Clive Curtis, senior professional hunter (PH) for Coenraad Vermaak Safaris, earned the Basie Maartens Professional Hunter of the Year Award in 2014. It is the top recognition from the Professional Hunters Association of South Africa. We conversed at a gathering at the home of Dr. Hayden Franks on Jan. 24 in Little Rock.
Coenraad Vermaak Safaris is unique among African hunting outfits, Curtis said, because of the amount of land it charters. The company enjoys exclusive hunting rights to 240,000 contiguous, unfenced acres that contain every species of popular African game species, including elephant, cape buffalo, white rhinocerous, black rhinocerous, kudu, eland, impala, lion, leopard and more.
Animals are hunted according to an exhaustive management plan designed to promote overall herd health, and with respect to animal group dynamics. Fewer than 150 animals are taken from a population of nearly 150,000. Alpha males and females are protected in situations where their removal would cause serious upheaval in group hierarchies.
Poaching is not rife in this part of South Africa, Curtis said. Coenraad Vermaak Safaris hires private security firms that use helicopters and drone thermal imaging to fend off illegal activity. It is expensive, and hunter fees pay for it all.
Managing people is critical to hunter success and safety, Curtis said. All of his clients are wealthy, and most are Type A personalities who are used to giving orders and being obeyed.
In the bush, the PH is the ultimate authority, and his word is law. An angry cape buffalo will pulverize the CEO of a worldwide corporation as enthusiastically as he will a tracker, Curtis said, and the PH has sole accountability.
“I’ve shot two cape buffalo from here to that fireplace,” Curtis said. “They skidded to a stop right at my feet.”
Amid this backdrop, Curtis has cultivated lifelong friendships with some of the world’s most influential people.
When Curtis first meets his hunters, he notes their temperament and demeanor. The quiet ones who listen and ask questions are most likely to accept direction, and they are also the most likely to be successful.
The braggarts and blowhards usually require more delicate handling.
As we talked, a video played from a safari with the Franks family. Arkansas Democrat-Gazette readers first met Emily Franks as a young teenager in this space about 10 years ago, when we featured her marlin-catching exploits at Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Since then, Franks has become an accomplished hunter, as well.
“She’s very, very good,” Curtis said. “I believe she was five for five up to this point [in the video].”
She made a perfect shot on an oryx that seemed unaffected by the impact. Her second shot — with a 300 Winchester Magnum — struck virtually the same spot. It took an identically placed third shot to bring it down.
Curtis pointed at the video and noted that all three shots were directly into the heart and lungs.
“African animals are very tough,” Curtis said. “They are evolved to react to close threats in the bush, and they exhibit phenomenal resiliency to escape danger. They can run distances that are physiologically impossible to explain.”
Hunters bicker endlessly about suitable calibers and bullets for big game. Curtis said that 375 Holland and Holland is the minimum standard for dangerous game, but he uses a double-barrel rifle in 458 Winchester Magnum. His favorite bullet is the all-copper Barnes TSX for non-dangerous game, and Barnes banded solids for dangerous game.
Amen from this pew. The Barnes TSX and polymer-tipped TSX are my favorite bullets for whitetails. If they’re good enough for South Africa‘s best PH on Africa‘s toughest game, they’re good enough for anything on this continent, as well.
Sports on 02/03/2019