Dates: July 12th-August 2nd, 2012
Areas: R2 Block, Selous Game Reserve
Travel Agent: Steve Turner http://www.travelwithguns.com>www.travelwithguns.com
Operator: Pierre van Tonder http://www.pvt.co.za/>http://www.pvt.co.za/
PH: Pierre van Tonder
Rifles: CZ/AHR .416 Rigby, Whitworth Mauser .375 H&H
Optics: Swarovski Z6i 1-6x24 (until the Talley rings failed... story later on in the report), Leupold 1.5-5x20 (conetrol rings and bases)
Ammo: North Fork 370 gr solids and softs in the .416, Barnes 300 gr Solids and Triple Shocks in the .375
Hunt History and Overview
Traditionally me and my male family members take hunting trips every year together. Most of them around the western US states. The crew is usually myself, my brother Albert, my Dad (Bob), and my grandpa Gene. Grandpa is 85, but can usually keep up with us. Even if he can't he loves to be around camp, and just be a part of the experience. So early 2011, I figured he wasn't getting any younger and we should do something big before he isn't able to come with us anymore. So being that me and my dad have always dreamed of going to Africa, I figured all four of us should go and hunt some of the big stuff and just go all out for what might be one of the last big hunts we could all do together. My dad had been to Zimbabwe in 1988 to hunt plains game, but he's always dreamed of hunting dangerous game. Giving me books on Africa to read ever since I can remember. Explorations of the Nile Tributaries of Abyssinia was one of the first that I can recall.
It started out as maybe a leopard and buffalo hunt, then after crunching numbers maybe go for elephant as well. First thoughts were Zimbabwe, always thinking Tanzania was out of our league. Then after doing the math and looking at what could be hunted, it just made more sense to go big and just do a 21-day hunt in Tanzania. Like I said before, I wanted to make this as big as an adventure as I could for us, so I figured what the hell it's only money. Mike Podwika (reetrever on AR) suggested I look into Pierre van Tonder http://www.pvt.co.za/>http://www.pvt.co.za/ and what he could offer in Tanzania. I knew he had a couple great hunts, and I knew results would vary but I liked Pierre's attitude and the fact that he didn't seem to nickel and dime you at every turn. After researching other companies, and calling and emailing dozens of references, it was time to make a decision and pull the trigger. Sent the deposit, went to my parent's house that night and told my dad "Hey we are going to Tanzania, so you better start getting ready." The hunt was setup for my dad to have the full 21 day license, I would be his backup with the .375 and also shoot some plains game if time permitted. My brother Albert would run the video camera, and grandpa would come along for the ride and take notes of all of our activities as he normally does on our trips. Me and him both love to document everything, must be the German in us lol. Went to see my grandparents and dropped the news on him as well. At first he couldn't really comprehend how we were going from hunting antelope in Wyoming to hunting elephant in Tanzania, but he quickly realized it was really going to happen and got pretty excited. My grandmother kept telling me "You know grandpa doesn't really like to talk about things he's going to do until he actually does them, but he can't stop talking about Africa to everyone!" They live in a small town called Clarksburg (a few miles south of Sacramento) and of course he's known by everyone in town. He used to work for the local gas company, and once retired he was the guy people called up if they needed something fixed at their house, so needless to say he was friends with 99% of the surrounding community. I think everyone was really excited for Gene and his big trip to Africa.
Once again thru suggestions onine, I found Steve Turner (http://www.travelwithguns.com>www.travelwithguns.com), and started talking to him about my plans. He responded to me within an hour or two with a detailed response and options for me. Right away I knew he was the right choice. After going over options and looking into the paperwork required, etc... I figured we would go the usual KLM route thru Amsterdam and just hope for the best. I hadn't booked anything yet, and I get an email from Steve saying I should consider going thru Istanbul. The layover was originally very tight, and didn't sit too well. Then after thinking about it, and getting some more info from Steve, it seemed like the perfect choice as long as we stayed a couple nights in Istanbul before going onto Dar. It made perfect sense to me: Stop over for a coupe nights in a city that we would like to see any ways, also being that it was in the same time zone as Tanzania, we could get a jump on getting over the jet lag and time change. Turkish Airlines was also offering comfort class seating, which seemed very reasonably priced. (it ended up being worth every penny BTW) Steve would arrange rifle storage with a rep from Shikar Safaris (http://www.shikarsafaris.com/>http://www.shikarsafaris.com/) who also offered transportation to and from the airport as well as tour of the city if we wanted. I decided just to have them store the rifles, we would probably be jet lagged so I didn't want to commit to any touring of the city.
Fast forward to July 8th 2012... The three of us arrive in Istanbul, no problems. Turkish Airlines seems firearms friendly and the people we dealt with at LAX were quite pleasant. My brother Albert's flight would arrive about 10 minutes before ours. He was coming from Madrid. He lives in Spain (where I was born and my mother's family is all from) about half of the year, where he runs track and holds hands with his girlfriend. He was waiting for us at the exit along with the rep from Shikar. We take a stroll to the police station, 20 minutes, some paperwork, and a few handshakes later we are done and on our way. The president or manager of Shikar Safaris arrives at the airport and talks with us for a bit, he then offers to have one of his guys show us around the city at no cost at all. We say sure, what the heck, it would be almost rude to refuse this offer. We make a plan for the next day, and we are off to our hotel. Our hotel was the Sirkeci Konak, http://www.sirkecikonak.com/>http://www.sirkecikonak.com/, a hotel I booked directly after reading reviews on Trip Advisor (which I use for about 99% of my travel choices and hasn't failed me once) Its a nice small hotel in a great area of the city. Walking distance from all the top attractions. Not to mention its restaurant comes highly recommended as well as its sister restaurants. They did not disappoint, amazing food as reasonable pricing. The tours were great, even though they were considered "on the house" I tipped the guide a decent stack because I was very appreciative of what they did for us. The day came to fly onto Dar so the airport rep, Shenol, was at our hotel right on time to take us to catch our flight. We had a few extra hours to kill so he took us to a great restaurant, and to have some tea in an amazing cafe overlooking the city and the water. Needless to say Shikar Safaris is top notch in my book, and I'll be looking to them if hunting the area in the future. We caught our flight and rifles arrived in Dar with no problems. What a relief to see those cases brought out and all luggage arriving. We went onto the Sea Cliff and checked in at about 4:45 AM, we checked out at 6AM, showered and grabbed breakfast. Needless to say, most expensive shower I ever took ha ha. At that point it didn't matter, the fun would now begin...
Here are a few photos before we entered the bush
Comfort Class on Turkish Airlines. Highly recommended! Lots of leg room, seats were nice and wide. I'm 6'2" 190 lbs and my dad is 6' and about 230, both of us were very comfortable and had lots of leg room to spare. Also had USB and electrical outlets for laptop, as well as wi-fi. Food was excellent. Made a 13 hour flight go by with the quickness. Seats reclined a good bit and they had a foot rest that flipped up. If I were to change one thing I would recommend the footrest be able to be lifted higher, for better chances at getting a comfortable sleeping position.
The Sirkeci Konak Hotel
The Sea Cliff Hotel, Dar Es Salaam. The free breakfast was worth its weight in gold that morning. Large selection and everything tasted great.
My brother Albert, Dad, and Grandpa.
After arriving in camp, its like all worries disappear. Felt great. Here are a few pics of camp situated on the banks of the Ruaha River.
A view of camp from the river.
Me and my brother's tent.
The table where we ate breakfast and dinner everyday.
A view inside the tent. Shower and toilet attached in the back. These beds are right up there with my tempurpedic at home. Very comfortable and sturdy.
the shower was such a welcome sight after a full day of hunting. Hot water was added every night and morning.
The kitchen and the man behind the marvelousness, Moses.
This guy is a champ. Everything we ate was downright delicious. I figured our game meat would have some game taste to it, but I was dead wrong. It tasted as good or better than any steak or other meat I've ordered in various fancy restaurants. Just amazing, night after night.
One of the few days we actually had lunch in camp. I believe these were zebra filets.
The actual hunt begins... The photos aren't necessarily in chronological order, but pretty close. Also remember I am the guy behind the still camera, but also hunting as well. Lots of the good stuff we captured on video. I've got about 40 hours of footage to edit down. I plan on sharing and posting everything here once I am done with that. Any ways here are some of the shots I took. I'm not much of a writer, so I'll keep it pretty simple and to the point. The animals with more of a story to them will come later in the report.
Sunrise on the Ruaha
Finding a nice large lion track. We hung bait at this site, and would have some action in the couple of days at this spot.
First animal to fall. Lichtenstein's Hartebeest. (please note, I am not a big smiler. So this right here is about a 7.5 on the smile scale for me)
My Dad's Impala
The bonus hippo. We were ambushing hippo one morning, when this old girl came out of her bed. She was pulling herself along by her chin because of the snare you see on her leg. I think we did the right thing taking her out. We proceeded to use her for lion, leopard, and croc bait.
The storks and vultures took care of the rest.
A very nice impala. Kill shot on video as well.
A decent warthog. We saw dozens everyday, almost all females and young ones. This was about the best one we saw, so we had to plan him a trip to the states.
My dad and his bushbuck. This was one of the animals that was high on his list as well. Very excited when we walked up and saw he was a very fine trophy.
Another great day in the Selous. No photoshop or tweaking here. All the smoke in the air from the burns made for this dramatic sunset.
My zebra. Damn these things are alert. 99% of the time all you see are asses and dust. This one was ambushed by pure luck really. Saw a young one in the road up ahead that cut thru some thick brush. Sat and waited for the rest to filter thru, once I heard "that one" I let it go and it piled up about 30 yards away. Kill shot on video.
This guy made the mistake of running in front of the cruiser one night. Stopped the truck, hit the torch and there he was about 50 yards off the road. Boom, done deal. Got the kill shot on infrared video too. I was pretty happy, this was one of those extras I was hoping to take on the trip.
Hippos were everywhere on the river. We would see hundreds daily. So we kind of kept the hippo in our back pocket for some fun later on in the hunt. Especially if we ended up needed bait quickly, we could always count on a hippo. So one day we decide its time. We had noticed a pod of hippos just down river from the area we had hung the first leopard bait. We had also seen some large crocs in the area, so the plan was find a nice male. Come early in the morning, pop him, chop him up and leave the rest for croc bait. Easy enough... So we find a big old male late that evening. Knowing I wanted to get good photos and we might be cutting it close time wise knowing it would be a mission in itself to pull him out of the river. So we planned to come back nice and early the next day. Oh this also entailed crossing about half way across the river to a sand bar to take the shot. A little nerve racking to cross a river waist high in water where hippos abound and where the big crocs we wanted to shoot pass as well... We ended up crossing the river about 10 times by the end of the hunt, after the first time it was no big deal. I figure hey, it will be a great story to tell the grand kids. Even though I knew it was unlikely, I just told me brother each time "just keep the camera rolling, you never know haha"
Ok so any ways, we find the pod just at first light. The big boy is smack in the middle. Once again I was backing up my dad. He was now on the .375 and I was on the .416 with open sights (explanation later on in the report), once we both are 100% we are on the correct hippo, he lets it fly. It hits the water about 4" low (we figured the reason why later as well) but enough to get decent penetration because he started spewing blood and thrashing around like crazy. I didn't have time to shoot until about 10 seconds later when he emerged for a split second. I let one fly and again just a little low, but a good hit. We see a lot of blood coming up and a lot of commotion underwater. No shot for another 20 seconds or so, then all of a sudden he takes off full speed down river. All I can think of is "if he gets passed this shallow water, we are all screwed" so I put the bead of the .416 about 6" above his balloon knot and let it fly. He drops like a rock and starts to roll. He's still thrashing but I had hit him in the spine so he wasn't going very far after that. At that point Pierre tells me to wade across and get right up to him to finish him. My brother is still recording and the video is pretty funny. I wade out onto some rocks, Pierre tells me "OK that close enough" but for some reason I felt like man vs. beast at that moment and felt the need to get really close. I get to about 10 yards and as far as I can go before going into deep water. I then give him about 4 more right in the coconut each time it presents itself. A few seconds later, he's done and everyone is relieved. It wasn't pretty, and I wish he had died instantly on the first shot, but he didn't and everything else that happened after was pretty exciting. The video is pretty good, can't wait to share it with you guys.
So then the work begins, dragging and rolling this beast to shore was no easy task.
As soon as Sinjore the Masai tracker opened his mouth and smiled and said "kuba sana!" I knew he was going to have some teeth on him.
The photo doesn't do him justice, he had 2x4s for tusks. What an amazing animal. Grandpa had witnessed the whole thing from about 200 yards down river. When he finally caught up with us and saw the hippo all he said was "holy jumpin!" haha
With an excellent hippo off the list, we now focused on the other river dweller, the crocodile... We left a large part of the carcass tied up right on the same sand bank. We had seen large crocs in the area almost every day. We even had a chance at one early in the hunt, but due to some technical difficulties we couldn't make the shot. Which leads me into the short story of how I became known as "Click"
So early in the hunt while hanging leopard bait, Pierre spots a very nice croc just a bit out of the water. Only about 200 yards from where we were parked. He was fairly close to the near bank, so we figured lets give it a shot. The plan worked perfectly, we ended up I'd say 25 yards away in the reeds. Dad is on the sticks with the .416, I use the camera tripod and have a nice rest for the .375, so agree to shoot on 3. So Pierre counts, 1....2.... "wait wait wait" I said, just wasn't steady enough. OK 1....2....wait wait wait, gotta get a better rest. OK now I am ready, at this point is almost kind of funny, but here goes the real deal. 1.....2.....3....BOOOM! I feel myself pull the trigger and I hear the crack of A rifle, just not mine. I had forgot to load a round in the chamber in all the excitement. So all I got was a CLICK... LOL
My dad's shot was off (once again there is a pattern here, and will be explain in the buffalo segment below...) and all we saw was a round skipping across the water hundreds of yards up river, among dozens of hippos to boot. I am busting up laughing cuz I am the only one who knows what happened, plus I am busting up at the thought of my dad's stray bullet killing some other hippo 400 yards up river. You know an hour later seeing one float past camp or something. ha ha ha. So any ways we all had a good laugh at what had happened, a clean miss, and a click... So from then on I was known as Click. I learned my lesson though, checked every few minutes to make sure that round was in the chamber when we were on a stalk.
Any ways... fast forward to later in the hunt. The crocs are feeding on the bait, but no big boys. We check periodically but nothing worth going for. Until one day we spot a couple smaller crocs on the same sand bar about 100 yards down from the old bait (almost gone at this point) As everyone is busy hanging a new leopard bait, I see a nose, a back, and a tail, and the total length is pretty damn long. Pierre and my dad can't see it too well until a few minutes later when he brings out his whole head. Then its on... We creep through the reeds to a point across the river (where we usually waded across to check for hippos). We can only see his nose sticking out but looks good so far. We wait silently at about 100 yards for about 45 minutes. Finally he lifts his head out onto the sand. We can see right away he's got severe overbite and a fat head. Unless he's a freak, his body will match the head and he'd be a nice croc. So 10, 20, 30 minutes go by and he isn't moving, he's probably not coming out any further. So its decided that if he can get a good solid rest he'll take the shot. After a bit of maneuvering the rest is nice and steady, here we go... BOOM. I'm on the camera since I have a better angle, so from the LCD screen I can see it was a good hit and the croc throws his head back and starts to roll. We all jump out and cross the river as quick as possible. We walk up and see a large disturbance in the water... He briefly shows his head again at about 5 yards away. Me and my dad both shoot at the exact same time, he never heard my shot and I never heard his. We both hit him square on the top of the head (we later recovered all 3 bullets, my dads last shot had gone almost straight down his head and the first time we opened his mouth the barnes triple shock was perfectly mushroomed and laying right on top of his tongue!)
So Pierre starts poking around with the sticks to try and figure out where he is. We can see his tail, and a large amount of blood from where his head should be. We figure we will just wait. the trackers arrive, find him right there, and pull him out. Same story as with the hippo, as soon as they get a hold of his tail they say "kuba sana!" and we are all excited as hell. This old boy was 14.5 feet long, missing a foot, and estimated to be about 80 years old.
Got the kill shot, and the good stuff after on video as well. Another excellent trophy to add to the list. My dad was very excited.
This was high on my dad's list. After seeing photos of Pierre's clients from 2011, we had high hopes of a nice cat coming home with us. Pierre did not disappoint. He had started pre-baiting days before we arrived, and had one cat on bait, and another possibly on another. Luckily I brought a couple trail cameras with me, Pierre had a few but were on the fritz. We hung a camera that night and had photos of a nice leopard on bait the morning of the 1st day!
You know what comes next. Time to build a blind.
Leopard did not show up that night. We drove around for plains game, and also hung another camera at another bait site about 1.5 hours from camp. Two days later we would have photos of a very large cat on that bait as well. We will call this leopard #2 for story telling sake. So here we are in the 2nd blind that was built.
Leopard #2 was very nice, but so was the first one we had on bait. Being that #2 seemed to have more of a set schedule, we focused on him the next few days. We divided our time up between checking baits, and looking for buffalo and random plains game during the day. After getting leopard #2 on camera at about 7pm for a couple days in a row, we figured we would sit that night and he was sure to come in.
That night was my brother's turn in the blind, so I stayed with the trackers and grandpa about a km away to listen for a shot. We also happened to have a zebra or hippo leg, can't remember, in the back in case that we needed to refresh a bait. That would end up costing us the shot at this leopard I believe. Come to find out where we were parked, was right in the leopard's path to the bait. Hearing him get closer and closer to the truck in the pitch darkness was something else. Our theory was that his attention went from the bait in the tree to the smell of the bait in the cruiser that night, and after leaving the scene that night we weren't sure if he would change his pattern or not. He continued to show up on the camera. So we sat morning and night for this guy. He was a smart one, it seemed he would show up shortly after we left each night... Pretty amazing to think he was possibly watching us the whole time, waiting for us to leave. Then one morning we check the camera to see this
This lion had climbed the tree and cleaned the bait up completely. So much for leopard #2. His smart ass is still out there somewhere.
No worries, our leopard #1 was back, and now deciding to show up in the daylight! Around 7-8am, and also just before sundown...
A slightly smaller cat than #2, but still large and with beautiful coloring. The plan was made to sit that night....
We were waiting about a kilometer away in the cruiser, time was passing. It was about 8:30, a little past the leopard's usual dinner time. Then... the boom broke the night's silence. The game scout yells "good hit!" The game scout cocks his AK-47, the driver jumps in and we race off to the blind. The excitement at that moment in the cruiser was electrifying, get chills just thinking about it. We show up and Pierre, my dad, and brother are all waiting with flashlights for the backups to arrive. Everyone jumps out with flash lights, guns, and knives ready. We climb up the small platform below the blind, I'm behind a little ways, to let the pros do their job with plenty of space. I see Pierre's barrel mounted light swinging around the dense brush, and I'm getting a little nervous thinking of all the possibilities if this cat wasn't well. All of a sudden I hear the trackers start talking really fast and I hear the best sound in the world... My dad's laugh. He isn't high on the scale of showing emotion, but when I hear him laugh I know its something really good. I knew right then the leopard was dead. Square right under the bait. From being completely tense and nervous, to complete elation. I've never seen my dad so happy as I did that moment. We did not hold back our excitement either as you'll see on the video. After about 20 hours in a blind, some ups and downs, it had all worked out.
Back at camp
That was one of the best nights that I can remember. The pay off of all the hard work, seeing my dad so damn happy and excited, the relief of one of the main animals in the salt.
My dad tells me "I'm done hunting leopard Bobby, that was everything I could ever want." Which in turn made me very happy to hear, not only because it was so fulfilling to him, but also I could focus on my own leopard on future hunts haha.
Needless to say, we drank some scotch, and fell asleep smiling that night.
Side note: I have a new respect for those who sit in blinds for hours on end, day after day after day. It is not easy, and downright torture at times. Me and my brother took turns on the camera, and it still was not easy. One night we sat until 10pm, got back to camp and ate at almost midnight, then left again at 3 to sit that morning until about 8am...
Lion was one of those animals we would love to take, but knew the chances of seeing a nice mature shoot able male were somewhat slim. Because of this we did not have our hopes set too high to bring back a lion, but we would sure be happy to get one!
Early in the hunt we found a very nice track at a waterhole. We hung a hippo leg a few days later to see if the male was still in the area. As we drive up to the bait the next day a lioness runs out and away from us, and trailing behind her three very small cubs! As we sit and watch her trot off, something else moves off to the right. A large male had been only about 30 yards from the truck, hidden in plain sight! Grandpa and the driver saw it right away and had covered their ears waiting for the shot. He had been so close the rest of us completely missed him while watching the others. He trotted off and laid behind a bush less than 100 yards away. The excitement and adrenaline pumping we decided that he was a very good male, not much mane, but good for the area... A split second later we remembered the cubs. The next minute was a classic case of angel on one shoulder, devil on the other. Do we shoot? This is a rare opportunity man, might never get it again... No way, he's obviously the father of those cubs and you pop him, you kill 4 lions with one bullet. I would be lying if I didn't admit I was ready with my cross hairs dead on his shoulder ready to roll. I kept talking to my dad as he found him in his scope "Papa, do not take this shot unless you are 100% sure" then he says "OK, I see him" and almost simultaneously we all lift our heads from the scopes and bino's (me, my dad, and Pierre) and agree that this isn't our lion. We kill this lion and any time we look at him, all we will see is his three cubs getting mangled by some other male. There was a lot of emotions going on during that 60 seconds that the lion laid there looking at us. But as he trotted off, all we could do was smile. It was an amazing experience to just see him with the lioness and cubs. And the feeling of knowing "we could have" was plenty. We all drove to camp that night excited about what we had seen, and better yet feeling warm inside because we knew we made the right decision. We checked the camera later, only to confirm what we already knew.
The trail camera also captured some great footage of the little ones climbing on dad's back and swing around on his tail as he's on the bait. I'll include that in the full video of the hunt.
So we did have a couple more lion sightings, one of which I will describe next. We ended up not taking a lion this trip. And after everything that we had seen and done, we were completely OK with that.
The Lion Kill
This was one of those things that people go on photo safaris all over Africa to hope to witness. We we privileged enough to see it first hand, and it was pretty incredible.
We are driving along as usual, when we see 3 zebra run out to our left thru a burned area. No big deal, we had taken our Zebra, so we didn't stop just slowed down a bit since they were fairly close. They run off over a small rise... a few seconds later only two run out, and at a much faster pace. Over the rise we see a huge cloud of dust and ash in the air. We think OK, so they kicked up some dust, whatever. Then we hear the screams... The zebra making this god awful scream, then mixed in with low growls of some kind. Its takes the trackers and Pierre a moment, then at the same moment it all hits them "Simba!" Well simba mixed in with a bunch of other swahili being exchanged at a furious pace. At this moment we are amazed at what is actually happening, but mixed in with the possibility of there being a shootable male up in his drama as well. We jump from the cruiser, rifles ready, and we set off directly for the cloud of dust. Now it just so happened my brother decides to stay in camp this day... so the video camera stays back at the cruiser. I had to choose the rifle over camera for this 2nd possible chance at a shootable male (not to worry tho, I did still manage to get some footage). As we go over the rise, there we see the drama playing out. Two large lions struggling with this fully mature zebra. The zebra is kicking and trying to throw the lions off. One lion has it by the throat and is locked in and not going anywhere, the other is on the far side from us and has it by a leg. We can see that the one that has it by the throat is clearly a lioness, but the one in the back's head is completely blocked by the other lion. We sit and watch for a few minutes until finally the zebra moves them around a bit and we get a clear look at the other... Its another large lioness. It was weird, it was almost a relief in a way. Hard to explain, but I didn't mind at all that it wasn't a male. After another minute or so I remembered the camera on the truck. I ran crouched down as fast as I could to get some footage. I managed to get the last few moments of the zebra's life on film. A few moments later one of the lionesses saw us and trotted off, the other did the same a few minutes later. We ended up hanging the zebra in the tree right there and setup a trail camera. No males came in to the bait, only the two lionesses and a couple younger lions. It was nice to see so many cubs in the area. We checked the bait the next two days and each time saw the lionesses run off into the brush.
Here are some pics of the kill moments after.
The throat area
This would be the last of our lion encounters for the trip. But after seeing a nice male, and then this kill go down right before our eyes, we were more than satisfied in the lion department.
Elephant was something my dad was really hoping for. Seeing Mike's elephant from 06, and other great elephant from some of Pierre's other clients had us hoping for the best but we of course understand that its hunting and nothing is guaranteed.
Other hunters in camp on a 10 day hunt (Wink from this board, and Pascale a french woman who loves to buffalo hunt) Saw a shooter bull just a few days into their hunt. We looked and looked for him, but no luck... Then about half way thru the hunt, we came across a group of 5 elephant. All cows and youngsters. As the hunt progressed we did see a few skulls that had been chopped up, poached within the last year. Pretty depressing, but the hunt was going great and we were just enjoying being there and all the animals we were seeing. Don't get me wrong, there was elephant sign all over the place. It was just small dung or tracks, not worth following. Fast forward to day 20. We are driving along, half dozing off, half day dreaming about whatever, when one of the trackers starts saying "tembo, tembo" but no one seems to realize what he's saying until he keeps saying it louder and louder. Sure enough about 100 yards off to our left is the old man we had been looking for from earlier in the hunt. We quickly saw he was a shooter. Nice and long, I didn't get a real good look but decent mass also. In my very limited expertise, I would guess 45-50 lbs give or take. Definitely worth chasing at this point. You'll see in the video just a glimpse of him and his askari as they head off over a small hill. We tracked them for the next couple hours. The trackers got a quick look at one point and even put up the sticks, but it was to no avail since they had caught wind and they were now high-tailing out of there. We never did catch up or see them again. So elephant I think is the next goal. Really want to get the old man a nice set of ivory at some point. We may book our next African adventure and dedicate strictly to elephant.
A small side note. On our way out of camp, our charter made a slight detour to pick up a hunter that was having some issue with his own charter. We didn't mind at all, always nice to see another area and talk to other hunters. He was a guy named Shaun if I remember. He had been hunting one of Luke Samaras' blocks with his father I think, Paddy Curtis was the PH. His dad was also on a 21 day trip, and they had pretty much the same story with the elephant. Quite a few poached in this concession as well. It was depressing to hear, but also made us feel a little better that it wasn't only us who was encountering the issue. Hopefully something can be done before it gets worse.
My dad had 3 buffalo on license. It was one of those animals he had always wanted to hunt. I also had heard how addicting they could be and wanted to get a taste for myself. We were very excited the first time we were on the fresh terds from that same morning.
Now before I get into the saga of the buffalo, I need to go off on a small tangent. You'll understand why once I explain.
My dad's .416 was a CZ/ AHR custom job. It was something me and my brother got for him for his 60th bday. I had ordered well before we made the decision on where to hunt, I just knew we would in the next couple years so I wanted to get him something cool for his 60th. AHR did an excellent job, no complaints at all, and my dad loved that rifle. He decides on a Z6i 1-6x, illuminated reticle for the low light possibilities on the trip, and goes all the way down to 1x for elephant or other close encounters. Then we decide on Talley CZ rings. Solid reputation, seemed like a great choice. Well we had a year to practice with the rifles. Him on the .416 every couple of weeks, and me on the .375. At least a couple hundred rounds each to prepare. Off the sticks, off hand, open sights, etc...
About 3-4 months into it, the talley rings break. They must have been slowly failing, the thing that alerted me was when I went to the range and I hit the berm 200 yards out, and about 20 yards over my target.
You can see what happened. The rings and scope moved with the recoil and sure enough cracked along the inside of the screws. Knowing Talley stands behind their products we call them up, they saw "huh" basically and send us out a new set. This time the QD release. Same exact rings, just have the lever instead of the screw. We figure, oh maybe it wasn't tight enough, or something we had done wrong....
Fast forward to about day 10 of the trip. I look down and I notice that one of the levers is pointing at a different angle that I am used to seeing it at. I turn it down to 1x and look down the scope... #####... Its way off... Then I look at the rings closely... Exact same issue. The rings failed at the exact same spot. We checked those levers daily to make sure they were tight. First time we thought maybe it was our fault, but this time we knew it was something else...
(hold spot for pic of 2nd set of rings from trip)
I plan to contact talley and let them know that this time the problem cost us dearly... Like I said we had gone about 10 days before finding this problem... In that time we had wounded a buffalo and a hartebeest... Never to be found again. We believe that it was slowly getting worse. I had mixed emotions... first very pissed that this could happen and all the crap and depression about wounding and loosing two animals (not to mention the buffalo was a very serious and dangerous order I will go into next), and then the other emotion of "thank god" we found the problem before trying to shoot a lion, or elephant, or anything else really... Any ways this explained a lot about the bad shooting. Not to say my dad is the best shot around, but we practiced like crazy and things just weren't adding up.
So now I was to use the .416 as a backup with open sights, no problem. He would use the .375... Which would be a problem, for a few days any ways... You see he had practiced with the .416 exclusively the whole time. It had a nice crisp 2.5 lb trigger. The whitworth was a great gun, but had some creep and probably a 6lb trigger... This would make for some more bad shooting. My dad was used to the trigger breaking at a point much sooner that it did, he would actually end up pulling the rifle back and shooting low almost every time... Which is exactly what happened on the hippo, and a buffalo later on.
So moral to the story... Take an extra set of rings, and a scope while you are at it. And if you have a backup rifle, have similar settings for the triggers. better yet practice with it just as much... tough lessons to learn, but now we know. It was unfortunate to loose those animals, but also glad that no one was hurt because of this.
Back to the fresh terds... We shot him early in the day I think about day 2 or 3. We tracked them for hours, in grass that was at least 9 ft high. Finally he stepped out and presented a good shot, BOOM, you could hear the WHOMP and I felt like it was a good hit. To make a long story short, 3 hours later we are still tracking him. back in that tall grass. I am not exaggerating when I say the grass was easily 9-10 ft high. And that real thick wide grass too. We could hear him near by at all times. And just drops of blood. The trackers knew he had been hit low and maybe was just working with 3 good legs at this point. Now an important tidbit to remember is that there were 4 of us, grandpa included, plus the rest of the crew. Grandpa could keep up with us no problem, but between the 9 total people we were stretched out for 20 yards or so. I will never forget that day, thinking this is it, this is everything I've read about and feared. One of us could easily get killed, we were so spread out, and could only see about 1 yard ahead of us... After a few tense hours (which you'll see the conditions on the video) I looked at Pierre and said "its not worth it, no ones life here is worth the trophy fee." I do not like to loose animals, this would be the 2nd animal me or my dad had ever wounded and lost (the other being a pig back in CA), and it felt horrible... But we made the right call and backed out of there.
Dad is now on the .375, but only recently and we haven't given the new trigger pull any thought. Which is completely our fault, no question about it. We track these buffalo for the entire morning through the thick forest, grass isn't bad, but the brush is thick. We bump them a few times until we finally get ahead of them and they come filtering out into a clearing. I mean picture perfect, about 60 yards away. Nice and slow, one by one... Dad is on the sticks, waits for a nice old fellow to shot himself, Pierre says "that's our bull, the next one after the cough (his version of the word calf lol), no problem. There he is, BOOM... he rears up and takes off. To make a long story short... the shot was low. Possibly not even fatal. We tracked for a good part of the day. A drop here a drop there.... I am feeling completely sick to my stomach. I'm feeling bad for my dad, because I know his confidence is in the toilet, and I partly mad at him for screwing up the shot... I know he can shoot just fine. Maybe he's too excited? not taking the extra second to be solid? We later had him take a couple shots and Pierre video recorded his face and hands while we shot. We reviewed the footage, and figured out he was so used to that lighter trigger he was pulling the shot every time with the .375. I was relieved to figure it out, but sick thinking we had wounded and lost two buffalo. I felt almost sick thinking about it, not to mention now the thought of going home without any buffalo started to creep into my head. Just like everything else I tried to keep a positive outlook and just go with the flow...
3rd Buffalo. The one.
After figuring out the trigger issue, and bagging an excellent bushbuck, confidence is back up. We pick up some fresh tracks and Pierre starts singing "these boots were made for walkin." We had seen a giant heard of about 200 buffalo the night before, and knew this was the same group. At this point, grandpa is going to stay back. He understand that the less people the better and we need to get it done. I will add that he had been keeping up with us until now no problem. I'll elaborate more later...
Fast forward a few hours later, once again we are in the thick forest. We bump them a few times and just kept going in circles. The trackers started a huge fire which was close on our tails as we closed in again on them. I think the noise from the fire helped a great deal. Either way the trackers being the geniuses that they are, put us in position at the edge of the forest. And here they come... by the hundreds pouring out across an opening. Not really running, but like speed walking sort of. A good mix of bulls and cows. The first group I think sees us and scampers into the forest on the other side of the clearing. We move up the hill a little bit and to our surprise here comes the 2nd wave... These guys have no clue and are taking their sweet time. They put up the sticks, then we start to glass the herd. A few moments later Pierre spots and old boy at the edge of the group with a large white scar on his back. Perfect, my dad has him locked in. At this point I am just praying for things to go well... He lets it go, BOOK, WHACK. The whole herd takes off together. The trackers say they saw him go down then get up and run off... We get to the spot, a nice large spray of blood, I think to myself "thank you baby Jesus." We follow the blood and it quickly turns into small drop here and there... Pierre spots movement up ahead and tells me to run up and crack him, I'm already sprinting before he can finish his words... But when I bring up the rifle I see its a cow and calf... The back end of the group was still there... Then we start to walk up some more... then I hear my dad "whats that? thats him I think?" and there before me, the most beautiful sight I've seen in a long time... Buffalo laying on its side. Relief just flowed thru my body. I quickly snapped out of it and knew he wasn't dead. I ran up to about 2 feet away and put one right in the pump station, from the splatter of blood that followed I knew I had found the spot and the saga of the buffalo was over...
He turned out to be a great old bull. The exact type me and my dad both agreed was the right type to take. No worry about length or size of bosses, that was secondary to just an old warrior. Broken on both sides even would be great.
Seeing that buffalo loaded up in the truck, fanta orange never tasted so sweet. To me at that point the hunt had been a true success, no matter what else happened.
We worked our asses off for all the buffalo we hunted. I felt we had truly hunted them and gave them the respect they deserved. Even in the tall grass, when one of us could get tossed or trampled, it would be disrespectful to not try and follow him and finish him off. I really wish the first two would have turned out different. I'm glad the hunting gods looked down on us and gave us this gift, I like to think we got what we deserved in the end.
Needless to say, buffalo hunting got under our skin. We are already talking about when we are going back for a 10 or 14 hunt strictly for buffalo. Being able to actually hunt them was fun as hell. Compared to other animals which we more of a "shoot if the chance presents itself" type hunt, or sitting in a damn blind for hours on end... Every time we picked up tracks we ended up in buffalo, it may have been hours later, but we always saw buffalo. Pierre and his trackers are top notch, and the area holds LOTS of buffalo as you'll also see in the video.
One thing that I heard on this board a while back was "Just go with the flow. Don't have too many solid plans or expectations on how your hunt is going to go, just let it pan out and roll with it" That stuck in my head the entire time, and helped tremendously.
Just sitting back and taking it all in made all the ups and downs go hand in had and part of the experience.
Review of staff and operations.
I can't say enough about Pierre and his staff. Trackers were amazing, and fun to be around. My brother and I quickly tried to learn how to talk ##### in Swahili as soon as possible. We were with these guys all day everyday, we needed to get along... And we did. I like to think that they truly enjoyed having us there. Pierre has a great sense of humor himself, which is priceless in my book. I can't imagine being with someone all day for 21 days without being able to have some good laughs thru ought the day. Him and Clinton were great fun, and I would hunt with them again any day (and we will!). The other staff in camp were also top notch. I had absolutely no complaints, and everyone went above and beyond what I was expecting. This was my first guided hunt of any sort so I was used to mountain house, and doing everything ourselves, so the level of service blew us away. It was almost hard to take at times! Like "no its OK, I can carry my own bags to my tent" sort of thing. The cruisers were just about new. One was bought just this year, the other in 2011. Rotating new ones in every year. Knowing that they care that much about the equipment gave us a lot of peace of mind. I can only imagine how having to deal with mechanical problems can really screw up a hunt.
The trackers and staff really enjoyed my grandfather. One of them asked me if he was older than 100? I laughed and said no, but he's 85. They couldn't believe he was keeping up with us day after day. They called him the old bullet, because he wouldn't stop. They all wanted to know his secret. One night he told them "never drank or smoked, not because I didn't want to, but because I was too cheap to buy it. ha ha, that and very few women"
The Masai even made him a walking stick. He loved that and he carried that thing home on the plane with us the whole way. Even Dik-Dik the tent boy on the last day asked if Babu could stay.
He would always tell the staff when they asked how was your day, he would always reply "When you're 85 everyday is a good day, some are just better than others" Needless to say in those 21 days we had a lot of those better ones.
I learned many years ago the power of having something to look forward to. That's why we always have the next trip planned. It keeps us all close thru the year talking about the plans and this and that. Especially for grandpa, he started walking 4 miles a day, and lost a lot of weight for this trip. Best shape he's been in for years. Makes me happy to know how much he looks forward to the next one, wherever it may be.
Overall I give the trip a 9/10. Only reason it wasn't a 10 is because of those wounded animals. And that of course was no fault of Pierre or anyone but ourselves and the equipment (which falls under us as well). The grass was very tall in many places still, although we were burning large areas daily. But when I think back, it really didn't affect us in the end. We just had to work a little harder for some things, and that's the way I would want it any ways.
I am sure I am leaving out some interesting things, so I will be sure to post follow ups as I remember them.
And like I've been mentioning, we took A LOT of video footage. All of which I intend to whittle down to a nice hour or two and put to blu-ray. I'll also have DVD and digital files for download as well. It may be a few weeks before I can get the editing done. I'm also going to wait for grandpa to come into town for a special commentary i want to record for the blu-ray. Sort of like the commentary feature you can listen to on movies when you hear the actors or directors talk about the behind the scene stuff. You'll be able to choose "3G" commentary off or on. Think it will be cool to hear each person's take on things as well as preserving our voices for future family members to watch and listen later.
Here is a direct link to all of my photos, a few provided by Pierre and Wink as well. They are higher resolution as well as many extra I did not include above.