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Hunt: For two Tuskless Elephant.
Dates: Late October to first half of November. 14 days of hunting.
Location: Chewore South, Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe.
Safari company: Charlton McCallum Safaris.
PH: Alan Shearing.
Trackers: Martin and Maplan.
Travel arrangements: Gracy Travel International. Flying Air france and South African Airlines.
Rifle: D'Arcy Echols Legend, M70 Winchester. Caliber .458Lott.
Sights: Peep, S&B Zenith 1,1-4x24.
Ammo: Handloads, CEB 480gr flatpoint solids, 295gr tipped NonCon.
Hunting for Elephant has been a dream for me for more than 20 years. I have hunted a lot in Scandinavia and once in the US but never before in Africa. I did most of my pre hunt research right here on AR and have found it a fantastic source of knowledge. I also found my hunt at a nice price in the "Outfitters - Offered and discounted Hunts" forum here.
The basic set up was a 14 day hunt for two Tuskless Elephant, plus plains game. I know it is a bit unorthodox to go for Elephant on ones first hunt in Africa. I have however not yet felt the urge to pursue hunting for plains game but I have had a severe urge to try DG hunting. I also do not have the financial resources to go to Africa to hunt very often in life so I decided to spend my money on what I wanted the most, so Elephant hunting I went.
Traveling from Northern Europe to Zimbabwe was time consuming but without trouble. I went through the In-Transit-Firearms-Permit process at Johannesburg airport assisted by Gracy Travel's people on the ground there and it was super smooth. Then on to Harare. I spent the night at a nice B&B and early the next morning I was on a charter plane heading north for the Zambezi Valley. One, small, airplane can hold an amazing amount of stuff. Lots of supplies for camp along with my bags.
After landing at the air strip close to Pedza Camp, Dande, we went for a two hour drive to CM Safaris Fly Camp on the Makuro River in Ward 11, Dande. This camp is on the boundary to Chewore South hunting area. Chewore South is operated by Chifuti Safaris, this hunt was bought from them by CM Safaris but as Chifuti Safaris were closing their camps for the season we stayed in CMS's own camp right by Chewore South. About a 30 minute drive, or a 50 yard walk across the river, to get to the hunting area from camp. The rest of the first day was spent unpacking, touring the camp, getting used to the heat, watching baboons, checking my rifle after the flights and just generally trying to make my self understand I was actually, finally, in Africa and about to commence on the hunt of my dreams.
Next morning we were in the Land Cruiser early, after about an hour of driving we (that is, the trackers and my PH Alan, not me) found Ele tracks crossing the road. We got out to evaluate. It was a small group of Elephants but the tracks were fresh and the wind was right so we went after them. I tried my best to look as if I knew what I was doing, probably not being very successfull, but Alan is too much of a gentleman to tell me so. The trackers were obviously seeing something on the ground that I was not seeing. We (they) had followed the tracks for about half an hour when we found some dung that was still warm to the touch. Everyone got a bit excited and the pace of the tracking picked up a notch. Not long after this the first Elephant was spotted. We started glassing and Alan told me he could see two Elephants, one of them had no tusk on the side facing us. (I could see something grayish). Slowly circling around to get down wind of them and then we made an approach. It turned out to be four Elephants in the group and one of them was a Tuskless. She was not huge or very old but definitely mature, and she did not have a dependent calf!
Alan turned to me and said. "Do you want her?" A short discussion later we had agreed on that getting a Tuskless early in the hunt would take the pressure off and give us the chance to hunt for the old, big bodied, Tuskless of my dreams for the rest of the hunt. The fact that hunting for Tuskless in Chewore South had been less than super successful on the hunts prior to mine this season also made the decision easier.
We went back up to the group of Elephants and worked our way close to the Tuskless. At about 20 yards we stopped as she was walking slowly towards us. (Please note this was the first time ever I was up close and personal with an Elephant). At about 15 yards she turned to her right presenting a broad side. She stopped, but about 10 yards behind here was an other Elephant so I did not dare to shoot. We stood there for what seemed to be 15 minutes but most likely was more like 10 seconds before she took two more steps and cleared the Ele behind her. I just raised my rifle and went for a side brain shot. She went straight down, in classic brain-shot-fashion, rear legs folding and her head and trunk flying up in the air. She landed on her left side, her back facing me. I could see her move her back leg so I put in one more shot, hitting her in the neck, before Alan kindly advised me to pull out and give the rest of the Ele group some space as they were clearly not happy with how their day had turned out. When the dust had settled and the rest of the Elephants had moved on we went up to my Tuskless. One more round, to the back of her head, just for peace of mind and then I could admire this spectacular animal. Taking such a nobel animal is humbling, no doubt.
So to sum it up; after hunting in Africa for about one and a half hour on my first ever safari, following the first elephant track of my life, I had shot my first African animal, a Tuskless Elephant! How surreal is that?
The next day we were out following tracks again, and the next day and the next, and so on. I had a fantastic time, tracking Elephants every day, getting close to them and getting to watch them in their habitat doing what Elephants do. I got to hear them "talk" to one another. I got to be just amazed by how well they blend in with their surroundings (an Elephant can easily hide behind the smallest bush in Africa or three strands of grass). The lack of sound when they move through the bruch and dry leafs was one other thing I just could not stop being amazed by. Every time we approached a new group of Elephants I was secretly wishing there would be no Tuskless among them. I just did not want this hunt to ever end. I have a feeling Alan noticed this but, as I stated earlier, Alan is a true gentleman so he pretended not knowing and did not seem to be to bothered by the fact either. I am sure Alan truly enjoys hunting for Elephants and he did not mind doing it for a few extra days. We did see a few Tuskless but the only really big one had a dependent calf.
On the evening of day three, on our way back to camp, we spotted a group of Zebras and as I had previously stated that I was interested in having a Zebra rug Alan quickly asked if i wanted to give it a try. I am not much for diesel stalking but I have to admit this was that sort of deal. We snuck out of the truck. I grabbed my gun and loaded a few rounds. Then we slowly moved into position for a shot. I got on the shooting sticks and aimed for the stallion Alan had pointed out to me. (I doubt I will ever average over 50% in accuracy on telling the sex of a Zebra from any distance over 10 yards). He was standing almost facing us at a bit over 100 yards. The front bead covered all of him apart from the head and neck. My first round was of about 6" to the right of where I intended it, hitting him far back on his right side exiting his right hip. Not a shot I was proud of but it stopped him from going much further and I was able to quickly finish him of. That required three more rounds though. African game are tough as nail!
Late on day seven of the hunt we were again after a group of elephant. We had spoted them not far from the road and they were moving towards water at a near by spring, feeding as they were slowly moving along. Following them we soon spotted a really big Tuskless among them. As we got closer Alan made sure there was no calf with her. I descided it was time to stop my fake hunting and try to actuallt take this Tuskless, not just get close and admier her. The aproach was very intens as this was in fairly open terrain and two younger bulls in this herd of about 18 Elephants soon kind of spotted us. They noticed some thing was not quite right and tried to figure out what we were. They kept getting closer, pretending to feed then suddenly lifting their heads to see or hear us. All the Elephants were mingeling arround making the final aproach dificult. Eventually the Tuskless got in front of the rest and we had our chanse. Closing in on her the two bulls kept following us. I got to about 20 yards from the Tuskless as she was slowly feeding, moving from my left to right. I had a decent side brain oportunity. Sneeking on our toes not to reveal our presence to the guarding bulls we got a bit closer to the tuskless and I got ready to shoot. At that point however she stopped right behind the only tree within 200 feet, a very smal tree but her head was partly covered by its dry branches. Again time some how slowed down and the few seconds she stood there seemed like a long time to me. I was debating with my self whether or not to take the shot. It would almost certainly work just fine as the branches were only a few feet from her head but I was not completely happy with "almost certainly" as I did not want to screw things up. I then proceded to realize that a heart lung shot would be a good alternativ, especially since the tree was not covering her chest. By the time I was this far down my inner conversation she took one step forward and her head was no longer covered by the tree.
I started aimin for a side brain shot. I have been tought to shoot by starting the aiming slightly below my intended target and in a slow, deliberate, and straight motion bring the bead up and on to the "bulls eye" applying increasing preasure to the trigger as I raise the bead and letting the round go as the front bead reaches the center of what I intend to hit. Fairly simple, and has worked well for me over the years. This time though I let the round go just a bit too soon. Adrenalin, I guess. The result was a hit below the brain. I immediately knew it was a bad shot and reloaded instictively even though the Elephant started to go down rear legs first. She almost immediately regained her feet though and I fired my second round aiming for the heart/lung area before she took an other step. Alan had been keeping the two bulls under close supervision, they wear about 12 yards from us when I fired my first round at the Tuskless. He saw the cow starting to go down on my first shot and then quickly reverted his attention back to the bulls, prepairing to handle a charge from one of them. This caused him to be a bit behind on firing a back up shot. The cow spun aroud and took off running with the rest of the herd. I sent her one more heart/lung shot as she was going away.
Initially I was uppset with my self for screwing up my brain shot but felt confident we would find her dead not to far away as I was sure I had given her at least one, probably two, solid hit/hits to the chest. We immediately started following the tracks. Not much blood but enough to be easy to follow, both on the ground and on trees and bushes at about Elephant sholder height. As the track kept on going my heart kept on sinking. It was getting dark quickly and we had to quit tracking to come back the next morning. The ride back to camp was painful. I was kicking my self over and over again. As we had tracked the cow for almost one kilometer when we had to give up due to darkness falling it was obvious to me that for some reasone I had managed to miss the chest of an Elephant from a distance of 20 yards! It had to be a gut shot, or two.
We got back on the track at sun up the next morning. She had stuck with the rest of the group of Elephants so it was not possible to follow her exact track but we made sure no tracks were leaving those of the herd and we kept following them. After an other kilometer or so we found a few piles of loose dung smelling in a sharp, peculiar, way and it was obvios thet the Hyenas had found it interesting as there were Hyena tracks all over these piles of dung. Most likelt there was blood in the dung even though it was not enough to make it visibel to the human eye. This strengthen the gut shot theory. We kept on tracking for a total of about five kilometers when we reached a series of springs. After that it was no longer possible to follow the right track as there were litteraly hundreds of tracks going in every direction from there. We spent the next two and a half days looking for her. We searched springs, we walked ridges, we glassed from view points, we walked aimlessly for miles, we looked for Vultures, we went back to where I had shoot her and followed the tracks again. We tried every thing and then some...
What had been the thrill of my life, a wonderful orgy of African hunting and wildlife experiences, I had turned in to pure agony by shooting badly. I lost all desire to go on and was starting to make plans for going home early. I could not sleep much, food was just hard to swallow. Wounding and loosing such a grand, majestic and utterly amazing animal as an Elephant was a bit more than I could handle. I went over the chain of events in my mind a thousand times. I just could not understand how I could throw my second shot so far of from where I felt sure I fired it. The only reasonable explanation I could come up with was that I had not given my self the time to center the front bead in the rear peep sight, thus hitting far from where I thought I was aiming. Alan told me right when we first started tracking the wounded Tuskless that I had made the quickest follow up shot he had ever experienced, double rifles included. Fast is good, accurate is better!
I think my pain was quite obvious to Alan and Buzz Charlton, who was sharing camp with us hunting bull Elephant with a Danish client. On the evening of the third day day of searching for my lost Tuskless, Buzz offered me to take a third Tuskless paying trophy fee only. At first I did not really consider it but that sleepless night I went over my options and made a decision. I needed to get back up in the saddle quickly if I ever wanted to enjoy hunting again. The next morning I accepted Buzz's offer and Alan and I started tracking and glassing for Elephant again. My gun was now wearing it's S&B 1,1-4x24 scope to make sure I could not make that same mistake with the open sights again.
It was not easy to start over and push the bad memories out of the way but as time went by I started to enjoy my self more and more. On day 12 we were again getting close to a group of Elephants heading for water in the afternoon. Among them was a great, big Tuskless. We got close enough for Alan to look them over and he determined she was not with any dependent calf so the hunt was on again. The wind was bad and they were going fairly fast towards water so we had to jog around them to get the wind right before trying to move in. This stalk was less intense as we were never spotted by them and the rest of the Elephants were to the rear of the Tuskless, clearly the Matriarch of the herd. The main problem for me was that she did not stop, she would slow down a bit now and then but refused to stop. So I had to keep walking/jog along with the group looking for my opportunity. As she eventually slowed down a bit we closed the distance and I took my shot as she was stil walking. A side brain shot again from about 18 yards. This time the Elephant came straight down when I fired. Even though she showed no sign of trying to get up I pumped an other four rounds in to her before all was said and done, just to make real sure she was not getting up again.
The feeling walking up to her was just fantastic after what had happened a few days earlier. I was just plain happy! I had had the hunting experience of my life over the past two weeks and I knew I would relive the memories for many years to come. Now there was a happy ending to the memories and the painful memories of wounding/loosing were not as razor sharp any more.
The last few days we spent looking for Warthog and Impala. On day thirteen we saw a nice Warthog (Alan told me it was a good one, I had no clue) and started to follow it. Tracking for about a kilometer we accidentally came up on a herd of Impalas. Some glassing told Alan there was a nice old ram in the herd (to me all rams look nice) and we put up a stalk. The stalk was successful and I managed to get my Impala. So at the end of a Warthog track you find an Impala ram.
I spent two weeks in hunters heaven. We saw more than 400 Elephants in 14 day, 18 of them being mature Tuskless. I also got to se a couple of 40+" Dagga boys, a nice dark maned old Lion, Hippo, Crock and a bunch of different plains game species. I am very, very happy with my choice of safari company. CM Safaris performed above and beyond any expectations before, during and after my hunt. Gracy Travel made traveling with my rifle really easy. My custom rifle by D'Arcy Echols & Co performed as expected and, just as important, gave me that warm feeling of being absolutely confident it will never let me down. The hunt was a true emotional roller coaster, giving me memories to revisit for the rest of my life (or as long as my memory serves me).
I have already started planning my next hunt. I just have to save up a few Dollars first.
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Great hunt and report. Pictures are not " up". I know the feeling of a lost ele. Very hard to continue hunting. One of the lowest days of one's hunting career.
Another successful hunter with CMS safaris!
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Another very heart-felt and sincere hunt report. Congrats on your hunt and well done on your hunt report. Welcome to the ranks of those of us that share your addiction to elephant hunting.
"Living dangerously is twice blessed -- it blesses the moment with elation; it blesses the after-day with warm memories." ~Major P.J. Pretorius
"The man who declares that he is not afraid of elephants is either an ignoramus or a liar." ~Baron Bror von Blixen-Finecke
". . . when a man has shot an elephant his life is full." ~John Alfred Jordan
"Danger not only adds zest to all forms of sport, it also tends to sharpen the faculties and to bring into focus all that is to be seen and heard in a forest. Danger, which is understood, and which you are prepared to face, does not in any way distract from pleasure." ~Jim Corbett
". . . he wasn't aware of it then, by the time he left he had been infected by a disease known to many born outside the continent as the call of Africa -- an incurable disease indeed. ~ Peter Stiff
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Very nice. When you arrived, I had about 5 days remaining on my hunt. Ele hunting is certainly addicting and can very well be an emotional roller coaster. I didn't take my tuskless on this hunt as cleanly as I would like either. But we press on knowing that hunting these great beast ultimately provides for their conservation!
You couldn't have picked a finer company than CMS to start your African adventures. Congrats on a great hunt but do realize that you are now addicted!!
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A lovely and heartfelt tale. You certainly felt and conveyed the ups and downs of an elephant hunt! I'll be back with CMS in six months, and thank you for stoking me!
Woultchers? I love it.
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Been there and done that. It feels terrible but you did exactly the right thing by taking Buzz's offer of another tuskless. The only cure is to move on. Kicking yourself serves no purpose. The first guide I ever used had been hunting Kodiak Island for 30 years and had taken almost all the world's mountain game as well as doing several safaris. He said "If a hunter tells you he never missed or never wounded he is either a liar or has done little hunting". It's been about 25 years since that hunt and I could not agree more. Those inexplicable shots just happen eventually to us all.
MARK H. YOUNG
MARK'S EXCLUSIVE ADVENTURES
7215 GREAT DOVER ST.
LAS VEGAS, NV 89166
Check us out on https://www.facebook.com/pages...ures/627027353990716
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Thanks every one!
Re reading my text I realize my spellcheck was not working, if you combine that with dyslexia you get interesting results. Perhaps it adds a dimension to the overall reading experience.
Mark, I do agree, bad shooting will eventually happen to all of us if we keep at it long enough. I'll take this experience and use it to fuel my practice shooting spirit though. As there is a saying in Swedish translating something like this; luck seems to prefer to spend time with the one with the most proficiency.
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Good read Klein, having to stop the search because of darkness is one of those horrible exeriences that many of us have had to live through.
"I don't know what there is about buffalo that frightens me so.....He looks like he hates you personally. He looks like you owe him money."
- Robert Ruark, Horn of the Hunter, 1953
NRA Life, SAF Life, CRPA Life, DRSS lite
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++1....."If a hunter tells he never missed or never wounded he is either a liar or has done little hunting"
Also been there done that with a search that had to stop at dark....bad feeling...way to bounce back! and good report.
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Great report! congratulations on a fantastic hunt.
"I could see something grayish" cracked me up. Reminded me of the first time I encountered an elephant -- I simply could not see it.
I suffered from poor shooting in 2012 as well. It can happen to anyone. I understand the feelings.
But you had a great experience. Enjoy it. And I'm sure you'll be back as soon as possible.
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Great hunt and thanks for posting. You really conveyed the agony you felt by missing your shot. Thanks for being so honest and letting us experience the inevitable lows of hunting through your story.
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A wonderful and sincere report. Photos are outstanding. Kudos!!!
Michael Podwika... DRSS bigbores and hunting www.pvt.co.za " MAKE THE SHOT " 450#2 Famars
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Great read and photos! Fantastic.
Quick question. Tell us about how you go from a peep site setup to a scoped sited setup without a quick detach type mount? Thanks.
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Thanks everyone for your kind words!
Chuck, I'll try to answer your question about changing sights. When I ordered my rifles form D'Arcy Echols I wanted the possibility to change optics and sights without bringing the rifles across the Atlantic every time, as I live in Europe. The scope mounts Mr. Echols uses (his own design)are true two piece, that is the lower half of the ring is also the base attaching to the receiver of the gun. They are also machined to fit the specific scope used 100%. Each set of scope rings are clearly marked as to what scope they were made for, which upper ring half is front and rear, the base screws are numbered to make sure they go in to the right screw hole on the receiver. D'Arcy is not known to be one to leave any thing to chance .
So to mount my scope all I have to do is unscrew what ever sight is on the gun. Then place the lower rear and front rings halves on to the receiver and screw them on loosely. Then I make sure they align using an alignment rod Mr. Echols sent me along with gun. I make sure the lower ring halves are aligned and then, through the cutouts in the alignment rod I tighten down the base screws using a torque screwdriver. Next step is placing the scope in the lower ring halves and placing the corresponding upper ring halves on top and then tighten the ring screws appropriately using the torque screwdriver and a feeler gauge tool to get the upper ring halves 100% horizontal so to speak.
I am no technician so my explanation is perhaps a bit hard do follow. The fact is, how ever, that the tools and instructions I got From D'Arcy Echols & Co makes is a simple thing to change from one set of scope rings to an other or to peep sights. It takes about five minutes and point of impact is usually not affected at all and never more than about one MOA so far. I always fire the gun to make sure it is still on target after changing though.
I add two pictures to perhaps make it easier to understand.
Alignment rods 1" and 30mm.
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Nice, sincere hunt report. It's a shame to lose an animal but it does happen, that doesn't diminish the agony any but it happens.
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Thanks. That is a fantastic setup!
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I thoroughly enjoyed your hunt report and pics. I found it openly-heartfelt and sincere
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It was a pleasure having you with us and more so sharing camp with you! You are a true gentleman and I look forward to having you with us again -all the best Buzz
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Wonderful report and photos. Way to go for wading in and tackling elephant on your first hunt!
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Congratulations on your hunt and thanks for your frankness and honesty. None of us are perfect-unless we're liars!
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That was an absolute joy to read...thanks for sharing
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