By Tim Herald

A fourteen-day hunt in the Luangwa Valley concludes with close encounters and huge trophies.

My 30th safari to the Dark Continent found me hunting with good friend and long-time WTA client, Barb S., in Zambia’s Luangwa Valley with Jason Stone as our PH. I have booked a lot of clients with Jason and he has never ever failed any of them regarding the species they wanted, whether that be lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo, etc., and he generally produces fantastic trophy-quality animals. As a matter of fact, we have a “guarantee” policy on the cats. If you book through WTA, we guarantee a shot at either (or both) of the cats or you can come back for no day rates. Jason has had over a 10-year run no failures of either. He is a superb hunter and only hunts the best concessions.

This trip had started out as a leopard and buffalo hunt but a lion tag became available, and Barb jumped at the opportunity. I had come along and planned to hunt a buffalo, and possibly a tuskless elephant, so we had a pretty full bag. I could write a short buck chronicling this safari but in short, Barb took a great leopard, an 8- to 10-year-old lion, roan, kudu, puku, Chobe bushbuck, zebra, Cookson’s wildebeest, and I shot a 40″ and 41″ buffalo with a few days to spare. It seemed that everything we did, worked.
So at that point, we wanted to get Barb a good, hard-bossed buffalo, and after that I would hunt a tuskless elephant if there was time. Talking to the locals, we learned that there had been a big herd of 200–250 buffalo using the area, as well as several groups of dagga boys. We wanted to concentrate on the bachelor groups and leave the big herd undisturbed so they would stay in the area.
As the soft glow of the African sun lit up the morning, we immediately found bull tracks in the sandy road. We decided to drive around a bit more to see if the group of what looked to be about six buffalo had crossed another road in front of us, thus saving time on the tracking. Holding true to our good luck, we cut the tracks again about a kilometre further on.
We got out, loaded our rifles and took up the tracks. Doves were calling, the very slight breeze was in our faces, and the tracks and droppings were fresh – it was a good morning to be a hunter!
We walked through scrub mopane, then areas of 12-foot high elephant grass and then to small pans that still held water. The walking was easy as the area was flat. However, the buffalo sign was so fresh that we moved slowly, expecting to catch up to the bulls any minute.
After maybe an hour, we entered our third stand of elephant grass, and we hadn’t gone 20 yards in, when suddenly Jason stopped and looked to his right. There, at a mere ten paces, was a buffalo bull staring at us, and within seconds, the group crashed off in the opposite direction. Jason reacted immediately. He turned back the way we had come, told Barb and me to follow him, and we soon hit a dirt trail that looped back in the direction the buffalo had taken.

After 100 yards, we pulled up as a fairly open area of a few hundred yards opened up in front of us. There was scattered low brush, an occasional tree and a few termite mounds spread throughout the area, but we could see fairly well. Jason quickly located the buffalo about 165 yards away and he threw up the sticks. He and I glassed the bulls and immediately one caught my eye, and I whispered: “Look at the one on the far right, he looks really big!” Jason agreed and we pointed out the bull to Barb.
I am not sure if they saw us or not but the bulls turned and ran off in a cloud of dust. I honestly thought the hunt was over. There was a big termite mound in front of us, so Jason climbed on top of it and told us he could see the buff again. We were able to get into a ditch and close the gap on them. When we popped up again, the big bull was way to the left of the group.
Jason got Barb on the sticks, she found the big bull and, seconds later, the report of her .375 had the bulls running off again and into another area of tall grass. We waited and listened but no death bellow followed, so we decided to give it 30 minutes or so before we took up the trail. As is always the case, we couldn’t wait for 30 minutes. After about 15 minutes we found the place where the bull had been standing at the shot, and soon found a blood trail leading into the grass.
Ever so slowly we made our way through the tall grass, looking in every direction. The adrenaline was pumping and our senses were at their height. As we had seen before, buffalo can be just a few paces away in these labyrinths of grass and a charge could come from point-blank range. After about 150 yards, one of the trackers pointed ahead, and I soon saw the bull getting to his feet, facing us. Barb put another shot into him that knocked him down and then an insurance shot ended the ordeal. When we walked up to this buffalo, everyone went silent. He was absolutely huge. I had never seen anything like it and I didn’t want to hazard a guess as to his size because I didn’t want to sound like a complete idiot.
We were all in awe of the buffalo, and for good reason. When Jason finally got around to it, he measured the bull at an honest 50″ wide! It was simply an incredible animal, and I have no idea how Barb will ever top her first buffalo.

Barb and her giant 50″ buffalo

The next morning found us travelling parallel to the Luangwa River, where the riverine met the more open cathedral mopane. Over the previous ten days we had seen elephants every single time we had gone out, and it seemed that anywhere near the river was packed with the huge pachyderms. I was used to picking up tracks and often walking miles to find elephants to determine if there was anything shootable in a group, but Jason said there were so many elephants in the area we could simply take a walk and look and listen for elephants.
It didn’t take long before we found the first group. They were feeding in front of us about 200 yards out. We made a slight detour to get the wind right and began our approach. At 75 yards we could see that there were no tuskless elephants in the group. One cow had a small calf, so we backed off and did not disturb them.
We hadn’t gone 10 minutes past this group when we almost walked into a big,

 lone cow. She was feeding broadside and we couldn’t see tusks. We slowly closed the gap and things were looking good. At 50 yards, she turned to grab a high branch and we saw that she had about 6–8” of ivory sticking out on the other side. A bit frustrated, we backed off and kept walking.
One of the things that makes hunting tuskless elephants my favourite hunt in the world is the fact that you are able to go in on a lot of elephants, make approaches and have wonderful experiences. Usually it takes a while to find the right animal.
Within half an hour, we heard trees breaking in front of us, so we worked our way in and found another small herd of maybe ten elephants. We glassed them from about 100 yards and we could see two tuskless animals in this group. In we went and at 35 yards, the group was feeding right in front of us. The first tuskless elephant wasn’t mature so she got a pass. When the second one stepped into the open, a calf trotted closely behind her that was obviously hers. Once again, we had a great close encounter but the right animal was not in this group, so we backed out.
I don’t think we had gone half a mile when one of our trackers pointed to our left. This was fairly open area with scattered large mopanes but I saw nothing. After a short discussion with the tracker, Jason said that there were some elephants about 400 yards away, so we headed in that direction.
There were six elephants feeding on small mopanes at the edge of the forest. At 100 yards we could clearly see there were two good-sized tuskless, so with the wind in our faces we closed the distance. It was an easy approach as we could put big trees between us and the elephants and so move fairly quickly. We got in front of them and the biggest tuskless animal was in the lead. It seemed perfect and I expected her to end up at 20 yards broadside.
Then a young bull veered our way and it looked as if he was going to walk right over us. At a mere ten yards, he recognised something wasn’t right, so we stood motionless as his trunk tested the air high and low. Adrenaline was again pumping and I could hear every heartbeat as if a bass drum were inside my ears. I had a bad feeling we were going to have to shoot in self-defence but after what seemed like an eternity, the bull swung to his right and resumed feeding parallel to us.
The herd slightly changed direction and, once they were a safe distance, Jason and I backed out, looped around a couple of hundred yards and were again in front of the feeding elephants. We climbed a termite mound directly in the herd’s path and within minutes they were below us and very close. I saw that I was going to have to take a frontal brain shot, and Jason told me to shoot slightly above the line of the eyes.
At 12 yards, I placed the dot of my Trijicon RMR sight slightly above and dead centre of the eyes and released a Cutting Edge Bullets Safari Solid from my .470 double. It knocked the cow to the ground but she was able to slowly regain her feet as I reloaded. The other elephants had quickly surrounded her and taken up a defensive position, and I had to wait for them to move around a bit before I was able to get a good side brain shot and drop the tuskless cow for good.

The author and his tuskless elephant

Where I have hunted in the Zambezi Valley of Zimbabwe, the other elephants would have been miles away after a couple of shots. However, this was the first tuskless animal to ever be hunted in the area and these elephants had just not been pressured. The others actively looked and smelled for us and if we hadn’t been 15 feet high on the termite mound with perfect wind, I am 100% sure we would have had to shoot our way out of there.
After over 30 minutes we were able to sneak off the backside of the termite mound and back out to the nearest road, from where we called the truck. We waited a while and eventually a fire burning in the area got close enough that the smoke caused the elephants to move on, allowing us to recover the elephant.
One of the best parts of any elephant hunt is being able to supply the locals with much needed protein. When the recovery was done, nothing was left but the grass

from the cow’s stomach. There was meat drying around every small village in the area, and the people were very thankful to the hunters for providing them with the only meat they would have for months.
We had one hunting day left but not too much left to hunt. On our last morning we went out early and Barb was able to take a nice hyena off a lion bait we had left for that purpose. In the late morning, we decided to drive up-river to a place that generally held a lot of hippos, hoping to get some good photos.
There were three big pods of hippos spread out and we walked down the bank and out onto a large sandbar to get closer for photos. I just happened to glass in the other direction and something caught my eye. I looked a bit closer and saw that is was a croc basking in the sun. At 500 yards he sure looked big!

I grabbed Jason and pointed out the reptile to him. It didn’t take him three seconds to tell us that we needed to get a closer view of this crocodile.
Within 10 minutes we had crawled up on the high bank above the croc and we could all see he was big. Barb asked how big and Jason said he thought at least 14 feet. That was all Barb needed to hear, and she prepared for a shot. We were at a mere 48 yards and Barb is an accomplished competition shooter, so once Jason explained exactly where to shoot, it was a chip shot for her.
She hit the big croc just behind the smile and his tail quivered a little. He was done but she put two more shots into his shoulder to make sure. We were able to get our hands on her massive last trophy of the trip.

Preparing for the shot on the big crocodile

Barb’s big crocodile before the shot

The big crocodile ended up measuring 15 feet 2 inches long and was a bit larger than any of us had thought. It was a wonderful and exciting way to end a virtually perfect safari in the wild Lunagwa Valley of Zambia, and I cannot wait to go back at some point in the near future. Some safaris just seem to be charmed and this certainly was one of those.

Tim Herald is an owner / consultant of Worldwide Trophy Adventures ( and may be reached to help book a quality hunt anywhere in the world at

The author and Barb with her 15 foot 2 inch crocodile

The camp was right on the Luangwa

Essential safari gear

My dangerous-game rifle / optic / load choice on most dangerous-game hunts is my Verney Carron .470 NE topped with a Trijicon RMR type 2 red-dot type sight shooting Cutting Edge Bullets Safari Raptor and Solid bullets.
The Trijicon RMR type 2 gives me super quick target acquisition with both eyes open and at any angle, and also provides pinpoint accuracy. From point blank to over 100 yards, wherever that dot is, my bullet hits. I have taken numerous plains-game animals with this setup between 125–165 yards. This sight truly has opened my eyes to the extended capabilities of my favourite rifle. I would never be able to make shots like that with iron sights. The RMR is quite small, very convenient.
I am a huge believer in Cutting Edge Bullets Safari Raptor bullets for dangerous game and have sung their praises for years. These all-brass bullets enter an animal and after a few inches, 6 petals sheer off and travel in a star shape, causing massive trauma. The core keeps penetrating like a jagged solid. These bullets have never let me down. One added benefit is that CEB makes matching solids that will shoot to the same point of impact as the Raptors. So, on this trip I was able to take two buffalo with Safari Raptors and switch over and take my elephant with the solid, all at the same point of aim.
During this trip it was hot! It was between 94°F and 100°F on all but one day. In heat like that, I want the coolest, most comfortable clothing I can find, that will also stand up to abuse from the brush in Africa. I chose Kuiu’s Tiburon line of ultralight clothing. Each piece of this collection is equipped with Dot Air Technology, with micro openings for maximum ventilation, and odor-reducing technology for ultimate performance and comfort. I wore their Tiburon shorts, shirts and pants, and stayed cool, dry and comfortable during the whole trip. ASM