TANZANIA: Bullet Safaris - Nathan Askew - Leopard/Buffalo Hunt - October 2020

M Whitley

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2020 started off great, then Covid came. Safari plans to hunt Namibia the first half of July were derailed by the pandemic. Nathan Askew from Bullet Safaris was able to get me into Tanzania for leopard, buffalo, and plains game. I told Nathan I was flexible on dates from 9/15/20 to 10/31/20.

A few phone calls and emails and plans were put in place to hunt 10/2 to 10/15. Practicing on sticks and off a Caldwell tripod became weekly occurrences leading up to my departure. I was packed and ready to board the plane about 5 days before departure I was so excited.

Travel was from St. Louis to Ft. Worth on American then Qatar Airlines from Ft. Worth to Doha and finally Doha to Arusha. Steve at TWG did an amazing job as the flight schedules did change after purchase and he made it all work with the Bullet Safaris team.

Travel was rather uneventful with the exception of the business class lounge at the Doha airport. Pay the fee if you are not business class to partake. Lockers, showers, restaurants … everything you need on a layover to feel refreshed.

Overnight at Kibo Palace in Arusha, the Bullet Safaris staff met me at Kilimanjaro airport and took care of me all the way through. The next morning the same manager and driver for Bullet took me to the Arusha airport where I got on the charter flight into the Rungwa Game Reserve.

Day 0:
When we landed on the airstrip there was one truck waiting for us, by the time my bags were on the ground Nathan had arrived with another leopard hunter that was leaving on the plane. The departing hunter was successful on leopard as well as a pair of buffalo and some plains game. My gear was loaded up and we drove roughly an hour or so through the bush to reach the camp, I forgot to write the name of the camp down. Introductions to the staff and shown around the camp site. My license started that day so we grabbed my rifle and went to check it at the range. Three shots and all where they should be, off to look for a zebra to add some baits to the ones Nathan already had up.

The trackers spotted a group 12 +/- zebra and we made our stalk through the brush as the sun set. We closed the gap to the last tree about 110 yards or so. Once a broadside shot was presented I squeezed the trigger on the 375 and we heard the sound of a solid hit. The stallion ran about 40 yards or so then stopped before dropping in the field. We took some pictures and got the zebra loaded up, much different than my S. Africa zebra. No shadow stripes and the stripes went all the way to the hooves. Beautiful animal.

Great food and a whiskey or two, or three and off to bed.
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gillettehunter

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Great start. Looking forward to the rest of your hunt report.
Bruce
 

MMAL

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Ooooooo my dream hunt buff/leopard combo. Keep up with the posts!
 
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M Whitley

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Day 1:
Up in the morning to hippos calling and lions grunting in the distance. Wild country no doubt. The tent was like being in a hotel room, very comfortable and the shower was almost too hot when they got it ready for me. Good breakfast and off to check baits and see what Africa would offer me this day. We saw several Oribi all of which Nathan said we could do better. As we drove through an open area one of the trackers snapped, which I would quickly learn meant they had spotted something worth stopping for. A herd of buffalo on the edge of the brush 800-1000 yards away. We all climbed off the truck and geared up for a stalk, Nathan giving me some refreshers on the initial walk regarding bullet placement and the need for lead. We circled way around to play the wind, once close we left the game scout and two trackers behind. Nathan, Sherif, and I crawled into position of the unaware feeding herd. We were about 40 yards as Nathan and Sherif looked over the herd. They then decided there was no shooter bull in the herd for us today. We did have a leopard on bait that was blind in one eye, we named him appropriately “Jack”. It seems every bait has a leopard on it when we stop, only a couple baits did not get hit constantly. We even had one 75 yards from the skinning shed at main camp that had a female and young male on it. Almost too many cats to keep the baits going with only one hunter in camp. As the sun started to set one of the trackers snapped again as the truck stopped, a group of sable not far off. We jumped off the truck and began our stalk. We were able to close the distance to 80 or so yards, the bull’s vitals concealed by the brush. The wind swirled and away they went, we attempted to track however the sun was setting fast and the chase was called off.
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M Whitley

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Day 2:
Again woken by the lion announcing his presence to us this morning although today he was closer and on the other side of the camp. Breakfast and out on the truck, we checked a bait with a female feeding and drove to a giant boulder/mountain that we could use for a vantage point. We climbed the massive boulder and everyone spread out to glass below us. A nice Roan was spotted way off in the distance and we descended the boulder to attempt our stalk. We did so and found tracks but the Roan was nowhere to be found. The remainder of the day was spent checking baits and refreshing them. There was also another truck out running baits and hanging new ones with the zebra from day zero. It seemed as though every bait up had activity! Females with cubs, young males, and Jack was consistent in daylight as well. Nathan had reviewed the pictures and decided “Jack” was indeed big enough to hunt. The other truck had constructed our blind or “celebrate” this day.

As we drove headed back to main camp one of the trackers snapped and the truck stopped, Eland. We glassed and a lone Eland bull was feeding on the edge of the clearing. We stalked into 150 yards and waited, Nathan said to wait as he was feeding right to us. Around 120 yards or so the sticks went up as the bull started to angle to our right. I placed the first shot directly on the shoulder, the old bull took it and started to trot away as I fired again. Hitting him in the back of the hip. We advanced closer as the bull stood in the brush as his lungs filled with blood. Another shot would end his wait. The trackers processed the old bull right where he fell in the headlights of the Land Cruiser. This bull would make not only a great trophy but 5 good leopard baits.
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cpr0312

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Great start to the hunt! Look forward to more!
 

Wheels

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Enjoying your report.

Fantastic old eland bull.

Nathan is first class. You did well in making the most of the changeup the virus threw at you.

Looking forward to more.
 

gillettehunter

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Thats a beautiful old eland. Congrats and good shooting,
Bruce
 

buck wild

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In for the rest
 

cls

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Great start, thanks.
 

M Whitley

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Day 3:
The other bait truck was going today to refresh “Jack’s” bait and hang three additional baits that Nathan said were “far away”. Keep in mind we would drive 2-2.5 hours in the dark to reach main camp at night, so they must have been far. These hunting areas are huge and you really cannot even explain the size of them.

We checked three baits, all of which had activity! A female and a cub, a young male, and lions had managed to feed on one of them. Which Nathan said we would need to abandon. As we drove we spotted an Oribi that Nathan said was big. We jumped off the truck and made a short stalk, the Oribi stood broadside in the bush. Nathan said once he takes a step out to go ahead and shoot. No more than a minute passed and the Oribi stepped out. A single shot from the 375 and he ran about 20 yards before falling over.

Nathan found a shady spot in the brush for us to take lunch and a short nap while the guys skinned the Oribi out for a full mount and took a lunch break for themselves. The Mopani flies were pretty bad in this area, Nathan said burning elephant dung will keep them away so we surrounded our lunch spot with smoldering elephant droppings and it indeed worked.

That night we had pizza, beer, and a vegetable stack which I did not get pictures of but amazing food every day. Better food than I pay more than I would admit to back in the states.
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Congrats on the eland and oribi!
 

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Good read so far hope you connect with Jack soon.
 

M Whitley

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Day 4:
When I woke on day four it was noticeable the temperature had dropped over night. Much cooler than the previous mornings, still probably in the 50’s. The trackers jumped off in between checking leopard baits to look at some buffalo tracks of a herd from the night before. They signaled for Nathan and I to join after about 10 minutes of sorting them out. We joined and tracked with them through the bush and open areas. About two hours had passed by when the main tracker signaled for the other trackers and game scout to stay back a little bit. It was always interesting to me how you could watch the trackers body language and know when we were approaching the herd. Everything slowed and everyone was much more alert. I would still be trying to distinguish tracks from today or yesterday and they would be looking for the buffalo, very talented crew.

On the edge of the herd that we approached with the wind right there were 7 bulls bedded in the bush. We got into position, maybe 60 yards and I got on the sticks. Nathan inspected each bull carefully and reviewed the last two when they stood to feed to our right. We flanked the bulls several times to make sure Nathan got to see them all well. A couple of times we were 40-50 yards but Nathan insisted they were all too young for us to shoot and we had plenty of time.

In the late afternoon we were dropped off at the blind to sit for “Jack”, any of you that have leopard hunted know the rollercoaster of entering the blind with anticipation and leaving the blind with many questions in your head as to why no leopard. No activity on this evening, back to main camp and we had an amazing dinner of Eland oxtail soup and Eland steaks. As I said the food was amazing and impressive considering the cook had a handful of pots and pans and an open fire.
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M Whitley

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Day 5:
Started the day off as usual driving between baits and looking for other game to hunt. We always saw game every day duiker, dik dik, oribi, etc. We saw a good water buck close to camp but he crossed the river into the National Park so we could not stalk him. The trackers inspected some buffalo tracks and we started our stalk through the bush. We closed the distance in about an hour and swung wide to flank the herd, they knew something was not right so we kept up at a jog as they crossed in front of us we attempted to set up but the bull in the front of the herd was always behind a cow or calf or in the thick bush. The jogging and flanking went on for quiet some distance before Nathan called it off as the herd was just too spooky to keep this up. We had several baits getting hit consistently by females, young males, and the occasional acrobatic lion that was able to make it up the tree.

The leopard we call “Jack” is about 2.5 hours’ drive from main camp, Nathan decides to send the staff the next morning which I now call “Askew’s Army” to set up fly camp past the “Jack” bait. We can hunt the “Jack” cat while the other truck can continue the far away bait runs without driving past the “Jack” bait.
 

M Whitley

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Day 6:
We head out this morning and don’t get more than 30 minutes out of camp when the trackers snap and jump off the truck to inspect some buffalo sign from the night before. As Nathan and I are situating our gear at the truck one of the trackers radios that there is a small group of Hartebeest feeding ahead on our left heading to our right.

We dismount the cruiser and crouch walk into position, Nathan says to wait as they are going to walk from our left to our right maybe 80 yards or so. As the small group of Hartebeest walks to my right Nathan has the sticks up but I am still kneeling, he tells me the position of the bull and I keep an eye on him. The hartebeest spotted us and turned facing us. Nathan confirms which one is the bull and says go ahead and take the shot facing us. I squeeze the trigger and all four legs fold under the bull before he hits the ground, he never even flinched once he hit the ground.

As we are taking pictures with the hartebeest Nathan has the truck radio for the other truck to come cape the Hartebeest out and cut him for baits. During the pictures we heard buffalo in the bush and the main tracker tells Nathan it is time to go! We gear up and start our tracking into the bush for the buffalo.

About an hour in and out of the tall grass we catch up to the herd in an open area as the front of the herd is almost across the open area. We close the gap to 120 yards from behind the herd and Nathan identifies the better bull at the back left of the herd. He says we are going to walk straight at them and when he turns broadside to look shoot.

Nathan’s plan worked as he said and when the bull turned broadside I got on the sticks, half way up the body on the crease of the shoulder and squeeze. The bull was about 60 yards or so when I shot. The bull jumps and bucks, the herd heads into the bush and bull goes to our left still in the open. By now we are at a full sprint flanking the bull, the sticks go up and Nathan says aim for the tip of his nose. I do and squeeze the trigger shot felt very good. We move up again and I fire again when the bull stops. As I am reloading my rifle I tell Nathan to start shooting with me to put the bull on the ground. Over the next couple of minutes a lot of lead was sent out and bull finally toppled over. When the dust settled the bull had 4 shots in the vitals on his right side, one in his back left hip, one on his left side behind the last rib as he was quartering away, one too far forward in the brisket, and one that entered where his jaw met his neck from the left side. This is my first buffalo and they are tougher than I could ever imagine.

Nathan calls in the truck that picked up the hartebeest to come assist with the buffalo. Pictures and a rest under a shady tree. As Nathan and I sit under the tree talking about the stalk and adrenaline rush it was I tell him well we started the big five, one day we will be sitting under a shady tree and I will say well Nathan we finished the big five. I have known Nathan for 20 years or so and this is my second safari with Bullet Safaris. Everything in RSA and now Tanzania has been top notch. In the future I will tell Nathan what I want to hunt and let him put it together for me, not a better guy out there to trust with your time and money.

We head back to main camp and pack for fly camp which is about a 3.5-4 hour drive from main camp. We arrive at fly camp just before dark and Askew’s Army has outdone themselves. Cooks, waiters, showers, toilets, and living quarters all constructed in a matter of hours. Amazing to me. We took lots of pictures of fly camp and had steak with French fries and peppers for dinner, at a fly camp in the middle of nowhere that did not exist a few hours ago!
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M Whitley

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Day 7:
We sit for “Jack” this morning who has become rather consistent on the cameras each morning. I am optimistic about our sit. As the bush comes to light and life Nathan is looking through his binoculars and says there are lions sleeping on the boulder at the base of the bait tree. It is a lioness and two half grown lions. Apparently the half grown lions are small enough to make it out on the bait limb and feed. Nathan says he needs to run them off and exits the blind with the 470 NE double in hand. The lions flee and Nathan returns to the blind to sit. About a half hour later the lions return and this time lay down about 50 yards from the front of the blind in the shade. Nathan exits again and runs the lions off, after that he calls the truck in and the bait is moved further out on the limb to discourage the lions if they return. Back to fly camp for a rest and back in the blind that evening for an uneventful sit.

When we return that night to fly camp at dinner the other bait trucks brings Nathan an SD card that has a large leopard feeding at one of the far away baits. Nathan says this cat is big and we need to hunt him.

Day 8:
We check baits and hunt our way over to the new cat with no name. The boys build a blind and it is around 2 pm, Nathan says let’s just sit now until dark. It is hot but we sit it until dark, no activity. Askew’s Army has packed up fly camp and moved it even further into the bush now closer to the no name cat. We are now 5 hours through the bush from the main camp. These hunting blocks are huge and unexplainable.

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