The 2015 Hunting Season

Overall another great hunting season for all species on the BVC although there were less ELEPHANT hunts from our American clients due to the USFWLS ban on elephant trophies still in place. We are hoping this ban will be lifted for 2016 but at this time nobody can be sure. The BVC elephant population has grown from less than 200 animals to 700+ and annually between 5 to 30 more animals break in with none breaking out. We have never lost an elephant to poaching.

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RHINO – although we do not hunt our rhino the poaching has dramatically increased this year with the loss of 26 rhino but more expected. The BVC remains the highest black rhino population on private land, 3rd largest in Africa + largest population in Zimbabwe. We have spent ourselves close on US$500 000 on anti-poaching operations this year and simply cannot afford to outlay more capital on this very serious crisis – anyone wishing to help us with the rhino wars please get in touch with me.

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LION – All 12 trophy lion hunts proved successful with all being of the highest trophy quality, once again proving the BVC as the number one lion hunting destination in Africa. The BVC received the award for largest lion taken in Zimbabwe during 2015.

The killing of Cecil the lion caused huge waves around the world and proved extremely damaging to the overall industry and conservation. However, a lot of good has come from this with some serious research carried out by our critics, proving that sustainable and correct hunting is a powerful and vital conservation tool for the future of our animals. The actions by the operator and PH in this case were totally unacceptable and hopefully they will get the appropriate punishment they deserve. The PH was kicked out of the Zimbabwe Professional Hunters and Guides Association. The case is still pending prosecution.

Due to the above, National Parks overnight introduced a policy that all lion, leopard and elephant hunts throughout the country will be accompanied by a Parks Ranger and this comes with a $78/day fee ! (only $5/day goes to the Ranger on the ground.) Many of us feel that this is simply extortion of funds for a department that is strapped for money.

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LEOPARD – for some reason I struggled in Ngali camp this year failing on 2 leopard hunts in a row for the first time ever. Otherwise all other leopard hunts proved successful, again with smallest cat taken measuring 7’ 2”.

Zimbabwe is presently looking at implementing a leopard management system with relevant criteria in place to ensure only ‘correct` male leopards are harvested. For years the BVC itself already has its own system with a minimum of 16” skulls – in simple terms we do not want to harvest any young cats.

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BUFFALO – as always fantastic buffalo hunting was had and had the buffalo been entered for the awards we would have got both highest SCI scoring and widest buffalo taken in Zimbabwe.

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John Waltz - Buffalo

PLAINSGAME – many fantastic trophies were taken of all species, proving that BVC offers incredible plains game hunting.

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FISHING/BIRD SHOOTING – although many clients do not take the opportunity to fish or bird shoot, the BVC offers top class for both, with possibly the finest bass fishing in Africa. Recently we caught over 300 bass in less than a week, with many fish weighing between 5 – 9 pounds and some over 10 lbs.

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The 2014 Hunting Season

Although the 2014 rain season proved the highest rainfall in almost 30 years, making the brush thicker than usual, this in no way affected the huge success of all the hunts. If anything it proved fantastic for all the herbivore species by supplying more than adequate browse and graze.

During the 2013 season we lost species such as sable, waterbuck in the north due to lack of grazing caused from such a very large population of game.

BUFFALO

A further 200+ buffalo were bought from the GonaraZou area and released onto the conservancy, which should make the buffalo population in excess of 4 000 animals. Due to the high population of buffalo we will be taking off 120 bulls during 2015.

Due to the brush being thicker than normal we ended up following 5 wounded buffalo into the thick stuff. On each occasion the dogs bayed and pestered the buffalo in order for us to sneak up undetected and dispatch it. There is no question that without the dogs we would have had some serious issues.

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ELEPHANT

The unexpected US Fish and Wildlife Service ban on import of elephant trophies during April had a very negative impact on our overall conservation efforts. Cancellation of hunts meant a loss of revenue, which hampered our anti-poaching efforts as well as loss of income to staff and their families, communities and the BVC.

The surrounding communities lost out further by elephant not harvested, which meant they did not get the 3.6 tons of meat provided monthly by us.

Our elephant population is expected to be about 700 and increasing dramatically. From 5 – 30 animals enter the BVC each year from neighboring areas and they have a natural increase in breeding rate of about 5 – 7% per annum. We started with only about 200 elephant less than 10 years ago.

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LION

As always, a fantastic success rate on large maned lions and due to the over population of these large cats we will be looking at reducing their numbers, hopefully by capture and translocations and an increase in our hunting quota.

On my last lion hunt during November we had 29 different mature male lions feeding in 9 days of hunting. Without question the BVC remains the top destination in the world for wild lion hunts. Nothing is guaranteed but I will pretty much guarantee any client a lion on his first hunt with us. Although we are legally allowed to hunt at night, none of my clients have ever shot their lion trophies out of daylight hours over all the years I have been hunting here.

Although no – one was injured by a wounded lion this season we did have a full on charge by a wounded problem lion in the Ripple Creek area. My client shot the lion in the stomach the night before. Tracking was extremely difficult the following morning, due to thick grass and lack of blood.

After about an hour of tracking where the dogs got onto the trail we heard them baying the lion a long way ahead. When we got there, there was no sign of the lion but just 2 of the 3 dogs. I heard the one bitch (Goombie) barking about 200 yards ahead and commanded the other dogs to join her.

They took off and with the dogs now all barking, the lion commenced to growl very loudly and immediately came for us. He was taking these huge leaping bounds with his head up. He ran straight past and scattered the dogs and focused fully on the hunting group.

3 of us were armed and the first 3 shots failed to stop the lion.

Fortunately at about 10 yards we managed to kill him in front of us. I had never had a lion charge from such a long distance before.

Ganyani (the male dog) got bitten by a wounded lion. My client had shot the lion in the spine. I walked up to it and put a bullet in the lung/heart area. The dog was next to me and decided if I could not kill the lion he was going to.

He ran up to the front of the lion, which grabbed the dog with its paw and pulled him towards its mouth. As the lion bit down on the dog I shot and killed it. The dog was fortunate to still have his harness and jersey on, which saved him quite a lot. The wounds were not serious and he was only off work for 10 days.

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LEOPARD

All 19 leopard tags were filled again during the 2014 season. Again the smallest cat harvested by my clients was 7’ 2”. We continue to insist on only large/old males taken with a skull measurement of a minimum of 16”. Each and every leopard hunt proves a number of different males hitting baits.

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RHINO

Although we do not hunt either of our rhino species we unfortunately lost 4 to poachers during 2014. 4 poachers were apprehended and are presently in custody awaiting trial. On a very positive note, our rhino populations are increasing by 8% a year and our anti – poaching efforts are proving of the highest success rate in all Africa.

During the course of a few hunts we did get charged by some black rhino, which added to the excitement of these hunts. We are in the initial stages of exploring ways to seek further funds for further protection of the country `s rhinos. Mainly to be able to put a helicopter in the air each and every time we have a poaching incursion, this in itself will prove a major deterrent. Additionally we are looking at getting proper tracking dogs, which will enable us to get on to the poachers much quicker (with the helicopter being able to follow above with more armed personnel.) The use of trail cameras is also proving affective in detecting poachers but we need so many more cameras.

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PLAINS GAME

As mentioned before – who could ask for a better first time plains game hunt than in the BVC. Hunting such a variety of species in and amongst the dangerous game (it does not get better than this.) A bunch of really good trophies were taken of all the different species, largest kudu 59”, sable 44 ¼”, waterbuck 34”, Wildebeest 32”, nyala 29”, impala 24” etc.

I will never forget a client of mine commentating after numerous safaris in different countries but first hunt in the BVC.

“ I have seen more game here in 2 days, than 21 days of hunting in the Selous. How I wish my agent sent me here on my very first plains game hunt. I went to South Africa first time, which was nice but it was more like a vacation than a proper safari”

We have further approached government to allow us to hunt Brown hyena as we are over populated with this species. (Presently they are a protected species.)

To end a comment from a happy client, Harris J.

“I cannot stress how much I recommend Pete and the BVC.  Having hunted in Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa with all kinds and ranges of outfitters, Pete and the BVC are unquestionably the best African safari outfit on that continent.

In terms of quality of trophies, convenience of transportation, quality of amenities and lodging and personal service.  By far the best safari I have ever been on and I personally guarantee that you will feel the same.   The Houston Safari Club magazine this month had a long write up about the BVC and I can personally attest to it, unbelievable”

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The 2013 Hunting Season.

Once again, as expected, another excellent year for all clients hunting in the BVC – this is not a surprise as we reputedly do have the finest concession in Africa for both dangerous and plains game hunting. As 80% of my clients are repeats every year – it is so nice to see so many friends and have such great experiences together.

Unfortunately a tracker was mauled by a wounded leopard, which I was most fortunate to kill whilst it was in the air and about to bite the tracker in the face. As leopard maulings go, it was not too severe, as the cat never got a chance to bite him. However, he did suffer a deep gash in one cheek from a claw and further superficial claw wounds on both arms and after a few weeks he was back at work.

During this incident another veteran PH assisting in the follow up ended up getting a shotgun pellet on the shin! Some conflicting and differing stories just how he got shot and no doubt will make interesting stories around the campfire!

I was personally awarded Zimbabwe `s prestigious Professional Hunter Of The Year award for 2013 as well as getting the award for largest leopard taken in the country for the season, very big cat that measured 7′ 6″ and had a skull size of 17 3/4″.

Incidentally this cat was shot in daylight hours, afternoon. I am never one to blow my own trumpet and this is the first time I have ever entered for these awards.

The lion and leopard hunting will remain the finest in Africa – 10 lion and 19 leopards will be harvested during the 2014 season. Buffalo hunting will also be on the very top with a population of over 4 thousand buffalo and largest bull taken in 2013 was 45″. Elephant hunting will always be the pinnacle of all dangerous game and even though we only harvest non trophy bulls, (under 25 pounds) these hunts are as exciting as taking a huge tusker and certainly much more affordable. Our rhino populations are increasing admirably thanks to our anti poaching units and management team in keeping the poachers away. A few close calls of black rhino charges were dealt with professionally, which adds further to the adrenalin of hunting this unique paradise.

The plains game hunting was exceptional and how could anyone beat it whilst hunting plains game amongst the Big 5. Once again excellent bird shooting was had for guineafowl, francolin and sandgrouse and some huge bass were caught in the 10 – 12 pound range. Seriously – all round just excellent. I recall during October last, a client that had hunted in Tanzania (Selous) during July/August 2013 commenting that after the first 2 days in the BVC he and his wife had seen more wildlife in 2 days than their entire 21 days in Tanzania! Before 7.00am first morning we had already seen 4 of the Big 5 plus loads of various plains game species. Should I even say more to those hesitating in hunting this area?

Here `s to a great 2014 season with all my friends and clients. May we all stay safe and make the most of our safari experiences and I sure am looking forward to all the good times ahead.

BVC Community Assistance

BVC, through its hunting operation, Mazunga Safaris, employs in the region of +/- 400 people. The majority of these workers are from the surrounding communities, which is Region 5, and not really suitable for subsistence or cash crop agriculture, but is far more suited to wildlife operations.

As a result of the above, close to $700,000.00 goes back annually into the surrounding communities, through employees sending home monthly earnings.

Other assistance to the communities, from hunting revenue, will be listed below, in the form it takes and not necessarily the exact quantities etc.

–       5 equipped boreholes have been drilled, 1 of which supplies water to Mtetengwe Clinic, which is still in the building stage, and also to the nearby Mtetengwe primary School.

–       BVC has undertaken to build the Mtetengwe Clinic, of which the main building is complete and the 3 staff house at the Clinic site. We are busy putting in the ceilings in the clinic block and then only plumbing and painting remains.

–       A secure engine house was built at the borehole site which houses a BH15S mono pump unit driven by a re-built Lister LT1 engine, also donated by BVC.

–       The pipelines to both the school and the clinic were supplied by BVC as were both the 5000L header tanks and stands, which were erected by BVC staff.

–       2m pig mesh security fencing was supplied to Penemene School to secure their vegetable garden, which supplies the boarding school

–       6 loads of river sand was carted to Jompembi School for their new Blair Toilets

–       5 new ‘bush pumps’ were bought and installed at Penemene, Vumhani and Village 2 & 4 – a drinking trough was also built for the livestock at Village 2

–       Donations of meat to the schools for various sports days and functions is an ongoing exercise in Beit Bridge and Mwenezi districts. The Mazunga Safaris truck has also been used to transport soccer teams etc. for the cluster inter schools competitions

–       1600kg meat is donated each month to the Maranda Trust, which is managed by the 2 Chiefs and local Headmen – the meat is either used for school and community events or sold and the money raised is used for community projects, for example a class room roof was replaced in the Vhongwe area.

–        Various other borehole related equipment was supplied and repairs were carried out at Vhumani, Village 3 and Mtetengwe.

–       2 sets of soccer goal posts and 2 sets of netball hoops were donated to Mgaladhiva School, whilst their soccer field was graded by BVC tractor. 26 bags of cement were donated for repairs to the main school block, as was fencing, in order to keep livestock out.

–       10 Mono shafts were supplied to Botalele (Maranda)  for the Clinic borehole.

–       The monthly meat allocation has also helped in the funding of building 2 new classroom blocks at Mlelezi, and also in the grading of the road from near Towla to the Mlelezi boundary during 2012 and the 18 km stretch from Bubye River to the Bulawayo main road at Makado.

–       A cold room and refrigeration unit was purchased by BVC and fitted at Rutenga butchery as part of an aid programme to get the Mwenezi RDC self funding projects up and running.

–       A Land Cruiser was also donated to the Mwenezi RDC (Rural District Council).

–       A 400m pipeline was laid by BVC staff from Malangani Eastern gate through the fence to supply Nyemani livestock with water, whilst a large drinking trough was also built.

All community aid programs are on going.

We also have established a system with the local Chiefs where anyone who is arrested for subsistence poaching is taken before the Chief’s court and any compensation recovered from the poacher is channeled into the Community Construction Fund. This is working far better than we initially expected and is definitely something that should be encouraged in other areas.

Obviously the more serious commercial poachers, rhino poachers etc, are still dealt with through criminal courts.

K.Leathem

GM BVC

The 2012 Hunting Season.

Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) 2012 Season

As expected, once again we had an excellent season in this magnificent area both with exceptional dangerous and plains game hunting.

LION – 8 trophy male hunts were conducted and all were successful on outstanding maned lions. The BVC got the trophy award for largest lion taken in Zimbabwe for the year. Without a doubt this area will remain the finest destination for wild lion hunting in Africa for many years. All our lioness hunts were 100% successful too and due to the over population of lions here we want to increase the lioness quota to 20 animals for the 2013 season.

BUFFALO – Our 65 buffalo bull hunts were also 100% successful with many very good trophies taken. 27 buffalo of over 40″ were taken, the widest bull was 47 1/2″ and another bull of 45″ scored 134 7/8″, which makes it the new no. 9 in the current SCI record book. This buffalo got the trophy award for best buffalo taken in Zimbabwe for the 2012 season. Tanzania has a reputation for large buffalo but I doubt any area there can boast such high and consistent trophies.

Due to the healthy increase of our approximately 3 1/2 thousand buffalo population we are looking at increasing our quota to about 85 bulls for the 2013 season. Instead of cropping more trophy quality bulls we are offering reduced buffalo price hunts on non trophy bulls (35″) for the 2013 season. This is to work in with our management program of ensuring that our trophy quality will only get better. Existing booked clients from the 2013 season will also be offered the opportunity of taking a second buffalo on their hunts at $7 000.

LEOPARD – The BVC had a very high success rate on the 20 leopard hunts conducted with many very large toms taken. Most of these hunts clients actually had a choice of numerous large cats on baits. The award for largest leopard taken for the year was also given to us, as with most previous years.

ELEPHANT – The 2012 season saw the start of the BVC cropping non trophy elephant bulls of under 25 pounds of ivory per side. As elephant hunting goes these hunts are very inexpensive and offer the hunter all the excitement of an elephant bull hunt. Due to vegetation damage we are upping the quota for these hunts to 10 in the 2013 season. For anyone wanting to experience the ultimate thrill this hunt is a must.

PLAINS GAME – All sable, nyala hunts were 100% successful and the general bag of all other species was excellent. I doubt clients could experience a better free ranging plains game hunt anywhere in Africa, especially amongst vast numbers of the Big 5. From the 2013 season we will offer Gemsbok hunts on only a trophy fee basis. A National Parks permit of $400 must be obtained prior, regardless if the animal is shot or not. The BVC is the only area in Zimbabwe where Gemsbok can be hunted.

GENERAL – Due to the popularity of this top class concession all our lion, leopard, sable and nyala are sold for the 2013 season. It is recommended that anyone wanting these species books way ahead to secure such hunts. A limited number of non trophy elephant, buffalo, lioness and plains game hunts are still on offer for 2013. Lastly, I challenge anyone that can state that they have hunted a better all round area in Africa.