My Chawalo Safari Hunting Adventure (Story 2)

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This story is about hunting dangerous game in Mozambique. If you have every wanted to go to hunt dangerous game in Africa or are thinking about it I believe you will enjoy this story and find it informative.

Submitted: September 16, 2012

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Submitted: September 16, 2012

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My Chawalo Safari Hunting Adventure (Story 2)

Mozambique

We arrived in Lusaka, Zambia, on July 12, 2012. Carel, his wife, Anita, and daughter, Amanda, met us and we spent the night at the Taj hotel. I could tell that Carel was not his normal happy-go-lucky self. It seems that he had spent 16 hours in a leopard blind the week before and had developed a case of pneumonia. Though his client had taken a large cat, Carel had paid a heavy price. The next morning we all piled into an eight-seat charter for a 50 minute flight to Zumbo, Mozambique. Once Carel got us through customs, we took a 30-minute ride up the Zambezi River on one of Carel’s fishing boats to the Chawalo Safaris Lodge.

We had planned to bring one of our own rifles and a shotgun. However, when KO got to the Columbus, Ohio, airport he found that due to the Olympics, firearms were not being permitted through London Heathrow Airport. What Carel had told us about shipping weapons the year before now proved to be true. Carel, thinking we were bringing our own shotgun, had loaned his shotgun to another group hunting on the Zambezi side of the river. As a result, we would not be able to shoot birds. Luckily, he had several hunting rifles chambered in .375 H&H with Leopold scopes. For ammo we would shoot 300-grain Trophy Bonded Bear Claws (soft) and 300-grain Trophy Bonded Sledgehammers (solid).

Our plans focused on cape buffalo, leopard, lion, crocodile, and hippo. The ride from Zumbo to the Chawalo Safaris Lodge showed us that getting a hippo or crocodile would not be a problem; we saw many fine specimens on the way. Once we reached the lodge, we were assigned to our quarters, complete with all the amenities. We then went to lunch and had hippo sloppy joes on fresh-baked rolls while we met the other visitors. KO and I were the only hunters in camp. Twelve fly fishermen from around the world were there in the hopes of catching 15 pound tiger fish and other species that I could not pronounce, let alone spell.

While in Zumbo, Carel learned of a rogue elephant that was causing problems, including crop damage, for two villages in his concern. The issue needed to be handled as quickly as possible per a government official, or the villagers would take matters into their own hands, which would not end well. Neither KO nor I had planned to hunt elephant, but it seemed logical to help Carel and the villagers. Carel was game, but it was obvious he was not up to the long trek through the bush because of his pneumonia. In stepped Carel’s second in charge, Daniel Enslin. He looked like a PH (Crocodile Dundee without the hat and blade), even though he was only 28 years of age. Heck, I have Army boots that are older.

Carel asked that we consider hunting the elephant as he was ill and Daniel could use backup. If one of us took the trouble maker there would be no charge.  After some consideration I agreed to hunt the animal to help the villagers and Carel out.  Would you pass up a free Elephant hunt? Even if I was only an observer it would be a once in life time experience that I could not pass up.  KO on the other hand opted to go with Matt to check the lion and leopard baits. 

With Carel in bed sick we started out the next morning in search of the pachyderm and I learned quickly that Daniel was the real deal. Daniel had the knowledge and instincts, having hunted in Africa since he was 15. He was given a description of the rogue elephant and shown its tracks by a tribal leader. I did not have a measuring stick, but the elephant’s foot prints were between 19 and 20 inches across.

It took us about 2 hours of steady tracking to come within shooting distance of the giant, but there were two problems. First, the elephant had joined a herd of bulls, cows, and calves. Second, he was sleeping on his side in thick cover. The only shot I had would have been lower spin just above the tail.  Where Daniel had stopped he had no shot at all. As we waited for the elephant to awake, the wind shifted. The herd busted us and was gone with much noise and the cracking of trees and brush. Smiling, Daniel said that it was the first time he had ever seen an elephant sleep like that. I laughed and told him that it was the first time I had seen an elephant sleep.

Daniel said it was no use to continue to track the herd and we should go back for lunch and take up the trail in the late afternoon. At 3:30 in the afternoon we were back on the trail. In an hour or so we could hear the herd breaking trees as they fed on the leaves. Daniel pulled the scouts and me back. He said he knew where they would be headed to get water and that it would be best if we placed ourselves along their route. Walking as quietly as one can in Africa in winter among dry leaves we made it to Daniel’s desired location.

I must admit I was not ready for what happened next. In less than 5 minutes after reaching our location, the herd was there. A young cow stepped out of the foliage about 30 yards to our right, while the rest of the herd broke cover to our left. Daniel grabbed my shirt and started walking me back into the bush, while telling me to keep my eye on the cow because she looked like she was going to charge. He said, “We won’t shoot her unless we have to!” My heart was beating like I had just stepped on a cock pheasant on the first day of hunting season, but the cow turned her head and walked past us.

Once clear, Daniel pushed me back into the clearing as the bulls were coming through. He told me, “It’s the big one in the back with the blunted right tusk.” I had been planning on a brain shot if I got the chance, but the bull was now quartering away from us.  I was to the left of Daniel and between him and the bull which was less than 25 yards from us.  As Daniel moved to get into position he told me to take him behind the shoulder if I had the shot.  The herd knew we were there now and was getting ready to bolt. With my heart in my throat, I aimed off hand and shot where directed, though I do not recall pulling the trigger or feeling the rifle’s recoil. I heard Daniel shoot his 416 Rigby and the scouts yell at the rest of the herd to clear them out. Then I was standing over the bull, putting two rounds through its brain for insurance. The second shot was unneeded, but I enjoyed wasting Carel's ammo.

The 375 H&H 300-grain solid did its job. At the angle I shot, it entered behind the bull’s left shoulder, hitting the lung and breaking its spin, before exiting out above the right eye. Daniel had fired his gun, but said it was not needed, because the bull was going down when he shot. Even so, his 416 Rigby Magnum with 400- grain Trophy Bonded Sledgehammer solids broke the left shoulder and would have anchored the bull had my first shot been off.

Daniel said it was the largest bodied elephant he had ever seen. The tusks were 18 and 16 pounds respectively, one was 48 inches long, 12.5 inches at the lip, and the other was 40 inches and 13 inches at the lip.  The bull was judged to be between 25 and 35 years old with two sets of teeth remaining. These measurements were Greek to me! The experience left me with thoughts of men with spears and mastodons—happy and sad at the same time. Happy I had experienced this hunt; sad that the elephant had caused problems resulting in his death.

As we took pictures and relived the hunt, the scouts went to the local village and had guards placed on the body for the night. The next morning, we were there to help butcher the animal and hand out the meat to almost 300 villagers. I have been to three rodeos and two powwows, and I have never seen anything like it! With axes, knives, and machetes, the men from the villages rendered an animal that stood nearly 11 feet at the shoulders and weighed at least 7 tons into a moist spot on the jungle floor.

Daniel oversaw the project, threatening the local children with a stick so they would not get trampled or hurt in the confusion. The children would jeer at him and come back once he left. Luckily no one was hurt and no fights occurred over the choice cuts. Nothing went to waste; bones, trunk, ears, feet, etc. were all carried away with a smile. We took the tail and the head. Carel had to turn the head into the Mozambique government because of the tusks. I was given the hair from the tail for bracelets. It was a hunting moment, and life experience I will never forget. It was the first day of the hunt, and if I never pulled the trigger again over the next 13 days, I would be satisfied.

That afternoon it was KO’s turn. As we set out in the boat after Nile crocodile, Daniel went through the likely scenarios and best shot placements. I, along with two scouts and Mathew Nothard, accompanied them. Mathew was one of Carel’s professional fishermen who had found himself with some spare time on his hands. He joined us to film KO hunt. The Zambia, we were told, was very low this year, causing crocodile and elephant problems for both Zambia and Mozambique. A week earlier a tourist had been pulled from his boat and killed while washing his hands. Daniel told KO that we would only go after crocs in the 13-foot or better range.

After about an hour of searching, Daniel found a croc that he thought we could make a sneak on. We parked the boat about a half mile down river from a croc we had seen sleeping on the bank. The challenge would be to avoid being spotted by the pod of hippos and other crocs basking in the sun on both sides of the river. KO and I were in for an education. Only a half mile away from our prey on relatively level land, we expected to be in shooting position in a half hour or less. We made our way through mosquito-ridden bogs following hippo and elephant trails, while African grass clawed at us every step of the way. In many places we were on all fours trying to make our way through or around nature’s obstacles. All the while we tried to keep the wind in our faces and not make any noise or movement that would alert anything along our path.

We waited while Daniel went forward to locate the croc and find the best approach. While he did so, KO told me he knew what it must have felt like to enter a spider hole or be a tunnel rat in Vietnam. I could not argue with him. As the old guy in the rear, I kept waiting for a startled hippo or elephant to run me over trying to escape. Once Daniel came back, he explained to KO that the croc was facing the shore versus the river, which was good. He told all of us to be very quiet because the croc was about 100 yards up stream. With that we set out, taking just over an hour to get into shooting position. 

KO and Daniel moved forward as Matt, the scouts, and I stayed back. Our vantage point was 30 yards from the croc. Daniel and KO went another 10 yards and prepared to shoot. I could see that Daniel was trying to position sticks in a very tight spot. KO motioned to him that he would not use the sticks and crawled closer to the croc, just out of my line of sight. After about 5 minutes, I heard the boom of the .375 H&H and saw the impact of the bullet just below the crown of the croc’s skull. As I stood up I heard a second shot, and then we were all running.

The croc never moved because KO’s first shot killed it instantly. His second shot took the beast low and in the shoulder. Daniel, who was ready with his 416 Rigby, put the gun on safety as we headed for the mucky sandbar to retrieve KO’s trophy. The croc measured in at just slightly over 14 feet and had a large girth. We sank up to our knees in the bog and laughed about not being able to run should the croc’s brother or sister show up as we took pictures. It took seven people to haul the croc into the boat.

I learned later from KO that Daniel and he had talked when Daniel tried to put up the shooting sticks. KO did not feel comfortable with the angle, and told Daniel that he would feel better crawling closer and finding a place in the grass for a better shot. Daniel thought that KO would most likely spook the sleeping croc, but reluctantly let him move forward. He prepared the 416 Rigby for action should it be needed. KO had crawled some 5 yards further and found the angle he was looking for. Using a tall grass reed to steady the barrel, he squeezed off the first round. He had made the second shot on his knees. Both of us were covered in bug bites, thorn cuts, and mud, but as happy as we had ever been while hunting.

That night, we ate kudu steaks with homemade bread and listened to the fishing and hunting stories of the day as we relaxed around the fire. We heard lions roaring across the river while hippos bellowed all around us. After a few adult beverages and a game of darts, we planned our next day’s hunt. First, we would check the cat baits to see what, if anything, had hit them. Anita told us that as the only hunters in camp, it was our responsibility to take game for the table if an opportunity presented itself. It was a task that KO and I were more than happy to oblige.

The next morning we met at 5:00 and had a breakfast of eggs, bush pig bacon, fresh baked rolls, and hot coffee. With full stomachs, we headed for the Land Rover with Matt and Daniel, and started what would be our morning ritual for the next 11 days. The baits were strung out over a 30-mile area, with the first only 5 miles from the lodge. We had six leopard baits and four lion baits.

We saw the fresh tracks of big toms daily, but they never came to the bait. Our tough luck was it was leopard mating season. As our trail cams showed, the females would come to the bait nightly, while the toms waited below. We added baits daily, but to no avail. The same was true for the lions. Their tracks showed that they were near to our baits; however, only one lion bait was ever touched, and that was by young cats. The lions had either been shot at over bait or had a buffalo kill to tide them over. Carel was also running baits at his fly camp in the hopes of getting hits. They did, but the scouts said the cats were young males or lionesses. Had a tom showed up, we would have packed up and headed to the fly camp. It was frustrating but fun.

We saw plenty of game animals during these jaunts, but we would not shoot near the baits. The trail cams showed leopards hitting the baits just before dusk and just after dawn. If a large male hit the bait, we would set up one of Carel’s portable blinds and wait. We did not have the opportunity to get in the blind, but Daniel explained the process. The blind would be placed between 30 and 40 yards away from the bait tree. We would go into the blind around 3:00 in the afternoon. From the trail cams, we knew the cats were coming into the bait with plenty of shooting light. The cats did not fear the road we traveled daily, because each morning we saw fresh tracks. I always thought we should hang a trail cam over the road just to count the cats, but never mentioned it. I assumed the flash would alert poachers and local travelers who would not hesitate to take the camera. I believe Carel had flashless cams on order, and once they arrived, they would be a great tool in his arsenal for cats and poachers alike.

Most days we were back at the lodge by 11:00 in the morning and would eat lunch and stock the cooler with fresh sodas and water. After lunch on our second day, we decided to search for a hippo for me and then look for cape buffalo. By noon we were on the water, seeing many pods holding between 3 and 12 hippos. Though I was not hunting big tusks, Daniel would not let us shoot anything that was in his opinion not properly attired. After looking for over an hour, Daniel found a bull he thought worth taking. Like with the croc, we pulled onto the shore a good distance from the pod. However, unlike the croc, we were only several hundred yards from the animals, much to this old man’s liking.

The pod was around 15 to 20 yards out in the center of the Zambezi River. As we started our stalk, we came upon a young bull feeding on the grass in the open not 30 yards from us. After a quick look, Daniel said he was big bodied but too young. KO and I just looked at each other and followed as directed. In 20 minutes Daniel and I were looking through the African reeds at 3 hippo bulls bobbing up and down. They would come up for about 20 seconds, take a breath, and then go down for 2 to 5 minutes at a time. Behind us was a young, big bodied bull that was on hard ground in the open. Here I was looking at 3 bulls bobbing up and down, giving me a shot window between the eye and ear about the size of a baseball. Daniel had just turned a hunt for the world’s third largest land animal into a prairie dog hunt.

The three bulls were in line with each other, facing downstream. Daniel glassed each of them as they came up and judged them accordingly. I held steady on the sticks looking at them through the scope. After 10 minutes of glassing, Daniel said, “You want the one in the front? Take him when you feel you have a good shot. No need to rush, as they do not know we are here.” The next time the hippo crested the water, I took off the safety. When he went down, I marked him in the scope and waited for him to come back up. While it felt like forever, it was only around 2 minutes before he rose just 5 inches or so to the right of where I had marked him. I pivoted the barrel as he blew the water from his nostrils, had my sight picture when his head was around 6 inches above the water line, and fired. The recoil momentarily obliterated my shot picture, and he was gone.

Daniel, Matt, KO, and the scouts all congratulated me. Daniel said the shot was perfect. The bull rolled forward at impact, which told him that the shot was lethal. Unlike other animals, the water horse does not swim and does not have enough air in his lungs to float. I shot the bull in deep water so we could not simply drive up with the boat and hook him with a rope. Daniel handed me a Diet Coke and said, “Now we wait until its stomach gasses build up and he floats to the surface.” I asked him how long that usually took. He said it usually took only an hour or two; however, it could take up to 3 hours because it was winter and the water was cold, which would hamper the biological process. As an hour and a half passed, I began to wonder if they were wrong about my shot.

Daniel had contacted Carel and the skinners and had let them know where we were on the river. Daniel mused that the bull would not make its appearance until Carel arrived. At 2 hours and 10 minutes after I took the shot, Carel and the skinners arrived, and the bull arose from the depths of the Zambezi. Like Washington crossing the Delaware, Carel directed his boat to rope one of the hippo’s legs and drag it to shore. It took 14 men considerable effort to get the bull on the shore for pictures; Carel, Daniel, Matt, and KO all jumped into the croc-filled river along with the skinners. The only piker was the hunter – I had to run the camera after all. Carel and Daniel said it was one of the largest hippos that had ever been taken on the river. It was not until the tusks were removed that they realized how true the statement was. One tusk was 31.5 inches, and the other 26 inches, which placed it between the seventeenth and twentieth largest take ever recorded in Africa.

By the time the pictures were taken and the hippo was butchered, it was a little after 5:00 in the afternoon. Everyone was wet and covered with mud, so we decided the cape buffalo could wait another day. As Carel said, he had beef steaks to cook and a hippo to put in the salt. Anita scolded us good naturedly for letting Carel get into the cold water in his condition, but stated that Carel only knew one way to do business, and that was “Hands On!” She, of course, was right (they always are). Carel spent most of the next 2 days in bed other than to see us off and have his meals with us.

The next morning, after checking the trail cams, we spotted a nice impala buck. He was on KO’s side of the vehicle, so the choice of who would take him was easy. Daniel loaded the 375 H&H with 300-grain solids to reduce damage to the meat. Using the sticks, KO made a nice 90-yard shot, taking the buck just behind the shoulders, and dropping it in its tracks. The buck’s horns were just over 19 inches, which we were told was good for this part of Mozambique, considering the poachers and predators in the area. However, the horns were 4 inches shorter than the ones KO had taken the year before in the North West Province of South Africa. The buck made Anita happy, fed Carel’s crew and ourselves for 2 days, and made a nice addition to our Mozambique picture book.

Because Carel was still sick, we decided we would hold off on the cape buffalo. Carel had been talking to us for a year of how he would put us on some nice bulls. Instead we headed back out on the river to see if I could connect with a nice croc and KO with a bull hippo. This time we took fishing poles. Should KO get a hippo, we wanted to be fishing instead of just waiting for the hippo to float.

Not far from where KO had gotten his croc, we found another sunning himself. Just as with KO’s croc, we parked well below him and made our stock. When we were around 40 yards away, Daniel left us in the tall grass to determine the croc’s position. Two hippos were fighting, so we wondered if the croc would still be where we had spotted him. He was. Daniel told me that the croc looked good, facing towards the beach rather than the river. The problem, Daniel said, was that he was awake. Looking through my binoculars, I could clearly see his emerald green eye wide open. Daniel was sure he was listening to the hippo’s fighting across the river and was not aware of our presence. With the croc’s heightened awareness, Daniel warned all of us to be very quiet. He walked us another 5 or 6 feet to a depression in the sand that would allow us to set up, while keeping us hidden from the croc.

I watched Daniel crawl into the depression and set up the sticks. I then did a low crawl that my Army drill instructor would have been proud of. Once in position, I lined up the croc, looking for the end of the smile where I hoped to shoot to break his spine. My first shot was high, but it stunned the croc enough for me to reload. Daniel told me to shoot him in the shoulder as the animal started to turn. Now if you have ever shot at a croc at 30 plus yards, the first thing you see is that it has a very low profile. Shooting him in the shoulder was akin to shooting the landing gear on a spaceship. I fired again, but he was still moving. As he entered the water, I shot at the only target I had, which was his backbone. With this shot, he stopped. Daniel had also fired his Rigby 416, hitting the beast in the shoulder. Daniel, Matt, KO, and the scouts ran into the water, grabbed the croc by the tail, and drug him to shore before I made it half the distance, having sunk up to my armpits in water and muck, while taking care not to ruin Carrel’s rifle and scope.

It had been my third shot that stopped the croc; my first shot just missed the spine. Daniel said my shoulder shots would have killed him, but he would have been lost in the Zambezi if my third shot had not stopped him. After the croc was ashore and we were catching our breath, Daniel noticed that the croc’s eyes had come open. Because my gun was empty, I used his 416 to finish the deal with a single shot to the brain cavity. Every now and then I relive this hunt in my mind and get goose bumps when I see that emerald green eye pop open. We were lucky he was paralyzed and did not have enough left in him to take a bite out of one of us.

My croc was just over 13 feet in length and did not quite have the girth of KO’s. Daniel apologized for not realizing that part of the croc’s tail was missing. If it had been whole, Daniel and Carel thought the croc would have measured around 13 feet 8 inches. He was still exceptional, and I will get years of enjoyment from telling this story while looking at the head in mount. By the time our pictures were taken and the skinners finished, we all thought it was “Miller time” and headed for the lodge.

As I sat in the late afternoon sun waiting for KO to get out of the shower, I contemplated what we had seen and done our first 4 days at Chawalo Safaris. As I sat on the porch, I could see hippos and crocs everywhere, as boats of every description made their way up and down the Zambezi River. A trophy Sharpe’s grysbok munched on the green grass not 10 yards from me, while monkeys chased each other around the chalets. I sipped on a JW Red with just the right amount of ice and water, and wondered how it could get any better than this. I remembered our hunt the year before and Carel’s words about hunting the dangerous stuff. He was right that danger, along with the abundance of game, made this hunt more intense and enjoyable. KO roused me from my thoughts, and I headed for a hot shower. That night, the impala stew melted in our mouths, and we slept like logs, only to awake to a new day and adventure.

As we drove to the baits, Daniel spotted a brush buck that he thought might be a shooter. Once he glassed him, Daniel told me that the buck was very old, with nice horns in the 14-inch range. He had curls in his horns that bigger bucks normally had. Daniel said that the buck would not get any larger, but I could do better if I wanted to wait. I have never been much of a horn hunter, but if this old boy was no longer a producer, he was my type of animal. I looked at him over the sticks at about 60 yards. He was facing us and not moving, having already spotted us. I took him in the center of his chest, and the 375 H&H solid took him down; meat for Anita and another trophy to add to my den in South Dakota.

That afternoon, as we glassed an open field, two kudu bulls came into view about 500 yards across the valley. Daniel told KO that he felt that one of them would go 53 to 55 inches. The year before, KO had shot a 52-inch bull. KO took all of 5 seconds to make a decision, and they were off. Matt, the scouts, and I held back so that they would have the best chance of making their approach. Daniel and KO angled off, watching the bulls as they grazed. Using the terrain to their advantage, it took Daniel and KO around 30 minutes to get into position. We watched the lead bull as KO took to the sticks. At just under 200 yards, the bull either caught their wind or decided to change course as KO fired. We saw the bull go down, and then get back up. We waited for the second shot, but none came, and we saw the bull running, along with KO and Daniel.

Matt and the scouts left me in the dust, and I watched them run across the valley. I saw KO running as fast as he could, and then he was gone. At first I thought he had just fallen down, but then I saw Daniel crest the other side of a dry river bank followed by KO. I heard the second and third shots. One sounded like a miss, the other like it made contact. As I was trying to pick my way through the thorns, brush, and plowed field, I heard a final shot 5 or 10 minutes later. As I am old and deaf, they sent a scout back to find me, so I did not get lost in the failing light. I heard “madawla” (Old Man) being shouted, and made my way towards David, one of Carel's scouts. He took me to where KO and Daniel were still breathing hard over one of the largest kudu bulls I had ever seen. He was as big as any bull elk, with 54.5-inch horns with ivory tips. With the rut just ending, his neck looked like a beer keg. The animal was almost as good as KO and Daniel’s story of how they brought the kudu down.

KO was on the sticks and ready to fire when the bull changed his direction at the last moment. KO fired at the range of 180 yards, and instead of taking the bull through the shoulder, the bullet broke the left shoulder, causing him to drop. When the bull got back up, KO had two rounds chamber at once jamming which prevented him from making his follow-up shot. Working the rounds free, KO and Daniel followed the bull at full speed, not knowing about the dry river bed ahead. Both Daniel and KO expressed the feeling of helplessness as they found themselves running at full tilt one moment on tera firma and the next moment on thin air. They fell about three feet to the dry river bottom out of my line of sight.

After exiting the river bed, KO climbed a tree and took his second and third shot. Totally winded, Daniel took the rifle, reloaded on the run, and dropped the bull off hand at about 70 yards with a bullet just behind the kudu’s massive horns. Because it was getting close to dark, he did not want the animal getting away – a decision KO and I both supported. KO’s first shot broke the left shoulder and his second was just above the shoulder, which would have resulted in a dead animal we would have had to retrieve in the morning. Daniel prevented any loss of meat and ensured the animal did not suffer. We started a fire so Matt and the scouts could find us in the dark with the vehicle, which was about 2 miles from us. KO and I had both tried to get in shape for this hunt, but nothing had prepared us for what we had been through so far. And we were not even at the halfway point. We went to bed very tired and happy that night.

In the morning we met Carel, Daniel, and Matt for breakfast. Carel thought we should check the baits and get a hippo for KO, and in the afternoon we would try for buffalo. It sounded like a plan to us. Three of the leopard baits had been hit, but once again, only by females or young males. I took a shot at a baboon for leopard bait, but missed as he jumped from tree to tree. With the boat, poles, and bait, we went out after hippo.

I must say that being able to hunt on land and water really breaks up the day. We were never bored the entire 2 weeks at the lodge. When not shooting a rifle, we were shooting our cameras, capturing images of all the birds, like the fish eagle, which resembles our bald eagle. They would fly just over our heads whether we were fishing or hunting. The skimmers and Egyptian geese were everywhere.

It did not take Daniel long to find a hippo bull for KO not far from where I shot my bull. The stock was a short one – maybe 600 yards. KO got on the sticks, and when the bull came up, KO put him down. I was looking to do a little fishing, but things always work out for KO. The bull was in shallow water and was easily pulled to shore. That was when Daniel realized that the bull had no lower tusks (incisors). The old bull had been roughly treated by the younger bulls as was evident by the gaping holes in his hide. Carel arrived with the skinners, and after pictures, we left the skinning crew with the hippo. Carel did not get in the water this time so as not to incur the wrath of Anita. We headed back to camp.

With four rifles in hand, we hit the trail of around 50 buffalo that Carel had had his scout locate earlier that day. KO went with Carel, and I went with Daniel. Each party had a scout along as well. Matt came with Daniel and I with the idea of filming me shoot a buffalo. Our plan was that Carel and KO would be blockers (South Dakota pheasant hunting jargon) while we came up behind the herd. It almost worked. The sun was just setting when we caught up with the herd. We scoped over the heard but were not in position for the bulls. I had a nice cow not 50 yards from me in the open. I would have been glad to take her, but Daniel told me that we would have other chances. Meanwhile, the blockers were on the side of the herd with the bulls.

Carel got KO in position in thick cover. He pointed out the bull and put KO on the sticks. In the thick grass and failing light, KO took steady aim on a bull and fired just as a cow in front of the bull stood up. As with all things, you can never recall a bullet! It busted her right hip, but she was still able to join the herd. We joined KO and Carel, expecting to see a bull down, but were told of the mishap instead. In Mozambique, you can take either sex. However, it was almost dark, and no one tracks a wounded cape buffalo, regardless of sex, in the dark so we headed back to the lodge. The next morning, Carel and KO tracked her down and finished her off, while Daniel and I checked the baits. Some hunters might be upset how things turned out, but as far as KO was concerned, it was still a hunt of a lifetime – bull or not. Seeing the cow in the cleaning shed, I have to say she was a beautiful specimen I would have been happy with. Next time, maybe the bulls would be on my side. Maybe!

That afternoon we decided we would take it easy and have Matt take us fishing. The weather had been cold and the water levels were down and the fly fishermen had been having limited success. We did not expect to have much luck, but Matt would not hear of it. He went to his favorite spot, and we were catching fish in no time; mostly their version of catfish and occasionally tiger fish. Unlike the fly fishermen, we were using bait or spinners. Because we were not going to be hunting that evening, we allowed ourselves a few beers as well. KO broke his own personnel record for the largest fish, which was a 48.5 pound cat. The largest I caught was around 9 pounds. We had a great time with Matt, who gaffed the fish and took pictures of us. I lost a rod and reel to something very large. One minute the rod was in the boat, and the next it was flying 10 feet in the air. After that, I held on to the poles or kept them in the rod holders. It was another memory and another first for me after 40 years of fishing everything from northern pike to coho salmon. Was it another catfish or a 15 plus tiger fish? I will never know, but I bet it was a tiger.

On our eighth day a respectable kudu showed up in the same field KO had shot his bull days before. I made a nice shot on him at about 120 yards and he dropped within 10 yards of where I hit him. When we were upon him, we saw that he was very emaciated and his face was wrapped in a poacher’s wire. Daniel thought he might have lasted another week and was surprised that the lions or leopards had not taken him in his weakened state. His horns were a respectable 48 inches. Carel said that the meat, other than for bait, was unusable. If I wanted, I could take another bull. I told him that the bull looked good to me when I shot him and that I need not kill another. This trophy had a story behind it, which is always better than just the kill. We put him out as leopard bait, but in the end, it was young lions that enjoyed the old boy.

Over the next few days we tried to focus on the cats. Carel, who was feeling up to his old self, wanted to go after buffalo, but we said we would only take them if they were a target of opportunity; otherwise, cats and fishing were fine. Looking for new signs and putting out baits, fishing at midday, and then hunting in the late afternoon was our routine. On the ninth day I shot a large male baboon in the hopes that the leopards natural dislike for baboons would bring in a male cat. It did bring in a large female, but we were not interested. On the tenth day, we missed a chance at a large bush pig, and KO missed a nice male warthog. On our eleventh day, KO took a very nice bush buck, whose horns were 17.5 inches long. You know how proud young men are of four inches, and KO was no different. The 13.5 inch old boy I took was a trophy in every sense of the word.

Then it was over. We were headed up the Zambezi for home. We had had the hunt of a lifetime and done what we never thought in our lives we would have the chance to do. We had not gotten our cats and I chose not to go after buffalo. They are our reasons for coming back, as well as our friendships with the Maartens, Daniel, and staff. We plan to come back in 2 years when I am retired and KO turns 40. Of course my oldest granddaughter should be able to handle a 243 by then and should be able to shoot bush buck, warthog, impala, and maybe a kudu. All I need to do is figure out what bucket list item I need to give up to satisfy my wife. Oh, I know the one: we give up all our worldly possessions and become missionaries. That should do it. I’ll let you know in my next Chawalo adventure.

Note: All animals killed were consumed by us and other guests of the Chawalo Safaris Lodge with the exception of the baboon (leopard bait) and the kudu I shot, which was deemed unsuitable for human consumption. The elephant, with the exception of the head and tail, was distributed to the local population. All fish were caught and released.

 


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