BOTSWANA: Elephant Hunt With Johan Calitz Safaris In June 2021

Scott CWO

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I’m on my way home to Colorado after the first flight of four to get home. I have some long layovers so thought I would file a report.

June 4th - Left the ranch for the Denver Airport. Took quite a while to check-in with American Airlines due to the firearm requirements for my connecting flights on Qatar Airlines through Doha and on to JNB. Gracy Travel had submitted the electronic paperwork to Qatar and I had the documents with me but it still took a while for the AA check-in agents to deal with it and the COVID test results as well. Give yourself plenty of time at all airports for all these steps.

Made it to Dallas. DFW doesn’t have much for flight monitor screens and my boarding pass to Doha on QA didn’t list the gate number - hate it when that happens! After asking some airport employees where the QA gates were located and getting the wrong info the first time, I found the gate. Luckily I was plenty early again. The gate agent checked my COVID results again and we did some more paperwork for my rifle. Then I was directed to LEAVE the gate area and go out of security to go to the QA check-in counter for more firearm paperwork. Thankfully, I had plenty of time and my Global Entry card helped me get back through security quickly and on to the gate again. After another few minutes with the gate agent, I was all set.

The QA flight from DFW to Doha is over 15 hours. Although the QA business class is not quite as plush as Turkish Air, it was quite nice and I got settled in. I had a drink and the lamb chops and then the steward prepared my bed. I put on the pjs provided and slept for 10 hours! I had worked through the previous night so that I wouldn’t have to work much during the trip and was exhausted. I woke up a couple hours before landing in Doha.

June 5th - At the QA lounge in Doha, I took a shower and then met Mark Biggerstaff for a while before we both headed to the gate for the 8.5 hour flight to JNB. This second QA plane didn’t have the Q Suite privacy of the first QA plane but you can still recline flat and sleep. I slept a couple more hours. The food was good and this plane had roughly the same beverage menu.

June 6th - Landed at JNB at 04:00 and met Bruce from Gracy to claim my bags and do the SA gun paperwork. As I mentioned in other threads, I claimed my bags due to the long eight hour layover before my Airlink flight to Maun at noon. Bags can get lost on such long layovers so I didn’t want to take that chance. Bruce and I chatted and then rechecked my bags a few hours before the flight to Maun.

Arrived in Maun and had to go through the Botswana COVID protocols consisting of sitting under a tent canopy outside while waiting for your turn at a rapid COVID test. I was immunized back in March so no worries - I passed. I then claimed my bags and went through the usual Botswana firearm permit verification.

Unfortunately, I had a slight panic attack at this point when I saw that the Masterlock padlock AND the metal rod were both missing on my Americase metal rifle case! OMG was my rifle, Leica Tempus red dot sight and two scopes still inside??

I asked the police official if I could open the case immediately to check. He allowed me to do it as he had to check the serial number anyway. Upon opening the gun case with my heart in my throat, my heart skipped a beat as I noticed the rifle and other contents were arranged differently. Was everything there? The rifle? The bolt? The sights and scopes? My cleaning rod? Unbelievably, YES everything was still inside. OMG what a relief!!

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Scott CWO

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June 6th continued - After clearing the gun permit inspection, I was met outside of security by a JCS rep named Mattie. She had the original copy of my Botswana firearm permit. Also meeting me was my PH, Ron “Ronnie” Craus. You might remember him from the wounded lion charge video on YouTube in which he kills the charging lion at point blank range! To say I was in good hands is an understatement! Ronnie and Mattie asked the airport personnel to look for my gun case rod in the aircraft cargo hold. It wasn’t there, as I suspected due to the contents being rearranged inside the case. I can only figure that perhaps I didn’t fully close the padlock at the SA firearms office and the padlock later fell off and the rod slid out? Did the case come open and someone put the contents back inside? I was sure I locked the padlock but I will never know the answer. Or, did someone cut the lock? Who knows.

Since it was a Sunday in Maun, there was no way to buy more padlocks or have a new rod made for the rifle case so we headed to Johan’s home and headquarters for a quick stop and continued on NE of Maun to a fly camp near the village of Mababe. The camp was nice for a fly camp with a big dining canopy, table, stocked bar, fire pit, sleeping tents and showers. There was a chef and full staff of people. I was the only elephant hunter in the NG41 concession at the time but there was a leopard and plains game hunter still at the main camp. We had a great dinner, some drinks and Ronnie smoked one of the cigars I brought him. We went to bed in our respective tents and could hear a lion roaring some distance away. A fitting start to the Safari!

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Scott CWO

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Day 1 - We left camp about a half hour after sunrise to shoot the rifle with both the scope and red dot sight. Both were still dead on.

The weather was cool and windy. Although we saw several cows and calves, we didn’t see a bull elephant until the afternoon. We did see a lioness, eleven jackal, eleven wild dogs, and lots of buffalo, kudu, impala, zebra, wildebeest and hundreds of guinea fowl.

In the afternoon, we saw 16 bulls with biggest being about 40 pounds. We followed a couple tracks to no avail but there are so many elephant in NG41 that you see a lot from the Cruiser, similar to the Maswa area in Tanzania. Day one came to a close.
 

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OMG, talk about a pucker factor. Man, so glad your stuff was still in the case. I like the camp pictures. Keep them coming, anxiously waiting for more. :)
 

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Day 2 - We left camp just after sunrise. Not far from camp, I spotted a rhino cow and calf. We stopped and snapped some pictures and video. The cow’s horn had been removed. Ronnie mentioned that removing the horn doesn’t always keep a rhino safe because the poachers will sometimes still shoot the rhino so that they don’t waste time following it again in the future. Dirty bastards! Later in the week we ran into the Botswana government anti-poaching team that was keeping tabs on her. That was nice to see. We also saw another lioness and some absolutely huge buffalo, including a dream bull of about 44” with the most beautiful big hard boss, drop and curl! A tremendous trophy but I didn’t reserve one of Johan’s 20 buff tags for NG41 as the elephant hunt was already expensive and I’m going to Zambia in 2022 and Tanzania in 2023 so the budget is stretched already. In addition to this buff, we saw a 42” buff and hundreds of other buffalo. NG41 borders Chobe NP and the Moremi Game Reserve so buffalo, elephant and other game are present in high numbers.

As for elephant, we saw a lot of bulls and more than 300 elephant in total but nothing over 50 pounds. Upon returning to camp just before dark, we discovered a young bull right next to camp. Another great day ends.
 

BourbonTrail

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Glad your rifle/red dot was still on the money. That amount of elephants just blows my mind.
 

Scott CWO

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Day 3 - On this morning we concentrated our efforts along the river that flows through the NW part of NG41 both upstream and downstream of Mababe. We a lot of bulls but I was still trying for a bull over 70 pounds so we didn’t shoot any that we tracked or saw from the Cruiser. The biggest single group of bulls numbered at eight. Also saw a ton of waterbuck, including a few real trophies.

After lunch, we drove through an area full of mopane trees and saw several cow herds and a few small groups of bulls. Driving a bit further, we came across the tracks of a large bull traveling with a smaller bull. We decided to follow them but then the two trackers, Roman and Seven, spotted one of them in the distance before we even got down from the elevated seat behind the cab. We hiked up to the bulls. One was small but the bigger bull looked pretty good. We decided to get a real close look. We closed to about 50 yards. This was by far the biggest bull we had seen to date. He looked long and heavy to me. His tusks seemed to carry the mass quite well. His right tusk was a bit longer than his left. This bull was no dummy and kept moving while Ronnie was trying to get a look at the circumference at the lip. The bull wasn’t cooperating and Ronnie quickly guessed him to be about 17” in circumference and about 44” exposed length from the lip. Ronnie likes to see bulls harvested that are 18” at the lip if possible. He said he thought the bull would weigh low 60s to mid 60s in pounds. I really liked the look of this bull and especially how he carried the mass. Ronnie also said he had a giant body and was quite old. His back feet were worn smooth on the rear part of the foot. Since it was only day 3 of 14 days, he advised me to pass. He was confident we could find a 70 pounder. I was really torn but followed his advice. Would I regret this decision? Time will tell.
 
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cpr0312

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Wow, not a good feeling/start to the trip! Glad all was well once opening the case! Looking forward to the report!
 

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I couldn't imagine how hard it must have been to pass on a 60lb-65lb ele! Really enjoying the tale! Keep it coming!
 

Scott CWO

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Ye
Glad to hear the rifle was intact. Makes you wonder who tampered with the case?
Passing on a 60# must be hard to do
Yes, very hard to pass! Still makes me cringe a bit.
 

MMAL

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Wow. Really looking forward to the rest of this report.
 

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Sounds like an exciting hunt so far.

Leaving early must be a great omen. Have a safe trip back.

Passing on 60+ Priceless.

Looking forward to reading more!
 

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Day 4 - Drove near the river above and below Mababe. Followed a large track on foot but it went into the Moremi Game Reserve so we went back to the truck. We then drove along a track parallel to the river and saw lots of elephant, hippo and waterbuck. Best elephant was 50 pounds.

We then drove east of camp and then later, north to the Chobe NP border up in the NE part of NG41. Ronnie said there’s not as many elephant in the eastern part of NG41 but occasionally a big bull. We cut a really big bull track that was headed north as we are headed east. We follow it for a while on foot but the bull is not stopping to feed and the trackers fear it is headed to Chobe NP so we hike back to the truck. We then went east some more before turning north towards the park border. After reaching the border, we turn west and drive along the track road that is the border. Sure enough, just as the trackers predicted, we find the big bull track from earlier crossing the road into the park. Bummer!

We continue west along the boundary. The country opens up with a lot less trees. The trees are in strips and smaller bunches now. This mostly open area is called “the depression” where the river fans out into a swamp and slowly disappears. We are on the north side of the depression. Our camp is along the south side. We spot lots of plains game and a few cow herds. We see some roan including a large bull. The track road disappears into the depression so we now turn south and cross the depression by weaving around the wet areas. Off to the east, we spot a GIANT herd of buffalo. The herd stretches for a couple kilometers! Amazing. Ronnie says there’s at least 1000 buffalo in this herd. I’ve never seen anything like it. He also said that later in the year, there will be 4000 buffalo in the depression as they migrate out of Chobe NP. Not far from the buffalo, we see a group of five elephant bulls, another group of three and a few scattered singles. We get closer to them and glass them but nothing is over 50 pounds. After crossing the depression, we turn back to the east and run into the other PH with the leopard and plains game hunter. It’s their last day and they are cruising around looking for a big kudu. After talking for a while, we continue on and come across two bull elephant feeding not 60 yards from the track road. The larger of the two is 58 pounds. We pass and head back to camp. Along the way, we see a huge buffalo of about 46”. Really wide and worn tips but not as deep curled as the 44” bull we saw earlier on the safari. Wow, the buffalo are amazing here!
 
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Scott CWO

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Day 5 - We drove west from camp along the depression. Didn’t see much. Drove all the way to the west boundary road of the hunting area and then turned south for about 5km and did a looping track to the SE into the thick mopane forest. Then we drove across country to a couple of pans holding water and saw some small bulls and cows. We worked our way back to the boundary road.

We turned south on the road before turning off and doing another loop to the SE into appleleaf forest. Then cut across country back to the boundary road once again. This time, we turned north on the boundary road. Found a fresh track crossing the road and followed on foot. The trackers lost the track. While they were sorting it out, I spotted the bull up ahead but after getting close, we discovered it was big bodied but tusks broke off short. Walked back to the truck and then drove north on the boundary road for 2-3km when trackers spotted two bulls to the east of the road on our legal side of the road. We drove a short way and then got out to glass them before hiking to them. One looked promising so we hiked to them. Once we got close, Ronnie and I both thought it was the 65 pound bull from day 3. I wanted to shoot him and we started jogging to cut off the bull before he got to the road. He knew something was up. These elephants haven’t been hunted for seven years but this old bull had a long memory. Ronnie got a better look at the circumference at the lip. Now he said 18”!

The trackers were disappointed that we didn’t shoot this bull on day 3. This time, I said, “I like this bull and I’m shooting him!” The bull was still headed to the boundary road. After one last look, Ronnie agreed and said, “This is your elephant! I think he’s bigger now that I’ve had a better look.”

We half jogged up along side the bull to about 35 yards. He stopped for a second and made a bluff head shake at us and started walking again. I took a walking side brain shot with the .458 Lott. The bull went down immediately but something wasn’t quite right. His legs weren’t completely paralyzed. Turns out I hit the zygomatic arch and the 500gr bullet slightly deflected and passed just under the football size brain. Ronnie said he’s seen this before and that the arch is rock hard. Anyway, as the bull was now getting up slowly, I shot him in the left hip because elephant cannot run on three legs. I didn’t have the angle for another attempt at a brain shot at the time and the bull was now facing away from me. The bull slouched down in the back end after the shot. I ran around his left side and made a proper side brain shot and he was dead! Wow, what a relief! He fell about 200 yards from the boundary!

Crazy lucky to find the bull several kilometers from where we last saw him and still inside the area. Here’s some pictures.
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Scott CWO

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The measurements: Right tusk is 75.5” long and 76.0725 pounds. Left tusk is 69.75” long and 69.4575 pounds. Circumferences at the lip are 18”.

This is the biggest elephant so far this year for Johan Calitz Safaris. Their second biggest so far is 75 pounds, also guided by Ronnie.
 

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Outstanding! Congrats on a hellofva bull.
 

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