On safari with… Stephen Bann

I was born in 24 August 1977 in Bloemfontein, Orange Free State. (Now the Free State.)

Since I can remember my dad and I went hunting in the June school holidays in the Dwaalboom area. We stayed in a small bungalow without electricity or running water, and every evening we boiled water on the fire so that we could wash ourselves. In the mornings we would walk from camp – we only did walk-and-stalk hunting. From a young age I had to learn how to orient myself in the bush, and use the wind, and sometimes just sit and observe.

I loved to be in the bush and to hunt, and as I grew older I knew that hunting was my passion, but never thought it would become my profession.

I learned a lot from my uncle in the bushveld, not only about hunting but also about animal behaviour. I did not apprentice with anyone, I was thrown into the deep end and had to learn the hard way. I did work in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve as a game ranger where I learned how to track animals, identify birds and trees, lodge ethics, and how to work with clients. I think this was a good foundation for me for the hunting industry. And I learned that you should never bullshit your client.

However, I am not very good with names. Once I hunted with a Spanish client and could not remember his name for the whole duration of the hunt. Every night around the camp fire I would try and listen in case his friends said his name. That was very embarrassing for me.

In the early years as a professional hunter I hunted in the Northern Cape and Kalahari most of the time. I worked a lot with other outfitters because I had access to some good hunting areas. I have also hunted other parts of South Africa and Namibia. Now I have three main hunting areas in South Africa. All are very big, and I think what makes my hunts special is that each one is exclusive, and that I offer top quality trophies to my clients. I always tell clients that before they come on safari, they must practice shooting off sticks, and I am very lucky that I have only hunted with very nice clients.

My most interesting trophy was a croc I hunted near KwaZulu-Natal Province. This was a huge croc and was very clever. Every morning we crawled on hands and knees to get a close look, and one morning there were leopard tracks over our tracks, and the pepper ticks crawled all over us. We finally got a shot on him after four days of crawling and stalking.

I think most professional hunters would say Cape buffalo is their favourite trophy animal to hunt, but I enjoy tracking and hunting big eland bulls in the Kalahari. It sometimes takes you five to seven days before you even see one – they are very big but also very clever.

I think that all the trophies my clients have hunted are the best, but if I have to choose one, I would say it was that big croc we hunted. However, two of my most memorable hunts were my first leopard hunt and my first lion hunt.

As for preferred weapons, for plains game I recommend a .300 WM and for dangerous game I recommend a .375 H&H or bigger. The most important thing is that your client must be comfortable with his gun. My favourite ammo is Barnes and Swift – both brands are so versatile.

I have a few back-up rifles, but I prefer my .450 Rigby with Barnes ammo. I don’t really like to talk about close encounters, but on one occasion we followed up on a wounded buffalo in the reeds. It was close, very close, but luckily the heavenly Father’s angels watched over us that day.

If I could go on one dream safari it would be to Alaska to hunt a caribou while they are in migration.

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