Tuskless / Buffalo with Martin Pieters
As I begin to write this report in the Hahare airport I am sad as I am now leaving Zimbabwe. This trip was my first to Zimbabwe but will certainly not be my last.
I had no plans to hunt in Africa this year until I started seeing some pretty good deals being offered. Bill C certainly enjoyed his hunt with Martin Pieters so I decided to book a tuskless cow and a buffalo cow hunt for seven days. A while back there was a thread about what you would do different if you started hunting in Africa again. A common theme was less taxidermy and more hunting. This trip had zero cost for pack and dip, transportation, taxidermy.
The only rifle I brought was my Krieghoff .470 Nitro double rifle. All ammo was handloaded by me with Woodliegh solids and softs. Everything from brass to bullets was weighed and measured with the utmost care. All loaded rounds were checked in each chamber of the double. Muzzle velocity was 2100 FPS.
Travel arrangements were handled by Shawn at Gracy Travel. I used SAA and the trip was uneventful. In the course of my travel to Bulawayo I met two other AR members one whom I sold some 416 ammo and another I had met at the AR dinner at DSC.I overnighted at Africa Sky in Joberg and then continued to Bulawayo where I was met by Martin Pieters. We proceeded to his home. Martin has a wonderful family and they were very kind to me.
The next morning we began the drive to Omay North. It took about eight hours but the time passed very quickly. Martin is very passionate about the efforts he is putting forth to make the Omay even better. We discussed everything from anti poaching activities to management of the lion population, to working with the council in the CAMPFIRE area. I took an instant liking to Martin.
We arrived at the Ume camp where I met Dalton who is an "appy" and Steven our tracker. We organized a hunting vehicle and proceeded to Tiger Bay which is an old fishing resort. The accommodations were very nice and well staffed. The first evening in camp we took a boat ride and viewed the game in the area including elephants, hippos, crocs, and impalas. My chalet faced the water and that night it sounded like the hippo were at my feet.
We began our hunt the next morning at daybreak. We soon found elephant tracks crossing the road and the hunt was on in the jess. This stuff is thick with no leaves and I cannot imagine it early in the season when it is completely green. While tracking the elephants we came across some buffalo. Although there were some shootable cows they offered no good shots and eventually ran off after winding us. We continued tracking the elephant. Steven is an amazing tracker. We eventually caught up with the herd but there were no tuskless. The matriarch put on a mock charge and stopped at about 15 yards. The close interaction with the herd help put me at ease. We located some more tracks and eventually caught up to the herd. We found two tuskless in the herd but they both had calves. After a break for lunch we drove to another area and looked for tracks crossing the road. Unable to locate any we set out on foot to look for elephant near some springs. We were unsuccessful and that walk brought an end to the day.
The next morning we discovered we had visitors in the camp during the night. A hippo relieved itself about 20 ft from my chalet. No wonder they sounded so close. There were also elephant and buffalo tracks in the camp from the previous night. That green grass was hard for them to resist. We re-entered the jess and tracked another herd with no tuskless. I took some pictures at about 50 feet. I can barely make out the elephant in the pictures. Did I say this stuff is thick? We then moved to another area and started tracking another herd. We found a tuskless with no calf in a herd of about twelve elephants. We worked our way within 20 yards and that was as close as we could get. We stood there and watched the elephants and I began to become nervous. Then I thought this is the pinnacle of hunting and I am participating. A big smile appeared on my face as I raised my Krieghoff. If I live to be a hundred I will never forget the sight picture as I squeezed the trigger. The 470 Nitro roared and the elephant was gone. It dropped like someone chopped its legs out from underneath it. I then placed a follow up shot in its head, quickly reloaded fired two in its chest, quickly reloaded and fired one more in the chest. At that point the other elephants decided they wanted us dead. We quickly retreated as I reloaded again. The matriarch charged us and did not stop until Martin fired a warning shot over its head. This occurred at about 10 feet. She looked at us and we at her and both decided to put a little distance between us. It was a little on the exciting side. We were then able to move about a hundred yards away and let things settle down. After the elephant decided to leave we worked our way back to the elephant. Even though she did not take a step SHE WAS STANDING! I worked my way within about five yards and brained her and put one more in her spine while she was down. We cut the tail and she was now mine. After it was over I had a strange feeling, not of remorse or guilt but maybe humbled a little by the experience. I was not ashamed but had no desire to sit on her for hero pictures. Do not misunderstand, I was excited and proud but in a reserved sort of way. We walked to the vehicle and drove to a nearby village. After collecting a group of skinners we headed back to the elephant. The salvaging of the meat was unbelievable. Axes and knives flying everywhere with lots of excitement. Nothing and I mean nothing went to waste. That huge animal was hauled out in five gallon buckets.
The next morning we were on buffalo. We found tracks and after a short stalk we were on the herd. We just could not get close enough for a clear shot. I believe I mentioned the jess is thick. They ended up moving off and we started tracking another group. After crawling around on our butts for quite a while we located this group. These turned out to be dugga boys, and off course I was looking for a cow. We worked our way out and knew there was a herd nearby. All of a sudden we heard a buffalo coming in from the other direction. As it neared we saw it was a cow. It crossed a narrow opening and I fired from a seated position and was only able to shoot once even with the double. I jumped up and immediately reloaded. Martin said it looked to be a good shot. We walked the twenty-five yards to where I shot it and found bright red blood. We started tracking it and found it after a short distance. I put two more in it and it still ran off. These buffalo need to read AR and learn that 5000 ft/lbs should knock them on their butts. We tracked it a little further and found it facing us, slightly quartering. I put on more on the breadbasket and dropped it. One more in the head for insurance and it was over. I really appreciated Martin allowing me to shoot it out with the buffalo on the follow up and he fired no backup shots. After it was over Dalton told me that more than likely the buffalo was about to charge when I dropped it. That would have been interesting at 15 yards. We picked up some guys from the village and within two hours it was nothing but a bloody spot on the ground.
Now I had five more days in the camp and hunting was over. That was no problem. We moved to the Ume camp and I had what I felt was the best chalet in camp with the best view. For the next week (Martin actually let me stay two additional days after my five days were over) I ran around with Dalton. It was like being at my camp in Louisiana. We fished, checked hyena baits, made grocery runs to the other camp, went on another elephant recovery, viewed game, visited the local schools, and generally just enjoyed camp life. It was great. The other hunters in camp invited me to go hunting with them but I did not want to take a chance of messing up their hunt even though it was a very kind gesture. The last couple of days were spent at the Mackenzie Camp. The other hunters, PHs, and camp staff were all great.
I flew back to Harare and was able to visit with a classmate of mine from Louisiana. She has lived there since 1985 after marrying a Zim farmer in college.
Hunting with my double was great. Iron sights, no shooting sticks, and firing all the follow up shots really helped make the hunt. I have been a proponent of using single shot rifles, but in those conditions I would not recommend it especially on the elephant. I did have two mistakes with the double. I pulled the front trigger twice on my first volley on the elephant. I never did it while practicing nor again during the hunt. Also I shot the buffalo with the left barrel first (solid), I do not know how I did it other than not practicing enough from the sitting position.
Elephants are tough. I thought the side brain shot was good and I put three in her chest, one of which also broke a leg. (she was on her side with her legs facing towards me) But she was still able to stand or maybe was helped up by the others. I have a picture of the side brain shots. The rear one was the first one. The Woodleigh solids that were recovered looked as though they could be reloaded and shot again.
I will never plan another trip without my wife. There were so many times something happened and I thought about how excited she would be.
Zimbabwe seems to be recovering. Stores are stocked and fuel is available. I even walked several blocks in Harare by myself to eat and have my haircut with no fear.
Martin runs a very good operation. I kept thinking he had me confused with someone else. It seemed everything was above and beyond what I expected. The only downfall was Martin came down with malaria after the buffalo hunt and it cut our time short, but Dalton was there to take care of me.