, grabbed my wife’s hand, and I was off again looking for the perfect outfitter. About 50 feet away my wife stops short and looks over her shoulder to see if the Safari guys were looking, and they weren’t so she explained as only a wife can that I was very rude and inconsiderate when I was talking to the two PH’s. I tried to explain that I had things to do, places to go, people to see – I had to find my Western Outfitter.
She grabbed my hand to slow me down and said “wouldn’t you rather go to Africa instead?” Not quite sure what to say, I just said a dumb guy thing like “yea sure” and started to walk off. She stopped me again and looked right at me and said “I’m serious.” Now most of you men reading this will understand my reaction. “What do you mean?” I asked. So Ginny, my beautiful and lovely wife, gave me the African Safari sales pitch in the aisle way. When she finished I just stood there adding up the pros and cons to her proposal and said, “Are you kidding? It wasn’t even on my dream list. SURE!” We went back and I reintroduced myself as an interested client of an African Safari. And that’s where the REAL story begins.
Nineteen months later after 3000 e-mails of questions (God bless my PH) we arrive in Johannesburg SA and were greeted by what will now and always be My PH, Pieter Potgieter. After arriving at Motsomi Safaris main lodge a little after midnight, we settled in and got a good night’s sleep. I still can’t figure out if I got there the day before I left or two days later or something like that. We awoke the next morning to the beautiful clear African sky. Pieter greeted us with was to be the morning ritual of bringing coffee to our door as soon as the lights went on. We ate breakfast in the lapa and then headed off to the ranges to sight in the rifles and bow.
We had lunch and then went to our first tree blind. On the way we saw animals I’ve only seen in a zoo, but now I’m in and among them. Up in the tree, Pieter goes over again what is expected of me and what his duties are. I had brought my pocket sized “The Perfect Shot” and was going over it with Pieter. The most interesting part on the overview was his description on shot placement. A homegrown international measurement language using the beer can, beer can and a half method instead of millimeters or inches. And it works!
My wife Ginny was sitting there soaking it all up. We were still talking in a very low voice on proper hunting this and that when my sweetie put her hand up in front of us to shut us up. She pointed to a beautiful Impala working its way in. (I still haven’t heard the end of that!) I stood up, aimed one beer can high on the leg, right on Mother Nature’s line – Release! I just took my first African Silver Medal Impala with my bow. Then, of course, came my first photo opportunity.
The next week was out of any man’s fairy tale: Silver Medal Gemsbuck, a >B-F< Greater Kudu, Silver Metal Nyala, Gold Medal Blue Wildebeest, and a Class A Zebra. I hoped it would never end. But it did. And I didn’t know the best was yet to come.
We packed up all our belongings for our second leg of the trip. From the Limpopo area we went down to the Ermelo plains. This was a day’s drive southeast past local artist shopping and great food stops. We arrived just before dusk at the most beautiful property that housed a Zulu hut with a deck on the edge of a large pond. We were again in heaven. My wife and I choose to walk up to the old renovated barn that houses a bar and a large eating area for hungry cricket players next to a zebra dunged cricket field. After an unbelievable meal of fresh crab appetizers to the main course of Franklin Pie and Babootie, and always wine and desserts (local fare), we went over our next few days itinerary.
The next morning brought me a beautiful Fallow deer and the pride of a lifetime. I witnessed my wife’s first harvest of anything other then a squirrel. She took a Silver Medal White Blesbuck at 180 yards. I am still in a daze from watching her so calmly take that shot. No buck fever, no shakes, I’m not showing her where I keep the ammo. We then had the brilliant idea for me to go after a Blesbuck, so we could get head-to-head shots of his and her Blesbucks. As is typical of herds of Blesbuck, we spent the remainder of the day trying to pick a MUST BE BIGGER THEN HERS out of over 600 for me to take. Well, that didn’t happen.
I didn’t think this could get any better, but for once in my life I was glad I was wrong. Early next morning, over the heavy dew popped up a Gold Medal Springbuck. It was 300 plus yards away, and with a steadier hand, now that I’m nine days into my safari, I had him. The early start gave us a chance to speed things up a little…never had I thought I had any luck. Well that day if I hadn’t been in the middle of Africa I would have played the lottery, for the rest of the day went as follows.
First was a free cull Blesbuck trying to run with a broken leg. Then came the challenge to get a healthy one. It was hard, but within an hour or so, I harvested a nice Silver Medal male – a 1/8” total score bigger than my wife’s. Then the chase was on to find those two big Black Wildebeest we kept bumping into. But of course, they were nowhere to be found because we were going after them now. Follow and listen to your PH is a mantra all should learn when going to Africa. My PH said, “Look up there at around 350 yds.” There he was. He was mine – a beautiful Bronze Medal Black Wildebeest. I guess it’s over now, right? …Wrong.
A Macnab is an old Scotch hunting challenge now adaptable in many areas. You can look it up on the web and there is also books on the subject with some great stories. I just purchased a book called appropriately, “John Macnab”, by John Buchan. As legend has it, the “Macnab” as it is called, started years ago when gentlemen land owners in Scotland were bored and a man named John Macnab challenged land owners. He claimed that he could sneak on to their private country estate and shoot one of their trophy antlered animals, take a brace of sport birds over a hunting dog, and also catch a salmon on a fly rod with a fly all in one day while the owners and there security staff were on alert to stop him.
We had a late lunch and drove to the caretaker’s house. With his help and his wonderful German Short Haired Pointer, we were off on the quest of a Macnab. Now in Africa with my PH, this was his first attempt also. Pieter gave me a side by side 12 gauge. I can’t remember when I last shot one, but off we go on our challenge. Dog on point, flush, shoot, miss, point, flush, shoot, miss, point, flush, got ya. My first game bird in Africa was a Swainson Franklin. Now Pieter my trusty PH, a man among men says “if you catch a trout on the fly rod, you’ll have a Gold Macnab”. He had borrowed the fly rod from his friend Stefan. “One draw back,” he said. “You’re on your own. I’ve never caught fish on fly rod.” Now, for the first time in Africa, on another continent, I was in charge. I fly fish. I fly fish for Bone in the Bahamas every February. I fly fish for trout in the US. The sun was getting lower so we had to hustle. We drove to a remote location with a hidden lake in the hills with a small stone lodge on its banks. When we go back to Africa staying at that stone cottage a few nights is on our wish list.
With Pieter watching like a hawk I assembled the four piece rod, strung it and picked out a fly that I had smuggled with me after learning about the possible Macnab. Fifty casts in 20 locations, I got nothing. I changed flies. Thirty casts 20 spots, nothing. I go to Pieter’s friend’s fly box, pick out a strange looking one, tied it on and went back to my first spot. As soon as the fly hit the water, Bam! I had a nice fish on, everyone was watching. It took me ten minutes to play it in closer. I wasn’t going to horse this fish in. I netted my 15 ½ inch rainbow trout, one of two in a matter of minutes. I quit… I did it! I got my Gold Macnab: Gold meaning I did it in one day, Silver would be two days, Bronze three. A Gold Medal Springbuck (Silver Medal Blesbuck, Bronze Medal Black Wildebeest), Swainson Franklin over a sport dog, and TWO rainbow trout on a fly all in one day on one property. Needless to say, are we going back to Africa? You betcha we are! And with Motsomi Safaris. Whether Pieter our PH likes it or not!
Don & Ginny Rickards
Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania
Thank you Don for your great story. If any of you would like to contact Don Rickards and talk to him about his safari send an email to: