My friend Sam Perone had been asking me for a few years to do a dangerous game hunt in Africa with him and in 2012 everything came together when I contacted my friend and highly regarded African PH Andrew Schoeman.
For a variety of reasons we decided on a late season hunt in Zimbabwe in the Gache-Gache Safari Area, which is partially bordered by the Gache-Gache River and Lake Kariba. The area has excellent Cape buffalo, hippopotamus, Nile crocodile and respectable elephant.
While late season hunts are often had at a discount, there are three major risks associated with them. The first is that desired game may no longer be available because the quota has been filled. The second is the heat–late season hunts are from mid-November to mid-December when it is summertime in the southern hemisphere and daytime temperatures ranging from 110°F to 120°F are normal. The third is that it is the start of the wet season and, aside from the humidity, hunting days can be lost because of monsoon like rains and impassable roads, even in 4WD vehicles.
I was interested in hunting for hippo and crocodile while Sam wanted to hunt buffalo. After Andrew assured me that one of each would be available to hunt, we booked our 10-day safari from November 6 through 21.
When we arrived at camp, Corris Ferreira, his wife Hillary, son Bradley and the camp staff greeted us. The camp was comfortable, well equipped and fully staffed. It is located on the shore of Lake Kariba and the views are beautiful. We were introduced to our trackers, Cry and Sham and our game guard, Lemek.
Once in camp, Andrew told us that one hyena and one bull elephant were still on quota. Sam elected to go for a hyena and although it was far beyond my budget, I said that if we came upon a really good bull elephant that I would go for him. One of the often-encountered problems with hunting in Africa is that desires can often exceed budget realities.
By mid-morning on the first day it was well over 100°F. We returned to camp for a late breakfast and, because game would not be moving until later in the day, stayed in camp until that afternoon when we drove around the lakeshore, looking for a good hippo or crocodile. Because of the heat that time of year, it’s unusual to find a crocodile out of the water during the midday, and that afternoon we found a nice one whose head was barely above the water line. Andrew and I crawled to a little more than 100 yards from it, but given that I would have to make a perfect brain or spine shot, I never felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger on my .50 B&M.
The next day we saw quite a few buffalo, but no mature bulls, then as luck would have it we came upon fresh buffalo tracks that were crisscrossing the road. We eventually spotted a small herd with a nice mature bull and Sam, Andrew and the tracker made a stalk while I followed behind. They went 50 to 60 yards before Andrew positioned the shooting sticks for Sam’s Marlin Model 1895 chambered in .45-70. He was shooting 400-gr. BBW No. 13 solids developed by Michael McCourry and produced by North Fork Technologies. Sam made a perfect heart shot and the mortally wounded buffalo ran about 30 yards and rolled head over heels. The buffalo appeared to be quite dead, but as experienced dangerous game hunters know, what appears to be is not always what actually is. No one had bothered to tell the buffalo that he was dead and, as it started to get up, Sam anchored him with another 400-gr. solid. One buffalo in the salt.
Later that morning Andrew went to check on a large crocodile that we had seen the two previous days that had taken up residence in a lagoon close to the camp skinning area. This was a very wary animal that Andrew estimated was at least 14 feet long. While Andrew was working his way toward the crocodile, he spotted a very nice bull elephant and quickly returned to camp to tell me about it. Corris, Andrew and I went to see if we could find it again, and luck was with us as we soon found him. He had beautiful tusks that appeared about 30 pounds each. We stalked to within 25 yards, but the elephant caught our scent and started to leave.
I had already decided not to shoot him, but suddenly he turned and made a mock charge. If an elephant has never charged you, it is quite an exhilarating experience. Corris ran toward the elephant, waving his arms and shouting, but the elephant stood his ground for what seemed like an eternity. But it was actually less than a minute, as the elephant studied what was occurring. The elephant likely thought the strange looking creature was crazy and decided to leave.
Early the next morning, we drove down to the lakeshore, hoping to find buffalo that had come to drink before the heat forced them to retreat into the thick brush where they could find some shade. Lady luck was with us and we spotted a herd of about 90 animals. We glassed them for a while and determined that it contained two mature, thick-bossed bulls.
Andrew and I, using the little cover available to us, started our stalk as an old cow watched us intently. Every time the old cow looked away, we moved closer. The wind was in our favor and the bull we had our eyes on was lying down with his face on the ground, chewing his cud. I was tempted to shoot him in the head, but Andrew whispered to be patient and then made some noise in an attempt to get the old bull to stand up.
A cow crossed in front of the bull and stood there for some time, followed by another bull with shorter horns. When those two finally moved on, I had a clear shot if the buffalo either stood up, or lifted his head high enough for a head-on chest shot.
Andrew clapped his hands and the old bull lifted his head to see what was disturbing him. Before it could react, I was on the sticks and fired a Cutting Edge Bullets 450-gr. NonCon No. 13 BBW from my .50 B&M into the bull’s chest, striking it about an inch to the right of center and piercing the vitals.
The old bull rose to his feet and was immediately surrounded by the herd. A younger bull smelled the blood pouring from the old bull’s wound and started to push him around. The herd was trying to keep the old bull on his feet as blood poured from his nose, indicating a lung shot.
The old bull turned to his right and I made a clear heart shot. He then turned more to his right and I shot him again. It was “game over,” but I paid the insurance and put another round into his motionless body. Another buffalo was going into the salt.
Late in the afternoon, Corris and Andrew spotted a nice 12 to 13-foot crocodile. Andrew and I crawled on the scorching hot sand in fading sunlight to within 150 yards of it, but I decided not to take the shot, again because I did not know how much the 450 gr. bullet would drop beyond 100 yards. With crocodiles, if you do not hit the walnut-sized brain or the spine, you will very likely lose your trophy.
A couple of uneventful days later, Andrew decided that we were going to change our routine and not wait until late afternoon to go out and look for game. Instead, shortly after noon, Andrew, Sham, Lemek and I left camp to hunt hippos and crocodile at the lake. It did not take us very long to spot a large crocodile at the water’s edge with part of its body in the water.
Andrew and I duck walked and then crawled to within a 100 yards of it. We were on higher ground and decided not to try to get closer for fear of spooking it. I would have to make a standing shot, but before I started to stand up, the crocodile decided it was time to get back into the water and quickly disappeared from sight. Crocodile hunting was proving to be far more challenging than I had expected it to be.
Shortly thereafter we spotted a nice bull hippo in the water and walked to within 50 yards of him. Because we were close to a large village and there was a lot of fishing in the area, the hippos were accustomed to seeing and hearing people. Our presence did not cause the bull any unnecessary alarm, so we watched him for quite some time while moving very slowly so as not to alarm him. The bull appeared to be sleeping and had his head on the back of another hippo. Ever so slowly I got into a sitting position and held my rifle against one leg of the shooting sticks to keep it steady. I waited for what seemed like an eternity for the right opportunity and when it came, I squeezed the trigger and sent a 450 gr. bullet on its way.
The hippo’s head was angled to me when I shot and the bullet slammed into the bull just below the left eye. The bullet’s petals sheared off as they were designed to do, and the wound was devastating. The hippo rolled violently while repeatedly thrashing in the water and I fired two more rounds at him, one while he was thrashing and the other down his throat, before calling camp to bring a tractor, a small boat and a number of the camp staff. The boat was launched, the hippo secured, and then dragged to shore for picture taking and quartering.
After returning to camp with the hippo, we decided to put out some bait for crocodile in an area where the Gache-Gache River flows into the lake.
The next morning we left camp around 6 a.m. with another hippo hindquarter and drove straight to the Gache-Gache River. When we arrived, we saw that yesterday’s bait was gone, so we put out the fresh bait and set up a pop-up blind 45 yards away. It did not take long for the crocs to come to the bait. One very large croc asserted dominance and started devouring the bait, but because smaller crocs kept sneaking in for a piece of meat, it was difficult to get a clear line of sight for a shot and I was determined to make a clean kill.
Finally, I got my opportunity and put a 450 gr. NonCon into the croc’s spine, followed by two more shots just to make certain that the old croc would not find the strength to slip into the deep water. When we approached the “dead” croc, he started to slightly move his head and I quickly put a round into his head. The croc measured 13 feet. 3 inches.– Dr. Lou Imundo