I was debating whether to write a hunt report or not for this trip. I’ve decided I’m going to write it but differently than most reports. This was the greatest trophy I ever expect to take and one of the most unique hunting experiences I’ve ever had, but there are some negatives. There are a lot of complexities I won’t pretend to understand about hunting and managing a hunting concession in Cameroon. Because of that I’m going to omit details about where I hunted to write a more honest report. I’ll gladly answer certain questions by PM instead of publicly. Poaching in area was significant and I was disappointed to see, but I also saw anti-poaching staff working daily and working jointly with the military to try and address it. The outfitter did a lot of things right by me as a client up to and during this hunt. My hunt was fully paid by 2020 to occur in early 2021. After numerous issues attempting to go, I made decision to postpone until this year and my payment was fully credited to that hunt, which I’m grateful for. My PH on this trip was among the best I’ve hunted with along with his tracking team. The first concession I hunted was very difficult. I was allowed to transfer to another concession where I was ultimately successful on a great eland, which I’m grateful for as well. I reread Philip Glass and Hank2211 reports since coming home, their reports were really well done and laid out what was expected for hunting in Cameroon, but I still had different expectations until I was actually hunting. This hunt is not for general hunting tourism it's for someone that wants to collect a Lord Derby Eland and is willing to accept some risk in order to do the hunt. My report is as follows:
Hunt Dates: Jan 15-30 2023
Species Taken: Lord Derby Eland, Northwestern Buffalo, Kob, Warthog, Western Hartebeest
Additional Species Seen: Roan (good numbers), Bushbuck (few females), Waterbuck (decent numbers, passed on huge bull), Reedbuck (few), Western Bush Duiker (good numbers), Red Flanked Duiker (many), Oribi (few), Baboon (many), crocodile (one), leopard (seen on trail camera)
I used Travel with Guns for the flight arrangements. All went smoothly until landing in Douala. We (traveling with my Dad on this trip) were advised by outfitter not to take any photos inside airport, but Douala airport is an interesting place. The covid control “lines” had the appearance of organization but not in reality. There were four checkpoints inside a waiting room full of seats. You need to force your way to the front then find an exit with your stamped paper past the other people trying to get to the front. You show this paper to a few officials continuing to walk to passport control. Passport control moves very slow for reasons I can’t understand and they take your fingerprints. Finally though this, walking to baggage claim area, we are immediately met by outfitter representative. Our guns are waiting for us but our bags and ammo are not. Clearing the guns was not a problem. It was fully handled by outfitter representative at customs and police. I paid the $50 official payment and another $50 in unofficial payment. Air France clearly misplaced a lot of baggage for that flight in Paris, the wait to file a claim on the baggage took over an hour in a very small crowded room. I should add there is no air conditioning and very few fans in Douala airport. It is very hot and humid. I took a small handheld rechargeable fan along on this trip. I did not use hunting, but it was invaluable in the airport. We are taken to the Star Land Hotel for the night. It’s a very nice hotel and get a good night’s sleep.
We are picked up in the morning. Breakfast at hotel was very good. We get to airport but Cam Air isn’t checking in yet. Continue to wait until they decide to open. I’m very glad to have the handheld fan. Getting checked in with Cam Air is easy once they open, but after this outfitter representative can’t come with us past this point. We are taken by security to the baggage area downstairs below airport to a small office. We have to go through a security scan to get here. They want to inspect rifles, but the permit says 50 rounds of ammo that we don’t have. After explanation, they do sign and stamp paperwork to fly to Garoua without too much trouble. We are taken back to outfitter representative who leads us to security to go the waiting area for our flight. Flight to Garoua is actually on very well kept 737 and we land without any issues. I see my PH waiting on the other side of the glass. Once we get our guns, he immediately comes in to assist us at customs. They fill out required paperwork, but there is another unofficial payment required before we are released from customs. I thought we were done, but 5 or 6 guys who apparently have security titles want to see rifles as well before we exit glass door. Pull out permit again and let everyone check serial number, but no real issue and no additional payments. Now take gun to police inside airport before finally being allowed to go. 8 hour drive to hunting area ahead.
The drive to hunting area is unique. The road is initially partly paved but littered with huge potholes. Then a dirt road that is apparently the main route to Chad. This is probably the most dangerous driving I’ve ever seen. There are motorbikes on left, right, all sides that just do what they want. We saw several tip over on the way to the hunting area and many are carrying 2-4 people or heavy loads I’d never expect to see on a motorbike. Traffic does slow down the further you get from Garoua. We go through several very crowded villages that have sights I haven’t seen before, but PH advises not to take any photos as they may decide to swarm car. We drive through multiple manned military checkpoints but generally they just have a gatekeeper and are waved through. After 8 hours we arrive in my Dad’s camp for the night. A good dinner of buffalo tail soup and rice. We will drive about another 2.5 hours to my camp in the morning.
We have a good breakfast of eggs, toast, and fruit. We sight rifles in with borrowed ammo. The ammo is a problem in Cameroon. The only way to get ammo is from clients. I was given 300 grain federal soft points (non-bonded bullets) and had some Hornady 300 grain DGX as for additional. My Dad used a combination of soft points and solids because that was what was available. Unfortunately the previous hunter’s bag and ammo did not arrive either so supplies are very limited on this hunt. I’m glad I have a 375 H&H and not a specialty cartridge. We start drive to my camp. We see a few animals, not a lot. We see an old buffalo on side of road and my PH says this isn’t something we should pass. We get off truck and set up sticks. He needs to move for a shot. He steps. I shoot and I shoot again and he goes down at about 75 yards. We walk up and put an insurance shot into spine. We have a very old buffalo down early on the first morning. It was clear he had limp prior to shooting, but on inspection we can see he has a badly infected slug wound behind shoulder (it is starting to heal). We also find healed over buckshot while skinning. We get some pictures and continue drive to camp. We get settled in at camp and head out late that afternoon. It’s been a week since concession has been hunted. We drive concession boundary looking for tracks see several lone bull tracks from different days. Near dark we see 3 eland from truck that run. We try to get on but unsuccessful. Make a plan to get them tomorrow.
Day 2 we drive the block for the eland tracks crossing out of the block, but they are still in block we saw them last night. Start on track. After about 6 hours we finally catch them, but uncertain if we followed their tracks or they crossed back on to us. Area is small hills and tall grass where unburnt. We unfortunately follow their track to the bottom of valley in tall grass and can hear them. We try to get some elevation as they are moving back up hill in tall grass but we bump them at about 25 yards. I was 3 feet behind by PH. He saw bull clearly but I only saw flashes of eland as they ran. It would take 8 days for these eland to make an appearance again. Continue try to find new tracks but unable to find any tracks worth following. GPS showed 5.6 miles tracking today. My checked bag actually arrived in Douala today.
Day 3 start off same trying to find tracks, but didn’t find anything to follow. Eating lunch at noon by river. Anti-poaching and military drove by. They were moving illegal cattle from the concession. They just saw a big bull eland standing on side of road not a ½ mile away. We find the track immediately and start. We bumped him once relatively early in the track. We believe he was laying down and we were about 200 yards away. We stayed on his track until dark. These eland do not stop for heat of day and you can’t either. In the last hour it appeared he started to slow down to eat, but we never caught up to him before dark. The temperatures are around 100 F in the day with light wind. These lone bulls throughout the trip rarely slowed to eat. The ground is probably most difficult ground I’ve walked on because of the worm mounds. It’s impossible to put your foot on flat ground. The hotter it gets the more the rubber in your boots flex as well causing blisters that need taped up before the next day. I wish I would have brought harder soled boots, but I never had an issue on past hunts. 8.75 miles with GPS on track today.
Day 4 was uneventful, see some plains game, but unable to find fresh tracks to follow.
Day 5 unable to find fresh tracks. Decide to take a walk in area my PH saw herd at start of year, but unseen since. This march is so much easier than slow tracking pace. Able to walk on flat game trails at reasonable pace instead of slow dedicated foot placement in the worm mounts while tracking. After a few miles we miraculously bump into small eland herd in a relatively open burnt area, about 15 cows and a good bull. I’m on sticks aiming at a window for bull to walk into. There was a leaf I saw but didn’t obstruct shot while waiting. When my PH said bull is walking. I beared down on sticks and put the leaf right in my scope. I tried to adjust the sticks in the excitement instead of relaxing and missed my only shot opportunity to date. We tried to follow up herd but couldn’t catch up. 9 miles on GPS today. I got a warthog as we crossed river on way back to camp today. It was definitely a morale boost, not huge tusks but a very big bodied and long maned warthog, and a good quick shot.
Day 6 we started on herd tracks from yesterday. After 12 miles unable to catch up. There are unfortunately no roads in this area to cut their track on. Once decision is made about 3 pm that we aren’t going to catch them before dark, we start to road. It’s a long drive for driver, but it’s a 2.5 km walk for us to cross river and get to road. This area has no roads between two rivers. Unfortunately we saw a poacher while we were tracking today and more poacher tracks at river. We also found the illegal cattle camps. These people are apparently not Cameroonian. They are nomads that range between Nigeria, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, and often sell their cattle in Congo. The hunting blocks are huge and no villages so it’s a good place for them to hide. Anti-poaching combined with military assistance will regularly push them from hunting area, but it’s a matter of time until they return.
Day 7 unable to find any eland tracks to follow, but last few days have had very little plains game movement. We are starting to see some animals today. I took a nice kob at 12 noon. We actually rest at camp for lunch today and head back out in afternoon. We try to cut block on foot we last saw eland herd hoping to cut fresh tracks or fresher tracks to give us a clue where the eland have gone. While walking near dark. We bump into a hartebeest herd with a great bull. I take bull last half hour of light and we make a plan to get land cruiser to us. We build a fire and wait. Our tracker has worked in this area since the 1980s and knows every inch of this area. He’s probably hunted more eland than anyone alive too. He guides the land cruiser in successfully and we load hartebeest up. He guides us out successfully as well. He sees a big puff adder in our path on the way out and we get some good photos. We finally make it back to camp at around 10 pm just as the search party is starting out on bikes after us. It gets dark at about 6pm here. Plains game isn’t necessarily abundant but is around in huntable numbers, biggest issue is trying not to impact your eland hunt either with time used or the noise from shot itself.
Day 8 starts with same goal. It’s hard to stay motivated at this point because of limited eland sign. We drive past a huge waterbuck. My PH estimated 30+ likely 31. I never thought I’d do it, but I said I’ll pass. I’m trying to stay positive but I’ve really given up on idea of taking an eland at this point and I don’t want to buy the 2500 euro license to take the waterbuck. At start of hunt, I really wanted to hunt both waterbuck and bushbuck given time after getting the eland. But at this point, I’m thinking I may save some money and not export my trophies home without an eland. I’m trying hard to stay outwardly positive, but it’s difficult. We cross the river and actually find fresh eland tracks moving out of the block two lone bulls. Unfortunately the cattle have moved back into this block and the eland hate cattle. We can hear the cattle but can’t see them. We try to follow first track but lose in old herd tracks relatively quickly. I shouldn’t say lose but very difficult and too slow to follow. Further up road we find another lone bull to follow without old tracks to interrupt. We start tracking on wet droppings, but he never stops or even slows to eat, just a fast walk. I’ve never had this happen but we walked past a rock outcrop with a baboon. It obviously barked, but it continued to shadow us for 2 km barking entire way. We continued following lone eland, we never spooked him, but his fast walk outpaced ours and he finally crossed concession boundary after 8.5 miles at 3 pm.
Day 9 start of with usual goal to find tracks. We start earlier since we aren’t seeing movement near camp. We plan to cross river and look for tracks were cattle caused eland movement. My Dad was successful on day 3 and the assistant PH on his hunt is coming to assist us. We finished our drive for tracks and went much further than we typically do but don’t find tracks. He meets us just as we are about to start a march through the block hoping to cut a track or bump eland. He said he found fresh fresh tracks near concession boundary. My dad is hunting in other concession but there is very little eland movement there also. We have more in our area. We go to these tracks but they are actually 3 days old. However, It is the herd we never caught up to. We drive the concession boundary to either walk into block or see if they have crossed. They have crossed yesterday morning. We have permission to hunt their concession as well. We drive the block but no new tracks. There are several large hills here we can climb to survey flat ground on this concession, but we don’t see eland while glassing for the afternoon. We find signs of poacher’s camp fires on these large hills. We head back to camp. The 3 eland from the start of the hunt have returned to our area near camp. That evening I’m given an option. The hunter in a different camp with a lot of eland movement has completed his hunt and left early. I have option to move to that area but it is for eland only, no plains game as to minimally disturb area. I say let’s move. My checked bag finally made it to camp today, but luckily I packed my backpack extremely well. Only thing I didn’t have was a jacket, so used a blanket on back of truck every morning.
Day 10 we transfer to this area and hunt in afternoon. We get an idea where large herd is and also see 2 young bulls from the road. Huge amount of plains game and buffalo in this area.
Day 11 we set out from camp with information we gathered last night and find FRESH eland tracks early of a big herd. We set on track and catch up in about 2 hours. We put on ghillie suits and keep trying to get in front of herd or in a spot to see a good bull. We got on eland 3 times over next 1.5 hours never spooking herd. The third time I’m on sticks looking at a very small window at about 100 yards. I see eland cows. Suddenly I see a bull move through. I ask if that’s the bull. I hear a fast “yes, yes” and I shoot. I reload and turn to my PH who just dropped his binoculars and said frustratingly “I have no idea what you just shot.” I say “What do you mean? You have to be joking. I heard you say Yes.” Well, turns out it was the tracker. Because we changed camps, our tracker came along, but we took the primary tracker for this area. It’s only English I heard from natives all week. I thought for certain in that moment it was the PH. The shots on lord derby eland are every bit as difficult as YouTube videos show. Lots of grass and brush, small windows, and they are always walking. They don’t stop for shot. After I apologize to my PH and experience the roller coaster of emotions thinking I screwed up the premier hunt I’ve ever been on and can’t afford again, we start walking up and see an eland down. My PH also had a few words to say to tracker. As we get closer, we see it has nuts, which is a huge positive. Then we get closer still and see the mass of horns. It’s a huge old bull. I’m incredibly lucky. The herd as 80-100 animals with multiple bulls old and young. It’s rut and bulls are chasing the herd. The attitude of everyone at this points shifts 180 degees, lot of congratulations and handshakes. This is first animal in long time, I just wanted to savor the moment. It’s most impressive animal I ever expect to take. After a few minutes, my PH breaks the still and says we need to get pictures and skinned before it gets too hot and hair starts to slip. We get pictures and luckily aren’t too far from road. We get it back to camp and relax. I was silent on the way back to camp and my PH said he expected me to be very talkative, but like I said this has been one of the few animals I really can’t believe I’ve taken and had opportunity to hunt and just wanted to enjoy moment. We went out on a game drive late this afternoon and took lots of photos.
Day 12 started with a late morning and breakfast. I got packed up for tomorrow. We had a good lunch and went out for a late afternoon game drive again. Anti-poaching team caught a poacher today after just killing a buffalo cow. He was with two other poachers and a homemade shotgun. I asked my PH if I could give them an additional reward. They apprehended an armed poacher with no firearms themselves. I put 10,000 CFA (about $15 USD) into each of their hands. They’ll get a reward from company too. Unfortunately this was 3rd time this poacher had been caught and will likely be released by the authorities again. My PH asked if I wanted to shoot shotgun, but I thought it was a death trap and declined.
Day 13 started driving to hotel in Garoua. Met up with my Dad and his PH on road to convoy together. Get checked into hotel in Garoua. It’s nicest hotel and Garoua and clean and air conditioning works! But its about equivalent to a Motel 6 without shower curtain or toilet seats. It’s nice to relax after 9 hour drive. We don’t know what time Cam Air plane is leaving tomorrow, so just relax and wait. Dinner and breakfast is actually pretty good.
Final Day get picked up at about 10:45 and get checked in. Going back through Garoua with rifle is surprisingly simple this time. Land in Douala at about 5 pm. The outfitter’s rep meets us there as well and helps us with guns and bags and clearing my ammo that was held back at customs this entire time. They take us back to Star Land Hotel for dinner. Dinner is actually great, we arrived too late coming into Douala and I just went straight to bed first time. I got the sea bass and it was perfect with fried plantains. Finish dinner and head back to airport to get checked in for 11:45 pm flight. Same process, easy check in, head downstairs to baggage level to small office to clear guns, then back upstairs for security. I have no idea what Douala airport designs actually look like from above, but I wouldn’t call it intuitive where to go. We get to waiting area but its not open yet to pass through that final security. They finally open area up and we take seat. The handheld fan is extremely helpful again. It rains really hard and water actually comes down through light fixtures on ceiling. We board our flight to Paris and adventure is over. I’m glad it went as smooth as it did.
I went at end of January to hunt Eland in the rut with black winter neck. My PH said the month of January into the first part week or so of February is good rut. He said he would have picked first week February to take advantage of rut but also to allow the area to get effectively burned. The tall grass increased the difficulty of the hunt. Hunting rut is an advantage because multiple bulls will be with the herds. The herds are easier to track, but also move slower, and feed so you can catch up if they are in your area. The problem is the lack of food at this time of year and generally cooler temperatures, they will cover much more distance than later in year when it greens up. He said rut is effectively over by second week of February and the bulls break from the herds. Ideally we would have had two or three herds in my concession with a couple of bulls in each herd. But that wasn’t case, we had one small herd with one bull, one very small herd with one bull, and a couple of lone bulls, but those lone bulls could mix with herd at any time. The bulls all smelled extremely rutty, apparently they rub the mop in their face in the cow urine. While tracking lone bulls we could smell this as we got close, so they had obviously been with the herd at various times. Later in year as other concessions dry up, he also said the plains game improves slightly.
I’m very satisfied with the end result of this hunt. However, it was a very difficult hunt and very little eland movement in either my concession or my Dad’s concession. In my concession, the initial sign of poaching I saw was my buffalo with an infected slug wound. It was clear as distance from camp increased the game decreased. Kob are particularly easy to approach and I would say their numbers were low I can only assume from continued poaching. We saw poacher’s tracks on most days in certain areas and an actual poacher one day while tracking eland. The cattle have definitely had an effect on game movement. You can see the vegetation has been flatted in some areas by the number of cattle. I was unhappy to see it, but I can’t say it had an impact on my hunt, aside from reduced game numbers. In my Dad’s area however, they saw more direct poaching pressure. They inadvertently stumbled on poachers who set a grass fire to cover their tracks ahead of them. Then they found a group of 9 poachers tracking a herd, they backed out, and called in military assistance. They found old poacher camp and a female roan that had been butchered. Like I said at start of this report, I don’t have a basis of comparison for concessions in Cameroon to draw conclusions. The anti-poaching staff cannot carry guns. They require military assistance. The poachers are all armed and the cattle herders are apparently armed with bows and arrows they are very willing to use. More needs to be done, more roads built and more anti-poaching staff added, but I don’t know what that entails. I ran quick numbers to compare to a hunting area in southern Africa to this area and the number of hunts just aren’t there to generate the anti-poaching money I think this would require. I’m glad I was successful. I don’t know how long this hunting will be viable if this is the poaching and encroachment pressure across all concessions in Cameroon. I’m glad I did this hunt, but I would not call it a hunt to take lightly. I would add also, although the process of bringing my own rifle was cumbersome, it would not deter me from bringing my own rifle to Cameroon again.
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My Eland taken on Day 11 after a lot of miles
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