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Only 1 first safari

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Two years of planning finally turned into two long days of flying. After leaving their home in Anchorage, Alaska, Jim & Joyce Wojciehowski found themselves being greeted in Lusaka by Teresa, Muchinga Safari’s logistical genius. Following a flawless escort through customs, rifle clearance, and assorted document checks, we found ourselves heading across the city to John & Laura du Plooy’s lovely homestead, beautifully designed to accommodate visiting clients, friends, and guests. After a delicious dinner it was on to bed in eager anticipation of an early wake-up and flight into Waca Waca airstrip in the Luangwa Valley. The goal: to fulfill Jim’s childhood dream of hunting Cape Buffalo in the wilds of Africa. The reality of the trip far exceeded the boyhood dreams.

Extinction of a Dinosaur

The hot Zambian sun baked the sands along the banks of the Luangwa River. The 13 foot armored ambush predator absorbed the heat while keeping its head only inches from the protection of its aquatic refuge. With excellent vision and extraordinary hearing the Reptile kept vigil for any threat to its well-being. It did not think. It did not plan its day. It did not enjoy the sounds of the birds, or the smells of the riverine environment.

It merely existed.

The design had not changed for millions of years because there was no need for improvement. The golf ball sized brain processed what was necessary to carry out the simple functions to survive and grow. For warmth the sun baked sands provided. For food a slip into the water and a shoreline vigil with only eyes and nostrils visible would provide the eventual opportunity for prey coming to drink from the Luangwa. Life was simple but not easy. To reach this length took many years and to do so with its full length of tail and all its toes was testament to this Reptile’s attention to instinctual detail.

The PH stopped the cruiser and asked the hunter, "Do you want a Croc? There’s a big one back on the bank." The hunter told himself before coming from the long light of the Alaskan summer to the bright and hot light of Africa that if he had a chance for greater than a 12 foot Crocodile he would consider attempting to take one. He also knew success would not come easy. Finding one would probably be easier than getting within range. Then there was the fact that the only two targets to prevent the loss of the trophy to the waters of the Luangwa were the size of golf balls.

As he exited the cruiser the hunter cycled the bolt on his 1938 Winchester M70 actioned .375 H&H safari rifle. The hunter’s thumb tested that the safety was indeed on. This beauty had spent most of its life in suspended animation within the dark confines of a few owners’ safes. Now the weapon would be called on to do what it was made for. Some thought the hunter was crazy for bringing the exhibition grade Turkish Walnut stocked 72-year-old beauty to this potentially unfriendly location. The hunter thought otherwise. The rifle was given to him by a friend, so he would have a proper safari rifle for his first trip to Africa. Irony at its best considering the generous man that passed the gun on has at least 10 safaris in his past and never took the weapon from his safe.

As the PH and hunter walked slowly back down the dirt track, thought to be a road in this bush location, the PH leaned toward the hunter and asked, "Do you know where to shoot it?" The hunter replied, "Just behind the smile". The PH smiled himself. "Proper! That way you wont ruin the skull should you wish that as your trophy".

The hunter walked slowly while following the PH. He tried to have his feet hit the Earth at the same time as the Professional. The less noise the better.

They walked the dry dirt tire rutted path parallel to the river but far enough inland to be out of the Croc’s sight. The hunter started to feel nervous. This would be his first attempt at prey in Zambia and it just happened to have the smallest possible lethal target area.

The hunter had practiced off sticks at home. He practiced other shooting positions as well. He thought of himself as at least an average marksman but now he needed to prove it to himself and the professional and not to a piece of paper. He had practiced getting his rifle to the sticks with no noise. He practiced shooting and keeping the rifle to his shoulder while cycling the bolt and simultaneously reestablishing his target acquisition. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast was the mantra he mumbled to himself on the range. He had read about others who, in the excitement of the moment, short stroked their bolt and either caused a jam or failed to chamber the next round. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast he repeated to himself as the PH stopped walking.

No words were exchanged, but the PH’s eyes said it all. They left the quiet dirt road and headed straight towards the Luangwa. The dry leaves made stealth difficult. The foot falls slowed.

The PH lead the way with the bamboo homemade shooting sticks in his right hand held parallel to the ground. The hunter carried his rifle at port arms with his right thumb comfortably resting against the three-position safety and his index finger along the front of the trigger guard.

Johnny du Plooy has guided hunters for over twenty years. He has not lost his enthusiasm for his profession. He has seen those that can shoot well and those that do not. He knew even a good range shooter sometimes loses control to the jitters of hunting. Call it buck fever, call it nerves, the result is never good.

The hunter noticed the footfalls became even slower. The PH seemed to shrink in height. The hunter mimicked the bent-over stride. The PH never looked back as he ever so slowly raised the sticks to their tripod position. He then turn his head and with his right hand slowly gave a signal for the hunter to advance.

The hunter crouched lower as he closed the two paces to the sticks. His eyes were lower than the top of the shooting platform and he could not see the Reptile. As he ever so slowly raised the rifle to the rest he saw the Croc for the first time.

The survivor of the age of Dinosaurs neither heard nor saw the pair stalking him. He lay facing the water with his body straight but at a 45-degree angle to the liquid safety. Luckily for the hunter this gave him a totally broadside shot from his position. Unluckily for the hunter the bank sloped towards the water and even with the perfect shot the rhythmic motions of the Reptile could still carry it into the water.

The PH very quietly whispered, "Two behind the smile, one in the shoulder". The hunter had four Barnes X in the rifle. The PH carried no gun on the stalk. It was up to the hunter alone.

The rifle quietly fell into the V of the sticks. The Croc did not move. The hunter and rifle became one, but the hunter saw through his Swarovski scope that the cross hairs moved far too much to hit a golf ball at this distance of 80 yards. Nerves!! Two deep quiet breaths and a third let out halfway and the crosshairs found the smile and locked on.

Slow is smooth, smooth is fast he thought as he quietly moved the safety to the right. He did not remember the squeeze on the trigger. He did not feel the recoil. He did not hear the shot but he heard the "thunk" as the monolith projectile hit home. The rifle never left the sticks or his shoulder as he smoothly cycled the bolt. The second Barnes was on its way. The third hit the Reptile just behind the shoulder and a gallon of blood erupted from the quivering Crocodile’s mouth. This surprised the hunter but he again smoothly cycled the bolt and put a fourth round in the end of the smile. All motion stopped.

The Professional exclaimed in a rather loud voice, "Nice shooting Bwana, that’s a big Croc." His hand extended to slap the hunter on his shoulder and shake his hand. The hunter finally relaxed and started laughing with the PH. "Well done Bwana" he heard again.

The hunter practiced shooting before this trip. He practiced multiple shots as quickly as accuracy would allow. He also practiced one other thing, which he was sadly neglecting in the afterglow of success. The hunter did not reload his rifle.

The celebration continued until the PH suddenly said excitedly, "Shoot him again he’s moving". The hunter thought the statement to be a joke at first and then he looked at the Reptile. The creature’s instinct was telling his right rear paw to push against the sand. How could this be?

The hunter quickly pulled bullets from his belt. Slow is smooth, smooth is fast had been forgotten with the tension of the Professional’s urgings, "Shoot him, you are going to lose him".

The first round fell to the ground as the hunter attempted to place it in the magazine. The next two found their way in. Quickly back on the sticks the hunter fired behind the smile twice, with the second round causing the Reptile to start a death roll. It landed on it’s back shaped like a crescent with the tip of the tail and end of the snout touching the water. All motion stopped.

The hunter loaded four more rounds into the rifle and cycled the bolt, returning to the sticks. The Croc did not move.

"Put one more in the chest for me", the Professional requested. Another shot rang out and the Dinosaur did not move. "He’s dead again" Johnny exclaimed while smiling.

Jim did not believe him and never left the sticks. "It’s dead Bwana. That was fun eh?" Jim smiled knowing this week with Johnny du Plooy would be special.

The Arcade Game

The radio crackled loudly with a message in a language of the locals. The PH driving the rutted dirt tracks stopped the cruiser to respond. After a short garbled dialogue the Professional turned to the hunter and asked, "Do you want to shoot some Hippo?"

"Some Hippo?" the hunter questioned.

As luck would have it some local resident hunters had two tags for Hippo to fill. Unlucky for them the rifle they had could not be considered remotely accurate. The seven bullets they brought did not find their mark and now the hopes of an abundant supply of protein seemed an impossible goal. This sad turn of events became a bonus for the hunter. He now had the opportunity to shoot two Hippo, help out some locals with much needed meat, and do it all for the cost of two Barnes X loads.

The cruiser carrying the PH, hunter, his wife, Lamec the tracker, Freddie, Alpha and Boston, the Game Scout made it’s way to the Luangwa River. On arrival, a dozen men sporting broad smiles and offering thankful handshakes greeted the PH and hunter. "Thank you Bwana" one was heard to say in his heavily accented voice.

After some conversation the PH checked the residents paperwork and reviewed the documents with the game scout. The relentless African sun beat down like a tanning bed run amuck. The air was still and the dominant sound was that of grunting Hippos.

The deep pool of water, thought to be a refuge by the Hippos, had no visible current. The dark brown heads would appear and disappear. Sometimes only revealing some eyes and nostrils and at other times almost an entire head.

The PH set up the shooting sticks 20 yards from the water’s edge. "Wait for me to pick out a bull and wait for him to turn sideways. Aim just below the Ear". The hunter nodded understanding. After the Crocodile this should be easy he thought. Taking a Croc first earlier in the day, with it’s tiny lethal target area, gave the hunter calmness. He now had confidence in his ability to put the bullet where he wished, especially with ample time available.

While the hunter welded the sticks, rifle and his body into one useful unit, the Professional used his Swarovski binoculars to pick out a suitable quarry.

"See the Hippo third from the right facing us?" he was heard to exclaim. "Yes", the hunter replied while placing the crosshairs seen through the scope on the Hippo’s forehead. "Wait for him to turn, and take him under the ear. Take your time, there’s no rush".

The huntsman watched with fascination the show that unfolded through the magnification of his scope. As the head all but disappeared circular ripples of water moved uniformly away from the glistening target. The head came further out of the water and slowly rotated. The hunter waited. When the ears lined up the cross hairs found a spot an inch below the left ear of the Hippo now facing to his right. The 3 pound trigger pull on the beautiful 72-year-old rifle made accurate shooting easy. The report from the rifle echoed down the river.

"That’s one," the PH said as the head disappeared with the thunk of the projectile.

The sticks were moved 25 yards to the right. "Wait for them to settle and pop back up and I’ll pick the next one for you," The hunter returned the rifle to the Bamboo rest. He waited. "Second from the right" the PH exclaimed.

When the hunter placed the Hippo’s head in his scope it was already sideways. The head went back under the water but came back up facing the rifle holder. He waited. The head again slipped below the cloak of the murky water. He waited. Up came the head quartered to the left. It slowly turned and the ears again told the tale of alignment. The shot rang out and the thunk was heard. "That’s two," the hunter said.

The happiness on the bank was palpable. The locals would have a over a ton of much needed protein after the gases built up in the Hippos and they floated to the surface like big brown balloons. Appreciative three part handshakes followed.

All the hunter thought was how much it felt like an arcade game.

The two for one sale

The light brown antelopes leapt and scurried across the dirt track as the cruiser approached. The riverine environment along the Luangwa River provides shelter for multiple species including the Impala and Puku that just disappeared to the left of the truck.

The PH braked hard. "That’s the one I’ve been chasing all season", he said referring the large Impala male in the group. "Let’s give him a try".

The Hunter stepped quietly from the vehicle onto the crushed leaves in the tire tracks. The bolt was cycled carrying the 300-grain TSX hand load into its ready position. A quick thumb check confirmed the safety’s position on the Winchester action.

This would not be the first stalk into the Riverine undergrowth. The previous attempts at stealth had failed. The dry leaves made a sound like cornflakes on steroids whenever you tried to walk. Silence was out of the question.

"Let’s take our time and see how it goes", the professional advised. The pair slowly made their way into dappled brown landscape. Impala and Puku could be seen milling around about 100 yards away. The sticks went up. As the hunter placed the fore end of his rifle into the V of the sticks the PH whispered, "The big guy is to your right at 2:00".

Sure enough an Impala, larger than any seen to this date, walked cautiously towards thicker cover. Even the antelope’s footfalls sounded loud. The Impala stopped. It was the last action of its life. The projectile took the antelope mid shoulder and down it went.

Puku and Impala scattered in all directions. The PH grabbed the sticks and ran left 40 feet and threw them back up. The hunter followed. "Take the Puku" the Hunter heard as he saw the professional point left. As the rifle bonded with the sticks a male Puku filled the scope standing broadside left. The shot was fast but true and down he went.

Johnny gave a bellow of laughter. "You got both Bwana. You’re damn lucky". The hunter thought, "Luck? I practiced". His wife, known in camp as Madam, came up to the scene. "I thought hunting was supposed to be hard," she said aiming the jab at the PH. He just smiled instead of answering.

The morning yielded a Crocodile and two Hippo, the afternoon an Impala and Puku. Either hunting in the Luangwa was easy or Johnny was right the hunter was Bwana Freaking Lucky.

The long time dream came true

The skinny blond haired boy of nine reread the article again. Outdoor Life provided escape for the youngster and brought daydreams of hunting the tall grass of Africa. Stories of Black Death, the Big Five, Fred Bear and the game that submitted to his arrows consumed every extra minute. The lad was already quite good with his 30# longbow passed down from his older Brother. Oddly enough, except for one cousin, no one in his family hunted. He knew someday he would.

The opportunity came at sixteen. He traveled to a Pennsylvania Deer camp with a group of men known from work. The archery season preceded rifle and the men used the excuse, escaping their wives and families, to half-heartedly hunt deer. None in camp, save the young man, could shoot a bow accurately.

He had his deer at dawn the first morning. This brought not praise but ridicule. "It’s a doe (legal)", he heard from one. "That thing is small enough to still have spots", he heard from another. The archer ignored the comments. He did what he came to do.

25 years later he was living in the Alaskan Bush and filling the freezer with Moose and Caribou. Rifles replaced his archery equipment. The dreams created with the reading of magazines may have faded but they didn’t disappear.

The thought of hunting Africa and Cape buffalo in particular did not reemerge until the hunter moved to Anchorage. His new employer has hunted the world, including Africa many times. The seeds planted long ago began to germinate. One look at the Natural History Museum his boss called home, with all the full body dioramas, only fanned the fires of past dreams. The planning began.

Two years later the noisy Beechcraft Baron touched down on the dirt runway known as Waca Waca International. The hunter stepped out onto the wing and absorbed the scene before him. The African sun heated his face. His eyes burned slightly from the smoke of the bush fires. The hunter found the smell comforting; after all, he heated with wood in Alaska. The light tan cruiser approached with Johnny driving. They had met in Reno at the SCI convention almost two years ago. During the week, humor would help build a bond.

A couple of days past and Crocodile, Hippo, Impala, and Puku were all taken. The laughter that came with the frantic double death of the Croc helped the PH/client bond to grow. Johnny has guided for over 20 years and it still seems like his enthusiasm and joy experienced from a fruitful stalk remains strong.

"Buffalo"!!

One word spoken and the day changed. The cruiser stopped and the hunter jumped out and cycled his bolt. He was drawn towards the tall grass by an unseen force. "Bwana, you might want to wait for the PH", Johnny muttered with a smile. "Might be a good idea to put on your ammo belt". The hunter realized his adrenalin was flowing and he hadn’t even entered the grass.

The group of four made up of the PH, the Hunter, Lamec the tracker, and Madam (the Hunter’s wife Joyce) formed into a single file slow moving unit. The PH carried his 470 Nitro Express double on his right shoulder; the hunter had his trusty old .375 H&H. The rifle had one in the throat and three in the magazine with the safety on. Fifteen rounds on a cartridge belt ought to cover any other needs.

The grunts could be heard through the tall grass. The 7 foot high optical barrier did not stop sounds. "Big herd", the PH whispered. The hunter had yet to see a Buffalo.

The yellow/tan grass formed a maze of sorts. An English Labyrinth if you will with pathways that ended and others that offered a change in direction. The constant was the lack of long-range vision. The grunts continued.

The PH confirmed the favorable wind and the group continued towards the sound of the herd. Some cows were partially seen at 80 yards and the PH had the group drop back out of sight and move forward paralleling the bovines. After three bumps of the unaware animals a potential shooting lane was found. The sticks went up as the sound of hooves came closer.

Two cows appeared in the six-foot wide clearing standing now seventy yards away totally unaware of the group of four. As the hunter, already on the shooting sticks, watched a Buffalo head with obvious bosses appeared following the cows. He looked good to the untrained eye of the Hunter. The PH leaned close and whispered, "Nice bosses but maybe 36 inches".

The Hunter and PH had previously discussed goals, species wanted and what makes up a good Buffalo. The Hunter left the tape measure home. He wanted merely a mature Bull, but nice bosses would be a plus and more desirable than width.

The Hunter felt surprised by his own calm. He watched the Bull as it made its way forward totally revealing his body and a perfect broad side presentation. "Bwana, it’s up to you. You might find better in 6 days and you might not. Some cows are feeding towards us. We need to move back or shoot".

Jim heard a voice of reason in his head. Something told him he’d be a fool for not taking this Buffalo broadside at 70 yards. The creepless trigger gave way under three pounds of pull and the shot rang out.

Although he shouldn’t have been surprised by the result, the Hunter watched the two Cows and Bull spin 180 degrees and disappear immediately into the grass. Dust could be seen and the thunder of hooves heard as the herd distanced itself from the perceived danger. Another round was already cycled, but no target was seen. The safety went on.

"Now we wait", the PH said. To the hunter that meant 45 minutes or a death bellow whichever came first. He had been watching too many "Tracks Across Africa" episodes.

Ten minutes later, no death bellow and the Professional said, "Let’s go! Madam you stay here, Bwana and I will go sort this out". With the shot Freddie and Boston the Game Scout had come from the truck. They stayed with Madam.

The trio of PH, Hunter and Tracker moved slowly across the opening in the grass. A very small amount of blood was found where the Buffalo were standing when the shot was taken. The tall grass formed circular tufts with visibility limited to 20 yards at best. The threesome moved ever so slowly senses on full alert. The hunter still felt strangely calm.

With 30 yards covered Lamec climbed a six foot termite mound. The hunter saw a smile. "Thank you Bwana, thank you Bwana", Lamec repeated as he climbed down. The verbal exchange between Tracker and PH took 30 seconds. "Your buffalo is on the other side of this grass" the PH said as he pointed at the opaque wall of yellow/tan, which swayed rhythmically in the light breeze.

As the hunter circled the grass he saw the Buffalo clearly for the first time. Laying on its left side motionless the black mass looked calm. Lamec threw a stick hitting the hulk on its hindquarter. No movement. A second test followed the first, still no movement. Lamec moved forward and kicked the hulk on the butt while the PH and Hunter held their guns to their shoulders.

The Hunter leaned in with his rifle barrel and touched the lifeless eye of the Buffalo. Lifeless it was. The hunter thought, "Is that all there is"?

The PH and Tracker were happy. "Thank you Bwana", Lamec said while doing the three-part handshake. Johnny simply said, "Perfect shot Bwana". Later at the skinning shed the heart revealed the path of the bullet. The top half of the heart had exploded with the impact, thus the Bull went down in about 40 yards and never had time to bellow. It was dead before it hit the ground.

Madam advanced slowly with Boston the game scout. Her smile exuded relief. "Wow, look at this thing. Nice bosses."

She always knew the perfect thing to say.

Kamikaze Bushbuck

"Of all the antelope here these little suckers can be the most dangerous. Stay close". The words whispered by the hunter to his wife were not comforting, but they were the truth, as time would prove.

Bushbuck had turned out to be difficult to score in the sanctuary of the riverine growth bordering the Luangwa River. Each previous stalk ended with the small antelope running away at blinding speed. The Bushbuck did not share the dash and stop mentality of the more plentiful Impala and Puku inhabiting the same area.

As the PH, Hunter, Tracker and Madam started into the shade from the dirt track the sounds of crushed cornflakes returned. "Damn leaves", the hunter thought. "We don’t have a prayer".

A troop of Baboons made a ruckus a few hundred yards ahead. Luckily this provided much need auditory cover for the foursome as they advanced slowly.

The light orange/tan Bushbuck moved anxiously as the Impala & Puku near him also looked on edge. His instincts sensed danger but his eyes, ears, and nose could not find it.

The PH led the way with bamboo shooting sticks in his right hand. The Hunter followed with his rifle at ready, safety on, a round in the chamber. Lamec the Tracker came next carrying the Professional’s .470 NE double on his shoulder. Madam stayed close behind the Tracker armed with a digital video/still camera.

The crunching of the leaves made a relentless racket as the group walked slowly towards the crisscrossing game. The air smelled dry. The last rains were a distant memory of months gone by.

The PH froze. No words were spoken. He looked back and gave a signal for Lamec and Madam to stay still. The Professional then signaled the Hunter forward. They slowly covered fifteen feet of uneven ground and the sticks went up.

The Hunter saw Impala but did not make out the Bushbuck until the PH pointed at a group of Mopani trees. The Bushbuck, unaware of the duo’s presence, walked back and forth slowly, while luckily staying behind the scrub cover. The Hunter, now on the sticks, had no sure shot.

As if he was playing hide and seek, the Bushbuck walked left and stayed obscured by branches a mere 75 yards distant. The shot looked tempting through the 1.5 x 6 scope but to take the chance of a deflected bullet would be foolish. The antelope turned 180 degrees and headed again behind the Mopani. He exited to the right this time and again there was no clear shot. Another course change and the Bushbuck emerged from cover walking directly at the Hunter unaware of any danger.

The small antelope grew larger in the scope. A clear frontal shot was offered but the hunter chose to wait for the Bushbuck to turn and present a shoulder. The huntsman waited, the Bushbuck continued to grow as he advanced.

The hunter shot right handed but was left eye dominant. This meant he kept his left eye shut while on the scope. When the Bushbuck, still heading directly for him, grew even larger in the scope, the Hunter opened his left eye. The critter was less than 20 yards away and a clear frontal shot. He was so close that the hunter felt as if he was shooting down hill. He took the shot.

T-minus five, four, three, two, one, Houston we have ignition. The Bushbuck rocketed five feet straight up turned ninety degrees right while in the air and hit the ground running thirty miles per hour on three functional legs. The antelope ran a sweeping arc to the right past the Hunter and PH trailing blood like a fountain. The orange/tan furry missile seemed to be 12 inches off the ground running with head lowered. 30 feet and 3 seconds later he ran headlong into a tree. Bouncing back five feet and landing on his side, jaw broken and face slashed, his horns covered with bark, he got back to his feet. This is when he noticed Madam.

With a new target locked, the Bushbuck charged. Lamec stood behind Madam with the EMPTY .470 held by the barrels stock overhead like a club. He ran forward. The Bushbuck died eight feet from his final target with a sliding crash into the noisy leaves. "Madam, video, Madam, video" was the call repeated by Lamec.

Madam stood with eyes like saucers, mouth agape, and digital camera at the ready. Unfortunately it was turned off and the lens cap remained on.

A strange noise brought Madam back to reality. What is that she thought? The PH and Hunter had trouble controlling the spasms of laughter. "Madam, I will never forget the look on your face", Johnny offered. Jim simply continued to laugh. Madam joined them. "What’s so hard about hunting ", she thought to herself and laughed some more.

The Zambian Circle of Life

She only snarled once, the message was understood. The two males, smaller in size, backed away from the rancid stench of the rotting reptile. She was covered in healed scars received when she was younger and not the Alpha ruler supreme. Her teeth hurt; they were worn from long use. The Matriarch could still crush bone to extract the marrow.

Many times in the past while pack hunting she would grab prey as large as Zebra. Once a locking bite was made, others in the clan would close on the melee and multiple tearing bites later they would share the fresh kill, in the proper pecking order.

She always ate first with her living young.

Life is not easy for a spotted Hyena. Sharing territory with Lions makes life interesting for both.

The cruiser carrying the PH, Hunter, Madam, Trackers, Game Scout, and Alpha, tire changer extraordinaire, bumped down the dirt track heading for camp. Light was fading fast.

The Professional stopped the cruiser short of the location of the bait. The previously killed Crocodile found new use after being wired to the base of the tree. Other than the small pieces of tail meat eaten by the Hunter and Madam as an appetizer, the carcass remained intact. No one else would eat the Reptile. Perhaps it was bad Juju. It had been rotting in the Zambian sun for two days now. Seems like the sound to the flies could be heard a hundred yards away.

The Hunter and PH approached from downwind walking quietly. As they closed on the bait the smell approached intolerable levels. Surly nothing on Earth would seek this as food.

The Spotted Hyena is a strange animal that always looks angry. Perhaps the appearance of being made of leftover parts, with a low slung hindquarter, and an affinity for rotten meat as well as heartless prolonged kills of its prey, gave it the hated reputation it received here in the bush. Their design is actually perfect for function. Stamina beyond its prey allows the predator to simply wear out an animal and then kill it.

She heard the snap of the twig first. With a sudden turn of her head from the meal to turn towards the sound, the two subservient males lunged forward for a bite of Reptile. The distraction was all the Hunter needed. He was already in range but the light was low. Looking through his Swarovski Scope the light seemed enhanced like only great optics offer.

There was no time for shooting sticks, the two Males ran right the Alpha Female ran left. The hunter tried to track her in the scope holding offhand. Her arrogant dominance became her downfall. She stopped behind a log worried more about the meal than her survival. Hunger was a fateful flaw.

The shot took her full in the chest and down she went. "You missed her Bwana", the PH exclaimed. "I did not" the Hunter replied. His scope showed him movement behind the log. They advanced.

"You are so F%&%ing lucky"! The Hunter now heard that phrase for the third time on as many downed animals. He didn’t respond. They both looked down at the spotted carcass. The Hunter could only imagine how many animals had succumbed to those jaws.

The neck appeared the same size as the chest.

"She’s huge", the PH remarked. "She must be the Alpha. Thank you Bwana. You don’t know how many young newborn these things take come October. I’m always happy to see one die."

Madam walked up as the Ph asked the Hunter, How do you want it skinned?"

Madam answered for the Hunter, "Full body! That thing is ugly"

Bad Week for a Wildebeest

The silver copper colored Bull had fought for the right to pass on his genes many times before. Being the dominant male in the herd meant defending that position. He was a close match for his rival over the entire year but now he lost ground. It was the way of aging and the Wildebeest, although he didn’t understand it, the beast was about to learn that lesson. Kicked out of the herd by the stronger male, and being a herd animal his whole life, standing alone was not in his nature. He tried to solve that problem over the last week by joining a scattered group of Impala.

The small antelope did not care about their larger new found friend. He seemed to have better senses for danger. They began to look at him as the alarm bell. The Wildebeest Bull on the other hand remained confused by the Impala’s penchant to run a short distance from perceived danger and then stop.

Slap!! "Have I mentioned how much I hate Tsetse Flies"? The question from the Hunter brought only a smile and no verbal response from the PH. It was obvious the Professional found himself bothered by the biting insects as well. Why else would he have switched from shorts to long pants in the sweltering heat? The Hunter, used to the cool air of Alaska, now found himself in long sleeve shirts, long pants, gaiters over his socks, and hiking boots with two pair of socks. The heat was oppressive but the insects were worse. No form of commercial repellent seemed to work. Tsetse Flies are made of sterner stuff.

Madam sat on the upper seat of the safari cruiser and felt like a Queen. Lamec, Boston, Freddie, and Alpha picked the flies from her as they lit. Wonder if the hard candy she’d been distributing helped her garner the attention? "Warthog Madam", Lamec pointed. They kept her entertained with their ability to see animals long before you could find them. She enjoyed their help. She asked about their children and wives, how many of each.

They seemed to appreciate her interest and answered with pride.

This would be the second day of cruising the inland Mopani woodland in search of the herd of Cookson’s Wildebeest. Johnny had seen the herd before and knew it had two shootable Bulls but also knew if they saw the cruiser before anyone on the cruiser saw them the hunt was over for the day.

Found only in the Luangwa Valley, few Cookson’s are available on hunting quota and many times they are saved for the cat hunters with their longer booking. The Hunter felt fortunate there were two remaining on quota and that Johnny offered an attempt at one.

"Bwana, I’ve had clients come back five years in a row just to get one of these Wildebeest", Johnny related. "They are hard to find and even harder to stalk. If they see, hear, or smell you they seem to run forever. There’s no catching up to them and there’s multiple eyes and ears in a herd".

"Great", the Hunter thought, "That’s the way hunting should be". Up until now the huntsman had enjoyed incredible luck with shot opportunities and already had memories well worth the high price of an African Bush Safari. He already mentally planned how he would make it back for the next. What could he sell? He was warned of the African hunting addiction. He read as much and now he knew why.

They had driven close to fifty kilometers across bumpy tracks that shouldn’t be called roads. They crossed dry rivers with steep banks. The group made new trails through the scrub occasionally knocking down or driving over small trees in order to advance deeper into the hunting grounds.

"Hartebeest", the Ph exclaimed and stopped the cruiser to watch the rare sight through binoculars. "That’s a rare sight here". The truck started rolling again.

The air still held the smell of smoke from the many bush fires. Shame it didn’t bother the flies.

The cruiser stopped so hard the Hunter nearly hit the dash with his rifle barrel. He held the gun vertically between his legs the entire trip. One must be forever vigilant.

Johnny spoke in a hushed voice. He seemed the most tense the Hunter had seen during the trip. "Lone Bull" was his only statement. The pair slid from the truck as Lamec quietly dropped from up top. Madam climbed down the ladder steps.

The foursome again found itself slowly advancing into the woods on a stalk. The wind was perfect. Luck was holding.

The lone Wildebeest sensed danger before the Impala. He bolted before the group of four was even 300 yards away. The Impala scattered at the warning sign. "Damn", the Ph muttered, "Come on". He and the hunter headed out at a fast, determined walk. Later the PH would concede he doubted at that moment they would see the Wildebeest again.

The group of four split into two groups of two. The PH and Hunter walked deliberately and steadily in the direction the Cookson’s departed towards. Three different 150-yard surges and the duo had reclaimed visual contact with the loner. The Impala stopped and the Wildebeest, wanting to continue running, tried to reconcile his need to flee danger with his need for a herd. He milled back and forth nervously. His long black fly swatting tail twitched from nerves. He looked straight at the duo.

The sticks went up. The distance had to be less than 200 yards but not much less. The .375 was sighted in for 100 yards making a 3-inch drop at 200. An acceptable shot. The hunter had killed game in Namibia at close to 300 yards with the same rifle.

The Hunter saw the Wildebeest but only parts of the animal through the dense cover. No clear shooting lane existed. The advancing darkness was also an enemy as light was retreating rapidly. Sunsets in Africa occur quickly not like those the Hunter knew from Alaska.

The animal stood broadside but milled back and forth nervously. The hunter found a one-foot circular branch free shooting tunnel; unfortunately the Wildebeest stood a full body length away from it.

The PH whispered, "If you have any shot take it". As much as the Hunter wanted to risk a branch deflection he resisted the urge. The Cookson’s moved slowly forward. As soon as his chest reached the branch free one-foot circle the Hunter took the shot.

Thunk!! The bullet’s impact could be heard but the Wildebeest transformed himself into a rocket. The beautiful Silver striped beast disappeared grunting loudly with every step.

"You broke his leg", the PH exclaimed. The hunter knew the shot hit lower than he would have liked given a clear shot but he felt confident he caught the bottom of the lungs.

Lamec was already advancing Madam trailed close behind. Lamec needed no instruction to do his job. The reunited foursome reached the site at which the Wildebeest stood when shot. Two small drops of blood were found.

The ground was like concrete. How could anyone read tracks on concrete? Lamec did not speak. He simply looked down and pointed with an index finger at invisible marks two feet apart. The Hunter looked down and saw nothing. The sun was fading. He felt fear the animal would be lost. Lamec continued.

Three hundred feet later a huge dead Cookson’s Wildebeest lay on its side. Not a drop of blood on it.

The bullet had entered exactly where the Hunter thought. Johnny just looked at him for a minute smiling, "I know, Bwana Freaking Lucky", the Hunter muttered.

After an explosion of laughter Johnny started with an excited exclamation, "Do you realize how lucky you are? If he wasn’t hanging out with the Impala we would have never gotten near him. This animal is beautiful. Look at the copper hues on its hindquarter. He gorgeous. He’s a big old boy. They only live here in the Luangwa. You are very lucky"

Jim knew he was lucky. Nine animals in three days. The seven top ones on his wish list and two bonuses in the form of Hippos. But he felt even luckier with the fact he shared this trip with his wife and he was able to hunt with Johnny du Plooy.

Jim felt that Johnny was everything you could ask for in a Professional Hunter. He was calm, patient, he treated his staff well, but most importantly he still had a passion for hunting.

Jim Wojciehowski is a Physician Assistant living in Anchorage, Alaska. He spent 8 years living in the bush region of Bristol Bay, Alaska. He hunted initially with a bow as a teen in Pennsylvania and now uses rifles to fill his freezer as well as sport hunt. He has been married to Joyce, a Registered Nurse whom he describes as fearless, for 36 years. They plan a return to the Luangwa Valley in 2012 for Lion & Leopard.

With the bag complete Johnny turned that passion for hunting in Madam’s direction. He took Joyce on mock stalks of Crocodiles, Impala, Puku, and even some Buffalo. He gave her a taste of blown stalks and she experienced the challenge of placing a rifle on shooting sticks within range of prey. No shots were fired but Joyce now knows more intimately what hunting is about. Maybe the next trip she too will hunt. We hung Leopard and Lion baits for the Cat hunter that arrived in camp so we also enjoyed that experience. Damn Flies!

Yup!! I am Bwana Lucky!!


• Poor Man's Leopard •
• One on one with Africa's Black Death •
• The Monster from Namibia •
• The Ultimate Dangerous Game Rifle •
• Predicting Bullet Performance •
• New Thunder in the Bushveld •
• Diana in Africa •
• Buff Tuff •
• Hunting the mtagati •
• Debunking Ballastic Myths •
• Ghost Rings •
• Graduating to buffalo •
• Hunting Botswana with a pocket battleship •
• Take a Rest •
• Secondary explosion effect •
• Uganda hunt •
• Classic Cartridges •
• All American Double •
• Bell's Base Camp •
• My lord Derby •
• Only 1 first safari •
• Famars Leonardo •
• The Double Falling Block Rifle •
• Casting basics remembered •
• BP Virus •
• As good as it gets •
• .375 Flanged Nitro •
• Hunting buffalo and pulling teeth •
• M77 Hawkeye African •
• Just a few seconds more, old chap •
• The .220 Swift •
• 270 Winchester reload session •
• Casting for the the .257 Roberts •
• Baiting leopard •
• My tender shoulder •
• The .416 Remington Magnum •


•  •


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