three botswana tuskers - full report and pictures -
Outfitter- Johan Calitz Safaris
Dates : October 2012
cameraman doug king safari classics
We all know that October in southern Africa is hot hot hot not just hot buty very dry and so for that very reason we chose to start hunting right in the middle of the month , and yes it truly was very hot , many days getting over 40 degrees C our hottest days were 42 (107 degrees F) !
We were hunting NG 35- its on the southern side of the buffalo fence which means that there is very little or no game there , just cattle and goats but the elephant are very numerous sand have the ability of stepping over the fence so it is no hindrance at all
The shocking thing one realizes is that when an area like this is closed to hunting (which has been the case until the last three years) all the game has no value at all and its literally wiped out , and I mean that on the whole hunt apart from some jackal , duikers and steenbok we saw 5 impala , two groups of kudu cows and two warthogs . but there were a lot of elephants and that was just what we were here for .
The area is vast . about 120 miles long and about 50 miles wide at its widest , yet a lot of it is in the southern reaches of the delta so wading through channels and reedbeds to the islands in the hopes of finding elephants there is a daily occurrence.
One big bull we turned down , he was in the mid 60s but only on day 2
The very first day , not knowing the area at all and having only one tracker with me who had been there a couple of times , we decided to simply roll the tyres and see what happens , well by 1 pm a few tracks and no elephant , it was very very hot and we came across a tracks of a young bull ?hat is there to lose I though , I just need to see some elephant and get RA close to them ?hat痴 what I like to do , get in close and have the 澱rainshot lesson multiple times with multiple bulls so that when its time one can focus on the shot placement not the overwhelming emotion of being close to such a giant animal.
We were lucky , within an hour we were in the midst of 5 bulls , nothing big except for the surprise and wonder on RAs face !!
Then we heard a stick break and by the time we were done , three hours later we had seen thirty bulls , RA had been well initiated into the whole idea of carrying water shoes to wade through the channels and life was good
Lunch under a tree and then walking the islands all afternoon , no bulls that first afternoon though ..
That痴 how the days went , find tracks , follow , wade walk , climb and look , stop and listen and usually we would find a group or two ..
Wading the swamp you aint had chafe till you walked with wet clothes for 5 hours in 100 degree heat !!!!
Each day as we drove back to the camp we would look at each other and exclaim at how lucky we were , how much we loved our lives and what a successful day it was , yes it was hot , yes we were walking very far each day and yes we often just got back , ate and rolled right into bed , but this was elephant hunting at its very best and for me a great treat to be with someone who could walk like RA could and who was as mentally 妬n the game
By day 9 we had seen 381 bulls , we had been on the boats on the swamp looking for tracks and had just had lunch , on a hunch I thought I would take a short walk ?hen I heard an elephant rumble , I tested the wind and got closer and saw a young bull , so I hurried back to the boat to get everyone and within minutes we had water, first aid , guns and optics all loaded up for what may be many hours of walking that young bull turned into 5 and then 7 and then just as we were standing , waist deep in water glassing a tight group of 7 of them , I saw from the corner of my eye another walking past to my left , and I saw thick solid ivory sticking out
With the wind fickle in the middle of the day we hurried round and there was no doubt , I knew he was over 18 and a half at the lip , likewise I thought just over 40 inches lip top tip , this was a great bull- we walked in on his and he swung around at the sound of our feet ?A put in a PERFECT brainshot and the first elephant was ours.
The moment the bullet is in the air the hunt turns to kill , it痴 the end of the pursuit , the end of the adventure , the tracking and the searching , now its time for efficiency , accuracy and getting it done as fast and humanely as possible its always with remorse that that moment ends , your magnificent animal is dead, the hunt is over , that remorse liberally coated with an incredible feeling of humility at the privilege of the moment and all encapsulated in the elation of success , very very tough to accurately describe .
As is my tradition we all left RA with his animal for a ten or 15 minute interval , as we backed off , all elated with the huge bull , I felt sure he would go over 70 but if not it wouldn稚 matter he was great nonetheless.
Recovery was an interesting prospect as we had to carry everything about a mile to the closest place we could get a boat and yes you can eat an elephant if you eat one bite at a time
With one bull in the salt , that eased the pressure a bunch and it was a vert much more relaxed crew that drive out of camp at 4.00 am the following morning?y now we had put word out with the locals that we were looking for elephants and coupled with our scout vehicle with Garth Robinson and Andrew walker , we felt that even with such a huge area to cover we were making some progress !
Our first tracks , after about two hours led us to twelve bulls , we heard them breaking sticks on an island and so carefully waded around to get the wind right and then as they set off to cross to our island we were able to get a very good loook at them , what a special sight , what an amazing moment , two huge huge bodied bulls , nothing big enough for us but nevertheless enourmous bodies and a Huge experience
a python we came across on our way back to the car
Nothing shootable there so we backed out , leaving them completely undisturbed
As we were rolling after that we came across five bull tracks that had crossed the road infront of us ?wo looked huge in fact one exceptionally so so we loaded up and started walking , well three swamp crossings and about 6 kilometres later we found them , by then it was VERY hot , they were in the shade and the wind was a bit iffy to say the least .
The huge bull rack very obviously belonged to a huge simgle tusker actually one we had seen on two previous occasions several miles from where we were
We discussed at length taking him , RA was a little hesitatnt based on the fact he had just one tusk but I thpught that the tusk would be in the high seventies even 80 pound range and so we decided that with one great bull in the salt , two tags still in our pocket and 5 days left to hunt we should take the bull
Let me say that as soon as that decision is made it痴 a gamechanger suddenly it gets serious , as per usual when the wind is so unsteady I got the trackers far behind , then I briefly explained to RA what our approach would be , to get into place we needed to sneak very slowly past a bull that was sleeping with his tusk up on a branch we had the cover a clump of palms but with the unsteady wind it would have to be a fast approach our preference was to shoot him before he even knew we were there ..
As we got to about 15 yards and still without a clear shot , the bull sleeping awoke and so we were forced to speed our approach , as we stepped out from the palms he raised his head RAs shot was a little high and as he turned the second barrel went off just as he dipped his head causing the bullet to hit high , I backed up with my 600 on the hip and by then randy had reloaded and sidebrained the anchored bull
As we walked up to him I realized just how huge he was , possibly the largest bodied elephant I had ever taken , his tusk however shrunk significantly , I had grossly over judged the tusk , it was very oval shaped to the point of being flattened at the end and while from the side it looked incredibly thick , I knew we would be lucky to hit 60 pounds , I told RA but he didn稚 care , Ivan he said , how could a few pounds begin to change what we just experienced this is incredible ?ow that is a sign of a true hunter ---
Five hours later with two hundred villagers removing ever piece of meat we left and as we returned to camp we looked at each other and agreed that we loved our lives !!
All the time while were were hunting hard and experiencing all this stuff on the front line , Garth Robinson was working equally hard , he is a consummate professional and I trust his judgment he hadn稚 called me in for anything yet that was exceptional , with 4 days left and another tag I wont say there was no pressure
Two days after the single tusker we waded across a deep channel , right up to our necks in fact and three hours later we were in the midst of 16 bulls , the largest however in the high 50s we were a long way from the car , it was about 1pm and my radio called 妬van ivan ivan 萌arth 敵arth 蜂van go ahead? Ive got one here stand by for GPS co-ordinates
I ran to Bashops backpack , in the top is my satphone and a small folder with emergency numbers and a notebook , pulling the marker pen out o ahead I couldnt read him ?I ran to the top of a mound knowing that speed and efficiency could be the difference here based on the fact that it may take hours to get to him ?e were two hours minimum from our vehicle , and I had no idea where he was , three or four hours away
As I got up the mound it got clearer and I told him I would get straight back to the car and radio on my base set as soon as I was there ..
It was by now 1 pm , 120 degrees and I will say a mighty hot fast walk for an hour and a half by which time we were literally dripping sweat ,
A wrong turn or two and we left the vehicle to walk in the few kilometers where he was I cant tell you his tense this is skirting around another herd of bulls on our way in we finally were with garth what had taken about three hours seemed like an intense 30 minutes !
We had a brief but detailed discussion about the bull and got right onto his tracks as soon as a I laid eyes on him I made the decision , RA asked me , he said tell me about him , is he good because we are getting short of time or is he really that good ? just said 努e are going to shoot this bull
努ell , tell me about him
ust get ready watch your feet , think about your shot
I just knew , beyond doubt this was a monster and if we spent any more time the wind may change and we may lose him , RA had paid his dues , we had been on foot many many hours each day , we had waded walked and tracked for miles and miles , we had some days been away from camp for 19 hours !! yes it was time and he deserved a monster!
it was as tense a moment as you could have , the bull was in very thick bush , a clear shot meant an approach to well less than ten yards , the wind was not at all what I would call steady and we had been rushing to get there
25 yards out I stopped , looked at RA and said , take a deep breath , lets be calm for a second that 5 second break was the perfect 途eset for both of us and the rush and pressure was gone ?e eased very slowly in and just as I was trying to silently step[ over a log in the leaves I felt the wind change ..
come forward I motioned as I grabbed his shirt , the bull sudely jolted his head , I am not sure if it was wind or that he saw us and at that moment the first barrel went off
the rest is history and as I Looked across at his face it was a moment of pure shock at the size of both that moment and all that led up to it and the giant tusker lying at our feet
I take no credit at all for that bull , it was garths hard work , all I did was the final approach and when the scales tipped to 84 and 76 respectively I felt very very humbled to end my Botswana season on such a high note !
485 bulls in 12 hunting days and an aggregate of 364 pounds of ivory , yes indeed we were very blessed
apologies again for taking so long to get this out !