Natchez man joins cousin on hunting trip in S. Africa

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; Wouldn’t you be jealous?

Hearing your cousin &045; more like a best friend &045; describing his adventures in the bush, thousands of miles away in a foreign continent, hunting implausible animals you’ve only seen on the Discovery Channel or in National Geographic.

It got to be too much for Walter Harrison after another envious day of hearing cousin Dave Mansfield tell intricate detail of one more glorious adventure competing against big game in South Africa.

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Harrison was left with no other option. So last May he called his own bluff, joining Mansfield and a handful of others on a safari throughout South Africa.

&8220;I tell people all the time if they want to do something like this, get up, look themselves in the mirror and say you’re going to do it,&8221; said Harrison, a recent Natchez transplant from Greenville whose wife was reared here. &8220;This is very affordable. You can spend more money in Canada hunting trophy whitetail (deer) than in South Africa.&8221;

A passport, a variety of shots and a permit later, Harrison was airborne out of Jackson into Atlanta for a brief layover before a hopping aboard a 747 on a 16-hour pilgrimage to Johannesburg, South Africa.

There, after a trip through customs where his firearms were inspected for the correct paper work, guide Andrew McLaren met the eager sportsmen.

&8220;You don’t need a lot of gear,&8221; Harrison said. &8220;Three sets of clothes &045; because you’ll have a laundry service at your disposal every night &045; a light jacket, a nice pair of good walking shoes and a hat.&8221;

And, of course, a weapon.

Plopping down each night in accommodating surroundings &045; a chalet or cabin quarters, for example &045; the group discussed that day’s adventures around a fire pit while enjoying several adult beverages.

There was that day, stationed at a watering hole, the group were hunting rock pigeons when a flock sailed in. Harrison delicately pulled his trigger, only to see five fall out of the sky at once.

&8220;In three days, five of us took 13 game animals,&8221; he recalled. &8220;Six of which will be in the record books. Two kudu, two water bucks, three impalas, three gemsbucks and a wildebeest.&8221;

These aren’t just trivial harvests either. Feel free to gawk at them. It would be Harrison’s pleasure if your jaw made a loud thud when seeing the pictures of the 800-pound water buck he harvested.

If you got a second, he’d even be happy to tell you the story.

&8220;Wouter (a guide) said, &8216;Walter do you see that second animal on the left facing you?’&8221; Harrison said. &8220;I got him in my sight because I could see his silhouette in the sky. I put the crosshairs and fired. He started moving around. My second shot hit him and shattered his skull.&8221;

Harrison transported with him a rifle of special significance and nostalgia. It was one of the last firearms a dear gunsmith friend barreled in Greenville before he died.

You’re allowed to bring 60 rounds of ammunition per weapon into the country, but ammo is naturally still available in South Africa, both foreign and domestic.

&8220;You don’t need a real big gun unless you’re getting on an animal that is around 1,300 or 1,400 pounds,&8221; Harrison said. &8220;Professional hunters advise you to use the rifle you shoot the best; the one you’re most comfortable with.&8221;

Expect to pay around $4,500 excluding airfare. Figure in a per day rate, which contains transportation licenses, food, accommodation, the salary of the professional hunter or guide, a tracker and the skinners.

Also account for trophy fees. Each animal has a fee that goes back to the land owner. The more desirable harvest is obviously the more expensive, and usually the less plentifully game.

&8220;They harvest their wildlife,&8221; Harrison said. &8220;Government biologists will come out and tell a farmer they can harvest so many spring bucks or whatever. They harvest their wildlife like we harvest pigs or cattle. South Africa is a totally self-sufficient place. They feed most of the area.&8221;

South Africa’s independence, just years removed from the a hostile Apartheid and racial conflict, is what was so everlasting to Harrison.

Whether he expected a third-world country or a culture lagging behind to greet him, as Harrison walked away from the plane he quickly grasped the old don’t-judge-a-book-by-its-cover philosophy.

&8220;It was certainly a lot more modern than I thought it would be,&8221; he admitted. &8220;They utilize their wildlife as a food source. Nothing was wasted. South Africa is a totally modern country. Four-lane highways, electricity everywhere, modern shopping centers.&8221;

Any of those interested can call Harrison at (601) 445-3268, or contact via e-mail at