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Close encounters
Written by Frank Leslie Boswell   
Friday, 21 September 2012 14:16
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This article alphabetically covers some more close encounters I had during my stay in Nkana, Francistown and Orapa.

My stay in Zambia was from March 1956 to March 1967 and in Botswana it was from April 1967 to June 1973.

In a previous article titled “Times to remember “I mentioned some close encounters I had experienced. They were:-

  • Episode 1. The collision with a horse and cart when cycling from school.
  • Episode 3. Accidentally jumping in a tar pit behind the Nkana Mine smelter.
  • Episode 4. Almost jumping from the Copperbelt Power Corporation’s building.
  • My canoe that capsized in the Kafue River
  • The allergy reaction after being stung by a Bee at Cheeseman’s Farm just outside Kitwe on the Ndola road.

Buffalo encounter

The first time I went out to hunt buffalo lady luck was with me. Pat Hepburn a professional hunter who had no clients at the time asked if he could accompany me. I had a license for two buffaloes. The second one was for the Botswana Government as they needed meat to celebrate their Independence Anniversary.

Hunters Africa gave me permission to hunt the buffalo in their concession at Bore Hole 2. Bore Hole 2 is close to the Kazuma Pan National Park in Rhodesia and Panda-ma-Tenga Botswana which was a Mission Station. Hunters Africa had two hunting concessions operating from Kasane. The second concession was in Savuti which was my favourite but the V.I.P. treatment at both these camps was superb. Best of all it was free of charge. On returning from a hunting trip a make shift shower with warm water was suspended from a tree. The camp personnel would organize it as soon as they heard your vehicle approaching. After your shower you were served with whatever drinks you wanted, which were left by previous professional hunters with plenty of ice. Professional hunters using the camp facilities had to supply their own liquor. Later the evening you were served dinner with the waiters and chef in full uniform. Before retiring for the evening after enjoying a nightcap or two you were asked what time you would like your coffee served the next morning. The game you shot was skinned and the biltong was made for you. Professional hunters wishing to hunt and stay in these concessions paid R500pp/ day. The R500 package did not include the license fees, ammunition, mounting and shipping of trophies, liquor etc. R500 might sound like nothing today but it must be realized that this was more than the average person earned in a month during the 1970’s. When I went back to South Africa in July 1973 my monthly salary was R337-50cents.

We had hardly left the camp the first morning when we came across a huge herd of buffaloes. On shooting the first buffalo some of the herd surrounded it while the remainder just stood looking in our direction as if nothing had happened. Looking at how peaceful they were I mistakenly regarded them as some form of domesticated cattle. The stories I had heard, of how experienced game ranchers respected and feared buffaloes, as their wicked horns and sturdy hooves are capable of flattening just about anything that stands in their way and that they are also capable of licking your flesh down to the bone in no time seemed so untrue. I decided to throw all caution overboard and started running towards them with the idea of scaring them away. The next thing I knew the professional hunter was on top of me. He gave me one hell of a lecture on how easily it is to under estimate buffaloes.

Once the herd left we first made sure that the shot buffalo was dead. We then decided to follow the herd that had entered an area with plenty of Mopani trees and long grass.

We had hardly entered the area in which the herd had gone, when the tracker fell to the ground, followed by the professional hunter. I followed suit. The tracker informed us that the Buffalo had led us into an ambush. With no sign of these huge animals the first thing that comes to mind is that they are just trying to scare you. The look on the trackers face however convinced me that he was genuinely scared. The tension was building up, as we knew they were within meters from us but we could see nothing. There was this deadly silence and your legs were pins and needles but you were too scared to move. How long we waited I don’t know before we saw a movement of the grass some 15 meters away. All I know is it felt like eternity.

The professional hunter and I decided that at the count of three we would both shoot at the spot where we saw the movement. As we shot the earth started to tremble as the Buffaloes got up and started to run in all directions. Trees we had considered climbing if things went wrong never even entered our minds. We were like frozen statues. If any of the buffaloes had come in our direction we would not have known about it due to the dust created by the stampeding buffaloes. I hate to think of outcome had the Buffaloes decided to charge us, instead of running away. Where we had aimed we found a dead Buffalo with two bullet holes. The head mount was later sold to the Orapa Mine Recreational Club for R150