Day 3 broke with bright mostly sunny skies and a lazy start on my behalf. I had my honey and toast with fruit and juice as we watched a young elephant feed off of the trees at the edge of camp about 40 yards from my tent. It pays to look out the door before making your way to get coffee. Tracker Michael and game scout Rachel saddled up and we headed off beside the river to check out a very dense area where one of the locals had been seeing a lone old buff on occasion. Along the way we passed literally hundreds of puku. We made it to the little homestead of an older gentleman that kept “intel” on any game sightings up his way. He confirmed to Andrew that the old reclusive bull was still somewhere along the river. Driving along the river road we cut some old tracks and stopped to look around. Michael milled around a bit and got on a 2 day old track to follow hoping to cut a fresh track along the way. It took us into some pretty thick stuff. Andrew and I stayed tight on Michael with rifles at the ready, solids in both barrels. In this dense river scrub we may not have much distance to work with if he happened to be in there. Andrew and Michael had confirmed that he was a loner and most likely an old boy. We followed old tracks and trails until we decided that he hadn’t been in there within the last day of two. Michael then decided to backtrack and figure out the bulls pattern. Indeed we found where he had been calling his home base. And he had been keeping to a relatively small area for the most part. Unfortunately today was not “the most part”. I’d have liked to have seen him, most likely he was a shooter. We made our way back to camp for lunch and a little nap ( there's nothing like a nap after lunch and a great morning, just saying).
All rested Andrew, myself, and a couple of his staff headed to the river bank to set out a croc bait using the Puku remains. He instructed them where to build the hide and told me that it was a fair chance of getting a good croc on bait within the time remaining. We loaded up again in the green goblin, which was undoubtedly the smoothest riding hunting car I've been in due to coil springs, to look for buff. We searched the roads and through the bush, driving over thousands of dried mud elephant tracks (which was not different than a road with infinite potholes - again, thank God for coil springs). We ran across some monster Reedbuck which I didn’t have on license since I taken one in Tanzania. We drove and drove and the day wasn’t far from closing when Michael pointed. He jumped off the truck and ran 20 yards into a grassy area to the right of the land cruiser. How he spotted tracks that far while we were driving is beyond me. Michael looked back at us and nodded. It was a go. We had no idea how far the track would take us but I wanted to find out. Michael set a good but cautious pace since it was a fairly open terrain. The wind was good and after a quarter mile or so you could catch a little whiff of buffalo now and again. The track was a single bull that was on a mission to get somewhere without stopping. Constantly expecting to see a black shape ahead at any second we pressed on quickly. And on. And on. We looked ahead 100 yards and the tracks led into a island of small saplings - a fortress of dense brush. If I thought I had a heightened sense of awareness before , I had no terminology for this. We looked along the edges carefully for any sign of the bull skirting the thicket ... but the track went straight into it. We made a plan A and B (and C). Michael went in with Andrew literally shoulder to shoulder and I was 2 steps behind. Not only was this a perfect thicket, all around it was 4 foot tall brush, trails through it zigzagging. When we made it the 100 yards out of there not stepping on this buff we looked at each other in total disbelief. Michael briefly lost him in the trails but soon his tracks were underfoot again. Now there were 2 sets. The thick brush gave way to much more open ground again and our speed quickened. We came to an open expanse and while crossing it Michael stopped mid-stride squatting down quickly with his hand outstretched toward us. Looking up on top of a slight rise 150 yards from us there was a wooded area with a black shape partially visible. We had finally caught up to them BUT we were in the wide a$$ open and zero cover. Luckily the buff was facing away and we were able to slither up to the wood line as the buff slowly moved further into the brush. It was a major disadvantage being downhill, the slight rise in terrain flattened out 75 yards ahead of us where the bull had disappeared. We caught a glimpse of a second buff and glassed them as best we could. We moved left as the one bull headed left and disappeared again. There was a big dirt mound we hid behind and peeked up over seeing to our surprise a small group which looked to be about 15 or so in number at roughly 125 yards. Through the trees we spotted 2 shooters. Andrew asked me if I had a shot as one had stepped into a spot I could see shoulder. I had nothing. It was a far shot using open sights with fading light. We had no way of approaching - if we had another hour to see good there would’ve been another chapter to this day. Suddenly one of the buff either spotted us or smelled us while we were feverishly trying to plan a closer move. We weren’t but so disappointed (barely if any really) because we got in on them as best we could. Michael’s tracking was yet again magical. We looked at buff. It was a proper stalk. Now comes the hard part - the 2 mile walk back...in the dark . If I would’ve been able to go to the eye doctor when we arrived back at the hunting car I’d have been outfitted with 3 additional pair of glasses for the other triple set of eyeballs I grew while walking out of there. It had been a great day. That evenings Puku dish was superb. I enjoyed my single malt by the little campfire listening to the hippos. I remember thinking what bugs I would be doing battle with in my tent that night. Adventure 24/7 !
Day 4 started a bit earlier as we were looking forward to hopefully getting back on the buff group from the evening before. After a quicker than usual breakfast everyone, including the skinner, saddled up and we headed out. We took a different road this time, Michael and Andrew figured the small herd would hit a particular waterhole and we headed that way. We got there to find no fresh tracks so we turned the green goblin into the bush towards last nights final sighting. Driving again over the dried tracks of elephant we comfortably bounced through the open areas when Michael softly said “stop”. He had spotted a track in the grass about 50 feet away. By feeling the moisture of the trampled grass blade Michael can tell how many half hours old a track is. I was amazed (again) and luckily we were very close. Andrew and I slipped the doubles from their cases and “thunked” in a couple of rounds. The landscape was variable- some open grass areas, some patches of young somewhat thick saplings, and a few islands scattered about of big trees with dense foliage. We were only on the track 20 minutes when Michael knelt down and pointed ahead. About 150 yards away black shapes slowly moved ahead directly away from us walking and grazing. We stayed back, scooting along on our butts with rifles across our laps, just keeping up until they could reach tighter cover. It’s tough on the rear endage when you encounter those elephant tracks in the hard dried mud. In a short time the buff made it to a dense patch and laid down to rest in the shade. We continued to butt crawl to about the 100 yard mark where we ran out of cover. Glassing the shadows we could see some good bulls. They didn’t stay settled very long before some got up and milled around. One absolute tank of a bull walked out of the shadows and stood broadside. You could see the mud on him and he looked to be about 39-40 inches wide. Andrew whispered to me if I had a scoped rifle the hunt would be over. I feel very confident in my ability to shoot 100 yards with my iron sights but the day was young, the wind good, and we hadn’t a need to rush. The group ambled on. We followed for another hour plus and we had a little difficulty at times with those dense islands of brush inhibiting our view of the herd. When we reached one of the “Islands” there was a large mound of dirt we could not see over so Michael crawled up to have a look. The buffalo had picked up the pace and we scrambled to keep up and stay hidden. We watched as one of the bulls broke off and hurried away almost like he spooked. The rest of the group continued to move on and we decided to stay with them since we hadn’t yet checked every head. The cover had been very thin over the last 1/4 mile and we had to keep a good distance to avoid being spotted. We caught a break when we saw the herd go just right of another dense section of foliage that was mostly a tall thick mound of dirt. We sprinted to the left of it when the rear end of the last buff disappeared. Michael again cautiously scaled the mound and peaked over. Rushing down it hurriedly he motioned for us to quickly run towards the far end. We sprinted another 50 yards hanging tight to the thick edge. Within 30 yards of the end we checked up in full alert. They were just on the end of other side. We inched forward thinking they would continue direction when suddenly a buffalo appeared at 60 yards walking straight across the front of us from right to left- they had made a 90 degree turn. Andrew quickly whispered for Michael to put up the sticks as we kept looking at the scattered buffalo coming into view. I set into the sticks (ugh those sticks -They had a rubber strap that lined the rest but it was wrapped in a fashion that would keep the sticks closed when not in use). As the rifle settled in my leading left hand I knew immediately they were too high. Quickly raising the rifle to widen/ lower them the sticks rose up with me. A frustrating 2 long seconds adjustment and I was back in the rest. As buffalo were spread out and crossing at a fast walk Andrew and I were rapidly trying to pick a good bull. He gave me a verbal command of “that one straight out with his head down”. The bull was start/stop walking and grazing as he lifted his head, and I confirmed we were looking at the same one when he did that. I got on the walking bull as other buffalo were entering our peripheral vision on the right. My bead was moving with the bull as I squeezed the front trigger. The recoil of the gun lifted it out of the sticks whilst the bull spun towards us in a run. Not a charging run but a getting the hell outta there run. Immediately at offhand position looking down the barrels I found the silver bead in the shallow V and placed it mid-front of the oncoming bull. At the boom of the left barrel I watched as his front legs lifted up and out in his stride and he did a belly flop nose first. Extracting the spent cartridges and reloading with 2 solids Andrew and I, accessing the situation, watched as more of the other unseen buffalo ran past us. All was clear now and the downed bull gave out a death bellow. The 2 of us swiftly moved in a semi-circle to approach from him from behind. I was wanting to get in really close for the insurance shot but Andrew stopped me at 35 yards and I put a solid in the spine between the shoulder blades. We walked up to his hind quarters and I pushed on him with my boot. It was finished. With smiles and laughter we congratulated each other and shook hands. Andrew sent Michael to retrieve the hunting car and we took some photos. Being midday the shade was a welcome luxury. It took Michael much longer than we thought figured to come back - the flat tire he had in route explained why. Andrew hooked the bull to a strap and drug him under a shade tree so the work could begin. We rolled the buff over and I found where the 500 grain North Fork solid had entered almost mid-center of the frontal chest. Honestly I was surprised at the effect the solid had. It was like he had gotten electrocuted- no flopping, no flailing, no movement of any sort. Just the bellow. The first shot had been wide left Michael said - a clean miss. What ? No way ....yes, way. The bullet struck in front and behind the bull which explained why he turned and ran towards us. The distance of the second/killing shot was 74 yards. During quartering one of the solids was found in the stomach contents. Eventually we got everything all loaded up and headed back to camp where lunch and celebratory refreshments awaited. The elephants were back at the river for water as well. Later that afternoon we drove down to the croc bait site to see if one was presenting himself and to freshen it up a bit if need be. We passed an elephant eating under a huge fig tree on the way to the river. Crocs had worked the bait off of the post so Michael had to re-rig everything. Back in camp I sat by the fire and watched a huge rain cloud off in the not so far distance while resting before dinner. I was wonderfully tired as is always welcome in Africa. I began to reflect ...It had been a good day.
The fifth day actually started about 2 AM. I had gone to bed at 3 hours before that after battling with a huge (to me) fuzzy and crook legged spider. The big nasty was one Andrew told me “was not good” and he was on the ceiling inside my mosquito netting. I was not about to share quarters with him. I was cognizant of one thing - I HAD TO KNOW HE WAS DEAD before I could sleep. I had a clear plastic bag about 1 gallon size. I figured I could capture him if I held this underneath and popped the top of the netting above him. One major issue being I had to hold the bag. I was committed and extremely nervous. For some reason I was thinking I’d rather be facing a charging bull elephant than undertaking this “against all odds” spider abduction. I can tell you this.. never before have I had a more heightened sense of awareness than when I smacked the top of that canopy. Frantically (and I mean that wholeheartedly) I looked inside that bag for that spider. With poor lighting i didn’t see him at first and started looking on my arm then spotted him on the inside wall of the bag. He was flat smushed before I even knew it. In my mind there is now a DANGEROUS 8.
Now back to 2 AM. We had a rain shower about bedtime that lasted a few hours. My thatch hut roof was covered with a tarp and the rainwater dripping from the branches of the big fig tree overhead was a beautiful sound. Suddenly there was a huge crash directly above me on my rooftop. I immediately sat up covering my head with both arms. With the noise that tree branch was making as it slid down the roof I was sure it would end up on top of me. It slid off directly behind me then I heard what took me a bit to figure out...it was chewing. I was listening to the slow rhythmic sounds of chewing. Not three feet on the other side of this hut wall was the crunch crunch of an elephant thoroughly enjoying a fig tree dinner. It even “sighed” when finishing the branch. What a spectacular way to be woken up! I sat there in wonderment for a good bit. At some point I did get a some sleep. The morning sunrise was again amazing and I opened my hut door cautiously looking in all directions. Small breakfast and coffee down and now a new plan. Andrew had a few things to get done first so I grabbed the rifle (you never go anywhere without your rifle)and took a short walk around the camp. I came across a snake carcass and found fresh jackal tracks. Oh, I had the treat of seeing (very close) a silver stripped jackal one afternoon while driving. With my buff in the salt we could now go look for a bushbuck- one of my all time favorite animals. We had seen a ram up from camp a half mile in the river flat on my first day here so back to that area we went. We drove in-between and around the thick little islands of chocked brush trying to cut a track. About 20 minutes in the search I glanced up and saw movement in the thicket only 40 yards ahead - it was a good bushbuck ram ! I pointed telling Andrew to stop immediately as I quickly rolled out of the cruiser, looking at Michael while quietly yelling “rifle!!”. Holding my hand out for my gun, Michael looked confused as he slipped the rifle from the case and looked for what he hadn’t seen yet. As I stood there urgently saying “rifle, rifle”, Michael (with my gun) got off the cruiser on the opposite side. Ohhh Nooooo ! I felt my hopes drop to the dirt as he walked towards the front of the cruiser looking for the object of my frantic attention. Being a tracker with hawk-like vision I’m sure he was frustrated not being able to spot what I was seeing. I feel certain Michael was looking long and not at point blank range where the bushbuck continued to remain in the dense undergrowth. I finally got my rifle in hand and loaded as fast as I could, the ram still there starring at us. I propped my elbow on the hood and found the silver bead on his shoulder, all in disbelief that such a reclusive animal hadn’t bolted off. I had about 3.5 pounds on the 4 pound trigger when he decided he had enough of us. As the gun boomed I glimpsed him dashing off. I was a bit tiffed to say the least but now the track was on and I reloaded the right barrel as Michael followed his direction. Andrew and I caught up quickly as Michael followed the rams track in and out of the pockets of brushy islands. Thirty minutes in we busted him out of cover 75 yards ahead and watched him run across a span of open grassland into another dense island of brush and small trees. Now I had a plan. I’ve rabbit hunted enough to know what happens when you send the beagles in the briars on one side...you stand on the other side. As Michael eased into the top end of this 50 yard long patch, I motioned for Andrew to come with me. Looking at the shape of this little bushy fortress I told Andrew the ram was going to run out at a point that made a slight bend and 30 seconds later he did...at full tilt. As the stock comb hit my cheek the silver bead made its way to the front of the then 60 yard ram. The right barrel didn’t get enough out in front, but the left barrel did. The ram balled up and cartwheeled, then was still. I quickly reloaded but could only drop one in the left chamber - I just had my first case head separation. We ran towards the ram cautiously approaching to 15 yards where one more insurance shot was given for good measure. I had taken a beautiful old warrior with scars and torn ears. It was a good celebration.
Back in camp lunch was again wonderful and a little nap was had by all. I tried to get the right barrel clear of the remaining cartridge but couldn’t. I now had a double barreled single shot, but all was good as my buff was already done. I had reloaded that particular case quite a few times and had a super soft bullet loaded for small game and inadvertently grabbed it in my hasty loading. Andrew took me for a boat ride along the Kafue that afternoon. We happened upon a young bull Tembo - what a sight along the waters edge. We also checked the croc bait and simulated how a croc hunt would go in the newly built blind. It was an easy afternoon. Not to sound monotonous or boring but the usual campfire, great dinner, and single malt made up the rest of the day- I’d love for every single day to be like that. Only in Africa.
Day 6 on the way soon..
I have a like new VC .450 I might part with. I had it built in 2013 and it has served me well. Also have a VC fitted leather trunk case for it along with the plastic case it came with. I'll take 14000 for all of it.
I have been looking for ideas on the best way to display my European mounts from Africa. I came across some of your shield work and was wondering if you would be willing to make one for me? If so, please let me know the cost. I like the shield with the two spears that you built for a member years ago. Thanks.
Nelson. Is this message a PM format. I want to send you my email, but don't know if this is the cirrect way to do it. I'm at <email@example.com> Send me an email with your phone and I will call you about a skull I have. I went to school in Boston and am from Bernardston in the west part of the state. Moved to Alaska in 1984 adn never looked back.