Even though we weren’t supposed to get up until 5:30am, I was awake at 3:30. There was a night ape that was chattering just outside my chalet. It even came inside a time or two?I was wishing I had a gun!
A quick shower.
Breakfast and coffee was at 5:30 and then in the truck and off to check the Saviramakwande Vlei for fresh tracks. I was finally hunting elephant. We were on fresh elephant tracks within the hour. It was a herd of cows with only one good bull with them, so we continued on until just a short drive later we came across the tracks of two good bulls that Dudley thought were headed into the “Jesse” (pronounced Jess) or thick bush. Dudley decided to check a few other areas around there to see if he could figure out exactly where the bulls were. After all the checking we did we ended up finding that the bulls had joined a herd of cows from earlier that morning or they were following them. It would have been a difficult task to try and get in among the cows (because of how alert they are) to take a look at the bulls.
Anticipation runs high as we move out.
We continued driving and cut some more fresh tracks that looked promising. After about 40 minutes on the track we were hit in the face with an all too familiar smell. Several hundred yards later we came upon the source of the smell, a recently poached elephant bull with only the tusks and tail cut off. We continued on without any further excitement. It was pretty disturbing to see an entire animal just go to waste for the ivory. It’s one thing to hear about it but quite another to see it.
On the way back to camp we spotted a herd of elephant, which turned out to be the herd of cows from earlier. Off the truck we scrambled and into the bush. It was already starting to get dark and one of the cows had spotted us. She was facing us from about 50 yards away with her ears standing straight out, ready to charge. Dudley decided to back off and try and locate them in the morning.
Elephant sign covered the river bed.
We’d hardly gotten started when the truck came to a sudden stop. The tracks of about 20 elephant were all over the road in front of us. Gettus, the tracker, was especially excited and said they were very fresh. We stalked the herd for about 2 1/2 hours before we finally spotted them in the thick Jesse.
In this area knowledgeable and well armed PH’s are vital.
After a short final stalk we were about 40 yards from them. What a rush to be that close to so many elephant. We stood there for what seemed like an hour trying to get the wind on our side when a cow smelled us and bugled. I thought she was going to charge and to be quite honest, I felt a little helpless without a gun in my hands. All I thought was there would be absolutely no way to protect the others and myself if she charges.
It was pretty interesting. The entire herd ran off, luckily in a direction we were not standing in line with. We tried to stalk them again but they’d continued running. There was just no way for us to catch up to them. We hiked out to the next road for the truck to come and pick us up and spent the rest of the day driving around trying to locate some bulls. A villager told Dudley of a herd of 26 bulls that were coming down from the mountains in the evening and raiding the crops. We’ll be trying there tomorrow.