once in a lifetime experience
Three and a half weeks may seem like a lifetime for some, depending on the circumstances, but for Rob and Julie Sasker the time flew by when the couple got a chance to take part in an African hunting safari.
Although the trip of a lifetime only lasted less than a month, it actually started over a year and a half ago.
Julie’s best friend Melinda Johnson of Malica, Minn., purchased a safari hunt for four at a Safari Club International banquet and invited the Saskers to join her and her husband Steven to go on the hunt with them.
“I never even checked with Rob. I just said, I’m game,” laughed Julie.
Knowing that Rob had always wanted to go to Africa, Julie told him what was going on and the more the two couples talked about it, the more excited they got.
After paying for half of their trip, the Saskers began the process of getting their shots.
“We were headed to the east cape of Africa and the area is malaria free so we only needed Hepatitis A and B,” explained Julie.
After lining up a second hunt, about 200 miles southeast of their first scheduled hunt, the couples bought airfare tickets.
And, on Sunday, Aug. 19, they left Atlanta, Ga. on a 16.5 hour direct flight to Johannesburg, South Africa.
“We left Atlanta in the dark and landed in Johannesburg in the dark,” laughed Julie.
The couples were met at the airport by the Afton House and they were cleared through customs and their firearms were cleared through police security.
“At that point Rob and I looked at each other and said that the two hours we spent in Sioux Falls at Homeland Security was well worth it as we had no problems clearing with our firearms,” said Julie.
The following morning the couples flew to Port Elizabeth where they were met by the professional hunter (PH) and taken to the game preserve.
Julie recalled, “It was a four and a half hour drive in a Toyota Land Cruiser where we met Richard and Marion Holms of Richard Holms Safaris.”
After getting settled, the group started hunting on Wednesday, Aug. 22.
Having received hunting packages, the Saskers knew which animals they would be allowed to shoot during the trip. They included a Common Springbuck, Dyker, Gemsbok and a Mountain Reedbuck.
Besides the animals listed, Julie took an Impala and Rob took a female Blessbuck that was a cull hunt.
After 10 days, the couple had shot all of their animals and moved on to their second safari hunt.
On the second hunt, they shot a Zebra, Kudu, White Blessbuck, Black Springbuck, Black Wildebeest, Red Hartebeest, male Blessbuck, Impala, and a White Blessbuck.
Julie shot five animals and Rob shot 10.
“My most exciting shoot was my dyker,” said Julie. “The small animal weighed in at just over 20 pounds and I had hunted it for three days.”
She continued, “But it really is the status of his horns that makes him impressive. Most dykers average a horn size of about 4.5 inches, but this dykers horns measured 5.25 inches.”
Julie noted that her PH said that in the 12 years he had been a PH he had never seen a dyker with horns of this size.
“Come to find out, it had been 28 years since anyone had ever shot dyker with horns that big,” said Julie with a smile.
Rob’s most exciting animal was his kudu.
“He hunted hard for that in rocky mountainous terrain for three days, with his PH,” said Julie.
After their trip was complete, the hunters were allowed by law to bring back to the states the hides, horns and skulls.
And so, the Saskers decided to bring everything they had shot home!
“It will be six to nine months though before they will be here,” said Julie.
The animals had to be picked up by a taxidermist in Africa and then prepared to be crated and shipped back to the States.
After making it back to the US, their hides, horns and skulls will end up at Travis Taxidermy in Humboldt.
Julie noted that as soon as the taxidermist gets the crate, he will call the Saskers and they will come to Humboldt before the crate is opened.
“From there, it could take a year to year and a half before the we get our shoulder mounts back,” said Julie.
After their hunts, the couples spent a day at the Indian Ocean, watching ships, walking on the beach and even taking in an aquarium.
“But the best part of the trip was seeing the wonderful smile on my husband’s face when he would shoot an animal,” said Julie. “His expression was just priceless.”
Julie said that the trip as a whole was amazing.
“It is very true about the dark continent grabbing you. The people are so kind and so courteous and customer orientated. It is just unreal,” said Julie, who would go back in a heartbeat.
The couple is already talking about going back in a couple of years.
“It was so different the way we were treated,” said Julie.
The last five days of their trip was spent in east London, South Africa at a bed and breakfast with a concrete wall and razor wire on the top of the wall.
“We did both question ourselves as to what we had gotten into,” said Julie.
The wall, security and even razor wire was put up to protect the visitors who were staying at the bed and breakfast because unfortunately, in that part of the county, rape and murder is the norm.
For dinner one evening, the couples were able to taste meats from the same kind of animals they had shot.
Julie said that the taste was similar but the texture was different on all the animals.
Julie noted that the weather was another definite surprise.
“As far north as South Dakota is from the equator, in South Africa, we were as far south, or more from the equator,” she said.
Julie said that they were just coming in to spring and the weather was cold, windy, and hot for just a couple hours during the day.
“Every morning was freezing” said Julie. “They would ask that we shower in the evening rather than the morning because then if the pipes got hot, they wouldn’t freeze,” she said.
Now that the couple’s trip is over, she said that they have absolutely no regrets about it.
Julie said, “It’s just like when you go on any other trip. The money just keeps adding up and adding up. But there are no regrets. I can’t think of anything.”
“Beat any other hunting trip all to hell. There is no comparison!,” said Julie with a laugh.