My Cape buffalo hunt was over, but it did not happen quickly. We followed that wounded bull for three and a half hours while Betty waited in the hunting car. Rob would not leave her alone, though my wife thought she was alone for a couple of hours until she discovered that James had quietly and undetected found refuge from the sun by crawling underneath the hunting car.
My buffalo was not wasted. Million and December used skinning knives and homemade Batonka axes, the basic bush tool of the Batonka Tribe with an indestructible ax handle made from the crotch of the Mopane tree. My bull was quickly skinned and quartered. We gave some meat to the fishermen who loaned us their boat, and the rest was distributed to a nearby village on the banks of the Kariba. We also traded meat for fish, which we steamed that night over an open fire in our tent camp.
December carried the cape and horns back to the hunting car. When I got there, I took a close look at the massive boss. There was no gap between the horns, a sign that this bull had been around a couple of decades.
“An old bull,” I said to December.
“Yes, Sir,” said December, nearly laughing, “the old man shoots the old man!” It was a fine compliment.
I felt good about the hunt. It was a great day with exciting and scary moments. I hunted leopard, kudu, eland, impala, warthog, and zebra during the remainder of my safari, but it will be the buffalo hunt I will remember.
It’s difficult not to suddenly fall in love with Africa… with all her sights, sounds, and smells… and to respect the people. Rob Martin, a professional hunter, became a security blanket. When a herd of elephants surrounded Rob, Betty, and me, he told us to stand perfectly still while he tapped his gun barrel with a cartridge. The elephants, unfamiliar with the strange metallic sound, quietly moved off like giant gray boulders with legs.
I also watched Rob use his hands to cover the open eyes of a kudu I shot. “It will die more quickly,” he explained, “if it sees only darkness.”
Our trackers carried no rifles and put their lives on the line every day while searching the ground for tracks. December and Million, an ageless tracker with several wives and nearly two dozen children, had an almost childlike dependency and faith that Rob would be able to stop any animal that tried to hurt them.
However, there are times when even the most experienced professional hunter finds himself in a tight spot where everything seems to go wrong. On one of his hunts in Zambia, Rob was waiting for a leopard to show on one of his baits. When his hunter finally got a shot, he hit the spotted cat in the foot, and it ran off into heavy cover along a riverbank.
Rob’s client was blind in one eye and would likely not be able to see or stop a wounded leopard if it came at him from his blindside. Rob decided to follow the cat alone with one tracker and a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with OO Buckshot. When Rob approached the riverbank, the leopard immediately charged. He got off one shot, but it didn’t stop the leopard. Rob grabbed the cat’s head, but it still bit him several times in the shoulder and clawed his arms and neck. In a desperate move, Rob succeeded in shoving the cat away from his body, and it ran off.
Rob returned to camp, cleaned his wounds, and went back again to find the wounded leopard. This time he carried a .375 Holland & Holland. The leopard did not leave the riverbank, and when Rob showed up again, the cat immediately charged a second time. Rob shot, and the leopard dropped at his feet.
These are the tales of hunting in Africa. For the hunter, it is still a place to experience a challenge that would be hard to comprehend by anyone except a hunter who understands the seriousness of taking an animal’s life. I will return to Africa, and I hope to experience the excitement and fear of facing such majestic animals once again.
Danie Viljoen, a gallant hunter with a prolific kill record, passed away doing what he loved most. A wounded Cape buffalo, the victim of an errant shot from Viljoen’s Martini-Henry rifle, stalked the young man before goring him to death. His next of kin have requested he be buried on the southern bank of the Zambezi River, Viljoen’s hunting ground. —The Victoria Falls Advertiser, Monday, October 3, 1910.
If You Go
Hunting in Africa is not inexpensive, but it is within reach of any hunter who regularly books outfitters to hunt elk, bear, sheep, or any other big game in North America. Here, for example, are some packages prices from Russ Broom Safaris for hunts in Zimbabwe:
7-Day Buffalo Safari…………………………………………. $6,500
10-Day Buffalo/Plains Game Safari…………………………… $7,000
14-Day Leopard/Two Buffalo Bulls/Plains Game Safari……. $9,800
These prices are for 1 PH (Professional Hunter) with one client. The prices are lower for 1 PH with two clients. The package rate includes everything except airfare and license or trophy fees.
Here’s a sample of the current trophy fees in Zimbabwe:
Impala………………. $ 200
According to Rob Martin, the most popular safaris are the Buffalo/Plains Game Hunts with Cape Buffalo and Kudu, the most sought-after game animals. You can get complete information on how to plan a safari by contacting:
Jack Atcheson & Sons, Inc.
3210 Ottawa Street
Butte, Montana 59701
Russ Broom Safaris Ltd.
P/Bag BW 6236
For travel information contact:
South African Airways
9841 Airport Boulevard, Suite 1530
Los Angeles, California 90045