ZAMBIA: Kantanta Safaris - 10 Days In The Luangwa Valley

SkullKeeper

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I took Ethiopian Airlines from Dulles Airport (D.C.) to Lusaka. There’s only 1 stop in Ethiopia and I like to lessen the multi-plane changes as much as possible. The inbound flights were without incident although it did take longer (much longer) than usual to have the firearms checked at ADD... but my escorting young lady from the airline assured me that I wouldn’t miss the flight and took me straight to the “X ray” machine then the gate. I arrived in Lusaka and James (Kantanta Safaris Lusaka manager) had made arrangements with the police authorities to assist with my rifle declaration. James was there on the other side of the glass door if further assistance was needed - or maybe he just wanted to have the additional 3 steps head start in case something went awry. Nonetheless, everything checked out and he drove me to the Marriott hotel in Lusaka to rest up with the plan of a 6:30 AM rollout the next morning for the 7 hour drive to camp. I must say that James is very personable and exuded confidence and friendliness. He was on point.
The drives to camp are always good reminders to never complain about road conditions where we live in the USA (even the logging roads on old farms). We got into the secondary camp of Kantanta (known as Marula Camp) about 2 PM where I met the head man and my PH Valerio Ventriglia. Instantly comfortable- period. Immediately I knew that I was in the best hands. It’s here at the Marula camp that I will start my hunting but I’ll finish in the main camp. Small and well kept, Marula camp still had all the amenities needed for a relaxing stay - full time electricity, full time hot water, and wifi. I met most all of the staff here and they were excited, ready to get going ( the 2 previous clients had been excellent marksman, making me very nervous since I have trouble hitting the side of a barn when standing INSIDE the barn). No pressure. Speaking of which, shortly after arriving we were to check the rifles- my least favorite part of any Safari due to the fact I’m “on shooting display”. But first, we had a fabulous lunch of guinea fowl and vegetables which, given the amount of food prepared, was more of what I would expect for an evening dinner. At that moment I could predict my pants size shrinking beyond my control.
I changed from plane clothes to plain clothes and we headed out to shoot. I told Valerio that I didn’t 1) shoot well in front of witnesses and 2) shoot at paper well since it doesn’t keep my focus. I proved myself correct on both points, but I at least tried to make him reasonably comfortable in taking me hunting anyway. He then suggested we go for a drive and see what we can see. About 15 minutes of riding the trackers spotted a good sized group of roan. Valerio asked if I was interested in roan and I said I wasn’t at this time. We continued on. No more than 10 minutes went by and he tapped on the cruiser’s roof. It was a solitary roan bull. Valerio put the glass up and said “ monster roan”. I looked at him, and with Mickey Mouse ears I questioned back “monster?” , he replied “yes”. Reaching for the 416 I said “let’s go”. The trackers Felix and Timmy leapt off the truck like it was on fire, as well as Valerio with sticks in hand waiting for me around the front of the vehicle. It was a spot and stalk and after a couple hundred yards of walking the trackers pointed ahead. The roan was steadily walking away and as he went up and over a small rise we quickly cut the distance. Topping the small hill, they spotted him standing behind a bunch of small trees about 80-90 yards away. The sticks went up. Valerio told me to wait for him to take a step as I had no vitals clear. It was really thick. The bull was facing left almost broadside, now looking our way ...and sure enough he took a step. I had a pretty tight window but I could just barely see his front leg line in the 4 power Zeiss. I held just behind the shoulder and the gun went off. The roan flinched hard, dropping his head low, and took off running. We ran forward and to the left, Valerio and I saw him at the same time just standing there 60 yards away not able to go another step. Again the sticks went up and I proceeded to completely miss him- an excited trigger jerk if I had to guess. He never moved a muscle. The next shot found his shoulder and he dropped immediately. It turned out he didn’t need another round after all, the first 400 grain North Fork Did the trick. Valerio was super excited and told me “you’ve no idea how many roan you would look at before possibly seeing one this good”, calling it at 28 inches. We took some great photos and loaded him in the cruiser. It was a bit surrealistic having been in the bush for 30 minutes and already taking pictures of my first animal (which actually stretched the tape to 27&7/8”). And it was day -0.25 , day 1 of my hunt wasn’t until the next day. What an introduction to SANDWE GMA....Day 1 coming up.
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MMAL

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Very nice. Having roan as and “add on” is unusual. But you got a monster.
 

BnC 04

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Great start...keep it coming.
 

thi9elsp

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Congratulations. Looking forward to traveling along!
 

gillettehunter

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Very nice roan. They surprised me with how big the body is. Congrats
Bruce
 

rinehart0050

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Great start! Looking forward to the rest of the story
 

Frederik

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Nice roan glad you decided to take it.
 

JES Adventures

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Beauty of a Roan, Congrats!
 

7mmFan

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beautiful roan and good shooting! thanks for taking us along and looking forward to more.
 

buck wild

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Well good start I'd say
 

Hunt anything

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To me a roan is a special animal, you’re going to be glad you shot it. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of your trip. Congratulations. Zambia is definitely on my increasingly deep bucket list!
 

SkullKeeper

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Day -0.25 ended with a celebratory gin&tonic in front of a soothing and most relaxing campfire (always the perfect inauguration to any safari!). After an excellent dinner it wasn’t long before I was ready to lay down as I never get very good rest on the plane. The wake up time was set at 4AM, a crack-O-light start on a buff track was the intention. I took a well received shower before bed and got my kit together for the next day. The night air calmed down from the midday mini-inferno as the floor fan helped cool me off.

Day 1 arrived at the prescribed time and I made my way to the dinning area rifle and pack in hand. A quick little snack of honey and toast along with my favorite juice (mango) and we were ready to roll. Trackers Felix and Timmy hopped on the cruiser, James kept the driver Phillip company up front, the balance of men included me, Valerio, and the game scout Gilbert. There’s just something magical about that first morning's drive out of camp. I feel like I’ve been transported to a land that time forgot, not even do I have thoughts of my prior existence to that first morning out.
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Valerio wanted to hunt in an area that no animal had been taken previously. He had told me that there had been a small group of bachelor buffs in there and they were hanging pretty tight apparently due to lack of water. We had been driving for about 15-20 minutes in some pretty think stuff when the trackers tapped on the roof of the cruiser - buff tracks ! They examined them and walked around for a few minutes and Valerio said those 2 words we all like to hear - “Let’s go!”. Handing my 416 to Valerio I got off the truck with my double. Felix, toting Valerio’s Mauser, and Timmy took the lead. There were several buff that had come from the river moving back to the feeding area. It was thick at first then they moved into more open grassland with the dense mopani scrub in the distance. It didn’t take long and we were standing at the break of that scrub looking down at buff dung. Valerio checked it and looking at me with excited eyes said “that was just now”. We eased forward on tracks with more heads looking forward than down. The wind was good but inside the mopani there were lots of dry leaves to contend with. About 60 yards in Timmy crouched all of a sudden pointing ahead. We froze and Valerio started looking through the binos. The 4 buff were bedded down, each facing a different point on the compass. Motioning me forward to him he pointed out the best one and I confirmed his position with my binos. I handed my double to the tracker taking the scoped 416 from Valerio. The shot picture was less than ideal - all I could see was the top of the left boss, the left ear, and a pie plate sized area of his neck at the base of the skull, his head quartering away slightly. Valerio said “shoot him behind the ear”. This is when the sticks would’ve gone up if we had any - the men had washed out the truck bed the night before and forgot to load them back in. No worries as trees were literally everywhere. I had a decent sized tree next to me so I leaned up against that for a rest. The shot was 68 yards and as the crosshairs hit the base of the ear the rifle went boom. I chambered another round quickly and as I looked back through the scope I could see the bulls head now tilted left, horn touching the ground. I looked at Valerio, both of his arms raised already, and he shouted “stone dead!”. The other 3 bulls had gotten up confused and took off running as we made our way forward. There was no movement. The bull was dead where he laid. The 400 gr North Fork did the trick. I switched to my double as we moved closer and gave him a right and left just for insurance. The celebration began ! I had my bull just 45 minutes into Day 1.
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BourbonTrail

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Congratulations, quite the lucky turn of events for just starting off your trip.
 

Firebird

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Fun stalk that ended perfectly—congratulations on a very nice bull
 

gillettehunter

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Great that your stalk paid off so well. Good shooting!
Bruce
 

shootist~

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Nice shot and a great story!
 

Frederik

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Luck following you on this hunt nice animals and good shot on the buff.
 

BRICKBURN

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Nice shot. Congratulations.
 

PARA45

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Wow, what a great start, and great shot.
 

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