ZAMBIA: Lion Safari With Strang Middleton

Ridgewalker

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What an absolutely grand hunt!
I love croc hunting! I believe it is the most critical shot in Africa. Your wife had a very tough one as well on hippo! Well done little lady!
 

Mort Hill

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I have no idea how many Africa hunters are living vicariously through your hunt and posts, but I for one am loving the daily recounts of you and Debra’s journey. Best of luck in your continued success!
 

kudukid

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Loving the report JES. Those buffalo are proving to be challenging with those wind changes. I sense you will get your bull very soon. Fantastic shooting by Deb on the hippo.
Keep it coming!
 

JES Adventures

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stupid question im sure,is the lion exportable?
All Lion trophy imports into the US are on a case by case basis. Zambia has good management in place and data to support the population so importation is highly likely.
 

Dee S

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Waiting on the report on her lion. It looks like a good, mature lion from the picture Strang posted on IG. Sounds like they are having a great hunt and seeing a lot of animals.
 

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This is a great story! Thanks! Sounds like a great hunt so far!
 

JES Adventures

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Sorry folks, a hectic couple of days but here we go!
 

JES Adventures

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Day 8

No wind last night, I am not even sure I slept more than an hour solid the whole night. The daytime temperatures reached 105 in the shade yesterday and with very little breeze it was nearly impossible to sleep last night.

The first thing I asked Strang this morning was “if there is not a safety Issue, I want to move my bed outside”. The thatch does restrict the air movement and when there is barely a breeze and it is in the mid 80’s at night you need all the help you can get. His immediate concern was Elephant but said he would give it some thought.

We arrived at Chipuka Plain shortly after 5 and began our search for Buffalo. It was a beautiful morning and there was game out all over. Immediately we came onto a herd of Buffalo and we quickly circled round and got into position to intercept them. This was not the big herd, it appeared to be 120-150 animals mostly cows and calves. There were several bulls in the group, and we scanned the herd for over a half hour searching for a big bull. They passed right in front of us a stones throw away and we got a solid look at all the bulls. Not a single hard boss in the group. Strang said, “well let’s carry on, this seems to be a nursery herd”.

We spotted another nice Elephant bull in the 40+ pound range with a younger bull at his side. As we carried on, we saw several groups of Impala and Wildebeast, some Reedbuck and four Kudu Bulls. Then we came upon two more Elephant bulls, another that was in the 40+ pound range. I commented “this is just like the old Africa I remember” with the wide variety of game out on the Plain. We got onto a herd of Zebra shortly after and Debra made a stalk, but it was unsuccessful. We carried on and finally found the Buffalo but it was warming up and the wind wasn’t good, so we headed back to camp.

After a nap and a light lunch, we sat in the shade of the veranda and watched game come down to the Luangwa. We headed out to the Plain about 3:45 in search of Buffalo and Zebra. Most of the day was spent driving slowly and glassing but never found the Buffalo. There were several groups of Elephant feeding about and they all seemed calm and content.

We stopped to appreciate a gorgeous sunset and a beer before taking the half hour ride back to camp and contemplate the day. Tomorrow is the midway point in the Safari, we need something to happen.
 

JES Adventures

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Day 9

Well it’s a good thing they did not move my bed outside yesterday as requested. Sometimes late in the night, an odd noise woke me up. I realized then I should use the bathroom, so I glanced out of my open door and there in the moonlight was a young Elephant bull feeding on the grass 40’ from me! I did my business and went back to sleep while he finished eating.

The generator came on and I go up and started getting ready for the new day. After coffee and biscuits, we were headed to the Plain to look for Buffalo. Shortly after we arrived (about 5:20) we could see a massive cloud of dust in the distance and the binoculars confirmed a huge herd of Buffalo 500-600+ animals. We drove to the check the bait and keep an eye on the Buffalo to make a plan after we can determine their direction of heading. Before we could round the corner of the bush to check the bait a Leopard ran out in front of us, went about 300 yards and stopped to look at us. What a beautiful sight in the early morning light! The trackers and scout said it was a female.

Strang checked the game camera while I watched the Buffalo herd moving about. I told Strang some of the herd was moving right and some moving left. The herd on the right broke and ran while the ones on the left continued to walk and feed. Strang said “something is not right out there; they shouldn’t be splitting up maybe the Lion’s are harassing them”.

We stayed in place right by our bait and watched the Buffalo herd moving about so we could decide whether to move further in and make a plan to get on them. All of the sudden Darrison the tracker said “Lion”, there were two males! They had been trailing the Buffalo and caught the scent of our bait and were coming in for an inspection. We backed out of there and got into position for them to come in and feed and they followed the plan to perfection. We were able to watch, video and record these two males feed for nearly half an hour. One is clearly more mature and has all the signs of a legal cat such as a a black nose, stained teeth and the mane is past his shoulders.

Strang wants to be absolutely sure the cat is of adequate age to harvest so we raced back to camp so he could email pictures and video to the head of the Lion research department within National Parks for their confirmation.

Once again, as always with cat hunting, we are in hurry up and wait mode. As you can imagine, the anticipation is grueling. After 6 days of hunting, checking baits and having on again off again lioness hitting the baits and now a mature male in front of us and we cannot shoot! Fortunately, the lions were calm and laying down in a bit of heavy bush behind the bait when we left them so we are optimistic they will be there when we return.

Ibi Nkonde (the Concession Holder) came back to Strang and said we have the approval so its game on! As we race back to the bait, my mind runs so many scenarios and Debra seems to remain calm and collected. She studies the kill shot picture on her phone, so she is certain to make the correct shot when the time comes.

We arrived at Chipuka Plain at 8:22. As we approached the thorn bush where we last saw them, they were still bedded down but the younger male quickly got up and was off. The larger male slipped off into the thick bush behind, so we backed off into some shade and waited.

We are watching the bait and some vultures have gotten interested. If they decide to work over the bait, our Lions will be up and on them in no time. While we were talking through various scenarios of how the day will go, we feel like the Lions will come and feed late afternoon. Debra said, “look the Lions are up”! We glassed and identified it to be the younger male, most likely going for water.

We took the opportunity to prepare the machan while the Lion was bedded in the thicket and the other off to water. Patiently we wait as the day grows hotter. Fortunately, we are Blessed with a steady breeze but when it dies down the Mopani flies hammer you.

The temperature on the Plain is in the mid 90’s now at 10 o’clock. and we are mentally prepared for a long day. By noon it’s over 105. Fortunately, the breeze has stayed with us most of the day. The next 3 hours will be the hottest time of the day.

Shortly after one, a fair number of vultures had arrived and their racket agitated the lion and he came to run them off. It was quite a sight as he came in and they all backed up some flew off, he laid down under the bait with most of his vitals hidden by the large base of the tree. You could see his nose and mouth, occasionally one eye and he would snarl and growl at the vultures as they approached the bait.
Lion Vulture.JPG



This lasted for only a few minutes and when the vultures finally retreated, he was up and did an about face and disappeared into the bush never presenting a shot.

It took a while for the vultures to gather enough confidence to try again but slowly they returned.

About 3:30 the Lion had enough again and out he come and protect his meat. After he dispersed the crowd of vultures, he did almost the exact same thing and lie down behind the bait tree with the massive trunk blocking all of his vitals. What seemed like an eternity but was probably only a few minutes of waiting he finally stood up to run the vultures off and then lie back down. This time he was showing enough shoulder for a shot.

Debra settled in for the shot and squeezed the trigger on the 375. As the shot rang out the Lion rolled over almost instantly. Strang told her to reload and put another shot in right below the first one for insurance.

We watch for movement, any sign of life to be sure that he is completely dead before we approach. One of the trackers gets out to approach within a few yards and throws a stick at the lion, he didn’t move. The flood of emotions that ran across everyone was intense as we have been waiting for this Lion for nearly nine hours today after first seeing him.

Congratulations, hugs, thanks and handshakes ensued as we approached the monarch.

Lion.JPG


Lion mane.JPG



A spectacular old male, battle scars on his hip from a buffalo most likely and evidence of a poachers snare around his neck at one time. His lower right canine what’s broken and worn down about 1/3 his upper left canine was completely broken off at the gum-line as well as missing several teeth. A beautiful old trophy, and the ideal animal to take out of the population.
lion teeth.jpg

I thought to myself and commented what a huge loss it would’ve been for this stately king of the beasts to die a grisly death being hung by a snare and most definitely eaten by hyenas. Now he will be preserved in perpetuity for people to observe, admire and respect. In my humble opinion, the Lion is without a doubt the finest big game animals on the African Continent.

The jubilant ride back to camp was lively with the trackers singing their song of a successful hunt today. Once in camp, all of the staff came out and celebrated with Debra while Strang promptly distributed cold beers. A toast to the huntress, and a toast to the hunted.

After the commotion settled down, one of the staff told Strang the fisherman had reported seeing a big Elephant Bull the last two days drinking at a lagoon where they were fishing. He sent the trackers to vet the story and they came back and relayed the information. We will go there tomorrow morning ourselves and talk to them.

After hippo stir-fry for dinner what’s that under the canopy of trees in camp, sipped champagne and we love to hunt over and again.

What an honor and a Blessing it has been to be back in the Luangwa Valley, a truly magical place. The experiences that we had with the Lions today is one that was absolutely priceless.

Lights off at 10, we’re back to Chipuka Plain tomorrow in search of Buffalo and drop the baits.
 

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WOW!!! What an experience! Congrats to Debra on a fantastic old lion! What a mane!!!!

Honestly I couldn't picture a better and more grand old male wild lion than that!!!
 
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sierraone

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Great hunt and story so far....Congratulations to the Ms.
 

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Fantastic looking old lion. Congratulations to Debra.

Amazing how fast 8 days of nothing can turn on a dime.

It is interesting how the need to have accurate aging of male lions has added a step (photo aging by professionals) into the hunting paradigm.

Really appreciate your keeping the story posted. I look forward to it every day!
 

jasyblood

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Awesome cat!!! Congrats to your wife!!
 

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Great old Lion, congratulations to all.
 

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Congrats Debra!!! Great hunt and thanks for sharing the story with us
 

JES Adventures

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Many thanks to all of my colleagues on the forum, I’ve always appreciated the support and professionalism of the members. As hunters we are conservationists, and our moneys and efforts permeate throughput our sport to perpetuate these great species that we pursue around the world
 

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