Wounded Warrior on Safari...good for your soul, and mine

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Badger Matt

Single-Sixer
Joined
Nov 27, 2006
Messages
412
A few of our sharper...and older...members may remember Joel from some of my posts ten years ago. Let's call this the sequel...

So many folks dream of an African safari, but never make it happen. Too often, it seems they are unable to commit due to fear and uncertainty over downrange business ethics, in-country safety, the unknown, and finances. Enter my friend, Joel, who faced all those same fears and went on his first African hunt. Oh yes, and Joel is a one-legged, one-handed, totally blind, and badly burned young man. He was grieviously wounded in Iraq and changed my life when he came home. Simply put, he forces me to be a better man.

Country: South Africa, Limpopo Province
Outfitter: Cruiser Safaris Cruiser Safaris , Owner Pieter Lamprecht
Booking Agent: Robert "Cruiser Bob" Clark
Professional Hunters: PH Craig Diplock for Joel / PH Frank Du Plessis for me
Videographer: Richard Leonard Facebook - African Hunter Videos ITZ Media
Travel Agent: Travel With Guns
Hunt Dates: 3 to 12 July 2018

JOEL'S STORY
I met Joel in 2008 when he was in the Haley VA Hospital in Tampa, FL. He'd been severely wounded in Iraq. I was the HQ CMDT at HQUSSOCOM and my 1SG asked me to join him and visit some wounded guys in the hospital. Joel was a mess; missing a large chunk of his skull, badly burned, leg amputated below the knee, hands badly gnarled, and completely blind. Even in this condition, at his mother's urging, he thanked the 1SG for visiting and saluted me with his damaged hand - this level of discipline and lack of self-pity, along with an amazing sense of humor, are Joel's trademarks. We became friends, talking every few weeks, and visiting him a couple times after leaving Florida.
I'd been "kicking tires" and thinking about my second safari when Joel, who now had several successful stateside hunts under his belt, called and asked if I'd allow him to join me on my next African hunt. Joel hunts with the use of an iScope adaptor that allows his guide/PH to help get the crosshairs on target before Joel pulls the trigger Unstoppable Warrior . I told him I'd run it by my bride who said "it's Joel, you have to say yes." A year-and-a-half later we were on a plane.

SNAFU
We were supposed to meet up in Atlanta several hours prior to boarding our non-stop Delta flight, but weather in Atlanta kept me grounded in Greenville, SC and I arrived just after the plane left. Fortunately, Travel With Guns was monitoring our flights and we worked with them and Delta to leave two days later. We lost our Delta Comfort seats, but ended up with bulkhead seats, pretty good all things considered. Once done, I notified our booking agent and shortly thereafter received a text from Cruiser Safaris saying they'd simpy shift everything two days to the right so we wouldn't lose any hunting time. Likewise, Travel With Guns worked with Afton Safari Lodge to shift our reservations as well.

We arrived in Jo'berg and were met at our gate by two of Mr X's (courtesy of (Afton Safari Lodge) assistants who whisked us through customs to the SAPS office where we were met by Mr X. Minutes later we were in a van for a short ride to Afton for a great steak dinner and a night's rest. They even had a stool in the shower so Joel could take a shower. Since we'd arrived two days late and would be leaving the country two days late, our gun permits would expire during our stay. Mr X worked the extensions and e-mailed them to our outfitter for us! Afton also e-mailed me to say we'd left an adaptor in our room and offered to meet us at the airport to give it to us when we left. Pretty amazing service.

THE HUNT
After about a 4 hour drive with Joel's PH and the videographer, with a stop for fresh produce, we arrived at Cruiser Safaris. Our dinner, as was every meal while there, was delicious and served with a smile by a wonderful and attentive staff. Our accomodations were embarrassingly decadent; remote control heaters, hot water bottle in bed each evening, hot shower with good water pressure, etc...and very clean.
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Joel and the chef, Del Marie (aka Tiny), got along fabulously.
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Pieter, our outfitter, was with us multiple times daily and genuinely interested in how we were enjoying our hunt. A practical joker, he and his crew are a lot of fun.
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First order of business was sighting in of the rifles and evaluation of client shooting abilities. I was uncharacteristically accurate. Then it was Joel's turn. He and his PH got the iScope set up and mated to his scope and iPhone.
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Joel's first shot at 100 yds wasn't on the paper and the look on his PH's face said "what have I gotten myself into." Another shot, however, and they were in business.
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I'll save the blow-by-blow and tell you Joel missed one Impala and his Wildebeest required a follow-up shot. Every other animal was a one-shot kill and fell within sight of the blind. His 308 Winchester and Barnes TSX bullets were up to the task.
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PH Craig and tracker with the makings of a blind.
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He took Blue Wildebeest, Impala, two Warthogs, Waterbuck, Blesbok, Kudu, and Zebra. The only animal he targeted but couldn't bring to bag was a Steenbok, but it wasn't for lack of trying.
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I hunted as well, taking Nyala, Steenbok, three Warthogs, Blesbok, Red Hartebeest, Waterbuck cow, Gemsbok, and Impala. My PH, Frank the Tank, delighted in tracking, working the wind, and getting us in close. As a result, I only took two shots over 100 yds and many times were well within 30-40 yds from unaware animals.
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The only bullet recovered was from a partial front shot on my gemsbok.
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I owe a few "shout outs" to those who really went above and beyond:
- Cruiser Bob who prepared us for our hunt and spent lots of phone time with Joel.
- Wishes for Warriors who, after Cruiser Bob spoke with them, picked up the tab remaining on Joel's Kudo Combo hunt. Joel later added another four animals.
- Travel With Guns who did a great job minimizing effects of our weather induced delay.
- Afton Safari Lodge for taking care of expired gun permits and ensuring our room was handicapped accessible.
- Highveld Taxidermy who offered to mount Joel's choice of one of his trophies for free!
- Pieter, owner of Cruiser Safaris, who offered Joel a 1/2 price Waterbuck and whose daily involvement kept the hunt on an even keel. No drama leader there.
- Great PH's, Craig and Frank, who were always ready to "make a plan" to and adjust fire as necessary. Great job guys!
- Richard, the videographer, whose great sense of humor was a welcome addition. I've seen clips from what will be a great show of Joel's hunt.
- Maria Felix, CEO of Hunter International Broker Sevices, who offered to provide their brokerage fee, messenger charge, and airline storage free to Joel
 

6GUNSONLY

Hunter
Joined
Nov 30, 2004
Messages
2,717
That is fabulous. Thanks to Joel for his service and sacrifice and to you for your friendship and service to Joel. Sounds like an outstanding hunt!
 
Joined
Mar 24, 2002
Messages
5,349
As before, this is incredible!

Thank you for giving so much, that folks like this can have some experiences that they'd very likely not be able to enjoy otherwise.

WAYNO.
 

Mobuck

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 25, 2007
Messages
6,889
Although I offered my services and equipment to blinded veterans multiple times, no one accepted. It seems my old school technology has been replaced but the principle is still viable. I've seen a lot of game fall in front of a blind shooter's gun so I can understand the satisfaction in the success.
 

Bear Paw Jack

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 19, 2001
Messages
9,443
What a wonderful story and pictures. You had a great safari, I'm familiar with Frank Du Plessis and Travel with Guns. First class people. You got some great trophies. Wish I had seen a waterbuck. Reminds me a lot of the trophies I got when I was over there. Limpopo is a great area.

Good for you taking him with you, I'd have never thought of that. That's some pretty cool equipment for him to be able to do that. Glad things worked out.
 

Colonialgirl

Hawkeye
Joined
Dec 7, 2008
Messages
7,580
I have Daughter-in-law whose husband offers disabled vets FREE fishing trips in Tampa Bay; He has a sideline business of Fishing Trips on the Bay, providing Boat, Bait and I think fishing equipment too.
 

6GUNSONLY

Hunter
Joined
Nov 30, 2004
Messages
2,717
P.S. my son guided several disabled vets on a Maine woods turkey hunt this past spring. He loved doing it and all but two killed at least one bird and all had opportunities. Some of the guys had some pretty serious limitations but none were blind.
 

contender

Ruger Guru
Joined
Sep 18, 2002
Messages
21,008
An excellent story that should be shared. Plus,, it serves as an inspiration to many of us to not only appreciate what we have, but to try & help others who aren't as lucky.
Our wounded warriors gave us way more than we can ever repay.
 
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