It was finally happening, two years after we booked the Africa trip at the SCI convention we loaded our gear onto an aircraft for Tanzania. We would have gone the year before but Dave had to have surgery on his knee so we had to postpone the trip. When the door of the aircraft opened it was dark, and the heat of the African air hit you in the face and instantly your senses tell you that you are a long way from home, like 22 hours in the air away from home. This is one small airport, and the only thing they had been the manual stairs to walk down, then across to the tarmac to the actual airport building. What is funny is there were no fences, so if you didn’t need to retrieve your bags you could have walked into any direction to leave. There is no security in Africa.
The driver met us, and loaded us up for an hour drive to Arusha, Tanzania. The next morning our PH Mickey picked us up with the driver and we headed out into Arusha traffic. One million people, and one traffic light. I could not wait to get out of this town.
We headed out to Massailand which is about another two-hour drive from Arusha to the Rungwa Safari Camp. We arrived at camp and there were literally 17 African males, all a key member to our team of host that all had specific jobs at this camp for only Dave and I. The jobs ranged from cook, tracker, assistant tracker, assistant to assistant tracker, intern tracker, skinner, skinner assistant, hot shower specialist, waiter, and guy that walks around to make sure lions are not in camp at night.
Dave and I had our own accommodations and they were better than what we were thinking when they told us we were to live in tents.
The first night a lion had murdered a zebra behind my tent about 100 yards. I heard the attack, then the bones crunching, then the zebras standing around yelling at the lion, then….the Hyena’s came. NO SLEEP! The tents were very comfortable, and had a flushing toilet. In the morning they would bring both of us an African chai tea which was delicious. Then they would make the hot water from the fire out back and tell us when our shower was ready. Then it was off to breakfast.
The food was pretty good, every meal we ate what we harvested and since we were only there for Cape Buffalo, we were going to eat a lot of it….so we thought. We had licenses to harvest 9 species of plains game but our focus was on trophy Buffs, one of the most dangerous games in the world.
We would wake up at dark, have our breakfast then load up in a Toyota 4 banger (all nine of us) and off we went for 10-12 hours a day in hot pursuit of the Dugaboy. Now, I know I have some people who read my blog that love the food I post, but really not into hunting. However, they are going to read this blog because they cannot help themselves because they are interested. So I am going to explain to you what a Dugaboy Cape Buff is in efforts to explain hunting conservation.
A Dugaboy Buff is an old bull that is so old he has broke off the herd, either by another dominant breeding bull, or because he doesn’t want to put up with all the herd bullshit. They are the old bulls, that are not only big, and have faces full of scars and hair falling off them. They have lived most of their lives fighting and on their last chapter in the Africa. Oh yeah, they also taste like a rough old boot. Regardless, 100 percent of them gets consumed in camp. On the first day, we must have seen 500-700 Cape Buffalo. Some herds had some great bulls in them, however, we do not hunt the breeding bulls due to conservation. We must hunt for the one that is off by himself, which makes it a heck of lot harder to locate.
Not to far from the herd, this bull stood his ground like he wanted to charge. He actually made a 20 foot charge then stopped and ran to the herd.
We came across a Dugaboy that was by himself, but really was not big enough. You can see that his posture is that ready to charge you and he stood there at 90 yards as we watched him from the truck. He was ready to brawl if he had too, but we passed and he chose to move on.
We saw just about every species of animal from this area. It was truly magnificent and gave some insight about what the world was like thousands of years ago. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute Africa changes you.
On our third day, the trackers in the backseat of the BVD spotted two dugaboys feeding by themselves. Dave was first up to bat, so off he went with his Heym 450./400. Nitro Express Double Rifle, and I was going to back him with the same rifle if things went wrong. I am not going into the details of the actual hunt with everything but can tell you each of the animals harvested died a quick and honorable death. The Heym rifle was perfect and the round performed flawlessly.
The next day it was my turn and I took a single buff that was feeding by himself. Again, the 450/400 Heym performed flawlessly and I harvested a very respectable Buff. Mine was not as wide as Dave’s, but was deeper and had huge bosses. They were both massive and very unique and we were both very happy to have harvested them.
After we ate everything from tongue, to the heart of the Cape Buffalo we realized that one of us would have to start bagging plains game animals to keep us from starving. Old Buff is like eating an old shoe. We would have lunch and spend a few of the hours during the day in the field because we were so far from the lodge. Mickey, Dave and I would enjoy our long conversations on world politics, economy, history, and hunting stories.
I would not say there were very many elevation changes in Massailand, but this was one of them that we sat and glassed from. Different species of animals in every direction you looked from.
Dave and I and our “Posse” kept hunting and learning about Africa and the history of hunting and most importantly what the Tanzania Government did to protect the animals of Africa. Most people think that hunting puts a huge dent in the game population. However, this is not true. Look at some of the countries that outlawed hunting, Kenya had over 100,000 male bull elephants. Five years later, they have less than 10,000. What causes this? An average African lives off an US dollar a day, a poacher can make 20,000.oo US Dollar in one kill. You do the math. This block (area in which we hunted) gets patrolled and managed every day for poachers, once the outfitter leaves the block to the photographers there is no one to patroll it. If a lion kills a Massai cow, the Massai used to poison the bait to kill any lion that ate off the bait. Now they contact the Hunting outfit that leases the land and they pay them not to poison the dead cow. My point is that it is managed for sustainability and that every where we went we had a Government official with us every step of the way. However, unlike our Government officials this guy worked. Every Buff we got down he was elbows deep helping us out.
On the second to last day I spotted a couple of Buff’s directly below our BDV. What is our BDV? Buffalo Deployment Vehicle. It fits a driver, a Government official with AK-47, Mickey our PH, Dave and I, and one spotter, and two trackers in the back.
The Buff’s spotted us two, and it was two males running together. They split up and we tracked what we thought was the larger of the two for about 4 miles. We engaged him several times but he winded us and did not provide us with perfect shot. I will not go into details, but if anyone wants to hear about these hunts in details it has to be in person with a cocktail in hand.
This was Mickey after that hunt.
Africa sort of changes you. Dave and I both felt that it was a really special place that provides you a lot of reflection on your own life. It is not just the hunting but the people you meet and see along the way. The history makes ours look like a little ball that could balance on a point of a needle, and yet their history may be vast and old the people have not really progressed with time. Perhaps that is the appeal to Africa.
Someday the photographers and liberals may take the hunting away. It all depends on the currency that is brought in on tourism and of course. I guess all I can say is that I was privilege enough to experience what Hemingway and Roosevelt did fifty years before us.
Dave and I left with a great experience and I was glad to have shared it with him because he was focused not only on hunting but having fun and soaking all of the information we could possibly take in with lots of questions to solve years and years of curiosity. We left vowing to return and with many friends that would share in our memories until our days are done.
A special shout out for our boy “Serby” the three of us shared in a lot of laughs over those two weeks. Thank you for making our trip, one to remember for the rest of our lives or until next year when we roll into Rungwa. I would hunt or fight with you anywhere in the world. Until we meet again old friend.