ZAMBIA: Zambia With Balla Balla Safaris

gillettehunter

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This hunt goes back to January. Mike (@LivingTheDream) told me he was booking a hunt with Balla Balla. I asked if I could join him in camp. Mike was gracious enough to say yes. Mike and his dad came to Wyoming and I helped them to get a couple of antelope and a shot at a sharp tail grouse. So Mike took a chance and invited me to join him.
We met in the Joberg airport. I had flown in from Cape Town earlier that morning. Mike was fresh in from the states. Our SAA flight was delayed perhaps 40 min. Gave us a chance to chat and catch up some. We arrived in Livingstone in the early afternoon. Balla Balla had arranged to have us met. Gun clearance was a breeze for me. Mike had planned to use camp rifles this trip.
My menu was simple. A buffalo (my first), a Eland and a Bushbuck. My Chobe bushbuck cape came in such that it could not be used from a few yrs ago. Mike had Lechwe, bushbuck and a Puku on his list and room for one more animal if a good trophy turned up.
We loaded up in a van service to take us out to meet our hosts for the week. I will note that both times I have flown into Zambia hunting I have been asked by people at the airport for meat on my return. No cash bribe but instead they want meat. Africa is a protein short environment. Both times we have brought back some. I suspect that it helps make the coming and leaving a bit easier. They're not looking for every little thing to bust your chops over.
Our van driver was very cautious. Drove under the speed limit. About 2 1/2 hrs later we pulled into a gas station to meet Dean, his wife JoAnn and their 8 year old son Nathan. Mike got out to smoke. He immediately was swarmed by a group of young entrepreneurs. Salesman all wanting him to buy from them. Peanuts seemed to be the main item. Mike was back in the van immediately to the kids disappointment. Mike was back in so fast it
Was like they had guns instead of peanuts. They then gave their best "puppy dog" faces looking into the van but to no avail. Mike was saved by a bus pulling into the gas station.
We met Dean and his family and transferred our baggage to the trucks going to camp. We drove another 2 hours to get to Dendrow park where we were to start our hunt. All along the road going in we saw villages. Mostly grass roofs. Little bit different from home. Just outside the gates of Dendrow we saw some waterbuck. These are the Defassa waterbuck and have a handsome charcoal coat. They appear to be about 1/3 smaller than the common waterbuck found in RSA.
We turned off the main road and drove perhaps 1 1/2 miles to the gate into Dendrow. Dendrow is about 20 square miles in size. The lodge is situated close to the entrance. Between the entrance and the lodge there is a pond. It was almost dry. It is 1 of 2 or 3 water sources for the animals there. Because of the drought Dean had needed to have a new borehole drilled to provide water. In a good wet season 2/3 or 3/4 of Dendrow is under water! We settled into our guest house for the next few days stay.
There is no internet or phone signal at Dendrow. Only a Satellite phone would get out. Also we only had lights on in our rooms 1 time during our stay. Solar lights and electric lanterns were up to the main lodge. The main lodge was open on 2 sides and closed on the other 2. They had a nice campfire area adjacent to the lodge. It was very pleasant to sit and watch animals at the water. You could almost always see Puku there. There was also a larger number of yellow baboons that spent a lot of time by the water. Sometimes close to 40. The Impala were also frequent visitors to the water. Buffalo came in each night.
After we settled in Mike and I noted that we had not met a second PH. After a delicious dinner I asked Dean about it. Apparently Shawn had "urgent" business in RSA and had left before we arrived. This didn't set too well with us. We were a bit uneasy, but decided to see how it worked out. In the end it worked out exceptionally well for both of us.
Dean said we would hunt buffalo the next morning. I told him I needed to check my rifle before we started. He said that was no problem. I had 2 rifles with me. The first is my custom 7mm SAUM ( short action ultra mag). It has a titanium action and a Bartlein barrel. It's topped with a 2.5-25X42 March scope. My hand loaded Berger bullets are 180 grains and are leaving the barrel at 2914 fps. The second rifle is a Howa .375 Ruger topped with a Minox 2-10X40 scope. My handloads have a 300 grain Swift A-frame running about 2675 FPS.
We headed to bed and were told we'd have a 5 AM wake up call. More later.
Bruce

6D25C2E2-ECF1-4F9C-94E4-774CE9BB7B24.jpeg
 
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BnC 04

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Sounds like the trip turned out great, looking forward to the continued report.
 

BRICKBURN

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A surprise change from 1x1 to 2x1 o_O Hmmm.
 

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O’Boy! The next leg of your journey!
:A Big Hello:
 

lwaters

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Zambia seems like an interesting destination. Can't wait to hear more.
 

Mort Hill

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More story please Daddy? And do post some pics.
 

gillettehunter

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When I went to bed I found that they had mosquito netting over the bed. Also a mosquito "coil" burning on the floor. Guess mosquitos must be a problem at times. I didn't see on during my stay. I did however make the acquaintance of tsetse flies. The season for those little buggers just started. Mid day to afternoon we saw some of them. Daytime highs reached the low 90's. The low I checked one morning was 48 so a pretty good temperature swing. Mike has suggested telling our tale by animal so we'll go that route.
BUFFALO

So this is my 5th trip to Africa and have never hunted any of the big 5. Just not been in my budget. A few yrs ago I bought the.375 Ruger hoping to have the chance. I was awake before the wake up call at 5. They had coffee and hot coco. They also had some toast and jam. The plan was to hunt till 11 or so and then back for brunch. We left as it was getting light around 6:15. We picked up our tracker Phineas and headed out.
We drove back several miles to where Dean hoped to find fresh tracks. Then Phineas got on the hood of the truck and we drove the roads looking for fresh tracks. After perhaps 45 minutes Dean pulled over. After looking at the tracks Dean declared that they had been made that morning. We offloaded and started tracking.
This part of Dendro was relatively open. There were strips of up to 200 yards that were open. Then there are the "islands" of termite mounds with the trees associated with them. All interspersed in the trees. No leaves so you could see pretty well.
We started on "2 large tracks ". I soon could tell that there was more like 6-10 animals so they met up with more. We followed for perhaps 2 hours. Mike checked and his device said 3.1 miles to catch up to them. When we found the herd, Dean asked Mike and Phineas to stay behind. We started our stalk. We could see a cow and a calf clearly in a opening. As we got closer I spotted another one off to the left. Dean got the bino's on him and said it was a bull. So our attention shifted to him.
We started at perhaps 120 yds and closed to around 75-80 yds. We had to be careful because we were in full view of the cow and calf. A couple of steps and stop until their heads were down again. All the time my heart was racing. I kept repeating to myself to squeeze the trigger. Squeeze and not slap. The last thing I wanted was a wounded buff. Dean took one last look and said we should take this buffalo. He was completely broadside and unaware of us. Part of his head was hidden by brush from a termite mound. The sticks went up and my safety went off as I got on the sticks. Dean whispered to hit him right on the shoulder.
As the crosshairs settled low on the shoulder I squeezed the trigger. At the bullets impact the buffalo hunched and hopped with what looked like a broken leg. He lunged out of sight behind the termite mound. Dean and I broke into a run to see where he was when all of a sudden a herd of buffalo came into sight galloping towards us! Dean immediately started yelling and waving his arms to turn the herd.
The herd we had been following had apparently just met a much larger herd. We had 50-60 buffalo headed our way. Luckily they turned and went between us and my bull. My bull gave a death bellow as the last of the herd galloped past. After the herd got past we walked around the termite mound and there was my bull down. Dean had me pay the insurance and we had my buffalo.
The first shot looked like it hit the top of the heart and into the lungs. My buffalo only made it perhaps 15 yards from where I shot him. He had significant hair loss that Dean says is indicative of an older bull. He is a good first timers bull and I was totally thrilled to have him. We took pics and then Dean and Phineas headed for the truck to get help to load him up. They were back in about 45 minutes with 7 more guys to help load him up. Back by noon for lunch. Mike said "I like buffalo hunting with you. Doesn't take several days to get it".
 

gillettehunter

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So as long as we're talking buffalo there is more story to tell. But first, I wanted to tell everyone about how impressed I was with the Swift A-frames. Both bullets were recovered from the buff. They looked the same. Beautiful mushrooms with high retained weight. Likely over 90%. Ammo box didn't make it back with me and they were in there and I didn't take a pic. I'd use them again in a heartbeat.
So the night of that first day Dean surprises the heck out of me and says "how would you like to shoot another buffalo"? Turns out the local chief wants one for a feast. Probably the best no-brainer question ever!! A big gift, like Christmas came early.
Same drill the next morning. After perhaps 30 minutes Phineas finds buffalo tracks. Much bigger herd than what we started with the day before. We also find the buffalo a lot earlier. I'm feeling pretty good. One shot and the buffalo was down. Bit of a confidence builder. This should be easy right? Not this time unfortunately.
We snuck into this herd of buffalo looking for a non trophy animal. The herd was in a roughly horseshoe shape and we came into the open area. Dean located a buffalo to our right that was suitable. Unfortunately the buffalo had other ideas and walked through my shooting lane without stopping. We continued to edge into this big herd of buffalo. Then I felt a kiss of wind on the back of my neck and I knew our luck had run out. Moments later I saw a big bull near the center of the herd lift his head and turned and looked right at us. He immediately took off along with every other buffalo in the herd. About 50-60 and likely the same herd we had seen the day before.
As we watched them depart a buffalo that that didn't get the memo stopped broadside and looked back at us. Perhaps 120 yards away. Dean asked if I could hit him. I said That I thought that I could. The legs were covered by brush. I have spent a bit of time reliving the shot. In retrospect I failed to follow the basics. I didn't "pick a spot". I hurried believing the buffalo was going to move immediately and slapped the trigger instead of squeezing..... Overconfident from the day before. All factors in a bad shot. At the report of the rifle the buffalo hunched much like the one the day before and took off. Dean and I quickly walked to where the buffalo had been standing. As we reached that point we looked to our left and could see 3 buffalo standing in the bush. We knelt down and waited to see if one would lie down. Dean looked with his bino's looking to see if he could find blood on one of them. Neither happened. They eventually took off.
We went to where they had been standing and there was blood in the leaves....... So now we had a wounded buff to follow up. Phineas got on the tracks and we followed and followed and followed. We jumped them 4 more times. Never could we ID the wounded buffalo and get a chance for another shot. My heart sank every step we took. We walked 4.5 miles that day. Roughly 3.5 of it following a wounded buff and his buddies. Your keyed up looking for a buffalo that could charge at any moment. Its one of the worst feelings in the world! Eventually their tracks rejoined the herd. Dean said it was time to give it a rest and turn it over to the game scouts. The hope was that the buffalo would lie down and stiffen up or maybe bleed out if we were lucky.
Our hopes however were in vain. That aftn we brought 3 of the game scouts and Phineas back to where the tracks merged with the herd. They spent the late aftn and early evening looking without success for my buffalo. It was not a good day for me and I slept poorly that night. I guess if you hunt long enough something bad happens, but it really bugs me to be the one to screw up.......
Day 2 has a great ending for Mike, but I'll let him tell that story.
Bruce
 

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Glad you got your first buffalo.

Looking forward to hearing about the rest of your hunt.
 
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Ridgewalker

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Excellent report so far! I felt for you making the same mistake we have all either made, or will make sooner or later.
Looking forward to more of the story!
 

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Very nice buffalo, congratulations. I agree Swift AFames are hard to beat.
 

tarbe

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First day buffalo, and a chance for a second? (y)

That was a hairless old dude! Nice shape on those horns...I really like it!

120 yards is a long poke on a buff off the sticks. I know you want that one back...but under the circumstances, I can see how all the indicators said "take the shot".
 

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