Owain Lewis's .475 No. 2 Jeffery.
I first met Owain at Mana-Angwa camp in August of 2010. Owain was limiting with client Mike Schneidereit and I was hunting with my friend Ken Williams. One evening, while all of us were sharing some 21 year old Glenfiddich around the mopane fire, we started discussing double rifles. This led to all of us getting out our doubles and passing them around, discussing the relative merits of each. Owain's rifle was a vintage WJ Jeffery in .475 No.2 Nitro Express. Both the rifle and calibre reeked of African safaris of years past. It was the standard by which our Searcy and Merkel doubles were judged. It was pure class.
Fast forward to July 2014. Robbie Lewis, Owain's widow, was visiting friends in die USA, and she gave me a call. She was staying in Virgmia Beach, Virginia, just fifteen minutes from my office. Robbie called me and asked if we could meet to catch up. Of course I agreed and spent a very pleasant horn with Robbie discussing past limits and experiences with Owain. As I was preparing to take my leave, I asked Robbie whatever became of Owain's double rifle. With some sadness, she told me it was for sale in Harare. About a nanosecond later I agreed to buy it, and the rest is history. The rifle is now entrusted to me although it still resides hi Harare legally licensed to a close friend. I am working on establishing the provenance of the rifle as I write this. I have contacted Rowan Lewis, Owam's son, and he provided the following:
"The rifle was built for an Indian maharaja, I believe. I do not recall how it found its way to Africa, but it was later acquired by an older second-cousin of Owain's, Fergus "Gus" Du Toit. Owain, as a young man of school age and onwards, learned much of his hunting prowess from his mentor and favorite uncle-cousin, Gus's father, "Pop" DuToit, an avid limiter and adventurer in the Rhodesian wildernesses. With my grandfather, Owain and his brothers would often accompany the Du Toit family on family camping vacations including extended limiting adventures.
"In time Gus, who was perhaps thirty years senior to Owain, became renowned as a 'Great White Hunter'. I believe that he was contracted with the British authorities over the Rhodesian and Nyasaland confederacy to manage problem elephants in the native territories. I recall Gus telling stories of tracking particular elephant from current Zimbabwe, into current Zambia and even on up to Malawi, on foot, to bring down elephants who had been problematic, had killed an African, etc. Gus was also an avid shotgun and game-bird hunter, another skill he passed down.
"The two families were often in national and local shooting competitions. Nearing his last days with sight and hearing failing, Gus had the stock pad extended to better fit Owain's length and passed on the Jeffery No.2 in .475 to him. Owain, by that time, became a licensed Zimbabwe Professional Hunter. The desire was that the rifle would continue limiting elephant and remain in the family. It was intended for Gus's son, Andrew "Andy" DuToit, a very nice lad who sadly was killed at an all-too-early age as a soldier while fighting in the Rhodesian bush war.
"Owain's adventures with the rifle were numerous but I only saw him carrying it while hunting elephant. It seemed that limiting elephant was what he felt was the most appropriate for the piece, and most honourable. However, in the latter years of Owam's career, and especially during his time with Chifuti, he used the rifle much more than he ever did while I was limiting with him. I believe he used it often during buffalo follow ups. He did not mind wrapping it with duct tape to ensure it fitted appropriately. Such measures were not a demeaning act. Function, usefulness, and readiness were more important than appearance in the bush. One can look pretty but never do any real work. Or, one can do some great work despite one's looks! 'Campfire limiters,' is how he would describe such people whose talk didn't match their walk.
"I will try to gather further information on limits and experiences he may have used the rifle on over the past few years, but this is a pretty good synopsis of it for now".
Although my sources initially informed me that this hunt was to be Owain's last before retirement, I have been subsequently informed by Owain's son Rowan that this was not the case. Owain had in fact planned to limit for three more years. Additional information from Rowan is provided below:
"Owain ensured that he had the contract worked out that he could still do his limits with Chifuti for the year. He had agreed to limit for them and he was a man of his word. For the years to follow he proposed that he would limit his limits for Chifuti to a specific selection of clients who had become friends and were already planning to limit with him as their PH over the next few years. He was tired of risking his life, health, trackers and sacrifice his time away from Robbie for individuals who were totally ill-prepared for the rigours of hunting dangerous game in the Zambezi Valley. He was also frustrated that such folks who often posed a greater risk for the PHs and their tracker teams were being booked anyway, just because they could write the cheque".
Just another glimpse into the life of a great PH, a great man and a friend. We all miss him.