by André Roux

From the diary of one of the most experienced hunters to ever hunt the eternal, endless plains of Tanzania

Jeff and I hunted the vast Masai Steppe, with its thorn trees and rocky outcrops and big towering mountains, and the great grasslands that are so obvious and yet so mysterious, where everything lies hidden yet in plain sight. An eternal landscape of hardwood trees and thorn bush and endless horizons.
We hunted the wide-open plains for oryx and Grant’s gazelles; the thick brush for big Masailand buffalo. We baited for leopard along the dry riverbeds and climbed the hills and rocky outcrops to glass for greater kudu and the elusive lesser kudu.
We found plenty of lesser kudu there and we hunted them in the low hills and shot one in the late afternoon, and we grilled fresh liver over the fire, drinking Tusker beer and clean air. A memory.And we shot buffalo down in the thorn country, big and black and heavy-bossed and old as time. And it took us hours to open a road to get the truck close, and we sat and watched as the Masai skinned him out and quartered him up, and collect the fresh blood.

We hunted the grassy plains for the sharp-eyed oryx, which always kept their distance, and we had to crawl over the thorny ground to get close and then the shooting sticks came up and the gun barked and then we were next to him and he smelled of fresh dust and acacia blossoms in a land forgotten by time.
And we hunted greater kudu in the hills and we tracked and followed them and we watched them elude us, the big bulls with their swollen necks and corkscrew horns. And we shot one, high up on a mountainside, and we had to carry it all back in the dark, and we were happy and tired and dusty and scratched all over.

It seemed like it would never end, an icon hunt in an icon landscape, more African than the Masai. An experience of open skies and good friends.
And in the mornings we sat huddled against the cold on the back of the truck. Wrapped in our hunting jackets and scarves, and later we would eat lunch under the flat-top camel thorn trees in a vast ocean of white grass and breath fresh Masailand air. And we grilled fresh oryx steaks over the hard-wood coals, pink and slightly underdone, and they tasted of wood smoke and Masailand’s wide open plains – a good, strong taste. We laughed and toasted and watched the sun chasing itself west.

Sometimes we would sit high up on the rocky outcrops glassing, lost in the maudlin of the utterly non-returnable non-refundable past, and listen to the sound of the mountains in a thorn bush ocean. A place you come to be alone by yourself, a reminder that solitude is not a thing universally cherished or easily earned.
And we shot leopard one late afternoon, and we sat in the blind and watched him climb into the tree, framed against a canvas of open sky. And we were happy and content, and scared that it all might end.
Tomorrow we would drift again into the horizon on the rolling white grassy ocean and hunt for nothing in particular. I have long ago learned that hunting without pressure or expectation of success is the most sublime form of contemplation I know.
Then one day it all did end and we were in the car driving down to the airstrip. We had tasted something so good that the thought of never tasting it again was a feeling between horror and sorrow. We were leaving, and we watched as the landscape fell away beneath the plane.
We all hunt for our own reasons, but I think the thing a man hunts most when he hunts is himself. ASM

Selous, Mbaragandu River, Tanzania

Luwegu River, Selous, Tanzania

Fringed-eared oryx

Charter plane coming in to land in Masailand