Johnny Vivier

Johnny Vivier

From my father (Christoffel Vivier) side of the family, who originated from France and from my Mother (Magdel Petersen) side of the family originating from Norway. Both my parents were born and married in South Africa and then immigrated to Luanshya Zambia. I had 2 older sisters Yvonne and Cathy and an older brother David; only my sister Cathy is alive today and living in RSA.

I was born in Lusaka Zambia 19th December 1959 and we lived in Luanshya on the copper belt. I attended boarding school in Umtali Rhodesia from a tender age of 8 years old; later my family immigrating to Bulawayo Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) where I was to become a prefect at Milton High school in Bulawayo. I married my wife Beverley Vivier (nee Logan) on the 4th Sept 1982 in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe). After Zimbabwe gained independence we left in 1983 and settled in South Africa where we still reside today. We have 1 daughter Kelly who is 28 years old. Kelly is our only child who suffers from Autism but is doing exceptionally well due to the dedication of my wife and the correct specialized and repetitive tuition – Kelly has blossomed into a beautiful young lad, we are so very proud of her achievements!

My late father Chris Vivier was a PH for Zambia Safaris and later a PH for Kerr, Downey Safaris (Harry Selby) back in the 60’s ~ so the safari way of life has always been in my family since I was born. Like most of us PH’s, I started out at the age of 5 with a #2 BSA pellet gun; where 500 pellets over a weekend was not enough, never mind the air rifle spring that I would replace every month! I then upgraded to my father’s .22 Bruno and then a double barreled 12 bore Greener shotgun that kicked the crap out of me every time I fired it as I had to place the stock under my arm in order to pick up the front bead.

I shot my first animal, a Roan antelope bull in Zambia at the age of 7 with my Dad’s 30,06 Remington and my first dangerous game species, a Buffalo bull in Zambia; I was 10 years old and the Buffalo was laying behind an anthill where me and my Dad snuck up to within 20 paces of the brute … taking a dead rest on the top of the anthill, all we could see was his head at a quartering angle and without any talking, my Dad pointed with his finger to shoot the Buffalo just behind the ear;

I stuck a 30-06 round just behind the bulls left ear while my Dad backed me up with his .500 double – I was very fortunate that at a very young age I was able to go on safaris with my father into Zambia and Botswana during the school holidays; I got to see some of the best game and hunting areas in Africa from the early 70’s where the sighting of 3 huge manned Lions walking together in Mumbwa; herds of Buffalo in extent of 1000 animals in the Luangwa valley and the beautiful Chobe river in Botswana are still embedded in my memory banks today! I just knew from my youth days that I too will one day become a Professional Hunter like my father and get paid to take hunters out on safari …. Can’t beat that deal now can you!!

I lost my Dad (who choked on a piece of meat at a hunters meeting in the USA) when I was just 18 years old! Again I was fortunate that I had been in the company of many respected Professional Hunters, so through word of mouth and the small hunting circles in those days I pursued my hunting career in Rhodesia. I made contact with Piers Taylor of Trophy Hunters Africa who was based in the Matetsi area (near Victoria Falls) and who also hunted on Ian Henderson’s Doddieburn Ranch in the West Nicholson area of Rhodesia. So over a 4 year period, of which 1 year was interrupted by my national army service, I managed to learn a lot from Piers and his Pro hunters Paul Huggins and Nick Pretorius. The highlight of my apprenticeship with Piers was when he sent me on an Elephant cull into the Wankie National Park for 2 months where 400 Elephant were taken off – Here I got to rub shoulders with great names in the PH and Elephant hunting sector like, Len Roberts, Ian Henderson and Paul Grobelaar, just to mention a few.

There were 2 very important aspects that I learnt in those early years; every step that you take away from the hunting truck, is a step that you gotta take back, so keep your bearings, take note of your surroundings and land marks (if any) and be back at the truck before dark! Secondly, when you pick up your rifle and you hang your binoculars around your neck, know that you are a Professional – A Professional in every sense and in every sphere in the safari business; So! Conduct yourself as one ALWAYS!!

Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa.

Mainly in the Northern Cape area of South Africa, with some safaris going into Zimbabwe, Tanzania and possibly Mozambique in 2014.

I would say hunting back in the early 60’s in a couple of areas that really stand out for me that have their own distinct variables, uniqueness and beauty, but, if I had to choose only 1 area then I would say the Luangwa Valley in Zambia.

I love hunting Buffalo out of the dangerous game animals, especially Bulls that are in herds where cows have calves are present; my Dad taught me how to call Buffalo …. yes really! and not by saying Here Buffalo!! Here Buffalo! but by projecting your voice as a calf in distress; Clients and Ph’s alike that have experienced this with me, will attest that it really does work; we have had herds of Buffalo of 400+ coming at us; we have been surrounded by Buffalo standing not 40 paces from us whilst we hide behind a tree; Buffalo climbing up the same termite mound or lala palm that we are hiding in and yes! the words; Ohhhh Shit!! Have often been expressed by the client until that big bull decides that he is going to come out of the herd to investigate and challenge whatever it is that that has captured a calf …..

Great excitement to say the very least, especially when a client is not expecting that kind of an up close and very personal encounter of the bovine kind!! Sure as heck beats chasing Buffalo for miles and miles and miles …….

I have had the privilege to hunt many times with a man that I feel is the most experienced overseas hunter that I have ever met in my entire hunting profession; Ken Barr is a humble man in every sense of the word and a brilliant hunter, client and friend; it was with Ken that I took the best trophy of my career to date and that is a Buffalo bull of a touch short of 50 inches! BUT, it was the actual hunt that started out at 6;30 in the morning and ended at dusk, that made this spectacular trophy the most memorable hunt for me and Ken (Weatherby award recipient) that we will cherish for the rest of our lives …. This story will be told by me on another day!

For 30 years I have used my .458 Ruger bolt action as a backup and touch wood, it has never let me down! It holds 3 rounds in the magazine and 1 up in total 4. My rifle and I have covered many a kilometer together and I have backed up on wounded Duiker thru Elephant. I use hand loaded Barnes X heads in 510 grain as a soft and hand loaded 500 gain monolithic solids; I find this combination suits me just fine with emphasis on putting the bullet in the right spot!

There are so many different calibers today, with most of my clients having a battery of rifles to choose from to bring on safari. First and foremost use the rifle that you shoot the best and are the most comfortable with shooting. Not much sense in using a caliber that one is afraid of firing due to recoil and don’t be misled by “the bigger the better” a perfectly placed shot from a .375 which is the minimum caliber to be used on dangerous game is all that a PH can ask of his client.

On the plains game side of things my favorite is a 300 Win Mag fitted with a good quality 3 x 9 variable scope. The likes of a .308, 30/06 and 7mm with Barnes X bullets have always been welcomed by me. It is most important for your PH to do his utmost to give you the best possible shot at an animal and to try his damnnest to get you as close as possible; keep in mind the margin of error is greater the further you are away from your target and refrain from trying these longgggg shots, it is inevitable that you are going to be paying for blood and not securing your trophy!

Use whatever rest you can find even if it is just the conventional shooting sticks that we all know, it is better than nothing. My advice to ALL my clients is; shoot the target on the animal, do NOT shoot the animal …. A bulls eye on a target at the range can be hit 9 out of every 10 times at 100 yards. Out in the bush place that same bulls eye on the animal and quickly concentrate and focus on the cross hairs being on the target on the animal; don’t look at the animal and the rest will all fall into place as you squeeze off the shot. There is a saying “when lead is in the air, then there is hope” do not take a shot if you are not comfortable with the set up >> tomorrow is another day! and if it is your last day, then so be it … that’s hunting!

I suppose I have had my 9 lives so to speak with the profession that I have chosen and few of the situations that I have found myself in out in the bush with dangerous game, the bush war and on our roads, BUT, the closest I came to dying, where I was actually busy dying had it not been for the paramedics, was when (unbeknown to me) I contacted 2 blood clots in my left leg whilst flying over to the USA to attend safari meetings.

On arrival in Atlanta it felt like I had a cramp in my calf muscle and up to my knee, my leg was a purple colour. I knew something was up but I had a whole trip planned and I chose to ignore any advice that was given here and there; soooo, to cut a long story short and about 3 days after my arrival in the USA there I was limping along in Marty Kazorec’s house that is in a town ???? which is right on Lake Erie – We were watching a super bowl game on TV when all I can remember is that I stated to feel really terrible, I limped up the stairs and it was there in my room that I felt this terrible pain in my chest and collapsed – Marty heard me fall and immediately dialed 911.

The paramedics were there within 6 minutes where I was revived, stabilized and rushed to the hospital after suffering a pulmonary embolism to the heart. My leg was a solid blood clot past the knee, no doubt I was in trouble – I was in intensive care for 3 days and in the hospital and under care for another 2 weeks. Thank the Lord for TIC Travel Insurance, who looked after my medical expenses whilst I was in the USA, they even flew Bev over to join me at the hospital due to the severity of my condition! For a R850 travel Insurance cover I checked out a live man with a hospital bill that was in excess of a million bucks!!!

Moral of this story >>> Never leave home without your TIC International Travel Insurance!!!

Oh! then there was the time when I shot a Buffalo off of Samuel the tracker in Zimbabwe, the Buffalo had him on the ground for 6 seconds when I …… We will continue this story on another day!

In regards to the blood clot saga yes! I should have listened to the folks that were telling me how critical my condition actually was, BUT, the fact of the matter is you don’t feel ill and apart from the nagging pain in your leg, you can carry on as normal so what the heck?? You just go on!! BUT, this little silent killer does not normally spare you walking away without some form of disability; the good Lord spared me for his own reason’s to live to another day unscathed … My friends that know me well, will vouch that there is nothing wrong with me …. Right? hee! hee!

Whoa! I will never forget in my Dad’s era of hunting in Zambia and Botswana, how the Ph’s in those countries and even hunters from further north considered hunting in Rhodesia as hunting on game ranches. I have seen for myself on a personal basis as to what they meant in this regard – Hunting in South Africa is exactly that, then you get Namibia that is more “Africa” than South Africa, then Zimbabwe is more “Africa” than Namibia and Botswana is more Africa than “Zimbabwe” and Zambia is more “Africa” than Botswana and so the further north you go away from South Africa the more “Africa” in that sense does it become the real old Africa of yesteryear.

HOWVER!! In the past 30 years and more so just recently, 2 of these countries, namely Zambia and Botswana, have now closed to hunting. Zimbabwe with the land distribution and re-settlement after independence has put a huge amount of pressure into certain areas that once teamed with wildlife and fish that is nonexistent today. The Elephant poaching in Tanzania where their extermination is already past critical stages; The Rhino poaching that is being carried out mainly in our South African game reserves that are today world news!! This is what has changed over the last 30 years and escalated alarmingly more so recently!! One needs to ask the question; is it the Professional Hunters and their Clients that pay their concession fees, license fees, trophy fees and create jobs, etc, etc that have created this havoc to the wildlife and fish? Or is it the corruption, poaching and greed for money that has, and still is, in the process of destroying every living thing? that eventually in the very near future there

WILL be nothing left …. And then??

On a lighter note; I never thought that I would see the evolution of, let’s just take communications here as an example as to how it was 30 years ago – The day where a client sits in the Moyowashi Swamps with me in Tanzania and talks on his satellite phone to his family in San Diego USA! I never thought I would see the day where my late tracker Elliott would be riding on the back of the truck and he would answer his cell phone from his wife who lives in Bushbuck Ridge.

I never thought I would see the day where every step away from the truck in a remote area in Zambia wouldn’t be a concern no more as we enter in the GPS coordinates to bring us back to the truck, with the help of a Led Laser beam flashlight that burns continuously for 8 hours. I never thought I would see the day where the electronic computerized systems on the land cruisers today make it impossible for us to fix a problem out in the bush.

Then there are the rifles and rifle scopes and bullet construction that has evolved to such a degree that it can only be you the hunter to blame for your poor shooting! From the old poloraid camera to the didgital camera of today and let’s not even get into a trail camera where the chip is inserted into a lap top computer out in the bush and one can see exactly what and who is eating at a bait …. Boy o Boy how it has changed!! I do not think there is enough space in this book as to how the hunting industry has changed over the past 30 years, I only hope and pray that I am not around in the next 30 years to relate to today!!

Actually the clients themselves are still pretty much the same good ole clients, with maybe a little more emphasis on a few hunters wanting to collect more species in the shortest possible time at the cheapest price for record book trophies. With the amount of Outfitters that roam around these days, we are very lucky that there seems to be more hunters that are willing to book hunts these days too, obviously because they can afford to first and foremost which in turn creates a good off spring of business for all concerned who are still holding out in this industry.

Safer and more efficient Air travel has definitely played a major role in enabling clients to reach their destinations with ease these days as well. With many hunters feeling at ease with bringing the whole family along to experience Africa at least once whilst the client himself who is paying for such a trip is young enough to do it now. There is definitely a huge increase also in women hunters and younger hunters wanting to go on safari these days I suppose for the same reasons that I mention above. Let’s not forget the Bow hunting industry that has changed for the better with technology that has just climbed through the roof with the sky as the limit …. Wow! it is amazing to see this change.

Make NO mistake here – My book that I will one day get to start will be entitled: “As Good as My Trackers” and by saying that I can sum up very quickly what qualities are needed to being a successful PH.

Let’s face the facts here; there may be only a few white men (I have yet to meet one) that can track like a “One of Those” Black trackers!! You get trackers and you get Trackers and THEN you get “One of Those”. My late tracker Elliot(63) who, along with his father were both struck by lightning at home whilst on leave; tracked for me for 20 years was without a question a “One of Those”.

I can tell you stories where only myself and my clients and a few Ph’s who had the pleasure and privilege of having Elliott as their tracker can verify as to how incredible this man Elliot really was – The older he became the better (if you can believe that he can get better) he got at tracking. When the tracking got tough and there was no more visible spoor, Elliott would break a stick off the nearest tree, he would then go like into a trance and he would follow that stick with the rest of us in hot pursuit …..

Oh! my goodness, those fantastic memories bring tears to my eyes!!

Sooooo, back to the point; #1. make sure you have the BEST tracker that can take both you as the PH and your clients to the game that you are wanting to hunt; ‘cause at the end of those tracks the quarry that you are after will be standing there for you to see. You as the PH that calls the shots need to have the utmost confidence in yourself that shows and rubs off onto your trackers and client for that matter too. You must add your own hunting skills, through your own experiences.

By putting your common senses and witty hunting knowledge into place as a Pro and working closely with your tracker and constantly keeping your client informed as to what you and the tracker are doing …… Man alive! This just creates the making of a great hunt that your client will thoroughly enjoy. I have had many clients thank me for teaching them how to hunt and not by just saying … there shoot! Be prepared to work hard for ALL your clients; not just going that extra mile or doing that extra special thing ‘cause the client looks like a big tipper!

Have a sense of humor and make sure everyone knows when you are being serious about instruction! Keep away from discussing Religion and Politics and always honor your financial agreement with your client exactly as quoted in other words NO SURPRISES!! Always remember! That your client has travelled a long way and gone to a great expense to come and put bread and butter on your table and as I said at the beginging of this chapter; you are a professional so conduct yourself as one and this in turn will rub off on your as being a great PH where you will make a friendship with your clients that will last a lifetime!!

A client that has done his homework and arrives on safari with a well-worn pair of boots or hunting shoes; dark green colored clothing with a hat/cap that is dark green or camo’, a watch that does not reflect or has a cover over the glass; a rifle that he is used to shooting, or at least practiced with a lot at the range; that has a nice crisp trigger with a great quality variable scope; good quality ammo that has been recommended by the PH who he is hunting with; a client that has the security of his own Medical / Travel / Cancellation Insurance in place that will in turn cover him and the Outfitter and PH in the case of an emergency and or cancellation.

But! the best piece of advice that I can give to a client that is coming to hunt in Africa is to just relax and be yourself, this is your hunt, for your enjoyment. Understand that yes! shit does happen sometimes and that you are in Africa where tomorrow is another day to enjoy! Last but not least; let your PH just do his job and inform him that you are there to learn and to have a great hunt. Inform your PH that there is NO pressure on him for minimum sizes, should a record book trophy be taken then great so be it, BUT, it is the quality of the hunt that you are looking forward to the most.

Over the past 35 years I can honestly say that there is not one client that I have had the displeasure of hunting with, where I can say was a rotten apple and believe me; have hunted from 8 year olds to 86 years old being the eldest …… All fantastic Folks!

I have noticed over the years that the younger generation of clients can afford to come on safari at a lot younger age, so being in walking shape for them is not a problem for the younger clients. For the older clients however, I would recommend that they try their best to become a little more “walking fit” before coming on safari, as this will enhance their general overall experience of the hunt. A PH should always hunt at his clients pace and he should acknowledge the fact that most PH’s are in good walking fit shape – Bottom line, it is your 78 year old client that needs to be in the front to take the shot, not the 35 year old PH!!

The hunting Industry has always been there for many years contributing to wildlife conservation. How that contribution has been utilized within these areas has remained in the hands, discretion and conscience of the people who have received these funds! What I know is a fact, that South Africa is a prime example as to how these funds have succeeded on privately owned game ranches where no corruption, poaching or mismanagement has taken place.

There is more game on South African game ranches now, than what there was 20 years ago!! Why? Then again, there is less game in Zimbabwe now than what there was 20 years ago … why? Get real folks; we All (which includes the folks that shout the most and give the least to conservation; you know who you are! Yes! you exactly … the one that hasn’t given a dime!!) You need to acknowledge the fact “Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is” and contribute to the areas where your hard earned money is put to good use in the sphere of my motto “Conservation of Wildlife through sustainable utilization and the preservation of the Hunter” will ensure our wildlife will be around for the next generation of our families to see and manage!

Over a period of 10 years I and a few other Outfitters brought a lot of hunting clients and business to a young man Wiaan Van Der Linde who has his own game ranch in the Northern Cape region of South Africa – There were no Rhino, No Buffalo, No Sable and No Roan in Wiaan’s area or nearby areas what so ever! Through no greed of his own and with every cent being ploughed back into his area; with his belief that hunters pay for conservation, as our motto states above; today Wiaan has over a 120 Buffalo, 50 Rhino, 100 Sable and a 100 Roan breeding and roaming this magnificent area ……

Why? You really are dumb, if you can’t answer that question or even if you have a doubt; I rest my Case!!

Wiaan was elected the WRSA game rancher of the year in 2012; along with many RSA land owners and conservationists following in Wiaan’s footsteps; there will be even MORE game in RSA than what there was just 2 years ago, simply because we have total control of our OWN area.

A phenomenal contribution to Wildlife to say the VERY least that is expertly backed by our Non- Corrupt Northern Cape Nature Conservation Department behind the safari industry and land owners every step of the way ……. A success story where the sky is once again the limit!!

The rest of Africa and it’s people need to stand up NOW and not tomorrow when it is too late and take note of the proven fact in RSA that game ranching works; that is of course if you are at all interested in saving your wildlife for the benefit of your children!?

With the amount of poaching and corruption that is taking place in Africa, I am afraid the future of Safari hunting will be very bleak! Only a couple of countries may survive this onslaught if the devastation of Africa’s wildlife continues at the rate that it is …. Very sad indeed!!

Unfortunately Not! Bev and I only have a daughter Kelly, BUT, I have helped many a young PH that has just gained a PH license and steered them in the right direction that I will call my Son’s!!

I have a saying that is the rule to any profession I suppose and it goes like this: Experience is something that you learn; just after you really need it the MOST!