ZIMBABWE: Nyamazana Hunt March/April 2014

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports' started by Wheels, Apr 23, 2014.

  1. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania
    :rolleyes:A Tale of Two Indlovu and an Ingwe

    It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
    It was a time of good shooting, it was a time of poor shooting.
    It was a time of jubilation, it was a time of great sorrow.
    It was a time of an elephant dead in its tracks, it was a time of a wounded bull eating up kilometer after kilometer of bush.
    It was a time of fulfilled dreams, it was a time of backdated USFW regulations.
    It was a time of great surprise, it was a time of partially rescinded USFW regulations!
    (Apologies to Charles Dickens)

    An elephant hunt has been at the top of my hunting list since tagging along with my father in Tanzania on elephant hunts as a boy.

    The higher priorities of marriage, raising a family, business, finances, life, etc. has kept hunting in Africa on the back burner for me until the last few years. As 2012 was closing an elephant hunt was still a few years out on my horizon. With the announcements of Botswana and Zambia, I decided to look more closely at an elephant hunt. I checked out elephant hunting reports on multiple forums. Looked at outfitters websites and price lists, visited with the elephant outfitters and agents at DSC and pm successful elephant hunters. Price was a significant factor in my decision.

    Having read the books by and about Bell, Southerland, Neumann, Taylor, Johnson, Rushby, Harlan, Nyschens, Foran, etc. I wanted to pattern my hunt after their hunts. In my research, their Africa and the Africa of my youth either no longer existed or no longer exists at a price point I am comfortable with.

    Nyamazana Safaris and Wayne Van Den Bergh eventually rose to the top of my list. Wayne's hunting reports were all good as were his references. At DSC 2013 I ran into an acquaintance that had a good elephant hunt with Wayne the year previous. By March 2013 my due diligence was completed and I booked a hunt for March 24-April 8 2014. This would allow us to hunt both the resident elephants in his concessions as well as others that would be coming in to raid the ripening crops in the Rural District Councils (RDC). Wayne has multiple RDC's with camps south and east of Hwange NP.

    http://www.africahunting.com/great-...nt-bull-hunts-reduced-rate-2013-zimbabwe.html

    The areas Wayne hunts did not have elephant 10 years ago and elephant were only hunted as PAC elephants until Wayne took over the areas as recently as 3-5 years ago. The burgeoning population has pushed elephants further and further out from Hwange. So much for USFW's knowlege of the elephant situation in Zimbabwe.

    Wayne has drilled multiple boreholes in these RDC's that tend to hold elephant in the concession. Scouting waterholes along with driving the roads and looking for tracks would allow us to cut a trail and follow up. If this was not possible we would hunt the maize and melon fields.

    As the hunt approached I kept reading reports about the heavy rainfall in western Zimbabwe. In communications with Wayne, he said it was the heaviest rainfall in the area in the last 20 years. The elephants had no need of the boreholes, there was an abundance of wild food and fruits and the elephant were just wondering through his concessions or raiding crops and going back towards Hwange or Forestry. The rain would change the complexion of the hunt and we may have to try to catch elephants in the fields or ambush them as the traversed the RDC's. With hard work we should have success.

    My rifles for this hunt were a WJ Jeffery in 404J and a CZ550 in 375H&H.

    Lori Ginn with Travel Express handled the travel and made a couple of adjustments as the airlines changed flight times. Lori booked me in a economy comfort? The extra 10cm is well worth the $125 from Hartsfield to Tambo IMHO. That works out to less than $8 per hour for a lower degree of misery. Lori also got my seat immediately behind the bulkhead with plenty of room on both legs of the Tambo/Bulawayo flight for free. She will be getting more business from me in the future.

    On the outbound leg I stayed at Afton House and let them clear the rifles through SAP. Waking up to the call of the Collared Cape Turtle Dove let me know I was back in Africa.

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    The flight to Bulawayo was uneventful. It was a pleasant surprise to enter the new terminal (instead of the old hanger) that was opened earlier this year. Wayne met me and we ran a couple of errands before heading out to camp.

    Prior to booking the hunt Wayne had told me this would be an elephant hunt with not much of a chance for other animals. Being RDC land most of the plains game are long gone. On the way to camp Wayne said if we get a trophy elephant early we could try for a PAC (Problem Animal Control) elephant, croc or hyena. Wayne had a lion permit and a large male had periodically come into the RDC for two years and taken cattle. I told him I would drop everything if we had an opportunity to get the lion. During my stay the large lion never came into the RDC. A young male came in and was seen by another PH for five minutes and on another occasion four lions crossed through the RDC but no cattle were taken that would hold them in the concession. Wayne said it would be a long shot to try to bait them and thought it best to focus on the elephant(s). I decided to hunt two elephants. A leopard had taken a donkey close to camp two weeks prior to my arrival and could be a target of opportunity if time permitted.

    While driving to camp on the Vic Falls road Wayne noticed some small fires by maize fields. He said those were farmer's attempts to keep the elephant away. We drove through a short section of Forestry to a RDC of Wayne's that we weren't planning to hunt and saw where the elephant raiders had walked down the boundary road between Wayne's concession and Forestry. We checked a borehole near the road but it hadn't been used. We then proceeded another hour to camp.

    As we rolled into the Lupane Camp it was heartening to see elephant skulls propped strategically about. Camp was comfortable and the friendly staff came out to greet us.

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    The first morning we were up, had breakfast and were on the road prior to the sun. The morning was spent driving the roads throughout the concession and checking boreholes for elephant tracks. All activity showed elephants crossing through or leaving the concession. We also checked in with some of the small farmers whose crops had been raided the previous night. Some of the fields were devastated. One field had elephant present almost every night for two straight weeks. Wayne said since there were no elephants in the RDC today we should break for a long lunch and start hunting in the late afternoon.

    Since we were also hunting a PAC bull we should spend tonight near the field that had been hammered by the elephants and prepare to catch them in the act. This would also give the farmers some relief and let them know we were trying to do something about their predicament.

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    Side note: Wayne has got to be one of the most popular people in the area. It seemed like everyone had his phone number. Anytime elephants raided a field he would get a phone call either during the act or the next morning if the act happened at night wanting him to bring a hunter over to shoot them. The elephants were all 貔アig bulls according to the phone calls even if the tracks turned out to be only 15? Some of these calls would come from locations two hours away and were not practical to follow up on.

    Side note: The elephants that raid the farms are all bulls. The cows and matriarchal herds don't venture into the RDC's very often. During my time with Wayne, no cows were ever seen nor was there any evidence of them being in the concession.

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    Some crop damage

    After a long lunch we spent the afternoon rechecking the roads and boreholes. There was no new spoor since the morning. We made our way over to the field and set up for the night. We cooked dinner at the farmer's kraal. (corral for those of us that speak American) The trackers would stay in the fields listening for elephants to come in. Two trackers would go out at a time and they would rotate on an hourly basis. After a few hours, conversation died down and people started dozing off. I was jetlagged and slept fitfully in my camp chair. Later I was told by the trackers that they mistook my snoring for an elephant slipping up on them in the dark. I presume this was a polite way of saying I was keeping them awake.

    It is amazing how quickly one can wake up when you are gently shaken and the word elephant is whispered in your ear. We quickly assembled and rechecked that the rifles were loaded. I was using the 375 that has a Leupold Fire Dot. (The 404 has a Lyman peep. With aging eyes I don't feel comfortable trying to focus on three focal plains at night.)

    We walked about 100 yards to get to the field and slowly worked our way forward. The noise of the feeding elephants slowly raised in volume as we made our way deeper into the field. Wayne said there were four elephant. One to our left and three bunched to our right.

    Side note: This field is about 400 yards from a river that is a boundary to the concession. I have agreed that Wayne will back me up when we are close to a boundary. I would much rather have an elephant down than suffering.

    Side note: I have spent hours studying still photos of shot placement on elephants. I have also watched and rewatched Buzz Carlton's video on shot placement on elephants. (Highly recommended) Wayne recommends his hunters use a heart/lung shot which is much more forgiving but he will let the hunter choose his shot. In practice I shot (more dollars of ammo than I care for my wife to know) offhand at a 4 circle to 50 yards and spent countless hours dry firing snap shots and felt very comfortable taking a brain shot.

    As we worked our way closer to the elephants the less confident I felt in taking a brain shot at night. Especially since the lights would come on and I would have only a moment to line up and fire. We worked our way to 15 yards from the elephant on the left and to 25 yards from the group of three. The elephant on our left was a small teenager. The ones on the right were full grown and we were hoping they would move causing separation. The noise at that range was very loud as they tore up corn stalks and their stomachs rumbled. They certainly weren't raised by my mother eating with their mouths open. All at once everything went quiet. Evidently a smell or slight noise had alerted them. Nothing moved for a minute. Then all four elephants started feeding again in unison. We continued to wait for the three elephants to separate and five minutes later the elephants went quiet, bunched up and took off. They had evidently caught our sent.

    While in the field in the dark with the elephants I had time to ponder what I was doing there. It is certainly an adrenalin rush. By the time we got back to camp it was 3am and the wakeup call would come at 5. Sleep came quickly but was way too short.

    The next few days were all different but followed much the same pattern. Hunt all day then hunt all night. Some days we would see elephants and sometimes we wouldn't. We always saw sign but most elephants didn't want to spend the day in the RDC. One day while driving by a kraal we were waived down. This was the location where a donkey had been taken two weeks prior to my arrival. Evidently a leopard had come in during the night and had attacked a calf. The family dogs had tried to chase it away and one of the dogs had been killed and dragged away. The calf had been bitten in the neck. The spinal cord was intact but it seemed the bones had been broken with the neck bent at a near 90 degree angle. The farmer was determined to nurse it to health. Wayne said if it died he would be happy to come and dispose of it by using it as bait.

    Wayne's right had man is Sam who has over 150 successful leopard hunts under his belt. I asked him if he could tell the length of the cat from the track. He said it would be between 6? and 7? His accuracy would prove uncanny.

    Once we got within 40 yards of an extremely big bodied bull before he sensed us. Wayne said he weighed five tons and his worn tusks were around 50 pounds. The elephant wouldn't give us a good shot and took off. He quartered slightly to look back at us giving an angling chest shot but I didn't feel comfortable and let him go. This would turn out to be the largest bull in both body and ivory I saw on the hunt.

    One thing I had noticed in the hunting reports and conversations with the people who had hunted with Wayne was how many had taken their bull within the first four days. By the time the sixth day of my hunt came around I was glad I had booked for 14 days instead of 10 and was wondering why I had chosen the rainiest year of the last 20 to hunt.

    One evening we decided to set up for a night hunt and try to catch the elephants coming in from the river to the crops. We set up 25 yards from the main trail which put us 6 yards from a subsidiary trail that wasn't used much. Wayne said if the elephants chose to come on the closer trail as soon as the lights came on I had better shoot for the brain fast. He would assess the situation and wait for only a split second before firing a brain shot. Needless to say none of us dozed that night. An elephant came in from a different direction and sounded like he was a couple hundred yards away. Another group came in from another direction and as we were trying to work our way into position on the single bull and they all spooked.

    After an unfruitful morning hunt, we left camp after a long lunch break to start driving the roads and checking the boreholes for tracks. While driving through a developed area we heard villagers cracking whips and yelling. They had just driven elephant from their fields. We found the tracks and started following. After a few hundred yards they got on an elephant trail and Wayne stopped and said he knew where they were going and we needed to drive around and ambush them. We went back to the Land Cruiser and took off. I never saw wings on the bakkie but we were air born more than on the ground.

    We made it to a boundary road between Wayne's concession and Forestry and parked 200 yards from where the trail crossed the road. We walked to the trail and made our way 200 yards up the trail then backed off downwind 15 yards. Thirty minutes later we heard branches breaking as the elephants were making their way towards us. Six bulls were walking in file left to right with the largest in front. When he cleared a bush at 18 yards he was slightly angling towards me. A heart shot would have to go through the front leg. At my shot Wayne also shot. The elephant turned into us but not straight on and I fired for the brain. He continued to spin towards his right. So much for all my practice on brain shots. The third shot caught him behind the left shoulder and he continued to spin. The fourth shot was a raking shot on his right side and he was down. A final coup de grace and both the fastest and longest 15 seconds of my life were over. Shooting an elephant was a somber and sobering experience.

    After aiming on the bulls shoulder I was in complete focus. I couldn't tell you where the other elephants went. They were completely out of my sight and mind. Wayne obviously kept track of them in case they came our way but I don't remember a thing about them. My abilities as an ivory hunter 100 years ago are now suspect.

    I was physically exhausted after five days with two to three hours of sleep at night plus an hour or so at lunch. While I was completely wired from taking the elephant I went to sleep quickly and slept soundly.

    The next morning we went out to take photos and start the butchering process. While examining the elephant Wayne said my attempted brain shot may have broken a tusk. It would be a long 4 days till the tusks were pulled.

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    Where my bullet grazed the tusk.

    The butchering process was an all-day affair with scores of people showing up with sacks or donkey driven carts. Everything including the bones and tripe were taken. Stomach and intestinal contents were all that was left and the hundreds of dung beetles were doing a sterling job on the intestinal contents. Wayne's crew dug a hole, scraped the blood soaked ground and stomach contents into the hole and buried them.

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    During breaks in the butchering process I took out time to shoot some doves. I also took other opportunities to hunt birds throughout the trip. It was later that I realized I had taken possibly the smallest game bird and the largest game animal within a 24 hour period. There are five types of doves in this area.

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    There are five types of doves in the area. I will try to find photos of the others.

    By this time the farmer whose calf had been attacked had given up on him. We went over and picked him up, drug the roads and hung him as leopard bait. Rains the next two days probably washed the scent away. The leopard never came to the bait.

    We had taken a boned femur from the elephant to a pan 300 yards from camp as hyena bait. We heard hyenas periodically and tried to hunt them without success.

    The day after recovering the elephant was spent back hunting elephants with no sightings. That evening we went back to the area that was being constantly raided by the elephants. This area was no more than 200 acres and the farmers were amazingly patient with our attempts to shoot one.

    Side Note: The people throughout the concession though they were subsistence farmers and had little were extremely generous. Almost every time we stopped near a kraal the people would bring us melons, sugarcane or roasting ears. A stranger would not go hungry here.

    While dozing in my camp chair sometime in the early morning hours I was again wakened with the news that elephants were in the maize. We gathered together and entered the field.

    Walking into an African night. The Milky Way stretching across the heavens. The Southern Cross on one horizon. The Big Dipper spilling out its contents low on the other horizon. Swaying backs rising above the distant tree line. Listening to an elephant feeding symphony. Is truly a magical and awe inspiring experience.

    Slowly we made our way towards the elephants. The largest was on our left while three others were on our right. We moved to 35 yards of the elephant on our left and Wayne ordered the mag lights to be turned on. Graham was on my left and held the light for me. Wayne was on my right with Sam to his right holding his light. Cowboy and Dumi were behind us and would follow the other elephants with lights to make sure they didn't come our way. When the light was turned on the elephant which was facing left immediately turned right and started moving at speed. I shot for the shoulder. Wayne followed up with a shot. The elephant continued but slightly quartered away from us. I stepped forward to clear Wayne which put Graham's light behind me instead of to my side. The glare in my scope cost me a couple of seconds. When Graham repositioned to my side I took a quick shot before the elephant went into a lower portion of the field which was obstructed by the corn. We reacquired the elephant as it was leaving the field but weren't positive if it was our elephant or another. We also weren't sure if our elephant had dropped in an area we couldn't see so held our fire. Wayne had also hit the elephant with a second round while I was fumbling with the glare in my scope.

    The elephants tore through the log and thorn cattle fence and were gone. Ten seconds later we heard a loud crack as a tree shattered. Our initial thought was that the elephant had collapsed on a tree splintering it. As we followed up we found that was not to be. There was a small blood trail but nothing giving us a large degree of hope. We followed the trail for a kilometer and thought it best to wait for daylight. We drove back to camp for a futile attempt at a couple hours of sleep.

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    9" tree broken by elephant

    I was completely in the doldrums. The elephant was moving but how could I have missed a heart/lung target the size of a dinette table at 35 yards? It has been decades since I have wounded and lost an animal. Why could it be an elephant of all things that might break that string? The minutes ticked slowly away as I waited for light and a hope at redemption.

    Coffee and rusks were eaten in silence as Wayne outlined the plan of action. A single elephant's tracks are spotted on the road a few miles from camp. The trackers all said they recognized the tract and it was the same bull. It had left Wayne's concession and headed into Forestry. Wayne called the Forestry people and explained the situation. He said we were 99 percent sure we would need a game scout from them but needed to make sure. Wayne drove to a road about midway between where we left the tracks the night before and the boundary road and found the elephant tracks. He sent two trackers in each direction to verify it was the same elephant. It was.

    It now took an hour to get to the Forestry offices to pick up a game scout. An hour later we were back at the spot where the elephant went into Forestry and the stalk commenced. The elephant had two oddly shaped toenails on its right rear foot. Wayne pointed out the track and called the bull the floppy eared rabbit.

    Graham and Cowboy took up the spoor. The sun was out and the day was heating up quickly. I wasn't hurting as I carried my rifle but I wondered if prudence would be to let one of the trackers carry it for me. Pride prevented me from asking. An hour into the march Dumi asked if he could carry the rifle for me. Well since you asked? I handed it to him. We were breaking brush and following the track at a speed I would estimate at 2.75-3 miles per hour. Other elephant tracks would crisscross ours and would have to be sorted out but never for more than a minute or two. An hour and a half into the stalk Wayne turned around and asked how I was doing. I said good. He asked if I was sure because this was going to be a long day. I said I was fine and we continued on. At one point we came to a pan and it took all six trackers about 15 minutes to sort things out. This break was welcome and it was nice to see Wayne take a rest as well.

    The landscape and brush opened up and continued to change as time marched on. At one point Graham climbed a tree and immediately spotted an elephant at 600 yards. Dumi hands me my rifle. We leave the spoor and take off after the elephant. One hundred yards into the stalk we heard a diesel engine. We walked up to the first road we had seen since beginning our stalk and hear comes a 40 year old Massey Ferguson pulling a grader. The road doesn't look like it has had any traffic in the last month. What are the odds? The guys go and stop the tractor and tell them what is going on and ask them to take a break for a while. We continue on 100 yards and the tractor starts back up and keeps going. Who says that government employees don't work? We can't see the elephant from here but hope the tractor hasn't spooked it.

    As we get closer the elephant is still there standing under a tree. We work our way downwind to 40 yards. The elephant is facing to our left. We can see no wounds and wait for it to move. After a time it turns and Wayne and Graham examine its right side through binoculars. There is no blood but Wayne can see three places that could be wounds all high on its right side that have been packed with sand. Wayne is 99 percent sure this is the bull. What of the other one percent? What happens if we shoot a wrong bull in Forestry? What will the costs and penalties be? Neither Wayne nor myself are sure. We wait for the elephant to move off so we can see its tracks.

    In the last hour clouds have sprung up lowering the temperature 15 degrees F. This has been a welcome relief. Now the clouds decide to dump their contents on us. It is pouring. We seek refuge under a tree for five minutes. I have brought my I phone since it is lighter than my camera and takes good pictures. Now I am soaked from head to toe and I know the phone will be ruined. Why didn't I buy the insurance plan? We decide we can't wait any longer and have to head out after the bull. The rain is obscuring tracks. How are we able to spend all day tracking an elephant to get this close and now we are starting to lose it?

    The guys are having a harder and harder time of staying on the correct spoor. It has been 45 minutes since we have last seen the elephant and we are losing him. We continue moving in the same direction and after coming out from behind bush we see the elephant to our right at 200 yards. The wind is still strong from the rain storm and as we move 25 yards towards the elephant its trunk goes up and it takes off.

    Our speed increases immediately. The wet brush muffles our sounds as we quickly try to stay with the elephant. The elephant moves so he is downwind of us and we try to angle off to the side. After five minutes the bull has gained another 100 yards on us and the wind changes taking our smell to him.

    In my exercise program leading up to the hunt I have lost some weight and am using the last hole on my belt. It is too loose. I also have two ammo slides on my belt. With all the wet clothes my pants want to slide down. Every few yards I have to hike them back up.

    We push on trying to get at an angle to the wind. Five more minutes pass and the bull has gained another hundred yards. I turn around and hand the rifle to Cowboy. He takes it looking at me like è¨æ®ªu豎 e the one who is supposed to shoot not me? All pride is gone.

    Graham is in the lead followed by Wayne then myself. I feel like an Olympic speed walker as a ten yard gap forms between Wayne and myself. I have already told Wayne if I can't keep up to shoot the bull himself. Another five minutes go by and another 100 yards is lost to the bull that is only occasionally visible through the brush.

    Graham and Wayne are slowed by a thicket of 蜉ェait a bit thorns. I plow through the thorns as they rip through my clothes and skin. I will live with the pain. This gives me the opportunity to catch up and I am thankful.
    Five more minutes go by and the bull is out of my sight but we keep forging ahead. Gratefully we have to work our way through two more thickets of 蜉ェait a bit and I am able to catch up. (Three plus weeks later I am still working the broken tips of the thorns out of my thighs, abdomen, arms and hands)

    Side note: This is the first African hunt I have been on since my MD put me on aspirin therapy. I bled easily and freely. If you are going on an African hunt and taking aspirin you might ask your doctor if it is safe for you to go off of it while you are hunting. It seems everything in Africa breaks the skin and you will bleed.

    With the elephant out of sight I am focused on Wayne's back and trying to make sure I keep my wet pants up and don't trip as we step over fallen limbs. I notice I am staying up. Have I caught my second wind? No, the pace has slowed. Have we lost the elephant? Everyone's eyes are in the same direction as I am the only one oblivious to the elephant standing under a tree 200 yards away. The elephant is obviously sick or there is no way we would have caught up with him. Cowboy hands my rifle back.

    We slowly make our way forward to 40 yards. The elephant's vitals are obscured by the tree trunk. With rifles shouldered, Wayne and I are ready. How long will it take for it to move? As my arms tire and I lower my rifle it takes a step out from behind the tree. Shouldering my rifle I fire. Wayne and I both fire three times and the bull is down.

    With mixed emotions I approach the bull. The elephant certainly didn't deserve the last 15 hours. I am grateful that he is down but saddened by my poor performance. We see that my initial shot was high and over the vitals. My second shot was through the head and later found in the offside cheek. Thinking back my mistake was shooting over the maize instead of through the scattered stalks.

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    Woodleigh hydro-solid recovered from the night before. Tip is plastic to allow feeding.

    About an hour of sunlight remains as we take a handful of photos and make our way to the nearest road where Sam will pick us up. Wayne also has handed his rifle and binoculars to a tracker. It is nice to know that Iéï½¥ not the only one pooped out. According to Wayne's GPS it is 25k in a straight line from where the elephant was initially shot to where it lay. It certainly didn't travel in a straight line. Any estimates at an actual distance would only be a guess.

    All of us that have hunted Africa and made a less than perfect shot will give acclaim to the tracker who follows up and allows us to redeem our mistake. Some may say èªç†”w difficult is it to follow a 4 ton animal? In my opinion depending on conditions, it can be extremely difficult. My hats off to Nyani,(the Lupane RDC scout) Meshach,(the Forestry scout)and Wayne's staff of Swanini, Dumi, and especially Graham and Cowboy. (Sam was tasked with the Land Cruiser and picking us up or his name would be here also) I am a rank amateur when it comes to tracking. My best performances come with a blood trail in fresh snow. In my limited experience however, Graham and Cowboy certainly have to rate among the best.

    It was a couple hours after dark when we made it back to camp. I had a big meal, hot shower, went to bed and slept the sleep of the just.

    Sam and the guys left before dawn to start the long process of cutting a road to the elephant. Wayne and I took our time and made it there about an hour before the road was finished. Staff from Forestry showed up to help butcher the elephant. There were 13 people in an old Toyota bakkie. Later it would be filled over the gunnels with meat and carrying the 13 people back. It is easy to see why Toyota has replaced the Land Rover in Africa.

    Kabobs of roasting meat are a common sight as an elephant is butchered. Today I would have a new experience. The Forestry staff cut the elephant into small cubes and roasted it in a shovel. I'm not sure where the shovel had been. Except for a little grit the meat was delicious.

    A regret was that the elephant was so far from the area it was initially shot that the farmers whose crops were raided didn't have the opportunity to share in the bounty. Wayne took a couple hundred kilos back to share with them.

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    Elephant biltong drying

    With two elephants down it was time to consider other species. Wayne said that the crocs in this area average 11-12 feet. I decided to pass and focus on hyena. This left our days open to shoot birds and have some fun. One day we had a shooting contest with the 404 among the staff. We drew a $10 bill on the bottom of a cardboard box. This was surrounded by $5 bills. The rest of the box was $1 bills. You earned what you shot and the guys all got two shots. The box was set up at 35 yards. Needless to say the value of the ammo far exceeded the money paid out but it was well worth the money watching the needling and laughter. When it came time for payment I told them I was paying in Zim dollars. The winner's jaws dropped for a couple of seconds until they realized I was joking.

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    Cowboy, Graham, Johnathon, Swanini, Victor, Nyani, Sam and Dumi. A fabulous group of guys.

    Somewhere around this time is April 4th. Wayne gets a call that USFW has banned the importation of Zimbabwe elephant to the US and this ruling is backdated to January 1, 2014. Is this some kind of April fool's joke? Wow, talk about poor timing for myself. This is nothing however compared to Wayne and his employees situation. For me this is discretionary money. For them this is a livelihood. The vast majority of Wayne's business is elephants. Seventy percent of his clients are American. Phone calls go out between the various stakeholders trying to get more information. Taxidermists, tanneries, shipping agents, PH's, the PH association. The USFW announcement is read over the phone. There are only more questions. No answers are available.

    The hyenas weren't around every night but would come to the bait occasionally. One night I had taken a shower, sprayed the tent for mosquitoes and gone to sleep. Wayne woke me saying to get dressed that a hyena was near. I put on some shorts, t-shirt and slipped into my boots. After about 45 minutes Wayne said there was a hyena and turned the light on. It immediately jumped into the woods and was gone. When I got back to the tent it looked like I had small pox from the mosquito bites. I had around 50 on my arms and legs.

    Wayne has an elevated blind by a pan near camp. This is where we initially put the elephant femur as hyena bait. By this time we had pulled the first elephants tusks and had taken the rest of the skull and laid it there as well. We decided if we heard a hyena we would go down and set up for it.

    One evening we hear hyenas and head down to the elephant bait. The hyenas quit calling. After 45 minutes Wayne says he sees one setting down a ways from the bait. A couple minutes later it moves into the bush and he says no it's a leopard. We discuss it and decide if it presents a shot I will take it. Fifteen minutes later it hasn't reappeared and I fear it has left.

    Wayne then says it is just left of the bait which is 30 yards away. He asks if I am ready and he turns on the light. The leopard is quartering into us. It takes me just a second to center the crosshairs on its shoulder and fire. At the shot the leopard falls on its side and goes bonkers. I stare watching the cat as Wayne yells reload. I can't believe I have committed the cardinal sin and not reloaded and been ready for a second shot. After two seconds the cat leaps to its feet and is gone into the bush. I have missed my chance for a follow up shot.

    Wayne asks how the shot felt and I said good. He asks where I hit it and I say in the shoulder. He then asks where the bullet would have exited. I say at the last rib. We go to where the leopard is shot. There are deep claw marks where the leopard dug into the ground to run but no blood. Wayne has radioed camp to bring his 458L. The entire camp shows up waiting to see a dead leopard that isn't there. Wayne thinks the cat may have been hit to high. There are 6 yards of sand to the low layer of brush then 15 more yards to the really thick stuff. We examine this with our flashlights and see nothing. I have taken a Carhart jacket to the blind in case it gets cold during the night. I don't need it but put it on. I know the jacket won't stop a leopard's teeth or claws but think the heavy canvas material might keep a leopard from shredding me with its hind legs. I ask Wayne if he is going to put on a jacket and he says no. He doesn't want anything to bind or get in his way. I guess I have ready too many Capstick books. I also ask Wayne if it is better to wait till daylight. He says no. Night is definitely better since you can see their eyes. In the daytime you can't see them coming.

    Side note: In casual conversation a few days previous I ask Wayne if he lets hunters go into the bush after a wounded cat with him. I tell him I have met PH's who won't let the client go in with them. Wayne says of course the hunter will come with him if they have wounded a cat. A hunter that wounds a cat and isn't willing to follow up doesn't deserve the cat. Theoretically, this is what I wanted to hear at the time. Now, as a matter of practice, I am having second thoughts.

    My initial confidence in my shot placement is slowly eroding. If I can miss an elephants vitals at 35 yards, what about a leopards at 30?

    Wayne's guys gather beside us and behind us shining their torches. I figure if I were them I would be carrying a small axe or panga. Cowboy goes to the back of a bakkie and finds a well-used sling blade. I guess they have complete faith in Wayne. After the second elephant they can't have any faith in me. Hopefully this cat won't go as far as the second elephant. If the cat jumps us I guess they will bludgeon it to death with the mag lights or use their knives. Again, so much for reading to many Capstick books.

    Side note: Cowboy has won acclaim for valor. While a buff had Wayne down and was goring him a few years ago, Cowboy came up and stabbed it in the eye with his knife probably saving Wayne's life. I feel good with these guys around!

    We all gather where the brush starts. There is only one visible drop of blood on one piece of grass. I am shooting 300 grain Barns from a 375. The bullet had to have exited? Where is the blood? My confidence in my shot is getting weaker. Slowly we make our way forward with six flashlights shining out in front and to our side. Wayne is in the lead and I am at his 8 oè—ï½£lock. He is covering 180 degrees and I am covering 90. In about a minute we have gone 10 yards with no sign of blood.

    Graham softly says ingwe. The lights are all dancing in the bush to our front. Wayne yells out where. Graham who is behind me with his light says right there. With all the lights we don't know where Graham's light is shining and I for one am not about to take my eyes off the bush in front of me. We are all looking forward into the bush as Wayne again yells out where. Four yards behind where I just walked Graham is shining his torch at a dead leopard I have walked within a yard of and didn't see. We have all passed it completely unaware. The leopard has gone 13 yards from the place it was shot. In hind sight this episode is all rather comical, in the moment?.

    We all gather around the dead leopard and pull it out to take photos. An intestine has herniated into the exit wound blocking blood flow. Later after skinning the leopard I ask Swanini where the bullet went and he said the top of the heart. We take the leopard over to Mr. Mpufo, the farmer who has lost the livestock and the dog. He immediately slaps the leopard. We let him hold it up for photos. He is happy as he shakes my hand. I have made his day. It is amazing how much my attitude has changed now compared to 45 minutes earlier when I followed Wayne into the bush.

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    The Van Den Bergh's. With the exception of Wayne, I wonderful family! (Couldn't resist)

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    Farmer who lost donkey, calf and dog to leopard

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    My leopard steak. I didn't realize it was white meat. It was prepared well. Not sure if I need to ever eat it again though.

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    Tree stand from where leopard was taken.

    265.jpg

    Leopard was just left of the tree in the sand when shot.

    047.jpg

    Wallpaper on my computer.

    That night as I set staring into the camp fire I think of all the people that go on two to four 16 day safaris to get a leopard. Here I am hunting a leopard for only 15 minutes and I am successful. What are the odds? (Monster whitetail and black bear are my nemesis) I am blessed! Most hunters are in a ground blind and shoot a leopard in a tree. I am in a tree blind and shoot a leopard on the ground. Go figure.

    We decide to forgo hyena hunting and call the safari a day early. We will head to Wayne's house in Bulawayo. This will allow us plenty of time to spend with the taxidermist. This will also allow us to get on the internet and try to find out what is really happening with USFW and the elephant ban.

    079.jpg

    071.jpg

    070.jpg

    Photos of the Bulawayo Club. It was closed for remodeling but I snuck in.




    I spent two nights at Wayne's house in Bulawayo. Wayne's wife Jen and their two teenage boys are great. They came out to camp the two weekends that I was there. Davey, the oldest has already taken his first elephant. Wayne Jr. is hoping his chance will be this year. Wayne Jr. has multiple aviaries with birds he has caught.

    As you can imagine Wayne has his share of trophies around the house. His kudu lives in my dreams.

    On April 19 I got the news that USFW had changed the part of their ruling that back dated the import ban to January 1, 2014. This was great news for me but not for those who have already paid deposits or for the hunting community in Zimbabwe.

    It would be nice if USFW would come to Wayne's concessions and see what the elephants are doing to the farms. This area didn't have elephant 10 years ago. If the USFW decision stands it will be extremely difficult for the PH's of Zimbabwe along with their staffs that depend on the American hunters.

    The farmers put up with the elephants because they get some compensation in meat and I presume from the trophy fees paid to the RDC's. If sport elephant hunting is stopped, what will the farmers do? If there is no value on the elephants will they let them indiscriminately raid their land? How difficult is it to lace some melons with poison and lay them on an elephant trail?

    The joke going around Zimbabwe is that the Zim government is more in touch and makes better decisions than the US government. Hard to argue their point.

    Zimbabwe has a problem with elephants. Not too few but too many. If the USFW decision stands, the elephant will become the ultimate losers in the game of American politics.

    P1010469.jpg

    P1010549.jpg

    Regarding the hunt.

    "It was the best of times, It was the best of times"

    Miscellaneous photos.

    025.jpg

    Braai over a plow-disc. Johnathon was a great cook.

    IMG_0401.jpg

    Spear Grass

    210.jpg

    A mud-dauber makes a nest in the binding of a book in the library at camp.

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    IMG_0404.jpg

    023.jpg

    A memorial in Wayne's concession to three nuns ambushed and murdered during the bush war.

    296.jpg

    Bat in Wayne's yard.

    285.jpg

    What is this? High 5 to the person who can guess it first and who muddled all the way to the end of this report.

    All the best.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2014
  2. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    Vertebrae!

    I will have to spend a good long time and go over this report Bob.

    Thanks for posting.

    The gods are smiling on you now. I was not sure for a while there.

    Congratulations on a great hunt.
     
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  3. Uintaelkhunter

    Uintaelkhunter AH Veteran

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    Congratulations wheel what a great hunt and report. Thanks for sharing I truly hope the USFW will come around and realize the impact there ruling will have. I also hope it does not deter Americans from experiencing these kinds of hunts for the sake of Africa. Your story inspires. wheels. I have been down as I was planning a elephant hunt for 2015 in zim. I have talked with Wayne and a few others. I still hope to hunt and hearing of the money needed on the ground in the areas there. They need our hunting dollars even if we cannot import elephant trophies at this time. Thanks again for the report
     
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  4. Buff-Buster

    Buff-Buster GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Hey Bob! Great hunt, great trophies, great hunt report! I am really happy for you buddy! Hopefully your trophies will arrive home safely in the near future.
     
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  5. spike.t

    spike.t GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    sounds like you will have some good memories to contemplate over a sundowner on your tree plantation ;):beer:
     
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  6. enysse

    enysse AH Ambassador

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    Congrats on the hunt, great pictures and the story telling was excellent!
     
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  7. PHOENIX PHIL

    PHOENIX PHIL AH Legend

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    Great report Wheels, mucho congratulations!
     
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  8. Bos en Dal Safaris

    Bos en Dal Safaris SPONSOR AH Enthusiast

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    Hey Bob. After reading the report it almost felt like i was there on the hunt with you. Great write up!!!
    Again congrats with the trophies you took. And i am really happy you can get your trophy imported.

    Best Regards
     
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  9. BnC 04

    BnC 04 TITANIUM SUPPORTER SILVER SUPPORTER AH Enthusiast

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    Great report and love the pictures. A huge congrats to you on a wonderful adventure!
     
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  10. Royal27

    Royal27 BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    I enjoyed every single word. Thanks for the report and I'm happy all worked out so well for you in the end!
     
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  11. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Brickburn. You win. Not sure what but you win.

    Thanks to all for the kind words. I am happy to share this experience with you.

    All the best.
     
  12. sestoppelman

    sestoppelman SILVER SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    A hunt you will never forget. Congrats!
     
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  13. Big5

    Big5 AH Enthusiast

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    Wheels, congratulations on your memorable hunt and thanks for the terrific storytelling and photos.
     
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  14. AfricaHunting.com

    AfricaHunting.com FOUNDER AH Ambassador

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    Great hunt report and pictures! Thank you for sharing with all of us your journey in Africa full of wonderful moments.
     
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  15. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR GOLD BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    An Elephant Hunt with Wayne????

    I just re-read the report. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Luck and persistence.

    Tracking an Elephant with your pants falling down. :rofl:

    Jealous of that damn Leopard. How did you run into the dumb one? Yeesh.

    Like the attitude on follow ups. :thumb:
     
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  16. Nyati

    Nyati AH Legend

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    Congrats on your hunt Wheels, hope you get your trophy home soon !

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us.
     
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  17. drew416

    drew416 AH Senior Member

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    Great report and reading on what was surely a great hunt.

    Now you know how it feels. we in Australia have not been able to import any elephant trophies, amongst many other things, for decades now.
    I share your pains as I too have seen with my own eyes the problem with too many herds in the Bubye Valley in the South East on Zim.

    Just curious to know, did you take anything with the 404 Jeffery? Definitely not out of place on an Elephant hunt, especially if you load Hydro- Solids.
     
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  18. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    If the winner gets an elephant hunt, the vertebrae has just changed to my new door stop.

    The belt was perfectly fine until my pants got wet. It would have been interesting to have a videographer behind me so I could count how many times I had to pull them up. Cowboy was stuck seeing a whole new side of me. The next morning I cut a new hole in my belt!

    When I was staring into the fire thinking of how fortunate I was in getting my leopard the way I did, I thought of the people I know that have had difficulties with leopard. You were one of the people I thought of. You will get yours soon!

    All the best.
     
  19. Wheels

    Wheels GOLD SUPPORTER AH Elite

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    Drew,

    It is pathetic when any country won't let their citizens import their private property into their country.

    I am not a re loader. There isn't much choice when it comes to factory loaded 404. I used Norma since they have the 450g Woodleigh instead of the 400g Hornady. The only time I used the 404 was on the follow up on the second elephant.

    The hydro-solid photo is from the 375 that I used on the second elephant the night before. It is from the snap shot I made after the glare in my scope when the elephant went into a low spot. It is a Federal cartridge. It was the only bullet of mine recovered out of 7-375 and 3 404 rounds used on elephant.

    All the best.
     
  20. NYAMAZANA SAFARIS

    NYAMAZANA SAFARIS AH Veteran

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    Hi Wheels, we are very happy that you will get your much earned trophies , lets hope that USFW will reverse their decision sooner than later.

    If there is someone who would like to hunt a Elephant in the next 2 months ( May and June 2014 ) I will make a super offer . US$ 20 000 all in Day rate and Trophy fee , taxes etc inclusive on a 10 day hunt. This comes due to the fact that I had a hunt with another fellow American but because of the USFW ruling the client opted not to hunt a trophy Bull therefor I have a tag available and these Bulls are getting more and more active as we speak . So anyone who can import a Bull or someone who wants to take a chance on possibly getting their trophy on a later date this is a deal for you..

    Wheels thank you for your good hunt report it certainly explains what to expect when hunting my areas .

    All the best.
     
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