This was the beginning of my second Safari to the Dark Continent. It was two years since I have hunted Africa and the wait was finally over. Ever since I set foot on that mysterious land it had a hold on me, when it was time to leave, I left a little part of my soul over there, never to be reunited until I return. This time, I was taking my wife Mem as an observer…. She kept on saying… am I sure I want to do this??? I kept on reassuring her that this would be the trip of a lifetime, and it was.
I would be hunting Zimbabwe on a 12 day Leopard hunt with a mixed bag of plains game included. I also had a guarantee built into my hunt package; if I didn’t take a leopard a $2500 refund would be given. I didn’t know it at this time but this was going to be the deciding factor for me taking a 42 in. Sable.
We made our flight on the crunch buss oops I mean air buss from the states to Bulawayo without any major problems or setbacks. Our outfitter met us at the airport and we were driven back to the main office to meet my PH for the hunt. My PH for this hunt was a Zimbabwean named Jason Marshall.
We were finally off to see the wizard and to try and find our hunting camp; you see Jason never hunted the camp I was assigned to, called Dorshano. He kept on trying to reassure me that the game scouts had it all under control. Hmmmmm I am supposed to be hunting Leopard and my PH never even hunted this camp before? When we finally arrived at the camp after about a two hour drive just outside of Bulayayo, we got lost… The game scout that was supposed to meet us was drunk as a skunk and he couldn’t find our camp. Now we got off the plane at about 3-0-clock and its now about 9-0-clock and we have been driving around in the bush and the dark for over an hour trying to find our camp..?? The temperature dropped below 40 degrees and all I have on is a T shirt and was freezing my ass off. Finally after a lot of prayers and by dumb luck we found the camp.
The cook was to drunk to cook; do I sense a pattern here? soooo Jason made us a delicious dinner of stir fry mystery meat with vegetables and it was off to bed. We stayed in a stone cabin by the water; actually the body of water was the size of a 50 acre lake. It was a beautiful setting but the cabin had only mesh screens in the windows and no heat, believe me when I tell you it was in the high 30’s and cold enough to make your teeth chatter but… but …but…. The view with the moon setting out over the water… hanging suspended like a golden Christmas ball, you could see the clouds flowing by like white sails and peaking through the bare branches of the tress that arose from the lake, great to be back in Africa. The electric generator wasn’t running and we had candles lit on the night stands on either side of the bed. I turned to my wife and grinned, well you said you wanted romance. My wife and I jumped into bed with a zillion covers that I stole from other tents and finally I went to sleep with visions of spotted cats running in my head. Drawbacks maybe, but hey I was back in Africa, that’s what really counts, and I wouldn’t trade it for any other experience in the world.
Morning arrived and my wife and I got dressed very quickly to avoid frostbite and went to the dining area. I then asked Jason about my Leopard setup. He said we would check this area out for cats, if there was no sign we would leave for the second camp right away, called Dingwall. Warning signs started going off in my head..BOING…BOING… Hmmm they don’t even know if there are Leopard here, never mind hanging and shooting baits. It was then I decided that I may just shoot my second most prized animal that I wanted on this trip first, a trophy Sable. You see, I was told that Dorshano was loaded with Sable, and that there was more than a few 40 in. plus bulls running around. I also kept on thinking that the trophy fee of $3500 per Sable could be offset by my refund IF I didn’t shoot my cat. Well we shall see what the day brings.
For most of the day we checked for spoor and any kind of Leopard sign, nothing not even a smudge in the dirt. It was my assumption that I would start shooting baits and hang them as soon as I got their, hell we couldn’t even find a Leopard track. It was then that I decided that my taking any kind of Leopard was in jeopardy.
We have been seeing plains game all morning, especially Sable. I saw at least a 39 inch Sable bull right before lunch that I almost shot, but Jason kept on saying, wait... we will see a bigger one. On our way back for lunch we got a flat tire. Since Jason’s vehicle was in the shop, he was using one of the company’s vehicles, there was no spinner aboard, AKA lug nut wrench… we had to walk about a mile back to camp for lunch until they sorted it out. No big deal, it warmed up to a balmy 43 degrees and I was seeing Sable and Bleisbuck all over the place. I wanted a good Blue Bull Eland that this property was also noted for, never mind also trying for over a 50 in. Kudu and a decent Wildebeast.
After lunch back at camp when Jason arrived after sorting out the flat. We talked about leaving the Dorshano camp for the other camp called Dingwall. We couldn’t even cut a track of a Leopard where we were at, and I wanted to start hanging baits as soon as possible. We made a plan to hunt this area one or two more days and try for a trophy Sable and Eland, after that we would move on to Dingwall. I was beginning to see my chances on bagging a Leopard getting farther and farther away.
That afternoon we jumped back into the vehicle, and I made sure there was a spinner on board this time. It was bright and sunny and we were headed for the far side of the ranch. We went only a few miles when we went down this big ditch and promptly got the vehicle stuck, I mean really stuck….Hmmmmm I looked on the front of the vehicle, no winch either… no spinners, no winch… oh well welcome to Africa, sort it out.
While Jason and the boys were sorting out the vehicle my wife and I decided to hunt a bit down the road. We only walked about 30 yards when my wife gasped…Jim LOOK..up there… When I looked up… there was this huge Giraffe about 50 yards away, with his neck extended about 10 feet above the treetops. This was the first time I have ever seen a live Giraffe in the wild and was awe struck by his beauty and grace for such a very large animal. Even though I had Giraffe or Eland on my license, I elected to still try for an Eland Bull.
Finally after about almost two hours WE got the vehicle out of its hole. As we were driving on the other side of the ranch, my new spotting partner… my wife… spied some Sable in the long grass. As we stopped the truck and got out we started our stalk. We haven’t gone very far when my PH spotted more Sable to my right, and even more to my left. There was two big bulls that tried to circle around behind us, Jason quickly spun me around, he said as soon as they cross the road shoot the second one… make sure it’s the second one…they ran.. I aimed… I fired off hand at about 70 yards; no time for shooting sticks... one shot… my 300 RUM leading the black shoulder of the second bull. At the shot he hunched up and stumbled, I knew he wasn’t going far, my 180 grain Nosler Partition @ over 3350 fps hit him like a sledge hammer..30 yards later he slid to a stop and was finished. Man was I excited…first day…. First trophy a beautiful Sable Bull. I always carry a tape in my back pack, his right horn taped out just over 42 inches and his left about 41 inches. My wife was as excited as I was, I gave her the video camera to record the event and she proceeded to record the event for a full ten minutes without hitting the RECORD button..LOL I wouldn’t find this out until after the next day when I shot my second animal a good Wildebeest, and she recorder the event for me. When I went to review the tape that night and figured out just what she forgot to do… hey things like this happen in Africa…Thank God we took shots with the Digital camera also.
After my taking the Sable, my PH uttered the sentence that I would hear over and over again that would finally lead me to my Black Bull… he said Jim…how would you like to shoot the Black Bull of Dingwall? I said, what the hell are you talking about? He then explained that there was this rouge black bull Giraffe at the next camp. He was a bruiser and apparently when he left the area that he liked to roam …which had this 12 ft high fence that the ranch used for its cattle. The black bull would simply kick over the fence when he left and kick over the fence when he felt like returning. He also kicked the stuffing out of the other males in the herd and they weren’t mating with the females. I replied Hmmmm let me give it some thought, I wanted to shoot an Eland bull if I had a choice between that or the Giraffe. But the picture of that beautiful giant Giraffe that my wife and I saw that first afternoon kept on coming back to me…Hmmmm I wonder how that big boy would look with black spots in my game room.
The second day I made a good stalk early in the mourning and with one shot of the 300 RUM took my second animal…. a nice Wildebeast. We had him loaded up and back to the skinning hut and back out hunting before 11-AM in the mourning. The rest of the day and all the next I hunted for a good Eland Bull. I was in to four different stalks, each time I got close enough to a bull I decided to pass, they all had smallish horns, their was nothing close to a 25 or 30 inch bull. My PH kept on repeating that sentence over and over again, how would you like to take that Rouge Black Bull of Dingwall. I made the decision to move to the second camp, it would take a full days travel to reach Dingwall, that will leave me just 10 days left to get on a Leopard, my chances were getting slimmer and slimmer.
The next day was spent in route to Dingwall, we arrived at about four in the afternoon and got settled in. For the remaining part of the hunt we stayed in a beautiful thatched ranch house with an in ground swimming pool. This didn’t do us any good because it was still in the low 40’s and high 30’s ….we even had electric heaters going in our bedroom. I thank God for taking an insulated hood and jacket, not to mention some heavy shirts and sweaters.
The next day I promptly shot a 22 inch Impala and 11 inch Warthog for Leopard bait and we started hanging them were known Leopard tracks were found. There seemed to be two big males and one female in the area. The male was spotted out in the open twice by previous hunters that were in camp the week before me. I still had hopes for my spotted cat.
That evening after coming back from checking our Leopard baits, Jason decided to take a trip through a few fields that the Giraffe visited. We were traveling along for about a half hour when we came upon a Giraffe family grazing to our right. We stopped and took pictures with the video and the digital camera, again I was struck with the beauty and elegance of these animals. Jason replied you think they’re neat wait until you see the Black Bull. I turned to my wife and said, what you think? …… she replied immediately, if you see the Black Bull take him.
The next morning, again after checking all our Leopard baits with no luck.. we went looking for the Black Bull, we were traveling on this really rough road when my wife yelled there HE is… her eyes were getting better at spotting game than mine. Sure enough there he was, he was HUGE… his neck and head towered over the other Giraffe with him. We put together a stalk and decided to come after him from the other side. An hour later the wind shifted and our Black Bull winded us and were gone. Again that evening he was spotted and gave us the slip again. It seemed like he knew he was being hunted and would vanish when ever he heard the vehicle or voices. That night we put together a plan..
We checked the Leopard baits in the morning nothing…. Went looking for the Black Bull nothing…. Walked miles through his territory nothing, he was hiding out somewhere but the fifty thousand dollar question was where? That afternoon Jason suggested that he and I ride on a tractor into the stomping grounds, when the tractor turned right to leave we would jump off and work our way into the area. It worked like a charm; we sneaked into his bedroom without alarming the herd. We took some time glassing the area when my PH finally said there he is… I wanted to shoot the Bull with my 375 H&H knowing full well how thick their skin is, but I had the 300 RUM in my hands. Jason said, if I could shoot him about a foot and a half down from his head, on the neck, and he will drop like a rock. Again off hand at about 100 yards I called on the 300 RUM…..BOOM…. at the shot he did..!!! He dropped like a rock… all the trackers and my wife joined us as we admired the Black fallen giant, he was still breathing so I decided to finish him off quick. I gave my wife the video camera and said please try and record this….. I moved to the bottom side of the fallen Monarch and decided to put a shot from bottom of his chest up into his heart to end it. I kneeled down and took careful aim…Boom.. at the shot he suddenly jumped to his feet towering above me, In one fluid movement I brought up the rifle and fired… hitting him in the neck at less than 10 yards…. Again he crashed to the ground… I just stood there to dumbfound to move, as I turned around to say to my wife.. I hope you got that on video, there was nobody there..??? when the Giraffe got up everyone including my wife with the video camera was heading for the hills. To his credit, my PH had my 375 H&H but I fired so fast when the Giraffe got up that he didn’t have a chance to shoot. After around of applause from the boys I checked and he was still breathing. I reloaded my 300 RUM…. I still don’t know why I didn’t use the 375 H&H to finish him off. I took the video camera from my wife and handed it to my PH… I took the 375 H&H from my PH and handed it to my wife… big mistake. I then said please video the rest of this episode. The Black Bull lay down for the count, he had sustained two shots in the neck, and one going up into his chest cavity, and this last one should do it. I had it in the back of my mind, what if this guy gets up again…nawh… never happen. I kneeled down again took careful aim and BOOM….. the SOB jumps to his feet yet again… this time he has momentum and starts running to my right…. Bang… I aim for his chest…he keeps running….Bang another shot in the chest….his back legs start to buckle…but he turns around and is still on his feet…now he is coming right toward me…Bang… another shot in the chest…he is now right in front of me… as he passes at less than 10 yards again…CLICK…I am out of bullets… I can hear my PH screaming behind me…Bring… Bring… 375 NOW… remember I took the 375 H&H from my PH and gave it to my wife, and gave the video camera to my PH… my wife was high tailing it out of there AGAIN with the 375 strapped safely on her shoulder. With luck on my side the Giraffe passed a few yards in front of me and on a blind run hit head on into a towering tree…he just stood there for a moment then crashed backwards about 20 yards in front of me…this time stone dead… I am sure I had skid marks on my drawers… and the first words out of my mouth were… whew ..Gees…I needed a bigger gun!!!
I must say this was as exciting as my Buffalo hunt, and the best part about this is that it was all captured on video. Yes my PH stood his ground and shot the whole episode. Hey I could be like Mark Sullivan…. I sustained the first Giraffe charge in history!! We all know he wasn’t charging but he sure as hell could have fooled me. It took about eight guys to finally skin him out and it took the tractor with a chain to pull him over on his side to remove the cape. Jason estimated his head to weigh over 200 pounds. I am going to try and have my Taxi do a shoulder mount, all I hope for is that my cathedral ceilings are high enough at 18 feet…LOL
This story has dragged on long enough, I just wanted to fill you in on the happenings before I shot the Black Bull of Dingwall. It just so happens that when I posted the pictures on AR that a hunter that hunted this ranch one week before me had pictures of my Black Bull alive. He sent me the pics and I have a beautiful 8X10 of the Black Bull in all his glory, before his untimely demise.
As for the rest of the hunt, nope I never did get my Leopard, but I also took two Kudu Bulls, one 51 in… and one 49.5 inch…a great Black Waterbuck, I think he went 27 inches, a Tsessebee around 20 inches, and a Steenbuck.
I can’t wait until I return in 06…. and the best part my wife loved every minute of it and will be returning with me, when once again I will try for Mr. Spots to add to my ever growing collection.
The horn of the hunter has called me, and I shall return every chance I get…..