06 January 2022, 17:24fairgame
On safari with Surefire7
Some are headed to Dallas and many are not. Including me so I thought I would write up a hunt report and inject a bit of humor into a story for those who may be twiddling their thumbs during these troubled times. Remember the Lion hunt I advertised for late last year?
This report is probably more about the on-safari frustrations of a PH. It just happens that some safaris just do not knit and the opportunities can be few and far between. The heat gets you down and a short stalk becomes an arduous journey. But as always there is adventure and disappointment. The ups and downs and the lows and highs.
I had the opportunity to offer a well-priced late-season Lion hunt in the northern Musulangu concession of the Luangwa. I knew it would be tough and hot but had hoped for the first rains and the new grass that would annually attract large herds of buffalo into the area. It always rains in Zambia in November. And with the buffalo would come, Lion. I had hunted with Surefire 7 and his student Matt before and they are both very fine company and never a complaint. It is always welcome to share camp with fine people of good humor and I consider Surefire a firm friend. The safari was priced along the lines of a plains game safari and the additional cost would be the taking of the Lion. Both wanted Buffalo and Surefire really wanted a trophy animal with spread of which I was confident he would take. I had hunted Buff here and had come across a brace of dagga boys and one with a very impressive head indeed. The resident PH and concession owner Du Bruin had also hunted this buffalo often and commented that this buffalo could not be killed by a bullet. I simply surmised that the heat had gotten to Du Bruin and that he should wear a hat more often.
Du Bruin then recounts stories of unexplained misses and his own personal exploits to hunt this oversized creature. He personally had tried to outwalk this Buffalo having missed the beast and had to endure a crippling 15-mile hike back to the car in the dark. He could not explain the miss nor could he explain the missed opportunity of others. In his broken English and swirling hands, he would describe how bullets would go around and under the buffalo. I nearly pissed myself with laughing. Something which I regretted later into the safari.
Although there was other Buff around I had pretty much decided that I wanted this particular specimen as he was estimated to be in the mid-forties and was to have one of the largest tracks I have come across.
These Dagga boys had not got so big by being stupid and they knew every trick in the book. One of their favorites was to walk all morning till the wind picked up and follow the wind into thickets of dry leaves. They could hear you and smell you coming for miles. The first opportunity came when I was hunting one late afternoon with Matt. From the tracks, it looked as if bigfoot had been joined by a few others. The sun had already set and I had made the decision to return to the car when we walked into the Buffalo. The nearest would have been an easy shot but what got my attention was a great swinging head and sweeping horns of another. Typically he was partially covered by others and the light was fading fast. I had often observed that we all have varying degrees of low light vision and whilst I can see well others cannot. The beast was now exposed and I ask Matt to shoot him and pointed out that he quartering to us and head facing left. But it was too gloomy for Matt and he could not pick up what I was seeing so we called it a day. On reflection, if I had asked Matt to shoot dead center of mass it would have been a killing shot but on the other hand to wound such a beast would have been a tragedy. Some clouds were building up and I was both wondering and hoping that it may rain.
We had shot a Hippo bull which was presently hanging from trees dotted around the concession. We had just missed two big males who were on walkabout and had most of a pride feeding on one bait. We had stalked a roaring Lion by camp whose tracks were eventually to prove female. I made a mistake here and later it was seen with a big male. I now suspect the roaring was the male and we had not seen or missed him.
The second time I had this big Buff in our sights I was with Surefire. The buff were standing in the shade shimmering in the heat and the one was standing broadside to us at 50 yards. As we settled into the sticks the buff started to slowly amble away and for whatever reason, the brute turned sideways and stood perfectly for the shot which came just as the buff again started to turn. Convinced that the shot had been good we were perplexed to find no blood or any sign that this bull had been hit. What with the heat and little water we returned to the nearest track so I could get the car. Surefire reminded me that he was over 70 years old. I promised him this would be the last of the long walks. A promise that I broke repeatedly. A hard man he was and very fit for his age. We late tracked up the same Buff with Du Bruin and could only conclude that it was indeed a miss. Matt also missed a big Buff under difficult circumstances. Gotta take the rough with the smooth whenever that was going to happen.
Matt had shot a very nice Roan of which we celebrated with icy alcoholic drinks back at camp. Matt does not drink so he had a coke. Earlier we were onto a big blue eland bull and as I solidly presented the sticks as Matt’s rifle jammed and he had to deposit his cartridges in the dirt. I noted the eland shook his head when trotting away. Matt cleanly missed the same eland on another occasion. It was Du Bruin’s turn to shake his head. We made jokes about the incidents but could not explain the unexplained misses. Nor lack of rain.
We took down the rotten Hippo and replaced it with another. One of the cameras had shown a good male but he did not feed. The community demanded half the Roan which was a bit frustrating. We could not seem to make up a joke about that one.
In a faraway place as we approached a bait we heard Lion roaring. We bumped them in the car in the long grass and they were non too happy to see us. One male had been snared at some time but both were not what we were looking for. A large single track was found in the area so we let them finish the bait and hung another after they had gone. The other two big males were still on walkabout. Maybe they had found rain?
On one occasion whilst tailing buffalo, Matt and I walked into an angry pride of females who made all sorts of dreadful noises. One halted her change in a bush in front of us and we were all pointing our guns expecting the worse. What was amusing was there was a good buff who had stood to look at the commotion. However, both the Lions and Buffalo departed in separate directions. You know that word beginning with F and ending with UCK? That was to become more frequent in my vocabulary as the safari continued. Surefire shot a hyena which was high on his priority list so that was good. Now all Lions had all gone on walkabout and must be huddled together in one large furry ball in a place that we did not know of. Still no rain.
We had now and again seen an exceptional Roan which Surefire wanted to shoot but didn’t. Saw some excellent Bushbuck but none on quota. The Zebra were surprisingly common until we purchased a license. Bigfoot and his mates decided to cross the river. Leopard were one every bait and big cats were seen lying around the bait during the day, drinking at waterholes and generally strolling through camp.
I had seen an excellent Kudu standing under a tree in a wooded area and thought it a little strange that Surefire needed to adjust the sticks for the shot. Unbeknown to me there was another nearby Kudu standing under a tree which later we simply referred to as bait Kudu. Bait Kudu was strung up next to camp as the community reported an incoming Lion. One that never arrived.
Matt shot a great buff with Du Bruin. I was disgusted to hear that he walked all of one mile for his trophy. That was well celebrated by all and we stuck up some much-needed fresh bait towards the end of the safari.
Du Bruin was to refresh the bait at a favorite haunt of the two big Lion we were after and was delighted to see that they had returned but had not fed. Some fishermen reported that they had been roaring around the bait site all morning. Du Bruin tracker them down to a riverside thicket and dragged the buffalo guts to a new bait site just down the road. He was amazed to see on his return two big pug marks following the drag in the opposite direction! He refreshed the original bait and hurried back to camp to tell us the good news. He had these Lions on camera from a previous Leopard safari and knew them well. Both were shooters but one had a very fine mane. Just what we were after. Two fresh baits and Lions dissecting our bloody drag.
With much-renewed enthusiasm, we left early morning to check the baits knowing that we would have to track them up from whichever carcass they had chosen. The first bait nothing and we cautiously approach the last bait. With bated breath. Nothing apart from the usual herd of Leopards.
Sure the two brutes had followed the drag but had got distracted and left the trail. Their tracks headed back into the neighboring concession to something sweeter than what we had to offer. Never have I come across this before! We all said the F word and headed back to camp to pack. At camp, we were informed of a big male Lion who had just killed a Kudu down the road and the resident scouts were monitoring the scene. On arrival, we had found that most of the carcass had been stripped of meat for the community and had little option but to sit under a leafy hedge waiting for the big male to return for the scraps. The big male turned out to be a small male. We tiptoed away making sure that we were not being followed. The scouts were happy for the ride.
Conclusion - Surefire has done enough free-range hunting to understand the fickle rules of nature and luck. Together we have taken very fine animals and have rolled with the punches when necessary. He is an extraordinary fellow and hunting with him is often the highlight of my season. One day if the stars aline we will pursue Lion again and we both gave it our best shot on this safari. We stalked Lion, we saw Lion, we heard Lion but just not the right one. We are not about shooting a lesser beast. We could have shot Leopard on foot but we have the T-shirt on that specie. It should have rained but it did not and I believe that we would have more chances especially tracking. However, it was a great offer and an extremely well-priced opportunity, and if another comes along I will be sure to notify him first.
It pissed down with rain when I left.
06 January 2022, 20:38Hogbreath
Sounds like a great time! Maybe one day........
07 January 2022, 09:15eriknyman
Such a nice read and very well written, Andrew!
08 January 2022, 05:38surefire7
Surefire7 here. First, I would like to thank Andrew for the kind words. The feelings are mutual. It has been my pleasure to hunt with him for (5) safaris now in Zambia, and I have indeed taken some fantastic animals with Andrew. It’s what keeps me coming back. I did not take my Buffalo or Lion this time, but we, and the PHs in particular, did our/their best. I’ve told folks several times that if I wanted a higher success rate, I would hunt high fence game farms. Nothing wrong with that in my opinion, but I simply prefer the open wild country offered in Zambia’s gov. game concessions, and hunting with Andrew!
I took along an open sighted Ruger RSM in 458Lott, and a scoped (Leupold 2.5-8) Ruger African in 9.3x62. As it turned out, I used the 9.3 exclusively on two Hippos, Kudu, Hyena, and Warthog, with 300gr.SAFs. The 458 never spoke. It was stoked with 500gr. SAFs also, plus some BBS. The Hippo and Hyena were new species for me, so while the Lion & Buffalo eluded me, I came home with two new animals for my trophy room.
As you can see, my friend and student, Matt, took some very nice trophies, plus a really good Impala. He was using a Kimber Caprivi 375H&H using 300gr. SAFs (on Roan & Buffalo) plus a Ruger Express in 30.06 using 180gr. TBBCs (Impala).
If the stars align, as Andrew said, I will be back for another try at Leo. I am honored that he has offered me first right of refusal. I have difficulty with the word ‘No’ when a well priced Lion hunt is offered!
Thank you Andrew for another ‘exciting’ safari, and the write up. Looking forward to #6.
08 January 2022, 07:25bwanamrm
Well told tale of an honest safari. Til next time. BTW, lion are my bane as well...
08 January 2022, 09:49crbutler
That was a very nice write up!
Surefire, keep plugging. Eventually it will work out... Been there, brought the T shirt...
09 January 2022, 14:54fairgame
Originally posted by bwanamrm:
Well told tale of an honest safari. Til next time. BTW, lion are my bane as well...
This was a great late-season opportunity and I convinced the operator to price it as such. But as I stated things did not go as planned but if we had come away with a big old male it would have been a bargain. I and others have taken great specimens out of here and I highly recommend the area for both Lion and Leopard.