Lupo Safaris - New World Record!
"EVERYMAN'S DREAM, AN AFRICAN QUEST"
By Vincent R. Lupo
What hunter looking down the barrel of his or her rifle, hasn't at one point or another, envisioned the prey to be an African Lion, or maybe a sleek Leopard. Yes, a dream to be on an African Safari! In my case that dream became a reality in May of 2001. It was then that I left to go on a genuine African Safari. Even the words "African Safari" flood the mind with visions of tall grass, big-tusked bull Elephants and a pride of roaring Lions with its huge majestic black mane leader standing as the king that he is! Little did I know at that time, that my dream was the beginning of a 13 month quest to complete the challenge of taking the African dangerous game Big Six, Elephant, Rhinoceros, Hippopotamus, Cape Buffalo, Lion and Leopard, and was going to lead me through tall swaying brown grass, hundreds of ripping thorn bushes, over rock strewn hills and vertical mountains, into surgery and a 6 day hospital stay to repair a broken ankle and the taking of approximately 35 fantastic African trophies!
On May 9, 2001, I stepped off of a South African Airlines plane, picked up my considerable amount of luggage, thanked God that my rifle case arrived, cleared customs, walked out the secured entrance, and was immediately greeted by the wide spreading arms of the ever smiling Mr. Danie Clifford sr., veteran Professional Hunter and owner of Mahlapholane Safaris. Danie, pronounced Donny, had been awaiting the arrival of my airplane at the bustling Johannesburg International Airport. Donny almost immediately whisked me, my gun case, and my mountain of luggage (on this, my first trip to South Africa and my very first Safari, I had packed everything I could think of and consequently was, shall we say, a tad bit "over" packed!) into one of his right hand drive Land Rovers, and off we drove at what seemed to me to be a rather "brisk" speed, so very typical of South African drivers. About an hour and a half later we drove through the town of Wambath, located in the Northern Province, and a short time later, arrived at the beautiful XXXXX hector Mahlapholane Safari and Hunting Lodge, my base of operations for the next 3 hunt packed weeks.
On this, and my next two safaris, I took as my primary rifle, a lever action 45-70 Marlin rifle and a fair supply of Garrett Hammerhead Cartridges in 540 grain and 420 grain loads. I had used this rifle and ammunition combination with great success on many other North American hunts and felt confident that this combination could take on whatever Africa had in store for me. One of the first things you do after settling in (unpacking etc.) is to immediately go to a firing range and check that your rifle has not be en so mishandled as to warrant it useless! I honestly believe I heard gasps as I took my 45-70-lever action Marlin out of its case. The P.H.'s on this side of the "pond" used primarily double rifles and huge magnum bolt rifles. Too compound the matter, I loaded the rifle with the most unusual cartridges that they had seen, 540 grain, solid cast, Garrett Cartridge Hammerheads. After punching out the center spot 3 times at 100 yards and their examining both the cartridge and the decimated backstop, they concluded that it would do "splendidly". As the days passed, I began to systematically amass a sizable amount of beautiful African plains game, including: Impalas, Blesbuck, Red Hartebeest, Blue Wildebeest, Zebra, Serval, Warthogs, Steenbok, Kudu, Jackal, Common Reedbuck and Black Sable. Then finely came the day when we were going to go after my main quarry, a Cape Buffalo! We hunted hard for him for three days and finely spotted him about 140 yards away. We closed to about 80 yards but the changing wind direction told us that it was now or we would have to try another day! But my time was running out. I took steady aim as he crossed broadside, left to right, and sent a 540gr Hammerhead into his right shoulder knocking him down, almost immediately he was up, turned and faced me with a look that I shall never forget, and launched himself straight at me. Within seconds he covered about 20 yards when he met a second 540gr Hammerhead hitting him below the chin in the neck area and driving him back on his butt and down for the count! We cautiously approached him, heard his death bellows, whereupon I delivered an "insurance" shot at about 15 yards. He truly was a great "Old Dagga Boy" with hard solid 13-inch bosses and a beautiful set of deep curling horns. My first shot broke both shoulders and exited as did my second shot which exited the rear of the bull. Without a doubt, a truly fantastic experience that I new I would want to repeat! Five months later, in November, I was on another SAA flight headed back to South Africa and beautiful Mahlapholane. On this three-week safari, my main quarry would be another Cape Buffalo and what I hoped would be a beautiful male Leopard. Within a week, my P.H., Donny Clifford, had me using my Hammerhead loaded Marlin to bag a Mountain Reedbuck, great Bushbuck, Warthog, large Waterbuck and a fantastic Livingston Eland. In the beginning of the second week, Donny told me that they had determined that they had spotted a very large male Leopard and that it was now time to go after him. To make a long an interesting story short, the best-prepared plans hardly ever work out and the next thing I know, I am looking down the barrel at a huge male Leopard running straight at me full steam. Despite my best efforts the "only" shot I could get off was when the Leopard was 6 inches "in front" of the muzzle. The 420gr Hammerhead hit him square in the left eye killing him instantly. Needless to say, after we got out of shock, it was high fives and cheers all round! Believe me, that 220lb-charging Leopard took a bunch of years off of my life, or was it the great party that we had at the lodge that night! I was scheduled to go after Cape Buffalo in a couple of days but one of the trackers said that he had seen a huge Waterbuck. I told Donny that I would be interested in taking it if it were larger then the one I had shot earlier. So off we went. Sure enough, the waterbuck was indeed huge! He stood off in some marsh grass broadside at about 100 yards. I sent a 420gr Hammerhead spinning down range for a perfect shoulder shot dropping the huge bull in his tracks. In a matter of moments we began to walk to the dead Waterbuck and the "IT" happened! I slipped in the wet marsh grass and knew almost instantly that I had broken my ankle! 24 hours later I lay on the surgical table at Jacaranda Hospital in Pretoria having a titanium plate with 6 screws installed as a permanent attachment to my ankle! From that point on, I knew that I would always have fun at airports! Six days later I am back at beautiful Mahlapholane, cast pointed straight up into space marking time to my departure date and the end of my second Safari! At this point in time, I had only succeeded in taking 2 (Cape Buffalo and Leopard) of the African Dangerous Game Big Six. But the other 4 (Elephant, Rhino, Hippo and Lion), the Guinness world record, and much more, awaited me on my third but not final Safari!