ZIMBABWE: Of Cigars, Leopards & Cape Buffalo

Nyati

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Congrats for a great adventure and outstanding trophies !

You guys really know how to enjoy Africa :D Cheers:
 

BrenGun

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Thanks for sharing Mort Hill

I was fortunate enough to work & spend a fair amount of time at Aarda Camp - many many years ago!
Sure does bring back very fond memories.
excellent read!
 

Mort Hill

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Thanks for sharing Mort Hill

I was fortunate enough to work & spend a fair amount of time at Aarda Camp - many many years ago!
Sure does bring back very fond memories.
excellent read!

There was a young man, 20 yr old, Douglas, from Austria who was spending three months in Arda/Humani working for the owners, pro bono, during a gap year. He loved Arda, but could not understand the African way of thinking. Example, he showed me a tire tube on one of the vehicles he was patching. It was only patches holding the tube together. Must have been 20 on one tube. For $10, they could have gotten a new tube. But no, just keep on patching.

I had pity on poor Douglas, a great guy, so took him out with us whenever I could so he could see more than just the skinning shed and camp. This is him one day as we were looking for leopard tracks.
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Glad I could bring back some fond memories. I doubt much has changed.
 

Mort Hill

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Final Days - Chapter 2

The giraffe evening was long, but fulfilling. Our next morning started by going to the water hole about 9:00AM to wait on the warthog Pete had seen.

We set up in chairs in the shade. No blind, wind in our face. It wasn’t long before a single boar came by, but not the right pig. Later, a group of impala came in with the ram still making all the courtship moves and sounds.
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A little later, we heard the distinct sound of warthogs at the pan. Again, not the right pig, but I did get up on the sticks just in case. We were shortly busted by a group of giraffe. With the wind swirling, our hunt was over at the pan.

We continued to look for eland, and while visiting another pan, found a pack of nine wild(painted) dogs. We got right up to them in the vehicle, and they acted almost like domestic dogs. We knee better, as they followed us a ways down the track as we left. Very cool.
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We retuned for lunch and then went to take down our remaining leopard baits, as we had left some up where cats were feeding.

As evening was closing in, we stopped by the skinning shed where Big Mike was getting ready for a bush pig hunt. The bush pig was coming in to the skinners/rangers compound like clock work, but had been giving Big Mike the slip. The were feeding on discarded food from meals. If Big Mike was at the white house, the pig was at the skinners shack. If Big Mike was at the skinners shack, the pig was a the white ranger’s house. And so it went.

We told Brent and Big Mike we hadn’t come across any Eland, and they said they had just seen eland not 30 minutes before at one of the water tanks.

We jumped in the truck and made our way to the water hole just as light was starting to fade. Sure enough, we hear the familiar tap-tap on the roof. I bail out and grab the gun as Pete has set up the sticks just off the track. I really see nothing. Pete says look through that bush, and you will see a blue-gray mass. That is your bull, he is facing left, shoot him. I see the gray behind the screen of green, get down on the rifle and find the smallest of shooting windows at about 100 yds. I calculate the best I can half way up the body, on the front shoulder, and the tiny opening lines up right where I think I should shoot. Pete whispers, take the shot, this is the only chance you will have. I squeeze off the shot, and there is impact. The bull runs forward and disappears from sight. About 50 yds to our left, we hear a crash, the a low bellowing moan. The bull is down. Neither Pete nor I have seen the eland. As we arrive at the bull, Pete explains what an old perfect bull he is. Horns worn and battered, he is an old gentleman and the perfect eland.
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What a finish to the day. We head back to the skinning shed being sure no to whoop it up too much as we find Big Mike and Brent walking to their destiny with the elusive bush pig.
Of course, Brent and Big Mike take all the credit for the eland bull, and I go along since this has been a tough couple of weeks for Big Mike.

The next couple of days are spent sitting at the pan, relaxing with cigars and camera, but our brut of a warthog never shows. All in all, this has been a spectacular first trip to Zimbabwe, and I am confident we will return. And now a few parting photos of life at the pan.
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PS we return to Harare and go to a fabulous steak house called Wombles. Great food, service and the grounds are incredible. A must go if you are in the area.
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Bill DeHaan

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Day 5 Let’s Get To It

So the leopard hunting routine can be a grind. Up early, check baits, hunt for baits, hang baits, lunch, check more baits, hunt more baits, hang more baits, return for dinner, sleep, repeat.

Today we return to the bait with the male and female bait to find the female has fed once again, with the male just hanging out near the bait waiting on some noo-noo. She fed at 6:24 PM which in terms of being able to hunt with a light is very early and encouraging. Some of these Zim cats love to torture the hunter feeding at say 2 or 3AM. You just play the hand you are dealt.

We refresh the bait, and my excitement builds as Pete instructs the boys to construct the blind. I am used to a traditional hand built blind. My excitement is tempered when the small pop up blind is produced. Pete assures me we need to use this blind as we will be closer to the bait than he usually likes but that is the set up with the bait just the other side of the dry creek bed.

Two things pop into my mind. One, the blind is about as big as one of my camo coveralls. I’ll be wearing this damn blind which means no room to stretch for hours. Second, due to proximity and size, ain’t no way I will be smoking cigars to while away the time.

Aside. I hunted Zambia with an old chain smoking PH when I got my first leopard. We always smoked in the blind, he his cigs, me my cigars. He taught me tons. We played the wind. Smoke doesn’t freak out the game, and if they smell your smoke they can smell you. I bet our blind looked like one of those tobacco barns in Kentucky during tobacco drying season. Volumes of billowing smoke.

Anyway, blind set up and brushed in, path back to road cut in and cleaned of dry leaves. This is the area near the dry creek crossing, and Tafodzwa and Manager cutting brush some distance away for the blind.
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We head to the next bait. The tracks show that we have another leopard love couple at the bait. The female fed the night before, but last night only a civet. We are hopeful that maybe their torrid love affair is over. The only other issue is that the leopard is not using the tree we leaned up against the bait tree to access the bait, but climbing straight up the bait tree and hanging on the bottom of the bait. Not the shot position we wanted(leopard never follow instructions), so we modify the set up to be as inviting as a handicap parking spot on Black Friday.
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I also use the opportunity to wander off and find the perfect place for the morning download. I honestly believe in my life I may have answered nature’s call more often outdoors than indoors.
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We try a stalk on a group of eland tracks we find crossing the road, but these eland are smart and seem to be moving in a serpentine exit plan and we lose the tracks in the high grass.

Upon a trip past the skinning we see Big Mike has taken a nice dark giraffe for more bait to try and draw his lion back to bait. Now I want one too. I had taken an old bull with my son back in 2018, but this dark giraffe skin would look great on my cigar smoking screened porch.
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The day ends uneventfully except I try my hand at some photo creativity. Always trying for that essence of Africa picture.
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Love the B&W. Grew up shooting it and spent hours in the dark room making prints. Enjoying the report!
 

cpr0312

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Very cool to see wild dogs!

Congrats on the eland!
 

Randy F

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Geez! It just keeps getting better! Congrats on that old Eland. Fantastic!
 

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Excellent report, wish you guys could have stayed for another 21 days was fun to read sad about the lion but that is hunting. Brute of a leopard and some good quality trophies taken with that nice dagga boy and black giraffe.

Had the same experience with a black stink bull shot 1 hour before dark and busy skinning and butchering it well into the night with a proper mopane fire lit and doing BBQ for the boys it is one of my fondest memories as it was for the client.
 

Mort Hill

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Can you hunt wild dogs in Zim?

Unfortunately not. Protected. But honestly none of the local folks like them as they tend to kill everything around, from grasshopper to antelope, and any young game in between.
 

PARA45

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WOW!!!!!!! Ending your safari with such a beautiful old eland is definitely icing on the cape for this safari. Congratulations, and thank you for taking us along. I'll have to make my way to TN from GA, and listen to your safari in person. :) Oh, and while smoking cigars too. LOL!!!
 

Mort Hill

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WOW!!!!!!! Ending your safari with such a beautiful old eland is definitely icing on the cape for this safari. Congratulations, and thank you for taking us along. I'll have to make my way to TN from GA, and listen to your safari in person. :) Oh, and while smoking cigars too. LOL!!!

Always welcome. More than likely find me around back on the screened in porch smoking a stogie. But wife still answering the front door last time I checked! LOL
 

Ridgewalker

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She cooked rolls, loaves of pumpkin bread, everything. This was my go-to pull apart roll with butter and honey. Fork shown for size.
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Yum!
Thanks so much for sharing such a grand adventure with all the ups and downs and last minute successes! So enjoyable of a read.
 
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AZDAVE

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You had a great trip!!! I like the old stink bull, giraffe are an interesting animal to hunt. Love the leopard. Zim is in consideration for a hunt in 2023 as this year and next year are kinda booked.

I am not a smoker but I have a couple buddies that are cigar smokers and they like your style.
 

machinistbutler

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The story is fantastic, trophies are just perfect. So many, a lifetime of dreams in one hunt. Your photography is very good as well, great pictures.

I think the thing I liked the best out of all the great things in this story is your huge smile with each of your trophies. You surely look happy!


Well done
 

DieJager

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Great report, enjoyed it all. You smoke more cigars in a day than I in a month and more during the trip than I in my life :LOL: . Lucky man, most definitely with the big cat !
 

Brent in Az

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Amazing hunt, in a truly magnificent place. All fantastic trophies, but that Leopard.....wow! Will be hard to top that magnificent beast.!
 

Mort Hill

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Great report, enjoyed it all. You smoke more cigars in a day than I in a month and more during the trip than I in my life :LOL: . Lucky man, most definitely with the big cat !

Thanks. Someone asked me to rank this safari, and I said it was certainly near the top. Some safari’s just click, and this one certainly did for me. From cigars to animals. Of course, we all know that the hunter only plays a very minor, albeit important, role in the whole safari. So many others responsible for all the success!
 

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