Impala Cull Hunting in Zimbabwe

Team Wild TV Team Wild TV

Date: in Hunting

[photo-column]

Zimbabwe is best known as a mecca for ‘Big 5’ trophy hunters. In fact, I’ve yet to come across a Zimbabwean hunting outfitter who specializes in anything else.

However, Zimbabwe is not just about dangerous game and is now more reliant on its abundant populations of wild game than ever before – but for very different reasons.

Previously known as ‘the bread basket of Southern Africa’, Zimbabwe’s fertile soil once supported Africa’s most productive farming industry and was heralded as a shining example of how Africa could successfully harvest it’s natural resources for the greater good of it’s people.

However, the ‘land re-settlement’ programme of the past decade has resulted in the majority of Zimbabwe’s white-owned farms being divided-up and passing into native ownership, with many now falling into disrepair.

However, Zimbabwe’s wild game populations continue to flourish and an entire industry is growing around the harvest and processing of wild game.

Earlier this year I visited the Bubiana Safaris in the Matabeleland Province of Southern Zimbabwe for a combination plains game, varmint and airgun safari with Sparks Outdoors.

While Bubiana has a thriving hunting business based around it’s dangerous game, Sparks Outdoors has developed a programme of hunting activities that create income for the estate in addition to providing essential management and pest control services.

Every week or so, Bubiana’s owner Ken Drummond receives a bulk order for game meat, which is harvested and processed before being delivered through his distribution facility in Bulawayo.

Depending on the size of the order, species including impala, blue wildebeest and even giraffe are harvested. Ken has also invested in a professional game processing plant that can handle high volumes of wild game right the way up to elephant!

While I was at Bubiana, an order was received for 400kgs of meat, meaning we needed to cull 20 or so impala. We had several different options including stalking, shooting from a tree stand or lamping.

I’m not a big fan of shooting from a tree stand with anything other than my bow, so we decided to go with the other two. The 33,000 hectare Bubiana Estate used to form the heart of a 350,000 hectare game conservancy area and is home to huge herds of impala.

However, higher than average rainfall during the winter had resulted in thick grass and very dense brush. This may not be a problem for hunting just one or two animals, but with a refrigerated truck on the way we knew that time was of the essence.

We decided to see if we could take a few by stalking during the day and then wrap up the rest that evening with the lamp.

Knowing that we’d potentially be carrying out a cull, I’d taken with me my Sauer 202 Outback in 7x64mm with Zeiss Victory Diavari FL 4-16x50T* using 165 grain Norma Oryx ammunition.

This is my favourite set-up for small to medium plains game. Light enough to carry all day, but with good long-range capabilities and plenty of stopping power.

The usual method of spotting for trophies here involves climbing one of the many huge granite copies that dominate the skyline and then spot for the herds.

However, with 33,000 hectares of dense bush to hide in, we needed to cover as much ground as possible and decided to spot and stalk using Keith’s trust Toyota Hi-Lux to drive the dirt tracks that dissect the estate.

It didn’t take long for us to pick up our first herd – in fact they skipped across the track right in front of the truck. Unfortunately they didn’t want to hang around and quickly disappeared into the bush.

Keith stopped the truck and I grabbed my rifle. The density of vegetation meant we needed to get quite close to the herd to be able to make a clean shot.

In these conditions effective sporting camouflage is essential and Swedteam’s lightweight Wilderness Jacket and Trousers in Realtree AP are perfect for this environment. A Hunters Specialties full-face mask and Under Armor Liner gloves completed the package.

We started into the bush, taking care not to cause too much noise – the herd could be less than 20 yards away and would pick up event the slightest snap of a twig. There were fresh tracks in the soft soil and the depth and distance apart suggested they’d slowed to a walk.

As we neared Keith suggested I walk in front so I could quickly take advantage of any potential shots. We were looking for young, but mature rams preferably, with the occasional ewe.

We reached the edge of a clearing and could see a small group of young rams grazing on the far tree line about 70 yards away across a sheer granite shelf.

They hadn’t spotted our approach and seemed completely relaxed. I used the trunk of a small mopane tree to provide support and waited for the one at the rear of the group to raise its head.

Before long it obliged and I aimed for the neck just below the base of its skull, gently squeezing the trigger. The shot was good, but the muzzle report in such calm conditions even took me a little by surprise. One down and nineteen more to go!

The herd scattered and we clearly wouldn’t see them for some time. Rather than risking moving the other herds too far into the bush, we decided to complete the cull at night. This meant employing a completely different system, which proved incredibly effective.

Keith would drive with a tracker operating a lamp and I would shoot off the back of the truck – just like when we go rabbit shooting!  We would then deposit the carcasses at the processing facility for the workers to dress-out and skin.

The impala seemed to like walking the tracks at night and we didn’t have to stray too far from the road to make our shots. In much the same way a rabbit does, the impala simply froze as they were dazzled by the lamp, often turning away to allow quick and clean shots to the base of the skull at distances of between 20 and 30 yards.

I was often able to get off 2 or 3 shots as they appeared confused and were unsure of where to go. It took a little under 4 hours to harvest the requisite carcasses, by which time I was more that ready for my bed. Even these younger animals seemed to get heavier and heavier as the night went on!

Ian’s Zimbabwe Hunting Gear

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Instagram