ZIMBABWE: Leopard/Buffalo/Hippo Hunt with Chifuti Safaris in the Zambezi Valley

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports' started by gxsr-sarge, Apr 18, 2013.

  1. gxsr-sarge

    gxsr-sarge AH Veteran

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    Hello All,

    I recently got back from a 14 day hunt with Chifuti Safaris in their Chewore South and North camps of the Zambezi Valley. I took a nice leopard and buffalo and had time to spare to move to another camp and take a hippo (for which they had few available tags) and do some fishing as well.

    In short, I had an amazing and positive experience from the initial conversations with the US-based booking agents (Safari Classics in Dallas, Tx) all the way through the farewells at the Harere airport in Zimbabwe upon my departure. My PH - Richie Schultz - was a top-notch "professional" hunter in every sense of the word. He was very knowledgeable and a fantastic guy to get along with. The trackers, drivers and camp staff were also very attentive and outstanding. I had the hunt filmed through Safari Classics and the cameraman/field producer, Renz Palermo, was also an invaluable asset on the hunt and a super nice fellow.

    I ended up staying in two camps - first the Chenje camp (South) for the leopard and buffalo and then moved up to Mwanja camp on the Zambezi river (North) for the hippo. Both camps were very well appointed and comfortable. The food was always excellent. Even the "on the road" grub was fantastic.

    No surprises or hidden costs at the end either. Everything is fully set forth up front in their rate table and agreement.

    Can't praise the Safari Classics/Chifuti team enough for giving me an experience of a lifetime. I'm already planning and looking forward to my next hunt with Chifuti - Elephant Bull/Buffalo.
     

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  2. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Congrats, so I take it prebaiting was not a problem. What was the local leopard population like?
     
  3. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    Outstanding! But I'd like a few more of the hunting details, at least on that beautiful leopard!!
     
  4. gxsr-sarge

    gxsr-sarge AH Veteran

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    Hmmm... maybe you saw another thread that I starting asking about the pre-baiting.

    Not at all! On Day 1 we shot three impalas and hung them up. On Day 2 I took two more impala and we hung them up as well. On Day 3, that plan was to check all of the baits in the AM. We checked three of the five baits first thing in the AM and didn't see any hits or leopard spoor (male or female) at the base of the trees. We had a trail cam on each of the five baits. We saw the pics/video from each of the first three baits and saw a bunch of Hyena activity (and some other fauna) but no leopard. On our way to the fourth bait, we came across some dugaboy tracks and followed them for about 3 hours until the spoor got mixed up/crossed with an elephant herd. We gave up on that dugaboy in order to check the last two baits - AND THANK GOODNESS WE DID.

    There was nothing on bait #4 but on bait #5 - BINGO! It was 2:30 in the PM when we checked #5 and found that the bait had been hit (the rump of the impala was nicely chewed away) and found nice prints at the base. As soon as we were comfortable that the cat was not in the tree, we went down and checked the trail cam and saw a nice photo and video of the Tom from that morning (see attached pic). The cat got out of the tree at 7AM. He got in at about 10PM but didn't eat much throughout the night. We rushed to set up a blind. Richie had a pop-up blind that we "adorned" with local bush. We set the rifle up in a stand, put some stools in and hauled butt out of there. The shot was across a dry river bed to a tree on the other side (see pic). It was a 77 yard relatively level shot. Since both the hide and the bait tree were somewhat elevated, we didn't have to do a lot of brush clearing in order to get a decent shooting lane. If you expand the attached pic, you can see the branch with the impala bait underneath (covered with dried branches).

    We bugged out of the area/blind at about 3:00 PM after marking the path into the hide with TP (in case we had to return in the AM) and drove up the road for about 1 K. We organized ourselves and walked quietly back into the blind. We got in at about 3:30 PM. What followed was a loooooonnnnnggggg 2 1/2 hours. At about 6:00 PM an elephant cow decided to visit our tree. We thought the day was done. She left at about 6:10 and then at about 6:20 I heard Richie (my PH) say "He's at the base of the tree". Boy my heart started pounding!! I couldn't get on my scope because I was bent down while Richie was behind me glassing the cat in order to make sure that he was a male. I just focused on the job at hand and returned to "calmness". Light was also starting to become an issue! The cat got up into the tree and onto the branch and at last Richie told me to get into position to take the shot. As soon as I first looked through the scope to see the leopard, the Tom decided to bend over and have at the bait. He was, of course, in the 100% wrong position that we had planned AND was slightly behind a branch that was covering the bait as he was bent over eating. I had to wait until he got back up in order to get a shot. Light was really fading fast but I still had a good view of the cat through my Swarovski Z6 with the illum reticle (which I got just in case this was going to be the scenario....). He FINALLY sat up and presented with a full frontal shot (maybe a few degrees off center). It was 6:22 PM and there was maybe 3-4 minutes left of shootable light. The camera barely picked up the shot. I let the 300 grain Barnes X go out of my 375 HH and he fell out of the tree trying to run in mid-air. We heard some leaves/branches rustling for a moment or two then complete silence. No growling or grunting. We exited the blind, gathered our rifles and lights and put on our jackets and went down to see if he was "dead under the tree". HE WASN'T!! S**T!!!! Richie then started asking me how I felt about the shot and I told him I squeezed it off and hit him dead center of the chest. I felt 100% about the shot. We saw the video as well and it confirmed that I hit him dead center. The problem was that the blood trail indicated that the cat went up the opposite embankment into A WALL OF THE THICKEST BUSH YOU CAN IMAGINE. We called in another PH in the area to help out with the follow up. I could tell that Richie was very nervous about the follow up despite having seen that the shot was well placed. Hyena were all over the place (already calling, in fact) so leaving the probably-dead cat out for the night was not a great option. So we kitted up again (this time, we duct-taped our lights to our rifle barrels - like "tactical hunting rifles" - LOL), debriefed and discussed proper the proper protocol in case the cat jumps one of us (like "make sure you bend down and shot up at the cat - not down into me.... kind of speech) and went down with the larger group. We got down onto the river bed and then inched our way into the thick bush after having to climb a very steep wall of sand. After we got onto the ledge and then about 10-15 minutes later (but what seemed like an eternity!!!), I heard the most relief-inspiring words ever from my PH .... "THERE HE IS". He was a mere 10-15 yards from the edge of the embankment and very dead. After being in complete aw of the beautiful Tom that lay before me and hand shakes all around, we removed the cat for a better spot for pics and then back to camp.

    Sorry for the long answer but I figured I'd add some detail to the actual experience....

    So my take is that we didn't have to pre-bait before my arrival as a nice leopard hit the bait the first night it was hung (on Day 3 of the hunt). I'm pretty sure that a large part was due to great luck and good fortune. I know another hunter who took three safaris to get his cat. I was blessed enough to get it in Day 3 in my first sitting in the blind. The next day (Day 4) was spend mostly taking down the baits (now hyena bait) and collection the trail cams. The footage/pics showed that the night I took the tom, three females had hit some of the other baits. So I suppose that the leopard population was OK (and hungry) in that area during the early season.
     

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  5. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for the juicy details, great write up....excellent. The hunt sounds really exciting.
     
  6. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    +1, well done sarge!
     
  7. Cliffy

    Cliffy AH Elite

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    Very well done write up THANKS!
     
  8. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    I am never sure why anyone apologizes for being "long" in the story department.
    Reading the stories and being there on the hunt is a huge part of the forum.

    You held my attention all the way. Do continue, if you feel inclined.


    Thanks for sharing some of the details.
     
  9. spike.t

    spike.t GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    :agree:
     
  10. bluey

    bluey GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    congratulations sarge
    you are one lucky bloke
    thanks for sharing your memories with us
    great write up( not long enough )
    very nice buffalo
     
  11. messmate

    messmate AH Veteran

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    Good hunt on the leopard, nice write up.....& that buff is a ripper.
    Just wondering would you rather hunt buffalo or another leopard if you had the opportunity.
     
  12. gxsr-sarge

    gxsr-sarge AH Veteran

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    Here is the Buffalo write up:


    We drove out at 5:45 AM to start looking for buffalo tracks. We came across the tracks of a herd that had crossed the road at about 7AM. We geared up and headed towards the tracks. I didn't realize how difficult it would be on many fronts. First, it was very difficult to even see them! The bush was so incredibly thick that you could barely make out a horn tip, tail wag, etc. The incredible thing is that there was about 40-50 of them. You could clearly hear them snorting, etc but couldn't see ANYTHING! The first time we caught up to them (after about 45 min), I guess they winded us and they ran off. The other difficulty was the terrain. Since we were literally on their tracks, we would go up and down steep hills, through and under very thick brush. It was like forging through the jungle! It was also very hot reaching up to 96 degrees. Another tough part was making sure that the wind was in our face or at least 90 degrees. They could smell us easily so we had to keep the wind advantage. So we constantly had to make corrections to our approach in order to make sure that the wind was in our favor. This created more walking distance. At various points, we'd catch up to the heard and you could barely make out the buffalo. Richie would set up the sticks when he saw something but it was really tough to properly gauge the quality of the bull let alone take a shot. Towards the end, we were actually walking parallel to the herd as they walked and fed. We were stalking and walking. But we kind of lost them as they moved forward in the thick jess? I was able to see a bit more of the heard as they crossed in front of us sort of at an angle. I even saw a little baby buffalo. It came to the point where we were kind of perpendicular to them. Richie and Tuondi (the tracker) ID'd a nice bull walking. Richie got me on the sticks and I looked through my scope. It was at 1.7X (the lowest setting) on the scope. I saw the bull but he was behind a tree. He was broadside but looking directly towards us. His vitals were behind tree but his neck/head were sticking out. Richie was to my right and he could have taken a shot but I couldn't. The bull was looking straight at us. He wasn't sure what we were as he couldn't smell us. The bull took one step forward, exposed his vital area and BAM, the shot went off right away. I hit him hard. The bull buckled and looked as if he stumbled and then got up and ran. He actually ran about 10-15 yards and fell. We very sloooooowly approached it (he was hard to find) fearing a charge. As we were getting close to it (before spotting it), I heard the death bellow. Nice sound. It was about 11:30AM at that point. We finally came up onto the bull. It was lying down but still moving it's legs. It was obviously dying. Rich instructed me to put in a few more insurance shots and I did. Now it was 120% dead. Wow what a feeling! Just touching it's horns was magnificent. I took a few snapshots with my point and shoot as it lay? We moved it into photo position before rigor set it. I and Richie each both took a GPS spot and walked to the nearest road which was about .2 miles away. We waited on the road for the driver to bring the truck. Now we needed to cut a recovery road back to the buffalo. That took about 3 hours of hacking away with axes and machetes. Me included. My shins were bloodied after that. We finally got to the buffalo and took a ton of pics with the full size camera. Loading the 1500# animal into the truck was also a mission. With the aid of a winch and four of us, we had to lift the butt up with a tree trunk just up to the bumper to be able to get him in. We finally loaded him and off to the camp. We got back to the camp where we off loaded the buffalo. I watched them start skinning it. I stepped away to have lunch and talk about the hunt with another visiting hunter from a nearby Chifuti camp (which happened to be the CEO of Ruger who was "hard at work" testing a new 375 Ruger. He was a very very nice fellow!). I revisited the skinning shed and got a few bullets that they recovered.

    This was truly an addicting experience! I've always heard that you get addicted to hunting buffalo and now I know why. The Leopard hunt was unique in its own way but I would much rather repeat the buffalo hunt (numerous times) that the kitty cat hunt.
     
  13. gxsr-sarge

    gxsr-sarge AH Veteran

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    Definitely the buffalo!! Completely different types of hunting. Leopard is obviously much more a game of chess - I was very lucky to "check mate" him fairly quickly. I love the physical challenge of the stalk and approach of the buffalo.
     
  14. Buff-Buster

    Buff-Buster GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Congrat's Sarge on a great hunt!!!!! Now tell us the Hippo story!
     
  15. messmate

    messmate AH Veteran

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    I'm a little envious....I'd love to have a crack at leopard but we cannot bring them into Australia and if I was lucky enough to get one I couldn't stand the thought of leaving him in Africa, as I would have to do.
    As for buffalo, I know what you mean...had a great hunt in 2012 & fear I have been afflicted with nyati virous....a great bug. Hope you get back.
    Cheers
     
  16. classicsafari

    classicsafari AH Enthusiast

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    Congrats on your successful Safari.
    Who was the other PH on the Leopard follow up?
    A good friend of mine hunted with Ritchie last season in the neighbouring block and enjoyed his time with him and his team.
    Love that Chewore area, both north and south.
    Did you get lucky on Hyena?
     
  17. gxsr-sarge

    gxsr-sarge AH Veteran

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    The other PH was Clint (don't remember his last name). Another great fellow (they all are!).

    We struck out on the Hyena having been in a bush blind at least 3 times. On two occasions we were definitely "made" by the hyena (on one of those two, he came in from the direction of our blind instead of the bait). We had plenty of bait from the impala/leopard bait, buffalo and the hippo and were expecting the entire den to show up for the party. On that last sitting, unfortunately, the vultures found the nice "rack of hippo ribs" that we had left earlier in the day and literally picked them so clean that they were white! We put the ribs under a huge fallen tree that was under a live tree and thought that the vultures wouldn't see it. Lesson learned! There was nothing left for the hyena. I should have shot a few vultures! I'll never forget the image of a vulture popping out of the hippo's rib cage! The trail cam showed that no-one showed up throughout the night. It gives me another objective for my next hunt! Does anyone have a vulture trophy?
     
  18. PaulT

    PaulT AH Fanatic

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    Sarge,

    congrats on your successful hunt and thank-you for sharing this positive experience.
    Great shooting, well done.

    May you have many more.

    Cheers,

    Paul.
     
  19. Heym 88

    Heym 88 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    Thanks for the post. I am planning a hunt with Chifuti as well for buffalo. I have a few questions I'll send ya PM if I can. Thanks again.
     
  20. buckcurtin

    buckcurtin AH Senior Member

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    Hunted with Richie 3 years ago for Buff and Tuskless, had a great time. He is a first rate PH with a great team! Couldn't have asked for a better experience.
     

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