Monday, January 23, 2012

Bowhunting in CAR

In 2011 I had a very experienced bowhunter as a guest in CAR. He was looking for Lord Derby Eland, Bongo and Giant forest hog. We managed to get the Eland and the Giant forest hog but the Bongo kept fooling us.

The Eland was shot at 30 meters and the arrow went straight through the animal
and got stuck in a treelog behind. We never managed to get the arrowhead out as it was
stuck deep inside the log, that's when I realized howpowerful these bows are!
The Eland went about fifty meters before it lay down, a rifle couldn't have done a better job.

Training is an everyday duty for a bowhunter.

The hog was also shot at about 35 meters and didn't go more
than a hundred before it lay down.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Double or Nothing..!

Double on Eland, Red river hog and buffalo and a very nice Western Roan in one safari!

In 2011 a client and his two sons came to CAWA-Safari in eastern CAR. The goal was to hunt Eland, Roan, buffalo and plainsgame. The safari turned out to be a 'double or nothing'. I guided the father and we managed to do a double on Eland and red river hog (!) and also got one nice Roan. The sons were guided by Christophe Morio and they managed to take two beautiful buffalos!

The two Elands mesured 54 and 48 inch! The Roan 31 inch.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Central african savanna buffalo

I don't think I've ever heard a hunter say he/she doesn't like buffalohunting. And for sure; There's something special about it!

It's often the first real biggame that first-time-Africa-hunters go after. Many of those hunters get really hooked on it; the adrenalin and intensity in buffalohunting is often the reason.

As many of you know there are several subspecies of buffalos in Africa, among which the Cape buffalo is probably the most well known. I'm not going to sort all the classifications out, but concentrate on the very interesting subspecies called Central African Savanna Buffalo. (SCI classification)

The two subspecies in CAR
Within CAR there are two main types of buffalo; the dwarf buffalo (S. caffer nanus) living in the dense rainforest in the southern part of the country, and the Centralafrican savanna buffalo refered to as(S. caffer aequinoctialis), living in a mixed biotop of savanna and rainforest in the rest of the country.
Young forestbuffalo. Typical red color.

A typical central african savanna buffalo as most hunters would describe it. Normal backsweep, spread and black/reddish color
 An interesting mix
So what's so interesting about the Centralafrican Savanna Buffalo then? Well the interesting thing is that it's actually a mix of all types of buffalos; Dwarf buffalo, Nile Buffalo, Western Buffalo and in estern CAR there even seem to be Cape buffalo genes in the herds. All these subspecies meet and mix in Centralafrican Republic, and a hunter going there for buffalohunting might therefore come home with a very interesting set of buffalotrophies to put in the trophyroom.

In the same herd of buffalos you can find small or big reddish bulls with backsweeping horns and also big black or red ones with a good spread on the horns. In eastern CAR there are also bulls with a very deep curl which reminds wery much of the Cape buffalo. The color doesn't seem to have any connection with horn or bodysize, the mix between the different types seems to be totally random.

They all seem to have adapted to the same type of habitat. One would be tempted to believe that the smaller red ones would prefer denser cover, since they must have more dwarfbuffalo genes in them, but this doesn't seem to be the case. They thrive even in the more open areas.
And on the other hand the bigger buffalos with a wider spread on the horns don't seem to mind wandering around in the thick rainforestgalleries (called "Bako") that are common throughout Central African Republic.

So let's have a look at these mixes between the different types of buffalos. The following buffalos were all shot in the same hunting area CAWA-Safari concession) this year 2009, in Centralafrican Republic, not far from each other. The biotop is the same over the whole area; a mix of dry bushsavanna and treesavanna intersected with small rainforestgalleries around the waterstreams (Bakos).

Two very old bulls. Good spread and massive bosses. Notice red color.

Very old bull with small body and small horns and a good backsweep. Notice red color and long tufts on the ears, typical for it's cousin living in the rainforest.

Very big black bodied bull. Very nice spread

These two old bulls have the caracteristics of forestbuffaloes (small horns, small spread, small body etc) but with the color of the savannabuffalo.
This bull has a clear Capebuffalo-look. Deep curls and massive bosses and nearly no backsweep, but with the body of a dwarfbuffalo.

 Classification for mesuring and trophybook registration
When it comes to classification of these buffalos, things can get quite tricky. Should some of these buffalos be considered as Dwarfbuffalos or just as small Savanna Buffalos? When it comes to record book registration and mesuring, buffalos are mostly classified after the geographical area where they were shot, which in this case mean that they belong to the Central African Savanna Buffalo subspecies. But this method is not always reliable, especially not in these cases where subspecies mix together. It's often up to the mesurer and the hunter to determine.

Well, for sure is that in most cases the hunter can go home with a very interesting set of trophies. The possibility of getting both a red and a black buffalo in the same safari is quite unique for Central African Republic. But which one is the most beautiful? Well that's defenetly in the eye of the beholder!

Lord Derby Eland

The worlds largest antelop is also one of the most elusive. Hunting this giant ghost of the centralafrican savanna is defenetly one of the hardest challenges of savannahunting there is. Many are the hunters that has followed in it's tracks for days but without seeing even a tail or a horntip of this mystic creature. But the harder the challange the sweeter is also the success.

The hard challenge is probably the most important ingredience in Elandhunting. It's the reason why some hunters swear never to do it again but also the main reason for most of them to come back several times in their lives and once again experience what real hunting is about.

Some facts

The L D Eland
It's the worlds largest antelope that can weigh up to a thousand kilos and stands up to a 175 centimeters at the shoulder. The former range was all over central and westafrica but today it is found in Senegal, Cameroon, Central african republic and probably Sudan. Today the only place to hunt this species is Cameroon and CAR where big populations still exists. The western Lord Derbys Eland is slightly smaller than the one in Centralafrica.
Young Elandbull.
The Rut
In Central african republic the the rut is between january and march/april, it starts and ends with the dryseason. This is also the best time to hunt because of the high visibility due to the burnt grass.
During this time of year the Elandbulls develop their rut-coat, a thick black hair that covers their neck and front, from the hornbase to the nose and their caracteristic smell also gets more palpable.
When the rut is over the bulls will start to lose most of the black coat as they rub and scratch thier necks on trees and shrubs.    

Two elandbulls at the same age. Notice the difference in coating on the neck. Wintercoat during the rut to the left (Jan- March) and summercoat to the right (rest of the year).

How to hunt the Lord Derby Eland

The Saltlicks
When hunting Eland in Central african republic, visiting the salticks to look for tracks is a daily duty. A saltlick is a place where minerals has a natural concentration in the soil. These mineralspots has often been used by the animals for centuries and are therefor often big holes in the ground or on a mountainside. These places can either be scattered over a big area or bee deep holes in the ground in a small specific area, depending on the local geological conditions. 

Savanna saltlicks

Saltlicks in the forest (bako)
In a well managed huntingarea these mineralspots are regularly maintained by adding salt and this has proven to be a very good way to attract more animals to them.

New "artificial" satlicks can also be created by mixing salt with the soil in an area where animals often pass by. For example next to a waterhole or next to a well-used gametrack. These new saltlicks will, if they are regurarly maintained, soon be well visited and even work without "artificial" salt, since the animals excrements will feed the soil with enough minerals to keep it going.

Looking for tracks
An Eland will visit a saltlick 2-5 times a week depending on weather conditions and the distribution of saltlicks in the area it lives. Elands are not as keen on mud as the buffalalos so after a big rain it will usually take at least two days before the saltlick is dry enough for them to return to feed on it.

As the L D Eland is a highly nomadic antelope and tracking is by far the most common and effective way to hunt them. It's also possible to wait in a highstand at the saltlicks, but the nomadic behavior of the herds makes it quite hard to know which saltlick to sit at.
When hunting them it is very important to know the locations of the saltlicks in the area. They cover large areas and a herd can easely have ten to twenty saltlicks in their territory.
It is not unusual to check at least 5-10 saltlicks in a day when looking for tracks.

A big elandtrack is slightly smaller than a buffalotrack with less space between the "toes".

Hunting will preferably start at the first light in the morning as Elands are often out moving during the night. There will be a lot of slow driving and frequent stops to check tracks crossing the road and checking the saltlicks until an interesting track is found. And when something interesting is found you will defenetly notice it on both the trackers and the PH..

What track to follow?
And how old tracks is it worth to follow then? Well of course there is no general rule as the animals behaviour can differ from one huntingarea to another. It also depends on if it's a solitary bull, a small group or a big herd.
A solitary bull can of course walk much more than a herd and taking a track older than 4 hours would be a shot in the dark.
A smaller herd (5-20 animals) will walk slower especially if they have young ones with them. Here a 5-6 hour old track from the night shouldn't be any problem.
A big herd (20-80 animals) always contains calves and they will move quite slow to feed and wait for the young ones, and also for keeping the herd together. The really big herds will not move more than 3-4 km in a day and taking a 10-15 hour old track in the morning is still a good chance.

When it comes to the final approach it is always easier to hide from one pair of eyes looking for danger than a whole herd. On the other hand, in a big herd there is always more than one mature bull, especially during the rut and this might give you several chances to shoot.   

In any of those cases the best chance to make an approach is when the Elands are resting in the shade during the hot hours of the day. They will start moving again in the afternoon to feed.

An outstanding trophy
Apart from the wonderful experience it is to hunt this elusive animal, only the trophy in itself is worth all the efforts. It's in my opinion the most beautiful and majestic trophy there is to get on the savanna.
The shape and size of the horns and the coat can be very different depending on where and when the animal is hunted.
An Elandbull gets mature at the age of 4-5 years but a shootable bull should be at least 7-8 years old minimum. This is when their horns have "straighten up" and they have developped the huge neck that is caracteristic for older bulls.

Two very old elandbulls. Horns mesure around 45 inch, notice the heavy necks and wintercoating.
Horns will grow until the bull is 9-13 years old and then wear down for every year as they use their horns for twisting branches to reach the leaves they eat. The old bulls never have very long horns but in revenge they show more character and "personality".
Bulls at the top of their age can have very long horns before they start wearing down, up to 57 inch (sci mesurement). The horntips, the upper part of the horn after the ridge are then very long and pointed. 

Fully mature elandbulls at the top of their age, just before starting to wear down. Both over 50 inches.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


Me, my client and the fantastic leopard just after the shot!

Leopard from 2010.

My client came on a two week safari in february 2010 and his primary goal was to hunt a big leopard. With fourteen days ahead we were able to prepare our hunt very carefully. We dedicated the two first days to finding baits and looking for tracks on different locations I had marked earlier in the season. One of the baits was hit pretty quickly, after only one night the leopard had eaten nearly a whole back leg of a warthog, he seemed to be a really big cat.

Looking at tracks in the sand

Beeing very sure of myself that this cat would come back the very next night, we put up the boma around a tree thirtyfive meters away from the bait. That evening we sat down at five a clock and waited. And sure enough, at six a clock we could hear his roar in the distance. What happened next was incredibly intense.
  For a while we couldn't hear anything more but we knew the cat was very close in the moonlit night. Suddenly I heard a sniffing just at the other side of the grasswall. The leopard was actually walking around our blind and checking us out. I knew our chance to shoot him this evening probably was very little so we just sat quiet and enjoyed this magnificient company in the night.

                                                                                    By investigating the tracks the
Our bait is up!
next morning we could state what we already suspected. The leopard had walked around our hide a couple of times. He must have got suspicious and just walked of in the night. He never returned to eat from the bait again the following days.

We were still determined not to give up on such a big leopard. The next morning we walked around the area and found a suitable tree a kilometer down the stream and put up a new bait. Since we knew the leopard was there and most probably would smell the bait we set up the boma right away, the same day. Our strategy was to let the leopard get used to the hide already the first time he came and that way he would be less suspicious.

At seven a clock the next morning we approached the bait with high hopes. What we saw was very discouraging.  We found tracks around the tree but the leopard had not climbed up to taste the meat. Something was wrong I figured.

My tracker suddenly called from down the forest, he had found a carcass in a small tree not far away from our bait. Now it all made sense. The leopard had found our bait but he was not hungry and prefered his own meat, instead of eating the the one we attached with steelwire up on a branch. My hope rose again. Now what we had to do was just to attach his meat up with ours in the tree and wait. He would come back the same night I thought, this was our chance to get him!

We arrived at four a clock to the boma and sat down. The african sun was setting over the savanna and the birds were giving their last song for the day as we made ourselves as comfortable we could in the grasshide. We had only sat down for about fifteen minutes and we were still preparing our gear for the coming hours as we suddenly heard a group of guinyfowls flying off not far away, a sign that something was going on out there. I whispered to my client to keep looking, even though it was still very early for the leopard to be out feeding we could never know. This was not an ordinary leopard, he had surprised us before..

Suddenly the treebranch where the bait hung started swaying up and down in front of us in a heavy move, then all went quiet for a couple of minutes. Then it started again and kept going for a couple of minutes, then totally quiet again. The branch was sticking out from the forestedge and the base of the tree was totally covered in green foilage up to a meter from the ground, so we couldn't see what was causing the circus.

Building the hide.
Hyenas, I remember thinking. It made more sense, it was to early for the leopard, it was only four in the afternoon. Besides, I've never heard or seen a leopard do that kind of show before climbing on a bait. The hyena must have smelled the meat and was now desperate to get up there and take a bite. That explained all the noice. I was pissed of, a hyena would scare the leopard of and in that case our hunt was ruined for today.

Many hours of waiting.
Just as I sat there swearing and thinking about going out to scare the beast of, I saw a majestic animal walking easily out on the branch towards the bait, our leopard! I didn't have to say much, I just nodded to the client, this was his moment. The animal was standing up on the branch with the last sunshine iluminating it's body. It was all very intense. The client took aim and pulled the trigger.
The cat didn't jump or even made a noice, it just fell to the ground and all went quiet.

We just sat still for ten minutes and enjoyed the silence. We knew our quest was over.

Centralafrican savanna buffalo shot in the Chinkoarea in february 2010.

Monday, January 9, 2012

In march 2011 my client shot this very big Giant forest hog in the Ngoy area (CAWA Safari). We were walking along a stream as we heard some noice ahead. We sneaked up slowly, carefully checking the wind and realised we were looking at a very big male Giant forest hog among a group of females. We guessed that they were heading for a nearby saltlick so we followed them for a while and managed to get a good look at his tusks and decided to take him. It turned out to be the biggest trophy that year!


Eastern CAR has wonderful buffalohunting. These are some of the buffalos my clients shot in 2009.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A very old bushbuck shot in february 2009 in the Kochoarea in eastern CAR. Horns were worn down and the buck was blind one one eye.
View over the beautiful Chinkoriver in eastern CAR. The biggest river in the area where biggame is plentiful.
An interesting Central african savannah buffalo. Normally these buffaloes have much less curl and spread on their horns. When the scull was placed on the ground the hornes would touch the ground which is often considered as a criteria for beeing a cape buffalo.
A nice 56 inch Lord Derby Eland that my client shot along the Chinkoriver in february 2009. Eastern CAR is today the best place to look for record book trophies. In this particular herd I recall seeing several Elands well over 50 inch.