ZIMBABWE: Elephant, Leopard, Cape Buffalo & Plains Game with Nyamazana Safaris

AfricanEclipse

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Safari operator: Nyamazana Safaris @Nyamazana Safaris

Area: Zimbabwe, Bubiana Conservancy – Drummond Ranch

PH: Wayne Van Den Bergh along with Sam, Cowboy and the local scout Dumasen

Flight Reservations: @Travel Express - Lori Spears

Gun Clearance: @riflepermits.com

Dip & Pack: Chipitani Safaris, Andy Hunter out of Harare

Taxidermy: @The Artistry of Wildlife

Tusk reproductions by TCI in Bulawayo

Dates of Hunt: 14 – 27 October 2018

Rifles:

#1. Colt Light Rifle in 30-06 with handloaded 165gr Peregrine plainsmaster bullets topped with Zeiss Diavari FL 2.5-10x 50 with illuminated #60 reticle.

#2. Mod 70 Alaskan 375 H&H using 300 gr Peregrine Bushmaster “softs” and 300gr Federal Premium Woodleigh Hydro’s topped with Leupold VX-6 2-12x42 with firedot duplex.

Fishing Rod(s):

#1. Fenwick HMG Casting Travel Rods (two) with Shimano Chronarch CI4+ casting reels, one loaded with Braid and the other with 12lb mono.

#2. Fenwick HMG Spinning Rod with Diawa Lexa 2500 (12 lb mono) and also an older Penn 4500 (18Lb).

These rods come in 3 sections with two different tips, a medium and a medium-heavy as well as a nice travel case. You can fit three rods in one travel case and my checked bag was long enough to accommodate the rod case.

Rifle Case: Pelican Storm 3300

If you want to skip the story and see a few of the pictures from this hunt, go to https://www.africahunting.com/threads/incredible-hunt-offer-available-for-leopard-buffalo-elephant-hippo-crocodile-plains-game-2018.44906/

I will be posting additional pictures on this thread as I retell the hunt. If you are bored and want something to read, then join me as I tell about the adventure. I will apologize up front for the lack of quality pictures, my wife wasn’t with me this trip and she’s usually toting a big lens.

Background

A little background and thought process before I jump into the hunt report as it all ties together. My wife and I, along with @AfricanEclipse and his better half had returned from a great hunt with @Nyamazana Safaris in late July, detailed here https://www.africahunting.com/threads/zimbabwe-2018-cast-blast-x2-with-nyamazana-safaris.44690/

After squaring up the final tally with Wayne on the last morning before departing Drummond Ranch, I put down a deposit for a leopard hunt to take place in 2020. I had put in many many hours of research sifting through leopard hunting reports taking place in Zimbabwe and Namibia on various forums dating back to the 2000’s. One area stood out, the Drummond Ranch. There was enough positive information that I was sure we had a very good chance of taking a leopard. Plains game hunting the area for ten glorious days, seeing leopard sign and probing Wayne with leopard hunting questions for at least nine of those ten days gave me the utmost confidence to put down a deposit before we left!

Yes, a leopard hunt in this area is going to cost in the range of $26-30,000. I would rather pay more for a high success rate hunt versus a cheaper hunt with much lower success. When I say high success, I’m talking close to 100%. You read and hear the frustrating reports of hunters going two, three and even more times before they are successful bagging Chui. In many instances, these hunts are advertised at much lower cost, some with higher trophy fees and lower daily rates. Why the lower cost, because the success rate is also much lower with a higher trophy fee. You add up the costs of two or more “cheaper” hunts and you exceed the cost of a high success rate hunt.

I don’t fight fair, wanted to limit the amount of lady-luck needed in a high success rate area and was willing to pay the price. I was extremely confident I would be coming home with a leopard in 2020! My wife and I were looking forward to returning to the Drummond Ranch and the spectacular scenery and abundant free ranging wildlife.

Within three weeks of returning from our Cast and Blast adventure, Wayne posted a cancellation hunt at a significantly reduced daily rate:

https://www.africahunting.com/threads/incredible-hunt-offer-available-for-leopard-buffalo-elephant-hippo-crocodile-plains-game-2018.44906/

There was no way I could go back so soon, or was there? Stars aligned with work, finances (since this hunt was severely discounted and I was able to apply the 2020 deposit) and my ever-understanding wife gave me the go ahead without her coming along. I would be back in Zimbabwe on the Drummond Ranch in two months!

The discounted hunt also included the opportunity for another chance at the few wily buffalo that lived in the area, an elephant that was on quota, hippo and croc. We had chased some of these buffalo during the first hunt and they would out-walk us (never stopping even after 10 – 12 miles), out-smarted us and wore us into the dirt day after day. I was looking forward to a buffalo rematch and was warming to the idea of an elephant. I had never given elephant hunting much thought as I never imagined I would hunt one, how things can quickly change.

Obstacles

Two months to go, I don’t have any softs for my 375 H&H. I carried Federal 300 gr Hydro’s on the first hunt but never fired a shot as the 30-06 was a killing machine and I never had a good chance at a buffalo. My 30-06 load from the previous trip was spectacular and is documented here (https://www.africahunting.com/threads/peregrine-165-gr-30-06-load-development.42317/). I would also be using the 30-06 for the leopard.

For this trip, I wanted some softs as I wasn’t going to take a 375 to Africa twice without killing something, that wouldn’t be right! I also wanted a back-up to the 30-06, you never know what can happen and take a rifle out of commission. I HATE paying for factory ammo and decided to try and work a load up for the Peregrine 300 grain Bushmasters. I detailed the path I took in this thread:

(https://www.africahunting.com/threads/rl17-with-300-gr-375-h-h.45036/)

I had trouble finding consistency but figured out just a few days before leaving that my scope bases had worked loose! It was no wonder some of the loads weren’t repeatable, loc-tite solved the problem. I did work up a good load that shot well and was close to the factory Hydro’s POI, the final confirmation at the range just a few days before the next obstacle reared its head, Hurricane Michael.

I live on the Florida Gulf Coast and the small tropical storm that turned into major Hurricane Michael was headed straight at us! Landfall was projected between Pensacola and the Big Bend region on Wednesday the 10th of October, the day before I was to depart from Pensacola to catch the Delta non-stop out of Atlanta on Thursday the 11th of Oct.

By Tuesday afternoon I had the storm curtains up on the house, boat tied down, bags all packed and now it was time to sit and watch where the storm would end up coming ashore.

Rifles, extra scope and fishing reels ready to go:

View attachment 260958

Storm shutters in place:

View attachment 260960
Radar image of storm:

View attachment 260957

I had purchased AIG travel insurance through Lori @Travel Express and was thankful I had the policy. At this point, I can hardly sleep. I’m awake by 2am Wednesday intensely studying the 15-minute radar updates looking for some sign of weakening or path deviation. At 4 am Michael is still coming straight North, bearing down on the coast and I was worried. The storm hadn’t yet turned to the Northeast as the hurricane models had predicted. I texted my good friend @jacques smith , who lives to the east and is closer to the storm’s path, he had decided to evacuate before the local bridges were shut down by high winds. The storm ended up turning a few hours later and spared us but inflicted massive damage just 70 miles to the east, devastating the Panama City and Mexico Beach areas as well as many small communities well north of the coast.

What else could go wrong? I ended up breaking a piece of my tooth off Wednesday evening! A visit to the Dentist early Thursday morning and he was able to patch me up. The Delta app showed the 1330 flight to Atlanta was still on time so the wife and I headed to Pensacola. The airport was operating and even though Hurricane Michael’s path had taken it just south of the Atlanta area, my flights arrived and departed on schedule.

Back in Africa

The past two trips to Johannesburg, my wife and I stayed at the AfricaSky Guesthouse and utilized the firearms clearance service they offered. This trip, being by myself, I decided to stay at the airport City Lodge and used @riflepermits.com to clear my rifles and assist at the airport. No issues and prompt and courteous service from Anna who met me on my arrival to JNB and departure to Bulawayo the following day.

Arrival in Bulawayo

No issues with ticketing or my flight to Bulawayo on 13 October (unlike the first trip) and Lori was able to snag me a seat up front on the flight. I noticed a gentleman and his daughter (at least I think it was) sitting across the aisle from me and he was reading one of Kevin Robertson’s books, easily pegged him as a hunter, possibly Spanish. Upon touchdown in Bulawayo, I texted Wayne that I had arrived and he responded he would meet me at 1pm, about an hour to get through all the red tape was about right. I was the first one off the plane and into the receiving area. I had most of the required forms pre-filled upon arrival and was the first person in line, had my Visa in short order, through the gun inspection and out the door in record time. I texted Wayne again and told him “you owe me beers”, I was 25 minutes ahead of schedule! To be fair, Wayne jammed in this cancellation hunt between a family vacation and his next hunt as he had just gotten back home from Europe 12 hours before I arrived and was prepping as quickly as he could for this hunt.

After exiting the secure area, I was greeted by another PH and his wife thinking I may have been their client and chuckled no, they are still in there filling out all the government forms. We chatted for a few minutes until Wayne showed up and we headed back to his house to finish up some final packing and preparations for the leopard hunt. It was hot in Bulawayo, very hot. We arrived at Drummond that evening and with the light fading decided we would get settled and check the rifles in the morning. We enjoyed a good meal with a few cold beverages as it was mid 90’s. Back in my room, I readied my kit, dropped the mosquito nets and climbed into bed thinking how surreal it was that I was back at Drummond Ranch so soon. It was still very warm and humid but a good breeze had kicked up billowing out the curtains as I fell asleep.

Day 1

The winds the previous evening brought in a significant change in the weather, rain. This was like a repeat of the first trip in July when we experienced rain for the first couple of days.

Wind, rain and mist as we wait out mother nature:

View attachment 260961

We delayed our departure from the lodge, another cup of coffee it is, until the rain subsided to a mist and proceeded to shoot the rifles. The 30-06 was exactly where we left it from the first trip in July while I adjusted the 375 H&H down a few clicks, the softs and solids printing close together about an inch and half high. Perfect!

Second order of the day, we need leopard bait! I had already made up my mind that we were going to use Zebra for bait and as many as it took to get our cat. Wayne and I had previously discussed leopard hunting in October as it could be very hot and only big baits would last more than a day. Oh, and leopard just love Zebra!!! We drove for a bit looking for Zebra but didn’t see much game of any species until later in the morning as the rain and mist slowed. I donned my rain jacket and jumped up into the high seat, just a few sprinkles every now and then. We spotted some Zebra and they ran off, a stallion stopping and looking back but I couldn’t find a path for the bullet to get through the branches and he was a good 200 yards away. We drove around the corner from them, dismounted and cut back into the bush trying to sneak up on them but they had disappeared. We tracked them for 20 minutes or so until we heard and then saw giraffe galloping through the bush in front of us, no way we would sneak up to a Zebra herd with the giraffe sentries hanging around.

Back to the truck and our search for Zebra continued. We broke out into an open area and spotted a group of Zebra off to our right, a good way out. One stopped and looked at us with no foal around, fair game. I was given the green light to shoot as I steadied the crosshairs and adjusted my impact point up and slightly over as the Zebra wasn’t exactly broadside. This was a long shot and I know my bullet is dead on at 200 yards. I squeezed and let fly and could see the Zebra spin and gallop off over the crest of the hill. The shot felt good and the trackers confirmed it was a good hit. The walk to where the Zebra was standing was much further than I had thought, turning back to look at the Toyota and it was small, I was glad I had adjusted my aim up a bit. The Zebra ran off slightly over the rise and we could see where she had stumbled in the wet earth. I’m guessing the shot was closer to 225 yards as the bullet entered through the front leg and into the heart area without exiting. It was an easy recovery as there was little underbrush and we have our first four baits.

Old gray mare being loaded:

View attachment 260963

After loading up the Zebra, we set course for the skinning shed with myself and the 3 trackers in the back of the bakkie. Not five minutes later a small herd of Zebra is tearing through the brush to the left of the truck. Wayne slows and Sam tells me to take the Stallion, another shot from the 30-06 and 165gr Peregrines and I can see the impact on the hide. We dismount and follow the spoor and the beautiful stallion is down. Shot was at the top of the chevron and punched clean through the stallion at approximately 100 yards.

Wayne and I head to the skinning shed while the trackers clear a short path for the bakkie and we snap a few photos. I’m going to shoulder mount this guy and also saved the back skin.

Couple pics of the dark stallion:

View attachment 260964

View attachment 260965

View attachment 260966

We unload the second Zebra and head towards the lodge for lunch while we await the skinners to skin and cut up the Zebra quarters for baits. We drive into a crossing area where there are multiple water points and a couple of Eland bulls begin to trot away. I ask if he’s a good one and the answer is yes. I swing in front of the eland bull and follow him in the crosshairs and surprise myself with a shot.

We check for blood and sure enough, there are drops and we start following. About 150 yards in, Cowboy and I find a branch with a lot of blood and what looks like pink lung material. I’m thinking he’s not too far away. We finally run into him about 2 hours later, Wayne is able to get a shot off but didn’t appear to connect and the eland disappears. We continue following until he crosses the property boundary but have to wait an hour or so until we are able to get a game scout from the other property and continue following the blood and spoor for many more miles, bumping the eland once again.

Neither Wayne nor I could see him let alone get another shot into him. It’s getting very late and the eland crosses back into the Drummond property. We mark the spoor and walk another couple clicks until we reach Sam on the radio to come fetch us.

Exhausted and kicking myself for making such a piss poor shot decision. I’m thinking I hit him high in the top of maybe only one lung. Most of the blood spoor is on the opposite side of the body from the initial shot so there was a complete pass through. Wayne is staying positive and believes leaving him rest overnight without pushing him will help, hopefully find him down or very sick in the morning. Not a great way to start off the Safari.
Beautiful stallion!
 

AfricanEclipse

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Day 4 – Morning - 17 October

I’m splitting Day 4 events up into two parts:

Up at 0445, a quick breakfast and out the door by 0530. Truck reads 22C/71F, going to be a scorcher today. We start the day out by checking baits and head to the “lake bait” first, sure enough, the leopard had come back that evening and fed heavily. You will also notice the bait has turned very dark and is decomposing. This is the third day since the Zebra was shot with afternoon temps hitting 100F +.

Big chunk from bait missing:

View attachment 261099

We download the photos from the SD card to Wayne’s phone and start reviewing the pictures. This is why I’ve come to Drummond Ranch, CHUI!

Chui pic 1:

View attachment 261100

Chui pic 2:

View attachment 261101

Chui pic 3:

View attachment 261102

The question is, “is he old enough to shoot”? Pics 1 and 2 show a cat that is missing some tell-tale signs of an older cat. Neck is still a bit thin without a dewlap, the ears seem a bit large on the skull, the body isn’t chunky and looks like it needs to fill out more. Then we look at a picture 3 for example, looks like a good cat, showing some dewlap, ears appear to be smaller and looks heavier and this picture was hours later.

Are there two different cats hitting the same bait or is it the same cat? We compare spots and it’s the same cat. There is some doubt in Wayne’s mind if he’s old enough.

I explained the consequences of shooting a young cat in the Day 2 post, possible loss of quota the following year. We adjust the camera at a slightly different angle and press on with checking the other seven baits.

At the next bait we also have a leopard that has come to feed but the trackers say it is a female, this was a bait we had also put up yesterday.

The third bait we check is the “log across the dry creek bed” that we set up yesterday with our improvised green leafy tree. This bait was also hit, with a good chunk of the zebra quarter eaten. From the large impressions in the sand, it could be a good cat. Another camera was set up to try and get some pictures.

We re-dress the bait with the green branches the cat has knocked loose and smooth out the sand around the bait site.

View attachment 261103

The sand doesn’t reveal a definitive track, just indentations, and we search the dirt road just a hundred yards away for any sign and locate a good clear track!

View attachment 261104
The stick in the center is approximately 10cm long (couldn’t find the exact length in my notes, so going from memory here). The shaved portion was the length of the pad from a giant cat taken earlier in the year, it may have been the cat @Wm Martens took with Wayne. The total length of the spoor was good but the pad portion may be a bit short. Hopefully the camera will give us a clue tomorrow, if the cat returns as he had fed heavily during the night.

It’s 0720 and three for three on baits today! We head to the fourth bait and run into the other PH and biologist. They showed us some pictures of leopard they had taken on the ranch, nothing like more leopard pictures to keep the excitement level high! The local scout, Sunday, was also there assisting them. It was great seeing Sunday again as he was the local game scout assisting us when we were there in July.

On our way again to the fourth bait, a female Vervet monkey runs across the road in front of us and drops her young baby. The scouts jump out and are able to capture the young one, attachment point for the umbilical still fresh. Wayne and guys believe he's about a week old. I wished the little guy luck and sent him on his way up the rockpile where his mother was hiding out.

View attachment 261105

We press on to the fourth bait but no visitors. We pile back into the truck and head to the fifth bait but don’t make it more than a couple hundred yards when Wayne stops and asks me if I want to shoot a giraffe. The trackers have spotted a young giraffe missing a portion of its hind leg. Wayne calls into headquarters and they give us the ok to dispatch the giraffe.

I climb up onto the back of the truck and unzip the Model 70 375 H&H from its case, verify I have a Peregrine soft in the chamber as we turn around and head back to the spot where the trackers had spotted the giraffe. I’m glad I studied Kevin Robertson’s, The Perfect Shot II, knew the spinal cord just below the head would be a great spot to anchor the giraffe to make recovery of the meat easier. We locate the giraffe about 75 yards away, it hasn’t gone far from the initial sighting. It turns and looks back at us, I place the red firedot reticle on the center of the neck and take the shot. Placement is perfect and the 300 gr copper bullet smashes through the neck vertebra and exits, quickly ending the suffering. It appears as though a poacher’s snare had caught around the lower leg joint above the hoof and sliced completely through.


View attachment 261106
We mark the area with toilet tissue for the skinning crew to come out and retrieve the giraffe and head back towards the skinning shed where there is wi-fi. Wayne wants to send the leopard pictures into a Zimbabwe leopard expert for his opinion. We are able to get the pictures out via Whatsapp and have a discussion with him. Verdict, he’s on fence if this is a four year old cat and we should probably pass. I’ll tell you I had mixed emotions. The leopard looked good to me and from all the leopard trophy pictures out there on the net, he wouldn’t have been the smallest by far! But I understand the importance of conservation, but maybe a little dejected. There are still 10 days left to hunt, we would keep looking.

We have more baits to check and its only getting hotter out, 0930 and already climbing past 30c/86F.

Part 2 of Day 4 will follow in another post, I need to go load some ammo and get off the computer for a while!
Nice shot on the giraffe. We do what we must!
 

swoobie

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Thanks for making us all feel like we were there - great write-up of a lifetime experience!
 

Mort Hill

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Edge, your safari was a thrill! Just read from start to finish and you have inspired me to post some reports of my own. You have quite a way with words, and the pictures just add to the joy of the adventure. Thank you for sharing!
 

sierraone

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Edge, I believe that was the longest hunting report I have ever read. Congratulations on not just a hunt but a super adventure!
 

kevin masters

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Could post? lets have them. I think we have all said hunt of a life time before but I believe
this truly was!!! congratulations and thanks for the great read!:D Beers:
 

Rafael42

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Very good hunt, and an excellent story teller, I really enjoyed, thank you
 

wysongdog

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Great story!! I’m reading this as we sit at the airport on our layover heading to SA for our first trip. Talk about a great way to get the blood flowing. And making the layover drag by lol. Thanks again for the story.
 

Edge

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Great story!! I’m reading this as we sit at the airport on our layover heading to SA for our first trip. Talk about a great way to get the blood flowing. And making the layover drag by lol. Thanks again for the story.
Glad you enjoyed the story, will be waiting to see your hunt report when you return!
 

Tucketed

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Ed
Tracking the flight! Guess your excitement continues. Be nice to see the final outcome.
Ed
 

Edge

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Big sigh of relief today, Coppersmith notified me the trophies had been cleared! No issues with the paperwork and everything went smooth.

I had some apprehension as I filed the CITES import paperwork myself with the help of Andy Hunter of Chipitani Safaris who performed the dip & pack and also had Michael Lewis from Coppersmith review the form. The form is quite simple but everything must match on the CITES export/import.

With the Government funding shortfall and shutdown, I held back on sending the form in until funding and work resumed or the trophies would have been here a few months ago.

On to the tannery and @The Artistry of Wildlife!
 

BRICKBURN

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Frederik

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Edge, big congratulations and probarbly one of the best hunt reports I have read.
 
 

 

 

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