ZIMBABWE: A Sable Despite

Kevin Peacocke

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Our group started planning this hunt late last year and the date was set for the 15th May 2020. Then the lockdown came and it rolled on and on, through the irritation stage through desperation to resignation that it would never lift. Eventually a window opened for the 19th to 24th August and our eyes brightened - yes, we were going to do this thing! The group comprising Woods, Barney, Nigel, Daniel and myself kicked into high gear, servicing the Series Ones, getting travel permits signed and stamped, ammo procured and generally sorting things out. Nigel, a master cabinet maker, produced a beautiful field bar out of teak and a special edition canvas safari chair embroidered with a sable on the backrest for each person on the hunt.
Wednesday morning finally arrived and we headed off with sandwiches and coffee in the Landies at their 70kph top speed. After a breakfast stop in the hills we arrived at camp in a sedate 4 hours, excited and ready for adventure. The camp looked magnificent with its sweeping green lawns surrounding the central dining and lounge area and each of the six double rooms, all thatched with terra cotta mud walls. The place screamed 'African Safari' from an era before us, ready to lift the stress and shut out the world we had left behind That afternoon was spent at the range checking zero on the two 375's, The Ruger No1 Tropical the Verney Carron O/U double. Plans were discussed well into the evening around the fire, with the meat sizzling and the night jars calling.
Next morning the remaining three members of our party arrived from Kadoma, one of whom was an accomplished bush chef as he was to prove with several fine dishes to plump us up, including beautiful bread baked in a cast iron pot.
The hunting group set off in the Landies in search of sable and eventually spotted a large herd some distance off. Peter, our guide lead me on the stalk and we got up near twice, but no clear shot. In any event the safari owner didn't want us to shoot out of a herd, so the exercise was always going to be a practice anyway. Good practice it was at that, rolling the Courteneys as quietly as possible in the dry winter leaves, one careful crunch at a time. The afternoon ended with one more follow on another group of sable, perhaps ten of them, but the bulls were too young when we got close enough to glass them. That evening by the fire the stories flowed, and that wasn't all that flowed, but the hunting group paced themselves knowing that tomorrow would be tough.
The second hunting day saw us up earlier and more determined. This time we tried a totally different area of the fifteen thousand acre concession, looking for an elusive lone bull that had been seen over on that side. The slow drive on the traverse roads yielded a pair of klip springer, giraffe, a magnificent zebra stallion, but no sable. Eventually we approached a conical hill about 50 meters high. Barney and Peter went up to glass and soon returned in excitement - there was a lone sable bull in the bush in the flat plain on the other side. Again Peter and I stalked and there he was in the scrub, about eighty meters away and concealed in the foliage. Out came the binos and although the horns looked respectable, the body still had a bit too much brown, so immature despite being out here on his own. Back to the Landies for a think and a cup of tea, and it was decided to cross the whole concession to the far corner in the mafuti woodland section. Well we saw wildebeest, giraffe, eland, kudu, bushbuck, warthog, zebra and of course impala, but not a single sable. That night around the fire the conversation was a bit subdued, the beautiful embroidered black sable on our chairs looked to be an elusive creature.
Third day we decided to split the action - the morning Would be spent out beyond the airstrip and then through the mopani groves , and in the afternoon we would explore the vlei areas that marked the eastern boundary of the concession (it isn't fenced). The morning began with lots of elephant spoor, and we stopped along the way to collect fresh dung for our bengal cat who just loves rubbing in it. The concession owner had warned us to give the ellies a wide birth, the cows charge at the drop of a hat apparently. So we tiptoed through their area, but still saw no sable. A little further on we came into an area of small granite kopjies and there were a group of five bulls, But alas all immature. This was proving hard. Back to the lodge for lunch and a brief snooze before heading out to the the top of the vlei in the far eastern corner. And there, walking down the road like a model was a young sable, and then to the left the rest of the herd of about ten animals. The three bulls amongst them looked reasonable, but because they were in the herd, and because they weren't quite shooters anyway we passed on them. We then made our way back down the vlei, and there on the right just out of the fringe bush stood a group of five more, nervous but we got close enough for a good look. One was borderline and I was really tempted to take him, we were now down to the second last shooting day, but something said no.
Second last day it may be, but there were still a few hours of daylight left. Onward we pressed down the vlei track peering to the bush fringes for that telling black form, and I was far away when Barney tapped my shoulder. He and Peter had spotted a possible in a clump of palms up ahead. We glassed it and this lone bull was better than anything we had seen so far. Closer and closer we got and he began moving off. Please stay I whispered as we took the Landy off to the right towards the bush fringes. With the wind being right I would make a stalk from there there alone, if indeed he had hung around. And yes, there he was! I de-bussed, loaded the Ruger No1 and crept forward trying to be three inches tall. The bull was weary, but fortunately more interested in the vehicle now to my left. At about seventy meters I realised it was either now or never and raising the rifle the red dot of the Leica settled on his shoulder. It would have to be a free standing shot, no time for the sticks. Surprisingly it was all far steadier than my pounding heart said it should be, a sort of calm seems to descend in those last closing seconds.
At the shot, as the 300 grain 375 Trophy Bonded Bear Claw slammed home, his back legs buckled briefly and he darted off into the bush. The Landy rounded the bush on the other side and there he was, down, after maybe 40 metres. I felt the usual mixture of elation and sadness, but a close look at this great bull showed him to be mature, totally black with some secondary horn growth. He wasn't the biggest sable, but he was my sable, and I was happy.
That night in camp we cracked open a good single malt and a few cigars and life was complete.

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cls

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Well done, congrats.
 

gillettehunter

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Nice bull and sounds like it took a bit to find him. Congrats and thanks for sharing.
Bruce
 

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Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 

Brent in Az

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Nice sable. Nice pith helmet, Safari Style!
 

Cam Moon

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Sounds like you had a great time with some great friends! Those kind of memories are the best trophies and can last a lifetime. Congratulations on your Sable!
 

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Congratulations.

It is great to read of your trips in a year dearth of hunting. Hope your going somewhere else soon. ;)
 

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Zambezi

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Well done Kevin, nice bull!
Was this your planned hunt in the valley?
 

Jumbo

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Lovely Sable, great story of what sounds like a magic hunt with mates!

Great to hear your hunt went well. where did you end up hunting?
 

AZDAVE

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Sable are such regal animals, and you had a proper hunt for a nice bull. Congratulations.

It is always great to make life long experiences/memories with friends.
 

Philippe

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Well done ! Nice bull ! Congratulations !
You are lucky to live in a great hunting country where you can move just 4 hours for having a great hunt .
Those reminds me my young years in Hupper Volta .
In Gabon , these things are a little bit different (n)
May we have pics of the canvas chair and the Landy's please ?
Congrats again
Ps : sorry for my poor english , i'm french !
 

Kevin Peacocke

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Well done Kevin, nice bull!
Was this your planned hunt in the valley?
Hi Zambezi, thanks to you and all of the AH team who responded, glad I could share something that is dear to us all. No, this isn't the Zambezi hunt, hopefully that will still happen later this year. There are some fantastic offers on buff in many areas, less than half price. It would be great to support all these outfits that are trying so hard to survive.
 

Kevin Peacocke

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Well done ! Nice bull ! Congratulations !
You are lucky to live in a great hunting country where you can move just 4 hours for having a great hunt .
Those reminds me my young years in Hupper Volta .
In Gabon , these things are a little bit different (n)
May we have pics of the canvas chair and the Landy's please ?
Congrats again
Ps : sorry for my poor english , i'm french !
Thanks Philippe, soon Zim will be open to international flights and you must come to enjoy this special place.
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