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Return of the 4-bore Part Two - John Millar

The Toyota halted at the edge of a trammelled section of sand and thorn bush and it was suggested that we “Go have a look”. Lots of tracks, the day not too warm yet, a nice even breeze starting up and not a particularly rocky, thorny, nasty spot to break in a rooky elephant hunter. I know they just wanted to see if I could pack the cannon further than from the car to the shooting bench. Also they needed to see the kid’s and my reaction to being at close quarters with jumbo, and our reaction time to the freeze, don’t even blink or scratch, hand signal. As we approached the vehicle later that morning, we were still in awe over our first stalk in an elephant herd. I had read all the stories and heard the talk, but it took nothing away from that moment. We had gone back to the beginning of time when man was an honourable creature and part of it all. On the drive to locate the next set of fresh tracks, our conversation went like “Dad, you see the big one behind the tree or the cow with the little guy?”.

The rifle loaded and the leather carrying harness with four rounds in pouch = 31 lbs. It feels good to lay it on a log for a break (95F).
The rifle loaded and the leather carrying harness with four rounds in pouch = 31 lbs. It feels good to lay it on a log for a break (95°F).

One thing that totally amazed us was how a herd of the largest animals on earth could vanish into what appeared to be the most barren of vegetation, when they were only 30 to 40 yards away when you blinked! We had our first tea break when we stopped at the next fresh tracks only a short distance from the last “fresh tracks”. I heard the P.H.’s say “better let them have a drink and something to eat, before we head out after these buffalo!” Africa gives a special meaning to “diverse game” as we would experience in the next two weeks. The unexpected became the norm. Look for elephant, see buffalo, connected with a super kudu. Now at 10 o’clock it was 85 degrees, it seemed hard to believe that the woolly blankets were part of the uniform of the day just hours before. I noted that they were folded neatly in the back within easy reach - could it be that we would reach for them again at six, the other six, the one when the big red sun drops out of clear sky. After tea, the buffalo showed us how fast they can go through the thorns and I learned how many scratches you can put on a square inch of skin. As we drove in for lunch that first day, I noted the empty 35mm film canister rolling about in the camera box - in later days we would laugh about how much film we used on those first couple of outings - we took pictures of everything and a lot of out of sight things, did we think the game would go away or could we just have been a bit excited.

After lunch we observed the warmer places on earth’s siesta ritual (we miss out on so much in the Great White North). At a little past two, the drummer called us for tea and cookies and we were off to a completely different part of Matetsi Unit One leaving behind the forested, more rolling countryside for open grassy plains and dried up water courses. I really enjoyed the trips out in the afternoon’s 95 degrees warm breezes and clear skies. I’m really a warm places kind a guy. Not only born in the wrong century, born on the wrong continent too! It was from this afternoon stupor that I noticed the Land Cruiser halt abruptly and heard Campbell say “John - .375 - HOG” and noticed he had the sticks and was already into the bush.

Article continues below.

A 100 yard dash, a 100 yard bent down sneak, then I noticed Campbell plant the sticks revealed I had been searching the grass about 200 yards too near. There he was, actually an erect tail was all I could see and it did stop on the horizon for two and half seconds. I will admit I did want a warthog but thought oh, I’ll get one of them on a slow day - we’ll do the tricky stuff first - wrong again! We must have seen at least two dozen of the ugly porkers and made a try on at least four tuskers. I even got the 4-bore’s sights on one for a fraction of a second and as Tracy commented after, “That would have been something to see a `pig’ getting hit with that!” The sun was just over the tree tops and heading towards the horizon as we climbed back on the Land Cruiser to make a quick run to the far boundary of Unit One to check on elephant movements so we could make a plan for tomorrow’s attack. Tracy made a comparison later in the week, “That was like a big chess game and someone moved all the pieces at night and we spent all day trying to sort it all out again only to have it all happen again after dark”. As we neared the boundary the sun left us behind. Just as a herd of approximately 175 elephant started to move out of the bush area and march single file across a huge open grassy plain. We all sat there in silence even after it was too dark to make out their huge shapes passing before us. That evening after supper I found myself checking my eyelids for holes about half way through story time - it was that time of day. We had had a big day and now we knew the routine and what to expect. To expect the unexpected around every bend in the road or behind each thorn bush that’s what!

Hunt Day Two would begin the same as the remaining 14. The clear night sky would give way to a clear dawn sky and the big red African sun would appear just in time to illuminate the freshest tracks for us, as we neared the first special spot to start the day’s adventure. We had no way of knowing that in the next couple of hours the big rifle would be in motion, that game plan could be changed in a heart beat. I did know that the usual hunt strategy was to get the “client” to take a non-dangerous species first for the in-field test. But that was not the way it would be. If my PH’s had learned anything from yesterday’s aborted warthog attempt, I would hope that it was that at least this guy doesn’t shoot at stuff he can’t see.

I really didn’t want to go down in their books as “The one that was OK at the range... but in the field!!” It was now about eight o’clock and we had crossed over several areas where the elephants had been in the night but none of these tracks were just right to cause that special flurry of activity that signalled we were going in after them! Then even to my untrained eye the trampled look that so much of this area exhibited - gave way to a more chewed up, farm yard appearance. The beasts ahead of us now had different feet! And just as I had worked this all out, the air gave off a distinct cattle aroma. But the march continued through the thorns and just as I was really starting to wonder why I was the only one getting a “rush” from all this, Pete dropped back to explain. We had gotten in behind a fairly large buffalo herd which we were not going after at this moment. They would be easy to relocate later on. We were going to drop back - regroup and try to locate any old bachelor bulls that would be trailing behind the main herd. Pete had barely fished his explanation when Chemani and Robso returned and from the huddle I could deduce that the time was at hand to do some serious stuff.

Go to Page: 1 2 3 Related Articles: Return of the 4 Bore part 1
African Hunter Vol.5 No.5 October 1999
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