ZAMBIA: Zambia Hunt 2019 With Royal Kafue WOW!

SkullKeeper

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I’d only been back from my safari in Tanzania for about 90 days when I ran across a post from Andrew Baldry of Royal Kafue. It was mid-November and he stated there had been a last minute cancellation for a 7 day one buffalo hunt. I’ve no idea why but my crazy mind decided it was worth an inquiry (even though there was 0.1% chance of this happening). The fact that I had surprisingly been granted Thanksgiving week off played a major role in my curiosity about this hunt so I sent a message to Andrew. I didn’t hear back from him immediately therefore I figured the hunt had already been booked. No worries. Then I get a text two days later. The hunt is still open and Andrew gives me details and the cost. My adrenaline kicks in big time-BUT IT’S ONLY 11 DAYS UNTIL MY THANKSGIVING WEEK VACATION STARTS ! There’s too much to do in too little time -rifle permits, license, plane tickets, packing, etc etc - no way all this could work out in 11 days! I messaged Andrew the next day. He assured me that he could get the rifle permit, license, etc. I then got on the phone with TWG. Turns out that they can acquire a gun transit permit in 48 hours. This was unreal. It was if I dumped a puzzle out of a box and the pieces fit themselves together on the way to the floor. I was on the plane for a hour before I realized I was actually going on my second safari.

The flight over went pretty well. When I got to ADD I was paged and had to go to the bowels of the airport to unlock my gun case and show all my paperwork. I’d read one report of a shakedown at ADD and I said to myself “here we go, my turn”. My papers were scrutinized several times over but it was all perfect. I locked up my case and was escorted back upstairs to the main terminal. At this point I was fearful my rifle wouldn’t make the rest of the journey but it did. Andrew met me at customs in Lusaka when I arrived. He located my bags, got my rifle checked out with customs, and we were in the land cruiser pronto. Andrew was completely in charge and that was comforting. The six hour drive to camp wasn’t bad at all really. It was the start of the rainy season and the area close to camp had received about 2 inches of rain the night before I arrived. The road was literally a river. We drove through water for hundreds of yards at a time. I had come to the conclusion that I may get to hunt 4 out of 7 days with the looks of things.

Arriving into camp just before dark we drove along the Kafue River. The hippo’s heads bobbed like corks as we went by. The winged termites were erupting from the ground by the millions (Literally!) as the headlights shined on the road. We pulled up to the main hut/dining area and were met by a few of Andrew’s staff. I was shown my hut and bags carried in. Every bug was trying to find a dry place due to the rains and my hut seemed to be the driest place in Zambia. It was an entomologist’s dream in there ! Oh well no worries, I was in their world and I accepted that graciously. Andrew and I had a drink and dinner and I got things ready to head out the next morning.

I didn’t spring up out of the bed an hour before daybreak understandably but I got up just in time to watch a magnificent Zambian sunrise. Breakfast was whatever I wanted but Mango juice and toast with honey is all I ask for in the mornings. Andrew has an old land cruiser for a hunting car - no windshield, no doors, a tall bench seat in the bed, and COIL SPRINGS ! I’ve never appreciated coil springs until I rode over thousands of yards of ele foot depressions !
Micheal (the tracker) and Rachel (the Zambian game scout) rode on the high bench. Andrew drove and I was in the passenger seat. Usually there is a driver and the PH, client, and tracker ride on the high bench but Andrew likes to drive incase ele are encountered. We went to a grassy area where buff had been seen recently and immediately picked up fresh tracks. The buffalo had milled around a good while there and it took Michael a bit to sort it out but soon enough we were following them. It was cloudy that morning but no threat of rain. We followed the tracks for about 1/2 mile in the open then it got pretty thick - and we were close. The breeze would swirl a bit and we could smell them. That’s when it gets really exciting. Micheal suddenly points. We can see two bulls 70 ahead. We work the wind and the cover to approach slowly. We can see a few more black shapes. We don’t know how many in total yet but we are full scan. There’s a hole in the bush and a really good bull is standing there, quartering away at 60 yards. Andrew and I glass him and agree he is a shooter even though we’ve not looked at all of them. Micheal puts the sticks up and I settle the double in the V. The bull starts to walk - no shot but no worries since they have no clue we’re there. Cover is getting patchy but still ok. About 15 minutes of slow motion stalking we can see all of them. There are eight bulls and they are starting to bed down. Five of them look to be shooters but one looks exceptional and he’s behind another bull and a few trees. The leader of the group is far left and is the one I almost settled to bead on earlier. He has a softball size chunk missing out of his boss but is a great bull about 40” wide. I could’ve shot him a dozen times as he was wide open and the last one to lay down. There was one that had humongous bosses probably taping 16-18” but he was only about 35-36” wide. I was waiting on the big one behind the trees. We butt crawled closer until the cover ran out and we could go no further, 50 yards was plenty close enough. We waited. Thirty minutes later they started to get up. The lead bull was up first, he scrapped his horns on a tree with authority. The big one got up next and was quartering towards us but still behind trees and partly behind the lead bull. Andrew eased the sticks up in position and told me to get on them. As I stood up slowly the lead bull spotted me and spun around, stopping in a position that completely obscured the target bull. What kind of luck was this ?! Now the group was nervous and just like that they bolted off. An exciting and pretty intense morning had come to a close. I wasn’t disappointed at all. We decided to wait an hour and follow up, which we did but they were still on high alert so we agreed to leave them for the day.

On drive along the river back to camp we spotted a bushbuck ram creeping through the underbrush 100 yards away. But Andrew has already spotted a good Puku ram and he was in a much better place for a stalk. We stopped and Andrew insisted that I carry his scoped 375 but I declined. We picked our way through the patchy underbrush and spotted the ram. Micheal put the sticks up quickly but the ram saw us and hurried off. Making up distance quickly we got in the thick stuff and spotted him ahead about 50 yards. Sticks went up and I got right real fast. He had turned and was watching us, quartering towards me. I sent the right barrel, catching him behind the shoulder, exiting through the left hind quarter, and he spun and ran. We sprinted ahead. Fifty yards later we watched him as he spun in circles and dropped to the ground 35 yards away. I sent the left barrel into his neck (the only shot I had in that thick underbrush). A beautiful Puku ram that Andrew said was the first with a double rifle there. We had fresh tenderloin for dinner that night. Delicious!! The scotch by the campfire that evening was a wonderful ending to a great first day.
....day 2 coming soon ..

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cpr0312

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Great start! Look forward to more installments!
 

gillettehunter

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Great start. Looking forward to more. Nice Puku.
Bruce
 

kevin masters

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great start, zambia is a bucket list location for me!:A Popcorn:cant wait for the rest
 

PHOENIX PHIL

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Looking forward to the rest of the story!
 

Adam Stevens

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Great write up Buddy! Can’t wait to read more.
I’ve seen the photos but the write up is just as good.
 

MMAL

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Not many hunt reports so keep typing! Thanks for sharing and looking forward to the rest.
 

AZDAVE

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:D Pop Popcorn: Enjoying your report and look forward to the rest.
 

SkullKeeper

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DAY 2

After surviving the night in my little private not-so-bug proof chalet (remember it’s rainy season and I’ve got the driest 400 square foot in all of Zambia) I awoke to a beautiful sunrise. I was ready to hit the buffalo trail again after a little plate of local honey, toast, and mango slices. I’m a light breakfast eater and this is my ultimate day starter even though I was offered anything I wanted. I had already loaded my pack and my double on the Land Cruiser prior to breakfast and Andrew’s VC 500 was already on board as well. Andrew, Michael (tracker), Rachel (game scout), and I hopped in the well worn battle proven green machine and made way to the pan close to where we started the day before. We found fresh tracks and Michael began sorting out the puzzle. Straightening out the small herds direction we followed quickly as they had crossed a large expanse of open ground. About 45 minutes later Micheal knelt quickly in a small thick patch of cover and pointed ahead. There they were, slowly grazing about 200 yards away ...in the wide open. It looked like the same group from the day before. We had little cover to work with and we had to swing wide a bit to hide our approach. The buff were slowly on the move to their midday shade. When buff “slowly move” it’s all you can do to keep up. Butt scooting along, duck walking, and doing everything we could to make ourselves small we closed the distance little by little. We never got under 100 yards and we ended up following them until they bedded down for the afternoon. Andrew built a small fire to pinpoint our location for Michael ( I can tell you now Michael needed zero help with that - he was a living compass) sent him after the hunting car which was a good 2 -3 miles away. Our shade trees were sparse and we had to share them with some interesting bugs and centipede but we laid down anyway for a snooze. Michael eventually caught up to us and we once again began to crawl our way toward the group of bulls. We had both excellent wind and cover now. Soon Michael pointed ahead under some trees whispering to Andrew. We crept like turtles through the scattered underbrush- for those of you that have done this you know this is where the rubber meets the road. We got in as close as we dared, about 50 yards, and began to glass. Andrew spotted the target bull from the day before. He was to the far left laying down butt to us. They were all balled up together for the most part and although I was only a few feet from Andrew my sight line couldn’t distinguish that he was the one. Minutes seem like hours when waiting for buff to stand and start moving again. Our bull rose up and stood there as did another close to him. Andrew hurriedly told Michael to put up the sticks. The bull came around hard to Port turning a 270 degree circle as he moved toward more shade. With the tone of a circuit court judge Andrew said “get on the sticks”. From my kneeling position I rose up slowly but swiftly (you know what I mean) focused totally on the walking bull. The back of my left hand groped for the V that I should’ve easily settled into by now ... something is not right .... my focus immediately shifted to the sticks. Holy snap the sticks are as sideways as they can get. Andrew is watching the bull and waiting to mark the bullet strike as he is feverishly whispering “shoot him, shoot him”. I’m not one that likes being told what to do when I know what to do and in this millisecond I whisper back (feverishly as well) that the sticks are wrong. I manage to grab a piece of this tripod with my support hand pinky finger. This definitely doesn’t feel right but my brain tells me this is all you got. The bull is continuing his path and now is walking in the shade as I try to settle the bead deep in the v of the rear sight. I can feel that I have an odd torque on the forearm as I squeeze the front trigger. All hell breaks loose as buffalo start running thru the trees away from us. Micheal and Andrew jump up and break right and I follow. About 150 yards away the buff clear the tree line looking confused. We glass them and spot the target bull amongst them. He is the first one to bolt, the rest do the same. We flank hard and fast left running like hell hoping they angle in front at some point. Several hundred yards away we come around a line of trees to watch the last 2 bulls run into another patch of dense trees a hundred yards away. No one says a word. We are standing there, each of us facing 3 different directions and, of course, I’m talking out loud to myself. I am my harshest critic and there is no doubt that Andrew and Micheal know that now. Micheal back tracks the buff looking for any blood but finds nothing. We have all had our share of hindsight once a fast paced situation is done and over. There is zero shortage of hindsight here either. It was a very hot walk back to the vehicle. A long, extremely well conducted and strategic stalk with a “no cigar” ending. It was a glorious victory and disappointing defeat all in one. I felt bad for Micheal way more than anything. His every footstep from the beginning was calculated and executed with precision. He is all but a ghost on foot and to put me in the position he did was amazing to me. Our drive back to camp was a bit solemn but all the bushbuck (females) and Puku we passed along the way helped. Arriving back at camp we had the pleasure of having a small herd of elephant drinking from our side of the river only 100 yards away. They were daily visitors and would literally take a path through or right beside camp to get to the water. You have to just love wild and free Africa ! I went to my hut and took a little monkey bath to knock all the dirt and sweat off. Andrew fixed us a nice single malt and we toasted a successful and wonderful day none the less. Dinner was a spectacular Puku dish accompanied by the sounds of hippo. We even got to watch a Sitatunga ram that evening just across the river from camp. I know I chose to stay in the semi-open hut instead of a modern zippered tent but no joke I think I was more scared to go to sleep with all the creepy crawlees that the rains forced inside with me ! It’s just part of the adventure!!

....Day 3 next....
 

Ridgewalker

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Grand hunt so far! Oh am I envious! Thanks for the report! I am so enjoying this vicarious escape!
 

BnC 04

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Outstanding! Enjoying the review.
 

Ridgewalker

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Great photos! yikes!!! There’s some scary looking bugs that time of year!
 

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