The Fourth Time Around
This hunt was actually never supposed to take place until such time as we unloaded a couple of houses that we had got stuck with in California.
At the age of 72 I’m not getting any younger, so my wife decided that it would be a good time for us to do the elephant hunt now rather than wait and just see what happened about the houses. In my mind, it looked as though the real estate market was never going to improve. So I decided to go ahead and start checking for the proper outfitter. I had three in mind, and e-mailed all three of them, but only one responded within 24 hours, so I continued to communicate with that one until such time as we had everything basically settled and satisfied in my mind. The hunt was to take place in Zimbabwe at the end of March. It was a 10-day hunt, and we made our flight reservations with Gracie Travel Agency.
The four flights over were miserable as usual, but we made it safe and sound and were greeted by our outfitter Buzz from C&M safaris, who took us to a B&B for our first night. We were picked up the following morning by our professional hunter, Richie Tabor, and taken to our camp.
Next morning we woke to a beautiful day. We had an absolutely fantastic breakfast and at noon our PH arrived, and we left Harare for our camp. After a 3 ½-hour trip we went to the range to make sure that my handguns were still properly sighted in. My main handgun was a .454 Casull, shooting the 320-grain belt mountain punch bullet with a fiber-optic front sight and an express rear. My back-up gun was my Encore in .450 Marlin, shooting a 500-grain Hornady solid. This gun has a 2x-7x scope.
After we made sure everything was OK, the PH took us out in the vehicle for a tour of the property. It was at the end of the rainy season and the bush was absolutely green, lush and thick. I could see we were going to have a hard time to see our targets because of the thickness of the bush. Daily routine was pretty much the same each day – a light breakfast and coffee in the morning, go out and look for tracks, back around 10 to 11 o’clock for a light lunch and nap, and then back out until dusk, at which time we returned to camp and had an hour or so to relax before dinner was ready. I have to say that the food was absolutely delicious and the South African red wines were the best that I’ve ever tasted. Deena and I couldn’t wait for dinnertime.
I made it a habit each breakfast and dinner to ensure that my PH knew that my true desire was for him to join in and be part of the hunting team. If he was absolutely not positive that my first shot was a one-shot kill, I wanted him to step in and use that double rifle that he was carrying for something other than just resting over his shoulder. The laws in Africa are quite clear. If you put a bullet hole in your trophy you are morally, legally, financially and ethically responsible for that animal – needless to say, I wanted this hunt to be successful. When I spend this kind of money on a hunt, I definitely want success. Sorry folks, but that’s exactly the way I feel about it.
I found it to be a very physical hunt for me as I wasn’t properly in shape. The kind of exercise that I have been doing at home was definitely not the kind to get you into the shape you need to be in for the amount of walking that we were doing on a day-to-day basis. However, Deena was in perfect shape. She works out on a treadmill and had no problems whatsoever maneuvering any of the obstacles that we ran into. We hunted for eight days before we finally were successful, and during those eight days we had stalked at least four separate groups of elephants.
On the eighth day we finally closed in on seven different bull elephants. I knew that this was the time. My PH put up the shooting sticks and I mounted my Encore in .450 Marlin on top. I was so excited that I didn’t even realize that somewhere along the way my duffel bag was not with us. This, of course, would make my shot go at least three inches higher than what I wanted it to. I wasn’t smart enough to compensate for that, and I only stunned the elephant. My PH was on the ball and saw immediately what had happened, and he fired one shot. The elephant had staggered with my shot, but regained its footing and turned and started to run away. We never did find out where my PH’s shot had gone – he took off in front of me and I couldn’t fire a second shot even though I had reloaded. I heard another shot from him and was running after the bull, and when I came out of the bush I saw the elephant was down.
As I approached the downed elephant I saw that my PH had shot it in the tailbone and had paralyzed it. I thought for a moment that it was finally all over, but my PH was a little antsy and grabbed me by the hand and pulled me around and told me he wanted me to shoot the elephant in the side of the head, and pointed to an exact spot. This time he wanted me to use my main handgun, the .454 Casull. I shot as he had said. The bull, which had still been alive, was now dead with that shot. My PH slapped me on the back and said,” perfect.” I realized that I had just achieved my main hunting goal. Eight full days of hunting to get on the shooting sticks, and in three minutes or less it was all over.
Day 9 was spent with the elephant retrieval. Some outfitters allow the local natives to come in and retrieve what meat they want from the elephant, but C&M prefers to have the entire camp staff retrieve all meat from the elephant and deliver it personally to the local villagers. After we had taken the trophies that we desired, the rest of the camp staff stayed behind and reduced the elephant into four separate truckloads and delivered the protein to the individual villages that had been raided by the elephants on prior nights. When the camp staff had finished doing their job, there was absolutely nothing left of that elephant but a spot on the ground, and to say that the smiles on the villagers’ faces were as big as our smiles, was definitely an understatement.
On Day 10 we went out hunting for plains game, but to no avail. Saw plenty of sign, but no sable, so we went back to camp and started getting ready to return home. The return home was, as usual, 35 hours of hell.
But my wife and I had a ball on this hunting trip. We would not have missed any part of it for anything in the world. The only problem now is, what do we do for that fifth time around?
Bio: Edward and Deena have been handgun hunting since 1992. They have been to Africa four times. They are retired but hope to go back to Spear Safaris in 2014 for hippo if, as Edward says, “I can still squeeze a trigger, as at 74 I’m not as spry as I used to be.”