“I just wanted to again remind you, of the life affirming experiences you give people like me - for you it was just another ‘day in the office’, for me it was one of the most memorable days of my life”.
The opening line is from part of an email a client recently sent me. It is always extremely rewarding for me as a professional hunter to know that I have made a difference on someone's safari.
Below is an account of our hunt together.
Myself and two mates are away for a little over two weeks of hunting. One of the lads is after elephant and the other and I are after Buffalo. Landing in the south of the country we are met by an old colleague who is to drive us to the camp. The long drive north was made slightly more bearable by the fact that I somehow managed to bag the front passenger seat. The other two lads were levered into the back seat. It was hot, dusty and utterly fascinating. We eventually arrive at our destination, and I am giddy with excitement. The camp is comfortable but could easily be dismantled and leave no trace that it was ever there. We are shown to our tents and then given a cold beer as introductions are made. That first night we did what you should never do and yet what we always do - drank all the gin from the airport and smoked cigars until way too late. I am on Safari, in the jungle, drinking way too much gin and smoking massive cigars – I may just be in paradise. I retired to my tent just in time to get up for the morning. I can see the river and the elephants that are drinking in it. The air is full of jungle noises - birds calling, beasts roaring, and it is magical. After a fine breakfast, Derek and my mate head off into the jungle on their elephant quest. We will not see them again for over ten days. Me and my Buffalo mate, go and meet our PH Dave Langerman and his trackers and then load up into the Toyota Land Cruisers. I cannot see a Landrover anywhere. The scenery is like travelling back to prehistoric times. It is just beautiful and more emotive than I can express with the written word. Every time one of the lads’ spotted tracks, we would dismount and continue on foot. This was hot, hard work and I was captivated watching the Trackers at work. This went on for four days. Out at first light, find tracks, dismount and on foot. All day, every day, mile after mile. During one session we were tracking Buffalo and had to detour around an elephant that was “blocking our way”. What amazed me was how gracefully and how quietly elephants can move. I wondered how the other party were getting on in their quest. We successfully skirted around our elephant and continued with our track. We had tossed a coin and it was me who was to get the first shot and so I was especially on high alert. The ground was dusty, it was hot, large clumps of bush were scattered everywhere and as far as the eye could see. Then by the use of whispered conversation and hand signals, I was made aware that Buffalo were in the bush ahead of us. I strained to see. Nothing. How can something as big as a Buffalo be so hard to see? On more than one occasion we had made in towards a group of Buffalo only for them to scent us and stampede away – but that’s hunting. We edged forward a yard at a time. I tried to scan under the bush and there finally the legs of Buffalo. I looked across at my mate, he had dropped to his knee and had his head bowed down so as to not show the white of his face. I made a mental note to applaud him for this. Dave and I made our way slowly, ever so slowly forward. The sweat was dripping down my back and my heart was beating loud enough, that I felt the Buffalo would take fright from the noise of it. There was a fairly large fallen tree between me and the group of dagga boys. If I can make it to that tree then it is game on. That tree was about thirty yards away and it took a lifetime to make those thirty yards but make them we did. The Tracker set up the sticks and I placed my rifle in them. The Buffalo were sixty five yards away. Dave scanned and after a few moments indicated that the shot was on and which Buffalo to take. It was the Buffalo nearest to me – right on the sixty five yard mark. The Buffalo was looking in my direction. He knew something was amiss and was scenting the air. He would have had no trouble in smelling the adrenalin coming from this hunter – it was pouring from my skin like a cheap cologne. I lined up the shot. I wanted him broadside – I had read “The Perfect Shot” by Kevin Robertson (p12 of the Mini Edition for Africa) and wanted him broadside. It was obvious that the Buffalo had not read the book and he steadfastly remained front on to me. Dave whispered that the Buffalo were going to go and to take the shot. I lined it up for a front chest shot and squeezed off the .416 Rigby. I saw the bullet strike about two inches to the right of the animal's centre line. The Buffalo was dead. I knew he was dead. Dave knew he was dead. Someone forgot to tell the Buffalo. The Buffalo seemed to leap off the ground, the rest of the group stampeded off to my right, my Buffalo went left. He disappeared into the bush. Now it really is serious. Reload. Take the sling off the rifle. Get after it. The next twenty minutes of my life were the most vivid of my life. Creeping forward, ever so slowly, looking listening all the while waiting for signs of a Buffalo that now has a score to settle with you and is more than capable of doing so. Then one hundred yards away is my Buffalo. He is standing broadside on. I do not have time to wait for the sticks to go up. I shoulder the rifle and land the perfect shot. I saw the bullet strike and it was on the money. This Buffalo was now doubly dead. This doubly dead Buffalo then turned and charged back into the bush, as it did so I got another shot into it; which was joined by Dave’s .458 Lott. Reload. Wipe the sweat from my face. Now there is a good blood trail, something the first shot had utterly failed to do. After more tense minutes, the Tracker points to my Buffalo. He is down. I hear him take his last deep rattle breath. Dave slaps me on the back and tells me to go and “Pay the insurance on it”. I approached the Buffalo from downwind and from about ten yards put a final round into the back of his neck. It is over. I look down at this magnificent animal and (as always) am tinged with a degree of sadness and regret, stroke his face and hope that no one notices the tears welling in my eyes. It is the culmination of a boyhood dream and the dumping of adrenalin, suddenly leaves me exhausted and strangely emotional. When we try and recover the beast onto a vehicle, it breaks the winch and so the lads quarter it in the field. One of the Trackers shows me the animal’s heart – it has two distinct points of damage. They were without doubt the first and second shots I took. That Buffalo was dead from the first shot - it just didn’t know it yet. That Buffalo gave his life for the best day of mine. I have never forgotten that. He now lives in my “Man Cave” a thousand miles from his home and can achieve what HG Wells could only ever write about. Every time I look at him, I travel back in time and thousands of miles when the Gods decided that our worlds should collide”.
Dave's note: If you would like reference's from hunters who I have had the pleasure of guiding, please be sure to email me.