Sentinel Limpopo Safari Chronicle, Zimbabwe Africa August/September 2011

Sentinel Limpopo Safari Chronicle, Zimbabwe Africa August/September 2011
Days 1 & 2 | Days 3 & 4 | Days 5 & 6 | Days 7 & 8 | Days 9 & 10

Tecomate’s David Morris booked his return to Zimbabwe’s Sentinel Limpopo safari area for August/September 2011. He would stalk “Bucks of Zimbabwe”, the spiral horn antelope of the region. The Southern Zimbabwean nyala, kudu, eland, and bushbuck are the four species that David would target - the four most like whitetails - cover dwellers, alert creatures of stealth, each an African challenge to harvest. Hunting these antelope is similar in many ways to a quest for our beloved #1 big game animal in the Tecomate Whitetail Nation. Minimal persuasion on David`s part convinced me to join him.

David Morris and I are blessed to have previously hunted plains game and dangerous game on the Sentinel Limpopo safari area. We have both harvested a spectacular array of free ranging African antelope and leopard at Sentinel over the last fifteen years. The Sentinel Limpopo safari area is game rich and well managed by Digby and Vanessa Bristow, lifelong residents of the Beitbridge Zimbabwe area.
Hunting the four spiral horns was highly anticipated by David and me. We looked forward to seeking out trophy antelope on the savannah in mild spring-like conditions, leaving Texas and Florida heat behind for two weeks. But gradually as our safari dates drew near, thanks to Chuck Larsen of Burn Pine Travel and David Morris, my “spiral horn safari” was soon transformed.

First, soon after committing to the August/September 2011 safari at Sentinel, Chuck Larsen, who handled all of our hunting arrangements at Sentinel, tempted me further with an offer of an available cape buffalo tag. Sold! I could not resist. Next, by the time the safari was to take place Chuck also served up the opportunity to hunt the world`s largest dangerous game animal as well, an African trophy bull elephant. David Morris loaned me his .416 Remington Magnum and I was set for an unforgettable “dangerous game” adventure.

1st Day - Arrival at Sentinel Limpopo Zimbabwe, August 31st, 2011
Any time a hunter embarks on a Zimbabwean big game safari the adventure begins on the day or two leading up to arrival at his chosen safari camp. Do not underestimate the excitement that could be in store just getting there. Car to airport, airport to airport, plane to plane, layovers, third world country border crossings, sleeping on a sixteen hour flight…. red eyes are the order of the travel days. Sounds rough but trust me, it`s worth it!

I arrived at the Bulawayo Zimbabwe Airport approximately 36 hours after leaving my home in Ocala, Florida. I was greeted by veteran Zimbabwean professional hunter Richard Brebner and his expert tracker, Moffat. Shortly after getting acquainted with my hunting partners for this safari we discovered that my rifles had made the trip, but my suitcase filled with clothes, gear, and ammo had failed to follow. Such is African travel, a continuous adventure.

With only my backpack and rifles we began the final leg of the journey to Sentinel Limpopo via the back roads of Zimbabwe. Richard drove, Moffat rode shotgun, and I took the back seat to catch up on some needed shut-eye for the first four hours of road travel. David Morris had beaten us to camp. I awoke as we left the pavement and drove onto a dusty washboard path for the last one and a half hour of our journey.

We arrived at Sentinel Limpopo safari area with a bit of time to check some of Richard`s favorite buffalo crossings on the way to camp. Just a quick look but we called it buffalo hunting that first day. Good sign all around. We saw a few kudu and impala. We were set to be into some dagga-boys first thing the next morning.

Arrival at Sentinel camp was a bit after dark. We found David Morris, Chuck Larsen, and our hosts Vanessa and Digby Bristow at camp enjoying a warm campfire and telling tales of the day`s hunt. A superb feast of cape buffalo fillets was served by the kitchen staff that evening. By 9:30 PM everyone in camp was resting in their cliff-side chalets in preparation for the hunting day ahead. A good night`s sleep was in order with a 5:00 AM wake-up call pending. No worries about what to wear!

Day 2 - September 1st, 2011
Daylight broke cool and clear this morning as it would for the duration of the safari. PH Richard Brebner decided that cape buffalo should be our first priority. Elephant hunting would take the back seat for the time being. Mature bull elephant sightings had been few and far between during Richard`s recently completed safari at Sentinel. Lots of elephant cows, calves and young bulls had been spotted. But no mature elephant bulls of trophy quality had been observed recently. This morning Richard knew precisely where a dozen or so good buffalo bulls had recently been active. David Morris was busy chasing nyala in the riverine country adjacent to the Limpopo River. Lots of big nyala bulls for David there.

We cut fresh buffalo tracks within minutes of leaving camp and our five man team of PH Richard, tracker Moffat, assistant tracker Philemon, our Sentinel game scout, and I hit the trail with high hopes and enthusiasm following six sets of freshly laid dagga-boy tracks. After an hour of tracking at moderate walking speed Moffat began to slow the pace. He began searching the brush with his eyes as he slow-stepped the thorn bush. Just by watching Moffat’s demeanor I knew we were close to buffalo. Soon Moffat stopped and calmly pointed out the vague shadowy outline of a good bull bedded approximately 60 yards ahead in thick cover. Moffat`s eyes and talents are amazing.

My Leupold 10 x 50`s allowed me to make out the bull`s impressive headgear through the shadows and the thick African brush. He was big but we could not confirm this bull as “the bull” we wanted. We began to vaguely identify other members of this bachelor group as they mingled and bedded down. Each bull we observed showed us only pieces and parts of their horns. One bull had long hooks and great mass but his maturity was in question as we could not discern the status of his bosses. He laid facing directly away from our position. The widest bull in the group was over 40 inches wide but we could definitely see that he had soft bosses, not a shooter. We could not make a decision to fire on any member of this herd.

A mid morning swirling wind set the entire group of dagga-boys thundering ahead in a cloud of dust after they detected our presence. This same scene was repeated time and time again for the rest of the day. Same bulls, same story. We enjoyed many brief visual encounters with these buffalo. Some were wide, some deep, some with big curls and some with hard bosses. But putting it all together on one bull was not to be today.

Back at camp a campfire was burning and David Morris shared details of today`s nyala hunt before dinner. David had encountered several big nyala, mostly amongst the giant canopies of the nyala berry trees that were steadily dropping ripe fruit. Nyala are crafty, not an easy mark. But it was only a matter of time until David`s whitetail hunting strategies and talent would pay off on a big trophy nyala bull!


Sentinel Limpopo Safari Chronicle, Zimbabwe Africa August/September 2011
Days 1 & 2 | Days 3 & 4 | Days 5 & 6 | Days 7 & 8 | Days 9 & 10

Posted by David Shashy

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