Day 3 (October 27) The Buffalo and Eland hunt begins
We head east into the rising sun towards the mountainous terrain to look for old dagga boys. The area we will drive through, both going and coming, has Eland. So, we’ll look for a mature bull as we drive. About thirty minutes, tap, tap, tap – Eland!. Off we jump to start the stalk. The sun is to our left and we have a mixture of grassy plains dotted with small trees and brush. After about 3 – 400 yards of stalking, Nipito and Geraldo see the Eland take off away from us. Hoping he’ll stop, we continue for a few hundred yards more and have a Southern Reedbuck step into an opening at 150 yards broadside. Grande! The sticks go up, the 375 goes boom and a solid hit. We walk to the area he was standing, find the blood start to track to our left. After 10 yards, Geraldo starts laughing. It’s dead 30 yards ahead of us – straight into the sun so we didn’t see it right away.
After pictures it is loaded into the truck and we’re off to look for buffalo tracks. We checked 4 to 5 different water holes but most of the tracks were at least 1 or 2 days old. Nothing from this morning or last night. We drive about 5 hours total and end up coming out on the east end of the concession which runs along highway N14. 35k back to the camp turn off, then 30k to camp. Half way along the camp road, a puncture. Time to change a tire and then head for home. I feel like a bobble head, bobble body on the truck and look forward to a good meal and some sleep.
The buffalo dagga boy country.
N14 driving west. Is that @TMS girl on the horizon?
@reedy0312 The first time I saw a buffalo picture in bamboo was @Mbizi Safaris photo he added in buffalo pictures thread. This stuff is thick but you can see black against it. It's also surprising how quiet they can be when moving through the drive leaves and close quarters.
@gillettehunter Bruce, you are so right. If I were Mr. Calm, I wouldn't be me. I'm sharing the ups/downs/excitement so that others, maybe those who go for the first time know it can happen and just work your way through it. I'll post the next day's activities later today.
It was a short ride today. The area we went to had some rain over night – not much, but enough to give a damp, earthy, musky smell to the air. It provides a hint to what the rainy season could be like. We hike for a bit but the dagga boy tracks are all at least a day old. We come across some fresh spoor but it’s a group of five buffalo with the tracks looking like all younger bulls.
Have some lunch back in camp. Ann gives the guys a bag of hard candies as someone had suggested on the forum. Manuel “You’re giving my guys diabetes!” Ann, “Said the spider to the fly!” We are all getting to know each other and finding a rhythm and the kidding has started – I like that. We head out to look for Eland or Waterbuck. As we drive back to camp we have an Eland Cow running hard cross from right to left ahead of us. Wow, how can something that big move that fast?
A great dinner and some good sleep. More buffalo hunting tomorrow.
Manuel decides with Nipito and Geraldo to go to the far east side of the concession where we came out the other day. So, it’s off to N14 and a total drive of about 1 ½ hours. We park and head down the hill to some water and find tracks. Probably last night – not fresh enough to follow. I’m surprised how hilly it is over here. We drive back west about a mile or two and stop. We head off into the concession and after about a half an hour we cut fresh dung with maggots (12 hours old?) in the bamboo thicket. This is going to get interesting because there is also grass about 10’ tall mixed in with the bamboo.
During the hike we come across snares and the guys go up and down the animal track and come back with almost two dozen snares. Later we see a drying rack. Even with all of the anti-poaching time they put in, the villagers still try to do it.
Area where the buffalo bulls and churned up the ground from fighting.
Poachers set and snares.
Off we go for six hours up and down hills, through drainages thick with bamboo and grass with the hills mostly burned and thinly covered with trees. Geraldo hands me my rifle and Nipito hands Manuel his. Then, we can hear them in the next bamboo thicket – just slight hollow sound of some horns hitting bamboo. Slowly we stalk. Stepping in each other’s footprints. Gently moving bamboo stalks to the side or over our heads as we bend, crouch, twist, duck and move forward towards the buffalo.
We find a lane we can see through and get down on our knees. Black! A tail! 20 – 30 yards away. The wind is good unfortunately he’s facing away from us. Where are the others with him? Some movement beyond the closest one. After a few minutes we feel the breeze gently tickly our necks – moments later thundering hooves and horns slapping loudly against bamboo stalks.
Manuel and the guys jump up and yell come on and we start running to our left to try to cut them off. Silence. No more bamboo and horns slapping. We break out to the thin trees and see them going up the hill across the drainage. One stops and turns around to look at us. 250 yards away and his bosses look huge. He turns and moves off to join the others. We start after them.
The guys go straight up the hill like the buffalo. 250 - 300 feet of elevation gain. Seems vertical to my legs, heart and lungs but I make it up with them. Ann is slowing down half way up and stops. I can’t catch my breath. How could I shoot if one was in front of me. Nipito and Geraldo see the buffalo up head and they’re walking. Ann and Jacinto catch up. Manuel looks at me “No regrets! We can catch them on the next mountain. They won’t want to keep going.” I look at him and tell him “I can’t keep going.” That next mountain was at least a mile and half away with a downhill hike to a drainage, through bamboo thickets and then back up hill with another steep elevation gain.
We call the truck and walk an hour to the nearest dirt track. Then, an hour and half ride back to camp. This is difficult terrain – hope I’m up to it the next day and not totally whipped. The buffalo are tough and maybe tougher than me.
We’re off to the eastern part of the concession where we chased the bulls the day before. I’m starting to go a bit silly. I love the hiking/stalking but looking at my PH’s back end all day is getting a bit monotonous. So, I’ve come up with the following:
Bamboo Thicket Estates (BTE) – selling lots now
Perimeter Security provided by the baboons
Neighborhood watch provided by the warthogs
Elephants to arrive at the party at 1:15
And, now we have the BTE Dance steps:
Step, twist, duck, crouch, bend
Step, duck, twist, bend, crouch
Oh, some open forest to walk through. Catch a bit of a breeze. But, of course it is up hill! Made it. The top is sort of flat. Yippeee, we get to go down hill.
The poacher's drying rack I mentioned yesterday - forgot to attach it.
Crap more BTE in the next drainage. 4 sets of hills and drainages and we begin to catch up to the buffalo. But, now we see elephant tracks too. Crash across the way in the bamboo – sounds like the elephant are stampeding away from us. We see them through an opening about 150 yards ahead and on the other side. The buffalo head out of the bamboo on our side of the drainage, up the hill to the right and away. Busted, but got close again.
We come across an elephant skeleton from poaching. Makes me sad the waste of the animal in such a way.
On our drive back we see a leopard track on top of our tire track from this morning – very special to see that. We see some warthogs but all females. And, of course, a huge sable bedded 30 – 40 yards from the road and never even moved as we drove by. He was at least 7 – 10 inches longer than mine. A couple hundred yards later we see another huge sable this one on the right side of the road. Then Eland! Nope, no bulls only a cow with two calves. Then, another lone Sable bull watching us drive by. They must know I’m done hunting them.
Dinner is superb and we head to bed to the hyenas yapping.
Lot’s of driving to find fresh buffalo tracks and about 10:15 am we find good looking, fresh tracks. We pause for some lunch and then head out on the track.
The slopes aren’t as steep here – looks like 4 or 5 buffalo. I decide to define the grasses we walk through. They’re dry and have the look to match a lion. So, not knowing what they are, I call them lion grass. There seems to be three variations:
Short – about 3’ tall
Medium – between 5 and 6 feet tall
Tall – at least 10’ and some seemed to be 12’ tall or more
We stalk through wooded slopes with plots of medium grass interspersed. Each time, we slow our pace, Manuel and I carrying the rifles at this point. And the trackers slowly survey the grass to see if they’re bedded. Nothing. This happens 4 or 5 times through the next few hours. Then we drop down a slope into a drainage of BTE.
Nipito and Geraldo are about to follow right into the bamboo when Manuel stops them, points back up hill, and around the bamboo. The wind is working in our favor so we move up high, slowly looking for the buffalo in the bamboo. We do this through several patches of bamboo before we cut the tracks coming out and going across the hillside.
The trackers spot the buffalo about 400 yards ahead with some of them bedded in a spot of trees in the grass. We work our way to about 100 yards and Manuel signals for Ann, Jacinto and Geraldo to stay back while he, Nipito and I move in to about 60 yards. There is a bull standing broadside facing right. He’s mature but not old. We hold off on shooting and look for an old bull in the group. After about two minutes of observing a cow stands up to the left, looks our way. Boom, they all get up and take off running. We see them going up the hillside across the next drainage with a couple old bulls in the group. Darn, so close and couldn’t get on him. I start second guessing myself. Should I have told Manuel a mature bull is enough for me? Can I back off the ‘old dagga boy’ goal? Need to think it through tonight.
Here’s the one Baobab tree on the property. The local villages consider it sacred and have ceremonies they conduct at the tree throughout the year.
On the drive back to camp we see a herd of 30 Sable that split the road and stop. Ann hasn’t seen them this close. She was delighted to get pictures and to see the calves in the herd. My DSC Life Member hat is starting to take on the hue of the charred black of the burnt grasses and the brown dust of the soil.
At dinner I tell Manuel that I prefer an old bull, but a mature, hard-bossed bull is ok. We decide to continue to hunt the old bulls and if we get on one that is hard-bossed he’ll give me the option, makes sense to me. I really don’t want to leave Mozambique without a bull.
@AB2506 They say "If it's easy, it's not worth doing" I appreciate everyone's comments. It has been fun for me to relive the adventure as I share it day to day. I'll post the next day later tonight. John
We find fresh tracks of two old bulls early. Saddle up, time to hike. Today’s hotter than any of the other days – 37 or higher centigrade. Up, down, through the drainages and BTE. But, the bamboo is a bit thinner in this area. Lot’s of grass – tall, medium and short.
A bit road work along the way. Even in Mozambique, one guy does the work while everyone else watches!
Manuel taps Nipito on the shoulder – give me the rifle and Geraldo hands me mine. There is a strong, pungent smell. Fresh dung. Steps are made softer, more carefully – avoid the leaves, find a patch of dirt. Relax, not right here. A few minutes later the trackers stop and start chatting. Got on the wrong track. Need to go back. We back track about ½ mile to where they were certain they had the right track.
Some stripped mongooses. (geeses?) Kind small in the picture. There were about a dozen or more total.
After about 10 – 15 minutes they find the direction the track went. Time to do the BTE Tango: bend, crouch, duck, twist, - repeat. They’ve run. Crap, are we going to break off again? Nope, Nipito finds where they started walking. Let’s keep going. We continue to push walking through a Halloween forest, cracked earth, wind swept burnt grass, no leaves on the trees. The sun is beating down as its getting to mid-day. I feel like Frodo crossing Mordor.
No way, you have to be kidding. Their tracks mix with a herd. How are the guys going to sort this out in the dry ground where all the hoof does is leave a small shadow of a track? The buffalo cross a road. They win again. Time for a late lunch.
I’m beat and loosing energy. Do we take a day off tomorrow and go to the Lugenda River? I’ll see how I feel in the morning. Dinner is wonderful as always. A small baboon troop nests in the trees near our tent and tucks us in for the night. Only four days left – where has the time gone?
Day 8 (November 1)
..... Today’s hotter than any of the other days – 37 or higher centigrade. ......... The sun is beating down as its getting to mid-day. I feel like Frodo crossing Mordor.
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