• An African Adventure

    The Honourable Mr. Justice Warren Winkler, Ontario Court of JusticeOccasionally, a good speaker will hold the complete attention of an audience for a few minutes at a time. It is rare however, for any speaker to hold that attention for over an hour. On February 7th, big game hunter, guest speaker and new SSA member Warren Winkler described some of his travels in Africa to an audience of over 95 people at the Sydenham Sportsmanís Association clubhouse. Except for a few requests for more details about certain episodes, the audience was all ears.

    The Markdale and Toronto resident started his talk with a few personal anecdotes on North American hunting. Then the scene and the audience was transported to an aircraft circling over arid Basutoland territory in 1985, the country directly north of South Africa and one of the last parts of unspoiled wild Africa. When the plane landed, thanks to the dry humour and descriptive talent of the speaker combined with some marvelous slides, the audience was there as well.

    Once he passed through customs at the airport and had his firearms checked out, Winkler commenced a month-long safari with famous guide Harry Selby. The same Selby who was one of the last of the great white hunters and who was featured in Robert Ruarkís exciting African adventure book called: ĎHorn of the Hunter.í

    Shortly after meeting Selby, Winkler saw a guide wrapped in bandages from head to toe; ďLike an Egyptian mummyĒ but he tactfully never commented. Weeks later the story behind the bandages was revealed.

    Winklerís commentary at the clubhouse included anecdotes on native wild birds, animals and people, traveling adventures in the unspoiled but desert-like country the size of Alberta, hazards in getting fresh water and the beauty of African sunsets.
    Toward the end of this exciting journey Harry Selby took Winkler hunting for a lion. Not just any lion but an enormous man-killing lion that was one of the biggest seen in a number of years. From about 65 yards Winkler shot the big cat in the chest with a .375 Holland and Holland calibre bullet, the same bullet used to bring down Cape buffalo and other particularly large African game animals. To his surprise, the lion jumped up, ran through a dense bush and then lay waiting for them under a tree. Fortunately, the heavy weapon had done its job though and soon they were able to examine the lionís carcass. It turned out to be the same lion that attacked, severely mauled and nearly killed the bandaged guide Winkler met the first day of his trip. This lion is now a full body mount in Winklerís home and the skull was brought to the club meeting in a glass case for everyone to examine.

    Looking at the teeth of man-eaters sometimes explains why these lions forego their natural prey and turn to easy prey like humans. This creature was no exception as it had a missing lower canine on one side and a severely cracked lower canine on the other.

    A few years later the Markdale hunter embarked upon a second African Adventure, this time to the mysterious and fabled Kalahari Desert. At first the slides seemed to show a wild and barren land but as the story and slides progressed you could see that it contained animals adapted to the climate. From Basutoland where no snakes were seen to a land teeming with deadly snakes must have been quite a shock. Once again the audience was captivated by Winklerís calm but descriptive tales of close encounters of the African kind. In one desert campsite he told his guide he saw a deadly black mamba in a tree within their camp only to be ridiculed. One night he heard birds and monkeys in overhead trees warning of a lion or leopard in the camp, but Winkler was ignored again. Finally a king cobra slithered right under his chair while they were enjoying an evening drink. When the guide shot a black mamba off a tree branch right over his tent and the campís trackers reported reading tracks in the sand that showed three lions had spent the night watching Winkler through his mosquito netting, he was vindicated and hopefully given some well-earned respect.

    Certainly the SSA members and guests believed the soft-speaking gentleman as he was swamped afterward with questions and congratulations for providing an entertaining evening.

    Grant Ferris
    Grey/Bruce Outdoors
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