ZIMBABWE: Dugga boys with SSG safaris
In 2009 when we were taxing down JNBs runway i new that i didnt get the african experience my soul desired. I would have to return.
I started looking for a hunt in a dangerous game area. Through Tim Herald and Magnum hunt club I settled on SSG safaris.
The long awaited day finaly came and i set off on the long journey to africa. To make along story short. The nitwits at Harare screwed me over and i spent the hunt without my rifle and half of my gear.
I wanted to share the adventure with someone this time. I arranged for my brother to come along for the trip. He is apart time camera man for Tim and would be filming for magnum hunt club.
Malapati camp is clean and comfrotable. Its by no means five star but i prefer a rustic type hunting camp anyway.
View of river from camp
I borrowed one of Nixons .375s. Its a Winchester model 70 that is well used. Thankfully i had my handloads as nixon didnt have alot of .375 ammo on hand. After a couple of shots and a small adjustment we were on the road.
Ishmael was to be my PH. He asked me what kind of buff i was looking for. I told him preferred to hunt dugga boys and any one of them would do just fine. We cut some sign that was a few hours old. We set off on the track. The wind was awful and switching 90 degrees. I try not to guide the guide but i was exchanging looks with little bro over the wind being at our back half the time. After several hours and 7-8 Ks it becam apparent they had given us the slip. In the afternoon we took a long hike along one of the streams that feed the river. We didnt see anything we wanted.
It was a long cold ride for the guys in the back to an area known as the island. We dropped off in the river and headed down stream looking for fresh tracks. We came across 3 kudu bulls. One of them was huge. I would have taken him but he was on the park side already. We cut up a drainage and started heading away from the river. I noticed a set of ele tracks and they looked pretty fresh to me. In a few minutes the tracker stops and starts talking to Ishmael in hushed tones. I could tell by there hand motions we were going to go around something. About that time we heard a elephent rumbiling. We couldnt have been more than 50 yards from him but we never saw him. Ishmael said he was a young bull. When we got to the point where Gift was going to meet us with the truck we cut some fresh sign. We waited for gift and set off on the track. The wind was swirling something terrible and we eventually found were they had bedded. A short time later we bumped them. Ishmael decided to back out and come back about 4:00. When we picked up the trail we tracked them all the way to the river. They left the river and went over a ridge. When we got to the bottom Ishmael decided it was to late to continue. We turned to head back to the truck. We havent gone 20 yards and the bulls busted out of a thick patch like a covey of quail. I was amazed at how fast they ran up and over the next ridge. One thing that stands out in my memory is how fast Ishmael had his gun off his shoulder and ready for action. We also bumped two other bulls on the way out. Some pretty heart stopping second before it becomes clear there headed away from you.
Very frustrating day. We got up early and drove to the Limpopo. There was no fresh spoor and there were people every where making palm liquor. (Later some other hunters would find a snare line with a warthog and bushbuck in them. Nixon is trying to get parks to roust these folks out of there.) We left there and drove the 3 hours to the island. We never saw any fresh buff spoor. The hilights of the day were seing 2 big ele bulls in the river. We also saw a big croc, big eland bull and a set of lepoard tracks.
We are off to the island. When we get to the overlook Gift takes a radio and heads up river. Ishmael and the eagle head down stream. Me and Zach climb up on the rocks and start glassing. We can see the same eland bull over on the parks side. We also spot an absolutly monster bush buck that had just crosed the middle part of the river. ( still haunting me) Zach says Gift is running back this way.
Ishmael has fond some buff dung that is still warm. We line out on the trail. It dosent take long and i realize that Gift and Ishmaels body language has changed. Suddenly the situation is very tense. The bulls work to the top of the ridge head head up the spine. Before i know whats happening the sticks go up. There is a big grey rock thats the wrong color at about 20 yards. Ishmael says shoot. I look at him like hes crazy. Hell i cant even tell which way hes facing. Ishmael says hes facing away. I can only see the upper half of his body and there are 3 dead limbs as big as your forearm crovering his sholuder. The wind swirls and tickles the back of my kneck. I hear something to my left a bull walks thru an opening with heavy horns and worn down tips. I say thats the bull i want!!! He walks up and the other bull moves out of his way. He steps up on the top. I can still only see about half his body. He is quarting too us and the same limbs are covering his sholder. Ishmael is saying shoot. I dont have a shot. I actually put the cross hairs between his eys but think better of it. I slide the sticks to the side an inch or two. The bull heard it and turns to look at us. I see Ishmaels gun barrel slide into my peripheral vision. ( i told him to feel free and back me up if he felt like he needed too) The scene is surreal as i realize he has tilted his head back and is giving us that look. I bury the crosshairs on his shoulder, drop them down as far as i dare and squeeze. I dont feel the recoil, only the percussion of the .375 followed closley by Ishmaels .458. They take of after him. I try to reload on the run and of course jam the next round. You can see me digging on the video and throwing the round to the side. We stop and listen, soon we hear him stumbiling and the other bull take off. Short death bellows follow. We waited a little while and snuck down too him. He tried to raise his head but couldnt really lift it. I put a nosler solid thru his heart. The group erupts into celebration. We have killed a massivly heavy horned bull with huge bosses and worn down tips. He also is very white faced. Just a classic old bull. Hes perfect as far as im concerend.
Zach said he was so tensed up that he bet it would be a week before he could take dump.
We half heartedly looked for a nyala in the afternoon. We did see a bushpig female and 3-4 half grown piglets.
We dont come from a family of hunters so we had to learn ourelves. I am 12 years older than Zach. I helped him reel in his first fish and sat next to him when he shot his first deer. It just seemed like a crime to drag him all the way to afica and not get to shoot something. I arrainged with Nixon for him to get to shoot a impala and warthog. So day 5 was about getting an impala for him and a Nyala for myself. We finaly got him on some impala. It was very thick and Ishmael set up the sticks 3 times. He actualy shot the wrong one. Also i was not on the right one with the video cam either. Zach says i dont care about either, i got to shoot my first african animal and i drilled him through a little bitty hole at 80 yards.
We never got on a nyala and actually followed some Buff spoor late in the day.
I say lets go Buff hunting boys. Every body smiles. These boys are DG adrenaline junkys for sure. We head for the island. We dont even get to the river when we cut the spoor of 3 bulls. They look over the spoor and talk it over. Ishmael says lets get busy. We have now got or timing down pat and evreyone lines out on the track. Gift says the tracks are from the middle of the night. We track them 4-5 hundred yards and they turn up the ridge. About half way up we found were they had bed down. About 100 yards further on i see Gift stop and feel a pile of dung. He turns and looks back, the huge grin on his face says it all. Game on! We follow them over and down the ridge. They stopped and fed in a little clearing. Actually had a little oh no moment as they turned and started feeding with the wind at there back. Just as quick they made a little circle and started feeding into the wind. We followed them another couple hundred yards. Even i could tell the tracks are as fresh as there going to get. Gift has gotten all birdie up front. The sticks go up. I slide up on the sticks. I can see the outline of a bull but his whole body is covered by small limbs and leaves. I see that it looks clearer down low. I come off the sticks and kneal down. I can see his lower chest through a foot wide hole. Ishmael slides in next to me. Just like i have practiced so many times the last few months, i place the cross hairs on his elbow slide them up 3-4 inches and blow the bottom half of his heart out. He bucks and takes off. Ishmael gives him one for good measure. He diappears into the thick brush. It only takes a few long seconds and a low long death bellow sounds thru the air. We track him up. He is on the ground facing his back trail, i put a solid thru him long ways. He didnt even flinch. Once again the crew errupts into celebration. This bull has a completely different horn confiquration. There thinner but long with deep drops and tips that sweep back. There are a bunch of big dents in his bosses and both his ears are in tatters. He is not as white faced as the first but not far behind.
I actually enjoyed this stalk more as i was more aware of what was happening and i wasnt in disbelief. Zach was exshausted, he said the adrenaline hit him as soon as Gift looked back and continued thru the shot.
In a round about way i asked ishmael why he backed me up on the shot. He basicly said he dosent get to shoot much and needed the practice. Both of his shots were on target and would have anchored the buff had i messed it up.
Last day. We looked for Nayala, bushbuck, kudu or any other large specimen of palins game. The only thing we saw that i wanted to shoot was blue wildebeast. No quota though. Late the evening we found a old Nyala kill. I picked up the skull and totted it back to camp. I teased Ishmael unmercifully in front of Nixon and the other PH in camp with, this is the only Nayala Ishmael could get me.
Zach needed a time lapse of the stars. We went down into the river bed and set up the camera. We sat up by the fire late into the night keeping an eye on the camera. We heard lions roaring, eles trumpiting and hyenas calling from right outside camp. I think i left a little piece of my soul by that fire.