PH Johnny Thomson – A man with his heart in the right place.
African Hunting Gazette: Tell our readers about yourself and your family.
Johnny Thomson: I was born in Pietersburg (Polokwane) on 11 Feb 1982. My grandparents had a farm on Maasstroom and this is where my brother Alex Thomson spent most of our time as kids on the farm. I met my soulmate, Janeske, in 2007 and got married in 2010. She loves being on the farm as much as I do. We have two beautiful kids, Mieke aged six, and AJ who is three.
AHG: How did you become a PH? How did it all begin?
JT: As a small boy I was always on the farm loving the outdoors and playing in the bush, hunting small birds and antelopes, so I was hooked. When I finally finished school it was off back to the farm – I was never a guy for the city life. This is where I decided that I would like to pursue something in the outdoors, and decided to get my PH qualification with Kobus Schoeman. My brother and I are co-owners of Eland Safaris.
AHG: Which countries have you hunted and where are you hunting these days?
JT: I have done most of my hunting in South Africa in Limpopo Province on our family ranch. I have also hunted in Zimbabwe.
At the moment most of our hunts are in South Africa in the Limpopo Province.
AHG: If you could return to any time or place in Africa, where would it be?
JT: I would like to return to any time and place in Africa where you can hunt without any political involvement; to do sport hunting as it used to be in the old days.
AHG: Which guns and ammo are you using to back-up on dangerous or wounded game?
JT: I started of using my .375H&H, a gun that I love, but at the moment I am using my .458 Win. Mag. or a .470 NE. My favourite ammo is Barnes bullet.
AHG: What are your recommendations on guns and ammo – for dangerous game and for plains game – to your hunting clients?
JT: I will recommend for dangerous game a .416. If the client can handle a bigger gun, bigger is always better in my eys. For plains game I would suggest .30-06, or .338 and .375 is very good caliber for the bushveld.
AHG: What is your favorite animal to hunt and why?
JT: I love hunting buffalo. They always get the heart racing. They keep you on your toes and you have to expect the unexpeced. Something that also makes me crazy is a big old warthog male, I don’t know why, but is gets my heart racing every time I see one.
AHG: Looking back, which was your greatest trophy and why?
JT: It was in 2013 a big male lion. I hunted with my client Devinder Singh. It was a great adventure walking in the hot sun, and we ended up with a 25 yard shot. The whole experience for me, with the ups and downs, was one that I will never forget, and in the end we were rewarded with a great trophy.
AHG: What was your closest brush with death? Looking back: Anything you should have done differently?
JT: Thankfully, I’m fortunate to have had no close calls in my career as a PH.
AHG: How has the hunting industry changed over the years? And the hunting clients themselves?
JT: These days there is a lot of competition in the industry, and every hunting outfitter is trying to make a living out of it. The lifestyle is much more demanding now, and clients prefer a much shorter hunt then in earlier years.
AHG: Which qualities go into making a successful PH and or a successful hunting company?
JT: Respect, honesty and loyalty – that’s very important to me. Communicating with your clients will put then at ease, and that will give them the ultimate experience.
AHG: And which qualities go into making a good safari client?
JT: Trust between a client and a PH makes the job of the PH much easier.
AHG: If you should suggest one thing to your hunting clients to improve their experience of their safari, what would it be?
JT: Take your time and don’t rush things. Practice. And knowing your rifle and shooting off sticks is very important.
AHG: Based on your recent experience in the field, do you think that any species should be upgraded to Appendix I or downgraded to Appendix II or closed all together?
JT: I think brown hyena and leopard must be downgraded. We are seeing more sightings of them than ever before. Better research can be done on this species.
AHG: What can the hunting industry do to contribute to the long-term conservation of Africa’s wildlife?
JT: We need to get rid of the bad reputation around trophy hunting. We have to educate people that hunting is one of the best conservation methods.
AHG: Ask your wife, if she could do it all over again, would she still….? What is her advice to future wives of PHs? Are any of your children following in your footsteps?
Janeske: Yes I would. For Johnny it is a lifestyle and a passion, not a job. Working alongside him for the last seven years makes it easier. We are working towards the same goal. It’s fun, and I live for the experiences with him. A PH’s woman is one in the same boat – don’t rock it, go with it.
Mieke and AJ are still small, but I’m sure we won’t be able to keep AJ out of the bush for long.
AHG: Anyone you want to say thanks to? Or to GTH (Go to Hell)?
JT: Thanks to my family for all the support. My wife and kids especially, and to my brother thanks for being the cornerstone of the business. Thanks to the Lord for keeping us safe every day.
AHG: Any Last Words of Wisdom?
JT: Respect the animals and the bush, trust your equipment, and have fun. Enjoy.