Dan McCarthy - 2005 multiple elephant hunt with Buzz Charlton



Professional Hunter:

Buzz Charlton
Charlton McCallum Safaris


This was scheduled for 5 tusked elephant cows in the Dande South concession of Zimbabwe. Dande South is run by Ingwe Safaris which is owned by Bill Bedford. After the hunt was scheduled, Zimbabwe’s National Parks department terminated the taking of tusked cows in most areas of the country, so my hunt was converted to a tuskless cow elephant hunt. On a tuskless cow elephant hunt, only mature tuskless cow elephant with no dependant calf are shot. Other professional hunters familiar with Dande South did not give us high hopes, predicting that we would take no more than 2 tuskless cows even if we were lucky. But they were proven wrong.


5 cow elephant, 1 non-trophy bull elephant, a buffalo bull, a buffalo cow, a baboon and guinea fowl were shot on an 18 day hunt.

The Crew:

Professional Hunter: Buzz Charlton
Apprentice PH: Sean Buffee
Driver & Skinner: Royal
Tracker 1: Chryspen (age 80)
Tracker 2: Morgan (age 45)
Tracker 3: Tino (age 26)
Tracker 4: Crighton (age 24)
Dande Game Scout: Mike


This was a fantastic hunt in all regards. The game desired was seen in large numbers. Buzz is a fabulous hunter who got me very close to the game whenever it could be done relatively safely. Buzz and his crew worked hard and efficientlyand produced results. Ordinarily we ate lunch in the field rather than returning to camp for lunch and a siesta in order to maximize the time spent tracking elephant. Buzz uses 2 sets of trackers so that 2 different herds of elephant can be followed simultaneously. When the 2nd set of trackers finds elephant that they think Buzz and the client should see, they radio Buzz and a rendevous is made. Buzz also uses a driver to pick up the PH and client, as well as the extra trackers, in order to avoid long and unproductive walks back to the Toyota. This also helps to maximize the productive time spent following elephant tracks. Finding either tuskless cow elephant or trophy bull elephant is a numbers game – the more elephant you see, the greater the chance of success. Buzz’ hunting technique produces elephant in large numbers and I would highly recommend him to anyone interested in elephant hunting. To date, Buzz has been involved in the taking of more than 350 elephant.

I very enthusiastically encourage anyone interested in elephant hunting to book a hunt with Buzz Charlton. His hunting technique maximizes the number of elephant seen and therefore increases the odds of getting the best trophy that the area offers. Buzz is also a fine host and a perfect gentleman. For anyone who wants an elephant hunt that is properly conducted, Buzz is the man.

Game Seen:

sable (more than 100 of them)
guinea fowl

The Cow Elephant Hunt:

We spent 14 days hunting cow elephant in Dande South. A typical hunting day included 6 to 8 hours of walking at an ordinary pace of 2.5 to 3 miles per hour. Part of the concession is steep and hilly, making for a bit more exertion. The condition that seemed to tire me most was the strong sun. The temperature reached 40 degrees C. on most days, and 44 degrees C. in the shade on a couple of days. The advantage of hunting elephant in the heat is that they do not travel as far as when the weather is cool. Often the elephant were resting in the shade by 9 a.m., allowing us to catch them quickly.

During the cow elephant hunt, we looked over 866 elephant. Of these, 25 were tuskless cows (tuskless calves not counted). Of the 25 tuskless cows, 4 were mature with no dependent calves and were shot.

First Tuskless Cow Elephant:

Shot at 20 yards. Frontal brain shot attempted, bullet went beneath the brain. Elephant stepped back one step and started to turn. 2nd shot hit where the head joins the spine and the elephant dropped.

Second Tuskless Cow:

Side brain shot at 19 yards. The elephant dropped at the shot.

Third Tuskless Cow:

Frontal brain shot at 20 yards. The elephant dropped at the shot. The matriarch of the herd started to charge before I shot but the sound of the shot turned her. She then charged 2 more times but did not follow through.

Fourth Tuskless Cow:

This elephant was found resting in the shade beneath a cliff. I shot down at her from a steep angle at 7 yards. The shot dropped her but missed the brain. 2 follow up shots were taken.

Trophy Bull:

There was also a trophy bull elephant available, so we looked at the trophy bull elephant that we could find. The best we could do was a 1 tusker which would go about 40 pounds, or a 2 tusker which would go a bit more than 30 pounds, so I did not shoot one. In March and April, Dande South has some very good trophy bull elephant hunting, with a 70 pounder having been taken this year.

A Tusked Cow:

While hunting tuskless cow elephant, we came across a tusked cow elephant with a broken front leg. The communal game warden gave permission to shoot her, and in the 2 days it took to get permission the cow moved only 100 yards, and she did not drink any water in that 2 day period. She was still able to hobble but would not be able to feed and water properly so she would not have survived.

When the tusked cow saw us approaching the attempted to flee, but we moved in quickly and she came for us as best she could. At 7 yards she dropped to a frontal brain shot.

A Buffalo Bull:

On arriving in Dande South I learned that a buffalo bull was available for double the trophy fee. As buffalo bulls are selling for premium prices these days, that was a deal I wanted to take advantage of, but only if a scrum cap bull could be found. Buzz did not want to give me much hope as he had only seen 3 or 4 scrum cap bulls in his 13 years of professional hunting, and had never shot one before. Nonetheless, when looking over a herd of elephant that did not contain a tuskless cow, we saw a group of dagga boy buffalo. Glassing them revealed a scrum cap in the group. As we approached the buffalo, two elephant spooked right into the buffalo, scaring them up a steep hill. We sprinted up the hill hoping to get a shot at the scrum cap, but during the very steep 700 foot ascent (of which we only sprinted the first portion), the buffalo had substantially widened the distance between us. We tracked them but they were wise to us and spooked off a couple of more times. Finally I got lined up for a broadside shot at the scrum cap. As I raised my rifle another buffalo spotted me so it was then or they would run off, so I shot through a bush and gave the scrum cap a bullet through the top of his heart. He jumped in the air almost like a daschund sitting on his hind legs and said “Brrrrrrrrh!” Then the buffalo came back to the ground and happened to be facing me downhill so I shot him again. The second bullet passed through the neck and into the chest and the buffalo dropped.

A Buffalo Cow:

Also available on this hunt was a buffalo cow. To take the buff cow, we tracked a herd starting at 4 p.m. based on tracks they had left in the morning. It took only an hour and a half to catch up to them, and they were feeding toward us. I managed to get up to 14 yards from a designated cow when she spotted me, so I gave her a frontal brain shot with a Woodleigh soft nose in the .500 NE. The bullet dropped her, but only penetrated 14 inches and was a bit mangled. For brain shots on buffalo I would prefer a solid.

Non-Trophy Bull Elephant:

During my hunt an opportunity came up to hunt a bull elephant in Mozambique in a concession that ordinarily does not produce trophy elephant. The price was similar to the price of a PAC bull elephant in Zimbabwe, so I decided to make an attempt at a Mozambique elephant knowing that the chance of a trophy was very slim and that we would shoot the first bull elephant that we saw. We spent 4 days traveling to and from Mozambique and hunting elephant there. Very little fresh elephant sign was seen at 3 of the 4 known springs in the concession or along lake Cabora Bassa. However, a non-trophy bull elephant was found on an island on the lake. The bull had lost 18 inches of his trunk to a poacher’s snare, but was able to feed on the reeds on the island and on corn in farmers’ fields nearby. We walked up to this elephant and at 11 yards he turned to confront us and fell to a frontal brain shot.


For this trip I used my .500 NE Searcy field grade double. The elephant were shot with a combination of Woodleigh solids, Bridger solids and GS Custom FN solids. All bullets performed perfectly. Although the hunt did not wear out my rifle, the butt stock got a new chip behind the receiver (it already had one chip missing from a couple of years ago), and the stock split at the tang just before the hunt. Butch made a repair to the tang split on very short notice just before the hunt, allowing me to take the rifle hunting. But now the gun will have to go in for restocking, probably with a wood upgrade and pancake cheekpiece. My Searcy .500 has now accounted for 9 elephant and 3 cape buffalo.

Guinea Fowl:

Guinea fowl were shot as the opportunity arose when we were not in an area likely to startle elephant. Rifle used was a .22.


I shot a running baboon in a crop field, hitting him in the hind end. 30 minutes of tracking produced the baboon. Rifle used was 9.3 x 62 with North Fork 286 grain softs.


Camp facilities and camp food were very nice and definitely exceeded my expectations. Zim safari operators have ways of getting all of the supplies that they need, and nothing was missing for this hunt.