John lives up to the all the legends of the African big game hunter. In 1978, soon after John got his Lerner Professional Hunter’s License, independence came to Zimbabwe. He decided to return to Cape Town and while awaiting the actions of the new government, he bought the Hard Rock Café which he operated for three years. In 1982, John sold the Café and returned to Zimbabwe. He passed the test, received his PH license and began his hunting career.
Though he has hunted extensively in Tanzania, Zambia, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Nambia; Zimbabwe is John’s favorite country and he is based in the Bubye Valley Conservancy. He offers a variety of hunts, plains game and dangerous game including buffalo and elephant. Over 35 years afield, he has gained a wealth of experience. John comments on his philosophy. “No two hunts are the same and there is always something new to learn. It is my personal code of conduct to always be between my client and incoming danger and I have many times over the course of my career, proved my ability to stand firm in the face of serious injury or death. It is my policy never to shoot a client’s animal unless it is a dangerous situation and absolutely necessary. The client has paid a lot of money to do this himself. It is my job as a PH to educate him and put him in the best possible position so that he can get the job done to the best of his ability. No animal is ever guaranteed, but an unforgettable experience in the bush certainly is.”
A Rigby .470 NE double, built in 1927, re-barrelled by Holland & Holland in the 1960’s, was bought by a client for John about 20 years ago and he has used it ever since. John recounts the event that convinced him a double was a necessity for backing up clients. “I was hunting with a client who wanted to take a buffalo with a bow. We were tracking three buffalo and the client wounded one of them. A crack shot, he had been betrayed in the last seconds. The bulls caught our scent and came hurtling towards us, unintentionally. Hearing our warning shouts the ﬁrst bull broke left across me, as did the second bull a few paces behind him. I was concentrating too hard on the ﬁrst two bulls, looking for signs of the arrow that would have been on their blind side. The third bull then also broke to the left, but when it was directly in front of me it suddenly turned 90 degrees and came straight at me. I snapped off a shot with my bolt-action .458, my mind still too focused on the other two that were high-tailing it – no effect. It was then that I realized I probably would not have time for a second shot. My mind raced, but everything my eyes took in became slow motion. I don't know how I did it, but I remained anchored to the spot. It takes a split second to work a bolt – a split second that I quite obviously no longer had – and the bull was coming in like a freight train. I remember clearly seeing the empty case floating lazily in the air as I frantically tried to close the bolt over another cartridge, hoping and praying that I would be able to ﬁre as the bull hit the end of my barrel. Miraculously, at the very last instant, the bull made a 90-degree turn to my left, his boss passing under my barrel. Still, it seemed to me, in slow motion, the riﬂe shouldered smoothly and I shot him behind the ear, a mere 10 feet away, as he began to pull away from me. He dropped like a stone, the bloody arrow ﬂicking upwards from his belly and gleaming in the afternoon sunshine. It was one of those occasions where God and luck were the vital factor.”
John offers photo safaris for hunting clients’ wives or other observers. If there are rhino youngsters being raised at the orphanage a private viewing is a unique experience. Bubye Valley Conservancy is one of the few places in the world where it is possible to see a black rhino though sightings are not guaranteed. If a client wants to do some fishing, it can be arranged.
An ethical PH, John is an ardent conservationist passionate about ensuring that wildlife is preserved for future generations. He tries to spread the message via social media and pro hunting articles. BVC’s rhino anti-poaching efforts and lion research are explained on the website, www.bubyevalleyconservancy.com
An SCI life member since 1983, John has attended every SCI Convention and has been an exhibitor for over 20 years.