The first time I ever saw something about hunting in Africa was in 1989 when I was 11 years old. My brother Håvard, who is four years older than me, started buying Guns & Ammo magazine when I was about 10 years old. In one of the editions, the cover featured a Purdey double in .600 Nitro Express. I browsed through it and on page 14 found an article about the Purdey. Little did I know that this article was about to change my life …

The article focused on a rare Purdey rifle. It was valued at $250 000 in 1989 and was embellished with golden emblems of lion, buffalo and rhino. It came with a beautiful oak-and-leather case and all the necessary tools. There was a picture of the muzzle, showing the spring-loaded front sight cover, and something about the double barrel spoke to me. I put down the magazine and knew in my heart that I wanted a double rifle and to hunt big game in Africa at some point in my life. Before reading this article, I did not even know that the Big Five existed or that they were hunted. The animal I wanted to hunt most was buffalo – I don’t know why but that’s the way it was.
I am not sure how many times I read that article but it was a lot. I still have the magazine and I still read it at least once a year.
The first bigger rifle with which I shot – when I was about 14 years old – was my father’s Mauser M98, which he had bought from the National Guard when they changed to the Heckler & Koch G3. It was a standard .30-06 Springfield with a beech stock and a steel cap / recoil pad. It was topped with a Tasco 4×40 scope with Warne aluminium bases and steel rings – pretty standard for the 1980s, and according to the 1989 edition of Guns & Ammo, top-notch!
About three years after having read the Guns & Ammo article, I attended an outdoor show in Førde, Norway, with my brother and father. My father’s friends, Jakob, Odd, Arild and Lars, also joined us in Førde, a town situated about two hours from home. The local gunsmith, Hermann Erdal, was exhibiting rifles at the show, among them a CZ 602 with a synthetic stock in .505 Gibbs calibre. Hermann grinned when he handed me the mighty .505 Gibbs cartridge and told me he had shot a roe deer buck with it recently. I stared in awe at the cartridge lying in my hand. The 535 gr Woodleigh soft point looked menacing – I wondered how on earth someone survived shooting something like that! I was thinking of my father’s Mauser, which kicked like a mule with the 180 gr bullet.
I was fascinated by big bores for years, but never got down to doing something about it. One of my friends, Rasmus Andre, and I often shot together when I was 15. He bought a Sako in .375 H&H (technically a medium bore). I enjoyed shooting this rifle; it ignited a small spark in my heart, but I was not ready to commit to the big bores just yet.
Years passed, and when I was 29, Rasmus bought a Winchester Safari in .458 Win Mag. The sight of this rifle and the muzzle did not just ignite a spark in me – it poured gasoline on the fire! I couldn’t wait to own my first big bore!

Rasmus helped me locate a CZ 500 Magnum in .458 Win Mag, sold by Jaktdepotet in Norway for about 5 990 Norwegian Krone (€620). This was my very first big-bore rifle. It was a bit crude in the action, with several nuances of blueing, but I loved it. It was topped with a Leupold VX2 3-7×32 and duplex scope. I hunted with this rifle for a couple of years, along with my primary rifle for deer on longer ranges, a Remington 700 police sniper rifle, followed by a .338 Remington Ultra Magnum (RUM) in later years.
At this time I took over as CEO of the company, and was thus introduced to the firearms industry. The first time I held a big-bore double rifle was in 2010 when I visited the Krieghoff booth at IWA Outdoor trade show in Nuremberg, Germany. It was a beautiful .500 NE with side plates and Big Five engravings.
A year later I saw the most elegant double I had ever laid my eyes on. While on business in the UK south of London, I visited an antique gunshop filled with old shotguns and rifles. Among them was a Purdey & Sons .500 NE dating back to 1868. This rifle was made 30 years before my grandfather was born!
The rifle had open hammers, 30″ Damascus barrels and old English scroll engravings. It came with its original oak-and-leather case and a logbook with details of previous owners. I was amazed by the history of this rifle and its flawless finish. It was a masterpiece! It was priced at £12 500. Unfortunately I did not have the funds to purchase it, something I regret to this day.
During a 2011 meeting in Arendal, Norway, with Jakt & Friluft, there was a beautiful Krieghoff Big Five in .470 Nitro Express (non-ejector) with a moose engraving on one side of the action and a buffalo on the other side. I was sold on it and purchased it the next day, along with 20 rounds of .470 NE Norma PH.
I used this rifle for two years and shot about 220 rounds with it. I reloaded my own ammo, as I quickly realised this was a necessity if you planned on shooting these calibres frequently. One round of Norma PH would set you back about €20. I was very happy with it until Are Venemyr told me he had recently traded a Krieghoff Big Five in .500 NE (non-ejector) and I could have it at a good price. He sent it to me the next day and I could not bring myself to send it back. It was a more plain-looking rifle, but as the gunsmith at Jakt & Friluft told me, “Looking at those 0.5″ muzzle holes does something to you.” He was absolutely right! The deal was done and I was the proud owner of two Krieghoff rifles in two different calibres. That season I shot the .500 NE and my son the .470 NE.
During this period, I started watching a lot of hunting videos. It was fascinating seeing Mark Buchanan shooting buffalo after buffalo. I also watched Mbogo and Sudden Death by Mark Sullivan, whom I later met on one of my business trips to Africa.
At the IWA 2014 show in Nuremberg, GRS exhibited for the first time. On the last day of the show, I met Jerome of Verney Carron. He bought two of our GRS stocks for some trial rifles he was producing. He invited me over to his booth and I was in awe when stepping into it. Verney Carron produces the most beautiful rifles you can imagine. They are all made to your measurements and preference. As you know, I am a great fan of big classic rifles. I told Jerome I had one double and that I previously had owned two more. He shrugged his shoulders, telling me that what I needed was a tailor-made double, just like I wanted it.
I met up with Jerome again in 2014, when he attended the HuntEx show in South Africa. We discussed rifles again. This was my first time in Africa and I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to hunt after the show was over. But more about that later.
At HuntEx 2015, Mark Sullivan was promoting his books and videos at the Safari Outdoor booth. I had the privilege of talking to him during the show, as well as at the dinners and get-togethers that Safari Outdoor hosted thereafter. I have the utmost respect for Mark – he is a true gentleman and one of the most experienced Big Five PHs of this day and age.
Mark told me several stories about his favourite hunts, gear and rifles. Much to my surprise, he has a strong dislike for the Krieghoff Big Five rifles due to their cocking mechanisms; they are too hard to cock when the rifle is on the shoulder. This set me out on a different path. If Mark, with all his knowledge, was so convinced about this, there had to be some truth in it.
My Krieghoff 500 Big Five was waiting in the safe back home, and I knew I had to make some changes. Upon returning home, I decided to sell it and it took only five days to do so. When placing the advertisement on (a Norwegian-type eBay), I noticed a Krieghoff Big Five with ejectors. Selling for a decent price, this rifle was only one year old, with 20 rounds through it. I bought it after a short bidding war with another bidder. The firearms licence was cleared by the police, and I received the rifle after 12 days.
It was a nice rifle (good wood, ejectors and original case), but there was one thing I could not stand – one of the engravings of a rhino did not look good at all. The rest of the rifle was nice but this ruined the whole rifle for me. I sold it after a week to the guy I was bidding against three weeks earlier.

.375 H&H
My first African hunt took place in 2014 after the HuntEx show. My distributor, Inyathi Sporting Supplies, organised it at La Pumba Safaris in Limpopo Province. The PH was Benji Sutherland, who became a dear friend. Stefan Fouché of GAME & HUNT magazine also joined us on this hunt.
My calibre of choice was the .375 H&H in a CZ 550 Magnum, with a Brown GRS Safari stock and Zeiss 1-4×25 scope. For me this was the only way to start. The .375 H&H is a classic calibre. My first kill in Africa was a beautiful impala ram. It was just me and a tracker who set out on the track. It took us 35 minutes to find the two rams. They were grazing in an opening in the dense bushveld.
I was on the sticks at about 65 m but neither of the rams offered a good position for a shot. The closest one started moving towards an opening and I felt my heart starting to race. The adrenaline was pumping and from the tracker’s breathing, I could hear that he was just as excited. I finally had the ram in the crosshairs and squeezed off the round. I heard the boom but felt no recoil. The ram collapsed and did not move. The shot was perfectly placed and the 300 gr PBP bullet had destroyed the heart and lungs. The shoulder mount of this impala still graces the wall in our boardroom.
The second day, I shot a waterbuck and an oryx. These hunts were not as eventful as that of the impala. Both were about 45 m away and both walked 2 m before collapsing.
I have a tendency to shoot fast and accurately. I go into a bubble and I just focus on the task at hand. I do not feel recoil in the bubble, nothing distracts me. It’s just me and the PH.

.416 Rigby
In 2015, we visited La Pumba Safaris after HuntEx again. However, this time I was using Benji Sutherland’s CZ 550 Safari Magnum in .416 Rigby, loaded with Barnes factory ammo. This rifle was topped with a Leupold VX5 1-5×24 scope. The first time Benji handed me the cartridge, I was sold. It is a mighty cartridge, and with the 400 gr bullet leaving the barrel at 2 415 feet per second (fps), it is a sledgehammer.
We hunted for three days and I shot a wildebeest cow on the first day, followed by a wildebeest bull and two warthog the following day. On the last day I took a blesbuck, a nyala bull and an impala ram. The good thing about hunting in Limpopo is that there is no shortage of game. Hunting takes place in fenced areas, so the animals are never too far away.

My favourite hunt on this safari was the nyala bull. We tracked it for 45 minutes before it presented a good broadside shot. I was on the sticks, and for some reason, I jerked the trigger. Although I aimed for the shoulder, the bullet hit the bull in the head and it dropped immediately. I was very surprised at this. When we walked up to the animal, Benji asked whether I had shot it in the head. “I don’t think so,” I replied, but when we inspected the bull we found that the bullet went straight through the base of the head, severing the spine.
This was to be the last animal I hunted with Benji – he passed away 13 months later after battling cancer. I had lost a dear friend. Benji was someone who won you over immediately with his friendliness and contagious smile. I will remember him to the end of my days and we will hunt together again one day in the happy hunting grounds.
In 2016, after yet another HuntEx, we went hunting at Pongola Game Reserve. This was the first time we hunted in an area where you did not see any fences – it stretched over 32 000 ha and the only fence was that around the property. This was the first time I saw buffalo, hippo, elephant, crocodile and white and black rhino in the wild. It awoke a much more intense sensation than hunting smaller farms in Limpopo.
I shot a big bull giraffe on the second day and captured this hunt on video. I do not know why but I have always wanted to hunt this animal. We planned this hunt a month before my arrival and I met with the owner, Kemp Landmann, during HuntEx. He told me he had found a big, solitary, dark bull. I was excited to test the .416 Rigby on it.

Upon arrival, we went straight to the shooting range to zero the rifles. I had just bought a Leupold VX6 1-6×25 scope for this hunt. I primarily wanted it for the long eye relief on the big-bore rifles. Afterwards we returned to camp for some refreshing G&Ts and a good dinner.
The next morning, we set out early. After two hours of searching for the solitary bull, we encountered a group of giraffe with a huge bull. I remember measuring the distance – 917 m. After some deliberation, we decided to pass this one up and look further. Solitary bulls are normally no longer breeding and are driven from the group by younger bulls (like many other species in Africa). Kemp told me that 90% of giraffe older than 12 years become sterile. Farmers want them removed from the group as soon as possible, as they fight the younger bulls, often killing them.
After searching for the solitary bull a while longer, we decided to take a closer look at the bull in the group. We measured the distance at 465 m. Kemp took a good look at the bull, estimating him to be older than 12 years. I liked his colour and we decided to take him. We kitted up and started walking; it was 9.50 am. After stalking for 25 minutes, we had our first contact with the group. Three young giraffe were looking at us from 30 m away. They studied us for a minute and then turned and trotted off. I thought that the whole group would follow, but fortunately they stayed put. It took only six minutes of careful stalking, and there our bull was, facing us at 68 m. He was standing quartering towards us with his body slightly to the right. Kemp had told me exactly where to place the shot to reach the heart. In giraffe there are two very visible bulges in the chest area.

 In between these bulges there is a dip, and 10 cm behind the dip sits the massive heart. Because he was quartering towards us, I decided to shoot through one of the bulges and into the heart. It took me three seconds to decide. I was shooting off the sticks, and as the shot shattered the silence, I immediately knew it was a good hit. My first thought when I saw the bull running away, was that I wished I had my double – I would have gotten in a second shot before he was out of reach.
When we reached the spot where he had been standing, we saw a clear blood trail. He was losing a lot of blood and we saw him standing in the thicket 30 m away. Silently we approached and heard him fall over – it sounded like a 30 m pine crashing to the ground. I was happy he was down. We rushed closer and I gave him a second shot in the heart as insurance. I honestly did not think this was necessary when we saw the amount of blood where he had been standing; there was no way he could have gotten back up on his feet.
The bull was amazing – dark, massive and old. Kemp estimated him to be 15 years old. He had that mucky smell that only the very old bulls have. The recovery team of nine people arrived and started skinning the bull. We donated the meat to the local population – a total of 800 kg of meat that would feed them for a very long time.

Verney Carron
After pondering over it for months, I decided to order my Verney Carron at the IWA 2016 show in Nuremberg. I visited Jerome at his booth and he showed me the different actions available. I wanted a .500 NE 3″ and we used Jerome’s personal .600 NE to take my measurements. My choice was an Azur Safari with 25″ barrels, a round body, English scrolls, and a grip plate engraved with my initials (just like my son’s rifle). It had flip-up sights for 75 and 100 m and a flip-up sight over the low-light front bead. I told Jerome I did not want sling mounts on the rifle – a double should be in your hand or on your shoulder.
The following week, Jerome sent me an email with the price and pictures of the walnut I could choose from. I selected a piece with dark lines in it. I love the dark-lined walnut, as it creates a lot of contrast in the wood. My rifle was in the making and I was really excited!
Upon receiving it, I was very nervous when I opened the case. Was this the rifle of my dreams? I opened the lid of the case and saw the canvas bags in which the barrel and rear stock were packed. Two layers of canvas later and there it was … I studied the wood-to-metal fitting, the lines in the stock and the engraving. I was awestruck – it was perfect, just the way I wanted it! I lined up on the sights and it was a perfect match.

.416 Heym Express
During HuntEx 2016, I discussed rifles with Mark Twitchell from Heym AG. Heym makes very good rifles and I wanted to use their barrelled action for a .416 Rigby with a GRS Safari stock. A scoped .416 Rigby for distances over 100 m, and a .500 NE double with open sights for hunting in the thick stuff remains my ideal combination for hunting big game in Africa.
The Heym Express was ready for delivery in December 2016, the same time we decided to stop production of the GRS Safari stock. It did not attract the volume we anticipated. The limited production disturbed the rest of the GRS laminate production, which was being made in massive volumes. I did not want to stop the production but it was necessary for the time being.
I contacted Per Arne Vågsland, a gunsmith here in Norway. He is one of the best when it comes to classic-looking rifles, and we decided to make a classic stock for open sights with a buffalo horn end on the fore-end. The deal was done and the rifle was sent to him in January 2017. It arrived back in August that year. The stock was amazing and matched the Verney Carron rifle perfectly. Now I had two classic rifles for hunting big game in Africa.
Dangerous game hunting is something I personally feel should be done with classic rifles. I use GRS stocks for everything else. They are perfect for precision, long-range shots but I would not use them for dangerous game – the reason being that when you hunt this type of game, you become part of hundreds of years of tradition and etiquette. The old hunters of the African continent used fine English doubles and bolt-actions in big, medium and small calibres, depending on what they hunted. It was done on foot and their expeditions often lasted several months. I am sure you have heard of hunters such as JA Hunter, Peter Capstick, Theodore Roosevelt, Philip Percival, Robert Ruark and Harry Selby. These are the hunters who inspire us to go into wild Africa and hunt the dangerous Big Five, just like they did.
I feel inspired every time I pick up my Verney Carron and feed it two cartridges of 570 gr DGX from my cartridge belt. There is something very special about these rifles. I feel I have to respect this tradition and I want the hunt to be as authentic as possible. This is why we chose to hunt buffalo in the open area of Mozambique. You never really know what you will find there, and it is fair-chase hunting where the hunter needs to outsmart the buffalo in his terrain.

JA Hunter

Do not miss the next issue if you want to read about my Mozambique buffalo hunt. ASM