My recent safari to Zimbabwe was terrific! Without any doubt, Zambezi Hunters is absolutely a first-rate hunting concern. They keep their word, they are honest and they provided absolutely the best safari hunting one could ask for.
I booked an elephant, hippo and crocodile safari at the SCI Convention 2013. Unfortunately, my younger sister, who had been battling pancreatic cancer, suddenly took a turn for the worse and passed away one month before our scheduled hunt.
My wife and I were devastated and in no manner able to muster ourselves for a twenty-one-day hunting trip in Africa. Alistair Poole and Winston Taylor were most understanding and agreeable to delaying the hunt to the following year.
The spring of 2014 brought the USF&W decision on importations of elephant products from Zimbabwe and Tanzania and in that light, we agreed to again delay our hunting. The elephant ban continued and by 2017 time had run out and we made preparations to hunt Zimbabwe. My wife accompanied me as I hunted elephant with PH Butch Coaton on the Save River in the Mahayana district of Zimbabwe. Being early in the season required us to hunt from near sunset into very good moonlight as elephants crossed the river from a conservancy to feed.
In 10 consecutive days we were often in the midst of over thirty feeding animals. We checked trail cameras and devised new hunting strategies each day. The twilight conditions, heavy cover, early season and game guide restrictions on any use of NVDs made night-time spotting, stalking and determining size of ivory a very real challenge. Identifying a good bull was the toughest task and circumstances dictated it wasn't to be.
We did experience very close quarters with a young forty pound bull who came roaring at us out of heavy bush. It was a bluff charge and he came to within 21 feet; one felt as if stepping in front of an oncoming freight engine. I could have taken him easily despite the surprise but did not want to take such a young bull. Truly, as the American Sioux warriors would consider, I counted "coup." Damn good.
Regardless of the outcome, this was an elephant hunt of a lifetime. PH Butch Coaton's direction, leadership and fieldcraft are without equal. Every day we pursued our quarry, changing tactics, locations, and applied knowledge we'd just observed. PH Coaton supplied us with the geography of the area, intimate knowledge of the birds and animals and the culture of the people living in the river basin. He is an old-time highly respected PH, related to the Roger Whittle safari family. I would absolutely recommend him to any hunter - he is the best!
After hunting elephants, we flew to Lake Karlba in western Zimbabwe and joined PH Corris's camp, a very nice camp, and the lake was brimming with hippos and huge crocs. It didn't take long before Butch put me on a very good old crocodile, taping at 14'8" with tremendous girth and at an estimated 1500 lbs. We got to a croc blind an hour before sunset; smaller crocs started cornlnq in when this monster came gliding in. He bit his smaller competitors for the chum and they left, giving me a good shot. I brained him from fifty yards and then followed up with a close spine shot to insure the monster didn't return to life - his tail was still moving! It took ten men to lift him into the safari truck.
The next day we had further good fortune and after much scouting caught a mature bull hippo feeding some 200 yards from the water's edge. Butch guided me in to within 40 yards of this brute and a few shots later he was down.
Nearing the end of the hunt a couple of nice impala bulls were harvested as well as several afternoons of light tackle fishing on Lake Kariba, and the most gorgeous sunset cocktail cruises imaginable.
The food and accommodations were very good despite being far afield and with lots of walking we slept like babes in the cooler evenings. Every evening we enjoyed a cocktail and talk of the day's hunt beside a mopane fire. We laughed a great deal enjoying the stories of our comrades.
Everyone we met on this journey is a hale fellow, well met and welcome in our home. The icing on the cake was our side trip to Victoria Falls, arranged through Winston and conducted with Belinda Cook. My lovely wife Candy remarked she cannot stop thinking about Africa and cannot wait to return.
I'll talk with Zambezi Hunters about hunting elephant with PH Butch Coaton at Sango in 2019. Truth is, I intend to hunt with Butch for many years to come! I also highly recommend Gracy Travel for all arrangements, including gun permits and being escorted through Johannesburg Airport. Michael J Condon