Hunting closed in Botswana - Thanks to SafariBwana!
The story that follows is a reaction - a very light hearted one towards criticism I recieved from a fellow PH out of Botswana, one of the GoldenBall brigade, about a picture on my website showing a Lion with blood around the exit wound. You see this fellow got involved in a war of words with a facebook site run by a bunch of prancey, ballet shoe wearing poofters who sneak about London and cover the famous Lion statues of London with black shrouds - they are trying to make a statement about what if Lions were suddenly gone form the earth! They used this blood soaked picture from my site to horrify the destruction we are causing to the Lions of Africa, hell you're telling them the truth, Lion actually bleed when you shoot them - DEAD!
Anyway, Mr GB Botswana PH entered into a 'discussion' with these prancers, thereby breaking the first rule of conduct - don't engage them, this is what they want and all sensible arguments we hunters have are drowned out in the malaise and shouting of their arrogance. Seriously, to people who believe it is wrong to wear leather because it was the skin of a littew fuzzy bunny, are you really ever going to change their minds about killing lions in the name of conservation - I beg not and have been through this may times, just keep quiet, grind your teeth, imagine many ways that their privates might be infested by an incurable plague and then get on with your life.
But GB out of Botswana, clearly bright eyed and bushy tailed at convincing these misfits, went on to raise cause for concern that my very picture might be responsible for the closure of hunting in his country - these pictures I am flouting all over the internet are ikely to end up on their presidents desk and then he'll close all hunting in Botswana - thanks to SafariBwana!
Now he also alluded to the fact that I did not obey the code of conduct as laid out by the ethics committee of some famous safari organization with a million members who all say that you are not allowed to put any 'real' true to life pictures in your brochures or on the web. Of course this had me trembling BUT it got me nodding my head in a you see I told you so kind of manner. What are we trying to hide? Most of the hunting I do is the very real type where a Lion bleeds out of the exit wound when you shoot him through the heart - there's allot of blood - it gets tangled in his mane and fills up the back of the landcruiser and you get it all over yourself when you take the pictures!
NO this is not the reality we want people to see, so we make rules about it, form committees to police any infringement there of because this is not what we want our hunting to be, this is not what we want the world to see - in our world there's no blood spilt, animals pass away peacefully without any broken bones or horrible death cries - in our world we want HOLLYWOOD - the big sun bronzed PH's with gold inlaid doubles, the ones they bought at our convention, we want dead lions with combed manes and crisp mouths, no blood, no tongues hanging out and of course we want well dressed clients sitting behind them in leather gloves and safari gear that we are going to promote at next year's convention!
I wanted to tell this fellow - a well known Botswana outfitter to take his comments and shove them up his backside, but then I would be breaking the rules, don't engage them, just grin and bear it and carry on with what you know!
My last real Lion Safari!
4 years ago I sat in a grass blind in the fading north Luangwa light waiting for an elusive and almost non existent cat to appear - praying with each darkening second that I could manufacture a lion, any lion, to walk in and feed off the half decayed haunch of buffalo hanging 30 yards away. The setting was almost too good to be true, at least in my mind which tries to mimic what a hungry cat would consider the ideal afternoon snack; the bait tree, the long grass, fresh flowing water, smelly maggot infested hippo and buffalo scraps - what more could a Lion want.
It had been one of the toughest hunts of my career, 34 days of hunting with a large group of very well heeled hunters from England who had over the years been hunting in Botswana - that magnificently game rich haven of southern Africa where PH's can sleep till 8 am and they don't have tsetse flies that constantly bite at your exposed parts - and here they had hunted on 3 occasions for the king of the beasts without success. Hunting for Lion had recently been closed in Botswana hence their sojourn to the poorer stinky cousin next door, Zambia's Luangwa Valley and it's supposedly famous 'bush Lions'. I still can't imagine why they had not bagged one of those famous black maned hollywood lions you see coming out of Botswana - I mean, I have not had the privilege of hunting lion there but they are nothing short of spectacular and in such abundance that recently cattle farmers have started shooting them as stock raiders.
Of course having safari'd in this prime African hunting country meant you had an affinity with one of the fancy PH's that have very long and often tedious colonial histories - the kind where gin and tonics at dusk and a slap on the back with the mandatory ' good form old chap' forms part of each hunting day. I mean Botswana must be THE country where you'll still find a real gentleman PH, one who dresses accordingly, says the right things and doesn't ever mention the word SCI or record book trophy. No this country is the self proclaimed pioneer of the modern day safari in our part of Africa - south central Africa to those who don't know - and this country believe it is far more 'proper' than any other country in the way it conducts it's safari hunting. Now, I've had clients who wanted to bring their PH friend along - I've been there and done that scene, usually with the guys from South Africa, the 14 day PH brigade who don't think an extra spare wheel is necessary or carrying water with you when you go after buffalo for example. However here before me and with my most esteemed client now stood a fully fledged Botswana PH with an illustrious career and even better, a very famous name to boot.
You see, many claim to have hunted across the continent, there are famous books by even more famous 'great white hunters' about traversing every hunting corner of the dark continent, hell there's even a few modern day wannabees who claim to be the real African Hunter BUT here's the thing which I always come back to because I too, in all my ego reaching frenzy have hunted across the continent. If you're a true PH, the kind who has grown up hunting in the African bush (yes we call it bush here, not woods), then you know that place best, the one where you have your experience - it's not just about predicting the next move of an elephant or buffalo, home ground advantage is very important, just ask the New Zealand All Blacks! I often laugh at the 'international glory boys' and their quest for hunting everything in every huntable country, been there, done that, can offer you that too my friend, cos I'm the genuine African PH!
Seriously though, whenever I've been faced with this request 'can I bring my PH friend along', I have regarded the situation with a light hearted - yes sure they are welcome. Any other PH would get territorial and defensive and make the client sign a form with bold print that says - I AM IN CHARGE NO MATTER WHAT (and not a peep out of your PH friend)! Not I though, as I said I've lived through this situation before and those outlanders who on the first day are dressed in their finest khakis complete with freshly ironed shorts and shiny company logo's implanted on their shoulder pads bossing around my trackers and driver, usually end up - I'd say 99 percent of the time - making themselves look foolish and then having to backtrack for the rest of the safari while I, like a fat mule hard of hearing continue with the task at hand!
It had been a long safari which started out at the very far end of the Luangwa valley, in fact at the confluence where the dirty brown Luangwa flows into that mighty river of Africa, the Zambezi - we were hunting buffalo in the lower Zambezi valley prior to our Lion adventure, doing a bit of tiger fishing and simply having a 'Grand old time' as my client put it - out in old Africa. So this is where the proverbial Sh*t started hitting you know what!
Have I mentioned my client was the well heeled type, a true gentleman who took the task of hunting as secondary to being out in Africa with his family and friends - sure he wanted to bag a Lion but I kind of got it on the first day when we stood looking out over a small plain where a young Eland bull had just broken cover and looked at us in bewilderment - he measured well over 40 inches and for a Livingston's Eland this was pretty rare. It was one of those moments where the splendor of the situation kept us frozen, it was enough just to take in the moment - then he was off in that typical short legged trot that eland can keep up for 5 days if you push them hard! Did he not want to take that shot then? I asked after the bull had disappeared? he looked down at me - he was a tall and famous banker with a stern financial like expression - absolutely not he said, what a beautiful animal he deserves to live. He drew my immediate respect, the bull had perfect horns yet was probably only just mature enough to consider shooting and I knew had it been a different client the bull would be down purely because of the inches not his character.
Anyway, the first hiccup encountered came from an unexpected source yet would prove to be the bain of the safari and eventually would verge on ruining a pretty perfect hunt - the other PH's wife was along and this was the area where all forms of discontent stemmed from. With hindsight, after the safari had concluded and we were bumping our way to the airstrip in my now fully enclosed cruiser, she admitted to me that she had purposefully tried to make the safari difficult as she did not want to lose her husbands client. This did not make sense to me because she was at times the only reason we had 'sour grapes' in camp and it very nearly ruined the safari not for me - I had my PH fee safely banked - but for the very client she so jealously guarded. So what started it? we had the wrong kind of salt in camp - it was not to her liking and it could possibly cause cancer and a whole host of other concerns? From here it was down hill - there was a mouse in their chalet, we did not serve 5 different kinds of cheese for dinner, our cooler box each day was not complete unless she had personally cooked something for the client and it turned out, as the bible says - 'there's just no pleasing some people'.
Her husband on the other hand was a champ, we got on famously (as my client would put it) and set ourselves to the task of getting him a big Lion. It became apparent - as I had predicted - that the type of hunting found in Botswana was of a more gentlemanly manner, more sedate and relaxed with many leisurely jaunts into the African wilderness in the comfort of an air conditioned Landcruiser. After we had been crawling around in the black burnt thickets for 4 hours around midday after a group of old Kakuli's he turned to me and said, I wouldn't do this for my client, you guys really have it hard here in Zambia. Eventually on the second day we had buffalo as bait and dragged mounds of buffalo guts, threw blood around our baits while chanting the proverbial - ' bwela machende mkulu' which means come forward oh lion with big balls! - Both PH's and trackers seemed pleased with themselves at this point, there were Lion in the area and we had heard them in the early hours over the past 2 nights.
The safari progressed slowly however, amidst fetching supplies of cheese and proper salt from the airstrip every other day, we managed to check our baits hung in a wide arc which took us pretty much the whole day to traverse. Our stops for lunch were brief and usually after a rough couple of jostled hours in the landcruiser - the area where we hung our baits had been unhunted - precisely the reason I wanted them here. The hunt prior to this had seen a big male shot up in the hills while they had driven onto a kill by a very large black mane which had not returned after they dragged the carcass and set it up as a bait. The area we were hunting was vast, about 6000 square kilometers and typical to most of Zambia's' Laungwa areas, most hunting was done along the river and the adjoining floodplain, PH's don't like to venture too far from camp or into the rocky Muchinga escarpment, it ruins their cruisers. We were the last Lion for the season - 2 had been taken relatively easily, another bone of contention for PH Miss as there were photos of these maned beasts on the wall in the camp dining area and she concluded that all the Lion in this area had been shot already!
I shot my first Lion at 17, a scraggly beast with a nice black mane and massive head, yet it took me 4 years of trying in a great area which today still produces monster Lion. I guess it was a learning curve, both my dad and step father didn't help with my decisions of hanging bait or where to try, it was left to me and eventually I realised one thing - get away from the roads that are hunted day in and day out, get up into the hills and most important, if you put in the hard work - the beast will come.
The area we now hunted, Musalangu GMA, was the furthest area north in the Luangwa hunting concession system and had one distinct advantage to other Luangwa areas - there was a continual flowing river called the Musalangu, bright and clear and cool which ran down from the miombo covered hills - it stretched far into the hunting concession and in the upper reaches made deep turquoise pools where you could see the barbel chasing the robbers into the cobbled shallow waters. The road that ran along the Musalangu was a well worn one - the area had been hunted since the early days and the Musalangu made a permanent camp closer to the hills possible during these safari heydays. Seeing the signs of previous PH's, their road marks on the trees, their old camp structures and their stories repeated vigorously by our trackers, made me feel as if we were entering a world of the dinosaurs, their remains scattered about the bush in memory and silent testament. My uncle had hunted here, way before I had ever had any thoughts of being a PH, he was one of the last PH's who was there from the start of Zambia's safari days, when everything was controlled by one company called Zambia Safaris and PH's still demanded great respect when they sauntered into town and told their tales at the Anzac arms pub on the corner of the road that ran west out of Lusaka. He spoke of the Musalangu and how you could lie in bed at night and hear the smooth round cobblestones make their way down the river towards the big mother waters as if something was tramping on them - the only way you knew was if you heard splashing, then it was a Lion or a Hyena or a Leopard. We'd pass through the deeply shaded ruins of his old safari camp each day en route to our baits as if passing through into another time and then where the road split, one crossing the river and the other heading into the hills, we found the tracks, two large sets of prints walking side by side upstream.
Around about day 16 we had been tirelessly placing scent drags in an ordered manner to try and alert these two boys who we now had our heart set upon. After a late evening drag of fresh Hartebeest guts, we drove eagerly down the road towards our bait the next morning and I felt this would be the day they had eaten and not far from our first sighting Max mumbled the words I wanted to hear - Lion tracks in the road bwana! I brought the cruiser to a halt and turned off the vehicle, signaled silence and we sat and listened for a while, our bait hung about half a mile ahead of where we found the huge prints. As we walked up the road, rifles loaded, I noticed the prints seemed to be picking up speed and then I saw where one of the giant cats had stopped so suddenly he had skidded to a halt like the coyote in that road runner cartoon. Before him a herd of Eland had crossed and I read with dismay as the big pugs turned off to the right and followed the fresh eland scent across the river and into the thickets. Nothing had come near our bait, it hung intact except for the maggots falling to the ground in a slow tick - tick fashion.
OK I told myself, at least they are around, they will be back here soon, no way they are going to catch an eland, two lazy males can't do it by themselves. We focused on this area, which one often does, you do not want the cats to leave without getting the scent so all our baits and scent drags were played right here. Each day we came up empty handed, tired and sore from the cruiser and the potholes and each day PH Miss would hammer away at how a mouse was eating her prized luggage, or how the staff were lazy or how bad the chef was and she had to do all the cooking - it started to work on my confidence - especially hearing the constant phrase 'if we were in Botswana'!
Now I have been in situations where we have come up empty handed, a bitter pill to swallow especially on a Lion safari with prices where they were at that time - I hate not getting a cat and when I look back, the only times I have failed at getting a Lion is when we have not been able to get any cats to bait - more often than not, I've always managed to pull in big males and these two were just not playing to cue. I headed for the skinning shed to take stock of the trophies we had taken so far but more to get away from the nagging and ridicule. So far we'd taken very little except two buffalo and a hippo for bait - the hunt was all about the Lion and we were now staring at very little else in store to tempt these beasts to bait. Max wandered at my side, always the optimist saying that tomorrow they would come, don't worry bwana there are many lions in this area, just like the time with bwana John, he put the bait up at Lundu and the big lions came the next day. Lundu lay about 20 miles from where our current baits were and the road had not been opened, it was the old track that bwana John had made with Lennart. His mumbling fell on deaf ears until I heard the name Lennart, my uncle's old tracker. I enquired as to his whereabouts and got the usual answer - he's my uncle Max said proudly - one I'd heard many times, Max had at least 100 uncles and I often thought he got the meaning confused with 'friend'. Lennart lived in his village along the Musalangu but he was too old to move about according to Max, he walks with a stick and cannot run away from elephants anymore he added, he has two young boys who look after him.
Lennart described a wild fig on an open sand bank where the river makes a 90 degree bend. Across the water is a thicket where lions like to hide he said, this is the place where we shot many lions with bwana John, sometimes 2 or three on one safari. Lennart didn't look old to me, his eyes white with cataracts and his hair was graying at the edges but I bet he could still walk many more miles than I could in a day. As we left he said the place was the home of three lions, they were brothers and they always moved together, you can ask bwana John he had said, we never got them and motioned with his arm at half cock above his waist - they are this big, you'll see. I laughed, they would be at least 20 years old if these were the same lions old man, perhaps you have been dreaming they are still there. I've followed many phantom lions based upon the words of locals and elders, most of the time the lion we shot had nothing to do with the ones that we were directed to so although a long shot, I didn't hold much hope as we hacked our way through long grass and saplings trying to remake my uncles road.
Usually you cut chunks of bark off larger trees to line the path for the cruiser - these last decades and they end up as gnarled wounds when the tree recovers and grows and shows the path of the road - we found none on this day and it made things slow and difficult with Max trying to pretend he knew the way. We spooked a couple of Reedbuck out of the tall grass, came close to a Hartebeest feeding unaware and sighted a Roan way in the distance, as if standing on an open plain. Roan was one of our last bait options and we continued on foot to get a shot but immediately losing sight in the tall grass with great frustration. When we got to where I thought the Roan had stood, we found ourselves facing a large sandbank surrounded on 3 sides by the river making a sharp curve - then as we cleared the grass to our right stood the stunted Fig tree, well worked over by elephants and birds - this was the spot Lennart had talked about and I could see the scars of old bait chains on the figs limbs.
After an hour of scouting the rivers' edges and thickets my heart lay heavy, there was no sign of any cat here, never mind three ancient Lions - they had since died or moved on and it seemed they had left no progeny unless they had moved on in search of richer hunting grounds. We'd been dragging guts behind us for the past hour as we hacked the road open and this was the only factor that turned my decision to hang our last piece of buffalo haunch in the stunted fig. With haste we set off back to camp, it was a 2 hour trip back and we pulled out of the deep sand as the sun disappeared below the highest of the miombo studded hills. It was a slow drive back to camp, the road rough and the night cold.
On our approach the next day I had a better feeling, we had looked at a young Roan bull running with the herd that had stopped much like the Eland on the first day - I knew not to even ask and we continued towards our bait in the far off hills - as Max put it. The Roan stood in the middle of the road grazing, a half brown shape with head down and rump up and without seeing his head I knew this was the one, I could see the thick curves through the grass and that dark off black color old Roan bulls get. I have never been able to explain this but, with the greatest silence and trepidation we had set up a shot on him, yet without fail he jerked his head up and looked straight at us! The rifle rested in the bamboo sticks and my client was ready - what do you think Pete, he said - the large drooped ears with tufts of hair raised slightly at this. I have never been able to figure this out - they know something is up as if a bird or unknown force warned them - often with buffalo I realised when they raise their heads they are just looking for movement, yet Roan and Sable and Eland - the antelopes, they have a sixth sense I wish I had all along.
He bolted without a sign, gone in the grass yet headed along the road we were following and about 5 minutes later appeared in front of us again with that typical Roan gait where they throw themselves into the run with their front legs and if they are big, their horns seem to bob up and up and up - you can't miss it! When you get excited about a big boy, your instinct is to follow and we did. What got my attention in a second was the roan bull heading at us, almost as if charging the vehicle and his eyes seemed to look well beyond us, his first contact with danger, now even more alarmed and panicky. Before we had time to do anything but stop the vehicle and get out a - lookout here he is - the bull had ducked away into the grass about 15 meters from the cruiser and the guys on the back followed his progress by the bobbing horns. We sat in stunned silence, looking bewildered at each other for a few seconds and then the vultures ahead jerked me out of my trance - they were circling in that typical fashion, holding their position and you could see their heads staring straight down at our bait - something had uncovered it!
I always have Max ahead of me when tracking - simple - he's about 5 foot high so I can see over him if anything is bearing down on us and he has eyes that see everything. Our approach to the bait had not yet been cleared out so I decided to head towards the fig along the river bank with the soft sand covering any noise we would make - we walked in single file with my client and Botswana PH behind him toting the clients' fancy double - the grass was above our heads and we literally parted the seas of gold!
Max jumped back and almost onto me as he saw the golden tan flash ahead, I saw a black tail tip and motioned for my client to come forward, I had the sticks and walked ahead with a purpose pushing Max aside and looking to the swaying grass where the tail had sunk away. I could hear Max twittering behind me yet I have learned more often than not to wait until I had satisfied my curiosity before I regaled him. Once a young curious Leopard had snuck within arms reach of me while I lay on the Luangwa glassing for a hippo bull, I could hear Max twittering away yet ignored him until he pulled my boot hard enough to dislodge the comfy pillow I had created from my camo jacket. I looked left and stared into the face of a spotted house cat an arms length away, one paw raised as if to say you did not see me!
Max had now crawled along the ground from where he lay and was tugging at my gaiter - comical yet tense in this moment - I looked at his eyes and followed their gaze - we had walked within 20 yards of the second male lying beneath a deeply shaded thorn bush to our right - a dark black shape alert and massive through the grass. Before I could avert the sticks, he did the classical Lion whroooaaagh!, jumped up and ran towards the river, stopping once for a broadside shot, only a few seconds and then he was gone. We stood in silence - I could not believe the size of the Lion I had just seen and that we had walked past him while he lay looking at us calmly.
The plan was simple - I knew we had Lion on the menu and as I set Max and the guys to work on theblind, I raced back to camp to collect bedding and food as we would have to spend the night and wait for morning, surely after spooking these guys they would not come close until it was well dark and this would mean having to wait until morning light. When I returned Max looked forlorn at spending the night, it was not that far bwana!
We sat in the blind hoping, it was close to dark and I had not heard a sign of any approaching cat - all was silent! I imagined the lion was there, the one we saw running away with his mane bouncing and I could see him take the hit and go down.
Max started fidgeting and I slapped him on the head as he sat next to me - his eyes were wide and he pointed at the bait - I looked and saw nothing - then it moved, a leopard in the tree as silent and small as you'd ever imagine, a young cat, then it was gone in a flash and I was left wondering if it was ever there. The splashing reminded me of uncle John, if it made a noise it was a Lion or ... , and the steps were regular and heavy, no jumping or flighty jolts, this was a heavy creature crossing ahead and to our right. Then all went silent. We sat and waited, the light was going down and nearby, to our left, a Francolin let loose and flew through out field of view, perhaps another Lion, the leopard we had seen? yet the river was to our right where the splashing had come from so I averted my attention to this.
The bait was surrounded by head high grass, I could barely see over the tips and from where I sat I saw a sea of gold through my peephole, now still and calming the evening light. Lion are grass friendly and out of the stems and cover I saw a shape appear, and then suddenly he was there, walking in directly at us from the opposite side, his front legs massive and taught with muscles taking silent steps in the sand, this dark mane hanging heavily against his head. He walked with purpose taking each step casually. Suddenly he lifted his massive head he skidded to a halt - this was the same lion from 12 days ago!
He now stood looking at the blind, head raised, nostrils flared, magnificent golden eyes wide directly looking at us - I believed he was looking into me and I lowered my gaze from the peephole half crouching in my chair yet he was just checking and after a few seconds could not resist the smell of a rotten buffalo haunch and idly walked up to it to start feeding. Although the bait was hung high he didn't need to raise up on this hind legs and started tasting the meat indifferently.
I had set up my client in the middle of the blind, he had three holes of advantage yet his rifle was rested through the middle one, a Holland & Holland .416, the barrel resting neatly with the butt end tied up above the clients head. I motioned we were ready and BPH and I helped him to his feet - the lion had now skirted the bait and was facing away from us - the rifle was in place and I reached over and unlatched the safe to a relieved sigh from the client, he was in full view - wait I said, he will turn - and the massive dark steely gold body moved sideways - not enough for a shot yet! I had never seen a lion this big, this is the one I thought, perhaps the mythical one Lennart had talked about!
BPH started a squirmish whisper until it broke into a full 'look at the left, look at the left' blurt. Once big boy had cleared the way the lion I had heard earlier to the left came out in a slow perfect prancing stride his body raised up and his black mane magnificent against the lighter sand - the brother approaches I thought and his mane was thicker and heavier covering his ears and running in a mohawk onto his back. My client had already lined up and I gave him the option - big boy ahead or black mane - he didn't hesitate and as the Lion stopped and dipped his nose down to the fresh blood we had tossed all around the bait, his right leg stopped ahead of him revealing his heart.
The 400 grain soft nose tore through his ribs, in that soft spot that is usually concealed by a steel sinewed leg and I saw a splash of sand on the other side - he jumped high into the air making a deep guttural explosion and landed with his head under his chest - as I said reload, he was up and with two massive strides, gone in the tall grass. Big boy had taken off back towards the river and I told everyone to keep silent - in the darkening light we listened. Nothing stirred, no birds or crickets, dead silence until we heard a soft meowling sound, ever so low and feint - Max scuttled up the tree which formed part of the blind and looked in the direction of the sound but nothing in the long grass. The light was all but gone and after 10 minutes of straining our ears to listen for imaginary dead sounds, I decided to head back to the rudimentary camp we had made about one mile distant - in single file we hastily trudged through the grass, guns at the ready searching in the poor light of Max's dying torch.
The plan was standard, I sometimes headed in after wounded lion on foot, usually the first few 100 yards, this was if the trail he had run was inaccessible by cruiser and of course with impending darkness we had to find the beast lest it get eaten by the Hyena's. In this case the grass was thick and tall and my main concern was the other Lion - I didn't want to end up with 2 dead cats by mistaking the live one, in the dense grass for an angry wounded one.
I have a massive spotlight for the occasion, always tucked into the heavy steel box which rides along in the cruiser and my driver Eddie already had it rigged and sat ready to go, full of bravado with the other trackers and skinners piled onto the back of the vehicle, to them the hardest part was over, the Lion was clearly dead - the .416 is a very big gun bwana!
I nosed the cruiser into the deep curtain of white, a feint blood trail lay to my right with Max on the back seat in his usual position still pretending that his now almost extinct torch was helping - I held my Rigby in my right hand, resting in the crook of my arm and steered with my left, inching the vehicle slowly forward with a half trembling foot - we couldn't see further than the front bumper and at this rate if the cat was dead we'd drive right over him.
Botswana PH sat to my left, initially and then when we entered the grass he quickly stood up onto the seat with the clients double held tightly towards the passing grass - my client sat on the back elevated seat with two trackers at his side. Max suddenly said there he is shoot bwana, he's there - sending the cruiser into a hubbub of voices from the back. As I stood on the seat and looked ahead I saw big boy standing about 25 yards away, this time with a steely look in his eye and his body at half crouch, I could almost see his ears draw back when he heard the voices and I hissed at them to stay still. He stood his ground and I knew that his brother was dead, he had found him and now stood over the body as a mother would protect her young and as I drew the cruiser a few inches forward he crouched down further till we could only make out his eyes - we were locked in a test of nerve as I desperately did not want him to charge us and force us to shoot - he was the more magnificent of the two lions even though his mane was not as prolific.
Behind him I made out an old dead mubanga tree and lifted my rifle and fired a shot at the thick trunk - the bullet hit with a deep thwack and it dislodged some deadwood which fell to the ground with a crack - he was off running to the left and then stopped for one last look, a sight I carry with me to this day, half turned he looked in our direction with his head held high and his mane falling off his shoulders, he held his look and it seemed his eyes tore right into me, large yellow orbs burning an image of the danger that had befallen his brother. Then he was gone in the grass, almost like those beasts in the hollywood version of Colonel Patterson's Tsavo Lions. Amidst the yes's and good's from the trackers at the back I remained still watching the swaying grass as his image played in my mind, this was Africa's king of the beasts - in a lonely spot next to a small clear river way up in the Muchinga escarpment hills I had witnessed the King and thanked him for the sacrifice.
His brother lay in a pool of blood, dark and gruesome, and as I backed the cruiser into position I saw the wheels crush the thick congealed liquid further into the sand. We had succeeded with a trophy that could only be described as magnificent, a black maned beast from Zambia's Luangwa Valley, what we termed a typical 'bush Lion'. Botswana PH grabbed the client and yelled at the top of his voice, letting out tense anguish, 4 years he kept saying to the client, 4 years it has taken us to get this beast - then he turned to me and embraced me roughly, you're a damn good PH man he said, this is awesome! I stared at him in disbelief, seriously dude, you should video this for your wife to see because until 30 minutes ago I was the bain of all things PH!
As we drove back in the dark and Max had ingited the deep vocal talents of the others on the back, rejoicing the death of the 'satan' of their world, I sat in silence thinking back to the last look we had shared, the Lion and I, and I wondered what his next move would be, where would he roam now that he had the smell of his dead brothers blood fresh in his nostrils - now that he knew what the small upright figures were capable of - perhaps I gave him too much credit. It was for me, a moment of recognition, one that deeply saddened me because I wondered how long I could go on doing this with a clear conscious, with the contentment in my heart that I was not causing irreparable damage but rather I was there, in that far off corner of the Musulangu GMA making a difference to the herds of animals that frequented my hunting concession and the animals that fed off them.
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2010 Safari Hunt Roundup!
Never before have so many operators had left over quota in Zambia and we are pleased to offer you hunts at last minute prices for some of the contrys' prime GMA's
START WITH LION - two options for you, both in excellent areas, one in the South Luangwa GMA system and the other on a private game reserve.
Total Safari fees are $36,000 for 18 days of hunting - trophy fees are extra - EMAIL for more info.
NEXT SABLE on Game Ranches OR in one of the TOP KAFUE areas
If you want to hunt Sable, we have the best options in the country where the biggest Sable Antelope come from - ZAMBIA.
Be it the classic open concession hunting safari or on one of our selected game ranches, you will not find a better Sable hunting deal than with us .
Sable Ranch hunt from -
$12,800, 6 Days - all inclusive
EMAIL or call Pete @ 720-277 1920
DON'T FORGET THE BUFFALO - I have some proper Buffalo hunts in areas where you'll see herds of a thousand buffalo before you - ALL INCLUSIVE 7 DAY SAFARIS START AT $12,850 (2X1) AND $14900 FOR A 1X1 - EMAIL for more info
GREAT TROPHY PICTURES of AFRICAN ANIMALS - our library of species taken over the last decade - a great idea of what to look for when deciding on a trophy animal to hunt!
you can never start them too early - my 6 week old son with his first expression of hunting interests
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