This was a trip of a lifetime for me. I never thought I would be able to afford hunting in Zambia and I have talked to a few outfitters. I had the opportunity of a lifetime back in 2017 but due to some medical issues with my family, I couldn’t take advantage of a short notice cancellation hunt that would have absolutely been the accumulation of this dream. Life happens and life happening is what brought me to Zambia in 2019.
I had no intentions of hunting Africa in 2019, I had just finished a trip to South Africa in 2018 with saw me get a Cape Buffalo, a great Sable and a one in a lifetime Hartabeest. 2019 was the year to focus on other adventures, and My father and I had booked a hunt to Kodiak to hunt Sitka Blacktail deer. On Thanksgiving 2018, my outfitter reached out to me regarding Kodiak, his wife has suddenly and unexpectedly passed away and he was closing his business. With his wife being younger than mine, it deeply affected me, I still pray for him and his family but I am happy to report that he seems to be doing well. Once the initial shock had worn off and my deposit returned, I had a gap in my calendar for the fall of 2019. The end of December came and with show season right around the corner, I had to figure out what in the world I was going to be hunting, the growing and nagging since that a hunting year might pass me by without crossing something off my bucketlist was not only a wasted opportunity but became a greatest fear for 2019 leading to a somewhat obsession. The chances of my drawing a premier tag in the west were pretty much shot, and trying to figure out another Kodiak outfitter on short notice, not knowing the outfitters and winter kill numbers seemed to be an act of futility. So my search began…
Now, knowing what you want to hunt and finding the right outfitter is extremely difficult, not know what you want to hunt or where you want to go is going down the proverbial rabbit hole. Late one night I stumbled upon a plains game package to hunt in Zambia. I asked about some different options and was able to get a package together for Kafue Lechwe, Puku and Chobe Bushbuck. This I thought was the perfect representative package for Zambia and I wanted to see if I could get an affordable add on for Black Lechwe, though due to logistics, this was not going to happen. The outfitter was Balla-Balla Safaris and I had previous read great reports on them so I knew right away this was a quality outfitter and did not need to do my usually research into them. The trip was booked, the deposit sent, and now to start figuring out logistics. The dream was in motion, it had roots, and the reality of the situation was in 9 months I would be hunting Zambia.
I was mentioned to Bruce about me hunting in Zambia and who I was hunting with, and mentioned he would love to get back to Zambia and he was familiar with Balla-Balla. I had hunted with Bruce in the past in Wyoming and eagerly told him that he if wanted to join me, he is more that welcome and I would love to share a campfire with him. A month later, I get a text saying he bought an auction hunt and wanted to know my dates I would be in camp! I couldn’t believe it, immediately called him and told him the dates. As much as I love hunting by myself, having someone you get a long with makes it that much better, and given his list of animals, seems like we were going to covering the gambit of Zambia species.
The only travel hiccup I hit was, there was a great deal posted on AH regarding Sable/Roan and trying to get that added and change my flights and the paid time off policy of my company, it was a stuggle. I was trying to get a little more hunting in but couldn’t get it happen. Of course, 2 weeks before my trip British Airways cancels two legs of my flight due to the pending pilot strike. So now I am left scrambling to get a flight booked. I used some points to get the first leg – Lufthansa (IAD To Munich), SAA (Munich to Joburg), SAA (Joburg to Livingstone). The return trip, couldn’t get points to work so I purchased Qatar Airways, (Livingstone to Joburg), (Joburg to Doha), (Doha to IAD). Now with that done, I could go back to focusing on packing. I was not taking my own gun and set up so I could rent one, I would travelling light with no worries about lost luggage and with this being my first trip to Africa without hunting dangerous game, I felt like a certain bit of pressure was off. In preparation, I was shooting pretty much any odd rifle I could get a hold of off of sticks, my thought was different triggers, different stocks, different optics, be able to shoot anything accurately and focus more on the muscle memory and the basics of shooting. I think this worked out well for me.
I left extremely late on Sunday, as I had the 10:30 pm flight to Munich. So there was no one really there at the airport at 8:30 on a Sunday. There were no problems getting checked in and through security, I was able to select seats and make sure I was locked in with Window or Aisle seats, though this is a little detail, I have found it makes a big difference when travelling. I wanted to try to get business class upgrade but since I used points this was not an option. Not much to do but sit and wait. Once boarding started, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that no was sitting next to me. This made the trip enjoyable as I did have some space, but did not make the food taste any better. I got 4 hours of sleep which was plus and before I knew it, I was in Munich.
Landed in Munich with a 6 hour start on the rest of the USA. I was trying to get a little bit of work in as I knew most of my emails I sent on Friday would have questions. I took call for the most part of the day and this was a huge mistake, as Jet Lag hit me hard and I was downing expressos to stay awake for my flight. Once on my flight, it was pretty simple and the food was better than I remembered. This was a pretty good flight as I was asleep for about 70% of it. Once in Jo’burg, I was able to meet up with Bruce. We were able to catch up and it was good to have a familiar face. On the plane, I sat next to old English lady who was going to Zambia to see the falls and some animals. I am pretty sure if she knew I was hunting she wouldn’t have been as friendly. The flight was uneventful and once we landed, traveling with a VIP like Bruce had its benefits. As soon as entering the airport there was a gentlemen holding a sign for Bruce, so I get to tag along through the gun permit process. Which I have to say was one of the smoother processes I have been apart of. We were then off in the taxi and after 2 hours, we are in Kloma, which as Bruce has previously mentioned I was a big hit with local kids. Apparently, I look like I have money, or want peanuts or that I will give them plastic bottles. Maybe it was a combination of all three but being the humble guy that I am, I was not a fan of the attention.
The drive in was nice, the towns got smaller and smaller and the huts went from brick to stick. The Chinese have built a road that cuts across the Kafue National Park, which is devoid of wildlife unless you count the elusive “African Starving Dog” as well as “Zambian Bush Goats”. Once we get close to the hunting area, we start seeing some waterbuck and a few looked pretty good. So this got my wheels spinning that this might be a good add on. As the sun was getting low and we were within site of the gate, we were driving by puku, impala, nyala and warthogs. Francolin were starting to fly as the truck drove down the sandy road into camp. I have never been to this camp or Zambia but just to have those moments that brought back so many memories of previous trips, it felt like I was home.
Once we got settled in, and I discovered fruit bats which were not exactly the friends I was hoping to make in camp. In talking, I found two things which were not exactly awesome, first we did not have any cell phone service or internet, so I had no way to tell my wife I made it (I later found out how happy she was about this) and I also found out we were hunting 2x1, and we were going to be hunting buffalo tomorrow. This was a bit of red flag at the time, but it actually worked out great and can't imagine this trip any other way. We did mention this to Dean that we were expecting 1x1 and he said lets see how it goes as there wasn't really another option. Not exact the answer I wanted but what else can you do. My Rental rifle at this camp would be a Ruger .223 – which is great because I own a few Rugers but not great that I am going to be following buffalo with a .223. It was also mentioned they still had a leopard tag available, which did make me think for a minute or two as that is the last of the big five I needed. With so many thoughts in my head, I had been fighting jet lag with pure adrenaline for about 6 hours, so with my belly full I went to bed ready for 5 am.
Wake up at 5 and get coffee by the campfire and off to make sure Bruce's rifle is still sighted in. Shot is great and we are off to cut a track with the sun coming up. The landscape is dry, like major drought and it is hard to imagine the place being 2/3rd under water, but judging the grassing/sandy fields fixed between the Anthills with trees and cover, you can see how the rainy season with standing water has impacted the area. To me it was the perfect hunting conditions, plenty of cover with shooting lanes throughout.
Outside of the water holes, there was not too much plains game, some but not like around the water. After about 20 minutes of driving we cut a track. My experience with Buffalo is that you are going to walk all day, cut a track and walk and walk. It wasn’t that I haven’t been able to find the buffalo quick but swirling winds or crunchy leaves or cows or another herd or pick something causes me to have to follow buffalo all day long. So I am mentally prepared to walk all day to get Bruce his buffalo. We are tracking a group of about 8, and with the sandy conditions it is pretty easy tracking and we are really gaining ground. Bruce and I each notice wet sand and we figure we must be close. Not 5 minutes later, there is the tell tale sign of a tale flickering up ahead. I sneak behind ant hill with the tracker and watch Bruce and Dean make the final approach, sticks go up and bang. I see the hand shake and start to catch up, even the tracker and I were high fiving. What happen next is a bit bizarre, the group we had tracked was actually eating its way to joining up with a larger group of Buffalo. Well here come 50 to 60 buffalo running to get away from who knows what and they are coming right at us. Me with my trusty .223 decide to hide behind a tree and let Bruce and Dean sort this out. A few shouts turned the group as they had no idea we were there or where they were going. They ran off, I come out from behind the tree, Bruce did the coup de grace and then the celebration began.
I told Bruce I enjoy hunting buffalo with him, as he killed his buff after only 3 miles, not a ¼ mile from a road, in a place easy to load and did it before the tsetse flies started to bit. What more can you ask of a hunting buddy. All pictures taken and load up by 9:30 am, can’t beat that.
We drop the buff off at the skinning shed and then go to get some breakfast, we take a mid day ride around and look for puku and bushbuck. This was nice because hunting is always better than just sitting around. I will also say that Dean was great with Puku, saying "no, too young", or "we can do better". There is not a lot of information on judging Puku, so this was a learning experience for me. Upon our return, Bruce mentions that we should take his 7mm SAUM, in case we see a big kudu or waterbuck. I am all onboard with this idea and I appreciate Bruce letting me borrow his rifle. I have seen this rifle in action before and it is quite impressive. We do a quick training session around the waterhole so I can get familiar with the rifle.
3 pm comes and we are off again looking for Puku. We drive around and probably look over 100 Puku, which are doing a combination of mingling in bushes and started to come out to feed. It was pretty relaxing and we did see a “good” waterbuck, but again Dean said we can do better. Driving around and with about 45 minutes left of hunting, we come around a corner and see 3 Puku feeding off in the distance and making their way around an ant hill. We get in a better position and get the binos out, the determination is that 1 is good (long and wide), 1 is long but narrow, another is wide but short. So we drive up ahead and start to circle back trying to get the wind right, due to some Impala busting us, the Puku are on alert and walking away trying to get our wind. A game of Cat and Mouse begins, the biggest issue is that there is 3 and we have to see two head angles of each to figure out which one is the one. So even when we get close, we have to look them all over. By the time we get the right one, they are walking away again and we begin looping around to get the wind. This goes on for about 3 rounds, before finally the “one” is the last one in the group and walking away. He gives that classic look back, presenting a neck shot. This is not a good shot to take, I am staring at the Puku at about 150 yards away on the sticks through the rifle. What happens next is a classic rookie move, call it “Puku” fever, call it sweat in my eyes, or blame jet lag but I threw all of the shooting fundamentals out the window. I asked Dean you want me to shoot, in my defense he didn’t say no, but in replaying in my head he didn’t say yes either, kind of an “ehh, or hmm” but I go now or never and yank the trigger, lift my head up so quick I almost see the bullet hit 6 inches above the puku. The good news a complete miss, the bad news is I missed and Dean is looking at me like why did you take that shot. Bruce was looking through the binoculars and confirms the miss, we track the group of 3 a little further and see them walking off and out of my life, completely unhurt.
We ride back to camp, me a bit down, but dinner was fantastic and we get to share a few good stories. Dean asks if we want to hunt buffalo again, Dean is a bit of a joker so I thought he was messing with us, but nope we are going for Buffalo. I can confirm Bruce was like a kid at Christmas, he was pumped. I think he floated to his room that night. I will say this, with no cell service and no internet, it is much easier to go to sleep. This also started the tradition of whoever killed last, got to eat first, it started out as a joke but Bruce and I used that with each other lot. More importantly I was getting some great sleep and was pretty much over my jet lag and other than some loud mouth Hyena’s I slept great.
So up at 5 am, coffee at the campfire, I love this routine and I am going to try to have my wife get up before me to start a campfire so I can have coffee before work but doubt I am going to have much luck. We are off for Buffalo, but my miss is still weighing on me a bit, but we are off even earlier today, maybe 5:45 or so. We immediately head back to the far water source, and find tracks, it is a much larger herd then we were tracking yesterday. The tracks are fresher as well, and they took off through a burned area, which made tracking extremely easy and we were soon catching up to them. We caught up to them probably after about a mile to mile and ½, I fall back with the tracker and Bruce and Dean start the final approach. This is a little big thicker of terrain, and I lose them at about 80 yards, given where they are at and where I saw the buffalo, I figure they have buffalo all around them and it is just a matter of time. I check the wind and all is good, so I am just waiting for the shot. As I standing there listening, I smell the smoke of our tracker, I kick the dust and see it start to blow the wrong direction. I immediate think well something is about to happen, and then I hear the tracks running and stop, then I hear the bang. I move around a bit and can see Dean and Bruce moving up, the tracker and I start to move up. I can see them getting their binoculars out, which I knew that we were about to be in an interesting situation. As Bruce mentioned a group of 3 broke out, not sure what is about groups of three at this place, but if it had been a single it would have had a different ending. But with the group of 3, we were off tracking, there was some blood but the blood ran out. I will say this, have you ever been the most useless person in a hunting group, well I have. I am tracking wounded buff, we a non-dangerous game rifle, with a PH (458 win mag), Bruce (375 Ruger) and a tracker (who is obviously useful). My goal, was to keep an eye out, not walk loudly, and watch for trees for me to climb if the situation was necessary. Overall, it was buff hunting, we bumped them a few times and then lost their tracks with where the herd had been earlier. We sent a game scout to pick up the track, see if they can find the bulls maybe resting or laying down or if they joined the herd to keep an eye on them and call us in. Overall it was a nerve wracking few hours.
Day 2 - The 15 minutes the hunting gods smiled on me
It was still pretty early, and we did see a Grysbok on the way out, which was really cool, and we were making some plans to come back and try to find it later. We get back to camp around 10:30 and Dean says let’s take a ride and look for Puku. So we take off with the plan to be back by 11:30 but you never know what will happen. We are immediately start seeing Puku, young one, female, young one, and we go off the tracks and just start driving the grass staring at the ant hills. This is a different type of cat and mouse because the animals think you don’t see them, and you are trying like hell to see them and not let know that you see them. We are about 30 minutes off the tracks when we come up to one thick little spot, a nice waterbuck is laying there and we get the binos out. We start to stare and it gets up and starts to walk off. I get out of the truck and start to track the waterbuck, now the other cat and mouse game begins of hiding behind ant hills and trying to get in position to shoot. Well come around the 2nd ant hill and we jump a group of 3 puku (all young males) and they break right towards the waterbuck, so I am thinking this stalk is over before it really begins. They go to the next thicket over, and bust a small waterbuck out (now I am thinking I am double screwed). As we are looking for the good waterbuck, we see there is another group of Puku and they actually look alright. So we are trying to now size up Puku, while also trying to find the waterbuck. We find the waterbuck, standing in the shadows of an ant hill watching the young waterbuck walk over towards it. The big mistake here is that the waterbuck has turned broadside at 150 yards and I am on sticks with a clear shooting lane. I don’t make the same rookie mistake, I take my time breath and squeeze. The shot felt great and waterbuck runs like he is hit. The young waterbuck is now running to catch up with my waterbuck, we get to where I shot and there is no blood, so we start following tracks…we go maybe 20 yards and see the young waterbuck hauling ass and the big one isn’t with him. That was a confidence boost, and as we are tracking here comes Bruce and the tracker in the truck. The tracker is on top pointing, its down, its down, there was a log that was blocking Dean and my’s view. Either way, I was pumped that my first animal in Zambia is down! The shot was perfect and surprised it went as far as it did. As we all get over to the waterbuck and are figure out where we want to take it for pictures, we notice a Puku looking at us about 100 yards away. This Puku we had to do a double take because he looked pretty good. As it is walking away, we all are scrambling for binos. Dean asks me if I want to take a closer look, I say if the hunting gods are going to give me a gift I am going to take it. So off we go playing cat and mouse and there is a group of 3 and 2 are actually pretty good, but we think the one might be a monster. After about the 3rd ant hill, we catch up to two of them and there is a good one, well before we can get the sticks set up they decide enough of the fun and trot off. Dean asks if I want to pursue them and I say lets get back to the waterbuck. We are headed back, rather lackadaisically, talking loud and not really looking out thinking all the puku have left the area. We go less than 100 yards and come around a corner and spook the big one of the group who had obviously been trailing behind, so we are getting the sticks up and whistling and making all sorts of weird noises trying to get it to stop. It finally does and it is given me a quartering away shot, with a little bit of brush in the way. I am on the sticks, looking through the scope and talking through the shot. I finally say to myself that if I was bow hunting I would take this shot at this angle. I focus on the back shoulder, breath and slowly squeeze. The shot felt great, but the Puku runs off like he isn’t hit. We get up to where I shot and start following the tracks, we are not finding any blood. We go maybe 30 yards and we are about to hit one of the grassy breaks between the ant hills and I can see the nose of the Puku laying on the ground just on the edge of the grass. With a fist pump, I take off to see my Puku. He was great, and on his way down, I seriously doubt he would have made it another season. But he was everything I could have wanted. This shot was awesome perfect, due to the angle, I am not sure a single bone was broken but the internals were complete mush. We high five, and figure out a plan to get pictures with it and the waterbuck. It was an awesome 15 minutes as both animals are either Rowland ward or pretty close. We get a ton of pictures because this pretty much my hunt at Dendro (at least that is what I thought). It is amazing how in 15 minutes, any and pretty much all pressure was off the trip for me. I am on cloud nine and we head back to camp! We drop the animals off at skinning shack and go to get some brunch.
When we get to camp, Nathan tells a Cape Buffalo chased him on his bike. We immediately load back up to investigate. We found the cape buffalo and it is a pregnant cow, who was off by herself in a thicket, she looked very pregnant and was ready to give birth. Our guess is Nathan road his bike a little to close to the thicket and she just wanted to be left alone. We back off, it was a bit of a close situation but luckily no one was hurt and the expecting mother to be was left alone for the rest of our time at Dendro.
Mike's trophies gave me a small case of horn jealousy. His Puku is a LOT bigger than the one I got 3 yrs ago. I knew mine was representative when I got him, but dang Mike has a couple of great trophies.
That cow buffalo that chased Nathan was interesting. As soon as we got to camp we heard about it from JoAnn. Another mama protecting her young. Kinda like the cow buffalo and her unborn calf...
Mike made mention of the Hyenas. We heard them a couple of nights. Mike and I both figured if someone wanted one that would be pretty much a slam dunk at Dendro. They still had one on quota, but neither Mike or I had any interest in it.
Day 3 BUFFALO
We went to bed the night of the 2nd day day thinking we were getting up at 6 and moving to Bird Estates. So at 5:20 we get a wakeup call. Dean says lets go buffalo hunting. After toast and some hot drink we take off to find a buffalo. We drive a mile back and then Phineas got on the hood. He looked pretty cold up there. We drove back by some of the heavy cover as well a water hole. apparently the buffalo had gotten the memo that we were looking for another one. We drove for well over 2 hrs and no fresh tracks on the road. Maybe 3 hrs.
Over the course of 2 full days we had seen exactly 1 buffalo from the truck and it was a calf seperated from the main herd. We're driving along and I look off to the left and there is a buffalo about 200 yds out. Very open area without a lot of heavy cover. I'm so surprised I asked Mike isn't that a buffalo?" He looked and agreed so we made sure Dean knew about it too. He drove perhaps a 1/4 mile down the road and parked. We all bail out and go looking for the buffalo. We loop back and 10 minutes later Mike spots the buff a couple of hundred yds away. The stalk is on. This buff is all alone so no extra eyes, ears or noses to worry about.
Dean and I take an angle to cut the buff off and start walking carefully. When the buff walks behind termite mound then we speed up and gain a lot of ground. Dean looks and asks if its OK to shoot a cow or young bull. I told him I wasn't expecting him to give up a trophy bull for the feast. I told him to decide if the buff was suitable. He said yes so we crept closer. I'm thinking squeeze the trigger. No mistakes on this one. We get to maybe 75 yds and the buff turns broadside in a shooting lane. Part of his rear quarter is behind a tree, but the rest of him is wide open.
I get on the sticks and turn up the magnification to help pick a spot and and squeeze the trigger. The shot feels good, but as always< I immediately chamber another round. As I'm doing that the buff spins to his right and darts around a tree and CHARGES at full speed. It felt like a charge even tho I honestly believe he had no clue we were there. He came at a all out run. After chambering the 2nd round I got on the buffalo and pulled the trigger. Dean was in the process of raising his .458 to his shoulder as I fired. The buffalo immediately face planted and turned a somersault!!!
Dean turned to me and said "well done". The buff was a young bull. Maybe 2-3 yrs old? Perfect eating animal. The first bullet exited and had lung blood on both sides. The second bullet hit just behind the eye. It exited behind the ear and into the neck. It was an obvious CNS hit. It was a spectacular end to his death run.
Me and my typing..... Mike and Phineas caught up to us. We told them what had happened . The buff had gotten to somewhere in the 20-25 yd range. I believe he would have run past us at perhaps 20 feet if we hadn't got another bullet into him. Mike said " those 2 shots were pretty close together. Did you practice doing that?" My reply was somewhat offhand, only all my life. Mike laughed and told me that was the most pompous reply he'd ever heard. We had a good laugh about it. One of our better one liners of the trip.
We loaded up the buff and went back for brunch. Afterwards we made a trip to the meet the chief and deliver the buff. Always amazing how humble many of the locals lives are. When you see their homes and living conditions it makes you thankful for what you have. Even as poor as they are many have small solar panels to charge cell phones. Some pics to follow.
I want to add this about Bruce as a bit of background. Bruce is one of the most humble, down to earth people you will ever meet. He has a great sense of humor and is extremely honest. From where I was standing about 60 yards behind Bruce, I saw Bruce on the sticks, bang, saw him reloading really fast and caught a big of movement in the background and has Dean was raising his gun, Bruce shot again. I actually do practice reloading quickly and shooting a moving target, and do a few different drills. Now Bruce, shoots a right handed gun - left landed. He has literally done this his whole life. So when I asked if he had practiced his reloading, he said without hesitation, "only my whole life". Which was the absolutely perfect thing to say when you shoot a buffalo in full charge but it was also true. It was great and I still laugh about it.
So we had a little fun and I told Bruce I would write a story regarding his day 3 buff.
This is a fictitious version based on real life events
As sun started to warm up the valley, the buff began to awake. Kicked out of the herd with a bad attitude, this was no dugga boy, this was diggua boy, the teenage spawn of a bull that have killed at least 2 lions and gore a poacher. He never knew his real mother and instead was raised by the numerous girlfriends of his dad, when his dad left the herd, he was soon on his own. He was left to roan this place, alone, fueled my anger and hate, he was going to prove to be twice the bull his father was and take back the herd. While he was having his daily wake up meal of mopane leaves, he heard the truck rumbling in the distance. He looked up, with the glare of sun in his eyes, the truck too far to see. The buff looked on with the disdain of a 60 year retired marine telling kids to get off his lawn.
On the truck, Bruce, a veteran and notorious hunter, was on the truck, waiting for the sun to warm up the coolness that can only settle in the valley of the far away places like Zambia. Knowing his hunting partner was more worried about pictures with his bushbuck, he knew success was dependent on him. As the truck slowly meander around the corner, Bruce looked in the distance and saw an out of place black spot. The black spot, started to move across the grass, his mind immediately went to Buffalo. Before it disappeared behind an any hill he was able to get confirmation that it was in fact a buffalo.
As the truck came to a stop, Bruce hoped off and told the PH and tracker where he saw the buff and a plan was formed on the best way to approach. The team began to circle around making sure the wind was perfect, the team wasn’t tracking the beast but instead trying to cut it off. Most efficiently, quietly, and quickly in single file line, the team was well positioned for the final stalk.
As Bruce and the PH moved into position, a final check of the wind confirmed that buff would walking into the ambush point completely unaware. Bruce steady on the sticks, mentally went through his shooting fundamentals, as the buff came into the shooting lane and turned broadside. The time had come, and with 3.8 lbs of pressure from Bruce’s index finger…Bruce had punched a ticket that caused all hell to break loose.
At the shot, the buff bucked from the hit, hearing the thunderous boom, he knew danger had entered his house. He turned, full of rage, charged towards the sound, unaware of what the danger was but with only revenge on his mind. The ground shook underneath the beast the same as an approaching freight train. With Bruce there was only muscle memory and talent as he quickly reloaded. He knew death was ensured…it was either him or the buff. As he raised the gun and looked through the scope, the sight picture materialized and all he saw were the eyes of rage barreling down on him. As he took the slack up on the trigger, he murmured, “so this how you want to die”. At the shot the sight picture changed, as the bullet flew true, and flipped the bull completely over, a cloud of dust rose in the air, as the beast slid to stop in the Zambian sand. With the adrenaline still pumping, the dust still in the air, the team now together approached the beast. Mike congratulated Bruce, and asked “if he had practiced for a shot like that”. Bruce, staring off into the distance sun, replied, “Only my whole life”.
So as mentioned in Bruce’s buffalo hunt the original plan was that we were going to leave in the morning. The plan changed that we are hunting buffalo. There are other farms with a much better population of bushbucks and we planned to hit them on Day 5 and Day 6 if necessary. I am basically living life on cloud 9 thinking I am done with hunting at Dendro. We have seen maybe 15 bushbuck females over the 2 days and not a single male. So I am not exactly on high alert thinking we are going to see a shooter bushbuck. I am looking for tracks and enjoying the sites and sounds of Africa. We aren’t finding any tracks of buffalo and just cruising around. We come around a corner, and there go two bushbuck, one is a good male. I didn’t really believe it, and asked both Bruce and Dean, is that a good ram as I am getting off the truck. The ram is walking straight away, I am on the sticks and trying to get a shooting lane in the brush. He is still walking away and we are pursuing it doing the awkward, gun on sticks walk. We are whistling trying to get him to stop. He finally does, breath and squeeze. Bang and 20 yards later it falls over. I am beyond excited, as I love bushbuck hunting. This was my first Chobe Bushbuck and he is gorgeous. Lots of high fives and I can not believe my luck. I was shaking all over as the adrenaline hit me. I now have 3 of my 4 animals in 3 days!! Dendro was good to me!
So by the end of day 3 Mike and I have realized that 2X1 is working out great. I have a bushbuck and an eland left and Mike has a lechwe. On the 4th day we moved to Bird estates. That was a relief because Bird estate is about 1000 ft higher. So its cooler. Also no tsetse flies. It was perhaps a 3 hr drive to get there. So no morning hunt. We get there around noon and get settled in.
Bird is set up a bit different. Dean and his family have a house near the entrance gate with the butchering facility there. The hunters are in a permanent tent down at a large pond perhaps a mile away. The tents are on a foundation and have a bricked in shower rest room area. When Dean drops us off he tells me a eland bull comes to water you can shoot him...... Of course a herd comes in to water. All cows. Dang these Patterson's eland are a lot bigger than the cape eland that I killed 9 days before. I mentally remind myself to be sure and use the .375 Ruger when I hunt them.....
Dean picks us up a little after 3 to go have a look around. We go behind the tents and across the dam on the pond. There is a big herd of Lechwe there. Dean says they are normally there. There is a bit of green grass there probably because of some water leakage from under the damn. 2 mature bulls. One is pretty darn good. They head down the valley and cross the road. Some in front and some behind. The one bull looked like he was close to 28 inches and honey colored horns.
Mike couldn't shoot his last animal just 10 min out of camp. 3 1/2 more days to hunt. Just as well look for the biggest one you can find. Besides Dean says he usually hangs out there. So we can find him later, right?
We then head up on top to look in a couple of meadows and see what is up there. We got out and took walk. Herd of eland cows that acted like we really weren't there. We did some more driving and saw a couple of herds of Zebra. I started trying to talk Mike into shooting one of them. Never got him interested. There are duiker everywhere. Get too close and they are off like a rocket. We get to the far end and see a few eland including a bull that we'd like a better look at. We get out and they are off in a hurry. Never even a second look. Hmmm they could be a problem.
Dean tells me that the cows are calving and that the bulls are off away from the cows for the most part. Later we ran into a large herd of calves and cows. Got a good look at them. Pretty cool. Found 2 of a group of 4 lechwe bulls up in one meadow. Not as good as the one by the dam.
No shooting that night so off to bed. We're in a good place and anything can happen. Peaceful night.
I do want to mention that in the morning before we left, Bruce and I had the normal coffee by the campfire and with it being right in front of the only water source in the area....the amount of doves coming into the waterhole was crazy. They were coming in pretty constant for 45 minutes in groups of 2 to 4. Bruce and I were dreaming of a mojo dove decoy, and a few boxes of shells.
Once on bird estate, it was definitely greener throughout and cant imagine what it most look like in the rainy season.
On the first "big lechwe", he still haunts me a bit. He is an absolute magnificent animal and with the white rings gave him a honey comb look. Bruce had made a comment that we were going to kill the biggest eland and lechwe all season and with 3 1/2 days I was prepared to look over every lechwe possible. Even seeing one of the other big ones (there is apparently 4), I was still going back to the big one we named honey comb. So even Bruce was peacefully sleeping, I was debating if I had messed up by not taking him especially in an easily stalkable spot.
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