Gastro Gnome - Eat Better Wherever

Hunt report


New member
Jun 22, 2001
Owasso, OK

The following is the field report of my recent trip to Zimbabwe.

I departed Tulsa, Oklahoma on July 1 on a flight to Atlanta to overnight prior to my morning flight to Jo'burg. Do not stay in the Econo Lodge by the airport. The savings on room rates is not worth the piss poor A/C in both of the rooms they put me in or the "free" breakfast they provide (bad coffee, sour milk and stale pastries).

Upon arrival at the airport in Atlanta on July 2 there was a very long line at the check in counter. I was behind 7 guys going to Zambia on a mission trip to build a clinic and school. They caused further delay as all of their bags were way over the 70 pound limit and resulted in frantic unpacking and repacking on their part with "stuff" laid out all over the check in area. After over an hour I am on my way to the gate. Please remember to have your bags under 70lbs (mine weighed 67.5) and check in 2 hours early for international flights as you might need the extra time.

After check in I changed $200.00 for Rands and then went to purchase some bottled water and snacks for the flight. Do not exchange more than $10.00 at the airport as you will not need more than this upon initial arrival in RSA for baggage and transportation tips. Also, you can get much more favorable rates by exchanging US for Rand with your PH or other known residents (such as the proprietors of the guest house). I arrived in Jo'burg the morning of July 3 and was met by a representative of the guest house where I was to overningt. I stayed at the Afton Guesthouse and it is very comfortable and affordable. Also, the owners are very accommodating in taking you shopping or out for meals to the safe areas of Jo'burg.

Later that evening I met my first hunting companion upon his arrival to overnight at the Afton. John Harris and I had been exchanging e-mails about this hunt since he posted it on Saeed's forum earlier this year. Many people thought I was crazy to spend the time and money to travel to Africa to hunt with a guy I met on line, but sometimes you have to take a chance and have a little adventure in life. John Harris seemed like a great guy initially and this impression was further reinforced during our 11 hour road trip to Harare, Zim the next day. I was correct in my initial assessment of John, as a great friendship was built with both of my hunting companions during the course of the next few days. John even let me drive for as long as his nerves would permit. I must admit that my driving was not my best display of talent and I learned that driving on the wrong side of the road and shifting with the weak side is very challenging. John described my drining a riveting. However, I only ran off the road once and did manage to completely miss all the goats and donkeys that were roaming free on our journey through the communal lands. We finally arrive in Harare the night of July 4 and meet the remaining portion of the intrepid trio, Don Heath. Don is a former Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife officer who, in addition to his anti-poaching and problem animal control activities, also instructed portions of the PH course in Zim. He is currently an editor for African Hunter magazine and frequent contributor to Man Magnum as well. He was a very friendly guy with a very proper English boarding school manner of speach , but seemed a bit wound up at first blush. After initial unpacking and a drop or two of Scottish mineral water, Don breaks some very bad news. He had just been advised a few hours prior to our arrival that "warvets" have invaded the Charara concession area and John's elephant hunt and my buffalo hunt are history. After and appropriate period of anger and threats at all "warvets" and Mugabe (life long) and self-pity and moping by John and I (5 minutes)we try to make a plan to salvage the hunt. Don begins immediately telephoning people searching for another buff hunt. Over the next two days, July 5 and 6, he and a friend of his call and contact over 50 different operators and PHs in Zim. The end result is that either none of the people contacted have buff on quota or have been invaded themselves. Don does secure a leopared hunt in the Save Conservancy, but we elect to not take it as we only have 6 days from start to finish to do the hunt. Finally, by using a third party contact and Don's experience and reputation in Zim, John is able to secure a buff hunt with a Zim based operator in Mozambique, Safaris de Mozambique, which saved my hunt. This company is owned and operated by Piet Hougaard and is one of the finest safari outfits you are likely to encounter. He has one of the largest concessions in Southern Africa, beautiful camp, professional staff, great accomodations and loads of dangerous game in his area. I highly recommend Piet and Safaris de Mozambique if you want buff, elephant, hippo, lion or leopard, as well as great plains game in a truley wild setting.

Salvation! We have the hunt set up and depart Harare at 11:00 am July 7 for a supposed 9 hour drive to Lake Bora Bassa and the hunting camp. The last part of the drive is done at night with two Mozambican government officials who have a difficult time remembering where the camp is located and over unbelievably rough roads that destroy John's trailer. These two guys might not have been much on direction following, but they bent over backwards to accomodate our party in their country and greased the skids with customs both in Zim and Moz.

Finally, we arrive in Kafakuze camp about 11:00 pm and after unpacking, showers and eating get to bed about 12:30 am. We are up the next morning, July 8, and set up in our loaned camp space on a concrete pad with pole sides and roof and unpack the rest of our gear. The obligatory trip to the range to confirm the zero of the rifles is the next business at hand. To my utter amazement, after a transAtlantic trip with baggage handlers on two continents and mile after mile of gut busting rural African roads, my Winchester M-70 375 H&H with Leupold 1.5 X 5 scope and detachable mounts was still spot on with the 300 grain Failsafes and Hornady solids at 80 yards. Thank you Tuffpak, Assault Case and Leupold.

After shooting we are finally off on our hunt. A couple of hours pass and we are into early afternoon when some fresh sign is spotted on the road and we spoor for a few kilometers until the buff cross into Zim airspace and we have to give up the chase. We drive a total of over 100 kilometers this day and see kudu, sable (my first)and impala before finally crossing another fresh trail about 6:00 pm. We follow for a very short distance and catch up to the buff feeding at a good pace going straight away from us. Don and I try to flank them for a shot and just as the biggest bull steps clear at about 50 yards he turns directly away. We move again but cannot get a shot and by the time we close to within about 25 yards it is too dark to shoot. That was my first sighting of Cape Buffalo and I am hooked.

The next morning, July 9, we cross fresh sign about 6:30 and start tracking. About 8:30 and some 2+ kilometers later we catch the buff resting and close to within about 50 yards when to wind changes and blows the buff out. We follow and close to about 25 yards of some buff on the next stalk after crawling 60 yards on our bellies in a sandy creek bed. All the visible ones are cows and immature animals that blast off when the wind again carries out scent to them. Next, we catch up to them about 10:30 an some 2 kilometers later while the buff are resting in a stand of very tall and open forrest area. It is decided that a stalk is not possible so John and the Game Scout, Everson, will flank the herd to the right and Richard, one of the trackers, will flank the herd to the left and circle them to the rear to give the buff the wind in hopes that the herd will run toward Don and I and present a shot. The plan goes wrong either because the tracker cut in too soon or the herd was much larger than we thought, because about 200 buff go charging past John in a thunderous herd that cross a small clearing about 300 yards from Don and I.
After a smoke, drink and rest we again follow the herd into a series of low hills and narrow valleys and catch up to them after about 2 hours and 1.5 kilomters. It is now about 1:30 pm and we are able to see 3, 6, 12, 20 or more buff at a time in these small areas. However, an approach is difficult because of the terrain and wind. Eventually, we work our way up close to a small herd with a good old bull who is missing half his tail. I can't get a shot as there is a cow in the way and the wind is shifting again. They scent us again and the herd runs, but this time the old bull and a younger one hang back and stop. The old bull does not present a shot as he stops behind a bush, but the young bull curls out to the left and presents a quartering away shot at his left shoulder. The range is guessed to be about 80 yards and I have a good rest from the seated position. The shot breaks clean and I call its location as the sound of the meaty shot rings out. The bull does not react other than to make two jumps and is out of sight. The rest of the party, John, Everson and the other tracker, Richard, come up and inquire about the shot. I tell them the shot was good, but I am concerned because I haven't heard the death bellow and my bull ran away from the direction herd departed. After a few minutes we set off to track my buff with John, Don and myself advancing on line to where we last saw the animal. Just as we top the small ridge where my buff was standing at the time of the shot, I see a black lump in the brush and know it is my buff. After a few seconds and seeing no movement we all advance with rifles ready, but our caution is not necessary as he is dead where he lays. To be certain of no surprises, John allows me to pay the insurance with a shot from his 500NE Ruger No.1. The shot lands in the spine from behind with no effect other than to rock the buff where he lays. The bull has traveled about 60 yards after a shot leaving a very visible blood trail. The shot was through both lungs and the top of his heart before stopping in the chest. The bull has tried J-hooked around on his back trail to face us, but has died before we arrive.

I have wanted to hunt the Big Five ever since I was given a copy of Death in the Long Grass in 1979 and have finally taken the first of what I hope is many, many more buffalo. I have never experienced a hunt quite like this and the electricity is pumping through my body. After photos and replays we are off on a 7.5 kilometer speed march to retrieve the truck and try to get back to the kill site by dark.

I will relate the post kill adventure later.

Thanks I enjoyed that, for you spending all that money and letting us in on a bit of the joy of the hunt! For what it is worth A deep hearted thanks.
Mike Murphy
Perry, good job! I have dozens of people with the same story about their Zimbabwe plans being scrapped since Mugabe's troubles started. I also have dozens with no trouble at all. Go figure! I try to push for South Africa when people want to hunt Africa becuase it is consistant and safe all the time. Glad you could work out this hunt after the original plans fell through, how lucky is that on short notice!

Glad to see you posted here first as well!jj