Holy Crap, I Like Adventure As Much As The Next Guy, But This Is A Little Much.....


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Dec 13, 2014
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A Father's Day Brush with Death in CAR

Editor's Note: On Father's Day, June 19, 2016, Lord's Resistance Army militants ambushed a Hunting Report subscriber and his hunting party in eastern Central African Republic while hunting yellow-backed duiker. The subscriber, who has asked we refer to him only as "Scott," was evacuated by Ripcord Rescue Travel Insurance TM under their security extraction services. Here is Scott's harrowing account of his close brush with death in the bush.

I arrived in Bangui on May 31st and stayed at the Ledger Hotel campus and felt safe at the Ledger as it is high-fenced and has a security gate. Once at the Ledger, there is no reason to leave the fairly secure campus as they have an on-site restaurant and room service.

I was escorted to the airport and took a charter flight on a Cessna Caravan to Rafai on June 2nd. I met the out-going French hunter at the airstrip at Rafai. He had hunted just two weeks and managed to take a yellow-backed duiker but did not get a bongo. He and Jacques reported to me that they had no rain to find/judge fresh tracks for the first eight days of the hunt. Jacques and the French hunter didn't have any security issues that I know of. Driving to camp from Rafai, we went through the village of Dembia and the people in Rafai and Dembia were all friendly, waving, and some even brought pineapples to the roadside for us. Most of Jacques' staff is from Dembia. Until the incident on June 19th, we had only come across a few nomadic herders, a few people along the roads, etc... and all were friendly and waving back to us. Jacques was in contact with Father Kordian in Rafai, as well as the UN troops there and the authorities in Obo, where the US has a base.

It rained several times so we had some good tracking days and some not so good when the rains didn't come. All in all, things were going well and I got my 32-inch bongo on June 14th. After I got my bongo, we had trailcam pics of a monster top 10 bongo at a nearby saline, so we hunted/tracked him a couple times without success. Since Jacques planned to rotate/rest this camp area for the next two years, he said I could shoot the big bongo for a second trophy fee if we got on it, as he didn't know if it would still be around in three years when he rotated back to this camp. I never got the chance to get this bongo as the weather stopped cooperating as the rains went away and Jacques did not want to go after this big bongo unless conditions were ideal. In the dry conditions, we changed our focus to yellow-backed duiker. Until the attack, I was looking forward to filing a positive hunt report on my safari and thought it would help the CAR and Jacques get some much needed good news and support.

On June 19th, we still did not have an overnight rain, so Jacques decided to go to the area where we were eventually attacked because he said it was a good area for yellow-backed duiker.

The attack occurred about 22 kilometers north of the camp. We had taken the main road NNE for many kilometers and then turned off onto a grown over bush road that Jacques had not used in a couple years. The lead tracker, Joseph, and I walked out ahead of the car to quietly hunt and the other seven trackers cleared the road as Jacques followed in the car. The road crossed through a series of savannas. After several kilometers of walking, Joseph and I had gotten probably a few kilometers ahead of the rest of the group/car. I stopped about 2/3 of the way across a big open savanna to wait for the rest of the group and car to catch up. I had a "nature call" and needed some paper. Thank God Joseph and I stopped when we did.

The car caught up to us and I got some toilet paper and walked to some trees with the rifle to do my "nature call." Jacques and the trackers continued through the savanna clearing the trail. I was then behind the group/car and was walking to catch up when suddenly I heard many shots up ahead. Our group had advanced towards the treeline about 150 meters from the end of the savanna. The shots came from the bush at the end of the savanna.

I dove behind a small rock out in the open savanna and saw the trackers scattering and yelling as they ran back to my left towards the nearest cover/bush. Jacques was out of the car and ran back to it. He started it and turned it around while taking heavy fire.

Since I had a gun, I was taking heavy fire too, but decided to zigzag run back the way we had come because the gunmen were out in the savanna now still shooting. I didn't want to be left behind. I ran as fast as I could with bullets whizzing by me in all directions and striking the ground near my feet and ahead of me as I ran a zigzag pattern while paralleling back down the trail road. Jacques was gaining on me and he flung the passenger side car door open. When he was fairly close to me and still driving, I changed direction to my left a bit to intersect the car while running. I jumped into the seat of the car while it was moving as we were still taking fire from four LRA gunmen with automatic weapons. The car was hit several times and both rear tires were flat but we just kept driving as fast as we could to put some distance behind us.

Jacques with the car and I with the rifle took the most gunfire. The trackers all made it into the bush cover. Later, we learned they all made it back safely. It is a miracle that we were not hit by the dozens of shots. I can only imagine now what would have happened had I not stopped Joseph to wait for the car to catch up! He and I would have been killed as we walked into the LRA position/camp I am sure.

Anyway, Jacques and I were now alone and continued driving back to the main road on two flat tires. We had only one spare tire and didn't want to risk stopping. We eventually had to stop a couple times to sift water out of mud puddles to refill the radiator as the car was overheating. We finally had no choice but to stop and change one of the rear tires as well.

We made it to camp and gathered our belongings and most of the camp gear. We repaired the tires. We loaded camp gear on both Cruisers and one bigger truck. We left within a couple hours. I drove one of the Cruisers.

When we got to Dembia, the young men in camp blocked us from continuing for several hours. They were upset and worried about the trackers. They also thought by detaining me, they could force the UN and CAR authorities to provide more soldiers to the area north of Rafai. They blocked the road and were brandishing machetes and axes. We contacted Father Kordian Merta at the Catholic Mission in Rafai. He headed our way with three UN armed Cruisers with Moroccan troops.

Meanwhile, Jacques tried talking to the Chief at Dembia. The Chief calmed the young men, but he decided we could not go until the priest and the UN troops arrived. It was well after dark when they arrived and it still took an hour of negotiating before we were allowed to leave for Rafai. We arrived Rafai about 2am. Along the way, the four-wheel-drive quit working, and the fuel filter plugged in the Cruiser I was driving, so we left it behind.

Ripcord sent a ground team my way from Obo to Dembia, but we were able to leave Dembia with the UN soldiers before Ripcord arrived. The next day, Ripcord flew me from Rafai in a Beechcraft King Air 350 back to Bangui. There was some unrest there in the Muslim sector, according to Ripcord, so they arranged for an armed escort with two vehicles for me the next day to get to the airport. I am safely back home now. I have been debriefed by the State Department and the Department of Defense.

I heard from Jacques that all the trackers made it home safely. After speaking with them, Jacques learned that they had shadowed the LRA soldiers. There were nine LRA soldiers, not four like I thought. The soldiers were dressed in green uniforms with boots. They radioed to another group of LRA behind us to intercept and stop Jacques and me in the Cruiser. Then the nine LRA followed us in the Cruiser for 10 kilometers. Thankfully we were able to stay ahead of them, and we must have slipped by the other group before they could get to us and intercept us!

Jacques says he is done with Safari-Bongo, in that area at least. He told me it could not be possible to be lucky enough to survive another attack such as the one we endured. The Cruiser cab has several bullet holes in it (one through my headrest and then out the cab wall). Jacques' door took a bullet that came through just under his seat. Other bullets came in his window as he was bent down and hit the mirror on my side. Another came through the windshield and into the door post on my side. As I ran zigzag, many bullets hit near me and over and under. I could see the ricocheting bullets light up like little fire balls coming past me. Luckily, we all reacted perfectly and had extreme luck and God on our side. It is still sinking in. Perhaps I killed the last bongo from the Rafai area ever to be taken.

This was my 15th international hunt and my fifth safari to Africa. I spoke face to face with Jacques at SCI for the last two years and my wife and I spoke face to face with two of Jacques' 2015 hunters at SCI. All concerned told me that there were no problems with the hunt or security in or near camp in 2015. The 2015 hunts went well and the hunters told me I should have a good trip. They mentioned that the most dangerous part of the trip would be getting to/from the airport in Bangui from the Ledger Hotel and that conditions in and near camp should be better than in Bangui. This info, coupled with the report of successful elections in November, made me confident in my decision to go forward. I also did some research into the LRA and read that the LRA problems had been reduced and that attacks against local populations in eastern CAR were fairly rare and less numerous in 2015 than in the past. I would later learn, that this was not the whole picture.

After arriving home, I have done some more research into the LRA and I uncovered a website at LRA Crisis Tracker. This website is a good find and I believe it will be of value to hunters considering a hunt anywhere in several Central African nations. If I had found this website before I left for CAR, I would not have gone on the hunt. This website compiles all the attack reports. I was surprised to find attacks as recent as April 2016 in the Rafai area. This website does not paint a pretty picture of the LRA and its attacks. It is a must-read for a great resource for you in finding out the TRUTH about what is really going on in CAR and the Congo with the LRA. I cannot say if Jacques and Elise knew about the real risks involved in the area or not. I don't think so. The website author does confirm that attacks in 2015 were down. Unfortunately, the author also says that the 2016 attacks are up so far this year.

I am happy I got my bongo, but I would give it back if doing so would take away the occurrence of the attack. It was that horrific. In hindsight of reviewing this website, I don't think anyone should be hunting in many parts of eastern CAR if the website is credible.

I have been a professional hunting guide for 25 years. I have been careful and still I have had several near-death experiences. I was charged by a brown bear at 20 yards in 2006; I was charged by a 360-class gut-shot bull elk at 10 yards; I nearly drowned when I lost my footing carrying a heavy pack and tumbled downriver while trying to cross a run-off swollen river in the dark after a long scouting day by myself; I had an angrily aroused Boomslang snake with mouth open in Mozambique just inches from the back of my neck and shoulders; I had a horse in a horse trailer rear up and then lunge forward and slam me into the front of the trailer, knocking me out cold; I fell about 15 feet down a rockslide while packing out a client's bighorn ram; and I was trapped above treeline in a violent electrical storm with sideways lightning all around me and no way to take cover. However, nothing compares to taking heavy fire from four AK47-wielding LRA cult members in a wide-open savanna and miraculously not being hit by a single bullet while the ground around me seemed to be exploding as I ran. To say I have an expanded respect for our men in uniform that actually get into such situations purposefully is an understatement. - Scott

* Reposted from The Hunting Report

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I wanted to go hunt with CAWA so badly just the year the conflict started.
After consulting some of my very experienced buddies that have done operations in Africa I decided not to go. Shortly thereafter, CAWA ceased operations in CAR.

Glad this fellow hunter made it out with his skin intact.
Hunting the CAR and Cameroon for Lord Derby Eland, Bongo, etc., has always been one of those bucket list items of mine. I'm not sure if it will ever happen, but this type of stuff for darn sure makes one very wary of ever going there......

That guy was extremely lucky to make it out alive. Sounds like one hell of a scary situation..........
WOW! Incredible harrowing story of a crazy experience, praise the Lord he made it out as well as the outfitter and trackers! Scary stuff
Hunting the CAR and Cameroon for Lord Derby Eland, Bongo, etc., has always been one of those bucket list items of mine. I'm not sure if it will ever happen, but this type of stuff for darn sure makes one very wary of ever going there......

Me too sandman, would love to go after bongo and eland in these areas, but stuff like this is crazy
Lucky to be alive. I am not going there period.
You know I've often wondered in places like this, and with situations like what happened to this poor fellow, what if the hunter, in defense of life, decided to shoot back.........

I'm sure it would be a bureaucratic and political nightmare for sure. A definite case of "he said versus he said", and I'm sure the word of "Bwana" versus the locals would not hold much weight in a 3rd world court of law....

And with the current administration, or the one that might, God help us, take over in January 2017, my guess is the hunter would be left to rot in some hell-hole of a prison with no recourse of ever getting out......I mean after hearing a lot of the Benghazi findings, and realizing those brave men at the US Embassy in Tripoli were left to fend for themselves in the face of a known terrorist attack, I have no doubt a hunter defending him-or herself would not even warrant the raise of an eyebrow from our current CIC......

I'll get down form my political soapbox now, but the main point of posting this is the story itself, just WOW!..........:eek:
Man !!!
This reads like a chapter out of a J. Alain Smith novel.
Incredible story and a miracle to have survived. I can imagine how Scott felt, I was caught 2 years ago in an ambush, when the first shot rang out, pure shock them your survival instinct kicks in.
Wow hes lucky to be alive, I wonder if he will get that bongo back. I would guess probably not, but what a story.(since no one was hurt)

I think I might stay away from that part of the world until conditions improve.
Incredible story and a miracle to have survived. I can imagine how Scott felt, I was caught 2 years ago in an ambush, when the first shot rang out, pure shock them your survival instinct kicks in.

After reading the reports on that road Simon I was more than happy to be flying over top (survival instincts) of it to the concession. Some adventure is fine, but.....
That is WAY too close of an encounter. I'm glad he got out alive. Something to consider anytime we go to places with potential conflict..... Bruce
Lucky the LRA militiamen are poor shots !

Central Africa is certainly not a safe place to go.
Lucky the LRA militiamen are poor shots !

Central Africa is certainly not a safe place to go.
Lots of those guys are poor shots, and frankly, AK's are not known for their accuracy. Having said that, they can put a lot of lead in the air, and even a poor shot will get lucky once in a while.

But this guy got really lucky - not only to escape the initial assault by the LRA, but to get away form the village, as well.

Can you say "thank heavens for a priest"!!

I was looking at booking a Lord Derby hunt and thought seriously about CAR but . . . this confirms that I made the right decision. Back to Cameroon it is!
I wanted to go hunt with CAWA so badly just the year the conflict started.
After consulting some of my very experienced buddies that have done operations in Africa I decided not to go. Shortly thereafter, CAWA ceased operations in CAR.

Glad this fellow hunter made it out with his skin intact.

I hunted with CAWA in 2011 - it was a fantastic 3 week safari in the CAR. Shame what's happened since!

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