ZAMBIA: Lion Safari With Strang Middleton

daawg1963

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agreed barnes bullets kick ass i needed bait bad 4 lion so ph let me shoot a buff at 275yrds with 378 - barnes- smoked him
 

rinehart0050

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Day 7

I woke refreshed today, slept well and am looking forward to chasing buffalo. While I sipped my coffee, I keep running through my mind how my Lion Safari went 24 years ago. Some things are vivid, with more details coming back to me these past few days. I can still see the Lion, standing under the bait in my mind’s eye. A lot of data has passed through my brain since then but when some memories are made, I guess they are for a lifetime.

The trip to Chipuka Plain in the early hours of the morning more uneventful than usual. About halfway to the Plain we encountered a very large pack of Wild Dogs in the road. They barked and yipped as us when we stopped. Their numbers must be increasing across Africa as I have seen them now on several Safaris in multiple countries in recent years. We carried on, the morning ride has become the highlight of my day as the temperatures are in the low to mid 70’s and the sky crystal clear. It gives me time to think, to be thankful and prayerful that I am truly Blessed to be in this wild place once again.

At 5:15, barely a kilometer from the Park boundary and we bumped 3 Dugga Boy’s. We rounded a corner and there they were 100 yards in front of us feeding. Of course, they raised their heads to look but as we reversed out, they continued their slow feeding, heading towards the Park.

Strang said “let’s go have a look” and we hopped off and were around the side of them with the wind right in 10 minutes. As they fed through some patches of bush on the edge of a forest, we got a good look at the bulls. Nothing in the bunch over 38" so we were back to the landcruiser and carried on looking for the big herd.

Strang detoured by the bait and found it had been completely taken so we discussed the plan for the day. We will hunt for Buffalo now while it is cool, and they are up feeding as need bait. As we approached a long line of trees in the Plain, I could see Buffalo ahead, so I tapped the roof and Strang stopped. He got out and we glassed the group, they were about a ¼ mile away and feeding steady. The sun has just risen so we made our way around then started the approach.

We walked down through some Mopane scrub and within minutes spotted the herd. This was a big herd spread out for 400+ yards in front and moving our direction – This was going to be perfect! As the Buffalo kept moving and feeding, they were passing within 75-150 yards in front of us. We glassed fervently for a big bull and I found one very handsome trophy but Strang confirmed he was not big enough. As they got closer, the wind stopped then brushed the back of my neck and within seconds they were alert. One old cow switched on to us and snorted and started the group moving away. The buffalo hunt was over for today, so we went to check the other bait then make our way back to camp. The baits are getting smelly and now with one missing we have decided to hunt a Hippo today to freshen everything up.

While cruising through the Plain, we saw a small group of Livingstone Eland, multiple groups of Impala, Wildebeast and some Puku. The occasional pair or trio of Oribi would bounce off into the distance and of course, multiple family groups of Elephants.

Back at camp, Strang ordered up a full breakfast and told the crew to get prepared for a Hippo. After a traditional breakfast of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, beans and toast we set out to search the pools along the Luangwa. The sun was high, and the thermometer showed 100 degrees. Within minutes we found a pod of Hippo and walked down to the river to glass them. Debra has been discussing shot placement with Strang so she will be prepared when the time comes. We set up and started glassing but identifying the bull became difficult. They were popping up and down like whack-a-mole which even made it harder. Strang made the call to move on and we were all happy as the heat was intense on the sand. He drove us up the river and we backed into a shady spot under an acacia tree and glassed another pod. After a half hour Strang said “Stuff it’ let’s go to the big pool in the bend of the river”. We got there and immediately spotted a bull off to the side of the main pod and everyone concurred that it is a bull. There was a nice shaded tree where Strang set up Debra with the shooting sticks and a chair. The trackers and scout went down river to find a place we can hoist up the Hippo after the harvest since we are on the high bank. A good location was found so the plan was made and about to be set into motion.

The Hippo watched us, popping up and down, always looking directly at us and Strang wants Debra to take a side brain shot and not the frontal. After twenty minutes or so the bull came up quartering and stayed up for a while. Everyone watched him for movement in the right direction and Strang checked with Debra to be sure her setup was solid. She confirmed and shortly thereafter the bull rotated enough and Strang gave her the green light. She settled in and took her time, squeezed the trigger and the 375 went off and the bull was clearly hit in the head. He started to roll in the water and as he turned you could see blood coming from below his ear. The bull rolled several times, thrashing in the water only occasionally giving a vital target. Strang instructed Debra to shoot again which she did and the final shot which dispatched the bull was quartering away slightly right in the neck. The water instantly went calm and we knew the bull was finished. We celebrated the old bull with a beer and waited for him to gas up and float. The fisherman arrived within minutes for retrieval and after about 45 minutes the bull was located, and a rope tied to his leg. Three of them waded sometimes neck deep in this Croc infested river while pulling the Hippo up to the loading point. Fortunately, they got there unscathed, but we could see the Croc’s staging themselves up for a feed as they have no doubt smelled the blood carrying down river.

After the obligatory photo’s, the full was quartered and once the first half was up on the high bank, we took off to change the upriver bait. The original was quite ripe, and the trackers tied it with heavy wire to the base of the bait tree. This would no doubt be eaten by Hyena and the lot but we want the stench to keep on advertising the location so a Lion will show up.
View attachment 370430

Back to the Hippo site we loaded up 2 more quarters and raced against the clock to get the baits changed before dark.

On our way back to camp we spotted a very large bodied Elephant on the opposite side of the river. He sported beautiful tusks, long and symmetrical with a classic curve. Strang put him at 50 pounds, I thought a little lighter but Strang commented that the size of the body is throwing off the perspective.

We dropped Debra off at camp a little before 5 and got the downriver bait changed by 5:15. Strang said “let’s make a run for the plain to replace that bait that was taken last night”. We got there at 5:44 and had the bait hunt and back in camp by 6:55. A welcomed shower, one highball and grilled Impala backstrap for dinner and I was done. Up again tomorrow, back to the Plain for Buffalo.
Wow
 

rinehart0050

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Congrats on some amazing trophies! Way to not let covid hold you back!
 

JES Adventures

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Last Day

We woke at four this morning had coffee and headed for the Chipuka Plain one more time. We are in hopes that we will find an elephant bull on the move due to the thunderstorms throughout the entire area last evening.

We reach the plain at first light and it didn’t take long to locate a group of elephant, cows and calves. A half hour or so into the morning we stumbled onto a couple of Bulls, one in the 40 pound class and they were on a beeline for the park boundary. We saw wildebeest, impala and puku, it seems the Buffalo have not returned to the plain.

Back to camp for breakfast and then off to the lagoon for one last sit in hopes the elephant bull arrives. Optimism isn’t real high with the rains that have moved into the area it seems that the elephants have all gone on walkabout.

We got there shortly after 11 and by noon we were seeing the odd bush buck, waterbuck and baboon come down to the water.

By three not a single elephant came in the whole afternoon, they have obviously moved on. I said to Debra “elephant bulls don’t get big by being stupid, they don’t do the same thing over and over again that’s how they get big”.

Strang wanted to go check the river crossing as the charter flight arrives the strip at 7 AM tomorrow so we would be getting to the crossing at first light. Everything looked good at the crossing so we take a slow drive back to camp spotting the odd bushbuck or kudu along the way.

At camp, we organized our luggage and got things ready for an early departure tomorrow, one of those things you never like to do. You know the Safari has come to an end, you’re gracious for all of the great experiences you’ve had and look forward to the next time you can return to such a magical place.

We sip champagne as the sun sets across the Luangwa, and relive the moments of the Safari. The final meal was buffalo tail soup, hippo stew with rice, butternut squash and of course plenty of red wine.

Many thanks go out to Strang Middleton for his diligence in making our Safari a success. Also thanks to the staff at Impanga Safaris for their hard work and efforts to make us comfortable.

Finally, thanks to my fellow AH Members for the positive comments, this has been two weeks that I will never forget!
 

JES Adventures

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cls

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Congratulations on a successful safari and thanks for keeping us updated through the hunt. Safe trip home.
 

sierraone

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You obviously had a great hunt and have written a great report for those of us at home! Now if you and the wife can just get home without being quarantined in some unheard of backwater....and spoil the entire trip!
 

Petey J

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Sounds like an amazing trip. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the story. Even though you never got the elephant, a spectacular lion and buffalo. And a great rain to go back again.

Thank you for taking us along the on the ride. Have a safe return.
 

Wheels

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Wonderful hunt.

Thank you for taking us on the journey with you!
 

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I have enjoyed coming along for the ride! Thank you for sharing with us!
 

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Thanks so much for taking the time to share such a grand Safari!
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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Congrats on a great hunt and to your wife on a fantastic lion!
 

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Royal27

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What a great hunt....

Shame the bull didnt show back up, but that also makes it better all at the same time.

Another great report!
 

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That was a great hunt, thanks for sharing.

Going back for the elephant ?
 

JES Adventures

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You obviously had a great hunt and have written a great report for those of us at home! Now if you and the wife can just get home without being quarantined in some unheard of backwater....and spoil the entire trip!
@sierraone - Travel back to the States was as normal. US citizens are not required to have a Covid test to fly home on Ethiopian Airways. Furthermore a Covid test is not required for US citizens to reenter the country traveling from Zambia

Other than the long wait for passport control at Dulles everything went very well.

Unlike the US, the airport lounges were open in Zambia and Addis which was nice for the layovers.

We met another couple from Texas traveling back home that had just finished a Safari in Tanzania. It seems that there are quite a few hunters out there taking advantage of some great end of the season specials.

All in all, the travel wasn’t that bad other than the mask mandate.
 

enysse

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Congrats to Debra on the lion! I’m glad you guys got in some great hunting this year!
 

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