ZIMBABWE: Buffalo In The Savé With Mokore Safaris

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May 2022 Location: Hammond Ranch, Savé Valley conservancy Outfitter: Mokore Safaris PH: Dalton McLIntock
My brother Kevin and I took turns as “Hunter” and “Photographer”. This is my feeble account trying to describe my wonderful first day of buffalo hunting…

The pre-dawn darkness was colder than expected, we Canadians were a little unprepared and underdressed, our local members of the crew sporting tuques and coveralls as we left the camp. We were perched on the open air seats in the box of the bakkie, bouncing over the rough track and through dry river valleys, in the grey light, headed back to where the big herd was feeding the evening before.
As we passed a gloomy spot along the river bank, the unmistakable odour of "weasel" came to our nostrils. A civet midden. Funny how that same pungent smell is universal to all members of the family, no matter if it's Fisher or Wolverine or if in the Canadian bush or civet in the African bush.

As we approached the pan, we could see fresh patties of manure and the churned earth left by many big cloven hooves. Here the cool damp air smelt like a beef feedlot. We eased the vehicle forward, trying to determine the direction of travel during the herds morning feed. Someone whispered “Lion” and looked to our left. A lioness was crouching, staring at us with great intensity from a small opening in the brush. We drove a little further, and with hunter’s intuition, Dalton and our tracker Andrew agreed the herd was close enough.

We loaded up. I carried the .375, with solids in the magazine for “contingencies” in case of unplanned encounters with elephant or if penetration was needed for follow up shots on wounded buffalo. A soft point in the chamber, safety on. Scope on low power. And binoculars, essential in this type of hunting despite the close distances involved.

Listening for the herd, as the day started to warm we were greeted by Cape turtle doves all around us, cooing at the dawn with their soothing repetitive call. We soon heard Buffalo. Herds are not subtle. Grunts and heavy footsteps, brush cracking, farts and belches and the odd bellow of a calf separated from its cow. A couple of bulls sparring, heavy horns crashing together sounding like a low-pitched version of curling rocks during a takeout shot. Knees a little shaky, hands too. Take a deep breath. This just got real.

A go-away bird started calling, perching unseen in a tall acacia and with its catlike mewing voice warning the herd of our presence. Step very carefully, peer into the deep shadows with binoculars, looking for a flick of an ear or swish of a tail.

There! Nope. Just another boulder. It seems quite unreasonable that this countryside is littered with granite boulders that are the size, shape and colour of Buffalo. Or Rhino. Adapt our mental image and move on.

Stalk and creep, coming to rest on a granite outcrop. Movement ahead. The herd seems disturbed, but we know that by carefully hunting into the wind we didn’t scare them. They file by, in ones and threes, about 150 M out through a small opening in the thorns. Dalton tells me to get ready, I sit and adjust the sticks for a rest. I watch at least 50 go by, seeing fleeting images of backs and butts and horn tips. Dalton with a quiet mantra of “ cow, cow, young bull, cow-calf, OH nice bull, now cow in front, etc. etc. It’s too far to shoot.

Brush cracks to our left. Intense whisper. There’s a dagga boy right there! I carefully swing the rifle around, seeing the massive chest clearly for a couple seconds, then the heavy head and horns just 30 M away as he picks his way towards the herd. One more step and the crosshairs would settle on the chest.. Nope. He steps into a dry sandy wash and follows the depression all the way to the main herd. We see him again as he departs in all his crusty majesty, too far for a sure shot.

Let’s go! Almost trotting through the clutching thorns, we follow the herd. See a lion track superimposed on the fresh track of a buffalo. Hmm. Interesting. Catch up with them a kilometre later in more thick brush, moving along in an irregular, strung out mass. We can see bits and pieces of the dark forms, rely on our other senses for more clues.
Suddenly a herd of Zebra on our left cut loose with their silly barking call and we hear them gallop off.

Kevin says a quiet ‘hey” – and a bounding, lithe tan body oozes from the tall grass right beside us and crosses our path. Intense whisper from Dalton. “Lion! DON’T move” Andrew whispers a few words in Shona. Dalton says – “more lions behind us!” the footfalls thudding on the dry earth sound quite different than buffalo. Quicker and much quieter. But they have our full attention.

They also pass to our left, just a few meters away and invisible. The herd out in front blows up, it's a brush-crashing pandemonium as they panic and gallop away.
Time to regroup and strategize.

continued....
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Last edited:

Longwalker

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Afternoon, first day buffalo hunting...

Lunch at camp was a welcome break followed by a snooze. Back out at 2:30, to catch up with animals rousing from their own siesta in mid-afternoon. So began our routine for the hunt.

We picked up the herd, a kilometre or so from where we left them to the lions. They seemed to have settled down.

A slow, careful stalk got us close enough to see more bits and pieces, but not close enough for a shot. Time to change tactics. Dalton motioned for me to get down, and for the rest to stay behind. We crawled like leopards for 100 M or so, cradling our rifles in our arms or placing them sideways on the grass in front of us, and using elbows, knees and toes to creep forward. We caught glimpses of the edges of the herd a couple times. Not good enough. We noticed some activity in a more open spot a couple hundred meters to the right. We carefully walked closer, then repeated the “low” approach.

Perhaps it may have been better if I was three years old instead of more than 60. “Duck squatting” and leopard crawling are two of my least favourite methods of locomotion, especially when crawling over ground studded with thorns. One exceptionally nasty thorn managed to pierce the heavy sole of Andrew’s boot, stopping our forward momentum until remedied.

We were more successful the second crawl, and Dalton urged me to very cautiously ease up to kneeling and take aim at a big old bull that had turned and peered at us, not sure what we were. He was massive, muscular, and a little scary. He was in good range for a rock, not a rifle. His horns swept out wide and low before coming up in wicked points, sprouting from a hard, solid boss. He looked at us for a long time, peering over a low bush with baleful eyes and a scarred muzzle. The bush was perfectly covering his heart and lungs.

The crosshairs of my scope were pretty steady, considering, but there wasn’t a clear opening in the bush big enough to shoot a bullet through. A deflected bullet was just too risky. A cow came over to see what he was staring at. She snorted, and they left. They all left. There is nothing quite so empty as a thorn thicket that recently held buffalo, with no buffalo in it.

With a mischievous grin, Dalton said, "let's see your hands!" I'd like to report they were steady as a rock, but nope. I'm not quite that manly.

We followed that herd for a fairly long way, perhaps a couple more kilometers, playing hide and seek amid the thorns and low hills. Once the gleaming white shell of a dead tortoise caught my attention, and as always, interesting birds flitted here and there. We were sometimes startled by spur fowl. Remarkably similar to our Gray Partridge, they have the same heart stopping tendency to flush raucously from nearby, cackling loudly as they did so.

Towards dusk we caught up with the herd once more, as time was running out. In the low light the herd began to move more tentatively, knowing that it was time to bed and keep watch for the night predators.

We approached as always from downwind, Andrew puffing little squirts of wood ash from a traveler’s size liquid soap bottle to check the wind direction as the ashes drifted in the light swirling breezes. Wind OK. Dalton surprised me by walking boldly directly towards the herd, jumping them from their rest and moving them forward.

We strode quickly behind, then something even more surprising. Dalton let out a loud bellow, and repeated it quickly and often. A “calf in distress” call. The tail end of the herd slowed, and we could hear a couple of them turn around to investigate. An old cow thrust out her muzzle and stepped forward. A young bull followed, tossing his horns threateningly. Another bull, older and a possible candidate, hung back behind a screen of thorns but assumed a defensive, and investigative pose.
They couldn’t make out what we were in the fading light, but they were not spooked. They just turned and drifted away.

Dalton said it was a tactic that was worth a try, and had worked for him at other times just at last light. I have so much to learn.

Night falls very quickly in the tropics, and the hot, smokeless fire made from dense Mopane wood was a welcome luxury waiting for us when we returned to camp. It was turning chilly again. Dalton asked me how I liked my first day hunting buffalo. I said it was wonderful, beyond expectations. Three times on the sticks. “Success without venison”.
P1010113.jpeg
IMG_5636 (1).jpeg

Somewhere in the darkness, tree frogs began their chorus. A spotted Hyena called WhoooouP! A primitive, scary sound that brings a chill down my spine. The hyena knows very well that humans are just another kind of meat. Much farther away, a male lion roars a challenge, followed by the grunts that proclaim his territory to all rivals. Time for the night shift. We’ll leave that to other hunters.
Tomorrow it’s Kevin’s turn.
 

Kevin Peacocke

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Afternoon, first day buffalo hunting...

Lunch at camp was a welcome break followed by a snooze. Back out at 2:30, to catch up with animals rousing from their own siesta in mid-afternoon. So began our routine for the hunt.

We picked up the herd, a kilometre or so from where we left them to the lions. They seemed to have settled down.

A slow, careful stalk got us close enough to see more bits and pieces, but not close enough for a shot. Time to change tactics. Dalton motioned for me to get down, and for the rest to stay behind. We crawled like leopards for 100 M or so, cradling our rifles in our arms or placing them sideways on the grass in front of us, and using elbows, knees and toes to creep forward. We caught glimpses of the edges of the herd a couple times. Not good enough. We noticed some activity in a more open spot a couple hundred meters to the right. We carefully walked closer, then repeated the “low” approach.

Perhaps it may have been better if I was three years old instead of more than 60. “Duck squatting” and leopard crawling are two of my least favourite methods of locomotion, especially when crawling over ground studded with thorns. One exceptionally nasty thorn managed to pierce the heavy sole of Andrew’s boot, stopping our forward momentum until remedied.

We were more successful the second crawl, and Dalton urged me to very cautiously ease up to kneeling and take aim at a big old bull that had turned and peered at us, not sure what we were. He was massive, muscular, and a little scary. He was in good range for a rock, not a rifle. His horns swept out wide and low before coming up in wicked points, sprouting from a hard, solid boss. He looked at us for a long time, peering over a low bush with baleful eyes and a scarred muzzle. The bush was perfectly covering his heart and lungs.

The crosshairs of my scope were pretty steady, considering, but there wasn’t a clear opening in the bush big enough to shoot a bullet through. A deflected bullet was just too risky. A cow came over to see what he was staring at. She snorted, and they left. They all left. There is nothing quite so empty as a thorn thicket that recently held buffalo, with no buffalo in it.

With a mischievous grin, Dalton said, "let's see your hands!" I'd like to report they were steady as a rock, but nope. I'm not quite that manly.

We followed that herd for a fairly long way, perhaps a couple more kilometers, playing hide and seek amid the thorns and low hills. Once the gleaming white shell of a dead tortoise caught my attention, and as always, interesting birds flitted here and there. We were sometimes startled by spur fowl. Remarkably similar to our Gray Partridge, they have the same heart stopping tendency to flush raucously from nearby, cackling loudly as they did so.

Towards dusk we caught up with the herd once more, as time was running out. In the low light the herd began to move more tentatively, knowing that it was time to bed and keep watch for the night predators.

We approached as always from downwind, Andrew puffing little squirts of wood ash from a traveler’s size liquid soap bottle to check the wind direction as the ashes drifted in the light swirling breezes. Wind OK. Dalton surprised me by walking boldly directly towards the herd, jumping them from their rest and moving them forward.

We strode quickly behind, then something even more surprising. Dalton let out a loud bellow, and repeated it quickly and often. A “calf in distress” call. The tail end of the herd slowed, and we could hear a couple of them turn around to investigate. An old cow thrust out her muzzle and stepped forward. A young bull followed, tossing his horns threateningly. Another bull, older and a possible candidate, hung back behind a screen of thorns but assumed a defensive, and investigative pose.
They couldn’t make out what we were in the fading light, but they were not spooked. They just turned and drifted away.

Dalton said it was a tactic that was worth a try, and had worked for him at other times just at last light. I have so much to learn.

Night falls very quickly in the tropics, and the hot, smokeless fire made from dense Mopane wood was a welcome luxury waiting for us when we returned to camp. It was turning chilly again. Dalton asked me how I liked my first day hunting buffalo. I said it was wonderful, beyond expectations. Three times on the sticks. “Success without venison”.
View attachment 480915View attachment 480916
Somewhere in the darkness, tree frogs began their chorus. A spotted Hyena called WhoooouP! A primitive, scary sound that brings a chill down my spine. The hyena knows very well that humans are just another kind of meat. Much farther away, a male lion roars a challenge, followed by the grunts that proclaim his territory to all rivals. Time for the night shift. We’ll leave that to other hunters.
Tomorrow it’s Kevin’s turn.
Excellent write up @Longwalker , having hunted with Dalton I know your hunt went well and I can't wait to hear more of it. Save is special.
 

buck wild

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Very nice report going here. I shall return!.
 

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A fantastic description of your first day! I really could feel the excitement.
 

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your feeble account is impressive! thanks for sharing it with us.
 

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Afternoon, first day buffalo hunting...

Lunch at camp was a welcome break followed by a snooze. Back out at 2:30, to catch up with animals rousing from their own siesta in mid-afternoon. So began our routine for the hunt.

We picked up the herd, a kilometre or so from where we left them to the lions. They seemed to have settled down.

A slow, careful stalk got us close enough to see more bits and pieces, but not close enough for a shot. Time to change tactics. Dalton motioned for me to get down, and for the rest to stay behind. We crawled like leopards for 100 M or so, cradling our rifles in our arms or placing them sideways on the grass in front of us, and using elbows, knees and toes to creep forward. We caught glimpses of the edges of the herd a couple times. Not good enough. We noticed some activity in a more open spot a couple hundred meters to the right. We carefully walked closer, then repeated the “low” approach.

Perhaps it may have been better if I was three years old instead of more than 60. “Duck squatting” and leopard crawling are two of my least favourite methods of locomotion, especially when crawling over ground studded with thorns. One exceptionally nasty thorn managed to pierce the heavy sole of Andrew’s boot, stopping our forward momentum until remedied.

We were more successful the second crawl, and Dalton urged me to very cautiously ease up to kneeling and take aim at a big old bull that had turned and peered at us, not sure what we were. He was massive, muscular, and a little scary. He was in good range for a rock, not a rifle. His horns swept out wide and low before coming up in wicked points, sprouting from a hard, solid boss. He looked at us for a long time, peering over a low bush with baleful eyes and a scarred muzzle. The bush was perfectly covering his heart and lungs.

The crosshairs of my scope were pretty steady, considering, but there wasn’t a clear opening in the bush big enough to shoot a bullet through. A deflected bullet was just too risky. A cow came over to see what he was staring at. She snorted, and they left. They all left. There is nothing quite so empty as a thorn thicket that recently held buffalo, with no buffalo in it.

With a mischievous grin, Dalton said, "let's see your hands!" I'd like to report they were steady as a rock, but nope. I'm not quite that manly.

We followed that herd for a fairly long way, perhaps a couple more kilometers, playing hide and seek amid the thorns and low hills. Once the gleaming white shell of a dead tortoise caught my attention, and as always, interesting birds flitted here and there. We were sometimes startled by spur fowl. Remarkably similar to our Gray Partridge, they have the same heart stopping tendency to flush raucously from nearby, cackling loudly as they did so.

Towards dusk we caught up with the herd once more, as time was running out. In the low light the herd began to move more tentatively, knowing that it was time to bed and keep watch for the night predators.

We approached as always from downwind, Andrew puffing little squirts of wood ash from a traveler’s size liquid soap bottle to check the wind direction as the ashes drifted in the light swirling breezes. Wind OK. Dalton surprised me by walking boldly directly towards the herd, jumping them from their rest and moving them forward.

We strode quickly behind, then something even more surprising. Dalton let out a loud bellow, and repeated it quickly and often. A “calf in distress” call. The tail end of the herd slowed, and we could hear a couple of them turn around to investigate. An old cow thrust out her muzzle and stepped forward. A young bull followed, tossing his horns threateningly. Another bull, older and a possible candidate, hung back behind a screen of thorns but assumed a defensive, and investigative pose.
They couldn’t make out what we were in the fading light, but they were not spooked. They just turned and drifted away.

Dalton said it was a tactic that was worth a try, and had worked for him at other times just at last light. I have so much to learn.

Night falls very quickly in the tropics, and the hot, smokeless fire made from dense Mopane wood was a welcome luxury waiting for us when we returned to camp. It was turning chilly again. Dalton asked me how I liked my first day hunting buffalo. I said it was wonderful, beyond expectations. Three times on the sticks. “Success without venison”.
View attachment 480915View attachment 480916
Somewhere in the darkness, tree frogs began their chorus. A spotted Hyena called WhoooouP! A primitive, scary sound that brings a chill down my spine. The hyena knows very well that humans are just another kind of meat. Much farther away, a male lion roars a challenge, followed by the grunts that proclaim his territory to all rivals. Time for the night shift. We’ll leave that to other hunters.
Tomorrow it’s Kevin’s turn.
Great write up! I felt I was there beside you!
 

Doug3006

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I really like your style of writing! I’m hooked. Proceed.
 

Longwalker

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Thanks for the encouraging words everyone! More will have to wait for a while, sorry! I'm off to my remote bush camp in Northern British Columbia for a month or so. Very limited internet there. I hope this little write up gave you a feeling of what this hunt was like. I prefer writing about how it felt rather than just a report of what we did. It certainly was a wonderful 10 days and a grand experience.

OK one more little incident...

A conversation while hunting buffalo:
Dalton: “The herd crossed here! Time to take off boots and wade across”
Me: “are there any crocodiles in the reservoir?”
Dalton: “Na. Let’s go”
Amos: mutters a few words in Shona
Dalton: “let’s try where it’s shallower”
Me: looks quizzically at Dalton
Dalton: smiles, shrugs, “Amos says a crocodile lives here…"
IMG_5691.jpeg
IMG_5694.jpeg
 

neckdeep

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That is awesome, the Save is a very special place!! What 375 H&H did you take ?
 

Kevin Peacocke

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Thanks for the encouraging words everyone! More will have to wait for a while, sorry! I'm off to my remote bush camp in Northern British Columbia for a month or so. Very limited internet there. I hope this little write up gave you a feeling of what this hunt was like. I prefer writing about how it felt rather than just a report of what we did. It certainly was a wonderful 10 days and a grand experience.

OK one more little incident...

A conversation while hunting buffalo:
Dalton: “The herd crossed here! Time to take off boots and wade across”
Me: “are there any crocodiles in the reservoir?”
Dalton: “Na. Let’s go”
Amos: mutters a few words in Shona
Dalton: “let’s try where it’s shallower”
Me: looks quizzically at Dalton
Dalton: smiles, shrugs, “Amos says a crocodile lives here…"
View attachment 481020View attachment 481021
Longwalker you need to come to Africa more often, I thought you were wearing white gumboots there!
 

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Enjoy the bush camp. Keep up the feeble writing when you get a chance. We will be waiting.
 

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A couple of bulls sparring, heavy horns crashing together sounding like a low-pitched version of curling rocks during a takeout shot.

You know you’re from the prairies when you come up with a simile like this!

Great report, please keep it coming:)
 

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I’ve been waiting for this! Can’t wait for more!
 

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