FROM the modest beginnings of 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 78-year-old Chappie Sparks, who was one of the most well-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 sought after award and is made by the SA Hunters’ Association at a gala dinner in Pretoria.
Sparks’s interest in hunting started when he was a boy living with his parents in the country town of Adelaide. His 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. He said: “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.” The result was that he hunted in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Namibia.
He tracked and followed one of the lions he shot in Botswana for 10 full days
Sparks added, “I loved hunting and 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 that he tracked and followed one of the lions he shot in Botswana for 10 full days, Sparks held many records shot by a South African over the years for the largest animals, from the smallest to the biggest.
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 Sparks.
“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.
He became a founder member of the East Cape Game Management Association
There were many other records, and he had all his trophies mounted in an impressive collection in his den in his home in Komani, where he lived at the time. This collection is now in the care of one of his sons.
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 he 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 added.
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 who all followed in their father’s footsteps of his love for the sport of hunting. Two of them are qualified professional hunters.
He has now retired to Settlers Park in Port Alfred, where he lives with his wife, Marlene.