Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by Hank2211, Feb 4, 2019.
Congrats Hank! A fine piece of writing that I will remember. Thanks for taking us along - in a way.
Congratulations Hank on completing the Spiral Horned Antelope Slam along with taking a beautiful LDE. No doubt one of my all time favorite big game animals of the world. Enjoying the report, Cameroon is s specials place!
Absolutely a grand report! I doubt I’ll ever have the opportunity to hunt in Cameroon, so I get to live it vicariously through your excellent report!
Good report, nice animals. Since my first trip to Africa I have always taken a spare set of close in my carry on. Flying Lost Baggage Airline AKA Air Canada I don’t expect my luggage to show up anywhere on time.
Huge congrats Hank! Finishing up the spiral horns in style, that is for sure! Heck of an accomplishment. I always enjoy your hunt reports, you are a talented writer. This one certainly doesn’t disappoint. Well done! Looking forward to the rest...
A great report and a beautiful animal! If you had seen 50 bull eland, that one would likely have been the best of the bunch anyway!....so congrats. I would not have been man enough to hunt in a pair of Crocs.........I always take a light pair of boots and a clothes change in my daypack, but you proved your grit. (BTW, I always wondered how the size of the Giant Eland compared to the Cape eland? Their horns are often huge.......bodies bigger or smaller? Anyone experienced with both?) Enjoyed every word of your account, and just love to hear that someone, somewhere, has luck similar to mine (first misfire ever on LDE)................FWB
Bill, I've taken a number of "regular" eland before this giant eland. There a few varieties of "common eland" but I think the only thing reliably "giant" about the giant eland is the horns. Having said that, this one was bigger in terms of body size than any other eland I've taken. The giant eland also have the dark face and neck which you don't see on common eland.
Day 4: Tuesday, Jan 22
We began day 4 by looking for buffalo. We found some tracks, and began to follow them, but as early as 8 am the wind began swirling, and we could tell that the buffalo were on to us. At one point, we went down a hill towards a river, lined with reed beds on one side and thatching grass on the other. It was hard to tell which was more impassable, but on balance, it was likely the reed beds. Apparently the buffalo go into the reeds during the day to rest, and it’s impossible to find them or to sneak up on them, as well as being dangerous to even try. We stayed on the grass side.
I’m not entirely sure how to relate this next bit, or even how much of it to relate. I’ll try to give an outline of events, but you can understand that some of it might be in summary form. I haven’t exaggerated, but I may have left out some details.
About mid-morning, we came upon a poacher’s camp, with a rack which had been used to dry meat. Apparently, a buffalo had been killed and butchered there – two legs were up in a tree, for reasons which escape me but which might have something to do with rituals. In any event, the camp was clearly not particularly old, since one buffalo leg looked reasonably fresh (see second picture). We dismantled the camp, took note of the location, and kept tracking buffalo.
Within a half hour, we came upon this:
This was a roan carcass, and from the head, it appeared to be the female we had seen in this area last night. I have little doubt that if we had taken the male, the female would have left the area and would still be alive this morning. The carcass, as I think you can tell from the picture, was fresh. There was still wet blood. Again, I’m not sure why the skull was put into the ground as it was – again, perhaps a ritual. Our trackers said that there had been three, and maybe four, people there very recently. Guav speculated that these could be the same poachers who had shot the tracker we had brought back to camp with us. Clearly, they were armed – the buffalo and the roan were not taken with snares.
The tracks led towards the nearest road, so we began to head in that direction. At this point It occurred to me that this might not be the best idea! But we continued . . . at one point I whispered to Dean, who was behind me, that if we found trouble, I was going to hand him my rifle. I had no desire to shoot anyone, still less a Cameroonian. I could only imagine how hard it would be to go home if the police were investigating a shooting of a local by a North American.
Fortunately, we got to the road without meeting anyone. The tracks were quite obvious though, and continued uphill. In the circumstances, there was no point in continuing to try to find buffalo, so we radioed to camp to get some scouts ready. We drove to camp, and then sent our trackers, with a couple of game scouts, back to see if they could locate the poachers camp. Given the size of a roan, we thought it unlikely that they would have gone too far from the road. Given what followed, I won't show you a picture of the team which we sent out, but there were six of them, one armed with a good shotgun, the rest with machetes and sticks, and Lucky Hat, who was armed with a bow! I asked to see one of his arrows:
I can assure you that the arrowhead was not only very pointed, it was very sharp. As I was testing it with my thumb, one of the trackers said (in French) “Attention!” Guav quickly said “stop that! It’s poisoned!” WTF?!! You’d think someone might have said something before I started to play with a poisoned arrow! I decided to wash my hands before rubbing my eyes . . .
The team returned an hour later, just as we were in the middle of our siesta. They had tracked the poachers, and as we surmised, the camp was not far from the road. They had seen five poachers cutting up meat, and at least one, and possibly two, firearms at hand. In the circumstances, they decided discretion was the better part of valor, and they returned to camp, unseen they said, to report. At this point a call went out to someone called “the Cuban” who was apparently the head of anti-poaching and had access to a better-armed (FN automatics) team. We gave him the coordinates of the poacher camp, two of our trackers who had seen the camp, and decided to leave it there. Apparently, the Cuban had five men of his own, plus our two trackers, and a number of Parks scouts. They were going in with force.
We went out for our afternoon hunt in another part of the concession, but found nothing. This was another day of firsts, though. It was the first day of tse-tse fly activity. I realized why they preferentially go for my ankles. When they land on socks, you don’t feel them on your skin - until the hypodermic goes in. Ouch. Bumps and itching. I actually brought both repellant (not sure it works on the tse-tse flies, but it’s better than nothing) and medication for the itching. Oh wait. It’s in my luggage. Which I still don’t have.
Upon our return to camp just after six, I met the Cuban. A tough looking guy, who was in fact Cuban, and turned out to be very pleasant and interesting, although I wouldn’t want to be a poacher in his sights. He spoke the local lingo, Spanish obviously, and some French. We got along fine in French. They had found the camp easily. There was a great deal of fresh meat cut and drying, and more dried in bags, ready to be shipped out. He said that upon discovery, a poacher began shooting . . . and a firefight broke out. There had been a total of five poachers in camp, but fewer than that were brought out. One firearm was recovered, but it was suspected that there was likely at least one more. They would head back there tomorrow in daylight to mop up, and would we please give the area a wide berth.
Mayo Oldiri takes this sort of thing seriously, as they should. I’ve run into poaching camps before, but this was a first for me. I know that the activity has to stop, but I also know that extreme poverty and institutionalized corruption lead to all sorts of things. But the Anti-Poaching Unit and the Parks scouts have a job to do, and it’s not up to me how they do it.
The Third and Fourth Worlds are like history. We can no more judge them by the standards of the First World than we can history by the standards of the present. I just wish more of my naive ignorant urban fellow travelers could experience a bit of how much of the rest of the planet actually exists.
Depending upon his age, your Cuban was likely one of the fellows who stayed behind after the Angolan / South African fighting ended. (South Africa's 32 Battalion, "The Terrible Ones" accounted for windrows of them). Quite a few of the survivors stayed (deserted) rather than return to Cuba's workers' paradise and have found niches needing their specific expertise.
WOW! Congrats on the Eland!!
Wow, a very unsettling experience. I think you handled it very thoughtfully.
Congrats Hank, that is a fine eland !
You are also describing a quite interesting adventure
Not an item at Cabelas. Damn!
Yes, write a book Hank!
Epic adventure really enjoying The retelling
Great story, but where is the picture of the kob??
@Hank2211 Great story, thanks! I am curious, in the photo showing the poachers camp, one of your trackers has a set of sticks over his shoulder. The sticks look extra long or perhaps the tracker is extra short.
Not sure how I missed that picture, but here it is:
It's a bit of both, I think. Yes, the tracker is not tall - 5'6" maybe? But the sticks are also quite long. I wasn't sure I would like them - they aren't as solid as the bamboo-type sticks I've often used in the past and they're held together by binder twine and duct tape, but I was pleasantly surprised. The rifle was pretty heavy, and they held it well. Interestingly, Guav got them from Craig Boddington who left them with him after a hunt, many years ago.
Not sure how I missed that picture, but here it is:
I think its called jet lag Hank. Nice trophy, thanks.
Day 5: Wednesday, Jan 23
This was another day spent tracking buffalo, still in my crocs. Guav tells me he is getting tired of seeing the same socks every day, but since he doesn’t wear socks while hunting, I can’t borrow any from him. These are light socks, and the beating they're taking means I now have holes in them. One more comment from Guav and he will be getting them as a gift when the safari is over . . . The combination of the socks and the crocs has led to some blisters, which is making this a bit more of a challenge that I was looking for! The problem is that the crocs don’t provide any real support, so as I walk on the uneven ground, my foot is constantly moving in the shoes. Over the course of some miles, blisters seem inevitable.
We do get close to some buffalo today a number of times, but only in the sense that we heard them running as we approached. The wind continues to be unreliable and to cause us problems. I’ve only seen the buffalo from a distance, and like other savannah buffalo I’ve seen (in Benin) they appear to smaller bodied than cape buffalo, but they come in a range of colours, from black to tan to roan. I’ve only ever shot black buffalo, so another colour might be fun. Is this a “colour variant” that so many hate in South Africa . . .?! These aren’t bred for colour, so I’m going to say I’m safe!
We did hear from the trackers that the scouts had told them that the poachers were “convinced” to talk, and it was in fact a very professional operation. A team in the bush, a team to pick up and take the meat to villages, and a distribution network. The scouts also found more bags of meat and another firearm. Hopefully that’s the end of this particular group . . . but that’s just a hope. It’s pretty clear to me, though, that but for the presence of hunters on the ground, poachers would have pretty free run of the place. That Mayo Oldiri has been at this for a number of decades in this area means they have been able to keep at least a reasonable lid on things, but it’s a never-ending challenge.
Day 6: Thursday, January 24
Some more “unusual” events today. First, as we were driving looking for buffalo tracks, the trackers stopped the truck. They’d seen a drag mark across the road. We got out to take a look, and sure enough, there was a pretty clear drag mark crossing the road and heading into the bushes. On one side of the road, about ten yards away, was small waterhole, so something must have been ambushed while drinking. . . and from the tracks next to the drag marks, it's a leopard. We follow the drag marks into the bush and within about 50 yards we find the animal under a tree. A reedbuck. We likely disturbed the leopard since it wouldn’t have left the reedbuck on the ground. There are hyenas everywhere here – we hear them calling almost every night – and a leopard, given a bit more time, would have hoisted the meal into a tree. We leave the carcass alone, and quietly back out. There are leopard here, and lions (the trackers pick up lion dung when they find it for ritual purposes), but neither is hunted.
We eventually do find some fresh buffalo tracks and start to follow them. Guav’s trackers are really excellent – I was really impressed when they were able to keep on eland tracks for hours on end, and they are no different with buffalo. At one point, after a couple of hours of tracking, the trackers freeze. One points to his ears and then to our right. We all look, but the bush is pretty dense, and we can’t see anything. There’s no more noise, though, so whatever it was that was moving has stopped. One tracker whispers something to Guav, and Guav mouths “poachers”. Seriously? Again? We move slowly forward, and then I see some people in the bush about 50 yards away. All of a sudden, a bunch of people come out of the bush, all dressed in camo! It turns out that these are the scouts, who have been tracking poachers, and they thought that we were the poachers. And we thought that they were the poachers. Given that both sides are armed, I could see the potential for a serious mis-understanding here! This is one time though, when a white face serves you well in Africa. As soon as they saw us, they knew we couldn’t be poachers! I did mention to Guav that given the tan he has, he really owed me for standing out as I do – though I am more bright red than white, sunburnt as I am. Did I mention I had brought sun block with me? And that it was in my luggage?
After some nervous laughter, and a brief conversation, we go our separate ways. We are back on the buffalo tracks, but within 20 minutes, the trackers say that there are other people ahead of us who also seem to be tracking the buffalo. Wonderful. We radio the scouts, who come over to have a look, and it turns out it was a small group of scouts who were following the buffalo looking for poachers who might also be following the buffalo. Got that? We’re tracking buffalo, which are being tracked by scouts, who are looking for poachers, who we assume are the poachers, who we are also tracking. Time for a break and some water. And time to call off the buffalo chase for the morning.
On our way back to camp, we saw a waterbuck not far from the road. It didn’t appear as if he’d seen us. Guav looked at him and said “good but not great horns.” I asked if he was old, Guav said he was, so I suggested we should dismount. We managed to get reasonably close – less than 100 yards, and I took the shot. He ran about 20 yards, and stood still. I gave him a second shot just to finish things off quickly. He ran another 20 yards and dropped dead. He would have died from the first shot relatively quickly, but better to end things quickly.
A nice Sing-Sing waterbuck (which is part of the defassa waterbuck family). The only difference I can see is that there is a whiteish patch on the rear rather than the white ring usually found there, and he was grayish rather than brownish. I have a nice common waterbuck with horns a bit longer but much more massive than these, but I was happy to have this one as well.
We then headed back to camp to find that in our absence, it had truly become an “armed camp.” There were two trucks of the best equipped soldiers I have ever seen in Africa. Each soldier wore new-looking and pressed camo uniforms, with knee pads and polished boots. They had Kevlar helmets, black balaclavas and ski goggles. Each wore a bullet proof vest which held multiple clips for FN automatic weapons, all of which were kitted out with various attachments, including one for night vision. They also each had a side arm, and again, a number of clips. Black leather gloves with “BIR” on them. Wearing the helmet and goggles, you would not see a square inch of human skin. I couldn’t tell what all of that would weigh, but it would be a lot. I was quietly told not to take any pictures of the soldiers.
BIR stands for “Battalion d’Intervention Rapide” or Rapid Intervention Battalion in English. This is the Cameroon equivalent of special forces, which reports directly to the President of Cameroon, outside of the normal army chain of command. According to Wikipedia, they are equipped by the US, and are trained by the US and Israel. At any given time there are several hundred US military advisors working with the BIR.
The leader of the group, who wore no obvious insignia of rank, or name, approached us. He spoke fluent English and introduced himself. He was concerned about the reports of armed poachers, and was particularly concerned that there not be any incidents involving American hunters. I was going to point out that I was Canadian, but a look from Guav told me now was not the time to explain the difference to the Officer. In any event, they were in the area due to their work against Boko Haram (on top of armed poachers; just what I need), and were happy to do what they could to help out. Guav gave them the details of the poaching activity, and of the morning’s run-in with the scouts. After a nice chat, they went looking for our scouts in the bush. But not before I asked a soldier nicely if I could take his picture. He said no problem, but first wanted to get the balaclava up to cover his face.
This might be a good time to point out that while the poachers have had really no impact on our hunting, I can’t say the same for insects, which have been hammering me. As I said, the savannah is refreshingly free of thorns. The same can’t be said for bugs. There are enough mopane flies attracted to sweat to drive even the sanest person crazy if you stand still for too long. But these are only a nuisance. The tse-tse flies are a challenge. These aren’t uniformly distributed, so you may not see any, depending on where you are. But if you cover enough ground, you will eventually come into contact with them or, rather, they will come into contact with you. We eventually gave up trying to kill them, on the basis that we weren’t making a dent in the population, and settled for trying to swat them. They are hard to kill – pinching the head off is the only reliable method I’ve found, but if you can grab one, and if you roll it between your fingers hard enough, you might just kill it.
This is a picture of my legs by the end of the day. I do have repellant, in my luggage, which is where my topical anti-itch lotion is. But of course, my luggage is somewhere else. I do have an oral antihistamine with me, or I wouldn’t get much sleep at night. As it is, I spend a great deal of time scratching, and entertaining myself by thoughts of bringing some of those doctors who tell you “don’t scratch” to the Savannah for a brief lesson.
I'm rapidly developing sympathy for the people you see on "Naked and Afraid."
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