Mozambique and Zimbabwe with Mokore Safaris
As with many trips, planning our latest adventure Mokore Safaris began what seems to be a long time ago. What started as a bull elephant hunt in March evolved in to a two country three week sable, tuskless elephant and trophy buffalo in September. Of course kudu and other plains game were on the menu. Mark Young and Jamie at Adam Clements Safari Trackers were their usual helpful selves taking care of the details. A week prior to leaving I almost cancelled the Mozambique part of the hunt. What a mistake that would have been.
Rifles for the trip are all classic calibers. The three gun battery included the venerable 470 Nitro, 375 H&H, and a 7 by 57. All have been getting the job done for over 100 years. The 470 is a left hand Krieghoff which I previously used to kill a buffalo cow and tuskless elephant with Martin Pieters in 2008. The 375 is a left hand CZ 550 upgraded by American Hunting Rifles. It was the first left hand CZ that Wayne modified. The 7 by 57 has some history. My Dad acquired the barreled action in the early 60s. He passed away in 1985 and my brother kept the rifle until around 2002. I obtained it from him and let it sit around until 2008. I sent it to a local gunsmith where it sat around for a year and half with no work being done. I then picked it up and sent it to American Hunting Rifles where it was restocked, rebarreled, and reworked. I was very pleased with the outcome.
All ammunition was hand loaded by me. Early this year I started testing bullets. It was an interesting learning experience. I know round nose solids have worked for years but I was truly impressed with the flat nose solids especially the North Forks. I even made a change at the last minute for the softs I shot in the 470. My original intent was to use Woodleigh softs but after reading the test results on the North Fork cup points I had some overnighted, checked regulation and velocity in the Double, and ran some penetration tests. Everything was fine.
Final decisions were 500 grain North Fork solids and cup points for the 470 Nitro, 300 grain North Fork softs and Barnes Banded solids for the 375 H&H, and 160 grain Swifts for the Mauser. Some of the reloading was done with a Herter's press and dies my Dad ordered when he bought the Mauser action.
Since 1979 I have hunted alligators on my hunting lease all but two seasons. When we finalized the trip with Mokore safaris at the DSC convention we wanted Neil Duckworth to be our PH. He was available in September so that is when we booked not taking in to account that it could coincide with alligator season. Well of course it nearly did. So four days before we left I started hunting alligators and had 36 tags to fill. The third day we caught one of the biggest alligators I have ever killed. It killed a seven foot alligator on the line the previous day. The monster also pulled the pole the line was tied to out of the ground. We were very fortunate to find the gator, line, and pole all still attached to each other. At the end of the day I was glad to finish without being bit, cut, hooked, or any other bad thing happening that would prevent my trip to Africa.
The big day finally rolls around and Katherine and I enjoy a very non eventful trip to Jo'berg on Delta. The seats were comfortable and in flight entertainment was good. Food was typical airline grub and can always be a little better. The flight crew was excellent. Gracy travel handled the accommodations and everything went as planned. We cleared immigration and customs with no problems and our array of luggage arrived. Africa Sky guest house was nice and much busier than last October. Their food was excellent and the bed comfortable. The next morning we traveled back to Tembo and who sat next to me in the van? It was none other than Ivan Carter. We had conversation about hunting and Interent forums. I met another gentleman from Phoenix that was heading to Zambia. It was his first trip to Africa and he used a local travel agent. He missed his connection the previous night and had no SAPS paperwork or even a place to stay. Chris with Gracy Travel helped him with SAPS paperwork, helped him clear his firearms, and found a place for him to stay. I was very pleased with Gracy's service and it was good to see Chris go the extra step to help somebody who really needed it.
We arrived in Harare via South Africa Air as scheduled. Last year when I flew to Bulawayo, SAA made me remove my ammunition from the luggage and ship it in its locked case. This year they did not even look at the ammo and there were no issues with the weight of the carry on bags. SAA is weighing carry on baggage, however Chris informed them we were going on safari and they said no problem even though we were overweight. Another plus for using Gracy.
Upon arrival in Harare I was expecting somebody from Mokore to meet us at the gate with Zimbabwe gun permits but nobody was there. Katherine calmly filled out the paperwork. We passed through customs and our driver arrived. He was an apprentice PH named Courtney. We loaded the vehicle and began a very interesting journey to Coutada Nine in Mozambique. We cleared immigration at the Zimbabwe Mozambique border with no problems just a short wait. By this time it was becoming dark. No street lights, no lines in the road, many vehicles without tail lights or head lights made the next hour and a half exciting. We stopped in Chimoio and enjoyed a good dinner at a local establishment. We then decided to spend the night in at the Duckworth's plot outside Chimoio, rather than risk death on the Mozambique roads at night.
Tuesday morning we started early and arrived at Mokore Safari's camp at Coutada Nine in about three hours. There we were greeted by Neil and Mr. Barrie Duckworth. The camp is new and very nice. The layout is great with a good view of a water hole to view game. We quickly settled in and loaded on to a Land Cruiser. Neil and I had a conversation about expectations for trophies and follow up shots. My view is simple, I am not hunting inches but I like good mature trophies and as long as I am shooting and not endangering anybody let me shoot. I sighted in the .375 and we went hunting. After riding for about an hour we stopped and had lunch. Cole slaw, beans, and a cut of venison that was better that many forty dollar steaks I have eaten. After a short rest we began to hunt on foot for sable. Neil is a PH that likes to walk if that is what the client wants. In about a mile we crossed a warthog with some nice ivory. Neil asked me if I wanted to shoot him and I answered yes. Up came the rifle and drilled him at about 50 yards offhand. He dropped and put a second one in the spine after we walked up to him. The trackers quartered him and cut the head off for a skull mount. We continued hunting for another 3 to 4 miles. The truck was waiting and we loaded the warthog. We drove for a while viewing the amazing amount of game on the concession. As we headed to camp Neil spotted a very nice sable. After a short stalk I fired the 375 and the sable stumbled then ran. Neil, Eric (tracker) and I followed the sable and found him down about 200 yards away. Neil told me to shoot again, the bullet struck the sable in the shoulder. One final shot at 10 yards and it was over. The sable was very mature and approximately 38" but was not measured.
Bush cook and good guy Charm
A couple of photos of the tent, I wish we had some better photos of the Mozambique camp but we seldom saw it in the daylight.
First animal killed on safari, I think Neil wanted to see how I would shoot.
Killing the sable on the first day took alot of pressure off the hunt.
The next morning we drove a couple of miles away from camp and began walking. After about an hour we ran across a nice oribi. Katherine and Neil stalked to within 50 yards but were unable to get a good shot as the ram was chasing ewes. We completed that walk and were driving to another area when a nice impala was spotted. Katherine and Neil worked their way to within 60 yards. Katherine made a fine shoulder shot and that was all it took. The impala was a fine old ram. At this point I am the subject of ridicule. My wife fired one shot and killed one animal and I fired five to kill two animals and it would only get worse. Later that morning I spotted three kudu bulls and after Neil took a quick look we began a slow and arduous stalk. The kudu were in thick cover and there was little cover where we needed to be. Finally we were close enough with one small alley to shoot through. Neil set up the two legged shooting sticks and I was unable to get in a decent position to shoot left handed which is my natural side. So I made the mistake and shot right handed, hit a branch, hit a small tree, thankfully cleanly missed the kudu, and then hit a rather large tree that stopped the bullet. Now I am up to six shots and killed two animals and three trees. It is amazing how other people find amusement in your pain. Lunch in the field was excellent again. After lunch we began a long walk down a dry river bed. About two hours in the walk we came upon a water hole. After looking for tracks we began to leave when Katherine noticed a warthog on the edge of the water. We thought it was dead until Neil saw its stomach move. I put a 375 round in to it and the trackers drug it out of the mud. Neil radioed the truck which was only about one kilometer away. When the driver arrived with the truck he told us he had just passed a big male lion. Had Katherine not seen the warthog and we kept walking we would have very well stumbled upon the lion while we were on foot. We cut the head off the hog and tied the body to the Cruiser. We drove down the river bed saw the lion and left the warthog. This particular lion had an injured front foot from a gin trap used by poachers. Several other lions in the area have suffered the same fate. Mokore runs a very good anti poaching program but they cannot cover the whole over 200,000 acre concession every day. These lions were brought in from a photographic area to help rebuild the population. This is only one of many initiatives Mokore has started to make this area even better. We took one more walk in the evening on another dry river looking for bushbuck but were unsuccessful.
Katherine and Neil stalking the impala
A very happy huntress with her first African kill.
Near dead hog
Nice ivory, we left it at camp.
Thursday morning started with checking a waterhole for tracks. We found a big lone dugga boy had visited the night before. We continued hunting and came upon a very nice kudu. After a painstaking stalk and having to quell some nervous jitters I fired a very nice high shoulder shot a dropped the kudu in its tracks. I put two more insurance shots in him. We made another long walk for bushbuck but were unsuccessful. We decided to look for the buffalo in hopes of finding him traveling to the waterhole. We spent nearly five hours tracking and looking but were unsuccessful, but our hopes were lifted after finding some very fresh spoor just before dark. It was after dark when we returned to the Land Cruiser. We did see a couple of nyala while looking for the buffalo.
My first Kudu, a little under 55"
Looking for buffalo
This is where my buffalo was living, keep this mind for the follow up
Hunting until sunset and walking back after dark
At our usual 4:30 am wakeup I was ready to go hunting after dreaming of cape buffalo all night. We left camp at 5:30 and excitement turned to disappointment when we could not find any fresh tracks at the water hole. Following a couple of hours riding and looking for tracks we decided to hunt plains game and approach the buffalo from a different direction in the afternoon. We soon crossed a reedbuck, the first shot was decent at about 140 yards but it decided to turn and run. The second shot at the running reedbuck was very near the spine at 170 yards. As we approached him he jumped up and I shot him one final time in a dead run. It was a very mature reedbuck. We walked back to the truck, collected the reedbuck, and headed back to camp. By now the non English speaking tracker has joined in on ribbing me about my shooting as he holds up three fingers for three shots each for the sable, kudu, and reedbuck, and it is going to get worse. This was our first lunch in camp. After eating and taking a short rest we were back on the road in search of buffalo, only without 470 bullets. I left my shell belt with all but three of my 470 rounds at camp. I thought for a second about chancing it with three rounds, after all it only took three for my last animals, but I asked Neil to return to camp. Five minutes later we were back on the road heading to a dry river bed to begin a long walk looking for buffalo. About two hours in to the walk we left the river bed and walked to the last fresh sign we saw the day before. After another several miles we were in the dugga boy's back yard. The tracker and Neil froze in front of me. I looked to the left and there was this big black locomotive staring at us. Neil whispered to shoot the bull dead center. The first shot from the open sight 470 was in the chest about four or five inches off center. He spun around and I fired the second shot too quickly hitting him high in the back. The buffalo ran about 100 yards and turned giving me a quartering shot. I put another 500 grain bullet in his left shoulder. He ran again and my fourth shot missed. He then disappeared in to the long grass. We tracked him for a little less than an hour when Neil spotted him in an open area. Six more insurance shots (We were taking no chances) from the 470 and it was over. Tracking a buffalo in grass that is over four feet tall is nerve racking. We would make loops and pick up the blood trail instead of just following him. We were very fortunate he decided to layup in an open area. My wife followed us through the entire ordeal. I thanked Neil for letting me do all of the shooting and allowing me to work with him on the follow up with many times we were side by side. For you purist out there, all of the buffalo shooting was done offhand with no shooting sticks. It is truly a once in a lifetime buffalo.
First ever reedbuck, a fine old ram and it was just a warm up for the rest of the day.
What else can I say.
Some of the many holes from my 470.
Not sure who is more proud; Neil and Eric for the fine job they did getting me to the buffalo, Mr. Barrie seeing his son become one of the best PH's around, or yours truly for not screwing up and keeping it together on the follow up.
On Saturday the 11th joy turned in to disappointment. We were walking a dry river bed and came across eland tracks. Katherine wanted to hunt it and we all agreed to do so. After tracking and finding the eland Neil got her in place for a good although slightly difficult shot. They were able to place only one shot in the eland and it was bleeding quite a lot. We tracked the eland for the next seven hours and never saw it again. The blood dried up the terrain made it nearly impossible to track and the sun would be setting soon. We began a long walk out. During this long period we never crossed a single road. Hunting Coutada 9 is like stepping back in time. Katherine was very disappointed as we all were. I explained we all lose animals from time to time and that things would go better next time. I would need to remember that little speech soon enough.
Our plans were to transfer on Sunday but instead decided to stay another day and look for the eland. We walked the same dry river bed looking for eland tracks and spotted a bushbuck. We were able to work our way close enough and I dropped it with one shot through the shoulder. I finally had my Chobe Bushbuck. As we were taking photos Eric our tracker found some eland tracks. We followed them for about five minutes. We decided to return to the bushbuck and carry it back to the cruiser. Neil called the car and it met us in the riverbed. We restocked our water and headed out in search of the eland. After a couple of hours of amazing tracking by Eric and Neil, we found the eland. Neil was not sure if it was the same one from the day before as it was about 85 yards away in thick cover. I made the decision to take the chance and shot it once with the H & H. Immediately we began tracking the blood trail and after about 30 minutes we were beginning to flashback to the previous day. This eland however was now dragging its left front leg. Finally we saw it. We ran forward and I shot it again going over a rise. Another two hundred yards away it was on the ground. I put two more 375 rounds in it and it was over. We were unable to find the bullet hole from the day before and concluded this was a different animal. After another long walk we rested in the river bed waiting for the cruiser. It was necessary to cut a long road back to the eland. We then field dressed and loaded it and traveled back to camp. We ate and rested for a few minutes and went looking for a good oribi in the late afternoon. We found one and I shot it with the 7 by 57 at about 125 yards. It ran off and faced us in some thick brush. I shot and missed. We started tracking it and I got four running shots and hit it three times. The first shot was actually very good. Neil jokingly said it was the toughest oribi he had ever seen.
My first bushbuck and a very nice one.
We covered him well prior to the long walk back to the truck.
The oribi ended a very good day of hunting. We worked hard for the bushbuck and eland and they were fun hunts. I used the Mauser on the oribi and it being my Father’s rifle it was special. He left us when he was far too young. He taught me to hunt and trap, right from wrong, and in general how to be a man. Using his rifle was like having a small part of him with me.
A couple of more photos from Coutada Nine
A new African hunter
Mr. Barrie and me discussing the evil of softs and the virtues of solids.
Keep in mind Neil is 6'-6" tall, that was a long snake.
Neil with his new PH rifle or is that Katherine's 7 by 57.
With great sadness we left Coutada 9 on Monday morning and headed to Mokore on the Save Conservancy in Zimbabwe. Coutada 9 is a magical place. For a short period it was stepping back in time. Neil believes they will kill a 62” kudu within the next couple of years and from the number of 55” plus kudu we saw I do believe him.
We quickly settled in at the Mokore camp and went riding to view game on the conservancy. Katherine and I saw our first giraffe in the wild that afternoon.
Early on the morning of the 14th we watched our first black rhino. They are a quite interesting animal. Soon we were tracking elephants and located the herd. A tuskless without a calf was spotted and we moved closer. As she stepped from behind a tree she turned and Neil stopped me from shooting. It was the perfect setup but she had a small tusk that we did not see until she turned. We continued hunting and Katherine wanted to shoot a zebra. Her shot was a little low and it ran off after I missed about a 100 yard follow up shot with the double. We found it soon enough it was quickly dispatched. Katherine was very happy.
The following day saw us in and out of elephant herds but unable to find a tuskless without a calf. Neil spotted a very nice wildebeest and I decided to shoot it. After about 45 minutes of following it on foot a placed what I felt was a good shot with the H & H. Immediately I reloaded and tried to place another shot in it but it was kicking up so much dust we could not see it. In the next instant it was gone I tried a running offhand shot but was unsuccessful. A high spine shot was the problem and to make matters worse it was not bleeding. We never found blood other than where it was on the ground. After hours of searching we gave up. I had to remember the speech I gave Katherine a couple of days before about losing animals. It took until the next day to put it behind me.
Over the next several days we hunted elephants we viewed herds every day and interacted closely with them, but were unable to find a tuskless without a calf. Elephants are truly magnificent animals. We viewed the old copper mine on the property and I also was afforded the privilege to fire Mr. Barrie Duckworth’s 505 Gibbs. It is a great firearm.
Changing a tire in a bad neighborhood. Elephants on two sides.
Mr. Barrie's fine Gibbs rifle.
Sunday the 19th saw us looking for elephants. Neil and the trackers were checking tracks of an eland and walked up the bank of a dry river bed. As I followed them they came running out of the bush so without asking a question I ran back to the cruiser. They bumped in to a buffalo bedded down. We went back but it was gone. As we left the area we saw another PH and his client coming out of the bush from the other side of the river. This client was hunting with a 45-70 handgun and had shot it two days earlier. We thought the buffalo was about 5 or 6 kilometers away but it changed directions and turned out to be the one we bumped in to. We were asked if we would help and of course the answer was yes. Unsure of the etiquette I told Neil to let me know when to shoot, his answer was if I saw it to commence firing. After a couple of kilometers we caught up to it and the other PH put a 375 round in it at about 125 yards. It ran off. Neil and I had been in a flanking position and Neil took off running after the buffalo as he could still see it. I followed closely and was able to put two 470 rounds in it. The handgun hunter caught up and put several more in him and it was over. The first shot from two days prior was a well placed shot the travel somewhat diagonally through about three feet of buffalo and the bullet exited. It was another exciting buffalo follow up and the hunter was very pleased.
The next day I told Neil if we could find an old dugga boy I would take it in lieu of the elephant. We found the tracks of an elephant herd and caught up to it late in the evening. Again, no shootable cows. Right at dusk Neil saw a lone buffalo just pass the elephants. We worked our way around and it turned out to be a dugga girl. A lone cow with no others around it.
By Tuesday I was itching to kill something. I spotted a big duiker from the truck but was unable to get a shot. We then crossed a herd of wildebeest and Neil spotted a nice one. A short stalk, a well placed shot, one insurance shot and it was over. The ice was broken. We then found buffalo tracks crossing the road. Neil felt it was better to comeback in the early afternoon. When we returned later we quickly found the buffalo but the stalk was long and difficult due to the wind and the thickness of the area they were feeding. After working our way to within 75 yards I fired one shot with the 375 H&H. I wanted the scoped rifle to make certain I had a clear shot and place the first shot with precision. The buffalo ran off and we started tracking. There was a pretty good blood trail. Thirty minutes in to the follow up I saw him sticking his head out of some brush. Neil could not see him so I used the old PH method and grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him in to place. Douglas Duckworth is an appy and was filming the hunt. He said he never saw a client do that. Anyway, Neil quickly confirmed it was the same buffalo and I put a 500 grain 470 round through him. He ran off again and I tried a raking shot as he crossed a hill. Now he was bleeding much more and we became more confident. We tracked him to the edge of the Turgwe River and stopped to look at the 10 foot tall reeds in the river bottom. We were making a plan when I moved to the side about 10 feet and saw two legs horizontal about 20 feet away. Neil confirmed it and we crept up to a stone dead buffalo. It was probably the most beautiful sight on the whole safari. I double lunged him with the 375 and the North Fork soft did plenty of damage and the 470 with the cup point penetrated completely through him but those buff are just plain tough. Three buffalo follow ups on one safari, all with a good ending. Katherine was on all three follow ups and handled the situations very well.
I do not know who was happier about finding the dead buffalo.
Note the tall grass in the back, it is where we were headed until the buffalo decided to die.
Wednesday was our last day of hunting and we were back on elephant. I came within whisker of shooting a cow and at the last minute we saw the smallest calf I have ever seen with the cow. It pays to be a good mother. The rest of the day was an easy day looking for a kudu or bushbuck. We saw some nice ones but were not successful.
That night we said our goodbyes and toasted an excellent hunt. Neil started another safari the next morning.
Some other photos from Mokore/Save
Things I learned on this trip and other notes.
My shooting is at about 80 percent of where I would like it. With the scoped 375, I tend to shoot too high on most animals even though I know better. With the 470 I need to refine my sight picture a little more and not just shoot in the center of the black on a buffalo broadside shot as several of my follow up shots were too far back. I should take a little more time between the first and second shots with the double and make the second shot count. I did reload the double very fast without fumbling shells and never pulled the front trigger twice. The Krieghoff safety/cocking device was a non issue as I do not even remember pushing it forward, it was as natural as any other safety. My motto became shoot first, shoot fast, shoot often. It does get cold in Zim, both Katherine and I had to borrow a jacket. We were in good shape for this hunt and it helped as there were many miles walked everyday. All of our trophies were very nice and mature and I feel well earned. All the firearms performed flawlessly. I was a little disappointed in not taking the tuskless but we put in the effort and looked at over 250 elephants. The extra buffalo made up for the tuskless. I do love hunting buffalo.
We brought an Apple Ipad. It was the best non-hunting item we had. We were able to download pictures and write daily to keep up with the report. We also had movies but by the evening we were so worn out from hunting we never did watch one.
On our arrival I noted the driver from Mokore was not there. I actually forgot that was in the report as I wrote about it that day. I want to make certain everybody knows Mokore is a first rate operation. That is by far the worse thing (the only negative actually) that happened on the whole hunt. I would/will hunt with these guys again and would recommend them to anybody.
My 375 CZ will go on a diet. Neil had an old Cogswell and Harrison 375. That is what I want my stock to look like. The AHR reworked CZ fed everything included Barnes banded solids as slick as, well you know what.
The last shot I fired with my 470 caused the night site to fall out. I used it on follow ups because I felt the front blade was too thin. Anyway I will replace it with a 3/32 white bead.
I have some good bullet info. The fired 375 North Fork softs look like they came from a magazine ad. The 470 cup points were mangled pretty good in my big buffalo. They did cause a lot of damage.
Next trip I will have more solids for follow up on the big stuff.
Between sighting in and shooting 16 animals we fired 64 rounds on this trip.
Katherine and I truly enjoyed this safari. Neil Duckworth is the consummate PH. I have been very fortunate as all three of my African safaris have been trips of a lifetime, first in Tanzania with Zayne van der Merwe who coincidentally is very good friends with Neil, the second hunt with Martin Pieters in the Omay, and now this hunt with Neil and Mokore Safaris. We cannot wait to see what next year holds in store.