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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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?" 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.
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
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
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
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
"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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
"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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Yup!! I am Bwana Lucky!!