ZAMBIA: Amazing Cape Buffalo Hunt At Mbizi Safaris

VonJager

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Nice buff. Ready for the rest of the story!
 

cls

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Now "for the rest of the story".
After cleaning up and a great lunch I met with Simon and Michael to discuss the plan for the rest of the week. I had mentioned to them that if I was lucky enough to take my buffalo early in the hunt that I would be interested in hunting a Hyena and a Chobe bushbuck. So the planning to make this happen started. Little did I know that this would end up being the hardest part of the hunt.
While Saxon the skinner was finishing up in the skinning shed it was decided to set up a couple bait sites for the Hyena with the carcass(rib cage) and intestines from the buff then head out to have a look for a bushbuck. My wife would accompany us for the afternoon. We headed out to the first bait site at around 2:30. the drive was about 45min from camp. This site had been used previously for leopard. The guys hung the bait and set the trail cams.


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Then we are off to the second bait site to repeat the process.

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Once the baits were hung and trail cams set we headed off on our pursuit of the elusive Chobe Bushbuck. We would be hunting along the Luangwa river in hopes of spotting a bushbuck coming down to water. We parked the land cruiser along a dried river bed and headed down to the Luangwa. My wife decide to stay back at the cruiser as we were headed down this rocky river bed.

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We hadn't gone 50yds when Steven stops and whispers to Simon that there is a Klipspringer standing on the rocks. The sticks come up but before Simon can see if it is a shooter or not the ram winds us and is off, unknown to us this would be only Klipspringer we would see on this trip. We headed down stream to the flats of the Luangwa where we found a good place to sit, spot and wait for the bushbuck to come to water. Before long a herd of waterbuck shows up with a couple good bulls but I had already taken a good bull on the Eastern Cape so we let them pass. Before long Simon spots a bushbuck ram about 900yds down river, the ram is standing behind some scrub so we can't get a very good look at him, it is decide to put the stalk on him. The wind seems to be in our favour as we set out to get a closer look at this ram. Over the next 1/2hr or so we managed to traverse about 500yds without the ram being alerted to our presence. But as luck would have it the wind picked up and changed direction blowing directly down stream to the ram. It didn't take long before ram's head came up, he gave a warning bark and was off into the high thick stuff. Oh well that's hunting, as it was starting to get dark we made the decision to head back to the truck. When we arrive back at the land cruiser my wife had a big smile and informed us that for the past 15 minutes or so she had been watching a bushbuck not more that 100yds from the truck and she had a picture to prove it!

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Back to the lodge for a great dinner and spectacular sunset over the Luangwa.

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Day 3,
Up again early with a full breakfast and coffee on the deck. We head out by 7:30 to check the baits and trail cams to see if we will be building some hides for the late afternoon hunt. We arrive at the first bait site to see that something had hit the bait. We see both Lion and leopard tracks on our way to the bait which is not good as the Hyena won't stick around with the cats being in the area.

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We have look at the trail cam and see that both lion and leopard had been here as well as a civet cat but no Hyena. So it is off to check the second bait. The lions have been here as well, the bait is completely gone! We check the trail cam and see that the hyena was the first into the bait followed by the lions, with the lions making short work of the bait.

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The decision is made to set up a hide on the first bait site as there is still bait there and hope the hyena will be the first in this evening. We then head back down to the river to see if we can find a bushbuck. The scenario is much the same as yesterday, the bushbuck comes out to feed in the same spot as yesterday and we have a 900yd stalk. This buck looks like a shooter so the stalk is on. However just like last evening the wind changes and our stalk is blown. Time to head back for lunch then build a hide for the evening. The guys get the hide built about 15ft up in a tree 30-40yds from the bait. Simon and I are dropped off at 4:30pm for the wait.

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In Zambia you can not hunt after dark so we will only be able to hunt until a 1/2hr after sunset which makes it to around 6:30-7:00. We hear the tell tale call of the hyena off in the distance. Simon figures he is on the way in to the bait. After a half hour we hear a Lion roar. Simon explains that now one of two things can happen, the lion will either cause the hyena to rush into the bait before the lion arrives or the hyena will slink off into the bush and not come in at all. Well on this occasion the hyena decides to let the lion have his meal. We are out of the stand by 7:00pm and back to camp for a late steak dinner. We will be back to check the trail cam tomorrow.

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Day 4,
Breakfast as the sun rises over the Luangwa. Time to head back to the bait to see if anything hit the bait. Sure enough the lion had been in for dinner and the only thing that was left was the buffalo hide.

We are off to the river to try again for the bushbuck, today we will try and come up on the buck from the down stream side and hope the wind will stay in our favour today. We make it down to the river and sure enough the bushbuck is out feeding. We begin our slow stalk but after about 400yds of slow going we are busted by a group of baboons which warn the whole neighborhood that we are there. No luck again this morning.

The decision is made that we will need some more bait if we are going to keep trying for the hyena. We hang more bait at the second bait site and hope for the best. then off to the river to try again for bushbuck. On this go round we see a herd of waterbuck and a large herd of kudu that come down to the river to water. There are couple good bulls in both herds. But I am here for the bushbuck. The hunting Gods don't seem to be on our side today. Back to camp and a much needed sundowner on the deck. Tomorrow is another day.

Day 5,
We check the trail cam at the second bait site, the hyena had been there but had not touched the bait. The guys will be setting up a hide overlooking the bait for an evening sit. We head back down to the river with a different plan. On the past couple occasion as we were headed down the dry stream bed to the river we had heard bushbuck barking as we walked along, we will find a spot to sit and watch up stream at a couple areas that still had a little water that the animals had been coming to during the day. We sat and spotted for a couple hrs and watched numerous baboons come to the water as well as a group of 4 bushbuck ewes but no rams today.
Back to camp for lunch and head out to the blind for an evening sit.
We are in the blind by 4:00pm, not much moving. At around 6:00pm we hear something at the bait.. Could this be it? I get ready and there at the bait are a pair of huge Civet cats. Although I would love to shoot one we don't have a permit to do so. Nice to see though. No luck again tonight. Back to the lodge for dinner and we get to listen to the hyena laughing at us most of the night.

Day 6,
Today we will be hunting exclusively for bushbuck. We hunt hard for the morning covering large areas along the Luangwa. We hear may rams but nothing so far. We stop to have a sandwich and cool down under some overhanging trees. From here we watch as buWaterbuck, kudu and bushbuck ewes come down for water. Then across the river we spot a lone ram coming down to water, he looks like a good ram. He is only a couple hundred yards out, pretty easy shot from a sitting position off the sticks. The only problem is that he is across the river on a GMA that we don not have permission to hunt. So we watch as the ram waters then slowly heads off into the thick bush along the river. I think he was mocking us!

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New plan for this afternoon, we will be heading in the opposite direction upriver from the lodge past the gorge. As we head out on foot we see a large herd of impala with a good ram as well as a group of kudu. Not far into our walk Steven spots a ram up on the hill side, the sticks come up but before I can find him in the scope he has moved into the brush. I wait for him to exit on the other side of the brush but he is spotted going directly up hill away from us. No shot. After another couple hundred yards we spot another ram and this time I am quicker on him but he is not good enough for Simon. I am on the sticks a couple more times but for various reasons I don't get a shot. We finally make it up over the gorge and back down to the river where we stop to spot. We watch some waterbuck, then a bushbuck ewe materializes from a high grassy area on what used to an island. As we are starting to settle in a ram moves in behind the ewe. He is a shooter, up come the sticks and I take aim and "pull" the trigger. Something felt off but I am sure I hit him. he is off across the sand and up the mountain behind us. What the hell happened? Steven and Mathew head to the spot that the ram was standing and don't find any blood. They get on the track and we head up hill, it is tough going and we see him a couple times but he barks and heads higher. We find one spot of blood about 300yds up hill but that is it. They are marking the trail as we go. It is starting to get dark so after tracking up hill for a few hundred yards the decision is made to mark this spot and head straight back down hill and hopefully the ram will bed down an stiffen up overnight. I kick myself all the way back to the lodge as this is the first time in my hunting career I have not retrieved the game I have shot. I am pretty disappointed with myself, I just didn't take the time and hurried my shot. I can't even finish my dinner tonight.

Day 7,
No sleep last night, up very early. We head back to the area we left off last evening. We head up hill to the spot we last saw the ram and begin the slow steep up hill tracking. Steven is on the track I am huffing an puffing as the terrain gets steeper. Then off to our left Steven spots the ram. The sticks come up quickly and I hear the bark of the classic 275 Rigby. The ram is down. I can now feel somewhat better about yesterday, lesson learned, take your time with the shot. The ram had only gone 300 or 400 yards (all straight up hill) from where we last saw him yesterday.

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My Safari is over and what a way to end it. I cant' say enough good things about Imbizi.
Thanks to all the hard work of Michael, Simon, Steven, Saxon and Mathew along with all the staff made this an amazing 7 days for my wife and I.

If anyone is looking for a true free range DG hunt this is the place to do it. They offer hunts for 4 of the big five along with croc and hippo. They also have other PG game as well, We saw good Roan, Sable, Kudu, Waterbuck, Impala, Klipspringer, Duiker, Chobe bushbuck and Wart hog. The hunting is not easy but it is very satisfying.

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I am sure I will be back to find that elusive Hyena along with a huge croc.

Now it's off to Victoria falls for a few days of some much needed R&R with my bride of 34 years and many thanks to her for putting up with this hunting obsession that I have had for all these years.
 
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cagkt3

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Congrats on finding the bushbuck! Looks like a nice one. Just curious, where did that first shot end up hitting?
 
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jasyblood

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Glad you found your bushbuck and he is a beauty...again congratulations!
 
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cls

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Congrats on finding the bushbuck! Looks like a nice one. Just curious, where did that first shot end up hitting?
I hate to say this but... it was in the upper leg, through and through. I don't think I've shot low on any critter. Not much damage and the reason there wasn't a blood trail. We never could figure out why he acted like he was badly wounded. Every time we pushed him he only went for a short distance and laid down. In fact in the morning he wasn't more than 300yds from where we had left him the prior evening. Oh well hunters luck I guess.
 

bubba-one

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Congratulations! I am booked for an October buf hunt with Michael. Hope to get as nice bull as yours.

Any words of advice concerning the trip? Political problems with all the police checkpoints, etc.? Is Lusaka safe? We are also planning a trip to the Victoria Falls, any suggestions?

Thanks,

Chris
 
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cls

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Congratulations! I am booked for an October buf hunt with Michael. Hope to get as nice bull as yours.

Any words of advice concerning the trip? Political problems with all the police checkpoints, etc.? Is Lusaka safe? We are also planning a trip to the Victoria Falls, any suggestions?

Hey @bubba-one you won't be disappointed. You will be hunting the thick stuff and it will be pretty hot by the time you get there, I see you are from Texas so the heat shouldn't be a problem. A lot of the water holes will be dried up as well so it shouldn't be as hard to find the buff as they will be congregating on the remaining water holes. The terrain is fairly hilly so be ready for that. Should be easier to spot as the leaves will be off the trees by then but the 8ft tall grass will still be there. You probably won't be taking shots at more than 50yds. get ready for up close and personal.
No real problems with the check points, just a pain in the ass and with any luck the situation should be cleared up by the time you get there.
They say Lusaka is relatively safe, It definitely isn't Jo'Burg. I went out one evening looking for cigars and didn't have any issues.
We had a great time in Vic Falls. Stayed on the Zimbabwe side of the falls, my wife loved it there. Took a sunset dinner cruise, half day fishing on the Zambezi which was pretty cool, the heli tour over the falls, had a cigar on the patio of the Old Victoria falls hotel, plus a bunch of misc. stuff. If you are planning on traveling back and forth between Zambia and Zimbabwe I would suggest getting the Kaza Visa when you go through customs in Lusaka it just saves a lot of hassle at the border crossing.

Hope this helps and good luck on your Safari. I am looking forward to your hunt report.
 

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Congrats on the awesome bushbuck and a great hunt! Thanks for sharing!
 
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cls

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Forgot to mention the puku and Lichtenstein hartebeast that we also saw on the property.
 

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I hate to say this but... it was in the upper leg, through and through. I don't think I've shot low on any critter. Not much damage and the reason there wasn't a blood trail. We never could figure out why he acted like he was badly wounded. Every time we pushed him he only went for a short distance and laid down. In fact in the morning he wasn't more than 300yds from where we had left him the prior evening. Oh well hunters luck I guess.
No worries, I think we've all made some less than stellar shots. You followed up and got the job done. (y)
 
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PHOENIX PHIL

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I hate to say this but... it was in the upper leg, through and through. I don't think I've shot low on any critter. Not much damage and the reason there wasn't a blood trail. We never could figure out why he acted like he was badly wounded. Every time we pushed him he only went for a short distance and laid down. In fact in the morning he wasn't more than 300yds from where we had left him the prior evening. Oh well hunters luck I guess.

Glad to hear you could get back on him, very nice ram!
 

rinehart0050

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Great end to your report. I too have found that often the big, main trophies seem to come easier and its the smaller guys that are toughest.

Now that I've said that, my next safari will be the opposite experience!

Congrats on all your success. Great trophies
 
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PeteG

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@cls Glad to hear the hunt went well overall and the bushbuck was recovered.
Did you see many elephant?
We were down that way early July and saw plenty ele, we were about 30km upstream from Mbizi though.


Congratulations! I am booked for an October buf hunt with Michael. Hope to get as nice bull as yours.

Any words of advice concerning the trip? Political problems with all the police checkpoints, etc.? Is Lusaka safe? We are also planning a trip to the Victoria Falls, any suggestions?

Thanks,

Chris

The police check points are a real pain in the ass, but nothing more than that. They are generally harmless.
On my last trip to our fish farm, 1,160km, i went through 14 checkpoints. Only one actually stopped me! The rest let me roll through without question!
 
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BRICKBURN

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Congrats on a very nice Bushbuck.
Thanks for sharing the adventure.
 
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IdaRam

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Congrats on a great Buffalo and a dandy Bushbuck! It looks like you had a wonderful hunt. Thanks for the report and the pics :) Well done!
 
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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.

Congratulations. Nice bull. I guess you wouldn't want to get much closer.
 
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Pheroze

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Great report and thanks!
 
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cls

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Did you see many elephant?
We were down that way early July and saw plenty ele, we were about 30km upstream from Mbizi though.
We only saw the one elephant while I was there, but Michael just sent me a picture of 2 bulls that were standing outside our chalet this morning.
 

TTundra

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Congrats on the hunt! What a majestic place Mbizi looks. After reading this report and seeing your photos, its makes me want to see it for myself now.
 
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Jaynecobb wrote on cal pappas's profile.
I hate to bother you....I own 2 of your books including British bore rifle. I was hoping you might have more 10 bore loads. For the heavier and later rifles. Any help would be appreciated.
Gert Odendaal wrote on Av8or's profile.
Good day , Do you still have .375 H&H Magnum brass available to sell?
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Aha....I see you have a new Avatar!!

Nice bull!
flatwater bill wrote on KHOMAS HIGHLAND HUNTING SAFARIS's profile.
I hope your hunting season has started off well. I am coming to Namibia for the 7th time in late April of 2022. I am bringing two friends who have never hunted outside of the USA. I have several questions, but before I write them all, I will wait to see if you receive this. Please give a shout................................best regards.........................Bill...............Idaho, USA
My name’s Wyatt Baker. I’m a card-carrying NRA member, an avid outdoorsman, long-time angler, and a big Patrick McManus fan.
 
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