Continued from Wild Zimbabwe Part 1
This morning found us driving straight over to the local chief’s house. Evidently, tradition holds that the hunter is to present the chief with the trunk of all harvested elephant. This was a strange experience. Though I appreciated the tradition behind this, it rubbed me the wrong way when the chief acted a bit put out by the fact that the skinners didn’t bring him any extra meat. Different cultures are funny, and this situation was exactly that.
We hunted buffalo for the rest of the day. We took up the track of a herd that was in the same area that I had shot my elephant in yesterday. We went to the kill site to see what scavengers had been there and I was very surprised to see that another elephant bull had came and walked about the carcass that night. What a strange and awesome animal they are. When I shot my bull, he was definitely alone. But somehow, whether by scent or sound, another elephant bull had came to investigate. That left me with a different kind of feeling. A bit bittersweet I suppose.
My Dad killed a very nice buffalo today. He’s pumped. They have several nice baits going now, and have several cats starting to come in.
I tracked buffalo for 9 hours today. Got in tight with them several times, but no shots. This jess that we were hunting today was incredibly thick. When evening came, we were very close to Lake Kariba. Instead of driving close to an hour and a half back to camp in the Land Cruiser, we had our camp manager Mike and my Dad come straight over from camp in a boat to pick us up. What a perfect end to a great day. This lake is too beautiful for words.
Today we took it easy and I spent all day on Lake Kariba hunting Hippo. We must have seen over 100 hippos today. Hippos lazily spend their day in pods resting in the water. While at night they exit the water to go onto dry ground to eat throughout the night. Though I had grandiose ideas of hunting a hippo on dry ground, I quickly realized this is not a typical scenario as the hippo leave the water in late evening and return back to the water in early morning. This afternoon we found one little pod of hippo in a small cove. We made a long stalk around them, got the wind right, and crawled in for closer examination. We found that there was a bull in this pod but Boet was not confident that his age or tusks were what we were looking for. As we were sizing him up, a cow hippo made her way over toward us and meandered within 30 yards of us. What an animal they are.
My Dad spent last night in a leopard blind, but without luck. I believe they will try again tonight. I hunted buffalo until 2:00 today. Being here in May has its pros and cons. The pros include nice cool weather, and prime time for elephant and leopard. The cons I am finding out is that all of the leaves are still on the trees and it is extremely difficult to see these buffalo when you get in tight with them in the jess. Again we were into them all day, but no shots were possible. Maybe tomorrow. Boy am I starting to miss my family.
Today we left camp extremely early to get out to a block of the concession that is close to 2 hours from camp. Instead of driving roads looking for tracks, we cut out across some country that the team knew had held buffalo in the past. Sure thing, we cut tracks one hour after sunrise. In no time we came upon the herd and began to evaluate them looking for a nice bull. Inside of a minute of getting within sight of this herd, the wind changed and they blew out of there. We kept on them till close to 11:00 when Boet decided to lay up for the afternoon to let them settle down. So, we napped, ate and told lies for the next couple of hours. At close to 2:30 we started back on their trail and followed them steadily for the next several hours. Just about a half hour till sunset, we finally caught up to them. This time though, the wind stayed true, the terrain was open enough and a manly looking bull walked past us at 60 yards. I put that .375 Barnes bullet right in his lungs and he ran about 70 yards and fell over dead. I know that Cape Buffalo have a reputation as being bullet proof, but that was just not my experience. I completely understand that they are incredibly big and tough animals, but this bull reacted like any other animal that I have ever shot in the lungs. We were a long ways from the truck, so pictures were quickly taken, and our guys cut poles to make the long haul back. Buffalo hunting has gotten into my blood. I really feel that I could hunt buffalo every year from now on and never quite be satisfied. It’s just that special of a hunt.
My Dad spent the evening in a leopard blind again, and I woke up this morning to find out that he shot a leopard. He made a great shot and found it 20 yards from the tree dead. This hunt has been a reminder to me that it’s not just about the places you go, but the people that you go there with. I’m so blessed to be able to be here in this awesome place with my Dad. Today we spent the day on the lake fishing and looking for a big hippo. All the while we have been seeing huge crocs nearly on a daily basis, but I have my mind set on a big hippo bull. We didn’t find him today though. As a consolation prize, I did catch my first Tiger fish. This is a neat fish and they sport sharp nasty teeth.
What an awesome day I had today. I finally shot my Hippo Bull or “puddle pig” as my guys kept referring to them as. We spotted this pod early off in the morning and we made a quick stalk into 75 yards of where they were. We set up for a shot and decided that the bull in the pod had a nice set of tusks on him. For the next hour I waited for a clear shot. In that amount of time, something would always prevent me from getting a shot. The angle wouldn’t be right, his head wouldn’t be out of the water enough, a female would get in front of him, or he would go under water and we would have to reconfirm which one he was. When my shot finally came, I put my crosshairs right in his earhole and squeezed off. We heard a loud THWACK and he disappeared under water. For the next 4 hours I second guessed my shot over and over. To say I was concerned would be an understatement. Boet was surprisingly confident though. He claimed that this was all part of hippo hunting and that these bulls will sink at the shot, and that after a couple of hours the gasses in their stomachs will cause them to come back to the surface. True to his word, at the 4 hour mark that bull surfaced, dead as can be. What a relief. We hauled the bull to the shore and a similar scene to the elephant unfolded. Locals came out of the woodwork to claim their piece of meat. Hippo hunting has got to be one of the most underrated big game hunts in Africa. I absolutely loved hunting them, and would do it again in a second if the opportunity ever arises.
I got back to camp mid-afternoon, knowing that my safari had come to an end. I relaxed around camp, fishing and taking in every last moment of this trip. My Dad and his PH came in after dark just in time for dinner. At dinner, Lindon asked if I wanted to go out and try to call in a Hyena. An “of course” came out of my lips and I quickly scarfed down the rest of my meal and got my gear ready. I have always been a sucker for predator calling, and I wasn’t about to pass this chance up. A couple of hours later, in the pitch dark in the middle of nowhere Africa, we were set up trying to call in a Hyena. We started the call, which was recordings of different Hyena calling back and forth to each other. We called for only a couple of minutes when that eerie sound of a Hyena calling came from behind us. Quickly answering was another shrill call that came from in front of us. We stopped calling and let them come. Not a minute later we could see a form out in front of us at about 40 yards. Lindon hit the light, and when I finally got him in my scope he started to lope off. He stopped again at about 80 yards and looked back. My crosshairs fell on his shoulder and I touched off. At the shot he went to growling and thrashing, and at the same time Lindon went to running towards his location. Not wanting to be left out, I was right on his heals. I put another shot into him at 30 yards and put him down for good. I was giddy with excitement. I still can’t believe that it worked out quite that easily. My Dad and I couldn’t wipe the smiles off of our faces on the drive back to camp that evening.
This morning was spent packing up, tipping our crew, and saying our goodbyes. Leaving such beautiful country with such great people can be tough. As I sit on the veranda overlooking the Ume river, I’m thanking the Lord for blessing me in so many ways. First for safety on this trip, second for a fantastic time with my Dad, and lastly the fact that I am on my way home to see my beautiful wife and little boy that I have been missing so deeply. I will forever have this trips memories at the forefront of my mind, and will miss Africa until I return again.
Author - Austin Parks is a fourth generation Arizonian who has spent most of his life hunting not only Arizona, but many locations around the world with his stickbow. When not stalking his prey or sitting in a tree, Austin spends his time with his understanding wife and two beautiful kids.