ZIMBABWE: Elephant & Leopard In Zimbabwe - Cancellation Hunt Report

Green Chile

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Every day hunting is a good day but sometimes you just hit all of the marks. This is one of those hunts but in some unexpected ways. Call it hunter’s luck…or good fortune…but I was very blessed to be able to take advantage of this cancellation hunt. At DSC this year, a client of mine introduced me to a PH he had hunted with previously; Benny Lategan of Lategan Safaris. Benny is a PH from South Africa but he also guides in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana and Mozambique and gave up a successful career as a pharmacist to pursue his love of professional hunting over 20 years ago. I sat in his DSC booth for some time talking about his hunts and noticing that he is very successful on leopard. Nobody likes to jinx themselves but upon asking several times about his success on leopards, he replied…100% for the last 7 seasons. We talked some numbers but I was already booked for a buffalo/croc hunt (see report here https://www.africahunting.com/threa...ame-hunt-with-mattanja-hunting-safaris.76233/) and we decided to see what could happen later.

Well, later came sooner than I expected! Some months later, Benny contacted me about a cancellation leopard hunt where the 50% deposit was already paid. Then he dropped a little bombshell when he said, hey do you want to add trophy elephant near Hwange Park for $15k only? I almost fell out of my chair. It would be just 10 weeks after my buffalo hunt but I couldn’t say no. My only request was that as much as possible, this would be a leopard hunt first and elephant hunt second. Well…it was a good thought anyway but not easily executed. You take what the hunt gives you.

This was going to be a leopard/elephant hunt in a CAMPFIRE (Community Areas Management Program for Indigenous Resources) area above Bulawayo in the Dollar and Bubi 1 concession areas. For some reason, this area gets a lot of bull elephants only out of Hwange Park…no cows are ever seen here. There are different theories as to why that is but the facts are you just see bulls and that's not a bad thing. Typical ivory taken are in the 30-40 pound range. Good enough for me but the leopards are of a different class. Photos of the ranch leopards taken in this area of Zim have always impressed me. These are those big, pressured ranch cats that kill cattle and are tricky to take. It was going to be a 14 day hunt in the heat of the last half of Sept. I couldn’t wait to get there.

This trip had me taking a couple of Dakota rifles; a model 76 in .416 Rigby for the elephant and a model 10 in 7x57 for shooting bait animals and the leopard. The .416 had been hunted on a lot of dangerous game by its previous owner (also a member of this forum) but this was it’s first hunt with me. The 7x57 was new. Both rifles have Swarovski scopes with 4a illuminated reticles. I really like these scopes and reticles and have them on several of my hunting rifles. They have allowed me to take some difficult shots in low light conditions, which tends to be where a lot of my success has come from over the years. Since this was a CAMPFIR hunt for leopard, we would be allowed to use artificial light and hunt at night for the leopard over bait. One more thing on these Swaro scopes, do yourself a favor and give Mark (site sponsor) a call on pricing. I normally have bought in the past from the big shops online (EO, etc) but forum sponsor Mark Biggerstaff from R&M Firearms gave me a fantastic quote and I will be buying more from him. He’s also just a great guy to talk to. Thanks Mark for helping make this hunt a success!

IMG_4501.jpg


I will write this hunt report a little differently than usual with different subjects/highlights on each post versus a day by day report for 14 days.
 
Looking forward to your report-love your choice for leopard rifle/optics. In my mind, that is the perfect selection. Both rifles in your battery strike me as well set up and beautiful
 
Those are some beautiful long guns GC! Can’t wait to read your hunt report.
 
Looking forward to next installment! Loving that 7x57 by the way.
 
Travel

Yea, travel to Africa isn’t fun but it helps to use a good agent like Travel Express and I appreciate their good service and attention to detail. This time I flew on Air France direct from DFW to Paris…Paris to JNB…then to Bulawayo….then driving a few hours to camp. I didn’t have a lot of heads up on this cancellation hunt to get good rates but Darren Ginn found me the best thing available. Thanks Darren! I look forward to using you next season again...and maybe I need to use Delta direct to Jo’burg again! Two 12 hour flights plus layovers are worse than 16 hours direct to me. In July, I flew on Turkish Air and I wouldn’t say there was a lot of difference between Turkish Air and Air France. It’s about the same flight time from DFW and the service is about the same. I didn’t have long enough layovers to leave the airport on either trip.

I also enjoy using forum sponsor RiflePermits.com for help with permits and transferring firearms through JNB. Every trip, it seems like there is some little issue they help with. A lot of times it’s just Marius or Anna saying to someone, hey just do your job! Easier for them to say that since they work with them every day at the airport. Marius and Anna are also just fun people to make the airport a little easier to transit.

One thing I’ve learned on these long trips is I don’t sleep well on airplanes and airplane food doesn’t sit well with me for some reason. I’m not a picky eater at all but the smell and taste is just off putting to me. On this trip, I didn’t eat or sleep much for 2 days both coming and going. Do yourself a favor and bring some food in your carry-on that agrees with you. You don't want to start or end your trip not feeling well.
 
Looking forward to your report-love your choice for leopard rifle/optics. In my mind, that is the perfect selection. Both rifles in your battery strike me as well set up and beautiful
Thank you for the compliment. I would not change anything about the rifles, optics or ammo for this trip. It was a great combination. The single shot was in NO way a hindrance and it carried very nicely. Neither rifle had a sling and that worked out great. I had a sling in camp but prefer not to use them most of the time. I like having my rifle in my hands and keeping control of the muzzle at all times when tracking with others. The #1 job of any hunting client is to be safe around others.
 
Few thoughts on ammo

This was a hunt that didn't give me a lot of time for rifle prep and of course, I decided to take 2 rifles that were new to me! This was my first time using the North Fork cupped point .416 solids and I loved them! More on that to come.

370041557_6579495895438474_2044754565947131460_n.jpg


Amazingly, the first 4350 reload recipe I tried for the .416 produced this result. Obviously, load development stopped immediately! The other load on paper is the 156 grain Norma Oryx as loaded by Extreme Custom Ammunition at 2600 fps. One thing I'll say about that is I called them 3 weeks before the hunt and asked if they could send me some loads quickly for the 7x57 as I was running out of time to test. The ammo arrived about 1 week later and the quality was very good! Thanks for that fast service and great ammo!

IMG_4572.JPG


IMG_5433.JPG
 
Travel

Yea, travel to Africa isn’t fun but it helps to use a good agent like Travel Express and I appreciate their good service and attention to detail. This time I flew on Air France direct from DFW to Paris…Paris to JNB…then to Bulawayo….then driving a few hours to camp. I didn’t have a lot of heads up on this cancellation hunt to get good rates but Darren Ginn found me the best thing available. Thanks Darren! I look forward to using you next season again...and maybe I need to use Delta direct to Jo’burg again! Two 12 hour flights plus layovers are worse than 16 hours direct to me. In July, I flew on Turkish Air and I wouldn’t say there was a lot of difference between Turkish Air and Air France. It’s about the same flight time from DFW and the service is about the same. I didn’t have long enough layovers to leave the airport on either trip.

I also enjoy using forum sponsor RiflePermits.com for help with permits and transferring firearms through JNB. Every trip, it seems like there is some little issue they help with. A lot of times it’s just Marius or Anna saying to someone, hey just do your job! Easier for them to say that since they work with them every day at the airport. Marius and Anna are also just fun people to make the airport a little easier to transit.

One thing I’ve learned on these long trips is I don’t sleep well on airplanes and airplane food doesn’t sit well with me for some reason. I’m not a picky eater at all but the smell and taste is just off putting to me. On this trip, I didn’t eat or sleep much for 2 days both coming and going. Do yourself a favor and bring some food in your carry-on that agrees with you. You don't want to start or end your trip not feeling well.
Same experience with the airplane food, I don't even want to smell that giant cart of microwave dinners lol
 
Same experience with the airplane food, I don't even want to smell that giant cart of microwave dinners lol
Yea man...I read what you wrote and could smell it again! Ugh. I took some beef jerky, dried fruit, etc and didn't eat much else on the flights. I did drink water every time they offered it.
 
Few thoughts on ammo

This was a hunt that didn't give me a lot of time for rifle prep and of course, I decided to take 2 rifles that were new to me! This was my first time using the North Fork cupped point .416 solids and I loved them! More on that to come.

View attachment 561310

Amazingly, the first 4350 reload recipe I tried for the .416 produced this result. Obviously, load development stopped immediately! The other load on paper is the 156 grain Norma Oryx as loaded by Extreme Custom Ammunition at 2600 fps. One thing I'll say about that is I called them 3 weeks before the hunt and asked if they could send me some loads quickly for the 7x57 as I was running out of time to test. The ammo arrived about 1 week later and the quality was very good! Thanks for that fast service and great ammo!

View attachment 561309

View attachment 561311
Wow!!!
 
Yea man...I read what you wrote and could smell it again! Ugh. I took some beef jerky, dried fruit, etc and didn't eat much else on the flights. I did drink water every time they offered it.
Sorry about that lol I can smell it now too.
 
Keep the words flowing! Enjoying this post!
 
Weather and general conditions

It was HOT being the last half of September. As many of you know, they call October in Africa “suicide month” due to the heat. This was a tented fly camp with no air con or luxuries so the days were tough and the nights were more comfortable. Those who have been there know what a LUXURY it is to have a hot shower at the end of a long day in Africa. I really looked forward to that every day and a cold drink at night to get the dust out of your throat!

It rained briefly one night and EVERYTHING is desperate for the rains. The waterholes were very low or dried up and this has really affected all of the animals. It was really discouraging to see the local communities fence off the few waterholes for the cattle to keep wild animals away from water. This is actually a breach in contract for a CAMPFIRE area. They also are not doing a good job maintaining their bore holes, solar pumps, etc. Africa is one of those mixed feelings for me; so many opportunities but not very many people are trying to make a difference.

One good thing about hunting in a CAMPFIRE area is you are donating meat to the locals. On this hunt we donated around 14,000 pounds of meat (ahh…a little foreshadowing of what’s to come), which is a great feeling when you see so many young and old that look like they need a good meal. Of course, they use every part of the animal…washing out intestines…using the bones, etc. I will post some photos later on this subject.

One interesting thing of note is there was no cell signal available in this area of Zim, unless you had one of the local phones. It always amazes me how an expensive iPhone can’t get a signal and the tracker’s crappy flip phone has reception in the bush. One of my friend’s was hunting LDE in Cameroon and the tracker’s cell phone rang while on the final stalk!

This would have been a good area to use a sat phone. Even the PH’s phone didn’t work for most of the 2 weeks. There was a sat phone offered here for sale just before my trip and I almost bought it. Of course, most of the time you can make a plan in Africa but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. TIA.
 
Weather and general conditions

It was HOT being the last half of September. As many of you know, they call October in Africa “suicide month” due to the heat. This was a tented fly camp with no air con or luxuries so the days were tough and the nights were more comfortable. Those who have been there know what a LUXURY it is to have a hot shower at the end of a long day in Africa. I really looked forward to that every day and a cold drink at night to get the dust out of your throat!

It rained briefly one night and EVERYTHING is desperate for the rains. The waterholes were very low or dried up and this has really affected all of the animals. It was really discouraging to see the local communities fence off the few waterholes for the cattle to keep wild animals away from water. This is actually a breach in contract for a CAMPFIRE area. They also are not doing a good job maintaining their bore holes, solar pumps, etc. Africa is one of those mixed feelings for me; so many opportunities but not very many people are trying to make a difference.

One good thing about hunting in a CAMPFIRE area is you are donating meat to the locals. On this hunt we donated around 14,000 pounds of meat (ahh…a little foreshadowing of what’s to come), which is a great feeling when you see so many young and old that look like they need a good meal. Of course, they use every part of the animal…washing out intestines…using the bones, etc. I will post some photos later on this subject.

One interesting thing of note is there was no cell signal available in this area of Zim, unless you had one of the local phones. It always amazes me how an expensive iPhone can’t get a signal and the tracker’s crappy flip phone has reception in the bush. One of my friend’s was hunting LDE in Cameroon and the tracker’s cell phone rang while on the final stalk!

This would have been a good area to use a sat phone. Even the PH’s phone didn’t work for most of the 2 weeks. There was a sat phone offered here for sale just before my trip and I almost bought it. Of course, most of the time you can make a plan in Africa but sometimes it just doesn’t work out. TIA.
Love my sat phone Iridium 9555
 

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