By Joe Greco
The Fall 2019 issue of AHG was the first issue I received after becoming a lifetime member. It didn’t take long to understand why I renewed my subscription to the AHG after a short hiatus. Richard Lendrum’s editorial, “He can track a butterfly…” brought back fond memories of my first buffalo hunt in the Save Valley Conservancy of Zimbabwe.
It was 2016 and my wife, son and I decided to give dangerous game a try after a great plains-game hunt in Namibia two years prior. Our safari began on the Masapas Concession of the SVC with PH Adrian Van Heerden. My son, 15 at the time, made a beautiful frontal shot on a nice old Dagga Boy with a .375 H&H. The old bull ran no more than 20 meters and dropped – no tracking would be necessary. We then moved to the Savuli Concession in an attempt to get the second buffalo we had on quota.
Late in the afternoon on the third day in the Savuli, I had my opportunity on a nice mature bull giving me a full broadside presentation at 50 meters. As the shot of my .458 Win Mag echoed along the dry riverbed, I saw the bull lurch forward, but he ran off with the other bulls. Finding a few drops of dark blood, I knew I failed to place the round where I wanted.
Our trackers, Biton and Cosmos began following the tracks of the herd, occasionally finding a trace of blood. As evening set in we called it a night, intending to resume the search the next day. That night in camp, I relived the shot and my missed opportunity.
The next morning we picked up where we had left off. An hour into tracking I thought all
hope was lost. The blood spoor had vanished and the herd, having spent the night in a thick
patch of mopane, had moved on. What followed was truly amazing. The trackers, after
about 30 minutes of carefully studying the area in what appeared to be random circles
around where the buffalos had spent the night, chose not to follow the tracks of the
herd, but rather the imprints of a hyena. Adrian translated the conversation
between Biton and Cosmos from their Ndebele language: “No more blood. Hyenas lick the
blood as they follow the wounded buffalo. We go this way.”
We continued to track, passing and collecting snares left by poachers, and as we were going up some rocky outcrops with no visible spoor, I turned to my wife and said, “I think they are pulling our legs. Wounded animals never go uphill.” Or so I thought. We continued another five hours, with constant reminders by our PH that we remain close behind him.
As I began to convince myself that I had wounded the bull and that it would never be recovered, there was a sudden explosion of cracking branches in thick mopane, and a black streak appeared to our right.
Adrian and I aimed our rifles at the raging locomotive, and at Adrian’s command two shots rang out simultaneously. Luckily, the wounded bull chose not to charge us but veered off, allowing me another opportunity. With fresh spoor, our tracking concluded 15 minutes later, and I had the nice Dagga Boy that I had shot 24 hours prior.
I have since been back to Africa twice more, and luckily I did not have to test the skill of
my trackers as I had done that day, but I have no doubt they would be up to any challenge.
Joe resides in Long Island, New York. He has been an avid hunter most of his life, mostly focusing on whitetail deer and wingshooting. He has been fortunate to have travelled with his family to many countries in pursuit of his passion for hunting, but he, like many, cannot wait to return to Africa.