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14 days, 150 miles and 1 helluva elephant hunt!
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Picture of Greg Brownlee
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Have you ever been on one of those hunts that you know will stick out in your memory above most of the others? For some of you that may be a frequent experience, but for me it was the recent Botswana elephant hunt I went on. This trip was like no other hunting experience I have ever been a part of! After 14 days of hunting elephant on foot (those of you who have had Greg Butler as a PH know just how literal he takes the term "foot safari") and logging over 200 Kilometers, the client, Clete, shot his bull at 5:45 on the last evening of the hunt! I am doing a write up of this hunt to hopefully be in an upcoming issue of SCI magazine, so be sure to look for it there. For now, I will just kind of give the "cliff notes".

We arrived at the Botswana border a bit chafed after a nightmare of a situation at the customs counter at the Victoria Falls airport. A family of 25 Philipinos thought it necessary to all get through at once and instead delayed the whole line an additional 3 hours (It's amazing the words you will hear come out of a little old lady after she gets a bit annoyed!). Greg Butler, our PH for this safari, had lost his passport so he arranged to have someone pick us up in Vic. Falls and drive us to the border where he was waiting for us. We checked our guns for the fourth time in 1 day at the Botswana border and were off to the Chobe concessions CH 1 and 2, an area known by some to be full of irate elephants, especially cows (As "luck" would have it, we would become some of the people that came to know these elephants in that way).

The first day was really the only "easy" day on this hunt. We woke up around 6, ate a good breakfast and made sure the rifles were still sighted in. We drove the roads and went after the track of a bull that turned up about 6 k's down the trail but was only 40 lbs or so, so we walked back. That was the only elephant we saw until about 5 pm when we saw a herd of 5 bulls together with 2 50-55 lb bulls in the lot, great to see on the first day! In total, we walked a little over 13 ks the first day.

The next few days were some of the longer walking days, with our 3 day average being right at 23k's, the longest being 28 ks on the second day and the shortest being 21k's on day 3. (Wearing Clark's Wallabees with their soft soles must have helped in the soft soil, because I didn't get a blister at all and I had only been walking about 3-4 miles per day before the hunt. Plus they are the quietest shoes I have ever worn in my life! Don't know if I would recommend them for an area with lots of thorns, but for Botswana they worked excellent).

Day 5 was a bit interesting when we accidentally split a herd of around 100 cows and one group caught our wind. All of the sudden we had a swarm of screaming cows and young bulls around us that weren't too pleased of our presence. Greg had me watch behind us while he and the client watched the other sides. A young 40lb'ish bull spotted us and came screaming in with his ears back, knocking over every 15 foot mopane tree in his way. At about 15 yards Greg had Clete shoot a shot over the bulls head while he covered the bull. Thankfully it turned the bull, but it didn't really deter the cows coming from the opposite side. They grouped up and all came at once screaming and coming about 15 yards at a time. We backed off as our shouts didn't seem to do much and kept about 50-60 yards between us and them for about 1 k before they all stopped and just paced back and forth. Greg laughed at me for holding a .375 (which I personally felt was a pea shooter when I had that many elephants around me) and I gladly accepted his .470 NE backup gun as a loaner for this trip.

Days 6-10 were full of long walks, mock charges and a few close calls. We saw elephants everywhere, and by day 10 had seen 15 bulls better than 55 lbs, including one bull that probably had 75-80 lbs on one side but only 40lbs on the other (I though that bull was perfect, the client disagreed!). The unseasonable rains had brought the reeds further up the river than usual, so the bulls were walking right through the concession to get to them. This obviously worked tremendously in our favor because we were absolutely covered up in bulls every day.

By days 11-13, the feeling of "Is this going to happen" was crossing all of our minds, and I know even Greg was getting a little worried though he didn't show it. We had seen Tons of bulls, walked TONS of miles, and had a few close calls with some great bulls, including one 70+ pounder that walked into a photographic area in front of us that, although he didn't have the mass most of these bulls carried, his ivory stuck out an estimated 52-54"! That one was a little heart breaking for sure..

Day 14 came with, believe it or not, no sense of urgency what-so-ever among any of us. It was almost odd how calm we all were about this hunt. Even though it was the last day, we all acted like it was the first. We knew we were going to have to work hard, so when we picked up a very fresh, big track at 6:30 am, we packed 15 bottles of water and headed after the bull. These bulls were musting big time, and one thing we had learned over the past 2 weeks is that when you think you are close, you aren't. 9 HOURS LATER the bull had crossed back over the road we picked his tracks up on. The bull had simply out walked us. We were literally 10-15 minutes behind him the first time we saw his track, and by the time he crossed back over the road we were an estimated 4 hours behind him. We decided to give up on this bull because he had love on his mind, so we ate a late lunch and headed towards another area where the bulls had been coming in and out of the reeds. At right about 4:45 pm we spotted a bull from the truck (actually the first one the whole safari that we saw from the truck and decided to follow). From the tracks, it looked to be about 5-6 bulls in one group and they were moving quickly towards the water. After about 30 minutes of walking, we caught up with the herd which had grouped up with more bulls and made one big herd of about 15-18 bulls. In this group, there were 3 shooters, and another bull with one 80 lb tusk but unfortunately the other was broken at the lip. We were within 50 yards of the bulls but we could not get a shot because the bigger bulls were in the center of the group, making it impossible to get a shot. We kept following them with daylight running out (by this time it was almost 5:45)and had to get that shot. The big one tusker was shaking an acacia tree with the next biggest bull (a symmetrical bull around 70lbs) right next to him. We elected to take this bull with a shoulder shot because a botched brain shot could end in never finding the bull. The client shot, with me firing right after him, both shooting for the shoulder. When we shot, all 15 bulls came running right at us! The client fired 2 more times at his bull, hitting it once in the chest and the other grazed his chest. We all starting shouting but they could not hear us over the confusion of the shots and the screaming and trumpeting. At 5 paces, Greg shot our bull in the head. After the shot the other bulls knocked our bull down and skirted around us at spitting range. When the dust settled, we discovered that Greg had missed the brain and the only reason he fell was because of the other elephant pushing him down. The bull was getting back on his feet and was only about 5 yards away when I shot him in the shoulder with the second round from the .470 and broke the shoulder, putting him down for good. After a couple of insurance shots we had our bull! No official weight measurements yet, but he is a touch over 18" at the lip, 43" sticking out on the top tusk and 46.5" sticking out on the bottom tusk. We think he should go around 65-70 lbs, maybe a touch over. This was an excellent trip for all involved, and not one I will soon forget! This recap doesn't really begin to touch on all of the exciting, scary, fun and goofy experiences we had on this trip. I plan to do a full article on this as I feel it is one hunt I have done that is worthy of it! If all goes well, I will be going back to Botswana in September for an elephant of my own!




Greg Brownlee
Neal and Brownlee, LLC
Quality Worldwide Big Game Hunts Since 1975
918/299-3580
greg@NealAndBrownlee.com


www.NealAndBrownlee.com

Instagram: @NealAndBrownleeLLC

Hunt reports:

Botswana 2010

Alaska 2011

Bezoar Ibex, Turkey 2012

Mid Asian Ibex, Kyrgyzstan 2014
 
Posts: 1129 | Location: Tulsa, OK | Registered: 08 February 2010Reply With Quote
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Great Story and Bull!


Good Hunting,

Tim Herald
Worldwide Trophy Adventures
tim@trophyadventures.com
 
Posts: 2848 | Location: Lexington, KY | Registered: 13 January 2005Reply With Quote
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Very nice and done the right way.
 
Posts: 10140 | Location: Orlando, FL | Registered: 26 January 2006Reply With Quote
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That is a terrific bull elephant.

Congrats to Clete!


Mike

An ounce of experience is worth a pound of theory.
 
Posts: 10515 | Location: New England | Registered: 06 June 2003Reply With Quote
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Well done.


On the plains of hesitation lie the bleached bones of ten thousand, who on the dawn of victory lay down their weary heads resting, and there resting, died.

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch...
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!
- Rudyard Kipling

Life grows grim without senseless indulgence.
 
Posts: 6803 | Location: Victoria, Texas | Registered: 30 March 2003Reply With Quote
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Outstanding! tu2
 
Posts: 14225 | Registered: 04 April 2005Reply With Quote
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Awesome stuff. Thanks for the report.


"When the wind stops....start rowing. When the wind starts, get the sail up quick."
 
Posts: 10165 | Location: New Zealand | Registered: 02 July 2008Reply With Quote
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Greg,

A spectacular hunt and just enough information to tease us into wanting more. Thanks for your report. PM on the way with a few questions.

Paul


"Diligentia - Vis - Celeritas"
NRA Benefactor Member
Member DRSS
 
Posts: 851 | Location: Southeastern PA, USA | Registered: 14 February 2001Reply With Quote
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Greg Butler seems to do a really good job. My friend who hunts nothing but elephants gives him his highest marks.


Will J. Parks, III
 
Posts: 2957 | Location: Alabama USA | Registered: 09 July 2009Reply With Quote
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Grand bull.
 
Posts: 2123 | Location: AZ and TX | Registered: 13 February 2006Reply With Quote
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Very nice! Glad you had fun!

Brett


DRSS
Life Member SCI
Life Member NRA
Life Member WSF

Rhyme of the Sheep Hunter
May fordings never be too deep, And alders not too thick; May rock slides never be too steep And ridges not too slick.
And may your bullets shoot as swell As Fred Bear's arrow's flew; And may your nose work just as well As Jack O'Connor's too.
May winds be never at your tail When stalking down the steep; May bears be never on your trail When packing out your sheep.
May the hundred pounds upon you Not make you break or trip; And may the plane in which you flew Await you at the strip.
-Seth Peterson
 
Posts: 4527 | Location: Alaska | Registered: 21 February 2008Reply With Quote
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Excellent story Greg, look forward to the full version. Cheers!
 
Posts: 240 | Location: South Africa/Zimbabwe | Registered: 31 December 2009Reply With Quote
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Great bull ele and standing your ground and making the shot.

Now you know why I do not want the minimum caliber in my hands hunting eles. Quoting Will, " There is no such thing as to much gun."

Mike


Michael Podwika... DRSS bigbores and hunting www.pvt.co.za " MAKE THE SHOT " 450#2 Famars
 
Posts: 6724 | Location: Wyoming, Pa. USA | Registered: 17 April 2003Reply With Quote
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Those consecutive 10-12 miles/days start to really get hard as one's age increases, at least from this perspective.
Congratualtions on a wonderful hunt and a grand bull!


Steve
"He wins the most, who honour saves. Success is not the test." Ryan
"Those who vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything." Stalin
Tanzania 06
Argentina08
Argentina
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Namibia
Arnhemland10
Belize2011
Moz04
Moz 09
 
Posts: 8084 | Location: NW Arkansas | Registered: 09 July 2005Reply With Quote
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Sounds like a well earned bull ! Well done Greg.


Dave Fulson
 
Posts: 1426 | Registered: 20 December 2007Reply With Quote
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What a hunt!!
Good luck in September!
 
Posts: 1659 | Location: Winston,Georgia | Registered: 07 July 2007Reply With Quote
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