ZIMBABWE: Elephant Hunt With Wayne Van Den Bergh At Nyamazana Safaris

cal pappas

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Zimbabwe 2017



Gentlemen:
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Here's a rundown of my elephant hunt with Wayne van den Bergh, July 16-25, this year. Actually, I'm typing this in camp as, for the first time in Africa, have internet service at the camp!

The PH.
Wayne van den Bergh is a born Zimbabwean and a PH for 27 years, beginning in 1990. He is based in Bulawayo, has a lovely bride, Jenny, and two teenaged sons. This is my second consecutive year hunting with Wayne and he has shown himself to be an excellent product of the most stringent professional hunting school on the planet--Zimbabwe. I recommend Wayne highly. He is self employed, does his own bookings, and his busy schedule attests to his reputation. Google Nyamazana Safaris. A few days after I depart, a mate from Alaska is coming to hunt buffalo with Wayne. Wayne's rates--both daily and trophy fees--are the best "bang for the buck" in Zimbabwe.

The Camp.
We all have been in fine tented camps before so I was not expecting to write much about the camp. Last year's camp was just fine with Wayne in the traditional style. This year, however, I just about fell off the Land Crusier when we pulled into Malindi camp. Originally set up for photographic safaris, the camp also caters to hunters beginning in 1994. The accommodations? Vintage wooden passenger cars, set on railroad tracks, from the Rhodesian Railway! The name plates and original lights added to the decorum. Each car was divided in half with each room having a oversize English bath tub or shower, toilet, and a large and comfortable bed. Having been a rail fan since a kid in the 1960s (and still having a pickup load of Lionel post war trains at my home) it was delightful to be here. Cornelius the cook, Cloud the waiter, and the lady who cleans the rooms and does the daily laundry added to the ambiance.

The Game.
Both here at Malindi and on the Gwai Ranch (an hour's drive) game is plentiful. Elephant, buffalo, giraffe, kudu, sable, roan (no hunting them), impala, bushbuck, leopard, warthog, duiker, grysbok, lion (not on quota), civet cat, baboon, and crocodile. Hippo had moved down river during this, the dry season.

The Rifle.
What makes the hunt for me is the rifle I use. For this hunt I decided to leave my vintage .600 nitro by Wilkes at home (after 4 Africa and 2 Australia hunts) as I'm too old to lug a 16-pound boat anchor on long walks in the African sun. Rather, I'll take a .500 nitro in its place. The .500 is a new acquisition and I have not taken any game with it to date so it was the first candidate of choice. Made in 1907 by Watson Brothers, the .500 is a best quality double, fully engraved with side clips, 24-inch barrels, and weighing just shy of 12 pounds. I like to find the history of my doubles but the original owner is a mystery as is the rifle's early years. I do know, however, it was Jack Lott's rifle in the 1950-60s. When he passed it on, the next owner shot elephant and buffalo with it. I have a letter from Lott and the photos of the big game in my files.

I use only Woodleigh bullets in my doubles (unless I cast) and I brought both solids and softs on this trip. 106 and 110 grains of IMR 4831 (solids and softs respectively) regulate to a 2 1/2-inch group at 50 yards over a rest.

The Hunt.
There is plenty of game to be found here, but Gwai Ranch is the thickest bush I have ever hunted! The thorns ripped my high quality $4 Wal Mart t-shirts to shreds and also turned my lower legs into hamburger, taking away their youthful appearance. We saw elephant each day early in the hunt and bumped many other critters whilst walking, stalking, and tracking. We spooked elephant in the thick and they would run off, perhaps 30 feet away, and we would not see them! Sometimes the jumbo would cross the road ahead of the vehicle or when we were on foot. All this when carrying a vintage double--it does not get any better.

Early in the hunt, beginning tracking at first light at 6 am and about 40 degrees F (a bit cool even for this Alaskan in shorts and a t-shirt). We followed the tracks of a few bulls for two hours. Staling to within 40-50 feet, they smelled us or heard us and took off. We waited a half hour to let them calm down and began the stalk. At 9:30 we were on them again and came to 30-40 feet where they were feeding in very thick bush. I believe there were four bulls, but I could only see parts of three of them. Wayne positioned me for a shot at a bull on the right but it was not a good shot for me so he moved to the left a bit. As he did so, a bull on the left raised his head and Wayne gave me a silent thumbs up for me to take the shot at him.

I must digress here a bit. I have seen many photos of elephants and their potential brain shots. The elephant is facing straight on for a frontal brain, or side ways for a shot through the ear hole. However, I was a bit befuddled at the scenario that I was confronted with here. The bull was quartering on to me. The shadows in the low sun did not illuminate the bull well for the shot. As I was trying to calculate in my brain the proper shot for the brain at this angle the bull lifted his head a bit and looked at us. I pressed the rear trigger.

Wayne fired a split second after I with a high shoulder shot. The bush was so thick we could not see any of the elephant behind mid-shoulder or below mid shoulder. Only the top of his shoulder and his head were visible.

The bull ran off so my shot missed the brain. We followed quickly and it was an easy track as a distressed elephant shits his guts out. After the droppings ceased the trackers picked up drops of blood but the tracking was very difficult in the hard and rocky ground. When the track was lost (remember, there were three other bulls here, too) there was no doubt my bull was covering more ground than we were. Bottom line, we followed his tracks to the Gwai River by last light.

In the am the tracks were located and the bull crossed the river into a neighboring tribal council. Wayne phoned the council chair to let them know we were in pursuit of a wounded elephant. It was our moral duty to do so, and our legal duty to do so, also. It is an expected courtesy among land neighbors to allow such trespassing. But, Zimbabwe is Zimbabwe. The council chair said sternly and rudely, "No" and proceeded to tell Wayne (I could hear the phone conversation) we could come on the property to kill the bull for a fee of $10,000. If the elephant was found dead we could recover it for payment of the same fee. If not, the tribal trust would claim the bull--meat and ivory.

I could see Wayne beginning to steam a bit. He proceeded to tell the chair (while holding his temper) they could not legally keep the ivory as it was not on the quota of their land and that it was both common courtesy and a legal obligation to let us recover the bull. Long story short--we were told to vacate the land!!

Wayne spend the remainder of the day phoning Parks officials, higher up council members, the gent to holds the hunting rights to the land, etc., to make some headway in the situation. Now, a few phone calls in the states is one thing, but in Zim phone lines go dead, phones are switched to use another carrier, folks don't return calls, they are not in, etc. All this is called "Africa time" but we had a wounded and dangerous bull to recover. Who would be responsible if the bull killed someone?

By the day's end it was worked out. We would offer $1000 to the council so they would "get something." But we lost a day and we had to get a game scout for that concession if we were to hunt that land. Damn! The scout was not on the land but somewhere in Wankie and we had to wait until the next day for him to arrive on a bus. He would join Wayne's staff, Sam and Cowboy, and some locals from the Gwai Ranch, for the continuation of our pursuit.

The next day the scout arrived and we were off. We offered a $200 reward if the bull was located to add incentive for some locals who joined in the search. This was now in the third day and who knows how far the elephant had gone? The trackers followed the bull's track back across the river to our concession so the scout was not needed anyway (but we didn't know that yesterday). Later in the day the bull was located, dead. In a straight line he went just under 3 kilometers but walked several times that distance, I'm sure. He died the first day but we could not catch him. No vultures were seen even though he fell fell in a small clearing. The sun bloated him so photos were not taken for publication but were done to document the hunt's ending.

The shots? Wayne told me, "You must be the unluckiest hunter, ever" and called me over to the skull. My bullet passed just under the brain and exited the other side of his head (Woodleigh's are the best!). Wayne's shot was indeed high on the shoulder and he bled out but very slowly. I don't know if my shot caused any fatal internal bleeding. The tusks weighed approximately mid-30s. My shot was very close to the brain but it did not stun the bull. If I had used my .600, would John Taylor's theory of stunning the bull be validated (as it was on one of my hippo kills a few years go and published in the African Hunter magazine..

The local council got the meat but it was stinking badly. They said when it is cooked the smell will go away. No thank you! I have the ivory, front feet (stool and dust bin), and skull in the hope the ban will be lifted and they will have a place in my Alaska log home.

Conclusion.
An excellent experience, no doubt. My only complaint is a 3:30 am wake up call to get on tracks at first light. At my age, I prefer to begin hunting at 8, break at 9 due to the heat, and resume hunting at half-4 to last light. Seriously, I will hunt with Wayne again, I'm sure. Next year it is off to South Africa to hunt buffalo with Mark Sullivan after a two-week vacation in Zimbabwe. In 2019 a three-week tour of Zim is planned to see all the tourist and natural sights in today's Zimbabwe and the old Rhodesia. Perhaps I can schedule a hunt that year with Wayne.

Thanks, all, for reading.
Cal
 

whitetail

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Congratulations Cal!!! What an amazing hunt and the way you formulated/wrote it was fantastic!!!... Wayne is such a great guy and his staff is impeccable!! Sam and Cowboy are incredible at tracking and their knowledge of game and the country/terrain is simply amazing!!... Would love to see more pics if available- I hunted with him in the Marula district this past late February (friend of mine I was with was after leopard- we came up short because a tropical cyclone made landfall 10 days prior to our arrival- but still had an awesome adventure and memories that will last a lifetime). I want to hunt elephant with Wayne in the future! Again- congrats on a job well done!!... And tell Wayne hello from Nathan Box in Missouri if able. I was able to get a nice klippi on that trip

 
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375 Ruger Fan

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Cal,

Thanks for sharing, quite an adventure. Yes, Zim is a great safari destination. The railroad car camp does indeed sound good.

I think all of us here on AH look forward to your hunt report for next year with Mark "Death" Sullivan. (y)
 

Neale

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Thanks Cal for your story. It must have been a frustrating time for you and the PH when dealing with "This is Africa"
 

Ridge Top Ranch

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Great Report! I will be hunting with Wayne's outfit in a week for elephant. Wayne has me hunting with Pierre Hendermark. Can't wait. Second trip to Zim, first hunt for elephant.

All my experiences with Wayne so far have been top notch!
 

#1 of 13

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Hope you didn't wear him out for me. Looking forward to hearing the story before I leave.
 

cpr0312

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Congrats and thanks for sharing!
 

gillettehunter

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Thanks for sharing. Quite the hunt. Sounds like very tight quarters for hunting, Had to just piss you off the guys delaying your follow-up on your bull. Some folks are just a pain to deal with. Many in the states as well as africa and elsewhere. Sounds like you had a great time. Congrats Bruce
 

Royal27

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Thanks for sharing your story Cal!

And here is to the lifting of the import ban.
 

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Damn, if a 500 can't stun him, you must have pissed some hunting god off.

You certainly got that full TIA experience on that hunt.

Thanks for sharing the tale with us.
 

cal pappas

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Fellas:
Thanks for the comments. This is my 13th hunt in Zim and it is like a second home. Have already planned a vacation in 2018 before a SA hunt and a vacation to see the entire country in 2019.
Note the last photo: the lion of the left has a snare wound on his upper left leg.
Some here emailed me for additional photos. I didn't put them on at first as I didn't want to monopolize the forum's space. So, here are some additional pics to include (but I'm not sure the order they will post) the railroad camp, lions we saw today, the rifle, etc…
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cagkt3

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Great stuff Cal, and congrats on the bull!
 

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Glad you had a great hunt. Also, happy that the elephant made its way back into your concession. Hope your able to get the trophies home one of these days.

Thanks for sharing the experience with us.

Please tell Wayne, Cowboy and Sam hi for me. I'm not sure how someone like Wayne got a treasure like Jen, but give her my best as well.
 

AZDAVE

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Cal,
Thank you for sharing and a great report. Hunting in the really thick bush takes a while to grow on you but make you appreciate each new adventure.
Using the rail cars for camp is just a really special touch. Will have to keep them in mind for the future.
 

Royal27

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Love the pics! All of them.

Thanks @cal pappas for pointing out the snare. I would have missed it on the lion.

What day did you shoot the elephant on anyway?
 

Coldswede

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Is it Zimbabwe that has banned the export or is it the country you live in?
 

Royal27

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Is it Zimbabwe that has banned the export or is it the country you live in?

Zimbabwe exports under CITES quota.

It is a country, such as the United States, that blocks the import of elephant despite CITES that is the issue.
 

cal pappas

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I shot my bull on day 2. Saw many the first day but too thick.
The US has banned elephant and lion imports from Zim and Tanzania under Obama.
How thick was the bush? Here are two pics of the Gwai area. Malindi is much more open.
Cal

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Congratulations on your bull and thanks for the story and pix.
 

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