Elephant hunting Zimbabwe


Tuskless hunt in Zimbabwe.
Late August of this year, I departed for an adventure long longed for. The hunting for a tuskless in my favorite big game country of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe has a large number of elephants and the species is not, contrary to many beliefs, threatened. The biggest threat to this formidable animal is human encroachment, a completely solid argument why they can and must be hunted, since humans and elephant do not co-exist in terms of endearment.  
There is a very big difference between hunting an ivory carrying bull elephant and a tuskless elephant, the latter almost always being a female. Females are joined up in breeding herds, the matriarch a grand old grandmother, followed by her daughters, her daughter’s daughter´s and so on. Some young bulls may be part of the herd, once their hormones prevail, they will be kicked out. 
Breeding herds are known for their lack of humor, their ignitable temperaments and their short fuses. A reasonable reaction when you consider that such a herd often has quite a few calves to protect. As such, the hunter along with the PH (Professional Hunter) and the trackers need to get up close in order to check out whether the group in fact has a tuskless, minimum 15 years of age, and whether or not she has a young calf by her side. In which case it is a no go and understandably so.
An agitated elephant up close is without a doubt one of the scariest scenarios I can imagine. I had never hunted elephant before, but in previous years, on different occasions, whilst not hunting, in Botswana and the very northern part of Kruger, I’ve encountered several angry ones. It will get your full and undivided attention. (This is a quote from Peter Capstick I think).
I brought my own rifle, a Sako .375 H&H with Norma Barnes Banded Solid for the elephant hunt. This caliber is a minimum requirement when hunting elephant in Zimbabwe. My scope is a Schmidt & Bender red-dot 1.5 -4x20, perfect in every way, I am able to turn it down and shoot with both eyes open. Elephant is taken at close range.
The area in Zimbabwe that I hunted was a 4 hour drive from the capital of Harare. Driving north towards the Zambezi escarpment, you find the area Makuti. A National Parks area of some 1000 square kilometers, it is very mountainous. Unbelievably beautiful, the area holds many elephants, lions, leopards and buffalo. Visible every day, either in the flesh or from tracks. It is not a plains game hunting area, very few of the well-known African antelopes are found here. I saw many sable though, and some large trophies of said antelope are in fact taken in Makuti.
After several days of looking over groups of elephants, without finding a shootable tuskless, day 9 sees my PH spot a group of elephant on the top of a mountain. Apparently elephants love mountains. It’s much cooler with the wind at the top I presume, so they slowly make their way up one, feeding and go down on the other side of same. Anyway, we are too far from said sighting to establish whether a shootable tuskless is part of this group, so we continue to the foot of Mount Majero. At this stage I’d told my PH Alan, that I seriously doubted I would be able to climb up there.    
Suddenly hard of hearing, he starts the climb with a tracker and the game scout. I’m left in the shadow of a tree together with two of the other trackers, Bernard and Mplan. Within minutes they are asleep and I’m left wringing my hands because somewhere in the back of my head I know this may turn out both exciting and challenging. After an hour, the walkie talkie talks in Shona. Tracker Bernard is on the receiving end of the message relayed, and when he turns to me and says ...”big tuskless”…    with his infectious smile, I realize this is it. I pop some concentrated sugar into my mouth, drink a bottle of water because at this time of day, 1pm it is hot. Bernard indicates he will carry my rifle up Mount Majero, a first time for me since I always carry my own rifle, I do however realize that I cannot manage this climb with the extra kilos on my shoulder.
So we’re off, Bernard in front, the slightly hesitant hunter (me) just after him and behind me, Mplan, young and fit enough to catch me if I lose my balance and fall over backwards. 45 minutes later,  I’m standing on the top of this mountain. I’m given a few minutes rest and we then continue over flat ground towards Alan and the elephants. Initially my knees were shaking when I started the climb, I am now too overwhelmed at having managed getting to the top, to have angst.
We walk right into and towards a group of female elephants, all sporting the most beautiful of ivory. Here is my PH, cool, calm and collected, (as he always was, a big plus in my book).  He tells me to sit down and I do. On a most uncomfortable rock, within 30 yards of an elephant foraging towards me. Luckily the wind is in our favor and elephant’s eyesight is not the best.
Suddenly he beckons me forward, and we start the slow approach downhill on the opposite side of the mountain I’ve just climbed. My big, and as it turned out, old tuskless is on her way down the mountain. We’re skirting other females feeding towards us and I do have a serious moment of doubt with regard to the sanity of this. My body language reveals it and I get a severe facial reprimand from Alan and fall into place.  25 yards the shooting sticks come up and I shoot as I'm told. My first shot is slightly behind the brain; this is a side brain shot attempt. Second shot spines her, Alan backs me up as I’ve requested. At this stage she is falling, her back legs folding and an insurance shot in her heart ends this hunt.
It has taken no more than a few seconds, and I am overwhelmed. We pull back, since the rest of the group is still gathered on top of our mountain, where we await their departure. After this, we approach her. It is an extremely emotional moment for me. I’m fascinated by her one visible deep brown eye and long lashes. She is indeed very old; and was later aged at 68 years on the basis of her teeth. I give some thought to her long life, her many calves and I salute her.      
Hunting tuskless is a very special and exciting hunt.

This hunt was arranged directly with Charlton McCallum Safaris in Zimbabwe and I haven't regretted that for a moment.

In other words, I highly recommend them.

02-07-2014 :
03-07-2014 :
02-03-2015 :
01-03-2015 :
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