Recent hunt with Andrew Baldry at Royal Kafue Safaris in Zambia
This is a discussion on Recent hunt with Andrew Baldry at Royal Kafue Safaris in Zambia within the Zambia Hunting Reports forums, part of the Hunting Reports & Questions About Outfitters/PHs category; Disclaimer!! I posted this on another forum in parts as I wrote it. I'm cutting and pasting it here and ...
08-01-2012, 07:33 PM #1
Recent hunt with Andrew Baldry at Royal Kafue Safaris in Zambia
Disclaimer!! I posted this on another forum in parts as I wrote it. I'm cutting and pasting it here and will do my best to clean up any mistakes resulting from the different forum formats. Bear with me
Location: Mukuyu Camp on the banks of the Kafue River, Zambia
Outfitter: Royal Kafue
Booking Agent: Mark Young
PH: Andrew Baldry
Trackers: Green, Redson
Game Scout: Victor
Dates: June 20th - July 10th, 2012 give or take a day.
1938 Hoffman Arms with Winchester M70 action in .375 H&H with Swarovski 2.5 - 10 scope.
1902 Army & Navy Double Rifle in 450 3 1/4 NE
Handloaded Ammo: Barnes TSX 300 grain, 69.5 grains of RL15 for .375 H&H.
Woodleigh 480 grain softs & solids, 97.5 grains of IMR 4831 for the 450 NE.
Animals hunted: Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant, Lichtenstein's hartebeest, Crawshay's Defassa waterbuck, Sable, Roan, Sitatunga, Bushpig, Bushbuck.
Animals taken: Crawshay's Defassa Waterbuck, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, Roan, Sable, Buffalo, Sitatunga, Lion
Animals seen: Buffalo, Crocodile, Impala, Puku, Bushbuck, Hippo, Lion, Elephant, Lichtenstein's Hartebeest, Zebra, Oribi, Baboon, Kudu, Crawshy's Defassa Waterbuck, Roan, Sable, Bushpig, Warthog, Common Duiker, White tailed Mongoose, Warthog, Reedbuck, Sitatunga,
"This could get interesting" Those whispered words of Ivan Carter echo'd from my TV during recent episodes of Track Across Africa. So how interesting would this Safari be?
It was a long road traveled to finally meet Andrew Baldry in person. We had communicated regularly over the last 18 months. At first via booking agent Mark Young and by PM on Accurate Reloading Forums. Neither of us realized the convoluted path this booking would follow.
Lion before the ability to hunt them disappeared. That was my focus. The more I read the more it seemed the clock was ticking towards the end of Lion hunting or at least the end of the ability for Americans to import them. 2012 had to be the year. Many of the top outfits were already booked out.
Andrew was hunting for other outfitters, notably Rich Bell-Cross, but also offered hunts in the Luangwa at Munyamadzi. With one Lion on quota I was determined to make that my Lion. I secured the booking for that Lion plus Leopard and all seemed set. Then with the passing of time Andrew and Munyamadzi had a bit of a dust up. Details were unclear but my hunt was now to be guided by Thor if I wanted the Munyamadzi Lion. I had nothing against Thor and I met him later in Vegas at SCI. Really nice guy and he understood when I told him I wanted to hunt with Andrew.
Meanwhile, two years prior Andrew entered into an arrangement with a trust formed by the Kaindu Community to lease/manage 45,000 acres along the Kafue River hoping to resuscitate the land from the game poor poached landscape it was at the start.
Mr. Baldry and I talked via Skype. His assessment was brutally honest. He expected the area to take at least four years to begin to recover after he instituted active anti- poaching patrols and it had only been two years. Royal Kafue enjoyed some excellent feeder areas along its borders but two years was not enough time to expect this land to be taken off of life support. My choices seemed scant.
Andrew contacted me after a few visits to Royal Kafue and related how surprised he was that the area was rebounding faster than expected. He again voiced a reserved evaluation. Game will be hard to see in June/July but I'm confident if we can draw in a Lion from Mushingashi you will have a good chance at a brute?
Mushingashi is a 125,000 acre Arab owned reserve with a long history of being game rich. The land sits on the western border of Royal Kafue.
After further Skype discussions and the tiered pricing of the hunt where I only paid Leopard day rates unless successful on Lion I decided it was worth the gamble.
Andrew and I had many conversations after the deal was struck. With each passing communication it became apparent we shared the same philosophy of hunting. I'm not an inches guy, I only pursue mature game, and it's about fair chase and the experience. No Machan's allowed on this trip. That choice resulted in some exceptional footage taken by Joyce, my fearless wife, of two immature lions.
Enjoy the video clip. Make sure not to look away at 5:36. That's when you will realize how close the male is after he comes to the blind.
I asked Joyce later that night when back in camp how she felt. She had two things to say?
1) I was watching it on a camera video screen so it wasn't real
2) "Aｭll I could think was please don't make us kill you"
The woman is fearless.
There were so many amazing events and successes on this hunt that the report will take me months to write in order to provide the imagery deserved. Bear with me. Think of it as a mini-series and enjoy waiting for the next episode.
Here's the Lion video -
08-01-2012, 07:37 PM #2
08-01-2012, 07:37 PM #3
08-01-2012, 07:39 PM #4
Just to keep you interested until I get around to posting more I'll pop a picture or two up.
Here are the Lion claw marks left on the tree that held the bait in the video. We went back and cleaned and burned the site. The last picture is the right side neck of the Buffalo I killed. These are scars from Lion claw marks as well. Africa is a tough place to make a living.
08-01-2012, 07:42 PM #5
As I already mentioned the road to this Safari was rather convoluted. Once the decision to hunt Royal Kafue was made, Andrew Baldry had a very short window of time to prepare for us. Joyce and I live in Alaska and spent 8 of those years in a bush community. Until hunting Africa in 2010, we had never been on a guided trip of any type let alone a guided hunting trip. We are DIY people at heart and very low maintenance.
In the many Skype conversations I expressed this to Andrew. We don't need a fancy camp Mate, just a small tent and a place to clean up would be fine? I sensed the pressure he was under. I didn't realize the level of that pressure until we arrived in camp.
I mentioned the word partnership! Essentially that is what our arrangement ended up being. I was taking a large financial (for me) risk booking in an unknown area and I sent on money ahead of time to help with the set up. Andrew, his financial partner, and the Kaindu Community Trust needed this Safari to be a success. Lion would be the focus and all else would be gravy.
Financially, the wise thing for Andrew to do would be to market many separate hunts for the specialty animals like Leopard, Roan, Sable, and Sitatunga, especially considering the very limited quota he requested from ZAWA. As a reflection of his character, he decided if I was willing to risk my hard earned and saved money I should have a shot at the full bag, including Elephant should a decent Bull pop up. He also declined any observer fees for Joyce, secured her a hunting license, and had her hunt bait for the pleasure of seeing her evolution into the world of hunting as his only reward. Other than the Lion, her shot on the Reedbuck was a high point in this hunt for him.
So during the two day trip from Alaska all I could think was how lucky I was. When I got there I found a PH who only thought about how lucky HE was that he had found someone willing to take a chance on his new area and his ability as a PH. A perfect partnership that became even more perfect as the days progressed. Now if only we could shoot straight. As a Ph he has seen many who can't.
08-01-2012, 07:45 PM #6
- Member of NAHC Life Member, NRA Life Member,SCI, Buckmasters
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Nice Jim this has the make for a great story.Enjoy life now -- it has an expiration date.
08-01-2012, 07:48 PM #7
I remember on my trip in 2010 that while sighting in both in Nambia and Zambia I felt nervous. This emotion surprised me. I'm a decent shot, I know my rifles, and I practice from practical positions regularly. Yet having to Perform in front of a stranger affected me more than I would have imagined.
Since Andrew and I had communicated directly so much in the last year I didn't feel like I was shooting in front of a stranger. On the contrary I wanted to show Mr. Baldry that he need not worry for the rest of the Safari whether or not I could hit the mark. Baring the scope getting bumped out before arrival I did not plan on squeezing the trigger until I could pinwheel this first round.
The target was a 2 inch square piece of yellow duct tape on a 1 1/2 foot square slab of cardboard placed on a tree at 100 yards. I set a pack on the hood of the truck and rested on it. Since I had all day I cranked the scope to 10X. When the crosshairs settled bone still in the center of the yellow square I half exhaled and slowly brought pressure to the crisp 3 pound trigger. Who ever feels recoil in Africa? I sure don't.
I recovered the sight picture and snickered to myself. The hole was smack dead center. Andrew was still looking through his binoculars and then lowered them and looked at me.
"Would you like another"? I asked.
"Let's walk down there"? he responded.
His penchant for humor ensued. He took the target off the tree and turned it 90 degrees. "I think you need to come up 2 mm and left 1 mm. We're done! It's Madam's turn".
Joyce also did well.
08-01-2012, 07:49 PM #8
1938 Hoffman Arms with Winchester M70 action and Martin Hagn custom stock. I was given this rifle as a Christmas bonus by my generous employer in 2009 before my 2010 Safari. He wanted to be sure I had a "proper" rifle befitting my first trip for Buffalo in 2010.
Here is the same rifle on a Buffalo from Royal Kafue. (story eventually to follow)
1902 Army & Navy 450 3 1/4 Nitro Express Double Rifle built by Webley purchased from AR member BigBBear. The rifle was carried by me on a wounded Buffalo follow up. Not my buffalo, but a wounded one we discovered by accident. It was also carried by Andrew on our side by side Lion follow up after my shot.
08-01-2012, 07:53 PM #9
As mentioned we informed Andrew that, at least for us, nothing fancy was necessary. In two short months Mr. Baldry, his son Ben, AR's own Caracal, and a host of employees performed a miracle. This camp is very comfortable.
Originally, the plan called for classic Safari Tents. When I called for references on Andrew I spoke with many people that had hunted with him, outfitters he worked with, agents that had personal experience with him, and extensively searched the web discovering articles including one written by a traveling adventurer on a dirt bike. In all this research I was only given one remotely negative statement, "The man's an artist"? The person giving that review could not explain it further. My assumption is that Andrew's attention to detail in his photography of game perhaps took too much time for this gent. To me it was a bonus. Andrew had the exact same model camera as Joyce and I so we just handed it to him anytime an animal went down. The man is an artist and I'm thankful for it.
That same right hemisphere thinking drove him to scrub the tent idea and build a proper camp? I now wish I kept notes of our conversations of the last year. He would ask questions via Skype like, "Does the Madam like verdant green"? Sometimes it was hard to tell the sense of humor from reality. End result, the camp is a work of art all created in two months.
At the end of our Safari he sat down with us and requested our blunt honesty of how things could be improved in camp. Joyce pointed out some small points I would not have noticed. The bathroom mirror was too high for the average woman. The toilet paper holder is mounted behind the toilet requiring a Houdini twist to access it if sitting. I pointed out a gun rack in the Chalet would be a plus. I guarantee, knowing Andrew as I do now, those small things are already changed.
In the beginning our 55 gallon drum fed shower produced a rather feeble stream. That was an easy fix. Disassembly of the shower head revealed a California style flow limiter. Popped that puppy out and now the shower could be used to control riots.
They are starting construction on a second Chalet immediately. The above suggestions will be incorporated. I look forward to stopping back in the future just to satisfy my curiosity as to what this man can come up with given adequate time and funding. Given the success of our hunt I doubt future funding will be an issue.
The dining hall and bar with fireplace sits 150 meters off the Kafue River. Every morning a cooling mist creeps towards land from the water course. I learned that the Mutambashi tributary flowed into the Kafue directly across from camp. This thin thread of water is fed with a natural hot spring. The heated water, coupled with the cold air makes a lovely detail blurring fog. In the evenings, while enjoying the heat of a fire, you can hear the Hippo come ashore to munch the grasses left along the river's edge.
A better location could not have been chosen. This thread started with a couple of camp pictures. Here are a few more.
Joyce's Chalet - so named by Andrew in the Madam's honor.
Romantic mosquito netting.
Iran preparing the Madam's shower after a long day of hunting.
Mist in the morning with a fig tree (Mukuyu) the camp is named for.
Camp from the Kafue river on the way back from Barbel fishing.
08-01-2012, 07:56 PM #10
The Location, area history, and topography
Royal Kafue is a triangular shaped 45,000 acre unfenced area with 17 kilometers of Kafue River waterfront. On the Northern border across the river is Lunga Luswishi, Richard Bell-Cross & Prohunt Zambia's concession. To the West sits Matweba Dambo, a scattered floodplain residing both on Royal Kafue and Mushingashi, a 125,000 acre intensely managed game rich private hunting reserve. The Kaindu community sits to the East, with some private ownership land acting as buffer.
The land along the riverfront is mostly Dambo, so somewhat treeless. 300 meters or so inland some scrub woodland begins with Brachystesia and Yellow Bark Acacia scattered throughout. Bushbuck in small numbers, plentiful Defassa Waterbuck, Puku, Elephants and Lions were seen with frequency in this woodland belt.
Traveling further inland on rutted two track pathways the Miombo (woodland) comprised of a mixture of Brachystesia, Combretum, Acacia, Terminalia, and the occasional Kigelia (sausage tree) is intermixed with huge expanses of tall grass.
A couple of small waterholes in the southern region were already drying up during our time there but there is a more permanent water source just off the property. Andrew has already contracted with a company to put in a borehole to supply a permanent pan for game.
During our trip we saw a large herd of Buffalo 80 100 head in this area. They stayed resident throughout our time in Zambia. My buffalo came out of a different group of five males, with at least two of the others sporting good hard bosses. Lichtenstein Hartebeest, Roan, Sable, Reedbuck, Impala, Duiker,and Oribi all seemed plentiful and seemingly grew in numbers and sightings during our three weeks.
It's a bit of a bumpy ride to the south side of the reserve but plans for a serviceable dirt road will eventually be implemented.
Technically this land is in the ownership of a community trust benefitting the people of Kaindu, their school, and clinic. The trust has partnered with Andrew Baldry under terms of a 99 year lease to manage the land for sustainable yield and profit. Andrew's goal is to restore the area to is former wild African glory and hunt it. He has spoken of other side ventures to benefit the community such as a future 1,000 acre fenced portion managed for high game yield as a community food resource geared towards decreasing any pressure to poach game for the pot.
Around the campfire I heard stories of hunting on the Lunga Luswishi side, looking across and seeing squatter camps, pole snares, fishing with small weave mosquito nets, and crop fields. Ironically these squatters were not for the most part Kaindu residents. Many traveled down the Kafue River from lands far upstream.
With the expulsion of the squatters Mr. Baldry instituted anti poaching patrols originating from two permanent scout camps and hired Green, an infamous past commercial bushmeat poacher, to head things up. Green also fills the role of main tracker and he's the best I have seen. In addition, Andrew's other scouts all track well. I will speak more to Green's abilities when I write about our Lion encounters.
I mentioned earlier that Andrew estimated this land would take four years to reach a point as a viable hunting location. I would say it already is and will only get better with continued management and great feeder areas.
Since my hunt was primarily for Lion, Andrew very selectively burned small areas of grass a month before my arrival to provide sweet green shoots for the plains game. The Buffalo liked the remaining tall grass corridors and the Lion followed the Buffalo in. A perfect plan that worked well.
Tie rod eating Elephant tracks.
One eaten tie rod end....
The Madam, saved by her Kindle
08-01-2012, 07:57 PM #11
One thing I didn't mention for anyone thinking of hunting this area. You can drive to Royal Kafue in about 6 hours depending on Lusaka traffic. It's a good tar road for the majority of the trip then turns to major crappy potted dirt roads from Mumbwa on.
Andrew gave us the option of chartering in on about an hour and 15 minute flight to a grass strip in Kafue National Park. From there it's a 1 1/2 - 2 hour ride but through "real" Africa.
We opted for the flight in considering our Heathrow to Lusaka flight was arriving at 06:30. We weren't up for a 6 hour drive and didn't want to spend the day in Lusaka.
We did drive out at the end. If I had it to do over I would choose the same by chartering in and driving out.
The drive from the airstrip is a bit dusty though.
08-01-2012, 08:08 PM #12
Crawshay's Defassa Waterbuck
Andrew Baldry started this day like many others. Iran brought his coffee to his tent before the sun made its appearance.
"Bwana's awake"! Iran mentioned.
"Of course Bwana's awake, you just woke me up with my coffee"? Andrew spoke while the clouds of slumber drifted away. He was tired from many 16 hour days of labor putting the finishing touches on camp.
"No Bwana, the other Bwana is awake and already at the fire"? Iran explained.
"Oh bloody hell"
I found the French press, hot water, fresh ground coffee and enjoyed the smell and taste while watching the mist creep inland. The fire's warmth simply added to the perfection of my first morning in camp. Madam strolled up quickly, smiling while voicing the words I heard many times over our three weeks in paradise.
"We're in Africa"
What could be better than having your best friend also realizing her luck to be where you are at that moment.
"Yes, we are in Africa"
Andrew walked up with the mornings greeting. Days later I began to realize he's a bit of a slow starter. Oh he will get up early, he will hunt hard out of the chute, but Andrew Baldry is a night owl at heart. He just didn't realize this first day that we were too. It's simply that our bodies woke up at 2:30 AM Zambia time and said, "Hey, we are in Africa"!!
"Bwana, the sun won't be up for another hour"? Andrew explained
"So, want some coffee Andrew? Here I made some"? Smiling all the time at his discomfort with his self serve Clients? This was going to be fun.
After a quick breakfast of toast, jam, coffee and tea, we headed out at first light toward the East to visit one of the anti-poaching scout camps. Rifles had already had their accuracy verified. Andrew wanted to ask the scouts about any Lions they heard in the night.
We then drove a short way to the North across the dambo towards the Kafue River.
He stopped the cruiser and said, "Let's take a walk to the river and see if we can find a Hippo"? Bait was the order of the day.
We left the cruiser. Andrew carried his 404 Jeffery; I had my .375 H&H while Madam hauled her 7 x 57 along. Victor, the ZAWA game scout accompanied us with his AK-47 while Redson, one of Andrew's anti-poaching scouts, stayed in the cruiser. This was going to be a short walk to the river simply to ascertain the possibility of a volunteer Hippo.
"Andrew, let Joyce have a short break here in the shade"? That simple request brought an unexpected reward.
We had walked to the river and did not find Hippo. The African sun had taken dominance over the coolness of the morning and the temperature was raising. We saw a group of Waterbuck but they were all females. The walk ended up longer than expected and we brought no water. I could tell Joyce was beginning to fall off the pace on our way out. That's when I touched Andrew's back and made the request for a break in the shade.
"You all stay here and I will go and get the cruiser"? Andrew volunteered.
"No way", Joyce replied. "Just give me 5 minutes in the shade and we will be off"?
Andrew reiterated his plan to get the truck. A simple "NO" was all it took for him to realize his "clients" could be stubborn.
After a five minute rest and cigarette for Andrew we started back toward the cruiser. Motion to the left caught my eye at the same time as Andrew saw the movement. A group of five Waterbuck bulls walked out of cover 100 yards away.
Andrew quickly threw the sticks up as the group of five walked on at an angle away from us. When I see sticks go up I use them. My .375 H&H was already nestled comfortably in the V.
"Which one"? I asked a simple question.
Andrew, speaking with binoculars to his eyes said, "The last one"?
My crosshairs were already on the Waterbuck. My brain said quartered away walking towards cover. I shot.
The first four took off instantly in the direction they were headed and disappeared into the cover. The one on which my bullet made a resounding Twock spun back and headed to his left into different cover.
Andrew turned to me, "You weren't on the sticks two seconds"?
I wasn't sure if it was a statement or a question.
"I think I hit him strong. They were headed for cover".
We waited 10 minutes for him to stiffen up. As we advanced 50 yards or so we both saw the animal standing in cover looking not well. I had seen this many times with Moose I have shot. They are dead on their feet and just don't know it yet. I could not get a second clean shot on him and I did not want to spook him off further. He took off anyway. The moment of hind sight kicked in. Damn, I should have shot again regardless of the brush.
The Waterbuck disappeared through cover.
I love the Barnes TSX for it's penetration and damage. but I almost always have a through and through and very little blood regardless of where an animal is hit. That fact makes for some tricky tracking.
Andrew, Victor and I headed in the direction the Waterbuck vanished. Andrew turned and said, "These Waterbuck can be tough"? My brain translated that into "You screwed up and we may not find this one"?
After we looked for 15 or twenty minutes Andrew wisely told Victor to run to the truck and get Redson and some water.
Redson and Victor took to the track. Neither had a clear reading but together one mark at a time we followed. I honestly do not know how far we went because the distance was measured one track at a time and not in miles. All I know is 15 minutes before we found the dead Waterbuck in deep cover I had given up hope he would be found.
It was hit mid body on the right side 1/3 up and the exit was just forward of the left shoulder. It was a good quartering away shot. "These Waterbuck can be tough" echoed back into my mind. This time without translation.
A couple of weeks later after everything I pointed my gun at dropped dead within 40 yards of where they were hit with many being a DRT, I confided in Andrew I thought we had lost the Waterbuck. I explained the sinking feeling I had that a lost first animal would have set a tone of distrust in my shooting. His answer was simple.
"I knew you hit it hard. I told you they were tough. I was not going to leave there without it".
08-01-2012, 08:24 PM #13
The Double Hitter
Via Skype the message was quite clear.
"You haven't hunted cats before. It can be very monotonous getting up and riding out to check baits day in and day out. It's a different kind of hunting. Plus I have purposefully left most of the tall grass as cover for the Lions. Seeing game in June/July will be difficult. I just want you to understand that and be prepared mentally. Many cat hunters get frustrated with the repetitive routine"
"It'll be fine Andrew, it's about the experience".
"But it can be really monotonous"? he repeated.
We are now back in Alaska and back to work and Andrew is finally right. This is monotonous. Africa was not.
On our second day on Safari nothing died at our hands. We hung the Waterbuck for bait yesterday afternoon as well as a cow purchased from Kaindu. Hippo sightings have not been frequent and the water in the Kafue has not dropped enough to cause the Hippo to group up in pools. Other baits needed to be secured. The purchase of the "sacred cow" as we began to call it brought good luck. Every time someone would mention the cow an animal would die within the hour, I kid you not.
After riding to the south side and seeing only one immature Hartebeest we returned and enjoyed a fabulous sunset overlooking the Kafue River and wetlands from the elevated vantage point of an anthill while sipping some cold Mosi's.
Elephants fed on the Marsh grass by pulling up strands and whipping them in a figure eight to knock off any dirt before shoving the greenery into their mouths.
We're in Africa
Later in the hunt Andrew admitted when we only saw one small Hartebeest that second day he began to worry a bit about game density.
The morning of day three found us on our way to check baits after a quick bite to eat at sunrise. The baits were unscathed so the plan was to ride across to the South side of the property again to see what may offer itself. Andrew was quite honest in admitting he spent so much time building camp that he had not personally done much scouting. He relied on the reports of his anti-poaching teams which always should be taken with a grain of salt.
No road infrastructure exists accessing the Miombo and plains of the south region. It's a long bumpy trek through grass taller than the hood of the truck at times. Looked like Africa to me and the Madam and I enjoyed every kidney jarring moment.
Game did present itself. We had at least four blown stalks that I remember on Hartebeest and Roan mostly. We also saw Reedbuck but didn't pursue them in earnest. Reedbuck would be Madam's quarry when the time came.
After a quiet lunch of Tuna sandwiches made with cucumber bits and a mayo that tasted unlike any we've had in the past (delicious) we pressed on.
The first night in camp I insisted all firearms be brought to the dining hall. I wanted Andrew, Joyce, and I to be familiar with how the safeties operated on each other's guns. Never know if an unexpected emergency might require the Madam to shoot a Lion off of Andrew with his own Mauser actioned 404 Jeff. We also discussed expectations, shooting abilities, range limits, and some shot placement.
Andrew asked at what distance I was comfortable with the .375. I told him 200 yards for certain and longer if the distance is ranged accurately. I hand load and know the bullet drop for my cartridges.
The cruiser lurched to a stop with the tap on the roof of the cab. With lunch happily residing in our bellies the drive back to camp was rudely interrupted by a group of Hartebeest far out on an open flat burned area now bright green with sweet new grass.
Andrew and I slithered from the cab. My .375 was already being handed down from the back by my wife, who quietly removed it from the soft case.
The group of five Hartebeest stood and watched us as Andrew put the sticks up in order to free his hands to manipulate his ranging binoculars. Far be it for me not to rest my rifle on a set a sticks conveniently nearby. The Hartebeest were a little over 200 yards out and appeared to get nervous.
Andrew whispered, They are slightly over 200 and the third from the right is a nice bull? I think the rifle report made him jump a bit.
Thwak!! The 300 grain TSX took the left facing Hartebeest just forward of the left shoulder where it joins the neck. The animal was quartered towards us with his head turned in our direction. He bucked violently three times and fell twenty feet from where he was standing. He moved no more.
Mr. Baldry looked at me. "We could have tried and gotten closer"!!
"Why"? I answered.
The exit was behind the right shoulder by about four inches.
Congratulations, three part handshakes with the crew and Green, a well done by Andrew, and a kiss from Joyce preceded Andrew's artistic animal arrangement session.
"Clip this blade of grass, no, move the animal a bit over here, there's a tree branch in line with his horns. Now Bwana, knee over there, no to your right, good, good, click, great now turn a little right, click, wonderful, click, love it, click..."
I somehow got transformed from a hunter into a super model. The man's an artist.
When the session ended we decided to hang the Hartebeest in the area. The goal was to have our baits scattered throughout the reserve until a Lion hit, then move baits accordingly.
Andrew pointed out the gland on the side of the face into which the Hartebeest pokes sticks or firm grass to stimulate a black discharge, then rubs the scent marker on his own sides creating marks that look like finger painting.
After our trip in 2010 and a bit of overindulgence on the taxidermy front we decided to keep the mounts from this trip limited. The Hartebeest was to be done European, so no cape was needed. The head was removed at the base of the neck so the camp could have some neck meat and we removed the back-straps to be hung a few days then enjoyed.
A drag was performed after the guts were removed and we found a suitable tree in deep cover. Everyone washed up and we headed back towards camp with a couple hours of light left.
Tap, tap, tap!! The knock on the truck cab got progressively louder and quicker representing urgency.
Green spotted a group of Roan off to the left. A pretty good sighting considering the view was mostly obscured by a thick patch of Brachystesia. We again quietly slithered from the cruiser.
Joyce handed down my .375 and joined Green, Andrew and I carrying her camera on a monopod.
By far, Roan were the most difficult animal to approach during this Safari. Their reputation for being wary is well founded.
We ever so slowly took advantage of available cover and got into position to glass the herd as it fed on the green shoots in the recent burn along the edge of remaining tall grass.
Andrew turned and signaled for us to move in line behind him as he and Green crept slowly towards a knocked down tree. I rested the rifle on a tree branch while Andrew scanned the herd for what seemed to be 20 minutes. He finally turned and silently lipped, "No bulls"!
I had no previous experience with Roan and honestly found it somewhat difficult to quickly tell a bull form a cow. We all but crawled slowly 50 feet to the right behind an anthill for a look from another angle. Light was fading.
A gorgeous distraction dominated the view to the right as the sky began to turn vivid red signaling another beautiful African sunset. I looked back and Joyce was no longer filming the stalk but smiled after looking away from the sunset.
She silently lipped, "We're in Africa".
Meanwhile Andrew and Green, oblivious to this light show, looked over the herd once more. We were about to turn and leave when a bull walked out of the tall grass. Andrew's body language changed. He pointed to his left.
I wasn't sure what he was seeing but I knew from his actions something had changed. Andrew and Green moved slowly to the right of the anthill and the sticks went up. I quietly took my place.
I saw 5 or 6 Roan in different positions a little less than 200 yards out. I was not sure which was the bull. Andrew became a bit anxious.
"Shoot him now, he's going to bolt".
I will never shoot unless I am sure of my shot and in this case I was not. Through the scope on 4X I could make out four of the Roan. One did look larger than the rest. I whispered quickly to Andrew.
"Quartered away to the left facing back and looking at us"?
The answer was instantaneous, "Yes, yes shoot quick"!! Bang, thwak!!
Looking like a thoroughbred bursting from a starting gate Green took off at a dead sprint towards the herd which now scattered. The bull had bucked, bunny hopped, and turned back into the tall grass disappearing instantly.
Andrew also sprinted after Green. I cycled my bolt and flipped on the safety and took off after them holding my rifle safely pointed to the left. Joyce also sprinted but slowed quickly realizing she couldn't film and run.
The race stopped at the last known location of the Bull. Green immediately looked for sign. No obvious blood was found.
I knew the direction the bull ran and I felt I hit him hard so I walked ahead while Green stayed to look for sign. I planned to go out 300 yards and work back and forth in the tall grass. Andrew also went in a similar direction.
I found nothing. A very short time later Joyce called. "Over here"! the sound coming from back where the Roan was shot.
Green initially had trouble deciding which set of tracks was the bulls amidst the jumble of Roan tracks. He then found a single drop of blood on the tall grass, associated that with a particular track and painstakingly picked up the trail. 100 yards later they found the Roan. The shot had been good behind the shoulder.
Andrew was quite excited that we had gotten a Roan. We partied a bit that night.
Funny story about Andrew's sense of humor.
Hopefully you are familiar with Gary Larsen's FARSIDE comics. Andrew's sense of humor mirrors Larsen's.
After we loaded the Roan in the Cruiser, which was no easy task, the animal was on its side. Its head was facing the severed head of the Hartebeest. It looked as if they were about to hold a conversation. Andrew noticed it and laughed. He looked at me and in his Hartebeest imitating voice mimicked a statement to the Roan
"Oh, I see you met Jim too"
08-01-2012, 08:32 PM #14
You want to kill a Buffalo?
Now that seemed like a silly question but I answered Andrew respectfully. "Yup"
The day started with checking baits and hanging another. We did find large leopard tracks around one bait's perimeter but no actual hits on the bait. Maybe tomorrow will bring better luck with cats. Three days with three critters in the salt by me certainly prevents one from complaining.
Grass skirt races. Jim & Green on the left, Joyce & Victor on the right. Team Green won!!
Andrew's son Ben had built two different blinds along the swamp border of the Kafue in the hopes of some Sitatunga action. One ground blind elevated on an anthill, while the other was an elevated Machan. Ben saw a Sitatunga at last light while putting the finishing touches on one of the blinds.
Since Andrew wanted to inspect the blinds the decision was made to look at the anthill blind in the late morning. Only some minor improvements were needed and the location afforded an excellent 180 degree view along the River. Directly straight out from the blind the river was 215 yards ranged.
In our pre-hunt discussions on Skype Andrew admitted not having much time to scout the area but he felt the marsh along the river would be prime Sitatunga habitat. He had hunted Sitatunga with clients directly across the river on Richard Bell-Cross's concession. The banks looked similar on each side so optimistic thought arose that perhaps a Sitatunga resided on our side. We had glassed two bulls across the River in the late evening from camp.
On our way back from checking the blind a Bushbuck made a fleeting appearance and Joyce pursued one of her favorite and most respected antelopes. In our 2010 Zambian hunt, the Bushbuck turned out to be the most dangerous animal killed and that list did include Buffalo. The bushbuck I shot in the Luangwa charged Joyce and died 8 feet from her. Needless to say she gives them well deserved respect.
We eventually returned to camp. Madam had her nap, I smoked a Cuban, Andrew loaded pictures on his laptop from our camera, and it felt good to feel the Safari flow around us.
Andrew got a bit excited about the Roan the previous evening and left his sticks at the kill site. Today he sent Green and Ben to retrieve them. Green returned and informed Andrew they had seen a very small group of Buffalo Bulls in the area of the tall grass where the Roan expired. This prompted the question that started this episode, 添ou want to kill a Buffalo?
We loaded aboard the Cruiser and headed out. Andrew had warned us earlier that Green can move rather quickly when tracking Buffalo and you never know how long a distance that may involve. Joyce opted to stay in the truck. Andrew, Victor, Ben, Green and I set out on the spore. I carried my .375, Green carried my double and ammo in its soft case in case we got close enough or needed to follow up.
Our route took us across old burns as well as into the tall grass. Green averaged 4 MPH on the track. I was thankful for my decision to bring my heavier mountain boots with me. The potentially ankle turning grass tufts that remained from the burns produced tricky walking. I had to balance my time between looking ahead for game and looking down for a safe footfall. Green marched on.
I'm not certain how long we were on the track but my guess would be 45 minutes or so. We had now been in the tall grass, easily over eye level, for at least a mile. One large Acacia tree rose above the shimmering sea of gold. Green's pace dropped and then he stopped.
Ghostly shapes arose from the golden ocean of grass. 40 yards in front of us under the shade of the Acacia, a grouping of horns and shoulder humps could barely be seen. It seemed like a bovine mirage with the image fading in and out.
Andrew placed the sticks so he could glass easier. I also remained with binoculars. I saw what I thought to be a hard bossed bull and he was staring straight at me judging from his boss and horns. He then turned broadside facing left. I quietly let the binoculars hang and put my .375 in the V of the sticks.
Andrew continued to glass while I kept an eye on the hard bossed Buff through my scope. All I could see of the Bull was horn tips, boss and shoulder hump. Everything else disappeared in the shining gold of the grass.
I waited for Andrew's call. He remained silent staring into his binoculars. Meanwhile the bull again turned and looked straight at me. I had no idea what Andrew was waiting for. The Bovine then turned to his left giving me another broadside opportunity.
"Dead Buffalo! You want it or not"? Andrew laughed into his binoculars at my question. "I can't see the others very well. They are getting nervous. Shoot him, shoot him now".
In my mind I thought, I could have shot this thing five minutes ago. We need bait. He waits five minutes then it's all of sudden a rush. I tend not to react to urgent messages.
I put the cross hairs on the Buffalo's hump and followed down my best estimate of where 1/3 up might be. I could not see below the hump as it was. I squeezed.
The thunder of hooves followed. I kept my eye on the Buffalo I shot as he bunny hopped three times and then lumbered to my left. The other four ran in the same direction only faster. 40 yards later the Bovine I shot fell over. We could see movement and we waited. Three or four bellows followed then nothing. After working around behind him I put another shot into the motionless mass of Black and he never moved. Dead Buffalo!!
Ben volunteered to run back and get the cruiser and Madam. Meanwhile we repositioned the Buff for the Andrew Baldry Artistic Agency photo session. The man does nice work.
After what seemed like quite a long wait we heard the sound of a diesel slowly approaching. As it got closer I realized Joyce was driving. She was sporting a smile that looked like a 55 Buick Roadmaster grille. "I'm driving the truck" I could hear over the engine noise. Ben looked like he was still catching his breath.
"It's fun driving this in the tall grass. I can't see anything".
"Well if you look over there you will see a dead Buffalo", Andrew quipped.
She then laughed and looked at Andrew. "Hey don't forget your sticks this time"
Green, tracker par excellence
I couldn't resist the AK
08-01-2012, 08:48 PM #15
Bwana Effin Lucky
"Let's pop out and shoot a Sitatunga shall we"? Andrew repeated the phrase for about the fourth time at the fire while enjoying some adult beverage. His mind was stuck on the fact we made one trip to the blind, spent a little over one hour in a dry blind, without a single insect, and killed a rather nice Sitatunga.
"I've never had that happen and I definitely have never gotten a Roan and a Sitatunga on the same hunt. You are Bwana Effin Lucky".
In the immortal words of Morpheus from the Matrix, "He's starting to believe".
We spent the morning checking baits. Still no hits. The offerings were beginning to smell ripe. Maybe tomorrow. The plan was to redo some drags as well.
Jim to Joyce, "You ride up top honey, you can see more and it's easier standing than bouncing in the seat. Slush, slush, slush went the gut bucket. She's a nurse, she can handle it. The other night at the fire she was telling Andrew ER war stories.
"There I was cutting the socks off this homeless guy. They had been on his feet so long they were like casts. Man, they stunk". I doubt she noticed the gut bucket.
"This evening I'd like to sit in a blind for Sitatunga. If we see a Bush Pig we can nail that", Andrew mentioned during the afternoon rest at camp. Worth a try I thought.
After Madam's nap we loaded up and headed down the road to the West towards Matweba Dambo. The sun was warm but I left my long sleeve heavy cotton shirt on. For some reason the words blind and swamp in the same sentence equaled the presence of buzzing biting insects to me.
The cruiser stopped about 1/2 mile from the blind with a field of tall grass ahead. Joyce, Andrew, Ben and I headed in on foot. Elephants had been frequenting the area so Andrew brought his 404 Jeff along for good measure.
Arriving at the blind we silently took our places. I stood to the left and used my range finder to mark distances both left and right by ranging different colored clumps of swamp grass. I knew the river was 215 yards from our earlier visit. I just wanted to be sure where 200 yards was located both left and right in relation to the blind. I can shoot further but 200 is a fairly guaranteed kill distance for me with a decent rest without a deflection.
I love to stalk and still hunt but I have a fair amount of blind experience from many years ago as a bow hunter in Pennsylvania. I never used tree stands and utilized camouflage and natural cover like blow downs to mask my presence. You never know what nature will present until you remain quiet and stationary watching her ever changing stage show.
Back in the blind the birds provided the entertainment. A large flock of black birds with a white leading edge on their wings landed about 375 yards to my left. Andrew told me their name later but sadly I didn't write it down. They were quite large and remained visible while hunting insects in the grasses.
The swamp had many scattered pools of standing water. I expected to see a Hippo or Crocodile any moment. Multiple bird calls echoed along the waterway. Amazing how well sound travels over water and seems to be amplified.
I felt the light tap on my right shoulder and very slowly turned to see Joyce and Andrew glassing in my direction. My Binoculars did not initially reveal their point of interest. Then I saw it.
The shiny white ivory tips of the Sitatunga horns emerged from the watery grass refuge so only six inches appeared. They looked like a pair of periscopes. Just as quickly they were gone.
Andrew explained back in camp before we headed out that Sitatunga, if we are lucky enough to see one, will many times move through tunnels of grass, depressions if you will. They may appear and disappear as they move. You cannot predict the location of appearance because from the blind the grass all looks flat and level. One trip into that swamp and you realize how ludicrous a thought that was. There may be grass but the Earth can be ten feet below.
I watched the disappearing Sitatunga show for 20 minutes. Even when he reappeared the closest he made it to the blind was 346 yards. I rested the rifle on the blind support with the scope cranked to 10X and wondered if those cross hairs were still enough. No I wouldn't take that shot, but it was fun watching Andrew sweat. "Wait for him to get closer". he whispered.
"No kidding I thought".
Time past, the birds kept singing, the Sitatunga kept appearing and disappearing. He then disappeared from sight seemingly for good. I thought, "There will be other nights in this blind but I didn't voice it.
Andrew pointed straight out from the blind. A Sitatunga was standing completely in view in the broadside position. Only problem was she didn't have horns.
"Keep your eye in that area maybe she'll get a visit from the Male" I could only hope so. I hadn't seen him for over a half hour.
About 10 minutes later the fireball dipped below the trees across the Kafue River. I knew we had maybe 30 minutes of shooting light left. The birds became quieter now that they were preparing for a night of sleep. The insects started to wake up. Crickets began a serenade.
The ivory tips returned. The Bull emerged 20 feet to the left of the female with only his head showing. Even I wasn't crazy enough to try a 220 yard head shot. I waited. He teased us some more stepping into an invisible depression disappearing from sight. A few minutes later he fully emerged. I did not range him but based on a previous reading of the river being 215 yards out I would guess he was slightly over 200 yards distant and he was broadside.
The Hoffman was securely benched on a sturdy horizontal branch in the blind. I had the crosshairs on him just behind the shoulder and just above mid-body to compensate for the 6 inch drop. There was no wind.
Andrew whispered, "Wait for him to get closer".
The light was fading. I waited two minutes and he didn't move. I spoke to no one in particular but I said, "Fingers in ears, I'm taking this".
The scope picture was perfect, the crosshairs steady, so I slowly squeezed.
There are moments on Safari, or any hunting in general, where time slows down. The auditory events following the break of my trigger will remain in my memory as a vivid event for the rest of my life.
BANG!! Then a full 1 1/2 seconds of silence followed by a TWOCK, then another 1 1/2 seconds brought a loud echo of the report as a decrescendo sound traveling far up and down river. It went on for three seconds.
Andrew spoke first, "I didn't see where he went".
My scope showed me ivory tips exactly where the Sitatunga was once standing. Joyce spoke next, "I see him lying where he was standing".
Andrew still was not certain but there was no time for indecision. Our light was all but gone.
I looked across the river to the tree line and picked out a recognizable silhouette of the tallest tree with a V shaped cut to its right. As long as we had light in the sky I could find that reference.
Andrew and Ben left the blind in an attempt to cross the 200 yards of swamp for the recovery telling Joyce and I to stay put. I didn't argue. They only made it 50 feet and returned.
"I stepped off a shelf and couldn't feel bottom". Andrew related, wet above his crotch. "Ben go get the cruiser we will ride down this brush line towards camp and cross the swamp there and work our way along the river".
Sounded like a decent plan to me with only a couple of concerns. We would be driving in the dark, in a swamp that Hippos and Crocs call home. It was the beginning of the Hippo happy hour now that the sun had set.
The drive along the brush handrail was not bad but when we turned towards the river all bets were off. During daylight the grasses might be easy enough to read as far as dry vs. wetland but at night it all looked the same. I kept looking back at my tall tree making sure not to lose the reference.
Ben had to leave the truck and run ahead to test the ground as we crept across the wetland. Much time past and I had thoughts of Crocs enjoying my Sitatunga. We pressed on. The Cruiser was now 50 feet from the River and we changed direction west towards the last know location of the Sitatunga. It was slow going with Ben running ahead checking our footing?
Andrew stopped the truck and said, "Should be somewhere near here".
I replied, "We are way short. We need to line the blind up with that tall tree over on Richard's side". Andrew looked confused. "I made sure I had a line of sight for location before we left the blind. Trust me we have a ways to go. Keep driving? His response, "OK!!"
We pressed on. Joyce and I were up top on the truck with our bright torches, the headlights were on high. We finally went far enough to consider a ground search. It was now fully dark but we could see the outline of the tree marking our goal.
The four of us were now on foot, torches in hand and spread out. Personally I stepped across two different well wore Hippo trails that did not make me feel very comfortable. I scanned in a 270 degree arc as much as I scanned forward.
As I scanned right two shiny objects reflected my torch light. My tense brain thought eyeballs but they were just the tips of a Sitatunga's horns.
Andrew was 50 feet to my left and Madam was a bit behind me to my left. Ben was far off to my right and behind. 泥oes anyone want to see a dead Sitatunga I exclaimed in a not so quiet voice. I watched Andrew's torch dance in my direction across the wet and spongy grass.
The guy was very happy. We still had to position the antelope for pictures. Forget about Hippo danger.
The photo session was halted abruptly when I said, Let's get back to camp while we still can?
We took more pictures on the edge of camp and the guys sang a song of celebration. Many there had never seen a Sitatunga this close before. I felt thankful. I felt good. I felt happy.
I felt like Bwana Effin Lucky.
08-01-2012, 08:52 PM #16
Time marched on. On the seventh day of the Safari I put the sixth animal in the salt.
I was hoping to have the opportunity at a Sable. Initially when Andrew and I exchanged messages and Royal Kafue looked like a go I was given the choice of Roan or Sable on quota. Andrew felt he had to market one separately to help finance his start up. I understood.
Talking with friends and Andrew the unanimous suggestion was to make it Roan. "You can take a Sable in many places but Roan are a specialized hunt due to limited range. That all made sense but I did not have either and though I'm not a collector (I don't have to have one of each for a ring or medal or plaque), I wouldn't mind hunting both. Sable just looks better to me.
Fact is I respect that Roan a lot more. That was by far the most difficult animal I have hunted in Africa. It's hard to believe Sable and Roan are related. As Andrew says, "They are like chalk and cheese". I presume that translates to "They are like apples and oranges."
Anyway, as it turned out, I ended up with both on quota.
My Sable was quietly residing under a tree in the shade when we surprised each other. The Cruiser happened upon him and he stood as we exited the vehicle. He walked a short distance, I walked a short distance, and I killed him. Pretty much a ghetto drive by. The only thing magnificent about this tale is what he did when I shot him.
He reared up on his hind legs looking like a Lipizzaner Stallion, hopping three times on his hind legs alone, and fell over dead. Andrew and I just stood there. We both remarked how he looked just like one we saw as a full body mount on Accurate Reloading.
08-01-2012, 08:54 PM #17
Lion story up next!!
08-01-2012, 09:04 PM #18
An Infestation of Lions and the Game of Chess
As far as I can tell there are four ways to hunt a Lion in Africa. The most common is baiting. Personally I would love to do a tracking hunt for a truly wild unfenced Lion in a place like Burkina Faso but that did not fit our present plans.
Baiting is the most common method. In our communications with Andrew it became apparent that he prefers to hunt lion on their own terms with ground blinds. He would accommodate any hunter that insisted on a Machan but he likes the potential for an in your face experience with Africa's premiere apex predator. So a ground blind it is and that was fine with us.
The last method would be to sound track them when calling. Generally not very effective but since they call mostly at night I suspect it would be exciting getting close and waiting for first light.
With six animals I killed in the salt, two cows purchased, and some other small antelopes dropping dead in front of Joyce and her Ruger we had adequate baits going.
The plan was to wait for a hit and then move baits as needed. The chess analogy was now making sense. Actually we ended up moving baits based on spoor and reports of calling and spoor sighted by Andrew's anti poaching patrols as well.
Essentially this chess game continued for close to two weeks.
During one of our afternoon breaks we received a report from one of the scouts that a pair of Lions, male and female, had been sighted crossing the Dambo west of camp, apparently on their way back from water. Another scout was 徒eeping an eye on them as they lounged in some cover.
We hopped in the truck and headed out. When we got to the other scout it was apparent that his idea of keeping an eye on a pair of Lions was to hide out in the shade.
The decision was made to have Green try and track them. Joyce, Andrew, and I followed Green off across the Dambo at a very cautious pace. Green quickly picked up the track but Zambia with dry ground and lots of grasses does not provide for easy tracking of soft padded predators. Green did a remarkable job of regaining the spoor each time he lost it.
We covered close to one mile in a little over an hour. The Dambo had small islands of cover comprised of short trees, knee high grass, and shrubs. Each time we approached another island of cover we went on high alert. I would learn later how dangerous this actually was when I saw how easily an adult Lion can hide in six inches of grass.
Green finally conceded he had lost the trail. The fact also became clear these Lions were on a mission and heading directly for one of our baits. We learned later they had already hit it and were returning to the bait after a drink down at the river.
Andrew and I were excited. The story was repeated about a large old male Lion traveling with an older female that had been seen many times by the manager of Mushingashi. Perhaps this was the pair and we would meet again.
It was later discovered that one of our baits had a red ant infestation and thus had to be moved. The plan was for Ben, Victor, and two others to drop the bait and move it closer to the one the Lions were feeding on. As they hand dragged the bait, Ben and company ended up with a rather close encounter when they discovered the male sitting on an anthill like a dog watching their every move. The four wisely slowly retreated when they saw their spectator.
We took the cruiser that night and checked the bait at sunset and had a quick glimpse of the pair. Andrew asked my opinion later and I honestly told him I only got a quick look but the male looked young.
A blind was built 46 yards downwind of the bait with a plan to drive in at 1600 and for Joyce, Andrew, and I to occupy the blind. At 1600 we drove in and the Lions were on the bait. They retreated to the rear into the tall grass. We quietly exited the truck with the engine running and slipped into the back of the blind. The cruiser was driven off.
In the blind we had Joyce to the left with her 7 x 57 propped in the corner, round in the chamber, tang safety on. She held a monopod attached to her camera set on video with the lens pointed through the small port in the blind directly in front of her. Her plastic chair was comfortable and she made no noise.
In the center Andrew sat on a chair with his 404 Jeff sitting vertically barrel pointed to the sky, round in the chamber safety on. Rolled up towel on his lap in case anyone needed to stifle a cough or sneeze.
I sat to the right. A small branch had been tied at a measured height for me to rest my rifle on with the barrel already through the blind slit and trained on the bait. Now we wait.
The wait did not require much patience. The lions were hungry and returned in the time it took us to sit. Unfortunately it was obvious this duo were young. With all the information and debate here on AR in the last two years even I could now identify an obviously young male lion. We enjoyed the show and Joyce was filming away. I looked over at her. She had the video screen of the camera flipped out and watched the show on her small screen. She caught my motion, looked over, smiled and winked. I knew in her mind she was saying, "We're in Africa".
The lioness appeared stronger and more agile thus able to reach higher into the bait skirt. You could hear bones crunch. At one point she pulled down a bloody piece of short ribs and carried her prize into the grass to eat.
The wind was quiet but every now and then you could see the tops of the grass sway. While enjoying the show I suddenly felt something on the back of my neck. A small puff of air. The wind shifted.
A picture is worth a thousand words and in this case a video worth about a million.
"Don't make us kill you"!!
Joyce later expressed this thought as going through her mind as the male came to the blind. Andrew slowly moved his rifle to his lap pointing out, I quietly placed my hands on my rifle but didn't dare move it since the barrel was outside the blind, and Joyce just kept filming.
I've now watched this video many, many times. Here are some things to watch for.
At 3:46 on the time clock the male gets our scent. Watch him as he sniffs the air twice and turns to the blind.
At 5:36 you will realize how close he is thanks to the flick of the tail and the sound of his paws in the leaves.
Seven feet away is our guess; one lion length to be exact. He was looking in Andrew's blind hole while Andrew and the Madam were trying to watch him on the camera screen. I was counting his nose hairs.
08-01-2012, 09:17 PM #19
The lions eventually left the bait area about an hour before sunset. I watched them walk slowly off in the direction of the river. We stayed to last light just in case another Lion was with them and had not shown yet.
In camp that night at dinner the plan was agreed upon to continue to feed these two in the hopes they may draw in some older opportunistic lions. The duo had not been calling at night so they were certainly trying to stay below the radar with their new found feed station.
In the morning I learned a lesson on how well a lion can hide in the most minimal of cover.
The morning brought our standard ritual of coffee, tea and toast, porridge, or eggy bread the camp version of French toast. The plan was to check the bait and see how much meat was left and then decide which bait to move into the location.
We loaded up the truck and headed out. After bumping along on our way into the blind site we stopped the truck just behind the blind. No lions were visible. Andrew and Joyce glassed from the cab, while I glassed from the high seat for a full five minutes. Since the lions were obviously elsewhere we drove slowly towards the bait. About 20 feet shy of the bait, a pair of golden aberrations appeared magically out of six inches of grass and slinked past the bait into the tall grass beyond.
Andrew abruptly halted the Cruiser.
"Didn't you see anything'? he called up to me.
"I glassed for five minutes including the spot they popped out of and I saw nothing". I replied. Joyce said the same.
I flashed back to the tracking we did following Green a couple days earlier. Lions could have laid up in ambush in any of those little islands of grass we walked through. The more this hunt progressed the more respect I had for the African Lion.
The bait did not need refreshing so we rearranged the skirt and drove off.
A report from Green told of Lions calling the previous evening on the south side where we had two baits neither of which were hit. The chess game continued by moving the Waterbuck/Impala bait to the south side between the two existing baits already there. The spoor showed the two lions there to be moving back and forth from a water source just off the property. Hopefully with the third bait in place and new drags the cats would discover a free meal. The chess game continues.
The next day Joyce and I awoke before the sun. We heard no noise outside the Chalet. The campfire was already going as it had been our entire visit. Iran does a great job tending to guests.
I made coffee, Joyce made tea and we awaited Andrew & Ben. As the sky began to lighten but before the fireball rose Andrew joined us. The three of us sat and discussed the day's plan and what chess pieces would be moved.
"OAruuff, OAruuff, OAruuff, ouf"
Was my malarone mind playing tricks or did a really hear that from the south. Neither Joyce nor Andrew reacted.
"OAruuff, OAruuff, OAruuff, ouf" came again only a bit louder.
Andrew looked south then at me, "Did you hear that"?
"That's the second call I heard and it sounds like two different males but the same area". I replied.
"OAruuff, OAruuff, OAruuff, ouf" The third call was much louder and obviously much closer.
Green ran up from the other side of camp addressing Andrew, "Bwana get your guns Lions coming".
I had already loaded my .375 & Double on the Cruiser parked in front of our Chalet so I headed that direction. I clicked the ammo belt on and slipped the Hoffman from the soft case.
Andrew climbed up and unzipped the Cabela duffle cable tied to the cab roof to get his rifle. The look on his face was difficult to read but his words explained the look. "My rifle is in the other truck".
"Here take my double". I said while unzipping the other soft case.
His look changed to Christmas night and a child peaking at his gifts.
Truth be told I figured the odds of us even seeing these Lions was zero let alone one of them being a shooter and presenting an opportunity. Andrew grabbed the 450 NE ammo belt from the cab and slid two softs into the tubes. Something beautiful about the thunk, thunk sound of a double being loaded. He closed the action and checked the safety.
Madam had already grabbed her 7 x 57. She learned from the blind incident that even though you may not be hunting Lion yourself the lion may not realize that. Knowing how calm she always is and how well she shoots I was happy she had her Ruger.
Green had the sticks, Andrew held my double, me with the .375, Madam with her 7 x 57, and Ben with nothing as we all marched down the road from camp. No further lion calls were heard.
On the walk out from camp tall grass lines the left side and on the right once you leave the camp clearing there's thick brush for 30 meters then an open area 50 meters square.
We walked briskly past the cover on the right and made it 40 yards further with the clearing now on our right when a noise behind us got our attention. I turned in time to witness an image that has played back in slow motion many times in my memory.
Two large heavily maned muscular lions strolled from that cover and across the road with a lioness on their tail. You could see each muscle ripple and their mane hair undulate as they effortlessly disappeared into the tall grass ignoring us as something insignificant.
Green threw the sticks up. "Why bother I thought". They were gone as fast as I realized what I saw.
"There's another coming"!! Those words frantically called by Ben changed the game. I put the Hoffman on the sticks just as the bushes parted revealing another big male Lion. This just couldn't be happening. He cleared cover and was ten feet short of the road and the tall grass when Andrew challenged with a very loud "Ouummff"!!
As my cheek welded to the stock and my world changed to the view in my scope I saw a magnificent absolutely fearless cat spin towards us and stop 40 yards away. Joyce swears he was looking straight at her but I think every human standing there felt he was looking at them.
It is written that a Cape Buffalo looks at you like you owe them money. If this is true then a Lion looks at you like you are a piece of prime rib.
Andrew took less than a second to decide he was a shooter. I had the cross hairs on his nose originally because I was thinking self defense. When I heard "Shoot" I dropped the point of aim just below the chin and squeezed.
The scene replays in slow motion as the cat seems to draw in on itself as if he's an accordion looked at from the end. His right front leg gives way but he doesn't go down. He's already spinning right to sprint back for cover. I cycle my bolt and hear a bang. It's Andrew unleashing the right barrel of my double but hitting nothing. I lead the lion as it disappeared into the brush and I shot into the moving brush. A continuous crashing sound followed for seconds and then silence.
I recalled at campfire talks that Andrew advised in a blind scenario not to take an immediate follow up shot because you did not want to reveal your location and Andrew wanted to listen as the cat ran for cover. "Mortally wounded cats crash through the bush making a lot of noise". I hoped I just heard a mortally wounded cat.
We'll wait an hour and follow up".
I've heard that before as has Joyce. She timed him. Nine minutes and a cigarette later Andrew looked at me. "Let's go Mate. I want you and the .375 with me".
I looked at Joyce and she smiled. She stayed back with Ben 7 x 57 in her hand.
Green led out, eyes on the ground. Andrew and I walked side by side with me on the left. He had already reloaded the right barrel and I had already refilled my magazine and chamber. Victor the Game Scout had his AK 47 and walked behind us.
As usual with the TSX there was no blood at the scene of the initial impact. Green picked up the trail and very slowly followed it. Andrew and I scanned into the brush. It's difficult to see into shady cover especially at a standing height. I crouched down.
In another five feet we found blood and then a pool of blood all bright red.
We went on for ten long minutes and I leaned over to Andrew and whispered, "I'd feel better if I had the double" He suddenly went deaf. We continued.
Another tense ten minutes and Victor whispered to me, "Lion" while looking left. I swung my barrel left and dropped to my knees to see under the pucker brush. Nothing!!
I looked ahead and Green and Andrew had moved two steps off creating a gap. I moved forward. Victor grabbed my shirt, "Lion!! There's a Lion in there".
Andrew heard that and swung the double to his left as well. We continued looking and saw nothing. Green leaned into the brush, pulled back out and smiled. Andrew looked again and his face looked even happier than when I showed him a dead Sitatunga. He finally released his grip on my double and shook my hand.
"Congratulations Bwana that's a big assed Lion". I finally could make out the motionless hind leg.
I crawled into the thick cover, which was not easy, and crouched over a dead African Lion. He looked huge. "Just be the darkness of the cover". I thought.
I gave a Navajo yell, a high pitched scream Joyce and I learned while living on the Rez at Fort Defiance, Arizona in the 80's. I knew she would appreciate relief at my vocal announcement of success.
The guys from camp arrived and after hacking at the brush for five minutes 10 men carefully carried the Lion out into the open. It wasn't the dark cover that made it look big. This Lion was huge.
Andrew took some extra time prepping the photo scene and people lined up for their picture session with the cat.
Timing could not have been better for Royal Kafue. Board members of the Community Trust had stopped by today to visit camp I suspect to see how the first Safari was going. They joined in the celebration song. Two members approached me alone later and thanked me for helping prove Royal Kafue was a good idea.
Hell, it looked like a good idea to me.
08-01-2012, 09:17 PM #20
One of the best Father & Son pictures of all time. They worked hard for this moment.
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