ZAMBIA: Amazing Cape Buffalo Hunt At Mbizi Safaris

cls

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I'll start at the beginning. I had just returned from a very successful plains game hunt on the Eastern Cape with Luccca African Safaris October of 2016 when I made the decision to go on my first DG hunt for Cape Buffalo. My plan was to go in 2018 with Eldre Hattingh from Lucca Safaris as he also guided free range Buffalo in Mozambique. During the planning stage I decided to check out some of the outfitters from AH so as to have a comparison. I narrowed it down to four outfitters plus Eldre. I was going to be at SCI in Vegas where I planned to meet with the four outfitters. After long talks with the outfitters I narrowed my search down to two plus Eldre. Somewhere along the way while doing my due diligence and checking out the outfitters here on AH I noticed in the Deals and Offers section an offer for a free range Cape Buffalo hunt with Mbizi in Zambia. Well I figured I might as well check this out. So to make a long story short I made the decision to sign up for the hunt with Mbizi for August 2017 as it checked off many of the boxes on my wish list, free range, Zambia, Luangwa valley, wild unspoiled Africa.
I spent many hours reading books and watching videos on Buffalo hunting to the point my wife thought I had a very unhealthy addiction. I also sent hundreds of 375 H&H rounds down range off the sticks in all conditions, ranges and positions. As the time to leave neared I started to develop some shooting issues off the sticks which I posted on here asking for advise, so thanks to you all for your help with that.
August 9 finally arrived and it was time to leave. I had booked my flights with Ethiopian Airlines, Edmonton to Toronto on Air Canada then on Ethiopian to Addis Ababa and then on to Lusaka.
NOTE: Don't fly on Ethiopian if you can help it as it is a poor excuse for an airline and the terminal in Addis Ababa is a crap hole.
We finally arrived in Lusaka where we were met by Michael de Gre-Dejestam from Mbizi. We overnighted in Lusaka and were on the road early for the 4 hr drive to the lodge which turned into 6hrs due to 8 new checkpoints from the state of emergency that had been declared the previous week.
We finally arrived at the lodge and were greeted by all the staff and a much needed cold drink.


We met with Simon Eldridge my PH who would be saddled with dragging my old butt through the bush to find a the perfect Cape Buffalo, Steven our tracker as well as Saxon the skinner and Mathew.
After getting settled in the chalet that would be our home for the next 8 days we were treated to a quick lunch on the deck overlooking the Luangwa where we watched a croc sunning itself as well as a nice chobe bushbuck and a herd of kudu coming down to water.


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Then it was off to the range where I would need to prove my shooting abilities to the satisfaction of the crew. I had decide not to travel with my firearms on this trip due to all the transfers trough multiple countries. So I had my choice of a 416 Rigby bolt action with a 1.5 to 6 Swarovski , 416 Taylor or a 450 Rigby double. I had already made up my mind that I wanted to use the 416 Rigby. The ammunition I would be using would be Norma 400 grain Swift A-frame. After 4 shots at 50 yds the crew was satisfied with my shooting abilities and we were back to the lodge for dinner, drinks and a little planning for the first hunt day.
Day 1
Not much sleep last night so I was up at 5:00am for coffee and toast on the deck over looking the Luangwa river. We left the lodge by 7:00am and the plan was to check the waterholes for fresh sign, get on the track and walk them down. However there were a couple problems with this, the first being that due to the late and heavier than normal rains there was much more standing water than usual so the buffalo had not started to congregate in any one area. The second problem was the lions in the area had all the animals on the move. In the past few days the lions had killed 4 Sable and would kill another couple kudu before the my hunt was done. We checked out a number of waterholes and did a fair amount of tracking through the thick grass and bush but to no avail. Needles to say this old boy from northern Alberta sweated out a few liters before heading back to the lodge for lunch. Did I mention that it was fairly hot and humid here?
Due to the shifting winds in the afternoons we would be hunting other game which was ok with me. I had Chobe bushbuck, Hyhena and Klipspringer on my list so that was on the agenda for the afternoon. We headed down the Luangwa along a steep gorge which was tough going but we did see a few bushbuck but they were long gone into the thick stuff before we even had a good look at them. After a few more liters of sweat it was time to head back to the lodge for dinner and a glorious sunset. This really is an amazing place!
Day 2:
Up again at five, toast and coffee on the deck.
The plan is the same as yesterday, hit the waterholes, look for sign and follow up. Again there wasn't much for sign at the first waterhole and what was there was quite old but we decide to follow up on some 2 day old sign which was the freshest we had seen to date but again came up empty after following for a mile or so. Off to another waterhole where the Steven the tracker finds some day old track so the decision was made to follow up on the sign and see what we can find. We head off into the tall grass and thick bush and I mean thick.
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The going is very slow but the sign seems to be getting fresher and our senses are on high alert. After about a half hour of tough tracking Simon whispers, "can you smell it?" and sure enough as many hunters have said there is the unmistakable odor of buffalo in the air. We must be getting closer. The day was overcast and it started to rain very lightly with the air being very still. The sign was very fresh now. We dropped down into a low wet area then up onto the opposite bank. As we crested the opposite side we see and hear our first buffalo, they are milling around about 20yds in front of us. I happen to look to my left and not more than 20yds away there is an old bull standing and staring at me. (I was ready to take out my wallet and give him back the money I owed him). Meanwhile Simon the PH and Steven the tracker who were on the other side of a small bush from me were trying to get a look at the buffalo to see if there was a shooter in the herd. I was pretty sure I was having a stare down with a shooter but ... Michael was right behind me and whispered to Simon that we had a good bull in front of us. Simon slips slowly back towards our side of the bush and has a good look at the bull he says he isn't fourty but he is an old hard bossed bull. I had already made up my mind this bull was mine. The sticks come up and Simon makes sure that I know where to shoot, he is quartering slightly towards me to my left, the shot will be just in front of the shoulder bottom third of the chest. In the mean time the other buffalo are getting antsy and are starting to mill about. Two other bulls move into the sight picture but my bull is still standing his ground. I am told to wait until the other bulls move. I am on the sticks but there is some tall grass obscuring my shot. The sticks are moved slowly to the right a few inches. Now there are leaves from the bush directly in front of the scope. Simon reaches over and very slightly moves the leaves. I hear the magic words "shoot". I squeeze the trigger and on the report there are buffalo heading in every direction. I am sure of the shot and had heard the tell tale thump of a good hit. I am already reload but everything has gone still. I thought the bull had run off to my left but everyone else is sure he has gone off to the right. After what seems like minutes but is actually only seconds we hear the grass and bush being thrashed by the buffalo followed shortly by the telltale death bellow. We wait a bout 5 minutes and begin our slow tracking of the wounded Buffalo. Steven the tracker is in the lead with Simon following and he motions me up to his left side, with Michael and Mathew bringing up the rear. Michael Simon and myself are all loaded with the safeties off. Every few steps we stop, glass and listen. It is next to impossible to see more than a few yards in any direction in this thick stuff. At first there isn't much blood which makes the tracking that mush more difficult but after about 20 yds of slow going we begin to find bright splashes of blood on the grass. He is blowing blood trough his nostrils which is a good sign of a lung shot. After about 50 yds, we are signalled to stop. There in the deep grass they spot a dark form. After waiting and glassing Simon and Steven turn to me with huge smiles on their faces, the bull is down fro the count! We make our way around the tall grass and there in the stillness lays the a magnificent old duggaboy. He is the one I have travelled half way around the world to hunt. I give my thanks and now it is time for high fives and handshakes. What an amazing hunt. I have accomplished what I set out to do and that is to take an old mature bull at 20yds in the thickest stuff I could ever imagine. It couldn't be any better than this.
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Now the work begins,

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On inspection we see that the 400 grain Swift A-Frame had gone through the top of the heart and the lungs lodging somewhere in the stomach. We did not find the bullet.

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The bull is quartered and loaded up and then it is back to lodge to clean up for lunch and tell some stories while having a cold one on the deck.

What will I do for the next five and a half days. Turns out that Simon and Michael have plans and they don't include much sitting around.
 

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Very nice, congrats on the bull! Look forward to more!
 

jasyblood

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Congratulations on a great bull! Can't wait to hear the rest of the story!
 

jeff

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Thanks for posting, AWESOME hunt!!!
 
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BRICKBURN

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Damn fine trophy. Congratulations.
That kind of cover requires that kind of caution. Excellent work all round.
 

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Congrats sir!
 

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Now that is a buffalo hunt. In that kinda cover you have to close. You'll remember that for a long time. Looks like a great old warrior of a buf. Congrats and well done. Bruce
 

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That sounds like a lot of fun. Congratulations!
 

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What a grand hunt! I really enjoyed reading this and seeing your pictures!
Thanks!
 

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Love this bull @cls, the ridges on the bosses give it character. Congrats!
 

MBIZI SAFARIS

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Thank you cls for the report, looking forward to reading the rest...
All the best, Michael
 

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Congrats on a great bull! Sounds like an outstanding hunt. Looking forward to the rest of the report.
 

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...............

What will I do for the next five and a half days. Turns out that Simon and Michael have plans and they don't include much sitting around.

and........ :)
 

cls

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Thanks All!
Now that is a buffalo hunt. In that kinda cover you have to close. You'll remember that for a long time. Looks like a great old warrior of a buf. Congrats and well done.
Congrats on a great bull! Sounds like an outstanding hunt.
What a grand hunt!
Damn fine trophy. Congratulations.
That kind of cover requires that kind of caution. Excellent work all round.
It really was an amazing hunt, The guys @Mbizi Safaris do it up right. This Safari far surpassed anything I could have dreamt up.
 

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Awesome. Had to be some adrenaline flowing in that bush.
 
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