ZAMBIA: Balla-Balla Safaris & Zambia Shine Again

Jeffro

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I have recently returned from another wonderful experience with Shawn Bird and Balla-Balla Safaris in Zambia. My Africa addiction grew as a result of my first experience with them, when my buddy and I hunted all three of their concessions: the Conservancy in South Africa's Limpopo, Dendro Estate in Zambia, and Bird Estate, which was the destination for this leg of my 2019 Africa sojourn.

Bird Estate is a very pleasant mixture of open plain and forest and contains two relatively large permanent water bodies, although the current drought has put great pressure on both. The forest is comprised of a number of larger trees, such as the pod mahogany, whose weird, twisted limbs fascinate me. The high trees provide relief from the sun for animal and hunter alike, but are high enough, and spaced well enough to afford the forest floor ample light for grass to grow well. It makes for great stalking, as there is always a way to use the vegetation to your advantage. The camp consists of three permanent tents with enclosed bathroom and shower, and a wonderful fire-place area overlooking the larger of the water bodies. During the day, one can observe a steady parade of animals that come to drink, or enjoy one of the salt blocks. Common visitors include the kafue lechwe, impala, Livingstone eland, cape buffalo, Liechtenstein hartebeest, and occasional passersby, such as sable, nyala, roan, and zebra. At night, one is captivated, even enthralled by the magnificent African sky, and entertained by the fierce fights by the lechwe rams. These memories are just as vivid as the hunting.

On this trip, we were after some on the animals we had overlooked, much to our regret, on the first hunt. I suppose our pocket books had dictated our actions. My primary goal was the Kafue lechwe whose long, sweeping horns have been burned into my memory. It is impossible to explain why, but I like that animal more than any other plains game critter. As we had a small list, and lots of time, we put our priority on finding good, but old specimens. First up was the lechwe...I guess my buddy was sick of listening to my rave about them and figured he could stop the noise if I hunted first. My luck was in, and we found a grazing herd in very short order. The wind and sun were in our favour and the forest allowed us to stalk within a ridiculously short distance of the preoccupied animals. We spent around an hour evaluating the rams as they moved around in the glade until Shawn pointed one out. His exact words were, "I usually Don't recommend that my clients shoot an animal on their first day, but we will not find a better one." He was perfect: heavy horns that had lost a couple inches due to age, and very beautifully shaped.

I'll continue once I remember how to add photos. Any advice?

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You can just drag and drop your photos directly into your post and they will upload automatically. Once uploaded you can insert them as desired.
 

Jeffro

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Thanks, Jerome. So, I will not brag about the shot, as Shawn got us in so close that I could not have missed. The ram ended up being just a touch under 30", but his mass is what pleases me most.

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Edge

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Nice! Thanks for sharing, hope there is more coming!
 

cpr0312

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Congrats on the Lechwe, they are stunning animals!
 

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Yes sir very nice!
 

Jeffro

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That evening we celebrated with older brother, Dene, who is the DG guide at Dendro, his wife, Joanne, eight-year old son, Nathan, and two delightful young men, who were assisting on the ranch and helping in the orchard. Dene and Joanne grow oranges that service the local needs and which partially supply the Spar stores in Zambia. I was sad to learn that their dog, Gaston, had been eaten by a croc in the reservoir the previous year.

Next up was my friend's sable. He, too, wanted a past-his prime animal. The morning excursion did not see us find the right bull. We saw a few real prime young ones, and a plethora of others animals, especially nyala. Following brunch, we indulged in that wonderful Africa pastime, the afternoon snooze, and a quick snack later, we were in pursuit of the sable once, again. With about an hour's worth of light remaining, Randy and Shawn set off after a likely candidate, and the two youngsters and I chatted and enjoyed a Mosi, all the while awaiting the report from Randy's rifle. After an eternity, the shot rang out and we slowly worked our way over to find a beaming hunter. They had found an ancient old bull and the shot had put him down. We had to scramble like crazy to move him into a place where we could take a photo, because the light was fading fast.

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Ridgewalker

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More! More!
 

Jeffro

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Shawn had noticed that we had interested in the nyala, and made us an offer we could not refuse, so on day three we had a new plan. Now, as much as I love the lechwe, I have to say that the nyala is probably the most beautiful of the antelope. As luck would have it, once we began looking for them, the nyala made themselves scarce. We had another terrific day, but came up empty. The evening around the fire was just as joyful as the previous ones had been, and we went to bed very well nourished by cook, Charles's excellent fare, and the delicious meat from the brai. A few Mosis helped wash it down, and we were ready for bed.

At daybreak we were off again after downing a couple cups of coffee and a light breakfast. The morning was a bit of a repeat from the previous day, but by early afternoon the nyala were moving. Shawn and Randy put a stalk on one, and soon the roar of the .375 Ruger brought smiles to the faces of those of us tagging along. The bull turned out to be of average length, but with awesome mass, something we began to realise characterises the animals here. The day after, I was looking for my nyala, and the gods of the hunt smiled on me. Early in the afternoon we spotted a bull worth a closer and Shawn and I scrambled off the bakkie and set off. We could see that he was quite good, but something always seemed to obscure his horns. Finally, Shawm said he was a shooter and I squeezed off the shot. We were both stared in shock at what we saw. The bull was huge! And old. Close examine of the photos will show that much of his hair was worn off. But what a trophy!

More to come.....

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cpr0312

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Congrats on the sable and nyala as well!!
 

LivingTheDream

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Wow! Those are great animals so far! That Nyala is a stud!!!!
 

flatwater bill

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Both Nyala are huge..........I think I like the massive one as well or better than the long one......enjoying your report.....FWB
 

gillettehunter

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Now your getting me excited as I'm hunting at Balla Balla in a couple of months. Beautiful trophies. Congrats.
Bruce
 

Shootist43

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Pretty darned good so far, I hope there is more.
 

kudukid

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What a great trip with some very special trophies. I love your lechwe. Your nyala is a monster with a perfect shape. Surely he has gone over 30 inches??
 

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Congrats @Jeffro on some great trophies! I look forward to hearing more about your Safari.

I have been two times to both of the Balla Balla concessions in Zambia and once to their property in SA. The Bird Family does a great job taking care of people and their properties are a real pleasure to hunt.
 

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thanks and congrats those are some gorgeous trophies
 

Jeffro

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Balla-Balla continued. Thanks for the kind words. I am happy to read that some of you have been, or are going.

This hunt was not to be a big bag limit affair (we had already been on a hunt in Namibia...report to follow), so now we had to figure out what to do with the remaining six days. First off, we slept in and spent a day taking photos and making the start on a couple of blinds for some bow hunters from the US who were to arrive a week later. At some point I lost mind, committed myself to a visit to a loans officer upon my return, and informed Shawn I'd like to hunt a Livingstone eland. We hunted hard for four days before we found the right one. Although we had make numerous thrilling stalks, something went wrong, or Shawn concluded, "We can do better." For those of you contemplating outfitters, I can assure you that Shawn knows his animals very well and will do everything to get you an excellent trophy. Fast forward. I really wanted to avoid an attempt late in the day, as I know I will never be able to afford to hunt another one, and I wanted to have really good photos. This was not to be . As we approached a large clearing at the end of day four, we saw four eland trotting away from us and Shawn said two of them were very good, so we set up the sticks and waited for them to stop. They did, but they were a hell of a long way away. I didn't know what to do. We had been so close to so many unsuitable targets and now the 'right one' seemed an eternity away. I had to reset numerous times as I was waving around like a weather vane on the zero mph wind. Finally a squeezed off a shot, the big bull jumped, ran about forty yards and stopped. A second shot put him down. As it turned out, the first shot was really not that good, about 8 inches too far back, but this is where a quality bullet proves its worth. The Nosler accubond had done enough damage that the eland was disabled, allowing the second shot. For those of you who pooh-pooh Noslers as "old technology", all I have to say is Hartmann zebra, one shot, kudu, one shot, two impala, one shot each, lechwe, one shot, nyala, one shot, eland, two shots, the second necessitated by operator error.

As I approached the monstrous antelope, I felt a mixture of emotions ranging from total to elation to a little bit of sadness for killing such a magnificent creature. If I could have snapped my fingers to have him jump up and run away, I would have. We struggled like crazy to get photos of the bull before we lost light, as the exertion on my face will attest.

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Jeffro

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Balla-Balla finale. So. the hunt was over, and with it, a five week adventure. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly:

The Good: Shawn, Balla-Balla, Zambia. Be sure to visit Victoria Falls, and a small town like Choma. The Victoria Falls airport in Zimbabwe was the only airport in which we experienced great service.
The Bad: It isn't so bad, but communication from Bird Estate is hard. If you need to be in touch all the time, you might be disappointed. You can go to Choma, though, and use an internet cafe.
The Ugly: travelling with rifles and ammo (never again), Air Namibia which lost a piece of luggage on each leg we used it.
 

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