“ A great story of an exciting, ethical and a perfect ending of an African Buffalo hunt” As the winning entry in Nora’s Safari Club International “Win a Hunt” contest Ted will join Team Norma on a Red Stag and Driven Boar Hunt in Chec Republic!
Hunting Cape Buffalo in Mozambique
Today was the day that Bob from Rockford, MN and I were to go after our cape buffalo. Mr Zumbusch, the former Marine sergeant client had shot his buffalo 2 days previously and was a man of few words the evening after his hunt. While telling his brief story around the campfire that night, he did in fact look like a soldier who had just come back from combat. Over the years I have heard too many hunting stories of the hunter who climbed the mountain, almost met God and then climbed back down the mountain to tell about it. Something about Mr. Zumbusch made his story all the more credible. It was what he didn't tell me, that really got my curiosity going.
“ Teddy, tomorrow you are going to be one tired and happy hunter” was the last thing he said before he ate his dinner and went to bed on the day he shot his buffalo. Bob and I drove with our PH Julian to a spike camp that looked like some place where Teddy Roosevelt may have stayed at. It was more of a Boy Scout Camp on steroids. Safari tents alongside a river, with a thatched kitchen area and local staff to cook. They had parked a 8 wheel drive Argo next to a Swedish Hagglunds military vehicle with tank treads. Both vehicles were amphibious. Next to that was a 20 foot dug-out canoe that the locals had originally used to go into the wetter areas of the swamp. The area we were going into was approximately 16 square kilometers of papyrus and grass swamp. Dispersed amongst these wet areas, were 2 acre size islands of pristine pasture. This is prime habitat for a grazing ruminant as well as offering protection from poaching soldiers during a 17 year civil war.
Bob and I were up to get a start on the day. As I had just had dinner only 7 hours previously I was not that hungry, but we were told to eat as it might be a long day. That was an understatement. The outfitter told us that we needed to have a pair of Converse cotton high top shoes to hunt the swamps. They were the only shoe that would drain water, dry out while walking and not come off of our feet in the mud. We headed out into the swamp with three trackers in tow for a three hour drive into the swamp going about 20 mph. We eventually entered water and muck like I was used to duck hunting in in southern Minnesota. 3 feet of mud with 2 feet of water on top of it. Walking was not an option should we break down. Only 100 yards into the wet areas and the engine started to over-heat.
Julian told us that this had happened with the 2nd Hagglund the previous week. They had fixed the engine and it should not be happening. We were floating in muck and moving at 2 mph in a 1990s surplus Hagglund in the middle of Mozambique with an engine that I could see was far into the red-zone. It didn't help that the ambient air temperature was already in the 90Fs. All I could think about was if I had the telephone number to the Global Rescue insurance policy that I had purchased for this trip.
We were finally on a patch of dry hard ground and the vehicle was finished. Julian spoke Fanagalo with his trackers and told them that they had to decide amongst themselves who was going to have to walk/swim back the way we had come through the muck to get another vehicle. Alberto drew the short straw as the other tracker was only 5 ft. tall and could not manage the mud and water depth. The other tracker did not know how to operate a vehicle. This was the first time in four safaris that I had ever seen a tracker upset over what he had to do at his job. I didn't even want to think about walking through chest deep mud and water to get back.
We sat in the shade of the parked Hagglund vehicle when the real heat started to come on. It would be about five hours before Alfonso would be back with another vehicle. We drank water and moved every few minutes as our shade isappeared. The humidity was also strong and all we could do was save energy. We were too hot to even talk and we had not started our hunt yet. Julian told us that we might go after Bob's Waterbuck in the swamp, but the buffalo would have to wait another day. By afternoon the heat and humidity would be unmanageable.
Eventually the sun was directly above us and there was no shade. We had brimmed hats and were thankful for all the water we had. We managed to get some sleep, but the heat kept waking us up. Anything to pass the time. I sat fumbling with my Norma Oryx cartridges for my .375 H&H, wondering is this was going to be the day.
We finally heard an engine and it was Craig the camp manager, pilot, PH and mechanic in the 2nd Hagglund with Alberto in tow driving an Argo. Craig told us that a pilot had seen a large heard of Buffalo about a mile away and they we hould, “get on it.” Our spirits lifted and we were on our way. Soon after we saw a heard of about one thousand black buffalo in a sea of grass and papyrus. There were white Egrets in the air and they revealed the position of the heard. Bob was first in line and would do the first stalk. I stayed behind and watched from several hundred yards to the rear. You could smell and hear the buffalo in the distance. My heart beat went from slow to fast to slow more times than I could count. This is what I came here for. It would all be worth it soon.
After several blown stalks and the wrong wind, we let the heard run away and settle down a bit. Like previous buffalo hunts, I remembered that even buffalo get over heated and do not go far. The heard was grazing at a slow walk when we caught up to them. 5 ft. tall Francisco was carrying a small cooler with bottled water and we drank it every 30 minutes or so. I began to get dizzy as we ran through the grass while hunched over. Mr. Zumbusch lent me his leather gloves and I was never more grateful for a piece of hunting equipment ever. The ground was hard and the grass dry and sharp. We crawled 100 meters and waited for 20 minutes. The buffalo kept moving and we kept crawling. When we rested my dizziness passed and I was ready. My wrists got cramped from doing the dog-walk on all fours while shuffling my gun. I rested with Francisco while Bob made the final approach. I was feeling sick to my stomach and water did not help. I had a full stomach of H2O, but one can only absorb it at a certain rate. Walking upright would have been easy, but it was not an option. We were less that 200 yards and Julian wanted to get closer. It was all hand signals now and my vision began to blur. All I wanted was for Bob to get his buffalo. I would get mine another day. We still had 4 days left.
Alberto was dragging my gun and urging me in tracker-sign-language to move up towards Julian and Bob. There was a heard of 1,000 cape buffalo in front of us and I had only 50 yards to go to catch up with them. I felt my body absorbing water as my stomach was not so full anymore. My belt was soaking wet. Sweat had begun to permeate my cartridge belt holding the .375 Norma Oryxs. My head cleared and I saw that Julian had slowly put up the shooting sticks. He otioned for Bob to rest his rifle on the side of one of the sticks and shot from the siting position. They discussed which buffalo to take and finally a shot rang out. Julian turned to me and said in colonial British, “ Teed cum heea' quickly.”
I did the crab crawl with my gun on my lap and finally got where they were. Bob had a satisfied grin on his face while Julian looked me in the eye from six inches away. “Teed. Do not question anything I say, just shoot that buffalo directly in front of us. You have no time to look at the trophy. Just shoot it now man!”
I rested my rifle on my left index finger while steady on the stick and sitting. I found a crease on the shoulder of the beast and squeezed the trigger. 300 grains of Oryx bullet met its mark. He hunched like a rodeo bull and ran a few feet before he collapsed. The heard moved off only a hundred yards as they were as tired and hot as we were. We finally stood up for the first time in over an hour. I felt the blood run back into my legs and the tension loosen from my shoulders. We drank some more water and the congratulations went all the way around. It had truly been a team effort in every way.
Bob ran to his buffalo and looked like an Olympic athlete who had just won Gold. While I on the other hand probably looked like an Olympic dis-qualifier. Julian slapped me on the back and said, “nice shot”. We later paced it out and it was just over 100 yards in distance. I was glad it was over.
Craig arrived shortly thereafter with the Hagglund while the trackers and PHs got to work with knives. We loaded up every part of those large buffalo into the vehicle, minus the hooves and rumen. Their build was much different than other buffalo I had hunted and I was curious as to their anatomy, so I examined it thoroughly. Not having any sanitary water available I dusted my soiled hands in the grass and we made our way back to camp. The Mozambican sun was setting. In Africa it takes only minutes for it to become dark. As we boarded our vehicle I could see our heard approaching our area again. They were anxious to start feeding in that same area. To my left and right I could see two other herds of equal size, less than a mile away. There were 3,000 buffalo that I could see from my vantage point. I took some photos in the fading light and was again in complete awe of Africa. Almost every day on this continent there is something that will
amaze you and that you will never forget.
As we motored back to the spike camp we drank water and then drank some more. My stomach started to remind me that it had been thirteen hours since we had had anything to eat. Craig had a container of cold meat pies in the vehicle and passed them around. My mouth was so dry that I could not get enough saliva to down the pie. The air began to cool to a comfortable 88F degrees and we felt a slight breeze in the vehicle. My neck was stiff as we drove the 2 hours back to spike camp to gather our things and then another 1 ½ hours to the main camp.
When we arrived, Mr. Zumbusch was sitting around the fire with the others enjoying a cigar with his rum and coke. I mixed myself another African Mind Cooler (orange Fanta and vodka) and drank half of it in one sip, just as he had done 3 days previously. He looked at me with an expression of someone who had been there before. His face said it all. “Well Teddy. How did it go?” he asked. “ I shot a 40+ inch Buffalo,” I replied. “ I an one tired but happy hunter today. ”