ZIMBABWE: Safari Gal In Search Of A Tusker In Zimbabwe

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April 17th was the scheduled departure date for our 2014 Zimbabwe safari. All reservations and preparations were in place including Travel Guard trip insurance and a Global Rescue policy. The day before departure my husband ended up at Urgent Care for a cough that had been hanging on for several weeks that turned into an infection with fever/chills, high white blood cell count and doctor’s recommendation to postpone or cancel our trip. With three antibiotics in hand I quickly started changing our plans for a departure three days later hoping he would be on the mend. He took all three meds at once, one of which was Doxycycline that we would be taking for anti-malaria the entire trip anyway. He was soon feeling better so we were back on track three days later. The plus side is that the trip insurance covered the change fees on our airline tickets of our unexpected delay. We traveled with firearms from Montana to New York where we overnighted and caught South African Air the next morning for the long flight to Johannesburg. Check in went very smoothly with the firearms in New York with no hassles; however, I would recommend being about three hours early for your international leg. The flight was very good and with some shut eye we were glad to be in Africa again. We were met off the aircraft by two guys with a third party service arranged by Henry Durrheim with Rifle Permits, escorted through a customs speed line, collected our baggage and into the main terminal where Henry was waiting to assist with our firearm permits. We had originally planned to spend a few days in South Africa but with the delay we skipped that portion but did opt to overnight Johannesburg to catch up on some rest and fly to Harare the next morning. We met some friends for dinner that evening and had a great meal at the Tribes restaurant in the Emperor’s Palace and then a good night’s rest at Journey’s Inn Guest House followed by a cooked to order breakfast the next morning and shuttle to the airport for our flight to Harare.

SAA Wingtip


We had no problems with entry into Zimbabwe with our firearms and were met by a PH friend who wanted to show us some of his camps. Of course we did squeeze in a few hunting days while enjoying his beautiful properties and warm hospitality. My husband had a Tsessebe on his wish list and despite the tall grass from the heavy and late rains they had this year, he was able to harvest a nice trophy. The PH also had a tusk-less cow permit he offered me so we spent about 2 ½ days in search of elephant and got on some fresh tracks of a herd but they were too far ahead for us to catch up to them. In thirteen trips to Africa, we had our first “official” bush lunch.

Tsessebe


Bush Lunch


On April 27th we rode to Bulawayo where we were met for a nice lunch with Wayne van den Bergh, owner of Nyamazana Safaris, wife Jenny, sons Davey and Wayne Jr. along with several friends we knew. A few hours later we were off to Wayne’s camp near Lupane, between Bulawayo and Vic Falls – a very nice, rustic, tented camp that we would call home for the next five nights. Introductions to the camp staff were made and our gear put into the tent where we settled in, had a nice dinner, conversation around the campfire and plans for an early wake up call. Wayne had a PAC (problem animal control) permit for council communal lands near the camp which borders government forest areas where elephant constantly travel through and raid the crops.

Tented Camp


The Kitchen


First morning, we had a light breakfast, coffee/tea and away we went to check the road for any fresh elephant sign. We did find some elephant tracks but they had already crossed out of the area so we would have to wait for sign another morning that they were still within the area permitted. They typically come through at night and the plan is to catch them early morning still on communal lands. We went by some of the villages to see if there were any report of elephant nearby and also picked up a game scout that would remain with us through the hunt and another tracker that was employed by Wayne. After dinner, the guys all turned in and I found a spot behind the tents where I could get enough signal to phone Jennifer and check in on the office and home front. As we were talking there was a Hyena calling just across from camp – it was an awesome sound as I was standing in the pitch black (dark moon), a million stars in the sky with the Southern Cross clearly visible and a very quiet night.

Hunting day two, up early again and no fresh elephant sign on communal land. Wayne had received a call that there was a permit available for a PAC crocodile in another area about 30 miles north of camp. Off we go to the council office to pick up the permit and get more information on the location. We picked up some local villagers along the way that would lead us to the area where crocs had recently been spotted along the river. It didn’t take long to find two crocs sunning themselves on the bank facing away from the water. By the time we got close enough and into shooting position, one had gone into the water and the other was at the water’s edge and very wary. I was using Wayne’s .375 CZ and after a short belly crawl by Wayne and I up onto the bank across from the Croc, I took a rest on a pack and touched one off hoping to brain him as he was in a tough position but didn’t want to wait for fear he would go into the water with no chance at a shot. Of course he immediately went into the water after the first shot and Wayne got a .458 in him quickly as well. We saw him surface a few more times over the next 30 minutes or so and just kept throwing lead. We knew he was hurt bad and at one point he was close to the bank so Wayne sent his trackers over to try to retrieve him but he was not done yet as one tracker got him by the tail and pulled him onto the bank about 4-5 feet before he got away. We hated to lose him but knew he would not survive and typically they come to the surface in a day or two so we left a reward for anyone that found him – cell numbers were exchanged and back to camp we went. We checked some baits that Wayne had hanging for leopard and there were no fresh sign. We took some of the meat hanging and made a drag for a hyena bait and then staked out fresh meat that we would later sit over. After dinner, we layered on some clothes and sat in the elevated blind (same one that “Wheels” killed his Leopard from) for about 3 hours – there was nothing moving at all – it was a very dark and quiet night, not to mention chilly!

Camp Staff


Hunting Blind


Hunting day three, we asked the trackers if they had heard Hyena and they said they did at about 2AM. Sure enough, on our way to check for tracks they checked the bait and it was completely cleaned up and one of the shoulders had been drug off. Found some elephant tracks but again they had already crossed out of the communal lands and onto forestry. We came back to camp for some brunch and then off to an area to hunt Zebra. The trackers picked up some spoor that was somewhat fresh so off we went on a long hike and we were questioning the tracker’s ability as we were going in circles most of the time but low and behold we did find the dust that the Zebra had left behind. It was getting late in the afternoon and we were quite a ways from the vehicle so had given up on Zebra for the day. Of course, when your guard is down you run into them and are not as prepared as you should be. We did see about four Zebra and I got on the sticks with a shot opportunity at a stallion that stuck around too long looking straight at us. In the excitement, I shot and it was a clean miss as I must have killed a tree instead. In hindsight we were glad it was a miss rather than a wounded animal at that hour of the day. We had put in about 8-10 miles on the Zebra trek so by the time we got back to the cruiser and drove to camp it was time for a refreshing shower, dinner and bed.

Up very early on hunting day four, trying to catch an elephant still on the communal lands. As luck would have it, we quickly found a very fresh and large track of a lone bull going into the communal area so we drove several roads to try to narrow down the bull’s location. Wayne and the trackers felt sure he was still on communal lands but probably headed through there and could be out of the area if we didn’t make a quick stalk. It was 715AM and the temperature was still a little cool but I quickly shed my pullover as I knew it would warm up especially when walking. The tracker/gun bearer asked who he would hand the rifle to if there was an opportunity and Wayne told him the “Madam”. Sam (tracker) stayed with the vehicle in case we needed to radio him later on – he wished me good luck, said to be safe and come back alive. I don’t think it had sunk in until then the adventure that we would be facing. We had talked earlier about shot placement and ideally if the situation was right then I would go for the vitals just behind the front leg. Off we went with a head tracker named Graham, Wayne and I following; another tracker, Zwaninye, behind me and then my husband who was followed by Nyoni the game scout. We stayed on the fresh spoor – at one point we crossed the edge of an open field but other than that it was very thick vegetation and visibility was not far in front of us – very difficult to see something as large as an Elephant. After many safaris, I’m still amazed at the tracker’s ability to tell just how fresh the track is. This bull was not in a big hurry as he had stopped to dig roots several times. Three and a half hours into the stalk we stopped to make sure we were still on the track so had relaxed a bit while the tracker was checking things out and all of a sudden he tried to get our attention that the bull was in sight up ahead. Wayne and I both caught a glimpse as he was moving through the trees/brush. You’d think it would be easy to keep on his trail at that point but we were having to check the wind and stay far enough behind as not to alert him. It took us about 30 minutes with another glimpse or two before I would have a real shot opportunity. During this last part of the stalk, Wayne asked if I was OK with a brain shot – what was I supposed to say at that point – ha! I had traded off between the rifle and sticks with Graham when we thought there might be a shot opportunity. All of a sudden there was the Elephant behind a large tree with a lot of thick brush around him and we were in a small slightyly open area a little over 20 yards in front of him – I had the sticks and Graham the rifle so we quickly swapped and he set the sticks while I prepared for a shot with the .375. The bull was a little nervous behind the tree, swaying his head back and forth with his ears back and believe he was sizing us all up and looking for a lane to charge. Wayne was to my left with his .458 and my husband was back and to my right with another .458. Wayne said he thought the bull was going to turn and run then when he realized the bull was posturing and he knew I was in position, he quickly said, “You need to brain him, now!” I had him in my sights and squeezed off a shot with an immediate follow up shot by Wayne and also one by my husband so we all got a piece of him and it was a good thing as he crumbled on the spot. I had stayed calm until he was on the ground then I was shaking from the adrenaline rush I had just experienced. What a proud and humbling experience to see an animal of that size up that close and personal. It was the classic Elephant hunt that I had dreamed of and ended with a lot of smiling faces from the PH, trackers and game scout. We could not reach Sam in the vehicle on the radio so the trackers and game scout walked out to get him and make a road into the bush where the Elephant lay which was also critical to get the meat, hide and ivory out. When we eventually met back up with Sam, he had heard the shot and he asked me “Only one shot?” I said, “No, it was three but may have sounded like one large BOOM!” While we were waiting for the vehicle to arrive with cameras, water, etc., the game scout received a call that the Crocodile had been recovered. After a quick photo session with the Elephant we left most of the guys there to start the skinning and meat cutting process. As we headed back to camp we stopped at each village we passed and told them there was elephant meat and directions how to get to it. We arrived in camp to find Wayne’s wife and boys who had come to join us for a few days. We had a quick bite to eat as we had only had a very light breakfast and it was now about 200PM. We all loaded up in the cruiser and were off the get some photos of the Crocodile. When we arrived, Wayne asked the villagers who had recovered the croc, five guys stepped forward so we gave them $30 to split amongst themselves – the reward! They had left the croc in the edge of the water and covered it with branches but the meat was too far gone to eat which was a disappointment. Wayne had told the guys earlier if they found the croc to put a stick in it’s mouth in order to prop the jaw open – they did just that – a small stick was horizontal across the teeth ( we had a good chuckle) but luckily it was still flexible enough to open the jaw and turn the stick vertical for photos. We had the guys that earned the reward carry the croc to the cruiser and load it to take back to camp as the council wanted the hide and head. We had a nice dinner with Wayne and family and relived the day’s events.

Elephant








Crocodile




The alarm for the next morning was a little later for a more relaxed start to the day. We all went to the Elephant to see the progress and take photos/video of the meat disappearing. We arrived in time to help roll the carcass over with the winch cable of the cruiser. Meat had been taken on the afternoon that I shot the bull and the remainder of it was taken the following day – about 75 people showed up either on foot or by donkey cart for their share of meat. The only remains in the end were the stomach contents, nothing goes to waste on an animal in Africa. We came back to camp for brunch then the guys were busy making some repairs on a pump which supplies water to the camp and a tank that animals drink from. This particular camp would not be used for several weeks and there would just be one person tending the camp so water was critical. They also restocked the Hyena bait with a variety of game meat including elephant vertebrae, etc. After dinner, Wayne and Troy sat in the Hyena blind from 800PM that evening until 600AM the next morning. They only saw one or two Heyena come to the edge of the clearing but not into the bait for a shot opportunity.

The final morning was time to pack up camp – all of our gear plus perishables and items that would be needed at the next camp that Wayne would be hunting. After a lunch of Elephant kabobs, fries, etc. we headed back to Bulawayo with two loaded cruisers and a minivan. It was Wayne’s birthday so Jenny had made a beautiful chocolate cake that we had for an appetizer before going out to dinner to celebrate – I like how they do things in Zimbabwe!

Elephant Kabobs


We did some running around the next couple of days, stopped by a couple of taxidermy shops, purchased curios, a new pair of Courteney boots for my husband along with some nice safari shirts that are actually made in Bulawayo and not China! I couldn’t resist a trip to the grocery store to get some things that I enjoy from Africa such as Aromat seasoning, Lux soap and Rooibos tea.

On the last day we had a midday flight out of Bulawayo. The new airport was very nice and check-in ran smoothly - they tagged our bags all the way back to Montana via Johannesburg, JFK and Salt Lake City. We had several hours to kill in the Johannesburg airport but that’s always good for the last minute curio shopping. Luckily, our international flight was fairly open so we both got a row of four seats and with it being a late evening departure were able to get probably a solid eight hours sleep which definitely helped. Clearing customs in JFK was quick and painless and in the end we had been on eight separate flights with no lost or dEelayed checked bags the entire trip.

I had not been to Zimbabwe since our very first trip to Africa in 1999. Things had definitely changed but it was a very enjoyable trip with beautiful scenery and wildlife plus good to see a lot of friends and be able to spend time with them. I look forward to going back – we won’t wait as long to visit Zim again!

Elephant Ivory


Sunset
 
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Red Leg

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What a great and well told adventure! And a well deserved "atta girl!" for that bull.
 

Royal27

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Fantastic.....
 

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Safari Gal you tell a great story. Sounds like you both had a wonderful trip! Thank you for sharing the adventure with all of us.
 

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Hi Lori......what a nice surprice to find you and Troy here.......I am Rocket.......Marcelo´s Gil Guide from MG Hunting Argentina.......We were hunting Ducks some years a go with Cinthya Fisher also........what a fantastic hunting you did in Zimbawe.......awesome camps, trophies and pics.......the hunt of a lifetime.........congratulations and very glad to say hello to you and say hello to Troy.......!!!!!

See you.......!!!!!!!
 

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Thanks everyone - it was an amazing trip! Rocket, so nice to hear from you- remember that wonderful trip well and have a beautiful display in our trophy room of the ducks we harvested! Cynthie is in Africa on photo safari at this very moment.
 

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Congrats on the great hunt. Nice animals.
 

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Congrats Lori.
No lost luggage in that many changes! They must be scared of you.

Thanks for the report.
 

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Thanks Brickburn, must be lady luck or something - don't want to brag too loudly! In thirteen trips we've never had a lost or delayed bag except coming home once or twice on the final legs and they were delivered to the house the following day. I really don't sweat it and just travel prepared with necessities in carry on and a change of clothes just in case.
 

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Thanks for Sharing Lori,,I'm glad I'm not the only one who Shoots at Trees in Africa
 

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Hey Lori, nice to read your report, nice job you have some fine trophies there.
Kurt
 

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Great and well written report of an unforgettable hunt, fantastic. The tented camp actually looks quite accommodating. It is good to see that Zim hospitality is alive and kicking strong.

Glad the Croc was recovered albeit at the expense of loosing meat quality. Take it from me you're not missing much unless you like eating dry chicken as that is the best way I can describe even the best cuts of Croc meat. This could be just the way I cook it too?

Speaking of food, the Elephant shazlik make me hungry looking at the photo. Good to here Tribes restaurant are still serving up a storm.

Sincerely hope you get the Hyena "next time".

I too like Rooibos Tea and favour Courtney Selous Boots. I found them both on the shelf at Halsted Brothers Hardware store ,whilst in there looking for those awesome Mopane- Root handled axes the guides and trackers use, in Bulawayo.

Thanks a bloody lot Safari gal! It is now over 13 months before we( my hunting mate and I) return to Zim and now you've got me counting down already even though I have a trip organized for Namibia in November!
 

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Well done Lori!
 

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Good job. Nice report. Count your lucky stars that you have not had lost firearms. I have only had 4 overseas trips. So essentially 8 legs and have had a gun "lost" on 3 of those. Not very good odds for me. Congrats on the elephant. Bruce
 

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Great and well written report of an unforgettable hunt, fantastic. The tented camp actually looks quite accommodating. It is good to see that Zim hospitality is alive and kicking strong.

Glad the Croc was recovered albeit at the expense of loosing meat quality. Take it from me you're not missing much unless you like eating dry chicken as that is the best way I can describe even the best cuts of Croc meat. This could be just the way I cook it too?

Speaking of food, the Elephant shazlik make me hungry looking at the photo. Good to here Tribes restaurant are still serving up a storm.

Sincerely hope you get the Hyena "next time".

I too like Rooibos Tea and favour Courtney Selous Boots. I found them both on the shelf at Halsted Brothers Hardware store ,whilst in there looking for those awesome Mopane- Root handled axes the guides and trackers use, in Bulawayo.

Thanks a bloody lot Safari gal! It is now over 13 months before we( my hunting mate and I) return to Zim and now you've got me counting down already even though I have a trip organized for Namibia in November!

Thanks Drew ~ enjoyed Zim tremendously! Glad I didn't miss much on the croc and you didn't miss a whole lot on the elephant kabobs - they were tasty but the old guy was a little on the chewy side! I love my Courteney's and they have made many tracks in Africa, especially across Namibia, so I know you'll enjoy that trip as well. We wanted one of the axes but didn't manage to get home with one, some soapstone carvings, etc. though. If you are in Bulawayo and have a chance, stop by TCI taxidermy shop - they had a lot of nice curios, leather gun cases, bags, etc. Good Hunting!
 

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Safari Gal,

Excellent!
Thank you for your post and photos.
And Congratulations on yours and your husband's latest safari.
I really enjoyed the read.

Cheers,
Velo Dog.
 

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Hi Matt ~ we were in Zimbabwe for 12 full days but not all was spent hunting as we were visiting some various camps/properties/friends, etc. We had about 7 or 8 hunting days.
 

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Congrats on a great hunt, Lori, and thanks for sharing !
 
 

 

 

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