Warning, this will be a long post! Outfitter – @Nyamazana Safaris Dates – 8/22-9/6 PH – Dean Cook Location – near Marula, Zimbabwe Rifles – Remington 700 Ltd (30-06, 180gr Swift A-Frames), Ruger RSM (375 H&H, 300gr A-Frames) Travel Day 1 & 2 (8/19-8/20) SO I jumped on a deal that Wayne had for leopard, and a few months later I was heading back to Africa for the second time. Drove from home to Dallas to spend the night. I had a mid-day flight, but wanted to make sure I made the flight as it was about a 4.5 hr drive to the airport. Caught the flight no problems (American to JFK). Checking the gun was easy enough, though I liked Emirates better as they were prepared for me to show up and had everything ready. It took the American agent a little while to get everything done. Stayed overnight in New York rather than overnighting in Jo’Berg so I didn’t have to worry about clearing my rifles in South Africa. I was a little worried about New York, but honestly, everything went smoothly. Travel Day 3 (8/21) I got up and headed to the airport. Got a few looks going through the terminal but not too bad. I was flying SAA over, and had to wait a little while for check in. Once I checked in, they called the police to come check the rifles. They took down some info, and walked me to the TSA oversize bag check. Same thing there, no problem and off I went. I had upgraded my flight to business class so I went and spent time in the SwissAir Lounge. I spent the morning drinking coffee and trying to relax. The lounge helped, as it was a bit quieter. Finally made my way to the gate and boarded. Business class was nice, food was an upgrade over economy and it was nice to lie down. The entertainment selection was not nearly as good as Emirates. Business class fare Day 1 (8/22) Landed in JNB in the morning. Hopped a flight to Bulawayo – the boarding process was definitely different. They crammed every single passenger onto a bus and we had to wait for a while…not a particularly pleasant experience. The flight over was just fine though. I landed in Bulawayo, cleared customs and collected my rifles. As I walked out, my PH Dean came right over (I was the only hunter that morning). Walked out and met Simon and Rukar (sp?), our trackers/drivers for the hunt. We head to camp, which was south of Marula. We picked up our government game scout when we turned off the blacktop, and made it to camp a little while later. Once we met all the camp staff (Francis – cook, Mishak – farm scout/tracker, Victor – skinner, and the general hand who’s name I cannot remember), I settled into my hut. Very basic camp (no electric besides a small light ran off solar panels, no WiFi, etc) and I loved every minute of it! Anyways, we set out to shoot the rifles and then went for a drive. Dean informed me that we had 2 females on bait (I had them pre-baiting). We saw warthogs, steinbuck, impala (which we tried a quick stalk on, but they winded us right away) and got to see a lot of the area around camp. Back for dinner and some sleep as the travel was wearing on me. Home sweet home Day 2 (8/23) Up at 5:30 and it was a bit chilly. Breakfast, and hop in the truck to start checking baits. We see a lot of activity and we have 5 females and 1 male on bait. We set a few cameras to check how big the male is, and replace the bait with an untouched bait from another site. We also made a few stalks throughout the morning on klipspringer (which would prove to be my nemesis throughout the trip), but no luck. We went back for lunch and afternoon nap. We got to meet the farmer who owned the land we were hunting, Mr. Mabena. He was a very nice gentleman, and he wished us luck on our hunt. The afternoon we spent driving and seeing what we could run across. We had several stalks on various species (impala, kudu, zebra), but a combination of wind and brush made them fruitless. The brush was surprisingly thick even though most of the leaves had fallen – a lot of tangled scrub brush made it difficult to pick out animals (for me anyways) and the layer of leaves made quiet stalking near impossible at best. We did get a lot of hikes in which I enjoyed, though I was feeling pretty crappy. I don’t know if it was jet lag, allergies, or some cold/sinus infection but I was pretty wore out for most of the week. We made it back to camp for dinner, and sleep followed quickly after. Day 3 (8/24) Up for breakfast and left camp around 7-730 which became the norm. We didn’t want to get to the baits too early just in case we had a morning feeder. Lots of females still, but our male didn’t return. We managed to see some baboons on one of the kopjes while checking baits, but I missed on a decently steep uphill shot. My fault – I got a bit excited for the first kill of the trip and pulled the shot. We take a walk after some impala, but never manage to catch up and get a shot. Back for lunch, and a nap. The afternoon we spend driving to new areas of the farm (which by the way was a working cattle farm), but the wind was swirling and we didn’t see a lot of movement. We saw some steinbucks running over a kopje, and made a stalk on some wary blue wildebeest but they winded us. At last light, we came around a curve and spotted some dark shapes further down the road. I hopped out and tried to get on the sticks quickly, but not quick enough. I did manage to the hind end of the zebras as they ran off. The daytime temps have been fairly warm (80’s) and the baits are starting to turn quickly. We really needed some bait. We eat dinner, then decide to take a night drive with the spotlight and see if we can call anything in – namely jackals which we heard every night at camp. No luck, as the wind was still blowing pretty good and swirling. Day 4 (8/25) Up early for coffee and a sit by the fire. We head out for our normal route, but decide to reverse our normal route to perhaps change our luck. Right off the bat we see some impala, but they are on the wrong side of the fence and not on our concession. Down the road to the next curve...wildebeest! Quickly out of the truck and on the sticks, good shot and the first animal is finally down. And we have some fresh bait! We get some pictures, the guys cut a short path and we load up. We continue to run the baits, and spot nice steinbuck ram. Another quick shot yields much poorer results this time – hit him pretty far back. I miss a follow up shot on the move, and then we are able to move into a better position and I finally finish him. They are a very cool little antelope, and Dean seems to think this is a nice ram (size wise). We check 1 more bait and run back to camp. Full mount on the steinbuck and euro for the BW. We also quarter the BW for baits. We head back out with the fresh bait and continue checking sites. While driving the guys spot another klipspringer and out we go. We stalk around the edge of this kopje and then Rukar stops and sets the sticks quickly – there is a ram, on top of a large boulder, staring at us from 40ish yards away. I get on the sticks but the PH says “Wait” as he hasn’t seen him yet and is trying to find him. After the ram runs off, it turns out he had been looking higher up thinking the ram was on top of the kopje and not the boulder right in front of us. We continued to drive, and made a stalk on some spooky impala that took off right before I started to squeeze the trigger. We finished hanging new baits, and took some of the rotted pieces to wire at the base of the tree for a chance at bushpig/hyena etc. Our male had seemingly returned based on the spoor, but the photos were inconclusive. No furry coin purse visible, but the size of the head and spoor certainly pointed to a tom. We set a second camera in hopes of getting some better angled pictures. Quick lunch at 3pm, and back out at 4. We had a few more failed stalks on impala – most were pretty short stalks as the rams seemed on edge. I was really starting to get frustrated at how quickly they seemed to blow our stalks. Blue wildebeest was also my first animal in South Africa back in March Steinbuck Day 5 (8/26) I didn’t sleep well again – this cold or allergies or whatever is kicking my butt. We start checking baits, and run across some impala again. I rush my shot, with visions of all the previous blown stalks in my head, and missed. And I got a nice little souvenir to remember it by. The (possible) male did not show up again. Seems like he only wants to show up every few nights…We leave both cameras up in hopes that he’ll come back tonight. We check the camera we had on the ground bait, and see both brown hyena (specially protected) and civet (none on quota). We head back for lunch after the last bait is checked. We take off about 2 in hopes of running across something to help replenish baits. We spot a klipspringer and make a move up the kopje to see if we can catch up. We don’t spot him, but we do see some zebra in a clearing on the other side. I get set up on the sticks, and when I’m ready the PH stops the stallion with a quick whistle. I make a good shot and we have a bait down, and my first zebra! Pictures, and we load him up and head back to get him skinned out and quartered. We head back out to see what we can come up with, but no luck the rest of the afternoon. My souvenir; I call it a "dumbass stamp" My 1st zebra Day 6 (8/27) Normal breakfast routine, normal impala spotted, but this morning we managed to stay on them. After a short run, they stop and turn back to look at us. I finally manage to make a good shot on an impala, and we have some more bait as well as my first impala. He’s not very big, but I like him nonetheless. We finish running the baits, and there was not much activity last night. Couple females, and no males… Back for lunch and get to meet Wayne, as well as his tracker Sam. We have a good lunch and just chat. Wayne had a previously planned vacation, and was going to be starting a hunt in a few days, which is why he could not guide me. I hope one day to make it back and hunt with him, as I’m sure it would be a blast. We head back out in the afternoon, add the fresh impala to a previous bait and continue searching for any PG, including a reedbuck that the guys and Wayne had mentioned was out and about somewhere. Apparently he was a very nice buck for the area. We come back for dinner and decide to try and night hunt again. We drive and spotlight for a while, not seeing much. We did see a mongoose (I think it was a yellow mongoose?) but not much else. However, on the way back we spot something – a nice duiker. I take the shot, and again pulled it. Unfortunately, I didn’t hit any vitals but broke the front legs. Pretty upset with my shooting so far. @The Artistry of Wildlife is going to have some work to do….sorry Dennis! We manage to track the ram down and finish him. First Impala Duiker Day 7 Off to check baits, and again the impala are giving us the slip every time we see them. We see some good spoor at one of our baits with the camera, but somehow the batteries had dislodged and so we had no pictures again. We decide to build a blind based on the spoor alone, and set the camera back up. At our ground blind, we see some bushpig and honey badger tracks so we also build simple blind there as well. We’ll go ahead and sit tonight for bushpig. We spot some zebra on the way back, but as I already had one in the salt to take back and we were good on bait for the moment, we passed. Hopefully we don’t regret that decision later. We eat lunch and I attempt to nap. I was finally feeling slightly better, but still had trouble sleeping. So instead I grab a beer and read. We head out around 430 to go sit at the bushpig blind. It was very windy and cold. We did have a civet come in around 730pm, but again – no quota. We head back around 830 or 9. We shot a couple rabbits for the guy’s pot. Oh and we had another flat tire to change! We lost the first one the day before if I remember right, but now had no spares. Day 8 (8/29) No hits this morning on our baits. A front came through and it’s quite chilly again. We take the tires to a village down the road and get some help patching the tires. We continue checking baits once that is done, and take a quick hike after we spot some baboons. While hiking for a better view, we spot a klippie, but he takes off before we can get on him. We continue running baits until our road is block by a large truck with a dead battery. We manage to piece together some cables to get a jump and help them on their way. After lunch we head out for our afternoon PG search. We see some BW, and even though I have shot one already the farm hands could use some meat. We make quite a long stalk, but can never get a clear enough shot – brush is too thick and leaves are too noisy. We see some zebra and PH thinks it will be better to try and cut them off around the other side of the kopje via the truck, but they spot us and take off. Oh well. We head back to camp. Day 9 (8/30) Running baits in the morning, we see a male on camera at the spot that has the ground bait (which also has an impala in the tree). It was a brief glimpse, but it buoyed our hopes. We built a nicer blind, and will sit here tonight. We finish checking the other baits, and take an extended lunch break. We head back to the blind around 4pm. Unfortunately, we have a long, cold sit with no cat. The inconsistency of the males is the only consistent thing we have going! Day 10 (8/31) We head out checking baits again, albeit a little later. We spot some baboons while checking, and make a play. I manage to get in position for a shot, but my first shot is not great. I then take several follow up shots trying to anchor him before we finally put him down. Not happy with my shooting this trip at all. Very, very humbling experience. We continue driving and checking baits, and I take an impala ewe for the farm hands. After lunch we go sit at the blind again, hoping the male will come back after taking a night off. No luck, although we did hear some bushpig and what turned out to be a brown hyena and civet. Baboon Day 11 (9/1) We get picked up around 6AM and spot some BW on the way back. Made a stalk, but couldn’t get a shot. We eat some breakfast, and rest until about 9AM. We run the rest of the baits. While driving, the guys see some spoor that appears to be a male, heading in the direction of our first blind, and decided to sit there tonight. After lunch and a rest, we head out to sit. We had a leopard come in, a female, around 715. It was still incredible to see her up close (the blind was ~54 yds), and she wasn’t really bothered by the red spotlight. Also had a genet come in later around 1030, but we held off in hopes the male would come. It wasn’t meant to be though, and we were picked up about 6AM. Day 12 (9/2) We have breakfast and head out again at 9AM. We chased impala at one point, and my crappy shooting reared its ugly head again. Wounded a ram, and while the guys gave it their best we lost it. Very disappointed in myself. After lunch we decide to go sit at the blind with the ground bait, and as I was beginning to lose hope of a male, we agreed to take what comes in. I was trying to be positive, but it had been several days since a confirmed male was on bait and all we had to go off of was an occasional track that looked like it could be from a male. We get back to the blind around 4 and sit. We hear some crunching around 730, and it turns out a couple honey badgers have come in. I am ready to go, so the light comes on and they run off….We give it a few minutes and hear them return. This time they pause when the light comes on, and I am able to take a nice badger. Boy, do they stink! We actually found it by smell. We decide to call it a night and take the badger to the skinning shed and get some dinner. The honey badger, which might be the worst smelling animal I've ever been around Day 13 (9/3) Up at the normal time today, and out to check baits. Had several unsuccessful stalks today. Kudu – We saw some cows up on a hill, and made a good stalk but they were alone, no bulls in sight. Impala – still very spooky and wouldn’t give me an opportunity to shoot. Klipspringer – chased several up and down but could not get one to cooperate. We did finally shoot a young impala for bait just before lunch. After lunch, we hung our impala bait and continued searching for PG. We decided to hunt the river bed, hoping to catch some klipspringer feeding near the many kopjies. We saw our first 200 yards off the road, but as I was the 4th in line, it took too long for me to get to the sticks and we were spotted. That was our first and last animal spotted on our hike. We headed back for dinner and some drinks. Day 14 (9/4) We check baits, spot klipspringers from the truck and give fruitless chase, and my hopes of a leopard are dwindling fast. We have no males on any of the baits. I accepted the fact that I will not being taking Mr. Spots home this trip. We tried all afternoon for klipspringer, and the guys did their damnedest, but it was not to be either. We sat in the blind for a few hours tonight hoping for bushpig, but at 11PM we still hadn’t seen anything and the wind was still blowing quite strongly so we cut our losses. Day 15 (9/5) Had no leopards, male or female, on any of the baits. The blind we sat in did have a genet come in at 340am. We walked a lot again searching for klipspringer. We finally did come upon a male that stood still for a few seconds, but while the guys could see him from the back of the truck, I couldn’t find him from ground level. That just about sums up my klipspringer hunts. We did the same in the afternoon, with the same results – a few spotted, but they were gone in a flash. With that I packed up and prepared for the trip home. Day 16 (9/6) and travel home We loaded up, and I mean loaded up. The camp was not going to be in use until October, so most of the gear needed to go with us. We fit everything plus 6 men in the back, and the PH and I up front….wow. We ran to Wayne’s office and met his wife Jenny so I could settle my bill. After that it was to the airport and the flight. It was an easy check in process, and SAA was overall a good airline. I didn’t have the upgrade to business class on the way home – man business class will spoil you. The trip home was the same itinerary, but I didn’t have to overnight anywhere. Summary It was a dream hunt for me and it’s obviously a little (OK a lot) bittersweet as I didn’t come home with a leopard. I was also pretty upset with myself for how I shot this week. Definitely should’ve had more range time before and although work had me pretty busy, that is no excuse. The camp was a cool place that I really enjoyed though. Francis is a great cook, and the meals he turned out with the facilities he had is crazy. Some of the best game meat I have had anywhere. Wayne has got some great concessions, and we had leopard on bait everywhere – just couldn’t get the males to be consistent in hitting the baits. As I said, I look forward to hunting with Wayne in the future. He was very good at getting back with me on all my questions, especially being a “last minute” type booking. Oh and a big thank you to Jennifer @Travel Express for booking my travel again! It went off flawlessly!