Let me start by saying I am not a writer, so please bear with me. And by no means is this the last hunt for me, at least I hope not.
This story goes back twelve years to one of the greatest times of my life. You see, I am a retired Alaska Master Guide with license #76, not a new kid on the block. But the experience of the hunt I had with one of Zambia’s most well-known PHs, who is also my friend and hunting buddy, Johnny du Plooy, is really one of the best.
We first met at the SCI Convention in Reno 12 years ago when John and I talked about a sitatunga hunt. At that time, hunting in Zambia was temporarily closed, so we mostly talked about that and what it was all about. I was quite impressed with John and wanted to hunt with him.
The next year at SCI I again talked to Johnny and his lovely wife Laura, this time about hunting on a game farm. I wasn’t too sure of that, but John reassured me it was all fair chase and all the animals had lots of room to elude us.
He was not kidding. I booked the safari with Muchinga Adventures, and what a great time I had!
On that safari in Zambia, I took a #1 sitatunga and a #8 SCI sable antelope, along with a number of other great trophies. This was my 19th trip to Africa and the first of six safaris with John and Laura.
I also hunted the Bangweulu Swamps for black lechwe, and the Kafue Flats for Kafue lechwe, and both were outstanding trophies. On other safaris with Johnny, I took a great Coke’s wildebeest and a very big hippo. I once spent a month on the Luangwa River as a guest of John and Laura. I never fired a shot, but it was one of the greatest times I’ve ever had in Africa.
I returned to Zambia, the place I call my second home, to be honored with being named the godfather of Johnny and Laura’s new baby girl, Rebecca.
I recently returned yet again, this time to collect the species in Zambia that I had not yet taken. My priority was leopard and then crocodile. We waited for a good tom and kept checking baits, but John kept telling me, “Not the one I want for you.”
Then it happened. We went to the blind from the back, and we sat down and got ready. As John sat, he said that the tom was looking at us. I peeked through the hole in the blind and there he was. I shoot a Ruger Model 77 in .270, with a Burris Red Dot scope, loaded with a Nosler 150-grain bullet. I didn’t need the red dot. It was 3.30 p.m. in the afternoon, and we had not been in the blind five minutes when it was all over. A big male leopard about 170 lbs. – another great hunt.
The next day we went out to look for a trophy crocodile and snuck up the riverbank until we can upon two crocs on a sandbar sunning themselves. John wanted me to shoot the big one, about 14 feet long, but I told him I did not have room in my trophy for one that big and shot the 10 feet one instead.
On this safari, my nephew was with me, and we spent the next day just kicking back. It was his first African safari and my 23rd. We had a great time being together on a hunt.
John and Laura of Muchinga Adventures are not only the best friends anyone could ask for, they also run one of the best safari camps I’ve ever hunted with. They are family to me. I always look forward to my next trip to Zambia – not to hunt, but to spend time with Johnny and Laura du Plooy.
As we won’t be carrying rifles on this safari, I guess I will have to do all I can to teach John how to fish. Ha ha.
Retired Alaska Master Guide James Keeline has hunted African dozens of times.