ZAMBIA: Buffalo Hunting At Mbizi Safaris Game Reserve in Luangwa Valley

liam375

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Great start to your report, those pictures bring back some great memories of August 2017. Can't wait for the rest of the story.
I'd like to give a special shout out to you as I recall reading your buff hunt report at Mbizi. It really helped me to make my decision and I was glad I made it happen.
 
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liam375

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Great start! Looking forward to more!

Mbizi is certainly a place I would love to visit someday!
It's turning out to be quite a long read but I hope you enjoyed it. I think you'll find the place to be very special if you ever make it out there in the future.
 

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Very well written report. Can’t wait to hear more!
 

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Day 7 -

We're out on the road early again at 5:30AM and things are feeling a little different this morning. To start, we're all a little more layered up as this is easily the coldest AM we've had this week. It must've been near 10 Celsius if that's even possible. Crisp enough that we can see our own breath. It's not more than 5 minutes outside of the lion fence from camp and we immediately hit a nice set of tracks on the road. Right off the bat we can tell these are heading to our left into the big mopane forests where it's much more open and the big baobab tree's are sprinkled throughout. We haven't had a chance to track the buffalo in this area yet and there are significantly less leaves and less brush here. I'm not a rocket surgeon but even I know this is way better than navigating through thick brush with dead leaves that sound like taco shells.

We're out of the truck and the more sign we see the more confident we are that we're close to these buff. Stephen is on point at the front and his body language is already way more alert than I'm used to. The dung and urine is now steaming in front of us and we come up to a clearing and dry creek bed. It's dead quiet and there is no wind. The grass in the clearing is now about waist high so it gives us just enough cover that we're not totally exposed in the open. We move carefully through the grass, following the tracks and everyone's head is on a swivel. It doesn't take any verbal communication to know that we are about to make contact.

Stephen signals for us to get low and I move behind Michael so that I'm not too far behind and can actually hear his instructions now. Stephen is pointing at something in the grass about 50 yards away but nobody can see what it is. All the sudden, the whip of a tail catches everybody's attention and we're all looking in the same spot now. The buff are moving very slowly back towards where we came from but on the opposite side of the thicket separating us. They don't see us and we carefully wait until the last one disappears behind the brush before we move.

All I'm doing at this point is following Stephen and Michael and we are outright jogging up the trail that that we came from and Stephen stops us as there is a crossing ahead and he tells Michael this is the main clearing out of the thicket and they're sure to cross right here. Charles and Merriam back out to minimize our silhouette as we're practically standing in the open now.

We're surprised as the first set of buffalo already begin trotting out and cross the junction about 80 yards ahead. No time to get closer. Stephen waits until they're out of sight and drops the sticks. Michael is right next to me. Sure enough, the rest of the gang now shows up and a big bodied bull conveniently stops in the middle of the road. This bull is spooked by something and it's clear he smells a rat somewhere. A cow now sprints past him and that means we're running out of time. In a weird hopping motion he turns facing away from us to look at the clearing behind him. This gives a good presentation of his impressive bosses from the rear and he tips his head up to smell the wind. I'm assuming Michael got a look of what I just saw and he immediately tells me to kill this bull. It seems as if the universe has gifted him to me on a silver platter and everything has come together for this one perfect shot. He spins back in a panic but is not broadside. He's quartered away looking to the left and I realize my crosshairs are too far forward and I'm going to hit shoulder and brisket because of the angle. He's about to book it and my cross hairs drift back behind the shoulder and my gun goes off. The bullet impact is loud and the bull lurches forward and takes off with the rest of the herd.

The rest of the group is howling and relieved with what juts happened but Michael can see I'm not on the same wave length and asks me how I feel about the shot. I don't know how to put it into words to him but eventually I'm able to explain that I know I definitely hit him. It's just that, when I pulled back my crosshairs, I might've touched off the round further back than I wanted. I wasn't going to exaggerate or distort anything to Michael as I understood the gravity of following a wounded buff. I know where the vitals are and I was honest with myself that I wasn't happy about the placement.

The buff are now gathering up about 150 yards ahead of us and looking back behind some cover. Of the 10 buff that we can count, only one of them is a cow. We can hear one of them stumbling on some rocks as the rest are holding perfectly still. I'm praying that its the one I hit and that he's beginning to feel weak. Michael tells me not to worry about it and we'll stay on them. The buffalo take off and we begin looking for blood. It takes a second, but we start finding drops. It's bright, but we're not 100% sure its a lung hit. Michael is looking for signs of a darker tone which hint towards a gut shot but we don't find that either. Off we go in pursuit of the herd. We do notice that the wounded bull has a unique hook to his hoof in the tracks and Michael is hoping to use this unique identifier to find him separating from the herd sooner rather than later.

I'm consumed with guilt at this point and can't believe this has happened to me. I've never wounded an animal before and I feel terrible. Half of it is feeling like I left myself down but the bigger half is feeling disappointed for my PH and the trackers. What makes it worse is that I know Michael has seen a lifetime of successful stalks on buffalo, but this one had to have been near one of the best. The set up was just absolutely textbook and perfect. Not to mention, the bull would've been 50 yards from the road for an easy recovery and Michael and I would be having the earliest gin and tonics in our lives! I'm marching my sorry butt along with the rest of the team in search of the bull and the whole time I'm convincing myself that the 350 grain Woodleigh is going to do it's job eventually... We get into the thick stuff and this doesn't make me feel any better about our prospects.

The wind starts to swirl hard around 10AM and we decide to call it and come back around 2:30PM to get back on the tracks.

I get back to camp for lunch and my girlfriend can tell things are not A-okay.

We get back out for the afternoon and have no choice but to stay in the thick stuff so that we don't lose the tracks. My bull still has not separated from the group and this is concerning Michael. Typically a badly hit and fading bull will begin to lose it's strength and start on it's own path. The blood sign is still there but we can tell it's getting to be less and less.

We hit a clearing and Stephen says they might be heading to Chawa Chawa where there's a nice spring for them to drink from. We go over a hill and there are two bull Hartebeests that see us but begin to calmly walk away. These two are really big even to my untrained eye and Michael and I entertain the thought of shifting gears for about 5 seconds. We are obviously too short on time though and we need to do our best and find this guy. By the time we hit the spring, we see that the tracks have continued on wards already and we are running out of light. We set a marker for the spot and will plan on coming back first thing in the AM to stay on them. At least we still have the tracks...
 

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We're back in camp just in time for a sundowner and we're still on the deck watching as our celebrity puku is bedding on the sandbar below us. Two elephants have just crossed the river and are coming over our side of the river bank.
DSC01274.jpg


We notice some impala towards the same bank becoming spooked and they take off. Something has scared them and our friendly puku is completely unaware of what is happening. With his back to the river bank and sitting at the edge of the peninsula. All the sudden, a pride of lions reveal themselves and are hunched low and moving onto the sand bank. We get the camera out just in time and put 2 and 2 together with what's about to happen. The puku is still unaware and the lions have now begun their sprint towards the puku.
DSC01075.jpg

All of us on the deck are thinking this puku is toast but he miraculously skirts the edge of the river in full sprint just in time before the lions can cut him off from his escape. The young survivor makes it and seems to taunt the lions from a distance as he looks back. The lions realize its over and quickly head up the river bank back into the brush. Great wild life viewing.

We have another great dinner and I float the thought by Michael that I'd be okay with taking a shot (from a fee standpoint) on a second buff if we can't get a shot opportunity on my first one. My thinking is that what's happened has happened, it's terrible, I can't turn back time, I owe the trophy fee, but I'm also certain I'm coming back one way or another. If I'm already here, I might as well try again on this same trip. Michael says he agrees it's the best chance for success as we may come across the herd and there will be no guarantee I get a shot at my original bull. I'm glad we're on the same page so that the issue has been discussed but the understanding is that we have to go after the same herd. Off to bed we go and I'm stewing about my poor performance today.

Day 8 -

Much of the same as before in the AM and we pick up the tracks from the previous afternoon. I can't help but think we're way behind these buff though... Michael tells me not to be too sure about that as they didn't stop yesterday and maybe finally slowing down a little bit today. We're persistent and sure enough, we make contact with the buff late morning and bump them. They don't see us however, and are only being spooked from our steps in the thick brush. We decide to back off and revisit these tracks after lunch.

Back at camp, we've moved on a little bit from yesterday's disappointing outcome and finish our lunch feeling a little more relaxed. We're optimistic that at least we've made contact this morning and left them in a good place. As we leave the deck, Michael famously says - "Its not over until the fat lady sings!"

We're back on the tracks in the thick stuff and not more than 30 minutes before we got out of the car, we hear the herd thunder off and over a hill just in front of the thicket. We sit tight as we know they haven't seen us so maybe they'll settle down a bit further away. I'm having a hard time believing we are making contact like this on Day 8 of the last afternoon. Surely this is not going to pan out on our Hail-Mary?

Michael says we need to go for it and we need to get to the top of this hill NOW to see if we can spot them in a clearing. We work our way up and it's dead quiet with no sight of the buffalo. Stephen works the tracks with Charles for a bit and then stops to look back at us. He is aggressively signaling Michael to come forward behind some brush as he is seeing the herd about 100 yards staring in our direction from another hill separated by a dry creek bed. The sticks come out and I know it's time for me to move up.

Michael is telling me there's really only one bull that is presenting itself for a shot and it's the one in the front. The rest are all too bunched up and he can't confirm if this one is the one I hit originally. I accept that this is going to be my best chance to connect on a buffalo on my last day and I lay my rifle on the sticks. The bull is quartering towards us and I tell Michael that front shoulder angle is too hard and I need to wait. I'm a little too spooked from yesterday but my patience pays off as the bull turns for a perfect broadside presentation. I don't even have to ask Michael and the shot goes off.

I hear the impact myself and can see through my scope that the bull has completely buckled from it and is now staggering back to his feet and beginning to run with the herd. I'm thinking about connecting on a second shot but he is wobbling hard and the rest of the herd is too close to him. We have no choice but to wait and listen. Everyone is giving each other hysterical looks in the meantime. Maybe we've pulled this off after all?! Michael begins to ask me how I feel about the shot and before he can even finish asking I tell him 100% I hit him exactly where I needed it go. I'm that sure of it.

We don't hear the herd running anymore and it's totally dead quiet. Just as we begin moving up. We hear the first death bellow and out of all of us, Merriam is sighing so hard at the sound. Everybody is sharing and feeling a tremendous sense of relief given the effort that we've put in and it's beginning to look like I have my bull down for good. He gives us a few more bellows and we proceed to follow the tracks. We pick up on the blood and it's very heavy. We spot him and Michael makes the first approach with his 450 Rigby and I stand to his left with a close eye of the bull. He's dead and we can't believe we rallied the way we did until the very end. Michael is obviously ecstatic for me and we're all pumped. We aggregate our miles from the counter my phone and we're right at 100KM over the past 8 days. You're right Michael - it's never over until the fat lady sings!
IMG_4693edited.jpg

Thank you to Michael, Stephen, Charles and Merriam. No quit from any of them.

IMG_4679.jpg

We get the bull back to the skinning shed and we're greeted with a nice ceremony from the entire staff. It seems like everybody genuinely feels the suspense being lifted and is extremely happy to see the bull come in at the last second like this. I'm sure everyone thought it was over but we're all incredibly positive now. Mr. Benson advises us that he'll have the buffalo tenderloin prepared for dinner.

DSC01342.jpg


Needless to say, you can probably guess where Michael and I end up next.
DSC01290edited.jpg

I put on my "lucky" hat and my girlfriend joins us for a much needed round of everything.

Michael agrees to try some of the Dos Artes Extra Anejo that I brought. We've been saving it for the victory toast and it's definitely fit for the occasion. Gratuities are given out and it tugs at us to know that the staff haven't had any hunters this entire year besides us.

Dinner couldn't be more jovial and our last evening ends as good as I could've asked for. I'm sad that we have to depart at 5AM tomorrow for Lusaka. Our trip to Mbizi has been spectacular.

A few final words/thoughts:

1. Stephen, Charles and Merriam are expert hunters. I could go into this forever but you will appreciate their work and intuition if you ever get to hunt with them.

2. I didn't get a chance to go into detail here as the write up was getting too long but the lions on the property were an interesting element to our entire stay. Every other night they'd be roaring close by or right outside our chalet. They are present and will remind you and help you to appreciate how truly wild Mbizi is. There are some interesting stories from our stay but perhaps Michael can share this in further detail if he so chooses.

3. Dyson, Mr Benson, Sadrina and Angeline all took great care of us while we there. Excellent staff and always very friendly.

I hope this hunt report has been enjoyable for you to read. It was not intended to be this long but it became very difficult to exclude certain events as I was flipping through all the pictures. We are living through some very interesting and challenging times right now and I've taken the time the write this review as I feel it was a genuine treat for me to escape and to be able to enjoy a hunt like this. The very same reviews others have posted on here have helped me to pass the time during these lockdowns. I think many of us hunters treat these excursions as very special events so these experiences mean a lot to us. To those of you getting to hunt this year in Africa, my best of luck to you on your trips and please stay safe!
 

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Excellent report, thanks for sharing and congratulations!
 

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Great report! Congrats on a successful hunt! Thanks for sharing
 

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We're back in camp just in time for a sundowner and we're still on the deck watching as our celebrity puku is bedding on the sandbar below us. Two elephants have just crossed the river and are coming over our side of the river bank.View attachment 366965

We notice some impala towards the same bank becoming spooked and they take off. Something has scared them and our friendly puku is completely unaware of what is happening. With his back to the river bank and sitting at the edge of the peninsula. All the sudden, a pride of lions reveal themselves and are hunched low and moving onto the sand bank. We get the camera out just in time and put 2 and 2 together with what's about to happen. The puku is still unaware and the lions have now begun their sprint towards the puku.View attachment 366966
All of us on the deck are thinking this puku is toast but he miraculously skirts the edge of the river in full sprint just in time before the lions can cut him off from his escape. The young survivor makes it and seems to taunt the lions from a distance as he looks back. The lions realize its over and quickly head up the river bank back into the brush. Great wild life viewing.

We have another great dinner and I float the thought by Michael that I'd be okay with taking a shot (from a fee standpoint) on a second buff if we can't get a shot opportunity on my first one. My thinking is that what's happened has happened, it's terrible, I can't turn back time, I owe the trophy fee, but I'm also certain I'm coming back one way or another. If I'm already here, I might as well try again on this same trip. Michael says he agrees it's the best chance for success as we may come across the herd and there will be no guarantee I get a shot at my original bull. I'm glad we're on the same page so that the issue has been discussed but the understanding is that we have to go after the same herd. Off to bed we go and I'm stewing about my poor performance today.

Day 8 -

Much of the same as before in the AM and we pick up the tracks from the previous afternoon. I can't help but think we're way behind these buff though... Michael tells me not to be too sure about that as they didn't stop yesterday and maybe finally slowing down a little bit today. We're persistent and sure enough, we make contact with the buff late morning and bump them. They don't see us however, and are only being spooked from our steps in the thick brush. We decide to back off and revisit these tracks after lunch.

Back at camp, we've moved on a little bit from yesterday's disappointing outcome and finish our lunch feeling a little more relaxed. We're optimistic that at least we've made contact this morning and left them in a good place. As we leave the deck, Michael famously says - "Its not over until the fat lady sings!"

We're back on the tracks in the thick stuff and not more than 30 minutes before we got out of the car, we hear the herd thunder off and over a hill just in front of the thicket. We sit tight as we know they haven't seen us so maybe they'll settle down a bit further away. I'm having a hard time believing we are making contact like this on Day 8 of the last afternoon. Surely this is not going to pan out on our Hail-Mary?

Michael says we need to go for it and we need to get to the top of this hill NOW to see if we can spot them in a clearing. We work our way up and it's dead quiet with no sight of the buffalo. Stephen works the tracks with Charles for a bit and then stops to look back at us. He is aggressively signaling Michael to come forward behind some brush as he is seeing the herd about 100 yards staring in our direction from another hill separated by a dry creek bed. The sticks come out and I know it's time for me to move up.

Michael is telling me there's really only one bull that is presenting itself for a shot and it's the one in the front. The rest are all too bunched up and he can't confirm if this one is the one I hit originally. I accept that this is going to be my best chance to connect on a buffalo on my last day and I lay my rifle on the sticks. The bull is quartering towards us and I tell Michael that front shoulder angle is too hard and I need to wait. I'm a little too spooked from yesterday but my patience pays off as the bull turns for a perfect broadside presentation. I don't even have to ask Michael and the shot goes off.

I hear the impact myself and can see through my scope that the bull has completely buckled from it and is now staggering back to his feet and beginning to run with the herd. I'm thinking about connecting on a second shot but he is wobbling hard and the rest of the herd is too close to him. We have no choice but to wait and listen. Everyone is giving each other hysterical looks in the meantime. Maybe we've pulled this off after all?! Michael begins to ask me how I feel about the shot and before he can even finish asking I tell him 100% I hit him exactly where I needed it go. I'm that sure of it.

We don't hear the herd running anymore and it's totally dead quiet. Just as we begin moving up. We hear the first death bellow and out of all of us, Merriam is sighing so hard at the sound. Everybody is sharing and feeling a tremendous sense of relief given the effort that we've put in and it's beginning to look like I have my bull down for good. He gives us a few more bellows and we proceed to follow the tracks. We pick up on the blood and it's very heavy. We spot him and Michael makes the first approach with his 450 Rigby and I stand to his left with a close eye of the bull. He's dead and we can't believe we rallied the way we did until the very end. Michael is obviously ecstatic for me and we're all pumped. We aggregate our miles from the counter my phone and we're right at 100KM over the past 8 days. You're right Michael - it's never over until the fat lady sings!View attachment 366968
Thank you to Michael, Stephen, Charles and Merriam. No quit from any of them.

View attachment 366971
We get the bull back to the skinning shed and we're greeted with a nice ceremony from the entire staff. It seems like everybody genuinely feels the suspense being lifted and is extremely happy to see the bull come in at the last second like this. I'm sure everyone thought it was over but we're all incredibly positive now. Mr. Benson advises us that he'll have the buffalo tenderloin prepared for dinner.

View attachment 366975

Needless to say, you can probably guess where Michael and I end up next.
View attachment 366976
I put on my "lucky" hat and my girlfriend joins us for a much needed round of everything.

Michael agrees to try some of the Dos Artes Extra Anejo that I brought. We've been saving it for the victory toast and it's definitely fit for the occasion. Gratuities are given out and it tugs at us to know that the staff haven't had any hunters this entire year besides us.

Dinner couldn't be more jovial and our last evening ends as good as I could've asked for. I'm sad that we have to depart at 5AM tomorrow for Lusaka. Our trip to Mbizi has been spectacular.

A few final words/thoughts:

1. Stephen, Charles and Merriam are expert hunters. I could go into this forever but you will appreciate their work and intuition if you ever get to hunt with them.

2. I didn't get a chance to go into detail here as the write up was getting too long but the lions on the property were an interesting element to our entire stay. Every other night they'd be roaring close by or right outside our chalet. They are present and will remind you and help you to appreciate how truly wild Mbizi is. There are some interesting stories from our stay but perhaps Michael can share this in further detail if he so chooses.

3. Dyson, Mr Benson, Sadrina and Angeline all took great care of us while we there. Excellent staff and always very friendly.

I hope this hunt report has been enjoyable for you to read. It was not intended to be this long but it became very difficult to exclude certain events as I was flipping through all the pictures. We are living through some very interesting and challenging times right now and I've taken the time the write this review as I feel it was a genuine treat for me to escape and to be able to enjoy a hunt like this. The very same reviews others have posted on here have helped me to pass the time during these lockdowns. I think many of us hunters treat these excursions as very special events so these experiences mean a lot to us. To those of you getting to hunt this year in Africa, my best of luck to you on your trips and please stay safe!
Great report. Thank you.

You have done the hard work of taking your notes and putting them into a daily narrative. Now edit it into an event driven story of about 2500 words and submit it somewhere for editorial review and potential publication. You write well and I am confident that either SCI or DSC journals or African Hunting Gazette would run with it . You won't get a check, but your grand kids will be amazed when rummaging through your things someday, and a copy will be perfect on the coffee table of the trophy room. More importantly, your PH will be thrilled.
 

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Congrats om the nice buff!! Thanks for sharing the report!
 

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Was this your original Bull?
 

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I'd like to give a special shout out to you as I recall reading your buff hunt report at Mbizi. It really helped me to make my decision and I was glad I made it happen.
Thanks for that, Mbizi and the people there are truly special, I hope to make it back there again some day as there is a hyena with my name on it there.

Big congrats on the successful outcome to your buff hunt and thanks for the great report. Reports like yours are what keep us all going through these trying times.
 

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Very good report. Congrats on getting a buffalo. I enjoyed reading about your adventure.
Bruce
 

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Great Report and fantastic memories of a clearly magic hunt!

It is clear Michael runs a "proppa" operation!

Hunting in Zambia will certainly create memories for life!
 

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Were you able to confirm if the buff you killed was the same one originally shot?
 

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Thanks for that, Mbizi and the people there are truly special, I hope to make it back there again some day as there is a hyena with my name on it there.

Big congrats on the successful outcome to your buff hunt and thanks for the great report. Reports like yours are what keep us all going through these trying times.

Thank you! There were definitely whooping at night when we were there.
 

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Great report. Thank you.

You have done the hard work of taking your notes and putting them into a daily narrative. Now edit it into an event driven story of about 2500 words and submit it somewhere for editorial review and potential publication. You write well and I am confident that either SCI or DSC journals or African Hunting Gazette would run with it . You won't get a check, but your grand kids will be amazed when rummaging through your things someday, and a copy will be perfect on the coffee table of the trophy room. More importantly, your PH will be thrilled.
Thank you for your feedback. I wish the edit button were active for longer as I didn't know it would cut me off. I'm glad I put pen to paper on it as the details are still very vivid.
 

liam375

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Were you able to confirm if the buff you killed was the same one originally shot?
This is a great question and I should've made it clearer somewhere in my final post.

I did not end up getting my first buffalo. We looked the second one over and he was not previously hit. As we were approaching him, we got a chance to see the herd move off in the distance and counted 9 buff. We were looking for a straggler or injured one but couldn't pick him out. Good chance he was still in there though. Not the ideal outcome for me personally or the first buff, but I've moped about it long enough. Michael says Stephen and Charles have gone out looking for vultures to try to find the first but so far no luck.
 

liam375

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Great Report and fantastic memories of a clearly magic hunt!

It is clear Michael runs a "proppa" operation!

Hunting in Zambia will certainly create memories for life!
It was a great trip and it's going to be hard to top. Thanks for your comment.
 

Andrew Short

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Congratulations on your buffalo! Fantastic write up that I very much enjoyed reading!!!
 

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