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Uganda hunt

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I have dreamed of hunting in Africa since I was a small boy. I never expected to be able to experience Africa as it was in the early 1900’s, but that’s what the Karamoja area of Uganda is like right now. I have traveled in East Africa on business and vacation eight times in the past. I was amazed to see this area of Uganda; I was not prepared for the beauty I found there.

Kidepo was the first stop just a few miles from the Sudan border. The concession covers 27,000 square kilometers and the scenery is magnificent. We stayed in a camp a few miles from the border of the Kidepo game park. It was on a small hill which gave us a great view of the mountains north towards Sudan.

With this being an exploratory hunt, Steve Robinson of Kuduland Safaris and I had discussed that it would not be a five star luxury camp with all the comforts of home, and it would not be a shopping list hunt. We would be traveling in places where no one had hunted in thirty years. The game surveys had been done, and Steve knew where the game was, but we did not know exactly what we would find or what to expect. With weather changes this time of year (April), Steve and I had developed an on-line friend ship while planning this hunt. He knew I was not a ‘cherry’ when it comes to Africa, but I was when it comes to hunting in Africa. I have lived in the bush and knew what to expect in a temporary camp setting. As it worked out, we ended up at a very nice, new, though rustic, tourist camp.

There are very few improved roads within a two-day drive from Kampala, and no paved roads in this area. The drive is great and well worth the time spent. You get to see the Nile River at Murchison Falls, and experience lots of the local atmosphere. The locals here are not used to seeing a lot of tourists, so they are not spoiled, standing along the roads begging for money, candy, or whatever. Thank God for digital cameras, I had two cameras with me, one was pocket size and the other a full size DSLR. I gave them both a full work out.

Personally, I like almost everything about Uganda, but especially how unspoiled it was. The Kidepo area has a mixture of grass savanna and thorn trees. The first day of the hunt was like nothing I had expected. With no roads, we got to an area we wanted to look at by just pulling off the road and slowly driving through the tall grass. It was like you read about in the old days of hunting East Africa. At about 1:00pm on the first day, we were looking for plains game in an area of thorn trees, when we spotted two nice old dugga boys lying under a tree out of the heat of the day. We stopped the truck and got out. I was leaning through the window with my rifle on the bigger of the two. A nice old bull with worn off horns. I’m from the South; so leaning on the truck was natural to me! Steve was next to me looking at the bull with the sticks. I told him to tell me if he wanted me to shoot. He whispered, "I have the sticks". I told him, "I have this guy center chest if you want me to shoot". He whispered "sticks" again. I told him this was a dead buffalo if he wanted me to shoot. He told me "sticks" again!!!!!

At this time, we decided that this was the first day of the hunt, and this was not the ‘scrum cap’ I wanted. Steve had found out there were some other scrum cap bulls in the areas. So, I put the rifle away and got my camera, but by now the bulls where getting nervous and they moved away. They moved a whole 20 yards before they turned and stopped to look at us again. I was amazed at how calm they where. From what I knew of buffalo, I expected them to break and run till they where out of the county. I was to get many more pleasant surprises like this in the days to come.

The next day, we were going out looking for a waterbuck where we knew there were some close by the camp. Again, Steve and Philip were dead on, and we were not on the road for thirty minutes before we came upon a very nice waterbuck. I have not had buck fever in years, but that all changed in the blink of an eye. To make a long and embarrassing story short, I missed an easy shot THREE TIMES. Steve was great; he was supportive and understanding, but I still felt like crap. We hunted there the rest of the day without seeing anything.

The next day, we went looking of hartebeest, and after some driving through the grass; we spotted a nice male standing broadside at 75 yards. Again, he was very calm as we got out of the truck. I now knew the truck door was not acceptable, so I got ready. Steve set the sticks for me, but I had trouble getting my footing and the critter moved away slowly. However, luck was with us and he stopped again at about 150 yards. After talking it over with Steve, I chose to move up a little closer by myself. I had a small bush for cover, so I worked my way up to about 75 yards and put him on the grown with a spine shot. Then, I did the ‘ugly dance’. The skinner started to work on him and we got back to camp around time for a cool one or two, and to celebrate and talk about the waterbuck. I now had a score to settle with him, and I was going to collect in blood… his blood!!

Next morning we headed to the area we thought he might be. As we were getting close, we were about to stop the truck to stalk him, when the game scout pointed to the right, and there he was looking at us from 180 yards. Once out of the truck, I was on the sticks and had him center chest… if you didn’t count the tree in the center of my sights. We moved a little; he moved a little. We moved again; he moved again. He was beginning to get on my nerves! Then, he laid down. I waited. He got up, then laid down again, and then got up. But, this time he made a fatal mistake, and moved a few inches in front of the tree. One shot through the chest, and he feel like a fat lady diving for a donut.

As we where moving up on him he tried to stand up again. I gave him a round through the neck and that was that. I had redeemed myself.

Over the next two weeks, we hunted oribi, dik-dik and baboons. OHHH YES, and on the seventh day we hunted Buffalo. Steve had a bad case of malaria, so we were going to drive to a hill and glass the area for buffalo. As we were getting close to where we wanted to park, Philip exclaimed F&^k! and looked to the right. At the same time, Steve exclaimed F&^k! Then me, at about four times Steve’s volume, when I saw the buffalo I wanted… a large old scrum cap. We had seen some nice buffalo while hunting, but this guy was huge. We got out of the truck, and after setting up, we blasted him into the great unknown. YES, I did the ugly dance!!! Even as sick as he was, Steve was smiling like a drunken monkey, as was Philip.

The next day Philip and I went out for oribi, after we convinced Steve to say in camp and rest. We saw over a hundred oribi before 2:00pm. But, the grass was tall and I could just not get a clear shoot. As we were headed back to camp, we found a dumb one, who just stood in the open and watched, as I walked up and shot him. With no hunting pressure, the animals are very calm.

The next day we headed south to Pien Upe. This is the site of Karamoja Bell’s base camp on the Greek River. It was a tent camp that we set up on arrival. It was as beautiful as the Kidepo area with a wonderful view from our hilltop. We hunted and explored this area for a week, and I got three baboons.

Don Hooker is 56 year old and grew up in a small Northern California sawmill town hunting and fishing. After working as a Nurse for ten years without a vacation, he took a trip to Kenya - and that was the beginning of his love affair with Africa. He has spent from three to eight months a year since that first trip traveling to East Africa.

The fees for a baboon are twenty dollars each, and there are no limits on the number you can take. The populations are very high and they are causing trouble for the locals, so population control is one of the things the government wants hunters to achieve.

If you are interested in hunting like it was in the 1930’s and 40’s, I would suggest you get to Uganda as soon as possible. This area will become one of the premier hunting destinations in Africa in the very near future. I have never had so much fun at any time in my life as I did hunting in Uganda. Steve is a wonderful person with a wealth of knowledge, useless and otherwise (ha ha), and a wonderful sense of humor.

Steve Robinson, Kuduland Safaris, White River, South Africa. Tel: +27 (0) 13 750 1982 Cell Phone: +27 (0) 832777114 Fax: +27 (0) 866858867 Email: shakari@mweb.co.za www.kuduland.com

D.R. Hooker


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