Hunting in the Congo Rainforest

By Michael Burke

If the reader wants to enjoy an exciting report about multiple species being killed with heroic tales of hunting dangerous game, perfect shooting with fine vintage rifles firing tailored hand loads, and plush accommodations that included wine and finely cooked meals, he should stop right here.

Flag of the Republic of Congo

This story will be about a hunt that was grueling and tedious at times, wet, hot, and dirty, the first rainforest hunt for the writer and the final trip in to the rainforest for one of the last true adventurers.

This hunt was my eighth safari that had previously included hunts in Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Zambia. All previous trips included dangerous game on the license. However, I wanted something different. Then one day “Camshaft” posted this offer on the Accurate Reloading online forum.

“Here is a chance to go on a guided hunt in Congo with Cam Greig. I have had a postponement due to circumstances beyond the control of the client. We will fly into Congo Brazzaville in late May or early June 2015. We will take an internal flight (included in cost) then my vehicle, canoes and then on foot to the most remote B’Aka pygmy village I know of. We will negotiate with the local Bantu village to use “their” pygmies and hire 12 or so porters to carry all our gear for 10‐12 days of jungle adventure. You will walk on foot the whole trip once we leave the pygmy village. We will go where no one but myself has ever been as an ‘outsider’ in living memory of the B’Aka. I have hunted the area several times, but am the only outsider to do so. Animals anticipated will be forest buffalo (two allowed on license.) and yellow back duiker as the most likely encounters. Bongo, forest sitatunga and numerous duiker are there. Red river hogs, lots of monkeys and other forest species will be encountered like gorilla and chimps, which can only be photographed. This is a unique adventure for an Africa seasoned adventurer. If you would like to go on one of the last true exploration adventures left today get a hold of me. Cost is all‐inclusive from Brazzaville until we return to the same. You pay any expenses in town as well as trophy fees and costs to get CITES paperwork and export. I help with these procedures. This will be a 2X1 trip with a second hunter signed up already. We can all meet at Vegas if you want or if anyone wants to discuss further hunts, but I anticipate selling the slot before the [SCI Annual] meeting.”

After a couple of private messages and emails Cam Greig and I met at the SCI Convention in February of 2015. We discussed the details of the hunt and I gave Cam a deposit. A month or so later I received an email from Cam cancelling the hunt for 2015 due to a hip replacement surgery he required. After a bit of back and forth he kept half my deposit and I was on the top of the list for 2016. Finally the convention was held in February of 2016. I met Cam, we finalized an agreement and I was set to hunt in June of 2016.

Preparation for this safari was a little different than previous times. I bought the hammock that Cam recommended along with the other gear on his Congo “Cheat Sheet.” I went backpacking a couple of times, including one in the Ozarks that was pretty tough. I also walked quite a bit in the Atchafalaya Basin, Louisiana’s rainforest. Boots were the hardest to nail down. After going through three pairs I finally settled on the Bates Recondo Jungle Boots. I walked nearly two hundred miles on the hunting trip and never developed a single blister, so that effort paid off.

Cam and I stayed in touch. Airline tickets were purchased, and a basic schedule of events was developed. I received my letter of invitation from the Director General of the “General Management of Forestry Economy,” which I used to apply for my visa to the Republic of Congo.

A freshly approved Visa for the Republic of Congo

My date of departure finally arrived and I boarded the Delta flight in Lafayette headed for the Capital and largest city, Brazzaville with stops in Atlanta and Paris. The fights were uneventful. Cam arranged to greet me and provided me with with a guest house for me to stay. Customs and immigration was not a problem. Due to flight schedules Cam arrived the next day. He was held up for about an hour in customs because he brought shotgun shells. He said that was a test to see how security would react. We received our licenses (Petite and Grande) that day at the guest house and everything seemed to be moving forward as planned.

The next morning we boarded our flight to Impfondo and arrived around midday. The Impfondo airport is one of the most chaotic places I have even seen. Nothing works, no organization, and a culture of bribes all make for a less than pleasant experience. We finally collected all of our luggage and headed to the guest house Cam secured for us. This is the same house where some of his gear was stored.

The rifles were in pretty bad shape. One would not work, the bolt and chamber had too much rust to close the bolt. There was a Model 70 Winchester in a .416 Remington that I was able to make work after disassembly of the bolt and a good thorough cleaning. It fed well and dry fired fine. There was a 1.25-4X Swarovski scope with proper mounts for the rifle. The downside for me was the rifle was right‐handed (I am left‐handed), it had a muzzle brake, the barrel was rather long, the stock short (I am 6’‐3” tall) and the scope was mounted a little far back. The second rifle was a Mauser in .375 H&H Magnum with iron sights. I liked the sights, the barrel was a proper length, and although it was right handed it fit me fairly well. After a good cleaning it still would not feed. I asked Cam if the rifle was some type of conversion from another caliber. He said it was a .458 Winchester and had been re‐barreled. I am not a gunsmith, but neither was the person who re‐barreled that rifle. I ended up filing about 0.100” off of each round and they fed really well. So now we had two working rifles, plenty of ammunition, and a shotgun that worked well enough.

A very poorly re-barreled .375 H&H Magnum the author used on his safari.

That evening, Cam negotiated the services of a truck and driver to take us from Impfondo to Mimpoutou. Early the next morning Sarah, who works with the mission hospital, visited us. She wanted to make certain that Cam and I were prepared for the trip physically and spiritually. The driver showed up one hour late, but that was right on time in terms of African time. We drove to town to gather the last of the supplies and food for the trip. Things like condensed milk and freshly baked bread were purchased, along with machetes, a shovel to dig the vehicle out of a muddy hole if needed, a live chicken that we carried all the way to the Pygmy village before we ate it, and other supplies. Then for some unknown reason, the driver poured about 20 liters of tomato juice in the fuel tank of the Cruiser. It seems that everything is carried in yellow 20 liter plastic cans, including diesel, petrol, water, cooking oil, and obviously tomato juice. The driver thought he was pouring fuel into the tank. The tank was drained and flushed. Amazingly other than losing an hour or two we had no further problems.

No need for refrigeration if your meat is still alive

Finally, we headed out of Impfondo. The roads were, for the most part, not too bad and the ferry crossings went well. It was amazing to watch a dugout canoe with a 35 Yamaha outboard push a barge approximately 25’ by 70’ down a river. Our next stop was the town of Enyelle. While in Enyelle we visited the mayor, the police station, and immigration. Enyelle is more or less a district within the Doungou district. The communist mindset still exists in the country. They want to track your movements and consider everybody an enemy of the state. Up to this point, I took very few pictures. Cam warned me I would be considered a spy for doing so. The first three stops went well. The final authority from which we needed approval was the game warden. Our licenses were in order, but he would not stamp them. Cam argued and then it became a heated argument. We left without our licenses and passports and went to a store for something cold to drink. About an hour later the game warden arrived with all of our paperwork ready to go. He was now Cam’s friend. I am sure it required the special handshake with about 20,000 francs folded inside, but we were on our way again. We departed Enyelle and drove several more hours before reaching our final vehicle destination at the Bantu village of Mimpoutou. Cam knew the chief of the village and had equipment stored with the chief. We sorted gear one final time and met up with Daniel, Cam’s main tracker. All arrangements for dugouts, paddlers, porters, and local trackers were made with the chief. That night I fell to sleep listening to an authentic African party in the village. During the journey it was fun watching Cam negotiate, argue, and cajole his way through all of the checkpoints, airports, and contracts with truck drivers. He enjoyed that part of the experience and was extremely good at it.

There is a bakery near my home called LeJeune’s that makes the best “French” bread around, especially when eaten with gumbo. The author found “French” bread just like LeJeune’s all over the Congo. Here the author and Cam enjoy some bread, made even better with condensed milk.

We left Mimpoutou in dugout canoes, which they call pirogues, just like back home. The ride was a great experience. I love being on the water. We received the full treatment including singing and hitting trees with the ends of the paddle to make an extremely deep drum sound. When we arrived at the drop off point we unloaded the pirogue and started moving gear to drier ground. This is where Cam began to have some issues. The first several hundred yards was extremely tough to walk, mostly because it was water and logs. I told him at that point if we needed to go back to Mimpoutou for a couple of days it would not be an issue. His response was I could go back but he was going hunting. I had the porters bring a small pirogue. Cam got in that boat and they pulled him to dry ground. I headed to camp with the porters and a couple of guys stayed with Cam so he could take his time heading to the village. We arrived at the B’aka Pygmy village about 2 hours later. We ate lunch and began to setup camp for our one night stay. I sighted in the rifles and promptly cut my head with the scope on the .416 Remington with about fifty Pygmies watching. Thankfully, it was not too bad. With the rifles sighted in we decided to check on Cam. Earlier we sent two trackers with water and they reported he was making good progress. When Danielle and I left camp we found him maybe 300 yards down the trail. With us all in camp we settled in and ate dinner, which was the chicken we bought in Impfondo and fresh pineapples we picked up along the way. Cam slept for a couple of hours and then we went over a game plan for the next two weeks.

The next morning we decided that Cam would hunt around the Pygmy village and rest for a couple of days. I left him the .416 Remington with the scope and we divided our gear. I bid Cam farewell and with 8 porters, a cook, and two trackers I headed in to the rainforest with a .375 H&H that I shot one time, a pump shotgun that worked as a single shot, no backup, and no PH; to hunt game I had never seen in an area new to me. What could possibly go wrong? This was the seventh day of my adventure and I had experienced many things, both good and bad. It was like stepping back in time at this point. I should also mention my good camera broke and my iPhone backup camera stayed fogged, so picture quality will not be too good going forward.

The author’s bedroom for one night, and thankfully only for one night

This day began the first day of twelve that I was the “Great White Hunter” (note a little sarcasm) in the jungles of the Congo without adult supervision. I will talk you through a typical day. I awoke around 5:00 AM. Cam warned me the staff was a little hard to motivate in the mornings. I would wake up Daniel first. He is Cam’s tracker from Cameroon and has worked with Cam for years, but he still likes to sleep late. Then the cook and Issa, the Bantu tracker, are awaken. I gave a cup full of filtered water to the cook for boiling. I made my oatmeal and instant coffee and added condensed milk. After that, I would drink close to a quart of water to start the day. Next is what I considered the scariest part of every day, going to the toilette. I used my headlight and flashlight to make certain there were no Gaboon vipers ready to bite my white rear end. We would leave camp at first light and head to the nearest bai (savannah). Each day I carried at least two quarts of water, a flashlight, GPS, small first aid kit, and my cell phone (camera) in my backpack. Issa carried a backpack with two more quarts of water, more first aid supplies, my lunch, and a satellite phone. At times we were three to four hours from camp and two to three days from a road; we had to be prepared. Most mornings we would either cross a small stream, walk down a small stream, or cross a wet muddy area. My feet stayed wet or at least damp the entire time. Typically, we would set up camp about 45 minutes to an hour from the bai so as not to disturb the game. We would hunt the forest and bai for buffalo until mid to late morning. During midday we would either move camp, hunt duiker in the forest, or every once in a while take a break. For lunch I packed either Spam or chicken in a can, Nutter Butter cookies, Payday candy bars, trail mix, etc. Spam and cheese crackers make a very nice meal. We would then hunt again until dark. Some of the walks in the rainforest at night were interesting. The Pygmies ability to navigate the forest at night was amazing. We would become lost from time to time and would rely on the GPS for direction to the camp. I always had my GPS even though at times it would not function due to the canopy and clouds. After arriving at camp I would filter water the cook boiled for the next day. It took several days to make the cook understand to boil the water early and let it cool, but we finally got that system working. I would eat either something we killed that day or a freeze dried dinner. Water was heated for a bath/shower, and no matter how tired I was, I bathed every night. After that I crawled in the hammock, cleaned my feet, liberally applied Gold Bond, put antibiotics on any cuts, and would write notes from the day. Not once did I get in the hammock dirty. I ate one or two Pepto Bismol tablets everyday as per Cam’s advice. Throughout the trip I was never sick, never had a blister, never struggled sleeping, and adapted to the wet hot climate with no issues. I really think it is hotter back home in Louisiana. The good hygiene during the hunt helped keep me healthy. Being in shape, backpacking prior to the hunt, testing gear, and following Cam’s “Cheat Sheet” all helped make the hunt more enjoyable. Cam told me when we left the village that I was more prepared than anybody he hunted with in the past. That was about the best compliment I could have received from him.

Issa, the author’s Bantu tracker. Dealing with him was a little problematic.

This is an unedited note from one of my days in the forest.

Rained last night, never heard it. I awoke with all of my things under cover. Hunted in AM. Saw bimba (yellowback) today. I almost had a shot but it was a bit too rushed for the distance offhand. We broke camp with rain threatening. We walked less than two miles straight line but it was much further and took two hours. Very angry jungle. Arrived at the new site set up hammock, built table and gun rack. Settled in and it started raining. No hunting for a little while. Trying to dry my feet. They have been wet all day again. Got in to some ants today. They bit me on my neck and arms. Good water at this camp. I have been communicating with the cook a little more. Good guy and speaks a little English. Trying to make him be a little more sanitary. I have been joking with the Pygmies. Not sure if they are laughing at me or with me. I tried to get one to put a bottle on his head so I could sight in the rifle. Another time I tried to have one carry me because I was tired. I lashed some limbs together with paracord for a base for my chair. Daniel did one set with vines. The vines worked much better. He did the second set with vines also. Now I can sit in my chair. They also washed my Tyvek tarp. Much nicer camp. Hopefully we hunt later today. Left camp at 3 and hunted buffalo, returned in the dark through thick jungle. We only stopped once in over 4 1/2 hours. I am tired. Feet still good. Huge savannah maybe 25,000 acres. Looks like areas in Zim. Grass averages two feet tall, sandy soil, and trees like scrub mopane. It is almost surreal to walk out of the jungle in to the bai. It is absolutely stunning. Grass is just right. Hopefully we are on buffalo tomorrow. Talked to Katherine tonight. Have not missed a single night. Hope to continue the streak. I finally caught up on water intake. Urinated multiple times today and had saliva to chew food. Ate sausage and pasta freeze dried. It was good. I added more Seasonall for the salt.

A typical camp in the rainforest

We set up camp after about an 8 hour walk into the forest. We hunted a small bai that afternoon and observed some relatively fresh buffalo signs. At dusk we saw a yellowback duiker but were not able to move close enough for a shot. The next morning we hunted the same bai but made a decision to move camp during the day. After moving the camp, Daniel told me he was sick. Through his broken English he told me he had typhoid. At this point I was becoming a little concerned. Cam was in the village, Daniel’s English was notas good as I had hoped, and now he is telling me he has typhoid.

I left camp with the Bantu tracker Issa and a couple of the Pygmies, without Daniel. We hunted in the forest for duiker. After several unsuccessful attempts to call duiker we moved in to the new bai. This one was much larger than the first one, the grass was the right height, and we had the wind in out face. Again we saw signs that were a day or so old, but no buffalo. Later in the afternoon we were back in the forest and I could see the bai. I told Issa I wanted to go to the bai, which was difficult because he did not speak English. Finally we understood each other. The reason I wanted to go was to call home. The satellite phone would not work in the forest. Anyway, I made my call and we decided to make another hunt while in the savannah before sunset. Within 10 minutes we came across a Forest Sitatunga. The Pygmy tracker and I crept within about 75 yards of it. The only thing I could see was the head. I ended up braining it offhand with the iron sighted rifle. It dropped in its tracks. The trackers were excited to have meat, but I was unsure how good the sitatunga really was. They definitely wanted me to shoot it, but for them it is all nyama, just meat; trophy size was not important to them. This realization would come up again later in the hunt.

The author’s unexpected sitatunga. The sitatunga or marshbuck is a swamp-dwelling medium-sized antelope found throughout central Africa, centering on the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The DR Congo is a much larger country found to the east of the Republic of Congo.

So now I am not only a little frazzled for the reasons I mentioned earlier, but also very excited to have taken a Forest Sitatunga, and I am unsure if it is a good trophy. Daniel came and met us. That was only the third Forest Sitatunga taken on any of his safaris. He assured me it was “bon” and “gros.” I was still a little unsure so I did the logical thing and called a fellow hunter on the sat phone to see what constituted a good sitatunga. He texted me with the SCI measurements and it appears that I did indeed shoot a decent specimen. I had no idea I would have a realistic chance at a sitatunga. We spoke about building a machan and even saw some tracks, but with an iron sighted rifle it was going to be a stretch to hunt a mostly nocturnal animal. I guess being a little lucky and spending all day in the field paid off.

We returned to camp and I set up my hammock. I grilled onions and garlic with the sitatunga backstrap. It was excellent. The day was long, hot, and humid but well worth the effort we put into hunting. I also sat down with Daniel and showed him the calendar on my phone and asked him when he contracted typhoid. It turned out it was the previous year and he claimed to be suffering lingering effects. I then felt a little better about contracting typhoid.

That evening something occurred to me. I was on my own safari, in the middle of the rainforest, without backup, hunting like the great explorers did years ago. A quiet calm came over me and I really began to enjoy the hunt.

We hunted the same savannah the next morning and moved camp again midday. The next savannah was huge. We tracked buffalo for a couple of days in this savannah. We saw fresh signs and tracked the buffalo for many hours and miles through the grass and into the forest and back into the grass. One day we made a huge figure eight. We tried hunting very early, we stayed in the savannah until dark and walked back to the camp for over an hour in the very dark jungle. We even sat on termite mounds through the day in hopes of seeing them midday. There was a full moon and it was very bright in the savannah. There are no lions in the area and I began to believe they were feeding at night. Also it was hard to tell how old dung was; there is so much humidity it looks fresher than it really is. Hunting buffalo on foot is hard, but it is also FUN.

Walking through the rainforest is a very wet ordeal.

During this time we saw a troop of chimpanzees, several yellowback duiker, numerous birds, and insect life. One animal I did not see was a snake. Two weeks in the rainforest and not a single snake. Late one afternoon we saw a bimba (yellowback duiker) and we were able to get close enough for a shot. At about 50 yards I shot it through the neck with the .375 H&H and it went down. Again Daniel was not hunting with us; he was back at camp. It turned out to be a smaller yellowback. I had multiple opportunities to kill another, but did not feel right about shooting a second animal on a CITES II list. I also missed a red duiker with the shotgun. The trackers thought I could not miss with the rifle, but the shotgun was “pas bon.”

Another unedited note:

Started out a little late 6:50. It was cool this morning and I did not want to get out of bed. I had a hard time waking up Daniel. He is still not feeling well. We took a long walk through the forest and then into the savannah. Did not stop until 11 and only for ten minutes. Stopped again at 1:35 until 3:00. By that time we walked 11.5 miles. We chased a buffalo across the savannah back in the forest back in the savannah back in the forest and back in the savannah. We never did catch up with him. We actually crossed our tracks once. I was able to call Katherine at around 3:00 when we stopped for a break. The cook cannot seem to grasp the idea of boiling water early and letting it cool down. I hope Daniel got his point across. I ate chili tonight. It was ok. The lunch meals are working out nicely. Having fun. It is demanding and challenging. It is lonely at times with no other English conversationalists around. I think my sitatunga is pretty good. I will measure it tomorrow. I will also reorganize when we move camps. It is interesting living out of three drums. Saw another yellowback duiker. It is the third one. It was good tracking the buffalo. Saw tracks and dung. The savannah weather was beautiful today. My feet actually dried out. I changed socks at 3:00 and they were still dry this evening. Thank God for small wonders. No rain today.

The author’s yellow-backed duiker. Yellow-backed duikers are the most widely-distributed of all duikers. They are found mainly in Central and Western Africa, ranging from Senegal and Gambia on the western coast, through to the Democratic Republic of the Congo to western Uganda; their distribution continues southward into Rwanda, Burundi, and most of Zambia.[

Everything was going well with the hunt, so I guess it was time for a little strife. We were in a new area in the afternoon looking for buffalo tracks. The open area was long and narrow with plenty of twists and turns. Daniel and I were in the front with Issa and two B’aka trackers about 75 yards behind us. All of a sudden they came running towards us and then I heard something in the forest about 50 yards away. Suddenly two buffalo ran out of the forest. It was very chaotic with the trackers becoming very excited. At least one was a bull. As I picked up the rifle it turned from broadside to a very tough angle. I fired one shot. Everything became very quiet and I did not move my feet. After about a minute I looked in the edge of the forest very carefully and saw nothing. We then found blood and began tracking. We followed the blood until dark. At that point we returned to camp. I was very disappointed with myself. I should have been more patient and not fired what was, at best, a marginal shot. However, I remained very calm and cautious on the buffalo follow up, not wanting to follow up one mistake with a worse mistake. The follow up was probably one of the most intense things I have ever done. The next morning we picked up the tracks again and followed them until we lost them. We looked the rest of the day but found nothing. It was a low point in the hunt.

We moved camps to the last bai. It was a long and arduous move through some very angry jungle. We met a group of Pygmies that told us Cam went back to the Bantu village and that he was OK. They also told us there was an accident at the village and a woman was killed. One of the porters wailed and cried for about an hour. None of the other Pygmies tried to comfort him. I suppose different cultures mourn in different ways. We finally set‐up camp. It was a terrible camp full of ants. We made our way to the savannah walking in a small creek. There we encountered a pygmy crocodile. When we finally arrived at the savannah the grass was extremely tall. We could find no tracks and no place to hunt. It was an awful disappointment. We packed up camp and headed back to the area I shot the buffalo. Along the way we hunted duiker. It was interesting to watch the Pygmy trackers call duiker. I finally connected with a red duiker. Fresh meat again. Everybody was happy. We heard gorillas but were unable to see them.

Moving camp

We spent a couple of days in the area looking for the wounded buffalo but never found another sign of it. We did see gorilla tracks and a treestand Cam had built on a previous trip. We decided to head to the next bai thinking the buffalo may have made his way there. It rained on us nearly the whole way and Daniel and Issa began arguing as to where we would set up camp. This was not their first disagreement and all Daniel would tell me was Issa was a bad man. I tried to mediate and explain what I wanted since it was my hunt but when dealing with three people and three languages it is very difficult to get my point across. We did end up at a good site, but the porters had a long haul for water. We hunted hard for a couple of more days, but never saw buffalo again.

We began to make our way back to the Pygmy village stopping at the first area we hunted. There we saw three Pygmies. They told us Cam had left the Baka village but was not doing well. This was the last day of my hunt. I was finally able to contact Rebecca in Impfondo to check on Cam. His health took a turn for the worse in either the Pygmy village or the Bantu village. A Catholic priest brought him to the missionary hospital in Impfondo. They stabilized him for two days. When I spoke to Rebecca they were loading him on a medivac bound for South Africa. I then realized Cam had my passport and all of my money. They were able to find those items plus money to pay all the porters, trackers, etc.

Daniel, Rebecca, and I made a plan for us to go back to Impfondo. Rebecca sent a driver with one of her workers named Serge. Serge was a life saver. He was level headed, smart, and spoke English very well. The next morning we walked back to the Pygmy village covering almost 12 miles by 10:30. About an hour from the village we found the head of a red duiker that was killed by a leopard. We then canoed to the Bantu village. Several hours later the truck arrived. During the course of the day I spoke to Cam’s wife and she told me Cam had passed away. Soon after Serge arrived he handed me a handwritten letter from Rebecca. In the letter she told me Cam had passed away after he arrived in South Africa. I then had the difficult task of telling Daniel. We were able to square all accounts with the chief, trackers, paddlers, porters,

A village chief, Cam, and Danielle

etc. Daniel was a huge help in these matters as he understood who needed to be paid what. Without him and Serge I may still be in the Bantu village. We loaded all of Cam’s gear and headed to Enyelle where we spent the night in what I would now term as a very interesting hotel. The next morning we went to Immigration, the Mayors’ house, and to see the game warden. Serge and Daniel handled all affairs in a very efficient manner. After a couple of stops for manioc, bread, biscuits, and drinks we left for Impfondo.

While at the ferry crossing, Serge fished for tiger fish. He hooked four in a very short period of time but his tackle was very inadequate. I am sending him what he needs, from one fisherman to another, but also in thanks of the help he gave me.

I spoke to Daniel about Cam. He worked with Cam for twenty or so years and looked up to Cam as a Father. I did my best to comfort him, but different cultures view death and mourning differently.

We cleaned the gear, rifles and shotgun. After that everything was inventoried and stored. It was a sad day. I worked with Daniel and Patrick to pay all of the trophy fees and to obtain the CITES permit to export the yellowback duiker. Everything was stamped and appears to be in order. Hopefully Daniel will be able to ship the trophies soon.

Afterthoughts

The trip in its entirety was a great experience. It required patience and understanding of a different culture. I never felt my safety was in jeopardy, although on more than one occasion I was not comfortable. The heat and humidity were not as bad as I expected. Being from south Louisiana made it a little easier to acclimate to the weather conditions in the forest. Towards the end of the trip I began to find some days quite pleasant. I would go back under the right circumstances on a self‐guided hunt in that area again; well at least I would possibly go. The only disappointment was seeing just two buffalo. There is increased hunting pressure in the area from the local population. The one regret was firing a shot at the buffalo. I should have been more patient. While pride may not always be a good thing, I was proud to have kept up with the porters and trackers every day. At times it was grueling; I lost over 15 pounds in two weeks. This was the first time I used a satellite phone on safari. My family was somewhat concerned about this trip. I talked to my wife each night to assure her everything was fine, even if it was not. For some reason I felt the phone call to check the sitatunga trophy size detracted a little from the hunt; I don’t really know why. I guess I should have been a little better prepared to judge animals that I had never hunted.

Epilogue

Portions of this report were difficult to write. There has been a side of me that feels had I not gone on the trip, Cam have survived longer. I know Cam wanted to hunt in the rainforest again and see his friends one more time. I hope in some small way my being there helped to facilitate that. He spoke of returning in August and hunting on camel back in Pakistan later this year. He was full of life even as his life came to a close. I also know Cam would have never taken a client to the Republic of Congo without believing his own health was good enough to complete the entire trip. He would not have jeopardized a client’s well being. Our hunting community is diminished with his loss. Many times in the rainforest I would think when I see Cam I need to ask him what this is, or what made that sound, or why this happened. That knowledge is lost forever. I would also like to thank Dr. Harvey, his wife Rebecca, and the staff of the Pioneer Christian Hospital for taking care of Cam both physically and spiritually the days he was in Impfondo. Also thank you to Erica who flew to South Africa with Cam as a patient advocate. He was with caring friends those last days.

In remembrance of Cam Greig, one of the last true adventurers

Nyala with a Handgun in Mozambique

Poen Van Zyl of Zambeze Delta Safaris was standing 15 feet above me atop a vegetation-strewn termite mound surveying the abandoned garden through a well used pair of binoculars.  The local tribesmen that call the famed Coutada 11 of Mozambique home practice slash and burn farming, clearing enormous areas in the forest and then abandoning those areas after one or two years of use.  The forest was quickly reclaiming the area with vegetation, and the constant hum of tens of thousands of bees signaled that many of the plants in the area were flowering.  It was mid-July and the weather had been unseasonably cool and wet, but had turned warm and humid, typical for winter in costal Mozambique. In addition to bees, the local antelope also visit these abandoned gardens. We were looking for an old mature bull Nyala that Poen knew frequented this particular garden.   The unmistakable trumpet of an elephant rang out and Will Fawcett and I locked eyes. In addition to being a friend, Will is a professional hunter with Numzaan Safaris in South Africa and joined me as an observer on this safari in Mozambique. The details of this adventure had been made at the 2016 Safari Club International (SCI) Convention in Las Vegas. The plan had been for Will and me to hunt in Mozambique for two weeks, then fly back from Beira, Mozambique to Johannesburg, drive down to the Freestate to pick up a couple of species I had missed on my first safari to R.S.A. in 2014, and then finish the trip with a couple of days in Limpopo. Will and I smiled at one another nervously.  Elephants in the area could spell trouble and that elephant sounded close.  The elephants in Mozambique are survivors of several civil wars and are not particularly fond of humans.  In fact, one could say they are downright aggressive.  I imagined a scenario in which we found the old bull about the same time that the elephants ambled into the garden.  I tend to have that kind of luck.  To compound the problem, I was the only person with a firearm, and it was a revolver.  I had absolutely no interest in trying to turn an angry charge with a revolver. Poen looked down and waved Will up.  Will labored up the termite mound and then Poen and he whispered and pointed while they formed a plan.    From the ground out of earshot, I took the planning as a good sign.  Perhaps the old bull was in the garden.  After an eternity while I watched the afternoon sun inexorably dip toward the western horizon, Will and Poen came down to my level and laid out the plan.  There were five bulls in the garden.  The closest one was immature and alone.  Several dozen yards deeper into the garden were three mature, but young bulls.  All three of them were shooters, but none of them were the “proper” bull.  The old man we were after was about 150 or so yards from us, close to the edge of the garden where it disappears into the forest.  To compound our problems, the elephants were close and would not tolerate our presence in the garden and the sun was very low in the western sky.  “Perfect,” I thought. As quietly as possible, we began to move toward the old bull trying desperately to skirt around the younger bulls as not to alert the old bull to our presence.  Luckily, baboons frequent these gardens as well, and the noise that stalking hunters make pales in comparison to the noise a troop of hungry baboons can produce.  Despite our best efforts, the immature bull spotted us and sounded the alarm.  The older group of three bulls began to move away from our location and, unfortunately, we had lost sight of the oldest bull as we began the stalk.  With faith as our only indication that the old bull was still in the area, we stuck to our plan and moved forward.  Suddenly, Poen’s tracker, Gotchi (pronounced goat-chee and meaning piglet in Zulu) froze.  Through years of hunting as a pair, Gotchi and Poen communicated with no words exchanged.  Gotchi set up my shooting sticks and Poen slid to a position just to the right of them. “Can you see him?” “No.  How far?” Poen’s tone was urgent.  “He’s right there.  No more than 70-80 yards.”  The big old bull turned his head and the motion caught my eye.  His old gray coat blended in perfectly with the surroundings. “Got him.”  I put the Freedom Arms Model 83 chambered in .454 Casull onto the cradle in the shooting sticks and looked through the scope.  I had set the scope on it’s lowest power knowing through hard experience that spot and stalk hunting with a pistol is nigh on impossible with anything but the lowest power settings. I kept both eyes open and looked past the scope at the bull, aligning the pistol with him as to have any chance of seeing him through the scope.  The crosshairs settled on his left shoulder, but he was facing away and the angle was severe.  This was not a good shot and certainly not one I was going to take. “Do you have a clear shot?” “Not yet.” “Okay.  Don’t rush it.  He’ll turn if you give him a chance.” Time ticked by as the sun marched further to the west.  I kept the pistol aimed at the bull but kept both eyes open as not to get eye strain waiting on him to turn.  Clearly, he was not concerned by the closeness of the elephants or the setting sun.  Neither was he concerned about the long walk we would have through the forest to get to the clearing where we had left Poen’s truck an hour before. Finally, the old bull turned presenting me with an excellent slightly angled shot on his left shoulder.  I cocked the single action pistol, aligned the crosshairs, settled my breath, and began to squeeze the trigger.  The recoil from the .454 Casull is substantial, and one can easily jerk the trigger in anticipation of the crushing recoil that follows the shot.  The only cure for this is practice, and a lot of it.  The revolver roared to life and I heard the unmistakable smack of the Hornady 300 grain XTP-MAG as it connected.  He trotted a few yards away, and I was able to put a second shot into his right shoulder.  After receiving the second shot, he tried to escape to the relative safety of the invading forest, but fortunately, did not make it. As we were taking the photos of this magnificent trophy, I heard a strange noise from the edge of the garden.  “What was that?” Poen looked up from the camera.  “That is the rumbling of an elephant’s stomach!” He measured 74 1/8” and ranked number 6 with a handgun in the SCI Record Book.  To say I had amazing success in Mozambique would be a vast understatement. In Coutada 11, I harvested seven SCI Top-10 species with handguns (Common Nyala, number 6; Lichtenstein Hartebeest, number 7; Chobe Bushbuck, number 7; Natal Red Duiker, number 6; and Blue Duiker, number 5, as well as the new potential number 18 overall Livingstone Suni, which should rank number 5 with a handgun when certified by a SCI master measurer.