I have dreamed of hunting in Africa since I was a small boy. I never expected to be able to experience Africa as it was in the early 1900's. But that's what the Karamoja area of Uganda is like right now. I have traveled in East Africa on business and for vacations eight times in the past. I was amazed to see this area of Uganda and I was not prepared for the beauty of the area.
Kidepo was the first stop, just a few miles from the Sudan border. The concession covers 27,000 square kilometers we stayed at a camp a few miles from the border of the Kidepo game park. The scenery was magnificent. The camp was on a small hill that gave use a great view of the mountains north towards Sudan.
With this being an exploratory hunt, Steve and I had discussed the fact that it would not be a five star luxury camp with all the comforts of home. Also it would not be a shopping list hunt. We would be traveling in places where no one had hunted in thirty years. The game surveys have been done and Steve knew where the game was but we did not know exactly what we would find or what to expect. Steve and I had developed an online friendship while planning this hunt and he knew I was not a cherry when it comes to Africa but I was when it comes to hunting in Africa. I have lived in the bush and knew what to expect in a non-permanent camp setting. As it worked out we ended up at a very nice new, though rustic, tourist camp.
There are very few dirt roads and no paved roads in this area. It is a two day drive from Kampala. The drive is great and worth the time spent. You get to see the head-waters of the Nile and lots of the local atmosphere. The locals here are not used to seeing a lot of tourists so they are not standing along the roads begging for money, candy or whatever. I had two cameras with me - one small pocket-sized and a big one - and I was really giving them a good work out. Thank goodness for digital cameras!
I personally like most everything about Uganda. It is pretty much unspoiled bush - the Kidepo area has a mixture of grass savanna and thorn trees. The first day of the hunt was like nothing I had expected. With no roads we got to an area we wanted to look at so we just pulled off the road and slowly drove through the tall grass. It was exactly like I had read of the old days of hunting in East Africa. At about 1 pm we where looking for plains game in a area of thorn trees when we spotted two nice old dugga boys laying under a tree out of the heat of the day. We stopped the truck and got out but I was already leaning through the window with my rifle on the bigger of the two - a nice old bull with worn down horns. I'm from the south, so leaning on the truck was natural to me. Steve walked a few yards away from the truck to get a clearer view. I told him to tell me if he wanted me to shoot. He whispered "Sticks" to the tracker. I told him that I had this guy center chest if he wanted me to shoot. He whispered "Sticks" again and I told him this was a dead buffalo if he wanted me to shoot. He told me "Sticks" again!!! At this time we decided that this was the first day of the hunt and this was not the scum-cap bull that I really wanted. Steve had found out there was some scrum-cap bulls in the area. So I put the rifle away and got out my camera - the bulls by now were getting nervous and they moved away. They moved a whole 20 yards before they turned and stopped to look at use again. I was amazed at how calm they were. From what I knew of buffalo I expected them to break and run till they where out of the county. I was to get more pleasant surprises like this in the days to come.
The next day we where going looking for a waterbuck. We knew there were some close by camp. Again, Steve and Philip where dead on. We were not on the road for thirty minutes when we came on a very, very nice waterbuck. I have not had buck fever in years but that all changed in the blink of an eye. To make a long and embarrassing story short, I missed a easy shot THREE TIMES. Steve was great - he was supportive and understanding. I still felt like crap but a little better. We hunted there for the rest of the day without seeing anything.
The next day we when looking for hartebeest. After some driving through the grass, we spotted a nice male standing broadside at 75 yards. Again, he was very calm as we got out of the truck. I now knew the truck door was not an acceptable rest, so I got ready on the sticks that Steve set up for me. I had trouble getting my footing and the critter moved away slowly. Luck was with us! He stopped at about 150 yards. After talking it over with Steve, I chose to move up a little closer by myself. I has a small bush for cover between me and the beast. I worked my way up to within about 75 yards and put him on the ground with a spine shot.
Then I did the ugly dance. The skinner started to work on him and we got back to camp in time for a cool one or two to celebrate. In camp we talked about the waterbuck. I now had a score to settle with him and I was going to collect in blood his blood!!
Next morning we headed to the area where we knew he would be. As we were just stopping the truck to stalk him, the game scout pointed to the right and there he was standing looking at use from 180 yards. This time I was on the sticks and had him center chest, if you don't count the tree in my center of sight. We moved a little, he moved a little, we moved again, he moved again. He was beginning to get on my nerves. Then he lay down so I waited until he got up, then he lay down and got up again. This time he made a fatal mistake, he was a few inches forward of the tree and one shot through the chest and he fell like a fat lady diving for a donut. As we where moving up on him he tried to stand up again and so I gave him a round through the neck and that was that. I had redeemed myself.
Over the next two weeks we hunted oribi, dik dik and baboons. Oh yes, on the seventh day we hunted buffalo. Steve had a bad case of malaria so we where going to drive to a hill and glass the area for buffalo. As we where getting close to where we wanted to stop, Philip exclaimed "F**k!" while looking to the right. Steve at the same time exclaimed "F**k me!" at about four times the volume. Just as Steve said this, I saw the buffalo I wanted - a large old scum-cap bull. We had seen some nice buffalo while hunting but this guy was huge. We got out of the truck and after setting up I blasted him into the great unknown. YES! I did the ugly dance again!!! Even as sick as he was, Steve was smiling like a drunk monkey, as was Philip.
The next day Philip and I went out for oribi after we convinced Steve to say in camp and rest. We saw over a hundred oribi before 2pm. However, the grass was tall and I could not get a clear shoot. As we where headed back to camp we found a dumb one who just stood in the open and watched as I walked up and shot him. With no hunting pressure the animals are very calm!
The next day we headed south to Pien Upe. This is the site of W D M Bell's base camp on the Greek river. We set up a tented camp upon arrival. It was as beautiful as the Kidepo area with a wonderful view from our hilltop. We hunted and explored this area for a week. I got three baboons. The fees for a baboon are twenty dollars and there are no limits on the number you may take. The baboon populations are very high and they cause trouble for the locals. So population control is one of the things the local government want hunters to achieve.
If you are interested in hunting like it was in the 30's and 40's, I would suggest you get to Uganda as soon as possible. This area will become one of the premier hunting destinations in Africa in the very near future. I have never had so much fun at any time in my life as I did hunting in Uganda. Steve is a wonderful person a wealth of knowledge - useless and otherwise (ha ha ha) with a wonderful sense of humor.
D R Hooker