ZIMBABWE: Hunting In Zimbabwe... By An African "Insider"

Discussion in 'Hunting Reports Africa' started by gillie, Aug 22, 2016.

  1. gillie

    gillie AH Senior Member

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    Afternoon all

    I have been toying with the idea of writing a hunting report from another angle... that of an African "insider". Yes the actual hunt might be pretty much the same as any one else would experience. But the build up and getting there will obviously differ a bit. This is not a hunting report as yet, but just an introduction almost to the actual report that will follow somewhere in middle October.

    I am generally a biltong hunter, not after trophies (although I do have a few mounts up against the wall) and only after the meat. Let me take you a couple of steps back, back to 2013 when I observed an elephant hunt in the Caprivi. It was the month of August and my brother in law and I drove up, first to Gobabis in Namibia and from there on to the Caprivi. Long story short, we spent about 5 days in the Caprivi and that is where the big game bug bit. We saw spoor of elephant and lion in camp, went fishing in the swamps and our on way there, walked on the spoor of the same lions that were in camp just a couple of days before. The PH assured us that the lion were long gone and after the buffalo herds of the enjoining national park. The whole trip saw us driving almost 4,000 km (2485 miles) in a week.

    Upon returning to South Africa, I purchased my third rifle and first brand new rifle... a CZ550 in 375 H&H Magnum. The wait for the license was agonizingly long and after 3 months I went back to the dealer, license in hand and collected my new pride and joy. I reloaded for the rifle from the start and used 300gr Sierra GameKings. They proved to be pretty accurate. The recoil of the 375 was something to get used to as the biggest rifle I used before that was limited to a 30-06 and 12 ga shotgun. Slowly but surely I became more proficient with the bigger 375 and in 2014 harvested a kudu cow and gemsbok bull with the rifle and said bullet. The 375 packs a punch and soon it became my new favorite and I almost sold my 30-06 as I didn't think I would still need it. Fortunately, sanity prevailed and I kept the 30-06 in the safe!

    During 2015 the idea of a big game hunt started to gain momentum. I was busy getting quotes and special offerings started to pop up everywhere. The biggest limiting factor I think to most hunters, is cost, even more so when you earn in South African Rand and the hunts are paid in US Dollars. I got shown a really good deal in Mozambique. I thought this was it. I discussed it with the Mrs and her initial response was not the response I wanted or hoped for, but after thinking about it, her voice of reason started to make a lot of sense. The Moz hunt was also not perhaps exactly what I was looking for. I would let it stand over to the next year and do it properly, and not a half assed and rushed event. I decided that I would buy the hunt for myself as a 40th birthday present and I kind of reluctantly let the 2015 hunt pass without taking the offer.

    Since deciding to let the hunt stand over to 2016, first thing I had to sort out for myself was "Where". Sure, South African hunts are cheap relative to the US Dollar hunts in neighboring countries, but this was not what I was after. The "When" I was less concerned about and the "what" was pretty obvious as well after a while... cape buffalo ! As I was looking for a more classical hunt... find tracks, follow, repeat until one finds the right bull, I was pretty open to any country, it all depended on where I could get a deal.

    Fast forward to early 2016 when I saw an advertisement on this site by Martin Pieters that caught my eye. The thread was titled "Self guided Buffalo Hunt for My South Africa Mates". I read the details and pretty much knew this was the hunt I was looking for. I let my buddy know about the details as he was coming along. The deal would entail camping in the bush, outfitting yourself and then hunting with a ph and two trackers, provided by Martin Pieters. We started chatting and the rest is history. This was about the end of February 2016.

    Since then we probably exchanged close to 80 emails, load development has been done, permits have been applied for and a whole lot of other administrative stuff finished off. So this is where we are at at the moment...

    Leaving Jozi at 04:00 on the 29th of September, arrive Bulawayo the same day by road, leave the next morning with PH Mike and drive to camp. The 7 days of hunting starts the 1st of October. Fishing rods will be packed for the idle days. Shooting 350gr North Forks Softs at 2400 fps with Cup Nose solids in the same weight and pretty much the same velocity out of the 375 HH Mag.

    This intro grew on itself...Apologies.

    Can't really wait for the trip to start, still a couple of things to sort out before hitting the road though. Will report back during middle of October. Weather in SA is starting to heat up, October in Zim will be HOT HOT HOT, but at least it won't be a surprise.

    Later
     
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  2. gillettehunter

    gillettehunter AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Sounds like a lot of fun. Looking forward to hearing about the hunt. Bruce
     

  3. Reiver25

    Reiver25 AH Member

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    Looking forward to more of the same ! Thanks for sharing.
    Regards
    Garry
     

  4. spike.t

    spike.t AH ENABLER SPONSOR Since 2013 AH Ambassador

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  5. BRICKBURN

    BRICKBURN AH ENABLER SUPER MODERATOR CONTRIBUTOR LIFETIME TITANIUM BENEFACTOR AH Ambassador

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    I hope your report grows in the same manner as your intro.

    Good luck on your hunt.
     

  6. CAustin

    CAustin AH ENABLER BRONZE SUPPORTER AH Ambassador

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    I for one very much look forward to your report!
     

  7. ActionBob

    ActionBob AH ENABLER AH Legend

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    Welcome to the forum gillie and congrats on choosing to go a real proper buffalo hunt. Looking forward to hearing all the stories and especially your opinion on how, if at all, the current political situation in Zimbabwe is affecting hunters traveling there.
     

  8. cpr0312

    cpr0312 AH ENABLER AH Ambassador

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    Thanks for sharing!
     

  9. edward

    edward GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    looking forward to pics and report,best of luck,and dont scrimp on the red wine and cold beer.
     

  10. gillie

    gillie AH Senior Member

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    With one week to go things are all falling into place, a few things left to get, last range session on Saturday etc. First leg of the trip will be from JHB to Bulawayo through Botswana...

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    The onto the area the next day from Bulawayo, not really sure where we will be ending the road trip... just guesstimating...

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  11. Baldi59

    Baldi59 AH Member

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    Maybe ridiculous question as you have done your research,however can you not fly to Kariba airport and then make your way to the designated hunting area.
     

  12. Ridgewalker

    Ridgewalker AH ENABLER LIFETIME BRONZE BENEFACTOR AH Legend

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    And the tension builds!
    I'm ready for the next episode!
     

  13. rinehart0050

    rinehart0050 GOLD SUPPORTER AH Legend

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    Good luck! Looking forward to hearing how it goes.
     

  14. gillie

    gillie AH Senior Member

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    Hi Baldi, not a ridiculous question at all. It all boiled down to cost, we were gonna be two guys driving together in one car, the cost for flying would have been 3 or 4 times of the diesel cost to drive. That was the main consideration.
     

  15. Baldi59

    Baldi59 AH Member

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    Wish you a successful hunt.Good luck.
     

  16. Roan

    Roan AH Enthusiast

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    Hi Gillie

    Lekker intro to your report.

    We also went with Martin a couple years back.

    Which camp you go to North or South?

    Looking forward to your report.
     

  17. gillie

    gillie AH Senior Member

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    Hi Roan, stayed at camp in north for 7 nights, 1 night in south on our way back.
     

  18. gillie

    gillie AH Senior Member

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    Ok so here goes...


    So the alarm went off at 3:30, I was out of the bed without too much effort. All packed and ready to go at 04:00, said my goodbyes to all while they were still sleeping soundly. Got onto the highway (freeway) at 4:15 after getting some caffeine into the system at the local gas station.


    Let me rewind just a bit, we were supposed to be two guys that drove up together, Christo my friend, however, got stuck at work, and was gonna fly through to Bulawayo on the same day. So it was just me, myself and I...


    The journey of about 920 km from my home to Mike's home, my PH for the week, was completed without too many hassles. The only speedbumps I experienced was at the Zimbabwe border and more due to a very inefficient system rather than any one trying to be difficult. I found the Zimbabwean border staff to be helpful which was quite refreshing as I was dreading the Zimbabwean border crossing. So after spending about 2 long hours getting this form and then that form I was ready to start the last 150 km of the journey. This too I was able to complete pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was sitting at Mike's place with a cold beer in hand.


    The next morning was another early one and just after 05:00 we left for the hunting area, which was "just" 580 km away. Some roadblocks and a deteriorating road slowed our progress and just after 15:00 we arrived at the Ume camp of the larger Omay hunting area. After finishing unpacking and freshening up, we still had time to go to the range and check the zero on the rifles. The 375 H&H Mag was pushing the 350gr North Forks softs out at just over 2,220 fps, slightly slower than previously as I changed the load to compensate for the extreme heat we were expecting to face. Shooting at about 50 yards, the shot went high, which was expected as the Leupold was zeroed at 100m. Back to camp where we enjoyed dinner and a few drinks before hitting the bed as the next day we would be hunting buffalo.


    First morning of the hunt we were up at 03:30, breakfast at 04:00 and on the road at 04:19. Not too far from camp we took a turnoff that lead into a thick patch of jesse right next to a floodplain and dry river. The vehicle rolled to a stop and we got out. We heard buffalo not too far away almost as we stepped out of the vehicle. We readied ourselves and I pushed a round up the barrel, put the rifle on safe and we waited next to the vehicle, trying to figure out what the herd was planning on doing. The wind so early in the morning was fickle and testing the wind we saw that the slight breeze was pushing our scent towards the buffalo, which at this stage remained hidden in the thick stuff.


    The buffalo were nervous as we could hear them moving back and forth in the jess, the dry leaves on the ground making their movement very obvious. This went on for about 10 minutes before we decided to move down into the jesse and see if we could catch a glimpse of the herd. This didn't work as the next thing the herd stampeded off away from us, leaving a thick cloud of dust hanging. We retreated and walked along the road that was on a little ridge, then dropped down onto the floodplain/river and rounded a corner in the river, we could still see the cloud of dust hanging in the coolish morning air as well as all the tracks were the buffs just minutes before crossed at.


    We slowly walked up the opposite bank when the tracker and Mike started running, calling me to run along and get closer. The herd was now in the jesse on the island we were approaching, looking at us through the new cloud of dust that formed when we bumped them again. Trying to get a quick look at the herd proved fruitless as they didn't hang around too long and disappeared in yet another dust cloud. We followed and as they cleared the jesse, the came out in the dry river bed, probably about 100m from us, moving away. We tried to glass the group for a good mature bull, but could not find anything that was old enough, although we did see some very promising young bulls in this herd.


    We were standing around looking at the herd when one of the trackers hissed at us and as we looked left, another herd of buffalo came strolling towards us, probably about 150-200m away. They were moving up the floodplain towards the jesse. This group was about 100 to 150 buffalo in size and pretty relaxed. We retreated somewhat and rounded a little rise and then straight up this little rise where the herd saw us and nervously moved back somewhat. We sat down and kept still and this settled the buffs again as they turned around and slowly made their way back to the jesse on their original route.


    We started looking for a shootable bull and one stood out from the rest quite clearly. He was not the widest of buffs you will ever see. A good solid boss, whitish face and almost symmetrical horns made it quite clear which buffalo we would target though. Problem was the he was on the far side of the herd with no open shot. This is when lady luck smiled on us as one of the younger bulls started pushing him around. He didn't like being bullied and the next we saw he was on our side of the herd. This all happened while the herd was slowly moving towards us at an angle. Now we could follow the bulls movements quite easily and also saw what looked like a limp. This was turning out to be the perfect bull to take.


    By now I was following the bull through my scope, thumb on the safety. “If he stops, take him” was Mike’s words. I can't remember when I took off the safety, everything just kind of happened. Maybe it was all the practice on the range that made everything run like a well oiled machine. The bull and the herd stopped almost on queue, the crosshairs stuck to the bulls shoulder and the shot went off almost immediately after the bull stopped. The loud slap sound meant it was a solid hit, I knew it any case when the trigger broke. I had no doubt that the bullet struck the shoulder exactly where I aimed. Mike confirmed that the shot was perfect. I guess I could have left the bull with one through the shoulder, it would have died. But the herd turned around, aiming for the Ume river. I could still see my bull through the scope, in the middle of the herd but falling behind as the rest of the herd members passed him, until he came to a stop at the back, head hanging and looking a bit sickly. Mike said reload and shoot again. So I did, aiming for just behind the left shoulder this time. I repeated the “reload and shoot again” another 3 times. After the fifth shot the bull decided he had enough was lying down.


    We started to move down just as the bull started to bellow. But the herd didn't want to leave their mate that easily. The herd came back a couple of yards, formed a very formidable line and only started to move away after some arms were waved at them. One last shot through the spine was the coup de grâce and the bull fell silent and still.


    Now the bull was lying at our feet. The hunt was done, on the first morning before 06:00. Was it easy? Compared to other hunts probably yes. Was it a lesser hunt? No way. I think we were lucky, as simple as that. And if lady luck is on your side, just smile and say thank you.


    The remainder of the time we used to catch some tigerfish, hunt an impala and bushbuck and also to hunt a hippo, which we didn't take in the end.

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  19. Roan

    Roan AH Enthusiast

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    Nice report, video, pictures and good shot.

    First day before 6! Man I wish I was as lucky!

    How far was that first shot?

    North is way better for buff than south.

    Looks super dry there. all that grass at South was water when we were there.

    Congratulations!
     

  20. gillie

    gillie AH Senior Member

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    First shot about 80m, yes superdry, Mike said he never saw the lake and Ume river that low before.
     

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