Talk of the Town - - Front Page - BOB FORD

FROM mod­est begin­nings as a seven-year-old boy who started his hunt­ing ca­reer with an old BSA pel­let gun, to be­ing pre­sented with the cov­eted Mus­grave Award for the South African Hunter of the Year in 1988.

This was the amaz­ing achieve­ment of Chap­pie Sparks, who was one of the best-known am­a­teur hun­ters in South Africa dur­ing his time.

The award is made for the qual­i­ties of tro­phy an­i­mals one has hunted in a cal­en­dar year and can only be won by an in­di­vid­ual once. It is not nec­es­sar­ily an an­nual award and is only pre­sented when the qual­ity of tro­phy an­i­mals are of an ad­e­quate stan­dard.

This has re­sulted in it be­com­ing a much soughtafter award which is made by the SA Hun­ters’ As­so­ci­a­tion at a gala din­ner in Pre­to­ria.

The 78-year-old’s in­ter­est in hunt­ing started when he was a boy liv­ing with his par­ents in the coun­try town of Ade­laide.

Sparks’s grand­fa­ther, who lived in Hu­mans­dorp, recog­nised this in­ter­est and en­cour­aged and taught him the ba­sics of hunt­ing.

And so it was that when he left school in 1957 that he was able to take up tro­phy hunt­ing and also be­came in­ter­ested in game con­ser­va­tion. He joined the SA Hun­ters’ As­so­ci­a­tion in 1972. “I wanted a bet­ter out­look in hunt­ing and this gave me the op­por­tu­nity to meet more ex­pe­ri­enced hun­ters. It also en­abled us to es­tab­lish what was avail­able to hunt and where,” Sparks said.

The re­sult was that he hunted in South Africa, Botswana, Zim­babwe, Zam­bia and Namibia.

“I hunted for the love of the sport. Most of this took place in hunt­ing ar­eas where there were no fences. It was gen­uine hunt­ing and the an­i­mal you were af­ter had a fair chance. It was you against him.”

A good ex­am­ple of this was when he tracked and fol­lowed one of the li­ons he shot in Botswana for 10 full days.

Sparks held many records for a South African over the years for shooting the largest an­i­mals, from the small­est to the big­gest species.

The record ele­phant he shot was in Zim­babwe, which was the heav­i­est ele­phant to come out of that par­tic­u­lar hunt­ing area for 1983. It had tusks weigh­ing 30.5kg and 28.6kg.

The big­gest buf­falo he shot was in Botswana the fol­low­ing year, with a horn span of 1.1m. This turned out to be a dra­matic event with the bull charg­ing him.

“You have to stand your ground and it’s very ex­cit­ing with the adrenalin pump­ing. I man­aged to drop him 10m from me,” he added.

He twice held the record for li­ons and a black sable with horns mea­sur­ing 1.2m. The small­est an­i­mal he held the record for was a yel­low-backed duiker with horns mea­sur­ing 178mm.

But hunt­ing was not all about shooting for Sparks. He had got much plea­sure out of hunt­ing and wanted to put some­thing back into the sport.

It was thus that be be­came a founder mem­ber of the East Cape Game Man­age­ment As­so­ci­a­tion (ECGMA).

This or­gan­i­sa­tion dealt with ev­ery­thing in­volv­ing hunt­ing and game con­ser­va­tion.

A lot of time was spent tak­ing young­sters out to the sur­round­ing re­serves to teach them about hunt­ing and con­ser­va­tion.

“We made sure they were prop­erly taught and did things the right way,” Sparks said.

He was re­warded for the tremen­dous amount of work he put into this when he was pre­sented with the ECGMA Mike Ca­wood Tro­phy for Con­ser­va­tion and Game Man­age­ment in 1993.

Sparks has three sons, all of whom are hun­ters, with two be­ing qual­i­fied pro­fes­sional hun­ters.

He has now re­tired to Set­tlers Park in Port Al­fred, where he lives with his wife, Mar­lene.

Pic­ture: BOB FORD

PROUD ACHIEVE­MENT: Chap­pie Sparks with the Mus­grave Award for South African Hunter of the Year, which he re­ceived in 1988

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