Upon arriving at Johannesburg Tambo International Airport the first week of May on South African Airlines, I was met by Bruce, the representative for Gracy Travel and the Afton Guest House. Both the Afton Guest House and Gracy Travel cater to hunters, and the service and information they provide is excellent. Continue reading Leopards in the Baobab – Tracking the Cat in Zimbabwe
This hunt was actually never supposed to take place until we unloaded a couple of houses that we were stuck with in California. At age 72, I’m not getting any younger, so my wife, Deena, decided it was a good time for us to do an elephant hunt now rather than wait and see what happened with the real estate market. In my mind, it looked like the market was never going to improve, so I agreed to go ahead and start checking for the proper outfitter for the hunt. I had three outfitters in mind and e-mailed all of them, but only one responded within 24 hours. So I continued to communicate with them until we had everything basically settled and satisfied in my mind.
The 10-day hunt was to take place in Zimbabwe at the end of March, so we made flight reservations with Gracie Travel Agency that had us returning home on April 1. When the time finally arrived for us to depart, the four flights over were miserable as usual, but we made it safe and sound and were greeted by our outfitter, “Buzz,” from C&M Safaris, who took us to a bed-and-breakfast for our first night.
The following morning, we woke to a beautiful day. We had an absolutely fantastic breakfast and about noon our professional hunter, Richie Tabor, arrived and we left Harare for camp. We arrived in camp after a 3 ½-hour trip, and went to the range to make sure my handguns were still properly sighted-in. My main handgun was a .454 Casull shooting 320-grain Belt Mountain Punch bullets. The gun has a fiber optic front sight and an express rear. My backup gun was my T/C Encore equipped with a 2-7x scope chambered in .450 Marlin, shooting 500-grain Hornady solids.
After we made sure everything was a “go,” the PH took us out for a vehicle tour of the property. It was at the end of the rainy season and the bush was absolutely green, lush and thick. I could tell we were going to have a hard time seeing our targets because of the thickness of the bush.
Our daily routine started with a light breakfast and coffee in the morning. Satisfied, we would go out and look for tracks, then come back to camp sometime around 10 to 11 for a light lunch and nap. Refreshed, we would go back out until dusk, and then return to camp with an hour or so to relax before dinner was ready. I have to say that the food was absolutely delicious and the South African red wines are the best that I’ve ever tasted. Deena and I couldn’t wait for dinnertime.
I made it a habit each morning at breakfast and every night at dinner to make sure my professional hunter knew my true desire was for him to join in and be part of the hunting team if he was not absolutely positive that my first shot was a one-shot kill. If it wasn’t, I wanted him to step in and use his double rifle for something other than just resting over his shoulder. The laws in Africa are quite clear — If you put a bullet hole in your trophy, you are morally, legally, financially and ethically responsible for that animal. Needless to say, I wanted this hunt to be successful. When I spend this kind of money on a hunt, I definitely want success. Sorry folks, but that’s exactly the way I feel about it.
This was a very physical hunt for me as I wasn’t properly in shape. The kind of exercise I had been doing at home was definitely not the kind to get in the shape needed for the amount of walking we were doing on a day-to-day basis. Deena, however, was in perfect shape. She works out on a treadmill and had no problems whatsoever maneuvering any and all of the obstacles we ran into.
We hunted for eight days before we finally were successful, and during those eight days we stalked at least four separate groups of elephants. On the eighth day, we finally closed in on seven different bull elephants, and I knew that it was time. My professional hunter put up the shooting sticks and I mounted my Encore on top. I was so excited that I didn’t even realize that somewhere along the way, I had lost my duffel bag. This would make my shot go at least three inches higher than what I wanted it to. I wasn’t smart enough to compensate for that, and my bullet went three inches higher than it was supposed to and I only stunned the elephant. The elephant staggered with my shot, but regained its footing, turned and started to run away. My PH was on the ball and saw immediately what had happened and fired one shot.
We never did find out where my professional hunter’s shot went, but he took off in front of me so I couldn’t fire a second shot even though I had reloaded. I heard him fire another shot as I was running after him. When I came out of the bush, I saw that the elephant was down. As I approached the down bull, I noticed that my PH had shot it in the tailbone and paralyzed it. I thought for a moment that it was all over, but my professional hunter was a little antsy and grabbed me by the hand and pulled me around and told me he wanted me to shoot the elephant in the side of the head and pointed to the exact spot. This time, however, he wanted me to use my main handgun — my .454 Casull.
As instructed, I prepared to shoot my bull in the side of the head and noticed immediately that the elephant was still alive. My shot into the side of his head finished it off and my PH came up to me, slapped me on the back and said, “perfect.” I realized that I had just achieved my main hunting goal. After eight full days of hunting to get on the shooting sticks, it was all over in three minutes or less.
Our ninth day was spent with elephant retrieval. Some outfitters allow the local natives to come in and retrieve what meat they want from the elephant themselves, but C&M prefers to have the entire camp staff retrieve all meat from the elephant and deliver it personally to the local villages. After we had taken from the elephant the trophies that we desired, the rest of the camp staff stayed behind and reduced the elephant to four separate truckloads with absolutely nothing left behind but a spot on the ground. The staff personally delivered those truckloads of protein to the individual villagers who had been raided by the elephants on prior nights. To say that the smiles on the villagers’ faces were as big as our smiles was definitely an understatement.
On day 10, we went out hunting for plains game, but to no avail. We saw plenty of sign, but no sables, so we went back to camp and started getting ready to return home. The return home was, as usual, 35 hours of hell. My wife and I had a ball on this hunting trip, though, and would not have missed any part of it for anything in the world. The only problem now is, what do we do for that fifth time around?– Edward Folmar