CAMEROON: Hunt With Celtic Safaris Jan-Feb 2017

Cable68

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Safari Company and Area: Celtic Safaris Unit 2
Booking Agent: Arjun Reddy
PHs: Polo and Romain
Game Sought: Lord Derby eland, western roan, western kob, harnessed bushbuck, red flanked duiker



It all began with a picture of a kudu. I saw a picture of one when I was 12 and then my spiral horned antelope began. Roughly 25 years later my fantasy started turning in to a reality, and I found out the greater kudu was 1 of 9, and I started to want to hunt all of them. I was able to take 4 of them (greater kudu, common eland, common nyala, and common eland) in 2005, and 2008. I had the 4 easy ones, now it was on to the more difficult, specialized, and more expensive ones. I decided that the monarch of the Central African savannas, the Lord Derby eland, was the most physically demanding hunt of the five, so that was my chosen goal. I’d hunted eland in Namibia in 2005, and I remembered it being exhausting, but exhilarating. I did a bit of research, and chose a hunt with Celtic Safaris in Cameroon through Arjun Reddy/Hunter’s Networks. I started an exercise program because I knew how taxing eland hunting had been before, and I had a feeling that Lord Derby eland would be even more taxing. Vaccinations were obtained, gun permits arranged, and all kinds of preparations were made.

My trip itself started on Jan. 25 in Tulsa. I flew from there to Atlanta, and then boarded another plane to Paris. From Paris, on to Douala. Upon arrival in Douala, I was met by Eric who helped me clear my gun through customs and local police. Anyone hunting Cameroon should either make sure they have gun clearing assistance or plan on renting their rifle. Along the way the government official checking for proof of yellow fever vaccination didn't actually check my card. I opened my travel wallet to get it out, and he said that was enough; it could have been a blank yellow notecard for all he saw. Eric directed me to the van for the Star Land Hotel. The ride to the hotel was my first experience watching the kamikaze motorcyclists of Cameroon. The Star Land was neat, clean, modern and comfortable. This allowed for a good night’s sleep after the long flights. The following morning Eric met me, and a group of Spaniards; a father and his 2 sons, and directed us to the Star Land van, and back to the airport for a CamAir flight to Ngaoundere. Once there we met up with Patrick LeParc, the proprietor of Celtic Safaris, as well as Polo a PH, and Juan Carlos, the booking agent of the Spaniards. My gun was cleared again, and we loaded up and started the 4 hour drive to camp. This drive was reminiscent of a similar drive through Zimbabwe, but any trucks on the side of the road were being worked on instead of simply being abandoned, there weren’t any dead donkeys in the road, and I hadn’t noticed those kamikaze motorcyclists in Zimbabwe . Shortly after arrival, guns were checked, and the scope was sighted properly. The first of many wonderful camp dinners was eaten, and plans were made for the following day. My PH would be Polo, and at least for the first day we’d have a junior PH Jean Michael with us.

IMG_1318.jpg

Home for the next nine days

Finally the hunt stated. We left camp at first light after a breakfast of an omelette, juice, coffee and toast. We drove all day looking for fresh tracks. Many times throughout the day, tracks were found, but they were either old, crossing into the neighboring national park, or into the next unit. We also found a few trees with broken branches. The big males will put a branch between their horns and twist the branch to break it. In the middle of the day we stopped at a little “rest area” for lunch and a siesta. The trackers cut some leaves for the siesta. After a couple of hours, the search for tracks resumed, but none fresh enough to follow were found, and we headed back to camp.


View from the truck



Lunch and Siesta hut


Day two was pretty much a replay of day one, except Jean Michael had left to go work in unit 17. Same driving around looking for tracks. When I say driving around, it was more like getting bounced around. Any turbulence on the plane flight was simply a warmup for the ride along the roads in the hunting area, which were only slightly worse than the road between Ngaoundere and camp. The best prep for these rides I can think of would be to put a chair on a mechanical bull mechanism. Once again no fresh tracks were found, and we arrived in camp after dark. It turns out the Spaniards had gotten an eland that day, so we now had a better idea where to start looking the next day.

Day three I woke up confident that this would be my day to take an eland. We left camp at dawn, and drove to the area where the eland had last been seen. We found some fresh tracks on the road, and trackers were sent to check another road they would have to cross to leave the area. No tracks were found there, and the chase was on. I had filled my Camelbak that morning, and over the course of the day I was glad I had it. I was seeing the results of my walking program paying off. I remember having trouble keeping up with my PH and trackers on previous safaris; I was able to keep up with Polo and Alim the tracker. One thing different about Cameroon is the ground, even where it looks flat, there are worm mounds everywhere. It’s like hardened balls of mud, like the entire ground was made up of hardened balls crawfish use to make their chimneys. Sometimes I'd jog over the ground when others ran; it wasn't worth breaking an ankle.



Bumpy ground


Branch broken by eland

Eventually we had our first eland sighting around noon. They were off in the distance, and horns were about all we could see, but we’d found them. It was getting to the hot part of the day as well, so we had a quick lunch and abbreviated nap, then back on the tracks. I’d finished the water in my Camelback right before lunch, and had refilled it before setting off again. A couple of hours later and we were closing in again. We found ourselves pinned down at one point by a eland cow who was slightly away from the rest of the herd for a bit, and then followed them after they trotted off. I could see 2 black-necked bulls in the herd. Excitement was growing, but so was exhaustion. Slowly we were gaining on them. After speeding up the stalk when we saw them trot off, I noticed Polo and Alim slowing down. I could see some slow movement in the distance and realized they were eland. Polo was looking through his binoculars a lot more than usual, and then he started setting the sticks up. He said there were two males, and the one on the right was the one to take. I looked through the scope, moving carefully to make sure I had the correct one; and quickly realized there were three eland in that area. I eventually confirmed that I was aiming at the correct one. We moved the sticks once more to get a better shot through the trees he was behind. I would have to aim a little further back because of the window through the trees, but I had a good double lung shot instead of a shoulder shot. I squeezed the trigger and felt good about the shot. The herd started running, but mine made a slow walk a few yards, and stood still. An anchoring shot was made and he fell down, but kept his head up. 2 more insurance shots were put in, and he was down. 8 ½ hours were spent walking 20-22 kilometers and 4 or 5 liters of water were drunk in order to get the eland. Not to mention the previous two days of chiropractic adjustment car rides. I think I was too exhausted to be nervous at the shot.

Handshakes and hugs were made, and the eland was positioned for the photographs. While this was going on, the mut-muts made their presence known. I'd picked up a headnet just before my trip, and I was so glad I brought it. These bugs seem interested in swarming around your face, especially eyes, mouth and nose. They don't seem the least bit interested in arms and legs. The headnet came off for photos, so the bugs started swarming which made for some interesting facial expressions in the photos. The truck arrived, and it was all hands on deck to get the eland loaded into the back, including me. The ride back to camp was a lot more satisfying than those before, even though I was out of water. The water had run out somewhere during the picture taking with the eland. Normally as we got to camp, the truck would stop, and I would be instructed to remove all the rounds out of my rifle. Today I was instructed to put 3 into the magazine and fire them into the air. I did as instructed, and suddenly Bello he driver started honking the horn in rhythm and the truck broke out into song in French.


Facial expressions because of all the mut-muts swarming around our faces

I know from seeing videos, and from Tracks Across Africa that camps have celebrations when lions and leopards are shot, I had no idea that they did similar celebrations for eland in Cameroon. The hill at the entrance to camp was now lined with the entire camp staff, and they were clapping and singing as we drove past. The cook, the one female in camp climbed into the truck, and she had some more singing. Unfortunately I have no idea what they were singing because it was all in French, but everyone seemed very happy. We dropped off the eland at the skinning shed, and Patrick congratulated me as well. Skinning instructions were made, and before I left to get some Gatorade, I was told the horn measurements. I'd made it a point to not know what kind of measurements constitute a “good” eland, and I'd told Patrick and Polo I was more interested in getting a nice representative one, but that maturity was more important than measurements. I can tell you what mine measures, but I still can't tell you what constitutes a “good” one much less a record book entry. Much Gatorade was drunk, and then we had some of Carlos’s eland from the day before for dinner. As I climbed into bed that night my right knee started hurting. I didn't think much of it at the time, probably because I was so tired.

My primary target was now in the salt. I’d come to Cameroon wanting Lord Derby eland, western roan, western kob, and harnessed bushbuck. The license allowed for 2 other animals, and I also found out that due to changes I'd have to buy an upgrade or a second license in order to take bushbuck and roan as well as the eland I'd already taken. We discussed other animals, such as duikers and hartebeest., and I learned that the red flanked duiker was available only in Cameroon. It was decided I would hunt the areas along the river for duiker and bushbuck. In the morning I hunted along the river, only myself and Alim the tracker. At various points we would climb up the banks, and on those climbs my knee was screaming in pain. It wasn't bad when walking on level ground, but it was incredibly painful to climb. We found a place to sit and watch for a while. We were entertained by watching a water rat being chased by a pole cat for a while, and a little later I missed a shot at a red flanked duiker. We later climbed the bank, and I limped back to camp. I spent the early afternoon resting my knee. Patrick and Polo expressed concern seeing my limp, and it was decided that for the next little bit I'd hunt from the truck, attempting short stalks. This seemed to work out well as except for eland and buffalo they didn't really stalk anything for long distance here. I don't know if it was because of the longer grass, harder ground, or behavior of the animals, but the stalks here seemed to end where they'd begin in Namibia. That evening I also learned that Polo was needed for buffalo hunting in Unit 17, so he and a PH named Romain would be trading places. In the meantime I'd be hunting from the car with just a tracker and a driver.

I spent the next day riding in the hunting truck getting bounced around the camp roads in search of kob. We’d been instructed that we could only hunt species where the females didn't have horns such as kob, waterbuck, bushbuck and duiker so there would be no mistakes of shooting the wrong sex. We drove around all morning, able to make a few stalks, but these never lasted long. I never had a chance to get up on the sticks that morning. My knee never presented an issue that day, but we only stalked short distances, and there was no climbing involved. It also seemed that Belo the driver kept going too fast, and whenever game was spotted the brakes had to be slammed, and frequently the truck had to be put in reverse to see the animals again in order to see if there were any worth pursuing. This may have been part of the reason why the animals always seemed so spooked, and the stalks so short. Noon arrived and we went back to camp. I had the dining area to myself, and had a wonderful meal of eland kebabs that came from my eland. I took a nap, and then it was back to the car.


Eland kebabs, supposedly from my eland


The afternoon was much like the morning: driving around, stopping and looking over animals, and eventually we found an older male kob by himself. He ran off a short distance, and stopped, so a short stalk was started. Alim and I walked down the road behind the truck, and I could see him standing about 120 yds. off in the mopane. He was very calm and didn’t see to notice we were there. Alim put up the sticks, and I settled the crosshairs on his shoulder. I squeezed off a round, and the kob dropped right there. We walked up to him, and found that he was unable to get up, but was wanting to. It looked like he’d succumb any minute, but it did take one more shot to the chest to finish him off. Upon closer examination he was exactly what I wanted in a trophy: very mature with heavy horns. There were areas around his joints that were covered by scarred up tissue, much like my Labrador retriever at home. We took the photos, and then loaded him up and headed back to camp. As I reflected on the day, I realized I had hunted all day without a PH. Just a white man and some locals making up the hunting party. It may have been 2017, but I had a brief feeling and glimpse of Africa past.



Kob and Alim

Romain arrived in camp later that night, and he would be taking over for Polo as my PH. I talked with him that evening about what animals I still wanted. Roan, and bushbuck were specifically mentioned, and he and Patrick brought up duiker again. It was decided we would hunt the river bordering the Benoue National Park for bushbuck and duiker. I was more interested in bushbuck; I'd taken one in South Africa, but it was at night with a spotlight. That was legal but I had some misgivings about it. I wanted to take one that I could feel good about. What I didn't realize was that Patrick and Romain were very interested in me taking a duiker.

Day 6 began like most others. Had the usual breakfast, then off in the truck. We drove around at first to see if there was anything worth stalking on the way to get to the river. Alim and Romain saw some roan off in the distance, and we had another one of those short 10-15 minute stalks before calling it off. Then it was back in the truck for more riding until we reach the spot to start walking down to the river. We flushed a duiker along the way, and started the descent down the bank. We'd walk a bit, find a place to sit and wait a bit, then walk to a new place. At about our third place Alim and Roman spotted some men in the river, initially they were thought to be poachers, but it turns out they were national park workers setting some fishing lines. They had come from the other direction, but they hadn't seen any animal as they'd approached our location. We'd walked across the shallow water in a few places, and it was decided I'd wear my Crocs for any wading the rest of our river hunts. After lunch we did mostly the same. Went to a different part of the river. Saw a duiker at one point a long way off, but by the time we got close enough to see to assess trophy quality he was gone. A little bit later we heard a horrible raucous noise which Romain explained was a baboon fight. They moved towards the river and we were pinned down for the next hour or so unless we wanted to alert every animal along the river. Finally the baboons moved on and we headed back to camp.

Day 7 began as usual. Breakfast and off in the truck hoping to see roan while taking the long way to the river. The harmattan was in more effect that morning, and we saw even fewer kob alongside the roads. Eventually we saw a bachelor herd of kob on top of a burnt hilltop. Later Patrick drove up beside us, and after an exchange in French, we drove forward and came across some workers setting fires. We picked them up and drove back to Patrick, who'd been joined by some other guys on motorcycles with shotguns. Instructions were given to all these people, then some were sent on their way. Turns out they were Celtic’s anti-poaching team. We left this area and headed towards our river hunting area. Belo dropped us off at our path and we exited, he kept going with some of the other members of the anti-poaching team. Along the path, we saw a duiker but it was too small. This pathway led us to a dry stream that connected to the river. There were lots of tracks in the mud, so I had a good feeling about the area. We made it to the river and walked just a little way to a good looking spot. Impressions and instincts proved correct, a bushbuck showed up before we’d even finished taking off our packs. The sticks were too far away, so I used Romain’s shoulder as a rest. I settled the crosshairs for the shot, squeezed the trigger, and he collapsed instantly. I now had a bushbuck that I could feel good about. This one had shorter horns than my Limpopo bushbuck, but there were no questions about method of take, full daylight and on foot, not at night and not in the back of a truck. Personal redemption, and no question to myself on achieving the spiral nine if I never took another bushbuck. While I took off my boots to go across the water to the bushbuck, Romain and Alim pick him up and brought him over. We took pictures, and then waited for duiker. We did see one, but it seemed to be the same one we saw earlier that morning that was too small. Eventually we left, and went to the road. Belo wasn't there, and he wasn't answering his radio. After a bit, Romain started walking to camp to get another truck. It turns out that was a lucky thing. A few minutes later Belo showed up in the truck. Alim and I loaded up and we headed to camp. We didn't make it far and the truck stopped, out of fuel. Luckily Romain showed up a short time later, and we changed trucks.


Romain I and my bushbuck


Changing trucks

Lunch at camp and afternoon nap was interrupted by arrival of Spaniards. Carlos had taken a buffalo, so there was a celebration in camp. Apparently they don't have as big of one for buffalo as they do for eland. After finishing my nap we walked the river from camp, walk and sit, move, sit and wait, move sit and wait. Nothing really seen. As we walked back up the steep slope to camp, my knee started getting worse. It had bothered me a little off and on the past few days, but climbing up the slope made it scream in pain. I could hardly walk once at the top. I also ran out of ibuprofen that night.

The remaining two days were pretty much the same: drive around until walking the river and look for duiker. At first I’d gone along with this because that was how you find bushbuck; later it was so I could get one and move on to other animals. It eventually reached a point of having put so much energy into it that I felt I had to continue on. As I thought about it, outside of roan, there weren't any other animals I was really very interested in. I wasn't really wanting a buffalo, and I’m not sure my knee would have stood up to a long stalk for one. I already had waterbuck and hartebeest from previous safaris; I would possibly take one as a target of opportunity but wouldn't specifically hunt after either one. Eventually I settled or rationalized to go after duiker, and the final realization that I wouldn't be getting a roan was settling in. I spent the time watching for duiker, but also watching birds and monkeys. Some female duiker and bushbuck and a group of female waterbuck were seen on the river, but no male duikers. Eventually we reached the end of day 9, and the end of the hunt.

The next day we drove to Ngoundere, for the flight to Douala. Back on the bumpy roads around the kamikaze motorcyclists and the slow trucks. We stopped at a café for lunch, and while there we found out that the flight had been cancelled. It took some borrowing of phones to get a connection to get messages out to get my flights changed, but it got done. I finally found this out when we checked into the Hotel Transcam when I could get on a Wifi system. Years ago I'd added international roaming to my phone plan, but that was multiple phones ago, so I guess it didn't get transferred. I’d tried adding Whatsapp, but only after I was away from cell coverage and couldn't get the confirmation SMS. I also found out that Patrick and Arjun’s next client was stuck in Douala, and we also met another safari operator who had a client waiting on a flight as well. We all went out to eat that night, and returned to the same eatery the next day for lunch. Finally we went to the airport, and I started the 30 hrs of airports and airplanes to get back to Tulsa. There were no real problems except for the development of some traveler’s diarrhea, which had ceased by the time I reached Paris. There were the gun hassles of getting it checked at both airports in Cameroon, and in Atlanta mine was the only gun at customs.

Overall I had a great time. This was my first time in Cameroon, and it was my first time to share a camp. I didn't get everything I wanted, but I got my primary animal, and 3 of the 4 I wanted. If you're looking for one of those safaris where you really pile up the animals, this may not be the place or the country, although the Spaniards hunted as one group and racked up a pretty good tally (LDE, buffalo, 2 roan, waterbuck, bushbuck, 2 or 3 duikers, and then some). The one thing that I would caution anyone about this outfit is the minimal English. It can get kind of lonely at night if you don't speak French; they make an effort, but they slip into French quite easily. It might be a good idea to have a friend do a hunt at the same time. I started working on learning French through the Duolingo app; I'm still using it to keep learning the language. Why? I'm heading back to the region for bongo somewhere in the future.
 

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PHOENIX PHIL

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Fantastic adventure, very envious of the LDE!
 

enysse

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Congrats on getting that Lord Eland Derby!
 

rinehart0050

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Sounds like a great adventure! Congratulations on your LDE- a wonderful looking specimen.

Good luck with the remainder of your spiral horns- I look forward to hearing how it goes.
 

Environ

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Nice LDE good luck on the quest for the spiral horns
 

cpr0312

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Very nice, congratulations! Thanks for sharing with us
 

Mike70560

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Congratulations on your adventure. Those hunts are definitely a little different than your typical southern Africa variety.

A Cameroon buffalo hunt is drawing my interest....
 

LivingTheDream

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Great write up and wonderful story! Thank you for sharing. Definitely a dream hunt. Love the bushbuck and kob as well!
 

gillettehunter

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Now that was an adventure. Congrats on the LDE. Fine animal and a great hunt. Bruce
 

BRICKBURN

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What a great hunt report. Water, knee injury and you still got it done.
Congratulations on your success.
Thanks for the write up.
 

Scott CWO

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Thanks for the great report. I am considering the exact same hunt and operator. Question: Did you hear if Zone 17 had more roan than Zone 2? Which zone did the Spaniards get their roan?
Did you have any security concerns? I got in a pretty bad situation in CAR and don't want a repeat of that! Thanks for any help you can offer.
 

JES Adventures

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Nice LDE Bull, thanks for the great report! Now on to Ethiopia for Mtn. Nyala?
 

Cable68

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Nice LDE Bull, thanks for the great report! Now on to Ethiopia for Mtn. Nyala?
Actually bongo is what I'm thinking of next. Maybe get lucky and get a sitatunga on same trip. As I think about it, I've taken 2 spiral horns on all 3 of my safaris.
 

CAustin

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Thank you for sharing the hunt report!
 

Philip Glass

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What month was your hunt? I’m going next year and just wonder how hot it was. I’ve heard stories about the heat! Do you mind sharing the measurements of your LDE? I think it was fantastic but need to learn more before my hunt.
Best of luck on your next great adventure!
Philip
 

Ridgewalker

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Excellent report! I really enjoyed it! One handsome Lord Derby for sure! You are doing great on the spiral horns!
Thanks for sharing!
 

Cable68

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What month was your hunt? I’m going next year and just wonder how hot it was. I’ve heard stories about the heat! Do you mind sharing the measurements of your LDE? I think it was fantastic but need to learn more before my hunt.
Best of luck on your next great adventure!
Philip
My hunt started last week of January, crossing over into February. It didn’t seem all that hot to me, thinking it was 80’s maybe getting into low 90’s.
Someone did measure it, I think 43.5 inches was what they said. I’m not that much into scores as taking a good mature specimen.
 

Nyati

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Congrats, that was a great adventure.

I´m with you about scores and measurements, it´s the hunt that matters :D Cheers:
 

Cable68

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Thanks for the great report. I am considering the exact same hunt and operator. Question: Did you hear if Zone 17 had more roan than Zone 2? Which zone did the Spaniards get their roan?
Did you have any security concerns? I got in a pretty bad situation in CAR and don't want a repeat of that! Thanks for any help you can offer.
Sorry for late reply hadn’t been on forum in a while. The Spaniards and I only hunted the same zone, there were other clients we never saw in the other zone. I have no idea if there were more or less roan in the other zone.
I also had no security concerns at all, but that was almost 2 years ago, and that can be a lifetime in Africa.
 

Firebird

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I’m just wondering if you found out what happened with your knee-hope that wasn’t too serious.
Glad for the report, fun to read about things I will not likely ever get to try.
 

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Cervus elaphus wrote on Bob Nelson 35Whelen's profile.
Hi Bob, how's things going in Wyong?. Down your way a couple of years back but haven't been in NSW since Ebor for the fishing. just getting over some nasty storms up here in Qld, seeing the sun for the first time in a few days. I'm going to NZ in the spring and hope to clean up a few buns while there and perhaps shake the spiders out of my old .303LE (currently owned by my BIL). Cheers Brian
A couple pictures of the sable i chased for miles in Mozambique, Coutada 9!! We finally caught up to him and I had the trophy of a lifetime. Mokore Safaris, Doug Duckworth PH
sable Coutada 9.JPG
sable 2 - Coutada 9.JPG
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Did you purchase your hunt at a US SCI fundraiser?
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