Buffalo Tales

Bruce

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I REALLY love to hunt Cape Buffalo and I always tell my non - hunter wife that I will be hunting buffalo until I can no longer walk and the wheelchair has collapsed!!
I took my two sons at that time aged 30yrs and 14 yrs, on a 21 x day safari in Tanzania. The first 10 x days spent up in the Northern Maasailand areas and the remaining 11 x days in the Selous, near to the confluence of the Rufiji and Ruaha rivers.
The concession in Maasailand had not been hunted for 5 x years. I was hunting with PH Steve, who I had hunted with the previous year, also in Tanzania, and also a Botswana PH, Colin, who was tagging along to get experience on his first trip into Tanzania with plans to eventually get his Tanzanian POH license and to operate there with Steve.
This area proved to host plenty of buffalo, lion, leopard, and hordes of PG, including gerenuk, fringe eared Oryx and lesser kudu.
We found a very productive area with buff herds of +- 200 or so and I named this place buff valley, as it constituted mainly a very large and long open vlei area with shortish grass, surrounded on the fringes by thick tree lines where the buff would hide away in once the Sun came up. The trouble with these vlei areas is that they are typically known as "cotton clay" where the elephants etc leave massive footprints embedded in the mud during the wet season and these then dry out, leaving hard, deep holes all over the place... just waiting to break or twist your ankle ( or both!!)
Anyway, we used to leave camp at 03h30 as it was a fair drive to buff valley and we needed to get there way before the sun came up in order to get a chance at finding the buff herds before they entered the tree line and bedded down for the day.
Anyone who has hunted Tanzania in July knows that the early mornings are colder then the snow capped peaks of Kilimanjaro and it is even worse on the back of the Cruiser hurtling along to get to buff valley. Long sleeve shirts, thick winter hooded jackets, scarves, gloves, beanies, and sitting arses flat down on the floor behind the cab to escape the life threatening wind.
On arrival at buff valley, I slowly made my way up and sort of managed to get my limbs thawed out enough to climb down off the vehicle. Steve and Colin, who had sat inside the cab the whole way, had now opened up the scoff box and were pouring out the piping hot coffee into tin mugs... I used the first 10 minutes of the coffee mug to thaw out the fingers of my left hand, so that I was at least in a semi state to work the trigger when required ( yes, I am a leftie shooter!!). Coffe and rusks sorted, we loaded up the rifles and got our gear for the trek and took off. The Sun had yet to make an appearance.
Gradually, the rising sun made some sort of impression on the day and we could start making put shapes etc in the distance. As luck would have it, we caught up to a herd just as they were entering the tree line, with the odd straggler lagging behind. We found some hidden energy and increased our pace over the cotton clay, desperately wanting to get to the tree line in time. We made it without any le damage and as we walked into the tree area, we saw a few buff tail- enders... one bull stopped, 1/2 quartering towards us and stood staring, trying to make out what the hell we were. I was onto the sticks and the 375 thumped a 300gr Swift A Frame into his left shoulder, the bit that I could see on this quartering angle. The distance was estimated 80m.
We heard the "thump" and the buff took off....... we waited. And then we waited some more... Steve had a smoke... I didn't smoke, but was about to learn and start quickly!! We waited some more... the trackers were adamant of a good hit... I was not so sure? We slowly made our way up to the place where the bull had stood... we saw the hoof marks where he had taken off at speed, BUT NO BLOOD!! Steve smoked some more... I was getting closer to asking him for one!!!. We waited... we discussed... we looked around for blood or any other sign of a hit... NADA!. Gradually, we worked ever increasing circles around and away from the position where the bull had stood in the hope of picking something up.
EVENTUALLY, the tracker spotted some rich red blood... not a lot... but blood. Trouble was, it was not frothy and pinkish indicating the lung shot!. We discussed the follow up tactics... trackers in front, then Steve, then Colin, then me, then my sons, game scout and one other tracker bringing up the rear.
The bush was relatively thick, with a lot of small very open areas giving way to another bout of thick bush etc. We got onto the buff a few times where he had lain down, but he just upped and ran off away from us, NOT opting to charge which suited me fine. After a few more of these up & run aways my nerves were shot! We never once saw the buffalo... just heard him crashing away through the bush. We got to an area that sported "islands" of round thick bush, with open ground between each island. Every time the buff would lay down in one of these islands and rest and we would then flush him out when we got too close and it would start all over again. I had told my boys that if the buff charged they were NOT to run. Stand fast, behind me and between the 2 x PH's and myself, we would deal with the bull ( half convincing myself as well at this time!!!)
As we tracked along, from my right side came a LOUD crashing noise and my heart stood still... flipped... thumped a few times... stood still again.. and then I breathed... seeing the damn Francolin wing it away as it careered off. The bastard thing had waited almost until I stood on it before it took of, wings a flappin...my boys didn't run!!!!
We came to an open area and about 20 m or so across to the other side was THICK BUSH!! The wounded buff tracks led straight into that bush... this was no island, but a proper tree and bush area, very thick.
We discussed and decided that Steve and Colin would go in alone and my boys and I would wait with the rest on this side of the clearing - SAFETY FIRST!!!. We knew the buff was there,,, just not exactly where!!! At 1/2 a meter a minute, Steve and Colin entered this thick stuff... they were 10m in when the 500 Jeffries and the 458 Express both barked and brought the episode to an end. The tough old bull had lead us a fair chase for more than an hour and finally lying down for a final time. He had tried to rise up again, but couldn't quite make it when the PH 's shots closed his final chapter.
It took us another 1,5 hrs to cut a path into this bush area where the buff was lying, to get the vehicle in for the recovery......
My first shot had hit about 2"low, breaking the left shoulder and leg section, but not penetrating any vital organs of note!
Buffalo tales will be continued.........................
1st buff 3.JPG
 

BRICKBURN

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Nice Bull.
Keep it coming...
 

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Great story. Thanks for sharing! Bruce
 

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That was a good tale, Bruce !
 

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Excellent story and thank you. I can't wait for more.
 

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OK... so Buffalo Tales continues...
we are all still on the same hunt in Tanzania, Maasailand area and have 1 x buff in the salt already, amongst various plains game, leopard etc.
One correction to the previous tale... my younger son was not 14 but 15 yrs old... for the record!!
So, we head out again for Buff valley... freezing cold conditions being the same on the back of the Cruiser. We had by now got a bit wiser and snuck some blankets from the chalets to throw over us and managed to get a degree or 2 warmer...eeshhhhh IT WAS DAMN COLD!!!!
We arrived at buff valley a bit earlier on this occasion and managed to get a herd still in the open vlei, as such.It was daylight by the time we got up to them and again we got onto some stragglers, grazing their way to the tree line and the rest of the herd who had managed to get into the thick stuff already. My older son, Louis, was the official camera man for this hunt and he carried the video camera, while my younger son, Thomas, carried the 300WM.
Due to the open area and not wanting to spook the three old bulls that we were stalking, I arranged that my sons and 2 x trackers remained behind at an area of some trees and scrub bush inside this vlei area... Steve, Colin, the main tracker and myself continued on with the final approach through the devastating cotton clay and other mine fields. The three bulls disappeared into a lower elevation "donga" type depression which gave us a gap to speed up and cover some ground quickly to get into a closer shooting position.. there was also some smaller tree/ scrub cover between us and the bulls which we made for.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my boys are pissed off that they have been left behind and decide to climb a tree to get a bird's eye view of what is going on... they could see the bulls grazing and moving towards the tree line, but we were not visible. Louis scaled a tree and got the camera from Thomas...
Back to the hunting proper....with the previous tale referring to the wounded buff and the sticky follow up AND the fact that we were leaving the NEXT DAY... I did not want a repeat scenario and then MAYBE have a long follow up on another wounded buff, so I had arranged with Steve that he would back me up with his 500 Jeffries. We got into position and the nicer buff of the three was selected and I was onto the sticks in a flash... the 375 broke the early morning quiet and calm... the buff was hit good and instantaneously, the 500 Jeffries boomed next to me on my left side... DEAF for sure... I saw the buff drop while on the run after the 500 clobbered him... the other 2 x bulls continued running full tilt and suddenly swerved to their right and ran towards us in a sort of gentle curve. They had NO idea what or where we were, but ran on anyway. I was following the lead buff in my scope and as he straightened out and came head on towards me, I whacked him in the chest... the 2 x buff came to an abrupt halt +_ 30m from us... they still had not seen us... the second shot was good and the buff was hunched over, mouth to just above ground level and BLOWING OUT SMOKE LIKE A DRAGON... HUGE wafts of vapour exiting its mouth/ nostrils due to the freezing cold air... Steve is going BALLISTIC!!!!!!!!!!! I am calm and watching the third bull that was hanging around right next to his mate...so, with Steve ranting and raving like a lunatic that I had shot the wrong buffalo and that the first buffalo was already down and dead... he wasn't in a listening mood!!! I waited a few seconds, I suppose... things happen quickly in these conditions and we don't track time too well. While still scoping the shot buff, I calmly informed Steve that he was to quit panicking.. I had SEEN the fist buff go down after his blast from the Jeffries and had now shot the SECOND buff, which in fact was my THIRD for the safari and for which on the 21 x day safari I had license for 3 x buff!! So, NO wrong buff shot, no hassles with Govt/ wild life dept.... I have shot my QUOTA!!.. Steve relaxed once the penny dropped.
I still had this chest shot bull standing very awkwardly and breathing dragon fire over the vlei... I now had a 300gr Federal solid in the chamber, as I always load 2 x Swift A Frame softs and then 3 x solids... I moved slightly to the left and let fly offhand at the shot buff's rib cage, as it was now quartering away from us ... so hoping to get into the body and hit vital organs... AGAIN!!. On impact, adrenaline set in and this guy, who minutes before was about to fall over, took off at a rate of knots, closely followed by his surviving mate. BOOM... again in my left ear, Colin and fired with his 458 Express and whacked this running buff with a solid high up into the spine at the wither area. The bull dropped in a cloud of dust as it somersaulted over itself and came to a grinding. skidding halt on it's side. The 3 rd buff kept running....
Back to the trees... Louis had just got the camera and they had heard the first 2 x shots.. he was telling Thomas that he could see the 2 x buff running... BOOM another shot... the buff was stopped and hunched over, breathing smoke out of its nostrils... he could not see us... BOOM,, another shot and commotion as the buff take of... BOOM another and final shot... at least he managed to get the somersault and burst of dust as the buff hit the deck at full tilt on camera...

Back to Steve... now he was all excitement and praise... forgotten were his ill gotten words of contempt and scolding at having shot the wrong buff... :D
"Well, he says... I have had clients shoot 2 x buff within the hour BUT NEVER 2 X BUFF WITHIN 15 SECONDS!!!

Pity it wasn't ALL recorded on the camera, BUT that is what it is all about... we have some good footage, can hear ALL the shots ( fortunately could not hear Steve ranting and raving...)
and Louis got the final somersault and dust cloud perfectly...
A FANTASTIC morning hunt with a great result.

2 buff + sons.JPG
 
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Bruce

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Buffalo Tales continue…..


This time I am living in Zambia and as such, entitled to Residents Hunting Permits 1 x per year. The system allows each eligible Resident to apply for a GMA Permit and you specify the maximum of FIVE species that you would like to hunt in that specific area… each GMA area has different quotas and different species available. You put in your application, pay the prescribed fee and….. WAIT!!!!!!!!!!!!! It helps if you have a good contact within the ZAWA offices or even better, POLITICAL connections that can ensure that your application meets with approval.

Once and IF approved, you then return to ZAWA offices with your rifle licenses and fill in the pile of forms and pay the fee per specie that was selected in that GMA area and most importantly, set the dates of your proposed hunt.

NOTE: You pay UPFRONT and if you do not hunt or are unsuccessful, tough… NO REFUNDS!!

This particular year I applied for one of the best GMA areas in Zambia… the Munyamadzi GMA…. Which is the corridor that lies between the South and North Luangwa Game Reserves. I DESPEARTELY WANTED TO HUNT THIS AREA.

Having been in Zambia for a while and also being my second stint up there, I knew quite a few influential people and managed to secure a permit for the Munyamadzi GMA… three weeks of solid partying followed..

So, with this permit, I was entitled to hunt 1 x buffalo, 1 x puku, 1 x warthog, 1 x common reedbuck and 1 x wildebeest. I also purchased a BIRD license for the area, which entitled me to hunt guinea fowl and francolins etc.

NOW, the preparations for this trip… ALAS, it is NOT the same as a safari hunt, where you book, pay your dues, arrive, everything is ready, you hunt, pay your balance of account and fly back…AYIKONA!!!

You do everything yourself… NO PH ( unless you specially arrange one and pay etc), no camp, no nothing!!! So, a couple of my hunting buddies decided that they would go along as well as we needed numbers and hands to do it all. We left with 3 off 4 x 4 vehicles and trailers carrying EVERYTHING that we needed for the 10 x days in the bush. It is wild, wild Africa and no shops or proper civilization for 100’s of kms. Generators for power, deep freezers, fridge, tents, tables, chairs, kitchen stuff, fuel for vehicles, fuel for generators, bottled water for Africa ( no pun intended), alcoholic beverages ( enough!!!!! ) ice machines, lighting and cables, bush toilet seat, slaughtering facilities, plastic bags to freeze the cut up meat, food and fresh vegetables/ salad stuff… it goes on and on…let’s get back to the hunt.

Part of the “followers on “ were again my 2 x sons who flew up to Zambia from RSA to go along on the hunt… they were also drivers and general camp slaves… made sure ice did not run out, always cold beer etc etc…it was Thomas’ turn to hunt a buffalo, so the one and only buff on license was his to shoot, under my name and supervision.

We started off from home with this convoy of hunters and equipment and a general idea of where we were going. Once we turned off the main Great North Road ( that goes up into Tanzania) after having wasted a full day with a broken axle on the trailer being towed by my son , Louis ( potholes) and doing some quick fix welding at a road side thatched store that miraculously had a welding machine that worked, we overnighted at a Lodge near the dreaded escarpment that would lead us down into the Valley and ultimately to where we wanted to go. The next morning we left at first light and tackled this escarpment… well, ALL of the advice and help from my PH friends that worked this area for years did not prepare us… IT WAS HORRENDOUS!! Dirt tracks, at times barely wide enough for the vehicles, sharp turns that made trailer towing a brand new adventure… crossing dry river beds of thick soft sand and then immediately negotiating sharp cut away bends on the UPHILL track out of the river bed… we made the 7 hrs of this HELL and only got stuck ONCE… me with my stupidity and NOT engaging 2nd gear in LOW 4 x 4 and trying to wing it in 1st gear… not good practice!!

Once down on the valley floor we headed for the local ZAWA offices to get the paperwork sorted and then headed for the local Chief/ headman of that area to introduce ourselves to him and his entourage…. Of course we had cases of soft drinks ( sodas) and some other gifts for the Chief… after all, we were now guests in his area and would be for some time. Working my bush charm I managed to get around to chatting to the Chief about “extra “quotas/ licenses for hunting… the Chiefs are allocated a certain quota each year as well… and without too much detail here, we secured some extra animals 1 x buff included, so Louis could also now hunt a buff for the Chief ( we would not get any of the meat or trophy but the hunt was his!!)

We left the Chiefs palace and made our way down to the river area that the Chief had suggested we go to in order to set up camp… beautiful trees for maximum shade, and easy access to hunting area roads/ tracks… in fact, part of our formalities with the Chief was that we would EMPLOY 6 X OF HIS LOCAL VILLAGERS as camp assistants/ skinners/ firewood gatherers… you name it. So, these guys then showed us the way to get down to the camp site area.

We set up camp and got everything MOSTLY in place…at least a safe place to sleep, the outside bush toilet dug and installed… the fire heated bucket shower and most importantly the generator sorted for the fridges and freezers AND ICE… man, after that day’s hell drive a man was REAL THIRSTY!!!

During the early mornings we would drive around looking for buff tracks and when the opportunity presented itself, we shot PG that we were authorised to do so, both for ourselves and the Chief ( including 2 x puku for camp meat.. we had to feed the Chief’s 6 x guys as well!!)

It was soon evident that we should not be looking for buff tracks as such, but rather for DUST CLOUDS in the distance,,, the buff herds were HUGE and their movements generated an enormous amount of dust. We headed off after one of these dust clouds and came onto a herd… they spooked and ran. We left the vehicles and followed them on foot, myself in charge, Thomas the hunter, Hennie our back up hunter and the village tracker plus the inevitable GAME SCOUT… Louis following behind with the video camera and of course, also carrying a rifle. The three of us up front were all carrying 375 H & H with Swift A Frame 300gr on top and Federal solids underneath.

The wind was a bitch and swirling like crazy and I had a devil of a time keeping track of it with my sock filled with fire ash and shaking it every so often to get track of the wind direction and buffalo presence. To make matters worse, the herd had split up into many groups, so tracking one lot and keeping downwind, didn’t always work ‘cos some other group further downwind would scent us and run, causing mayhem and ALL would then run… anyway, after a full couple of hours of this, we managed to get the buff when they were calmed down again and proceeded to hit on one group… we tracked them harder and faster to get within shooting distance, myself continually checking the wind and on the lookout for other buff groups that could scent us and give the game away. It was arranged that IF we got onto them properly, Thomas would shoot and Hennie would back him up immediately. We eventually got onto this group and were within 60m.. a nice bull was walking along side some other cows and smaller bulls… we were placed at a sort of corridor between the trees and scrub ( almost like a shooting alley) and the buff were going to cross this from right to left, directly in front of us. Glassing them carefully, we made sure that Thomas had the right bull… this smaller group of buff were about to pass behind a bushy area and then come out into the open “corridor” immediately after passing behind the bushes… I gave Thomas the go ahead to take the leading bull as he appeared out from behind the bushes… BAM… BAM…. Follow up shot… straight down went the buff, but then just as quickly jumped up, turned and ran.. it was a cow… they had swapped positions behind the bush. Thomas fumbled his second shot… we took off running after the buff and just before the shot cow disappeared behind some trees and scrub, I gave her one up the rear… she flattened out with legs splayed, stone dead. Talk about a TEXAS HEART SHOT… the Swift A Frame went in 1 “to the left of the anus and passed right through to the front chest cavity.

On explanations to the Area Chief Game Scout at the ZAWA offices, we had no hassle with shooting the cow… lucky!!!

The camp at night was awesome… lions roaring nearby, hyenas investigating the skinning shed, elephants passing by… the river FULL of croc eyes… by day, we did not see a single croc, yet at night, with the spotlights, PLENTY of beady eyes!! On one of the days, we actually saw the lions across the river about 500m downstream from our camp.

The next dust cloud was then Louis’…. We picked up the cloud one late afternoon.. +_ 16h00. Took off in the vehicle in the general direction and came across a very wide open vlei which the buff herd was busy crossing. The vehicle was parked and Hennie and the game scout remained there and Louis, Thomas and myself took off after the herd. This open space was very wide - Probably a kilometre at least and then THICK tree line on the far side. The buff knew we were behind them and picked up pace… at one stage, we came across a very young buffalo calf, calling after its mother… they had left it behind in their haste to get to the tree line. We passed right next to it and Thomas even reached out and touched it briefly. We were really moving quickly behind them, trying to get the stragglers as they entered the tree line. There was sparse cover here and there offered by smallish anthills with some bush and scrub growth and we used these to hide behind as we quickly caught up to the herd. I kept checking the wind and all was perfect for US… not for the buff!!

I could see a fairly large anthill over at say 2 0’clock from us and whispered to the boys that we were to make for that anthill and MAYBE then get a chance at a shot.. it was getting late and daylight was fading… FAST!! En route to this anthill, we used a smaller anthill for cover and plodded along… all of a sudden one HELLUVA loud grunting/ snorting noise RIGHT BEHIND US… MY immediate thought was BUFFALO COW ( why a cow who knows… but cow it was) and that she had SOMEHOW gotten behind us and was now attacking… maybe my subconscious was thinking about the calf left behind and this was the angry mother now coming to mete out some justice. I was walking in front, with Louis and then Thomas behind. I spun around, rifle on the shoulder and looking for a charging buff to shoot at…. NADA!! ALL I saw was a warthog disappearing at a rate of knots, with its antennae tail straight up in the air!!!! F#$%......K. We had approached this smaller anthill and with eyes on the buff in front, walked over/ passed an ant bear hole and Wally the warthog decided at that very moment to come out and have a look see…right between mine and Louis’ legs!!! It took a while for my heart to calm down… the buff were still hanging around at the back, with most already into the tree line. We were just about to continue to get to my targeted anthill when 45 degrees to our right, some elephant appeared coming OUT of the tree line and walking diagonally across the vlei, between us and the buff… DAMN… two cows and 3 x youngsters. The wind was good for us still, but I knew if we stayed where we were, and with the chosen path of these damn elephants, they would cross in front of us and then shortly thereafter would pick up our scent. I didn’t want to be around in the open when that happened!!!!! Let’s move. Guys!!! Get back and keep your eyes on those ellies. Louis of course was NOT interested and just wanted to get his buff… Dad had to be rather forceful and get him back with us, abandoning those buff for another day.

As we retreated, the sun rapidly disappeared and it was pitch dark before we got half way across the vlei and we had NO idea where those ellies were… I had made sure we were ALL loaded up with solids BEFORE we started our retreat back to the vehicle.. just in case we had an encounter with the elephants!!! We even found that abandoned buff calf again on the way back, but luckily did not get the elephants again. We were battling to see now and luckily Hennie used what little brains he had left and switched on the Toyota’s lights so we had a light source to head back to….. Louis never got his buff on THAT TRIP!!!

to be continued
 

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I bet Steve got a big tip.... :S Beat Dead Horse:
 

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The very first bull is my dream!
 

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Enjoying this!
 

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Good times Bruce !
Just about to have my first tipple for new years eve .
Ill be thinking Buff hunt all night .
 

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Thanks to all you guys for the nice comments and words of encouragement.. HAPPY NEW YEAR to you and the families and everything of the best for 2016... be it HUNTING or purely business success, happiness and home comfort.
Buff tales will continue in the New Year with hunts in Zimbabwe this time...
 

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Good write up Bruce,
Munyamadzi is/was my old mans favourite GMA's.
I will be applying for the resident licence there this coming year.
 

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Good luck on that application... is it still as difficult as always? I have been out of Zambia for 3 1/2 years now!!! Wish I could join you....AWESOME WILD AFRICA at its best, that place.
Enjoy the escarpment descent!!!!
My great concern there was the impact the unscrupulous Indian hunters from Lusaka ( business men) had... they just did what they pleased, shot what they pleased and left wounded animals to suffer, without any follow up attempts'... my sons, friends and I spent a huge amount of our time taking pout the wounded animals left behind by these unsavoury characters. Corruption rules!!!!!
 

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Good luck on that application... is it still as difficult as always? I have been out of Zambia for 3 1/2 years now!!! Wish I could join you....AWESOME WILD AFRICA at its best, that place.
Enjoy the escarpment descent!!!!
My great concern there was the impact the unscrupulous Indian hunters from Lusaka ( business men) had... they just did what they pleased, shot what they pleased and left wounded animals to suffer, without any follow up attempts'... my sons, friends and I spent a huge amount of our time taking pout the wounded animals left behind by these unsavoury characters. Corruption rules!!!!!

Gotta grease the wheels to get the application approved...
Ive heard the stories about that escarpment...
I think the regulations are getting tighter for the application process, but it can still be a bit of a free for all at times.

A bit of this :S Dollar:, some of this :A Gathering:, lots of this :D Barman: and we should be doing this :W Gun:
 

Bruce

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Gotta grease the wheels to get the application approved...
Ive heard the stories about that escarpment...
I think the regulations are getting tighter for the application process, but it can still be a bit of a free for all at times.

A bit of this :S Dollar:, some of this :A Gathering:, lots of this :D Barman: and we should be doing this :W Gun:
That's the way it works, unfortunately!!
 

Royal27

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Really enjoying the stories Bruce!
 

MBIZI SAFARIS

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Nice writing Bruce, and sounds like a great adventure you did with your boys up in Luangwa !
 
 

 

 

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Just came from a hunt and already longing for the bush
JPmbogo wrote on yhc's profile.
I have factory loaded Hornady 450 NE 3 1/4 DGS that I am selling for not much more than the brass itself at $75/box - see my listing for same.
Justbryan wrote on Rafter JK's profile.
Get Crazy Larry yet? Wishing I had shot Alpine Ibex too!
 
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